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Mr. Oyster was taken aback himself. "See here, young man, I realize this isn't an ordinary assignment, however, as I said, I am willing to risk a considerable portion of my fortune--"

"Sorry," Simon said. "Can't be done."

"A hundred dollars a day plus expenses," Mr. Oyster said quietly. "I like the fact that you already seem to have some interest and knowledge of the matter. I liked the way you knew my name when I walked in the door; my picture doesn't appear often in the papers."

"No go," Simon said, a sad quality in his voice.

"A fifty thousand dollar bonus if you bring me a time traveler."

"Out of the question," Simon said.

"But why?" Betty wailed.

"Just for laughs," Simon told the two of them sourly, "suppose I tell you a funny story. It goes like this:"

I got a thousand dollars from Mr. Oyster (Simon began) in the way of an advance, and leaving him with Betty who was making out a receipt, I hustled back to the apartment and packed a bag. Hell, I'd wanted a vacation anyway, this was a natural. On the way to Idlewild I stopped off at the Germany Information Offices for some tourist literature.

It takes roughly three and a half hours to get to Gander from Idlewild. I spent the time planning the fun I was going to have.

It takes roughly seven and a half hours from Gander to Shannon and I spent that time dreaming up material I could put into my reports to Mr. Oyster. I was going to have to give him some kind of report for his money. Time travel yet! What a laugh!

Between Shannon and Munich a faint suspicion began to simmer in my mind. These statistics I read on the Oktoberfest in the Munich tourist pamphlets. Five million people attended annually.

Where did five million people come from to attend an overgrown festival in comparatively remote Southern Germany? The tourist season is over before September 21st, first day of the gigantic beer bust. Nor could the Germans account for any such number. Munich itself has a population of less than a million, counting children.

And those millions of gallons of beer, the hundreds of thousands of chickens, the herds of oxen. Who ponied up all the money for such expenditures? How could the average German, with his twenty-five dollars a week salary?

In Munich there was no hotel space available. I went to the Bahnhof where they have a hotel service and applied. They put my name down, pocketed the husky bribe, showed me where I could check my bag, told me they'd do what they could, and to report back in a few hours.

I had another suspicious twinge. If five million people attended this beer bout, how were they accommodated?

The Theresienwiese, the fair ground, was only a few blocks away. I was stiff from the plane ride so I walked.

There are seven major brewers in the Munich area, each of them represented by one of the circuslike tents that Mr. Oyster mentioned. Each tent contained benches and tables for about five thousand persons and from six to ten thousands pack themselves in, competing for room. In the center is a tremendous bandstand, the musicians all lederhosen clad, the music as Bavarian as any to be found in a Bavarian beer hall. Hundreds of peasant garbed frauleins darted about the tables with quart sized earthenware mugs, platters of chicken, sausage, kraut and pretzels.

I found a place finally at a table which had space for twenty-odd beer bibbers. Odd is right. As weird an assortment of Germans and foreign tourists as could have been dreamed up, ranging from a seventy- or eighty-year-old couple in Bavarian costume, to the bald-headed drunk across the table from me.

A desperate waitress bearing six mugs of beer in each hand scurried past. They call them masses, by the way, not mugs. The bald-headed character and I both held up a finger and she slid two of the masses over to us and then hustled on.

"Down the hatch," the other said, holding up his mass in toast.

"To the ladies," I told him. Before sipping, I said, "You know, the tourist pamphlets say this stuff is eighteen per cent. That's nonsense. No beer is that strong." I took a long pull.

He looked at me, waiting.

I came up. "Mistaken," I admitted.

A mass or two apiece later he looked carefully at the name engraved on his earthenware mug. "Lowenbrau," he said. He took a small notebook from his pocket and a pencil, noted down the word and returned the things.

"That's a queer looking pencil you have there," I told him. "German?"

"Venusian," he said. "Oops, sorry. Shouldn't have said that."

I had never heard of the brand so I skipped it.

"Next is the Hofbrau," he said.

"Next what?" Baldy's conversation didn't seem to hang together very well.

"My pilgrimage," he told me. "All my life I've been wanting to go back to an Oktoberfest and sample every one of the seven brands of the best beer the world has ever known. I'm only as far as Lowenbrau. I'm afraid I'll never make it."

I finished my mass. "I'll help you," I told him. "Very noble endeavor. Name is Simon."

"Arth," he said. "How could you help?"

"I'm still fresh--comparatively. I'll navigate you around. There are seven beer tents. How many have you got through, so far?"

"Two, counting this one," Arth said.

I looked at him. "It's going to be a chore," I said. "You've already got a nice edge on."

Outside, as we made our way to the next tent, the fair looked like every big State-Fair ever seen, except it was bigger. Games, souvenir stands, sausage stands, rides, side shows, and people, people, people.

The Hofbrau tent was as overflowing as the last but we managed to find two seats.

The band was blaring, and five thousand half-swacked voices were roaring accompaniment.

In Muenchen steht ein Hofbrauhaus! Eins, Zwei, G'sufa!

At the G'sufa everybody upped with the mugs and drank each other's health.

"This is what I call a real beer bust," I said approvingly.

Arth was waving to a waitress. As in the Lowenbrau tent, a full quart was the smallest amount obtainable.

A beer later I said, "I don't know if you'll make it or not, Arth."

"Make what?"

"All seven tents."


A waitress was on her way by, mugs foaming over their rims. I gestured to her for refills.

"Where are you from, Arth?" I asked him, in the way of making conversation.


"2183 where?"

He looked at me, closing one eye to focus better. "Oh," he said. "Well, 2183 South Street, ah, New Albuquerque."

"New Albuquerque? Where's that?"

Arth thought about it. Took another long pull at the beer. "Right across the way from old Albuquerque," he said finally. "Maybe we ought to be getting on to the Pschorrbrau tent."

"Maybe we ought to eat something first," I said. "I'm beginning to feel this. We could get some of that barbecued ox."

Arth closed his eyes in pain. "Vegetarian," he said. "Couldn't possibly eat meat. Barbarous. Ugh."

"Well, we need some nourishment," I said.

"There's supposed to be considerable nourishment in beer."

That made sense. I yelled, "Fraulein! Zwei neu bier!"

Somewhere along in here the fog rolled in. When it rolled out again, I found myself closing one eye the better to read the lettering on my earthenware mug. It read Augustinerbrau. Somehow we'd evidently navigated from one tent to another.

Arth was saying, "Where's your hotel?"

That seemed like a good question. I thought about it for a while. Finally I said, "Haven't got one. Town's jam packed. Left my bag at the Bahnhof. I don't think we'll ever make it, Arth. How many we got to go?"

"Lost track," Arth said. "You can come home with me."

We drank to that and the fog rolled in again.

When the fog rolled out, it was daylight. Bright, glaring, awful daylight. I was sprawled, complete with clothes, on one of twin beds. On the other bed, also completely clothed, was Arth.

That sun was too much. I stumbled up from the bed, staggered to the window and fumbled around for a blind or curtain. There was none.

Behind me a voice said in horror, "Who ... how ... oh, Wodo, where'd you come from?"

I got a quick impression, looking out the window, that the Germans were certainly the most modern, futuristic people in the world. But I couldn't stand the light. "Where's the shade," I moaned.

Arth did something and the window went opaque.

"That's quite a gadget," I groaned. "If I didn't feel so lousy, I'd appreciate it."

Arth was sitting on the edge of the bed holding his bald head in his hands. "I remember now," he sorrowed. "You didn't have a hotel. What a stupidity. I'll be phased. Phased all the way down."

"You haven't got a handful of aspirin, have you?" I asked him.

"Just a minute," Arth said, staggering erect and heading for what undoubtedly was a bathroom. "Stay where you are. Don't move. Don't touch anything."

"All right," I told him plaintively. "I'm clean. I won't mess up the place. All I've got is a hangover, not lice."

Arth was gone. He came back in two or three minutes, box of pills in hand. "Here, take one of these."

I took the pill, followed it with a glass of water.

And went out like a light.

Arth was shaking my arm. "Want another mass?"

The band was blaring, and five thousand half-swacked voices were roaring accompaniment.

In Muenchen steht ein Hofbrauhaus! Eins, Zwei, G'sufa!

At the G'sufa everybody upped with their king-size mugs and drank each other's health.

My head was killing me. "This is where I came in, or something," I groaned.

Arth said, "That was last night." He looked at me over the rim of his beer mug.

Something, somewhere, was wrong. But I didn't care. I finished my mass and then remembered. "I've got to get my bag. Oh, my head. Where did we spend last night?"

Arth said, and his voice sounded cautious, "At my hotel, don't you remember?"

"Not very well," I admitted. "I feel lousy. I must have dimmed out. I've got to go to the Bahnhof and get my luggage."

Arth didn't put up an argument on that. We said good-by and I could feel him watching after me as I pushed through the tables on the way out.

At the Bahnhof they could do me no good. There were no hotel rooms available in Munich. The head was getting worse by the minute. The fact that they'd somehow managed to lose my bag didn't help. I worked on that project for at least a couple of hours. Not only wasn't the bag at the luggage checking station, but the attendant there evidently couldn't make heads nor tails of the check receipt. He didn't speak English and my high school German was inadequate, especially accompanied by a blockbusting hangover.

I didn't get anywhere tearing my hair and complaining from one end of the Bahnhof to the other. I drew a blank on the bag.

And the head was getting worse by the minute. I was bleeding to death through the eyes and instead of butterflies I had bats in my stomach. Believe me, nobody should drink a gallon or more of Marzenbrau.

I decided the hell with it. I took a cab to the airport, presented my return ticket, told them I wanted to leave on the first obtainable plane to New York. I'd spent two days at the Oktoberfest, and I'd had it.

I got more guff there. Something was wrong with the ticket, wrong date or some such. But they fixed that up. I never was clear on what was fouled up, some clerk's error, evidently.

The trip back was as uninteresting as the one over. As the hangover began to wear off--a little--I was almost sorry I hadn't been able to stay. If I'd only been able to get a room I would have stayed, I told myself.

From Idlewild, I came directly to the office rather than going to my apartment. I figured I might as well check in with Betty.

I opened the door and there I found Mr. Oyster sitting in the chair he had been occupying four--or was it five--days before when I'd left. I'd lost track of the time.

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