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Philip K. Dick

We Can Build You

To Robert and Ginny Heinlein,

whose kindness to us meant more

than ordinary words can answer.


Our sales technique was perfected in the early 1970s. First we put an ad in a local newspaper, in the classified.

Spinet piano, also electronic organ, repossessed,

in perfect condition, SACRIFICE. Cash or good credit

risk wanted in this area, to take over payments rather

than transport back to Oregon. Contact Frauenzimmer

Piano Company, Mr. Rock, Credit Manager, Ontario, Ore.

For years we've run this ad in newspapers in one town after another, all up and down the western states and as far inland as Colorado. The whole approach developed on a scientific, systematic basis; we use maps, and sweep along so that no town goes untouched. We own four turbine-powered trucks, out on the road constantly, one man to a truck.

Anyhow, we place the ad, say in the San Rafael Independent-Journal, and soon letters start arriving at our office in Ontario, Oregon, where my partner Maury Rock takes care of all that. He sorts the letters and compiles lists, and then when he has enough contacts in a particular area, say around San Rafael, he night-wires the truck. Suppose it's Fred down there in Mann County. When Fred gets the wire he brings out his own map and lists the calls in proper sequence. And then he finds a pay phone and telephones the first prospect.

Meanwhile, Maury has airmailed an answer to each person who's written in response to the ad.

Dear Mr. So-and-so:

We were gratified to receive your response to our notice

in the San Rafael Independent-Journal. The man who is handling

this matter has been away from the office for a few days now,

so we've decided to forward to him your name and address with

the request that he contact you and provide you with all the


The letter drones on, but for several years now it has done a good job for the company. However, of late, sales of the electronic organs have fallen off. For instance, in the Vallejo area we sold forty spinets not so long ago, and not one single organ.

Now, this enormous balance in favor of the spinet over the electronic organ, in terms of sales, led to an exchange between I and my partner, Maury Rock; it was heated, too.

I got to Ontario, Oregon, late, having been down south around Santa Monica discussing matters with certain dogooders there who had invited law-enforcement officials in to scan our enterprise and method of operating... a gratuitous action which led to nothing, of course, since we're operating strictly legally.

Ontario isn't my hometown, or anybody else's. I hail from Wichita Falls, Kansas, and when I was high school age I moved to Denver and then to Boise, Idaho. In some respects Ontario is a suburb of Boise; it's near the Idaho border-- you go across a long metal bridge--and it's a flat land, there, where they farm. The forests of eastern Oregon don't begin that far inland. The biggest industry is the Ore-Ida potato patty factory, especially its electronics division, and then there're a whole lot of Japanese farmers who were shuffled back that way during World War Two and who grow onions or something. The air is dry, real estate is cheap, people do their big shopping in Boise; the latter is a big town which I don't like because you can't get decent Chinese food there. It's near the old Oregon Trail, and the railroad goes through it on its way to Cheyenne.

Our office is located in a brick building in downtown Ontario across from a hardware store. We've got root iris growing around our building. The colors of the iris look good when you come driving up the desert routes from California and Nevada.

So anyhow I parked my dusty Chevrolet Magic Fire turbine convertible and crossed the sidewalk to our building and our sign:


MASA stands for MULTIPLEX ACOUSTICAL SYSTEM OF AMERICA, a made-up electronics-type name which we developed due to our electronic organ factory, which, due to my family ties, I'm deeply involved with. It was Maury who came up with Frauenzimmer Piano Company, since as a name it fitted our trucking operation better. Frauenzimmer is Maury's original old-country name, Rock being made-up, too. My real name is as I give it: Louis Rosen, which is German for roses. One day I asked Maury what Frauenzimmer meant, and he said it means womankind. I asked where he specifically got the name Rock.

"I closed my eyes and touched a volume of the encyclopedia, and it said ROCK TO SUBUD."

"You made a mistake," I told him. "You should have called yourself Maury Subud."

The downstairs door of our building dates back to 1965 and ought to be replaced, but we just don't have the funds. I pushed the door open, it's massive and heavy but swings nicely, and walked to the elevator, one of those old automatic affairs. A minute later I was upstairs stepping out in our offices. The fellows were talking and drinking loudly.

"Time has passed us by," Maury said at once to me. "Our electronic organ is obsolete."

"You're wrong," I said. "The trend is actually _toward_ the electronic organ because that's the way America is going in its space exploration: electronic. In ten years we won't sell one spinet a day; the spinet will be a relic of the past."

"Louis," Maury said, "please look what our competitors have done. Electronics may be marching forward, but without us. Look at the Hammerstein Mood Organ. Look at the Waldteufel Euphoria. And tell me why anyone would be content like you merely to bang out music."

Maury is a tall fellow, with the emotional excitability of the hyperthyroid. His hands tend to shake and he digests his food too fast; they're giving him pills, and if those don't work he has to take radioactive iodine someday. If he stood up straight he'd be six three. He's got, or did have once, black hair, very long but thinning, and large eyes, and he always had a sort of disconcerted look, as if things are going all wrong on every side.

"No good musical instrument becomes obsolete," I said. But Maury had a point. What had undone us was the extensive brain-mapping of the mid 1960s and the depth-electrode techniques of Penfield and Jacobson and Olds, especially their discoveries about the mid-brain. The hypothalamus is where the emotions lie, and in developing and marketing our electronic organ we had not taken the hypothalamus into account. The Rosen factory never got in on the transmission of selective-frequency short range shock, which stimulates very specific cells of the mid-brain, and we certainly failed from the start to see how easy--and important--it would be to turn the circuit switches into a keyboard of eighty-eight black and whites.

Like most people, I've dabbled at the keys of a Hammerstein Mood Organ, and I enjoy it. But there's nothing creative about it. True, you can hit on new configurations of brain stimulation, and hence produce entirely new emotions in your head which would never otherwise show up there. You might--theoretically--even hit on the combination that will put you in the state of nirvana. Both the Hammerstein and Waldteufel corporations have a big prize for that. But that's not music. That's escape. Who wants it?

"I want it," Maury had said back as early as December of 1978. And he had gone out and hired a cashiered electronics engineer of the Federal Space Agency, hoping he could rig up for us a new version of the hypothalamus-stimulation organ.