Carmody had never really planned to leave New York. Why he did so is inexplicable. A born
urbanite, he had grown accustomed to the minor inconveniences of metropolitan
life. His snug apartment on the 290th floor of Levitfrack Towers on West
Ninety-ninth Street was nicely equipped in the current “Spaceship” motif. The
windows were doublesealed in a tinted lifetime plexiglass, and the air ducts
worked through a blind baffle filtration system which sealed automatically when
the Combined Atmosphere Pollution Index reached 999.8 on the Con Ed scale.
True, his oxygen-nitrogen air recirculation system was old, but it was
reliable. His water purification cells were obsolete and ineffective; but then,
nobody drank water anyhow.
Noise was a continual
annoyance, unstoppable and inescapable. But Carmody knew that there was no cure
for this, since the ancient art of soundproofing had been lost. It was urban
man’s lot to listen, a captive audience, to the arguments, music and watery
gurglings of his adjacent neighbors. Even this torture could be alleviated,
however, by producing similar sounds of one’s own.
Going to work each
day entailed certain dangers; but these were more apparent than real.
Disadvantaged snipers continued to make their ineffectual protests from
rooftops and occasionally succeeded in potting an unwary out-of-towner. But as
a rule, their aim was abominable. Additionally, the general acceptance of
light-weight personal armor had taken away most of their sting, and the sternly
administered state law forbidding the personal possession of surplus cannon had
rendered them ineffectual.
Thus, no single
factor can be adduced for Carmody’s sudden decision to leave what was generally
considered the world’s most exciting megapolitan agglomeration. Blame in on a
vagrant impulse, a pastoral fantasy, or on sheer perversity. The simple,
irreducible fact is, one day Carmody opened his copy of the Daily Times-News
and saw an advertisement for a model city in New Jersey.
“Come and live in
Bellwether, the city that cares,” the advertisement proclaimed. There followed
a list of utopian claims which need not be reproduced here.
“Huh,” said Carmody,
and read on.
Bellwether was within
easy commuting distance. One simply drove through the Ulysses S. Grant tunnel
at 43rd Street, took the Hoboken Shunt Subroad to the Palisades Interstate
Crossover, followed that for 3.2 miles on the Blue-Charlie Sorter Loop that led
onto U.S. 5 (The Hague Memorial Tollway), proceeded along that a distance of
6.1 miles to the Garden State Supplementary Access Service Road (Provisional),
upon which one tended west to Exit 1731A, which was King’s Highbridge Gate
Road, and then continued along that for a distance of 1.6 miles. And there you
“By jingo,” said
Carmody, I’ll do it.”
And he did.
Gate Road ended on a neatly trimmed plain. Carmody got out of his car and
looked around. Half a mile ahead of him he saw a small city. A single modest
signpost identified it as Bellwether.
This city was not
constructed in the traditional manner of American cities, with outliers of gas
stations, tentacles of hot-dog stands, fringes of motels and a protective
carapace of junkyards; but rather, as some Italian hill towns are fashioned, it
rose abruptly without physical preamble, the main body of the town presenting
itself at once and without amelioration.
Carmody found this
appealing. He advanced into the city itself.
Bellwether had a warm
and open look. Its streets were laid out generously, and there was a frankness
about the wide bay windows of its store-fronts. As he penetrated deeper,
Carmody found other delights. Just within the city he entered a piazza, like a
Roman piazza, only smaller; and in the center of the piazza there was a
fountain, and standing in the fountain was a marble representation of a boy
with a dolphin, and from the dolphin’s mouth a stream of clear water issued.
“I do hope you like
it,” a voice said from behind Carmody’s left shoulder.
“It’s nice,” Carmody
“I constructed it and
put it there myself,” the voice told him. “It seemed to me that a fountain,
despite the antiquity of its concept, is aesthetically functional. And this
piazza, with its benches and shady chestnut trees, is copied from a Bolognese
model. Again, I did not inhibit myself with the fear of seeming old-fashioned.
The true artist uses what is necessary, be it a thousand years old or one
“I applaud your
sentiment,” Carmody said. “Permit me to introduce myself. I am Edward Carmody.”
He turned, smiling.
But there was no one
behind his left shoulder, or behind his right shoulder, either. There was no
one in the piazza, nobody at all in sight.
“Forgive me,” the
voice said. “I didn’t mean to startle you. I thought you knew.”
“Knew what?” Carmody
“Knew about me.”
“Well, I don’t,”
Carmody said. “Who are you and where are you speaking from?”
“I am the voice of
the city,” the voice said. “Or to put it another way, I am the city itself,
Bellwether, the actual and veritable city, speaking to you.”
“Is that a fact?”
Carmody said sardonically. “Yes,” he answered himself, “I suppose it is a fact.
So all right, you’re a city. Big deal!”
He turned away from
the fountain and strolled across the piazza like a man who conversed with
cities every day of his life, and who was slightly bored with the whole thing.
He walked down various streets and up certain avenues. He glanced into store
windows and noted houses. He paused in front of the statuary, but only briefly.
“Well?” the city of
Bellwether asked after a while.
“Well, what?” Carmody
answered at once.
“Well, what do you
think of me?”
“Only okay? Is that
“Look,” Carmody said,
“a city is a city. When you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all.”
“That’s untrue!” the
city said, with some show of pique. “I am distinctly different from other
cities. I am unique.”
“Are you indeed?”
Carmody said scornfully. “To me you look like a conglomeration of badly
assembled parts. You’ve got an Italian piazza, a couple of Greek-type
buildings, a row of Tudor houses, an old-style New York tenement, a California
hot-dog stand shaped like a tugboat and God knows what else. What’s so unique
“The combination of
those forms into a meaningful entity is unique,” the city said. “These older
forms are not anachronisms, you understand. They are representative styles of
living, and as such are appropriate in a well-wrought machine for living. Would
you care for some coffee and perhaps a sandwich or some fresh fruit?”
“Coffee sounds good,”
Carmody said. He allowed Bellwether to guide him around the corner to an
open-air cafe. The cafe was called “O You Kid” and was a replica of a Gay
Nineties’ saloon, right down to the Tiffany lamps and the cut-glass chandelier
and the player piano. Like everything else that Carmody had seen in the city,
it was spotlessly clean, but without people.
don’t you think?” Bellwether asked.
pronounced. “Okay if you like that sort of thing.”
A foaming mug of
cappuccino was lowered to his table on a stainless steel tray. Carmody sipped.
“Yes, very good.”
“I rather pride
myself on my coffee,” the city said quietly. “And on my cooking. Wouldn’t you
care for a little something? An omelette, perhaps, or a souffle?”
said firmly. He leaned back in his chair and said, “So you’re a model city,
“Yes, that is what I
have the honor to be,” Bellwether said. “I am the most recent of all model
cities; and, I believe, the most satisfactory. I was conceived by a joint study
group from Yale and the University of Chicago, who were working on a
Rockefeller fellowship. Most of my practical details were devised by M.I.T.,
although some special sections of me came from Princeton and from the RAND
Corporation. My actual construction was a General Electric project, and the
money was procured by grants from the Ford and Carnegie Foundations, as well
several other institutions I am not at liberty to mention.”
“Interesting sort of
history,” Carmody said, with hateful nonchalance. “That’s a Gothic Cathedral across
the street, isn’t it?”
Romanesque,” the city said. “Also interdenominational and open to all faiths,
with a designed seating capacity for three hundred people.”
“That doesn’t seem
like many for a building of that size.”
“It’s not, of course.
Designedly. My idea was to combine awesomeness with coziness.”
“Where are the
inhabitants of this town, by the way?” Carmody asked.
“They have left,”
Bellwether said mournfully. “They have all departed.”
The city was silent
for a while, then said, “There was a breakdown in city-community relations. A
misunderstanding, really. Or perhaps I should say, an unfortunate series of
misunderstandings. I suspect that rabble-rousers played their part.”
“But what happened, precisely?”
“I don’t know,” the
city said. “I really don’t know. One day they simply all left. Just like that!
But I’m sure they’ll be back.”
“I wonder,” Carmody
“I am convinced of
it,” the city said. “But putting that aside: why don’t you stay here,
“I haven’t really had
time to consider it,” Carmody said.
“How could you help
but like it?” Bellwether said. “Just think—you would have the most modern
up-to-date city in the world at your beck and call.”
“This does sound
interesting,” Carmody said.
“So give it a try,
how could it hurt you?” the city asked.
“All right, I think I
will,” Carmody said.
He was intrigued by
the city of Bellwether. But he was also apprehensive. He wished he knew exactly
why the city’s previous occupants had left.
At Bellwether’s insistence,
Carmody slept that night in the sumptuous bridal suite of the King George V
Hotel. Bellwether served him breakfast on the terrace and played a brisk Haydn
quartet while Carmody ate. The morning air was delicious. If Bellwether hadn’t
told him, Carmody would never have guessed it was reconstituted.
When he was finished,
Carmody leaned back and enjoyed the view of Bellwether’s western quarter—a
pleasing jumble of Chinese pagodas, Venetian footbridges, Japanese canals, a
green Burmese hill, a Corinthian temple, a California parking lot, a Norman
tower and much else besides.
“You have a splendid
view,” he told the city.
“I’m so glad you
appreciate it,” Bellwether replied. “The problem of style was argued from the
day of my inception. One group held for consistency: a harmonious group of
shapes blending into a harmonious whole. But quite a few model cities are like
that. They are uniformly dull, artificial entities created by one man or one
committee, unlike real cities.”
“You’re sort of
artificial yourself, aren’t you?” Carmody asked.
“Of course! But I do
not pretend to be anything else. I am not a fake ‘city of the future’ or a
mock-florentine bastard. I am a true agglutinated congeries. I am supposed to
be interesting and stimulating in addition to being functional and practical.”
“Bellwether, you look
okay to me,” Carmody said, in a sudden rush of expansiveness. “Do all model
cities talk like you?”
“Certainly not. Most
cities up to now, model or otherwise, never said a word. But their inhabitants
didn’t like that. It made the city seem too huge, too masterful, too soulless,
too impersonal. That is why I was created with a voice and an artificial
consciousness to guide it.”
“I see,” Carmody
“The point is, my
artificial consciousness personalizes me, which is very important in an age of
depersonalization. It enables me to be truly responsive. It permits me to be
creative in meeting the demands of my occupants. We can reason with each other,
my people and I. By carrying on a continual and meaningful dialogue, we can
help each other to establish a dynamic, flexible and truly viable urban
environment. We can modify each other without any significant loss of
“It sounds fine,”
Carmody said. “Except, of course, that you don’t have anyone here to carry on a
“That is the only
flaw in the scheme,” the city admitted. “But for the present, I have you.”
“Yes, you have me,”
Carmody said, and wondered why the words rang unpleasantly on his ear.
“And, naturally, you
have me,” the city said. “It is a reciprocal relationship, which is the only
kind worth having. But now, my dear Carmody, suppose I show you around myself.
then we can get you settled in and regularized.”
“Get me what?”
“I didn’t mean it the
way it sounded,” the city said. “It simply is an unfortunate scientific
expression. But you understand, I’m sure, that a reciprocal relationship
necessitates obligations on the part of both involved parties. It couldn’t very
well be otherwise, could it?”
“Not unless it was a laissez-faire
“We’re trying to get
away from all that,” Bellwether said. “Laissez-faire
becomes a doctrine of the emotions, you know, and leads non-stop to anomie. If you will just come this way.”
Carmody went where he
was asked and beheld the excellencies of Bellwether. He toured the power plant,
the water filtration center, the industrial park and the light industries
section. He saw the children’s park and the Odd Fellow’s Hall. He walked
through a museum and an art gallery, a concert hall and a theater, a bowling
alley, a billiards parlor, a Go-Kart track and a movie theater. He became tired
and wanted to stop. But the city wanted to show itself off, and Carmody had to
look at the five-story American Express building, the Portuguese synagogue, the
statue of Buckminster Fuller, the Greyhound Bus Station and several other
At last it was over.
Carmody concluded that beauty was in the eye of the beholder, except for a
small part of it that was in the beholder’s feet.
“A little lunch now?”
the city asked.
“Fine,” Carmody said.
He was guided to the
fashionable Rochambeau Cafe, where he began with potage au petit poi and
ended with petits fours.”
about a nice Brie to finish off?” the city asked.
“No thanks,” Carmody
said. “I’m full. Too full, as a matter of fact.”
“But cheese isn’t
filling. A bit of first rate Camembert?”
“Perhaps a few
assorted fruits. Very refreshing to the palate.”
“It’s not my palate
that needs refreshing,” Carmody said.
“At least an apple, a
pear and a couple of grapes?”
“A couple of
“No, no, no!”
“A meal isn’t
complete without a little fruit,” the city said.
“My meal is,” Carmody
“There are important
vitamins only found in fresh fruit.”
“I’ll just have to
struggle along without them.”
“Perhaps an orange,
which I will peel for you? Citrus fruits have no bulk at all.”
“Not even one quarter
of an orange? If I take out all the pits?”
“Most decidedly not.”
“It would make me
feel better,” the city said. “I have a completion compulsion, you know, and no
meal is complete without a piece of fruit.”
“No! No! No!”
“All right, don’t get
so excited,” the city said. “If you don’t like the sort of food I serve, that’s
up to you.”
“But I do like it.”
“Then if you like it
so much, why won’t you eat some fruit?”
said. “Give me a couple of grapes.”
“I wouldn’t want to
force anything on you.”
“You’re not forcing.
Give me, please.”
“You’re quite sure?”
“So take,” the city
said and produced a magnificent bunch of muscatel grapes. Carmody ate them all.
They were very good.
“Excuse me,” the city
said. “What are you doing?”
Carmody sat upright
and opened his eyes. “I was taking a little nap,” he said. “Is there anything
wrong with that?”
“What should be wrong
with a perfect natural thing like that?” the city said.
“Thank you,” Carmody
said, and closed his eyes again.
“But why a nap in a
chair?” the city asked.
“Because I’m in a
chair, and I’m already half asleep.”
“You’ll get a crick
in your back,” the city warned him.
“Don’t care,” Carmody
mumbled, his eyes still closed.
“Why not take a
proper nap? Over here on the couch?”
“I’m already napping
comfortably right here.”
“You’re not really
comfortable,” the city pointed out. “The human anatomy is not constructed for
sleeping sitting up,”
“At the moment, mine
is,” Carmody said.
“It’s not. Why not
try the couch?”
“The chair is fine.”
“But the couch is
finer. Just try it, please, Carmody. Carmody?”
“Eh? What’s that?”
Carmody said, waking up.
“The couch. I really
think you should rest on the couch.”
“All right!” Carmody
said, struggling to his feet. “Where is this couch?”
He was guided out of
the restaurant, down the street, around the corner, and into a building marked
“The Snoozerie.” There were a dozen couches. Carmody went to the nearest.
“Not that one,” the
city said. “It’s got a bad spring.”
“It doesn’t matter,”
Carmody said. “I’ll sleep around it.”
“That will result in
a cramped posture.”
said, getting to his feet. “Which couch would you recommend?”
“The one right back
here,” the city said. “It’s a king-size, the best in the place. The yield-point
of the mattress has been scientifically determined. The pillows—”
“Right, fine, good,”
Carmody said, lying down on the indicated couch.
“Shall I play you
some soothing music?”
“Just as you wish.
I’ll put out the lights, then.”
“Would you like a
blanket? I control the temperature here, of course, but sleepers often get a
subjective impression of chilliness.”
“It doesn’t matter!
Leave me alone!”
“All right! the city
said. “I’m not doing this for myself, you know. Personally, I never sleep.”
“Okay, sorry,” Carmody
“That’s perfectly all
There was a long
silence. Then Carmody sat up.
“What’s the matter?”
the city asked.
“Now I can’t sleep,”
“Try closing your
eyes and consciously relaxing every muscle in your body, starting with the big
toe and working upward to—”
“I can’t sleep!”
“Maybe you weren’t
very sleepy to begin with,” the city suggested. “But at least you could close
your eyes and try to get a little rest. Won’t you do that for me?”
“No!” Carmody said. “I’m
not sleepy and I don’t need a rest.”
“Stubborn!” the city
said. “Do what you like. I’ve tried my best.”
“Yeah!” Carmody said,
getting to his feet and walking out of the Snoozerie.
Carmody stood on a
little curved bridge and looked over a blue lagoon.
“This is a copy of
the Rialto bridge in Venice,” the city said. “Scaled down, of course.”
“I know,” Carmody
said. “I read the sign.”
enchanting isn’t it?”
“Sure, it’s fine,”
Carmody said, lighting a cigarette.
“You’re doing a lot
of smoking,” the city pointed out.
“I know. I feel like
“As your medical
advisor, I must point out that the link between smoking and lung cancer is
“If you switched to a
pipe your chances would be improved.”
“I don’t like pipes.”
“What about a cigar,
“I don’t like
cigars.” He lit another cigarette.
“That’s your third
cigarette in five minutes,” the city said.
“Goddamn it, I’ll
smoke as much and as often as please!” Carmody shouted.
“Well, of course you
will!” the city said. “I was merely trying to advise you for your own good.
Would you want me to simply stand by and not say a word while you destroyed
“Yes,” Carmody said.
“I can’t believe that
you mean that. There is an ethical imperative involved here. Man can act
against his best interests; but a machine is not allowed that degree of
“Get off my back,”
Carmody said sullenly. “Quit pushing me around.”
“Pushing you around?
My dear Carmody, have I coerced you in any way? Have I done any more than
“Maybe not. But you
talk too much.”
“Perhaps I don’t talk
enough,” the city said. “To judge from the response I get.”
“You talk too much,”
Carmody repeated and lit a cigarette.
“That is your fourth
cigarette in five minutes.”
Carmody opened his
mouth to bellow an insult. Then he changed his mind and walked away.
“It’s a candy
machine,” the city told him.
“It doesn’t look like
“Still, it is one.
This design is a modification of a design by Saarionmen for a silo. I have
miniaturized it, of course, and—”
“It still doesn’t
look like a candy machine. How do you work it?”
“It’s very simple.
Push the red button. Now wait. Press down one of those levers on Row A; now
press the green button. There!”
A Baby Ruth bar slid
into Carmody’s hand.
“Huh,” Carmody said.
He stripped off the paper and bit into the bar. “Is this a real Baby Ruth bar
or a copy of one?” he asked.
“It’s a real one. I
had to subcontract the candy concession because of the pressure of work.”
“Huh,” Carmody said,
letting the candy wrapper slip from his fingers.
“That,” the city
said, “is an example of the kind of thoughtlessness I always encounter.”
“It’s just a piece of
paper,” Carmody said, turning and looking at the candy wrapper lying on the
“Of course it’s just
a piece of paper,” the city said. “But multiply it by a hundred thousand
inhabitants and what do you have?”
“A hundred thousand
Baby Ruth wrappers,” Carmody answered at once.
“I don’t consider
that funny,” the city said. “You wouldn’t want to live in the midst of
all that paper, I can assure you. You’d be the first to complain if this street
were strewn with garbage. But do you do your share? Do you even clean up after
yourself? Of course not! You leave it to me, even though I have to run all of
the other functions of the city, night and day, without even Sundays off.”
Carmody bent down to
pick up the candy wrapper. But just before his fingers could close on it, a
pincer arm shot out of the nearest sewer, snatched the paper away and vanished
“It’s all right,” the
city said. “I’m used to cleaning up after people. I do it all the time.”
“Yuh,” said Carmody.
“Nor do I expect any
“I’m grateful, I’m
grateful.” Carmody said.
“No, you’re not,”
“So okay maybe I’m
not. What do you want me to say?”
“I don’t want you to
say anything,” the city said. “Let us consider the incident closed.”
“Had enough?” the
city said, after dinner.
“You didn’t eat
“I ate all I wanted.
It was very good.”
“If it was so good,
why didn’t you eat more?”
“Because I couldn’t
hold any more.”
“If you hadn’t
spoiled your appetite with that candy bar …”
“Goddamn it, the
candy bar didn’t spoil my appetite. I just—”
“You’re lighting a
cigarette,” the city said.
“Yeah,” Carmody said.
“Couldn’t you wait a
“Now look,” Carmody
said. “Just what in hell do you—”
“But we have
something more important to talk about,” the city said quickly. “Have you
thought about what you’re going to do for a living?”
“I haven’t really had
much time to think about it.”
“Well, I have been
thinking about it. It would be nice if you became a doctor.”
“Me? I’d have to take
special college courses, then get into medical school, and so forth.”
“I can arrange all
that,” the city said.
“Well …What about
“Engineering is an
“Not for me.”
“Not on your life.”
“What do you want to
“A jet pilot,”
Carmody said impulsively.
“Oh, come now!”
“I’m quite serious.”
“I don’t even have an
air field here.”
“Then I’ll pilot
“You’re only saying
that to spite me!”
“Not at all,” Carmody
said. “I want to be a pilot, I really do. I’ve always wanted to be a
pilot. Honest I have!”
There was a long
silence. Then the city said, “The choice is entirely up to you.” This was said
in a voice that sounded like death.
“Where are you going
“Out for a walk,” Carmody
“At nine-thirty in
“Sure. Why not?”
“I thought you were
“That was quite some
“I see. And I also
thought that you could sit here and we could have a nice chat.”
“How about if we talk
after I get back?”
“No, it doesn’t
matter,” Bellwether said.
“The walk doesn’t
matter,” Carmody said, sitting down. “Come on, we’ll talk.”
“I no longer care to
talk,” the city said. “Please go for your walk.”
“Well, good night,”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I said, ‘good
“You’re going to
“Sure. It’s late, I’m
“You’re going to
“Well, why not?”
“No reason at all,”
the city said, “except that you have forgotten to wash.”
“Oh. … I guess I did
forget. I’ll wash in the morning.”
“How long has it been
since you’ve had a bath?”
“Too long. I’ll take
one in the morning.”
“Wouldn’t you feel
better if you took one right now?”
“Even if I drew the
bath for you?”
“No! Goddamn it, no!
I’m going to sleep.”
“Do exactly as you
please,” the city said. “Don’t wash, don’t study, don’t eat a balanced diet.
But also, don’t blame me.”
“Blame you? For
“For anything,” the
“Yes. But what did
you have in mind, specifically?”
“It isn’t important.”
“Then why did you
bring it up in the first place?”
“I was only thinking
of you,” the city said.
“I realize that.”
“You must know that
it can’t benefit me if you wash or not.”
“I’m aware of that.”
“When one cares,” the
city went on, “when one feels one’s responsibilities, it is not nice to hear
oneself sworn at.”
“I didn’t swear at
“Not this time. But
earlier today you did.”
“Well … I was
“That’s because of
“Don’t start that
“I won’t,” the city
said. “Smoke like a furnace. What does it matter to me?”
Carmody said, lighting a cigarette.
“But my failure,” the
“No, no,” Carmody
said. “Don’t say it, please don’t.”
“Forget I said it,”
the city said.
“Sometimes I get
“And it’s especially
difficult because I’m right. I am right, you know.”
“I know,” Carmody
said. “You’re right, you’re right, you’re always right. Right right right right
yourself at bedtime,” the city said. “Would you care for a glass of milk?”
Carmody put his hands
over his eyes. He felt very strange. He also felt extremely guilty, fragile,
dirty, unhealthy and sloppy. He felt generally and irrevocably bad, and it
would always be this way unless he changed, adjusted, adapted …
But instead of
attempting anything of the sort he rose to his feet, squared his shoulders, and
marched away past the roman piazza and the Venetian bridge.
“Where are you
going?” the city asked. “What’s the matter?”
Carmody continued past the children’s park and the American Express building.
“What did I do
wrong?” the city cried. “What, just tell me what?”
Carmody made no reply
but strode past the Rochambeau Cafe and the Portuguese synagogue, coming at
last to the pleasant green plain that surrounded Bellwether.
“Ingrate!” the city
screamed after him. “You’re just like all the others. All of you humans are
disagreeable animals, and you’re never really satisfied with anything.”
Carmody got into his
car and started the engine.
“But of course,” the
city said, in a more thoughtful voice, “you’re never really dissatisfied with
anything either. The moral, I suppose, is that a city must learn patience.”
Carmody turned the car
onto King’s Highbridge Gate Road and started east, toward New York.
“Have a nice trip!”
Bellwether called after him. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be waiting up for you.”
stepped down hard on the accelerator. He really wished he hadn’t heard that