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The strange change of James Herold...from Milquetoast to Master Lover.

"Machine Made Man"

by H. H. Gentile



Vol. 1 No. 8, 1957

    James Herold was as insignificant a man as the second judge from the left in a newsreel shot of the Miss America contest. From behind his steel-rimmed spectacles, his blue eyes regarded Dr. Fisher with gale intensity. The regularity of his features lurked behind an essential timidity that utterly damned any projection of handsomeness. His lean, well proportioned body was invisible beneath the blue-serge blanket of a suit that encompassed it.
    He said, in a small, very uncertain voice, "You must be joking, Dr. Fisher."
    Dr. Fisher, the head man of Aptitudes, Inc., fought valiantly to mask his own disbelief behind an air of chronic authority as he rescanned James Herold's card. He said, "In dealing with more than twenty
thousand applicants, our system has never been wrong. I want to stress this fact for it is a fact...so that you will feel no lack of confidence in our verdict."
    "But," James Herold protested weakly. "But a ladies' man! Why, I've only had three women in my life! There was Jennie, the night of the hayride...she had too much hard cider and thought I was Dick Flater, the football captain at school. Then there was Millie West, three years later...I found out she was pregnant and only wanted a husband. And Mary--"
    "Please!" Dr. Fisher interrupted, lifting a well manicured hand to stop the confession. "Our battery of computers, based on the facts about yourself you have given us, reveal that you are a man born to make women happy...although this is a most unusual verdict, there is no denying it. Not one woman, but many. No woman born could give fulfillment to your virility alone. I am making no attempt to handle the morality angle for, frankly, we have never before been confronted with such an...er...unusual case. All I can say to you, based upon the verdict of our battery of electronic brains, is that your vocation is...must be, in fact women."
    James Herold uttered a single, weak syllable. "How?" he asked shakily.
    Dr. Fisher, momentarily taken aback, cleared his throat and pulled a handkerchief from his sleeve to mop his florid face. Then, rallying, he said, "Spruce yourself up, man. You wear glasses although the vision in only your left eye is defective. Buy a monocle. Be outstanding. Get yourself some clothes that will make women look at you. It's nature, man...even the male birds and other animals sport magnificent plumage or fur to attract the females."
    "And then...?" James Herold meekly inquired.
    "Then," Dr. Fisher all but roared, "ask them, for God's sake! The worst you can get is a refusal...and you won't get many of them, according to our machines...which, I again point out, have never yet been wrong."
    Thus began the metamorphosis of James Herold, from Milquetoast to Casanova. He had consulted Aptitudes, Inc., only because, after three years of standing in a teller's cage at the Bank of the Universe, without even the promise of a raise, he had felt, or rather hoped, that the business-analysis firm could help him pry his way out of the rut in which he seemed destined to run endlessly. He followed its dictates with grave misgivings, but he followed them...for James Herold was a man accustomed by training and lifelong habit to follow the voice of authority.
    His fellow tellers joshed him, a bit when he showed up for work in gaudy, horse-blanket tweeds and a Tyrolean hat with a cock-feather in its band. Mr. Resnik, the assistant cashier, lifted his left eyebrow when James appeared for work in a bright red sports-car he had traded his conservative sedan to get. And Mr. Ferriss, the manager, paused thoughtfully in front of James' cage when his monocle made its debut.
    That afternoon, he called the hitherto shrinking violet into his office and said, "Herold, in view of your recent...er...appearance, I'm either going to have to fire you or kick you upstairs. If you haven't become a racetrack character, you look as if you had, which is worse in our profession."
    "I'm sorry, sir," James Herald began, "but Aptitudes, Incorporated..."
    "Don't worry, young man," said the manager. I have checked your record fully and discover that we may have...er...been overlooking a man of excellent caliber. We have been seeking the proper person to fill a new position we are about to inaugurate...a special personal loan department. Nothing large, you understand, but a service to depositors in need of small amounts of cash for specific uses...actually, it is intended more for women who go over their budgets than for men. Do you think you can handle it?"
    "I'll be glad to try," said James Herold earnestly.
    "Frankly," said the manager, "a week ago I wouldn't have considered you. The job demands someone equipped not only with reliability, but with a certain amount of dash."
    James took on the job, and, less than a week later, he met Lois. Lois was a divorcee who sought an advance of a few hundred dollars against alimony. After hearing her case and eyeing her well-displayed battery of charms, he allowed that something might be arranged.
    "Perhaps," he said, checking an almost irresistible impulse to stammer and gulp, "you would like to discuss it further over a luncheon table."
    "I should love to," said Lois, dimpling charmingly. "You know, I've never met a man who wore a monocle before."
    Lois was a brand new experience for James...a knowing, receptive woman of the world, a far cry from the Jennie, Millie and Mary who had thus far so scantily filled his love-life. He drove her to a charming roadhouse out of the city, where the awing effect of a couple of daiquiris melted the last of his shyness.
    She said, over the coffee, "If I'd known I was going to meet a man like you, I'd never have worn this old rag to the bank."
    "James eyed her trim blue floral-print dress, which clung delightfully to the intriguing curves of her figure, and said, "I think it looks charming." Then with a start, "The bank! I've got to get back...I'm late already."
    Lois pouted prettily. "On such a lovely day?" She sighed and her soft, dark eyes lingered on his like a caress. "I hoped we could go for a ride after all, it's business, in a way."
    All at once, James Herold knew the dread moment had arrived. It was time for him to ask, if the money he had spent on Dr. Fisher's advice was not to be wasted. Suppressing another gulp, he took a deep breath, nerved himself and said, " Very well, then but I'd like very much to go to bed with you."
    Lois didn't even blink her artfully made-up eyes. She laughed softly and said simply, "My! I had no idea you bankers were such fast workers."
    Realizing with a flush of triumph that he had surmounted the hurdle, James said modestly, "Well, we try."
    "No one could ask for more," said the lovely, glowing woman. "Shall we go?"
    James took Lois for a drive that afternoon...directly to her smart little hillside apartment, overlooking the bay. Not that either of them spent much time looking out the window.
    "You're a doll," she whispered, her luscious lips less than an inch from his. "But don't you want to take your monocle off?"
    James didn't put it back on again until the following morning, when he left Lois, still lying half-asleep in bed, to dress for the bank. His mind was a chaos of erotic images, induced by the delightful madness through which he had just lived. Bending over to give Lois a farewell embrace, he uttered a silent prayer of thanks to Dr. Fisher, the man who had told him to ask. This, he told himself fervently, was living! With a capital L. Nor did his office-hour courting cost him any of the bank's favor, when Lois put her not inconsiderable account in the hands of the bank's trust department.
    Mr. Ferriss, rubbing his hands with pleasure, said, "It is always a joy to an executive to discover that he has put the right man in the right spot."
    The second woman James Herold asked was Joanie, a pert, bright-eyed little minx with an adorably plump figure he met at a party Lois took him to. When he said, before the evening was out, "I'd like terribly much to go to bed with you, Joanie," she eyed him seriously for the same long moment, then smiled softly and replied, "If Lois doesn't mind."
    "What Lois doesn't know won't hurt her," James Herold heard himself saying. "We must be discreet, that's all."
    Joanie sighed and pushed close to him and her hot little fingers stole meaningfully into his hand. "If what she tells me is only half-true," she whispered, "it's going to be wonderful."
    "Thank heavens for Lois' big mouth," said James Herold. "I'll tell Lois I've got a headache when I take her home."
    "I'll be waiting, darling," said the plump girl. Then, in a more practical vein, ''What a heavenly way to melt off twenty pounds."
    James might not have got to work at all the next morning, if Joanie's husband had not wired that he was flying in from New York on an early plane. For Joanie was even more exciting and inexhaustible than Lois. She was small, but she more than made up for her lack of size with her bottomless energy and sexual resourcefulness. It was a night of panting, moaning, quivering flesh such as he had never known before. When she bade James farewell, an almost tearful Joanie clung to him fiercely and said, "Just as soon as Phil leaves, I'll call you, darling. I've still got about eighteen pounds to lose."
    He chuckled and held her close, saying, "You're right...it sure beats dieting all to hell."
    By the time Joanie's husband took off on another (and prolonged) business trip, Joanie had convinced him that he should do all his financing through James Herold's bank. Since he represented a thriving international business, Mr. Ferriss rubbed his bands even harder than before. "Great work, young man!" he said. "Great work! You certainly do have a knack for bringing in accounts. A pity we left you behind a teller's window so long."
    "I've merely been lucky," said James Herold modestly.
    By the time he had managed to put his nights with both women on an equitable schedule, James met Eileen. She was lissome and redheaded and furious with a husband she knew was keeping a blonde in a West End apartment. When James put the question to her, she said, "Why didn't you say so sooner? If that gander of mine is getting so much sauce, this goose is going to start cooking some for herself. Kiss me, honey, and tell me I'm not a mess. That bastard I married has just about wiped out my ego."
    James said, "You're perfectly, wholly adorable, darling, and all I want is to adore you." This he did, on her bed, on her living room sofa, on the floor and even in the tub...for Eileen was the adventurous sort. Her penchant for variety in sex added piquancy to the wooing, as well as an assortment of mat burns in odd portions of James' anatomy. It also produced a wholly unexpected trust fund, amounting to more than half a million dollars, which Eileen had transferred to James' bank. And Mr. Ferriss rubbed the skin off one of his hands and went around with a happy band aid for almost a week.
    Such was the situation when James received a call from Dr. Fisher of Aptitudes, Inc. Dr. Fisher wanted him to come to the office at his earliest convenience. There, he said, looking as professionally mournful as an undertaker at a train wreck, "Mr. Herold, this is very difficult and delicate, but I must confess that a short circuit in part of our electronic brain caused us to give an utterly faulty verdict in your case. I am only happy that we discovered and rectified the error soon enough so that our error can have had little effect on your life."
    "Not at all," said James, puzzled. "You have tested me again."
    "The processing was completed this morning," said Mr. Fisher, eyeing James' sartorial splendor uncomfortably.
    "And..." James asked him.
    Dr. Fisher clear his throat. "Our computer," he resumed, "has discovered that, while you have definite tendencies toward artistic creativity, you are also exceedingly introverted and uncomfortable in the jungle of life. In short, your creativity is balanced by a need for security without which you will be in constant peril of incipient neurosis."
    "What about women ?" James asked him.
    Dr. Fisher sighed and shook his graying head. "Again," he said, "I fear our machine was at fault. The fact that you are introverted militates greatly against your enjoying any spectacular success with the fair sex. This does not confine you to celibacy, of course...but it suggests that you will find happiness only with some woman very like yourself...shy, quiet, monogamous, perhaps even repressed."
    "I see." James frowned thoughtfully. "Then what line of activity does your machine recommend?"
    "It may not be easy to find the sort of jobs you will do best in, since the field is exceedingly limited," Dr. Fisher told him gently. "But its recommendation is explicit. Since you have creative ability, allied, I regret to inform you, with small talent, and suffer a basic need for security, we have outlined the ideal situation for you. Mr. Herold, your true career should be in the toy business...to be precise, painting spots on rocking horses."
    "That might prove difficult to find," said James thoughtfully. He rose, added, "But I'll look into it. Thank you very much, Dr. Fisher, for everything."
    A lifetime of conformity and obedience to instruction caused James to feel a certain regret that he was going to have to turn down the suggestion of the electronic brain. He paused in the reception room on his way out of Aptitudes, Inc., to ponder the problem for a moment, and to screw his monocle into his eye.
    The receptionist, who was very blonde and very pretty, with a figure which the words "well rounded" utterly failed to do justice, smiled at him and said, "All straightened out now, Mr. Herold?"
    "Eh? Oh, yes...everything's fine," he replied. Then, noting her prettiness and the expectance in her gentian yes, he realized he was going to ask the question a fourth time. As he leaned over her desk, smiling down at her, he felt a sudden wave of relief. She was no rocking horse, nor did he intend to paint spots on her, but at least she wore her golden hair in a pony-tail. So maybe Dr. Fisher's machine had the right idea after all, he thought.

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