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Thrilling Sports, Summer, 1951
Ants in His Planets
When the pretty astrologer named Abigail came along waving her
horoscopes, what happened to Howitzer Hogan was unpredictable!
ITTLE Gus Arnovic, manager of that
up and coming young heavyweight,
George “Howitzer” Hogan, was
distinctly unhappy as he crouched on the
floor outside the ring apron and stared up at
his boy’s endeavors in the eighth round of
the main event at the Valley Fight Arena.
The derby hat that crowned Gus’
thinning locks was dented and askew. His
heliotrope and orange hand-painted tie was
a limp, bedraggled mess. The long-dead
cigar clamped in one corner of his mouth
looked like it had been used for a teething
ring by a particularly industrious beaver.
“What’s the matter with the big lug,
anyway?” Gus wailed to Willie Laverty,
Howitzer’s trainer and chief second. “For
seven rounds I have tried everything except
plant a battery in the seat of his pants. Don’t
he even want to fight tonight?”
“If he wants to, he’d better start,” Willie
answered. “Just two more rounds comin’ up
after this one.”
The bell clanged for the end of the
eighth. Gus and Willie scrambled up into
the ring to work over a thoroughly dispirited
Howitzer Hogan.
“Don’t look now, Junior,” Gus said,
“but there are some sports writers down
front there. I do not think they will be
calling you ‘Howitzer’ in tomorrow
morning’s papers. You will be lucky if they
even call you ‘Pea-Shooter.’ ”
“I can’t help it, Gus,” Howitzer
mumbled. “Tonight just ain’t my night.
Saturn is in the wrong house.”
“If the guy is sitting out front, he is
certainly in the wrong house,” Gus
conceded. “He is probably figuring by now
that he should much better of gone to a nice
hot checkers match.”
HE crowd gave voice as the gladiators
came out for the ninth. Gus flinched.
There were no wreaths of laurel in that
ovation. It was without doubt the largest
bowl of raspberries ever collected in the
previously flourishing ring career of
Howitzer Hogan.
Howitzer’s opponent was Dapper Danny
Dixon. Danny was a powder-puff puncher,
but he could box with a clever grace that
would almost feint his own shadow out of
position, and his footwork was nimbler than
that of a barefooted jack rabbit on a red-hot
stove. Gus had figured that all Howitzer had
to do was stalk the fancy-dancing Danny for
a few rounds until he got a chance to throw
the lethal right that had given Howitzer his
name. Then another KO would be added to
the imposing Hogan record. Things had
worked out a little differently, however.
So far in the bout, Howitzer had stayed
so far away from Danny that the only way
he could have landed his famed right would
have been by parcel post. That sort of long
range battle had been Danny’s pet dish. For
eight solid rounds, his flicking, jabbing
gloves had piled up points faster than a
porcupine in moulting season.
The ninth round started out the same
way. Midway of the round, it suddenly
became more so. Danny feinted Howitzer as
wide open as a barn door, then came
through with a lightning one-two-three. The
“one” was a hook to the left ear. The “two”
was a right cross to the button. The “three”
was a resounding smack on the rear portion
of Howitzer’s trunks as he landed on the
The only thing hurt was Howitzer’s
dignity. He was back on his feet at the count
of three. He promptly used those feet to
stage a retreat rivaled only in the annals of
history by Napoleon’s departure from
Moscow. Danny was still vainly trying to
catch him at the bell.
Gus talked frantically during the oneminute rest period. Howitzer listened to the
pep talk with no interest whatever. He went
out running to start the tenth, and he
continued running. Danny tried valiantly for
the full three minutes, but the only way he
could have cornered the fast flying
Howitzer would have been with the
assistance of a pack of hunting dogs.
The decision of the referee and the
judges was prompt and unanimous: “The
winnah—Dapper Danny Dixon!”
When they arrived in their dressing
room, Gus surveyed Howitzer with the
jaundiced expression of a man who has just
found a large bug doing the Australian
crawl in a bowl of his favorite soup.
“Talk about gettin’ on a bicycle!” he
commented acidly. “Them last two rounds
all you needed was a headlight and a tire
Howitzer sat disconsolately on the
rubbing table while Willie removed the tape
from his hands.
“Tonight wasn’t my fault, Gus,” he
protested plaintively. “My zodiac is
especially inauspicious all day today.”
“Yeah?” Gus said skeptically: “The
commission doctor didn’t find anything
wrong with it when he examined you this
“He didn’t say sacroiliac, Gus,” Willie
put in. “He said zodiac. You know, the
thing that comes with astrology.”
Gus scowled. He had heard of astrology,
and that was about all. He had a hazy idea
that it had something to do with stars and
planets and a picture of a man who had
apparently posed while in the midst of a
particularly extensive abdominal operation.
“Sure,” Willie said. “Astrology. The
science based upon what planets were in
what places when you were born. If your
birthday comes during a certain period, for
instance, you would be a Capricorn. Or if it
comes another time, you are a Sagattarius.”
“If you are referring to our boy,” Gus
said, “I would say he looks more like a
Hereford, with maybe a slight touch of
OWITZER scowled. “I am an Aries,”
he protested indignantly. “Which is
what makes today a very inasupicious day
in my horrorscope.”
“He means horoscope,” said Willie.
“Leave him alone,” Gus said. “In his
case, he could be right. Whatever you call
it, it’s a sort of timetable for a guy’s
personal Lady Luck, huh?”
“Sort of,” Willie answered. “Only it is
not luck. It is a very exact science. I use it in
playing the races.”
“I do not recall seeing you driving any
Cadillacs,” Gus commented.
Willie shook his head. “I don’t seem to
be able to pick me a horse with the right
birthday,” he admitted sadly.
“Maybe you don’t buy your tip sheet
from the right star-gazer,” Gus said. “Who
are you getting yours from, Howitzer?”
“From my new girl friend, Abigail
Wadley,” Howitzer answered. “She and I
are very congenial in a planetary way. Our
zodiacs vibrate together.”
“That I would love to see some time,”
Gus commented. “As for now, go take your
shower. I think that Abigail and I will have
a cozy little chat tomorrow.”
Abigail resided in a small cottage in the
suburbs. Gus’ mind was full of carefully
laid plans as he started up the walk next
morning, and his wallet was filled with
enough folding money to carry those plans
The young woman who answered the
door was slender to the point of thinness,
with a pair of shell-rimmed glasses framing
a large pair of serious dark eyes in an
equally serious face. She wasn’t bad
looking, Gus conceded grudgingly, if your
ideas of feminine beauty ran along angular
She surveyed Gus briefly, but
completely. “Oh,” she said. “You must be
Georgie-Porgie’s manager.”
Gus blinked his eyes. “Huh? Oh, you
mean Howitzer. Sure, I’m his manager. But
how’d you guess it?”
“My horoscope warned me that this was
a day that I might have strange experiences
and meet weird people. Won’t you come
Gus followed his austere hostess into the
living room and parked himself in one of
the stiffly uncomfortable chairs.
“You probably know by now, Miss
Wadley,” he began tentatively, “that the boy
friend was not what you might call a ball of
fire last night.”
“How could he be at his best?” Abigail
demanded indignantly. “Nearly every astral
influence in his chart was against him
yesterday. He will fail every time that you
foolishly insist upon forcing him to fight
when the aspects of his planets are so
obviously inauspicious.”
Gus’ eyes narrowed. It sounded like the
preliminary pitch for a shake-down.
“But if the planets say okay when he
fights, he’ll do good, huh?” he queried.
“Indubitably,” she assured him. “If he
fights when his planetary aspects are
auspicious, he will do the very best of
which he is humanly capable. He could
even rise to pugilistic heights of which
neither you nor he have ever dreamed.”
“I see.” Gus’ smile was wily. “You
know, Miss Wadley, I would be glad to pay
good money—very good money, in fact—if
Howitzer was to get a favorable horoscope
for his next fight. It is with Dynamite Davis,
three weeks from Friday night.”
“Are you by any chance trying to bribe
me to give him a false horoscope, Mr.
Arnovic?” Abigail asked.
Gus gulped. There was a sudden cold
glitter in the lady’s eyes. There was also a
large vase on a table within easy reach of
Abigail’s hand.
“No, no!” Gus spluttered hastily. “I
wouldn’t want any false horoscope. I just
meant I’d be glad to pay the usual fee for
any horoscope. If it happens to be a good
one, fine. If it ain’t, that’s just our tough
The frigidity slowly melted from
Abigail’s eyes. “There is no fee, Mr.
Arnovic,” she said. “It is purely a labor of
love. I will be glad to cast a horoscope for
the date and see if it is favorable for
HE WENT over to a desk and began
consulting books and transcribing
various items on paper. Gus frowned. It
could be an act, but he would almost swear
that this dame was strictly on the up-and-up.
It was disconcerting. As far as his carefully
planned attack was concerned, it left him as
far out on a limb as a scared raccoon up a
90-foot pine.
Abigail finished her work. “This is
wonderful, Mr. Arnovic!” she said
delightedly. “Three weeks from Friday is a
marvelous day in Georgie-Porgie’s
planetary aspects. Why, he should win
practically any pugilistic engagement on
that night. I can hardly wait to tell him!”
“Huh?” Gus stared at her blankly for a
moment. Then the full import of the idea
soaked in.
For the first time, he realized that a there
could be a highly profitable silver lining in
this astrology cloud. If Howitzer was a
dismal bust when he believed the celestial
omens were against him, he could as easily
become a raging bearcat when he believed
those omens were favorable.
“Fine, fine!” said Gus, enthused. “When
Howitzer comes over, you pass the good
news along to him. After that, we’ll take
this Dynamite Davis character like the
Marines took Iwo Jima!”
Gus was feeling fine as he went out the
front door.
“G’bye now, Miss Wadley,” he chirped
cheerily. “Don’t take any wooden comets.
Heh, heh.”
The look he got in return would have
produced icicles in a Turkish bath, but Gus
was too happy to care. He thanked his own
lucky stars now that he had not been able to
buy Abigail off. This new set-up could work
out much better.
Howitzer came back from his date with
Abigail filled with the whole-hearted
enthusiasm of a college halfback for the big
game of the season. He carried that
enthusiasm into his training regime in a way
that brought havoc to sparring partners and
unalloyed joy to Gus’ heart.
The coming bout with Dynamite Davis
could be really important. If Howitzer
showed well in it, he might get the shot with
Ironclad Innis, for which Gus had been
angling for months, and tangling with the
Ironclad would be about seven steps upward
in class as far as Howitzer was concerned.
As Howitzer’s training progressed, there
were occasional times when everything was
not milk and honey. In addition to her longrange forecast, Abigail gave Howitzer brief
daily horoscopes, and the instructions
therein did not always jibe with Gus’
training schedule.
When the celestial instructions came up
with: “A favorable day for travel and social
engagements,” Howitzer thought it meant
that he should take the afternoon off and
have a beach picnic with Abigail. It took all
of Gus’ persuasive powers to convince him
that the travel edict was better served by a
five-mile jog, while Willie Laverty went
along to supply the social element.
There were other minor difficulties, but
the over-all picture was more than good.
Gus had never seen his boy so full of
belligerent confidence. He went through his
training chores with the single-minded vim
of a hungry mountain lion heading for a
rabbit convention.
It was the next Tuesday afternoon when
Gus received an unexpected summons to the
office of Babe McClurg, matchmaker of the
big Boulevard Arena. Gus found a worried
frown on Babe’s broad pink face when he
got there.
“I’m in a hole, Gus,” Babe said. “I had
Slammer Siegel matched with Ironclad
Innis for my main event this Friday night.
Now Slammer comes down with a cracked
rib. What’s the chance of using Howitzer?”
“Okay by me,” answered Gus. “But how
would the match set with that chiselin’
monkey of a manager of Ironclad’s?”
“It’s all right with Slick,” Babe assured
“He must’ve got reports on that last bout
of Howitzer’s,” Gus commented
sardonically, “so he finally figures it’s safe
to let Ironclad in the same ring with
“So what?” Babe asked. “Here’s the
chance you’ve been looking for. What do
you care what Slick is figuring?”
“I don’t,” Gus answered promptly.
“Gimme the contract. Howitzer’s already in
training and rarin’ to go.”
OWITZER was working on the bag
when Gus returned with the glad news.
“Think you can take the Ironclad, boy?”
Gus asked.
“Sure, I can take him,” Howitzer
grunted confidently. “And six more like
him. I’ll—but, hey, wait a minute!” Sudden
worry corrugated Howitzer’s battle-scarred
brow. “I wonder if my horrors cope is
auspicious for this Friday night, too. Gosh!
I’d better see Abbie right away, and ask
“You keep on with your work-out,” Gus
ordered. I’ll drive over and ask her. Don’t
worry, there ain’t no reason why this Friday
wouldn’t be as auspicious as the other one.”
Unfortunately, however, it seemed that
there were plenty of reasons why one Friday
was as bad as the other one was good.
Abigail tried to explain the details to Gus,
but all he got out of it was a vague idea that
at least three planets were in the wrong
houses, and several more weren’t even on
the right street.
“It’s too bad, Mr. Arnovic,” Abigail said
tearfully. “If George-Porgie had only been
born two weeks earlier, this would be one of
his best astrological periods. But for anyone
born on April fifteenth of the year GeorgiePorgie was born, the signs for this Friday
are so catastrophic they actually frighten
Gus’ mind moved with the speed of
pure desperation. “Maybe he’s mistaken
about being born April fifteenth,” he
suggested. “There was a big fire in the
courthouse back in his home county in Ohio
several years ago, and all the birth records
was burned up. Maybe he’s just guessing
about it being the fifteenth.”
“George-Porgie ought to know his own
birthday, Mr. Arnovic,” Abigail said. “He
did act a little peculiar when I asked him
what it was, but he was very positive about
it being April fifteenth. And, with that
particular birth date, it would be nothing
short of criminal for you to send him into a
pugilistic ring this Friday night.”
Gus was not feeling good as he departed
from the Wadley cottage this time. Neither
was Howitzer when he heard the news. Gus
kept him from going to see Abigail that
evening, but he couldn’t keep him off the
telephone. When Howitzer hung up, his face
was longer than a rubber yardstick.
“It’s awful!” he moaned. “Abigail says
that this Friday is not only bad, but it is the
worst day in my zodiac for the whole year!
It is a day, she says, in which I should stay
completely at home and avoid all possible
contact with anyone.”
Gus shuddered. He had a vivid picture
of what that “avoid all possible contacts”
admonition could do to Howitzer’s fighting
style in the ring against Ironclad.
“Listen, Junior,” Gus said through
clenched teeth. “I don’t care if your zodiac
is sourer than seven dozen lemons in a
barrel of vinegar—you are going to fight
Ironclad this Friday night! You try to back
out now and the boxing commission will
bar both of us for life.”
Howitzer reluctantly went on with his
training next day. For all the practical
results he achieved, he might as well have
stood in bed. His best showing of the
afternoon was during two rounds of shadow
boxing, and even then Gus had to admit that
the shadow won both rounds on points.
Thursday was still worse. When they
went into town for the weigh-in Friday
afternoon, Howitzer was so obviously
melancholy that the commission doctor
called him back for a second physical
check-up before finally giving him an okay.
“Willie, I’m worried!” Gus moaned.
“The mental state that big lub is in, what
Ironclad will do to him tonight could easy
make me an accessory to manslaughter!”
“Nothin’ you can do,” Willie said
glumly. “It’s Howitzer’s fault. He shouldn’t
ought to have been born that particular
“He shouldn’t ought to have been born
any day!” Gus said bitterly. “But if he had
to be born, why, with three hundred and
sixty-four other days in the year, couldn’t he
have picked a better one?”
Gus’ eyes suddenly narrowed. “Why
couldn’t he, at that, huh?” he muttered to
himself, and thought the idea over.
“Listen Willie,” he said, “I’ve got some
errands to do. Take Howitzer over to my
apartment and keep him there. I’ll be back
in a couple of hours.”
HE first object of Gus’ search was a
character known as Inky Barnes. Ink
was more than a mere writing fluid to
Inky—it was a career. In pursuing that
career, Inky had at various times landed in
most of the penal institutions in that part of
the country. Gus hoped fervently that this
might be one of the relatively scarce periods
when the gifted little penman was
temporarily at liberty.
He covered half the bars in town before
he finally found the object of his quest in
Tony’s Cafe. Inky was huddled forlornly on
a bar stool, staring at an empty glass.
“I don’t suppose,” Inky said to the
bartender, “that you would care to cash a
check for me for, say, five dollars?”
“You don’t suppose correctly,” the
bartender answered. “The only way I would
cash one of your checks for five bucks
would be if you handed it to me neatly
wrapped in a five-dollar bill.”
“Hi, Inky,” Gus said. “Come on over to
a booth, and have a couple on me. I got a
job for you.”
Inky listened to Gus’ outline of what he
wanted, then nodded.
“Sure, that’s easy,” he said. “I’ll bat it
off for you right away. Cost you fifty bucks,
payable in advance.”
“Forty,” said Gus, “and no part of it paid
till I get the finished work.”
“Shylock!” Inky sighed. “All right.
Meet me here in a couple of hours. I’ll have
it for you.”
Gus was back in Tony’s at the appointed
time. It was a good deal past the two-hour
mark when Inky finally came in. One look
at him told Gus that Inky had promoted
some more corn juice somewhere.
“Pilot to control tower,” Inky hailed him
jauntily. “Request permission to land.”
“Let your wheels down, sky boy,” Gus
grunted impatiently. “Got it finished?”
“Why, sure.” Inky hiccupped gently,
and fished a paper from his pocket.
It was a beautifully executed document,
typed on heavy bond paper and topped by
an imposing looking State seal. The seal
was hand-drawn in India ink, but only a
printer could have detected it. Beneath it
was a brief letter addressed to Mr. Augustus
Arnovic, and signed with a flourishing
official signature.
“In answer to your query, I am happy to inform
of newly discovered vital statistics to supplement
birth data lost in fire in Buckeye County. Re George
Hogan birth date—year you mention is correct. Birth
date, however, not April 15th but April 1. Trusting
this clears up your understandable doubt in the
“Nice going, Inky,” Gus commended.
“Here’s your forty.”
Time was Gus’ greatest enemy now as
he headed for Abigail Wadley’s. He started
talking the minute she opened the door.
“Great news, Abbie!” he said jubilantly.
“I thought maybe Howitzer could be wrong
on that birth date, so I sent a query to the
secretary of state back in Ohio. I just got
this answer, air mail, special delivery.”
He handed Abigail the paper. A stricken
expression came over her face as she read it.
“Why, Mr. Arnovic, this is terrible!” she
exclaimed. “I’ve done poor Georgie-Porgie
a frightful wrong in that erroneous
horoscope I gave him!”
“You can still undo it,” Gus said. “But
you’ll have to work fast.”
“I’ll go talk to Georgie-Porgie right
away,” said Abigail.
Gus shook his head. “Nope. Might upset
him too much with the fight only a couple
of hours off. You better phone him. He’s at
my place and the phone number is Oromond
“I’ll call him at once,” Abigail agreed.
“And, Abbie,” Gus cautioned, “don’t
say nothin’ about him having the wrong
birthday all these years. It might upset him.
A fighter’s pretty nervous just before a big
bout. Just tell him you discovered an error
in looking up his horoscope, and that
instead of this being a hoodoo day for him
it’s really one of the hottest dates in his
BIGAIL pursed her lips thoughtfully
for a moment, then nodded. “All right,
I’ll tell him that. And I’ll give him all my
love. I’ll tell him—I’ll tell him that I will be
vibrating right with him!”
“Against Ironclad Innis, he can use all
the vibrations he can get,” Gus said. He
retrieved the paper and put it in his pocket.
“Gotta show it to the commissioner,” he
explained. “So long, Abbie. Don’t waste no
time getting that phone call in.”
Halfway home, Gus stopped and phoned
his apartment.
“Yeah, Abbie called him,” Willie
answered. “And, oh brother, what she must
of told him! We got ourselves a ragin’ tiger
on our hands now. Me, I wouldn’t be in
Ironclad’s shoes tonight, not if they let me
go in the ring with a atom bomb in each
“Fine!” chortled Gus. “We’re due at the
Arena in forty minutes. Start over there with
him now. I’ll pick up a quick snack and
meet you there.”
When he got to their dressing room in
the basement of the big Arena building, Gus
found Howitzer pacing the floor with a
smoldering fury that needed only a set of
whiskers and a striped fur coat to make him
look at home in any jungle.
“Boy, oh boy, oh boy!” Howitzer
growled exultantly. “My planets is right, my
zodiac is perfect, and Abbie loves me! You
know what, Gus? She’s even coming to see
me fight tonight. I had ‘em lay away a ticket
for her, third row, ringside. With her out
there vibratin’ with me, I’ll peel that
Ironclad bum like he was a banana!”
In Howitzer’s present frame of mind,
any effort to give him the usual prefight
inspirational spiel would have been as
superfluous as giving a pep talk to a Kansas
cyclone. Gus’ principal problem was to
keep his boy’s rampaging energies
sufficiently bottled up that he would have
some left when fight time came.
Ironclad’s manager arrived to watch the
taping of Howitzer’s maulies. Gus went to
Ironclad’s dressing room in an adjoining
corridor to do a similar chore. He was on his
way back when a feminine voice hailed
“Mr. Arnovic!”
Gus turned. It was Abigail. The
expression upon her angular features sent a
cold chill down Gus spine.
“Mr. Arnovic, let me see that Ohio letter
“Huh? Oh, the letter,” Gus faltered.
“Why, I—I had to file it with the
Abigail’s eyes bored into him like a
sharp needle impaling a bug. “Don’t lie to
me, Mr. Arnovic. Give me that letter—
Gus reluctantly handed it over: Abigail
studied it, then nodded her head.
“I thought so!” she snapped. “You
hurried me so at the house that I didn’t have
a chance to really take a good look at it, but
after you left I kept thinking there was
something wrong about it somewhere. And
there it is. Official letter from the secretary
of state of Ohio, indeed! And since when,
Mr. Arnovic, has an active volcano existed
in Ohio?”
Gus followed the direction of Abigail’s
pointing finger. He saw now what he had
not had time to see before. Gus ground his
teeth. He remembered too late that when
sufficiently inebriated, Inky Barnes had a
sense of humor that verged upon the pixieish.
The state seal of Ohio at the top of the
letter was a beautiful job of drawing, but it
had one slight error. Instead of the gently
rounded summit of Mt. Logan in its center,
there was an unmistakable depiction of Mt.
Vesuvius in full eruption!
Gus’ brain moved with the panic speed
of stark desperation.
“There’s something awfully wrong here
somewhere!” he exclaimed. “We’ll take it
up with the commissioner right now. Come
on. We’d better both go.”
RASPING the suspicious Abigail’s
arm he hurried her around a corner,
and started down one of the maze of
passages that gave the basement of the big
building its popular title of “The
Catacombs.” He stopped in front of a door
in a deserted side corridor.
“The commissioner has a working office
in here,” he said.
He opened the door with his right hand.
With his left hand he gave Abigail a push
that catapulted her inside a capacious broom
closet. He slammed the door shut and turned
the key.
Indignant screams came from inside the
closet, accompanied by fists beating upon
the door, but it was a nice thick door. With
luck, it could be some little time before
anyone heard the disturbance. What would
happen after Abigail got out was a bridge
that Gus refused to cross until it came
He got back to his own corridor just as
an attendant came hurrying along it.
“You’re on now, Gus,” the attendant
said. “The semi just ended with a KO in the
Gus collected Howitzer and Willie and
went upstairs. Ironclad Innis was already in
the ring. Ironclad was a rugged veteran who
had never actually been a championship
contender himself, but he had put up some
good fights against boys who were.
He was cagy and durable, filled with
ring savvy to his well-flowered ears, and
packing a potent sock in either mitt. His
defense was nothing to brag about, but it
didn’t have to be. The jutting chin that had
given Ironclad his name looked like
something that would come in very handy
to crack coconuts upon, and it was just as
impregnable as it looked.
Howitzer paid little attention to the
referee’s instructions as they huddled in the
center of the ring.
“Where’s Abigail? Her seat’s still
“Oh, she’ll be along,” Gus said
impatiently. “Never mind her. You got work
to do.”
When the bell clanged for the first
round, Howitzer came charging out of his
corner like a rampant hurricane. Ironclad
gave way momentarily, but he was no green
preliminary boy to be rushed off his feet in
the first round. He merely went into his
shell and waited for the tempest to subside.
Howitzer gave it the old college try for
the full three minutes. The crowd roared an
ovation as he went to his corner. Gus was
not unduly impressed. Howitzer had scored
nothing but a few points. The expression
upon Ironclad’s face as he sat in his corner
was merely one of mild annoyance. The
fury of Howitzer’s attack slackened slightly
in the second. Ironclad began coming out of
his shell. A couple of jolting rights to the
jaw slowed Howitzer further. For the rest of
the round, Ironclad was comfortably in
“Get goin’!” Gus urged in the respite
between rounds. “Take him early before he
wears you down.”
“Sure,” Howitzer said vaguely. “But
where’s Abbie, Gus? I’m gettin’ worried.”
“She’ll be here,” Gus assured him.
“Forget her. Get in there and fight!”
Howitzer tried. He put up a good fight,
but it wasn’t quite good enough. Ironclad
piled up points relentlessly for round after
round. Howitzer was cut over both eyes and
blowing like a winded whale when he came
in to his corner at the end of the eighth
“What’re you tryin’ to do—make a bum
out of your zodiac?” Gus demanded, as he
went to work expertly on the cut brows.
“You got every planet in the sky with you,
and still you’re losin’ this fight by twice the
distance from here to Honolulu!”
“It ain’t no use, Gus!” Howitzer said
forlornly. “I’m worried about Abbie. She
said she’d be here sure. Something must
have happened to her.!”
The ninth round started. Gus pounded a
despairing fist on the ring apron as he
watched Ironclad continue cutting Howitzer
down to size.
“Fine going!” he moaned. “It ain’t
enough that I got a fighter with ants in his
zodiac. Now he has also come down with a
fatal case of disappointed love!”
OUND NINE was two minutes and
seconds gone when a commotion
behind him attracted Gus’ attention. Abbie
was coming down the aisle in full cry, with
a couple of harried ushers in pursuit.
“Georgie! Georgie-Porgie!”
Abigail’s cry reached Howitzer’s ears
just as he started to duck one of Ironclad’s
left hooks. He turned his head. The left
hook crashed into his right ear and blasted
him off his feet.
He barely managed to lurch erect at the
count of nine. Ironclad rushed in for the kill.
Howitzer lunged desperately forward into a
clinch, and succeeded in hanging on like a
love-sick python until the bell rang.
Back in his own corner, a whiff of
smelling salts cleared the last of the
cobwebs from Howitzer’s brain. He
clutched Gus’ arm.
“Abbie finally got here, Gus!” he
burbled happily. “See her over there? But
what’s she sayin’?”
Gus looked over his shoulder. Abigail
had both hands clamped on the ring apron
opposite them with a grip that for the
moment defied the efforts of the ushers to
pry her loose.
The noise of the crowd kept Gus from
making out the words she was screaming,
but he could guess their context. He
hurriedly crammed an ice-pack over
Howitzer’s right ear and started talking into
his left one to bar any of Abigail’s remarks
from getting home.
“She says she’s sorry she’s late,” he
extemporized swiftly. “But now that she’s
here she says she’ll be out there vibratin’
with you for all she’s worth—so go in there,
she says, and take the big bum in this next
The ten-second buzzer sounded as the
ushers finally pried Abigail loose. The
houselights went off before Howitzer could
see that she was being hustled on up the
aisle to the exit. He left his corner at the bell
with the firm belief that Abigail was in her
seat, busily vibrating.
Ironclad came out fast, with the idea of
finishing it while his opponent was
supposedly still groggy. He met 210 pounds
of startlingly rejuvenated Howitzer. For a
solid minute they stood toe to toe and
poured leather while the house went mad.
It was Ironclad who finally stepped back
and tried to cover. Howitzer’s right brushed
his guard aside. His left caromed off the
side of Ironclad’s face, knocking him
momentarily off balance.
For a fractional second, Ironclad’s jaw
was as exposed as an abalone at low tide.
Howitzer swung a right with everything he
had behind it. It landed dead on the button.
When an irresistible force meets an
immovable object, it is inevitable that one
of the two shall be proved a liar. The false
pretender proved to be Ironclad’s jaw. His
knees buckled. Howitzer socked home a
smashing left and another right to the jaw.
Ironclad crumpled forward on his face.
He was up at nine, groggy and rubberlegged. Howitzer set him up with a left,
cocked his right and pulled the trigger.
Fifteen seconds later, Ironclad awoke to
find that his ring record had acquired its
first KO.
Ten minutes later, down in their
dressing room, Gus shooed the last of the
back-slappers out and locked the door.
“I wonder what happened to Abbie,”
Howitzer said.
“Aw, she’ll probably meet you outside,”
Gus answered carelessly.
He was no longer worried about
Abigail. When Howitzer learned that his
resounding victory had been scored in spite
of the worst omens in the zodiac, it should
forever banish astrology from the pugilistic
picture as far as he was concerned.
“I’ll meet Georgie-Porgie right here!
And you too, Mr. Arnovic!”
The voice came from the opening door
of a small clothes closet in one corner of the
dressing room. So did Abigail.
R. GUS ARNOVIC’S jaw dropped.
“Good thing you haven’t got
ophobia, Abbie,” he said dazedly.
“You seem to be spending most of your
time in closets.”
“This closet was my own idea,” Abigail
said grimly. “When they ejected me
upstairs, I came down here and hid until I
could see you and Georgie-Porgie by
yourselves. I can see by poor Georgie’s face
the price he paid for your brutal treachery in
tricking me into sending him into the ring
“But I win, Abbie,” Howitzer protested.
“I knocked him cold!”
“You couldn’t have won,” Abigail
protested. “Everyone of your planets was
against it. He tricked me into believing your
birthday is really April first instead of the
“April first?” Howitzer’s face was a
study for a moment. He stared sheepishly
down at the floor, then blushed as he looked
up again. “But my birthday really is April
first, Abbie,” he confessed. “I don’t know
how Gus found it out. I ain’t never told
anybody since I was a kid.”
“I—I don’t understand,” Abigail,
“Well, you see, the kids all used to ride
me about bein’ an April fool,” Howitzer
said shamefacedly. “I fought ‘em till I got
tired of fighting. So when we moved to a
new neighborhood I just moved my birthday
ahead a couple of weeks so’s people
couldn’t kid me about the April fool
business any more. And—well, I don’t
know, I just never got around to moving it
back again.”
“But didn’t you realize,” Abigail asked,
“that giving me a wrong birth date made it
impossible for me to give you a true
Howitzer wriggled in embarrassment.
“Aw gee, Abbie, I didn’t think just a couple
of weeks would make any difference. And
anyway, I was afraid that a guy born on
April first might have a sort of an April fool
Abigail drew a long breath. Her eyes
softened as she gazed at the blushing
“All right, George-Porgie,” she said
forgivingly. “You’re no April fool, and
don’t let anyone tell you that you are. You
come over tomorrow and I’ll work you out a
brand-new horoscope for your real birthday.
And if this person tries to stop you,” she
went on, shooting a venomous glance at
Gus, “just let me know. I’ll take care of
Gus smiled placatingly. “Why, I
wouldn’t try to stop him, Abb—that is, Miss
Wadley. I think it’s a fine idea.”
Gus was not kidding. The knowledge
that he had unwittingly hit upon Howitzer’s
actual birth date had put a brand-new and
startling light upon the evening’s victory. It
had also left Gus’ thoughts as scrambled as
an omelet in an earthquake.
It could have been mere coincidence
that he had picked that certain day, or it
could be that there were things about this
astrology business that he didn’t savvy. The
thought of spending the rest of his life with
a swarm of insulted and hostile planets
putting a hex upon him sent an eerie chill
down his spinal column. It could do no
harm to at least try to play it safe.
“I will not only be tickled to death to
send Howitzer over to your place tomorrow,
Miss Wadley,” he said, “but I will also
come with him, if you will permit me. I
think it’s about time I got me a horoscope,

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