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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

“The Fellow who Married the Maxill Girl” by Ward Moor

First appeared in F&SF and was reprinted by Judith Merril, Robert P. Mills, Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg,  and Ellen Datlow. Read online here.

 “The Fellow who Married the Maxill Girl” is a great folksy title summarizing how Nan’s town, Henryton, might have summarized it: Some unknown chap marries into THE Maxill clan. Nan is considered wild (caught necking in two different cars with two different boys though she hadn’t been caught with the others) and she later considers her young self to have been something similar. Maxill name carried some notoriety since the father, Malcolm Maxill, bought a lousy farm to be a bootlegger. None respect him or his farm.

One day a man with eight fingers, Ash, visits and can only hum—his only means of communication. The girls want to keep. He doesn’t eat much although he seems incapable of doing chores. What he can do is heal birthmarks, orchard trees, and crops so that suddenly people start paying attention to Malcolm.

Commentary with Spoilers:

Nan and Ash learn each other’s language and marry and even have a child although she want more. Malcolm schemes for greater things but dies in a freeway accident. They decide to let Ash and Nan continue to run the farm and raise the rest of the girls and their own son. The farm continues to prosper. As Nan ages she notices Ash does not, and she worries. When his people call him back as he is needed, he goes although a word from her would have stopped him. She is sure that the farm will collapse but she suddenly seems to have acquired Ash’s skill.

A disappointing ending since it wasn’t prepared for, but otherwise a strong piece. Moore can compress time admirably when it comes to events, but when he tries to relate many emotions or convey imaginings about what her society might do (which may be true but no evidence is provided), it falls flat. 

Worth reading, especially since it carries more voice than most of his stories usually give.

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