Science fiction fans will find familiar the premise of Philip K. Dick ' s 1954 short story "The Father-Thing." In it, a young boy, Charlie, discovers that his father is not actually his father. The man in his house who comes home from work, kisses his mother, sits down to dinner, makes comments about his day at the office may look and talk like the real Mr. Walton, but Charlie knows better. He alone knows the hideous secret: that his real father has been killed, and that an alien now inhabits his body, and has usurped his life. It is no longer his father but the "Father-Thing."It is a familiar premise but an interesting one. Works like The Thing and, most famously, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, were especially popular in the 1950 ' s, expressing the fear that people are not what they seem to be. The idea that something sinister may be lurking beneath a fa ' ade of suburban complacency is certainly an important component to Jack Finney ' s novel, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the movie of the same name. But while that work is largely about the country ' s paranoia and suspiciousness during the McCarthy years, Dick ' s story has a much more personal focus.
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January 01, 1954
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Excerpt from The Father Thing by Philip K. Dick
"DINNER ' S READY," commanded Mrs. Walton. "Go get your father and tell him to wash his hands. The same applies to you, young man." She carried a steaming casserole to the neatly set table. "You ' ll find him out in the garage."
Charles hesitated. He was only eight years old, and the problem bothering him would have confounded Hillel. "I -"he began uncertainly.
"What ' s wrong " June Walton caught the uneasy tone in her son ' s voice and her matronly bosom fluttered with sudden alarm. "Isn ' t Ted out in the garage For heaven ' s sake, he was sharpening the hedge shears a minute ago. He didn ' t go over to the Andersons ' , did he I told him dinner was practically on the table."
"He ' s in the garage," Charles said. "But he ' s - talking to himself."
"Talking to himself!" Mrs. Walton removed her bright plastic apron and hung it over the doorknob. "Ted Why, he never talks to himself. Go tell him to come in here." She poured boiling black coffee in the little blue-and-white china cups and began ladling out creamed corn. "What ' s wrong with you Go tell him!"
"I don ' t know which of them to tell," Charles blurted out desperately. "They both look alike."
June Walton ' s fingers lost their hold on the aluminum pan; for a moment the creamed corn slushed dangerously. "Young man -"she began angrily, but at that moment Ted Walton came striding into the kitchen, inhaling and sniffing and rubbing his hands together.
"Ah," he cried happily. "Lamb stew."
"Beef stew," June murmured. "Ted, what were you doing out there "
Ted threw himself down at his place and unfolded his napkin. "I got the shears sharpened like a razor. Oiled and sharpened. Better not touch them - they ' ll cut your hand off." He was a good-looking man in his early thirties; thick blond hair, strong arms, competent hands, square face and flashing brown eyes. "Man, this stew looks good. Hard day at the office - Friday, you know. Stuff piles up and we have to get all the accounts out by five. Al McKinley claims the department could handle 20 per cent more stuff if we organized our lunch hours; staggered them so somebody was there all the time." He beckoned Charles over. "Sit down and let ' s go."
Mrs. Walton served the frozen peas. "Ted," she said, as she slowly took her seat, "is there anything on your mind "
"On my mind " He blinked. "No, nothing unusual. Just the regular stuff. Why "