Our star wakes up to Pushton blowing the
beagle bugle. He goes down the row of beds, tearing the covers from everyone. He yells, “Get up! Get up! Don’t you hear Pushton blowing his lungs out?” Who is this grizzled leader? Sgt. Hartman? Sgt. Foley? Sgt. Carter?  No, it is 14 year old Martin Thorpe at the Clark Military Academy.
He is unhappy with the school despite the double tuition his father has to pay to keep them from expelling him. He thinks, “I swear there isn’t a 14 year old in it that I could talk to without wanting to push in his face.” He feels this way because he thinks he is smarter than everyone else, so I’m sure guys from 15 to 50 (and above, but alliteration, ya know) find his mug imminently punchable also.
He is trying to get the latest on his pal Tommy Smith. A senior tells him the governor didn’t come through, so he will be hung on Friday. Martin didn’t think they had the evidence to convict Tommy of “putting a knife in his old man’s back.” He has the hots for Tommy’s 15 year old sister Marie, but fears her brother’s execution might be a downer for their relationship.
Martin had been at the Smith house the night of the murder. Tommy wanted to marry a girl his father did not approve of. Martin says, “Tommy was a nice enough sort. He played football at the university, was a big guy with blond hair and a ruddy face, and blue eyes. He had a nice smile, white and clean.” So I kinda want to punch him.
Detective Duff Ryan thinks Martin might be more involved than he admits. He confronts Martin about the time the class mascot goat broke its legs in a stunt . . . what a scamp. Then there was the time he pushed a kid into an oil hole and wouldn’t let him out . . . just some horseplay. Remember when he roped that calf, stabbed it, and watched it bleed to death . . . er, OK. And he got sent away for observation when he poisoned a neighbor’s two Great Danes . . . alright, there might be a problem.
Well, once you hear about Martin’s shenanigans and hijinks, ya kinda know where this is going. Of course, he killed the old man and set Tommy up for it. He does have at least one more evil deed left for the story. Suffice it to say, the name PUSHton was probably not chosen at random. In fact, the name is spelled Push-ton in the first paragraph of the story. I was ready to both praise the fore-shadowing and criticize the ham-handedness. Nah, I was just going to mock it. The paperback version also spells it Push-ton, but Push- is at the end of a line, so I guess the middle of the line Push-ton on the Kindle is just an editing error. Quite a racket they have:
- Sell a 2.8 pound paperback book that is physically impossible to read.
- Force purchaser to then get the Kindle version.
- Maximize profit by doing no editing on the e-version.
Well-played, Amazon. Well-played.
That goofiness aside, it is a fun, short read.
-  Kudos to Gunnery Sgt. Vince Carter for being the only one not to use the steers & queers gag.
- First published in the March 1938 issue of Black Mask.