Miller, Walter M. – “The Will” (1954)
Where Miller’s other story this year (“Memento Homo”) was about facing death at the end of a long and productive life, this one is an overly-sentimental look at a child facing his own mortality due to cancer. The title refers both to will-as-mortuary-item and will-as-perseverance. Kenny’s mother is mostly hysterical, unable to handle their situation, and has to be sedated, while his stepfather, the narrator of the piece, tells Kenny to have faith in the march of science. Kenny then wonders if his prized stamp collection could be used to fund a time machine:
“In time, maybe in time. A century maybe. But banks won’t wait that long.”
“What difference does time make, if you’re working on a time-machine?”
In keeping with that theme, Kenny loves a schlocky TV show about Captain Chronos, the master of the clock, and when they catch wind of his predicament they invite him to call in to the show. His fellow fans send him a heap of stamps and autographs for his collection, which he then buries in the back yard in “an act of faith, faith in tomorrow.” This faith pays off when a time ship from a distant future apparently populated by mad scientists comes back to rescue him: “Come on along here, liddle boy. Ve fix you op.” Ironic that a story about a child with cancer is more optimistic, in the end, than the one about self-replicating happy robots winning a monumental court case to make sure people never have to work again.