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Title: Zeritsky's Law
Author: Griffith, Ann
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                            Zeritsky's Law

                            By ANN GRIFFITH

                         Illustrated by THORNE

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                 Galaxy Science Fiction November 1951.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

            Why bother building a time machine when there's
       something much easier to find right in your own kitchen?

Somebody someday will make a study of the influence of animals on
history. Although not as famous as Mrs. O'Leary's cow, Mrs. Graham's
cat should certainly be included in any such study. It has now been
definitely established that the experiences of this cat led to the
idea of quick-frozen people, which, in turn, led to the passage of
Zeritsky's Law.

We must go back to the files of the Los Angeles newspapers for 1950
to find the story. In brief, a Mrs. Fred C. Graham missed her pet
cat on the same day that she put a good deal of food down in her
home deep-freeze unit. She suspected no connection between the two
events. The cat was not to be found until six days later, when its
owner went to fetch something from the deep-freeze. Much as she loved
her pet, we may imagine that she was more horror than grief-stricken
at her discovery. She lifted the little ice-encased body out of the
deep-freeze and set it on the floor. Then she managed to run as far as
the next door neighbor's house before fainting.

Mrs. Graham became hysterical after she was revived, and it was several
hours before she could be quieted enough to persuade anybody that she
hadn't made up the whole thing. She prevailed upon her neighbor to go
back to the house with her. In front of the deep-freeze they found a
small pool of water, and a wet cat, busily licking itself. The neighbor
subsequently told reporters that the cat was concentrating its licking
on one of its hind legs, where some ice still remained, so that she,
for one, believed the story.

A follow-up dispatch, published a week later, reported that the cat was
unharmed by the adventure. Further, Mrs. Graham was quoted as saying
that the cat had had a large meal just before its disappearance; that
as soon after its rescue as it had dried itself off, it took a long
nap, precisely as it always did after a meal; and that it was not
hungry again until evening. It was clear from the accounts that the
life processes had been stopped dead in their tracks, and had, after
defrosting, resumed at exactly the point where they left off.

Perhaps it is unfair to put all the responsibility on one luckless
cat. Had such a thing happened anywhere else in the country, it would
have been talked about, believed by a few, disbelieved by most, and
forgotten. But as the historic kick of Mrs. O'Leary's cow achieved
significance because of the time and place that it was delivered,
so the falling of Mrs. Graham's cat into the deep-freeze became
significant because it occurred in Los Angeles. There, and probably
only there, the event was anything but forgotten; the principles it
revealed became the basis of a hugely successful business.

How shall we regard the Zeritsky Brothers? As archvillains or pioneers?
In support of the latter view, it must be admitted that the spirit
of inquiry and the willingness to risk the unknown were indisputably
theirs. However, their pioneering--if we agree to call it that--was,
equally indisputably, bound up with the quest for a fast buck.

Some of their first clients paid as high as $15,000 for the initial
freezing, and the exorbitant rate of $1,000 per year as a storage
charge. The Zeritsky Brothers owned and managed one of the largest
quick-freezing plants in the world, and it was their claim that
converting the freezing equipment and storage facilities to accommodate
humans was extremely expensive, hence the high rates.

When the early clients who paid these rates were defrosted years later,
and found other clients receiving the same services for as little
as $3,000, they threatened a row and the Zeritskys made substantial
refunds. By that time they could easily afford it, and since any
publicity about their enterprise was unwelcome to them, all refunds
were made without a whimper. $3,000 became the standard rate, with $100
per year the storage charge, and no charge for defrosting.

The Zeritskys were businessmen, first and last. Anyone who had the fee
could put himself away for whatever period of time he wished, and no
questions asked. The ironclad rule that full payment must be made in
advance was broken only once, as far as the records show.

A certain young man had a very wealthy uncle, residing in Milwaukee,
whose heir he was, but the uncle was not getting along in years fast
enough. The young man, then 18 years old, did not wish to waste the
"best years of his life" as a poor boy. He wanted the money while
he was young, but his uncle was as healthy as he was wealthy. The
Zeritskys were the obvious answer to his problem.

The agreement between them has been preserved. They undertook to
service the youth without advance payment. They further undertook to
watch the Milwaukee papers until the demise of the uncle should be
reported, whereupon they would defrost the boy. In exchange for this,
the youth, thinking of course that money would be no object when he
came out, agreed to pay double.

The uncle lived 17 years longer, during which time he seems to have
forgotten his nephew and to have become deeply interested in a mystic
society, to which he left his entire fortune. The Zeritskys duly
defrosted the boy, and whether they or he were the more disappointed
is impossible to imagine. They never forgot the lesson, and never made
another exception to their rule.

He, poor fellow, spent the rest of his life, including the best
years, paying off his debt which, at $3,000 plus 17 years at $100 per
year, and the whole doubled, amounted to $9,400. The books record his
slow but regular payments over the next 43 years, and indicate that
he had only $250 left to pay when he died. We may, I think, assume
that various underworld characters who were grateful ex-clients of
the Zeritskys were instrumental in persuading the boy to keep up his

Criminals were the first to apply for quick-freezing, and formed the
mainstay of the Zeritskys' business through the years. What more easy
than to rob, hide the loot (except for that all-important advance
payment), present yourself to the Zeritskys and remain in their
admirable chambers for five or ten years, emerge to find the hue and
cry long since died down and the crime forgotten, recover your haul and
live out your life in luxury?

Due to the shady character of most of their patrons, the Zeritskys kept
all records by a system of numbers. Names never appeared on the books,
and anonymity was guaranteed.

Law enforcement agents, looking for fugitives from justice, found no
way to break down this system, nor any law which they could interpret
as making it illegal to quick-freeze. Perhaps the truth is that they
did not search too diligently for a law that could be made to apply.
As long as the Zeritskys kept things quiet and did not advertise or
attract public attention, they could safely continue their bizarre

City officials of Los Angeles, and particularly members of the police
force, enjoyed a period of unparalleled prosperity. Lawyers and other
experts who thought they were on the track of legal means by which to
liquidate the Zeritsky empire found themselves suddenly able to buy a
ranch or a yacht or both, and retire forever from the arduous task of
earning a living.

Even with a goodly part of the population of Los Angeles as permanent
pensioners, the Zeritsky fortune grew to incredible proportions. By the
time the Zeritsky Brothers died and left the business to their sons, it
was a gold mine, and an inexhaustible one at that.

During these later years, the enterprise began to attract a somewhat
better class of people. Murderers and other criminals continued to
furnish the bulk of the business, but as word of this amazing service
seeped through the country, others began to see in it an easy way of
solving their problems. They were encouraged, too, by the fact that
the process was painless, and the firm completely reliable. There were
no risks, no accidents, no fatalities. One could, in short, have
confidence in the Zeritskys.

Soon after Monahan's great exposure rocked the nation, however, many of
these better-type clients leaped into print to tell their experiences.

One of the most poignant stories came from the daughter of a Zeritsky
client. Her father was still, at the age of one hundred and two,
passionately interested in politics, but the chances of his lasting
until the next election were not good. The daughter herself suggested
the deep freeze, and he welcomed the idea. He decided on a twenty year
stay because, in his own words, "If the Republicans can't get into the
White House in twenty years, I give up." Upon his return, he found that
his condition had not been fulfilled. His daughter described him as
utterly baffled by the new world. He lived in it just a week before he
left it, this time for good. She states his last words were, "How do
you people stand it?"

Some professional people patronized the Zeritskys, chiefly movie stars.
After the expose, fan magazines were filled with accounts of how the
stars had kept youthful. The more zealous ones had prolonged their
screen lives for years by the simple expedient of storing themselves
away between pictures. We may imagine the feelings of their public
upon discovering that the seemingly eternal youth of their favorites
was due to the Zeritskys and not, as they had been led to believe, to
expensive creams, lotions, diet and exercise. There was a distinctly
unfavorable reaction, and the letter columns of the fan magazines
bristled with angry charges of cheating.

But next to criminals, the majority of people who applied for
quick-freezing seems to have been husbands or wives caught in
insupportable marital situations. Their experiences were subsequently
written up in the confession magazines. It was usually, the husband who
fled to Los Angeles and incarcerated himself for an appropriate number
of years, at the end of which time his unamiable spouse would have
died or made other arrangements. If we can believe the magazines, this
scheme worked out very well in most cases.

There was, inevitably, one spiteful wife who divined her husband's
intentions. By shrewd reasoning, she figured approximately the number
of years he had chosen to be absent, and put herself away for a like
period. In a TV dramatization rather pessimistically entitled _You
Can't Get Away_, the husband described his sensations upon being
defrosted after 15 years, only to find his wife waiting for him, right
there in the reception room of the Zeritsky plant.

"She was as perfectly preserved as I was," he said. "Every irritating
habit that had made my life unbearable with her was absolutely intact."

The sins of the fathers may be visited on the sons, but how often
we see repeated the old familiar pattern of the sons destroying the
lifework of the fathers! The Zeritsky Brothers were fanatically
meticulous. They supervised every detail of their operations, and kept
their records with an elaborate system of checks and doublechecks. They
were shrewd enough to realize that complete dependability was essential
to their business. A satisfied Zeritsky client was a silent client. One
dissatisfied client would be enough to blow the business apart.

The sons, in their greed, over-expanded to the point where they could
not, even among the four of them, personally supervise each and every
detail. A fatal mistake was bound to occur sooner or later. When it
did, the victim broadcast his grievance to the world.

The story appeared in a national magazine, every copy of which was sold
an hour after it appeared on the stands. Under the title _They Put the
Freeze on Me!_ John A. Monahan told his tragic tale. At the age of 37,
he had fallen desperately in love with a girl of 16. She was immature
and frivolous and wanted to "play around" a little more before she
settled down.

"She told me," he wrote, "to come back in five years, and that started
me thinking. In five years I'd be 42, and what would a girl of 21 want
with a man twice as old as her?"

John Monahan moved in circles where the work of the Zeritskys was
well known. Not only did he see an opportunity of being still only 37
when his darling reached 21, but he foresaw a painless way of passing
the years which he must endure without her. Accordingly, he presented
himself for the deep-freeze, paid his $3,000 and the $500 storage
charge in advance, and left, he claimed, "written instructions to let
me out in five years, so there'd be no mistakes."

Nobody knows how the slip happened, but somehow John A. Monahan, or
rather the number assigned to him, was entered on the books for 25
years instead of five years. Upon being defrosted, and discovering
that a quarter of a century had elapsed, his rage was awesome. Along
with everything else, his love for his sweetheart had been perfectly
preserved, but she had given up waiting for him and was a happy mother
of two boys and six girls.

Monahan's accusation that the Zeritskys had "ruined his life" may be
taken with a grain of salt. He was still a young man, and the rumor
that he received a hundred thousand for the magazine rights to his
story was true.

As most readers are aware, what has come to be known as "Zeritsky's
Law" was passed by Congress and signed by the President three days
after Monahan's story broke.

Seventy-five years after Mrs. Graham's cat fell into the freezer,
it became the law of the land that the mandatory penalty for anyone
applying quick-freezing methods to any living thing, human or animal,
was death. Also, all quick-frozen people were to be defrosted

Los Angeles papers reported that beginning on the day Monahan's story
appeared, men by the thousands poured into the city. They continued
to come, choking every available means of transport, for the next two
days--until, that is, Zeritsky's Law went through.

When we consider the date, and remember that due to the gravity of the
international situation, a bill had just been passed drafting all men
from 16 to 60, we realize why Congress had to act.

The Zeritskys, of course, were among the first to be taken. Because of
their experience, they were put in charge of a military warehouse for
dehydrated foods, and warned not to get any ideas for a new business.

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