On Rod Serling’s “The Fever”

Franklin Gibbs is a rather unimpressive malcontent from Elgin, Kansas –he is a bank teller who takes his cues from his local church and Kiwanis club. His wife Flora wins a write-in contest for “Aunt Martha’s Biscuits” which surprisingly lands the couple on a three-day paid vacation to Las Vegas over Memorial Day weekend. Franklin quickly and accidentally develops a penchant for the “one-armed bandit” –in other words, he becomes an overnight gambling addict.

He plays his first game and begins hearing a strange voice emanating from the casino –“Franklin!” He cannot stop himself. He spends all night on a binge of gambling until morning when he appears disheveled, unshaven, loose-tied, and nearly broke. In act, he loses $3,800 –“Franklin Gibb’s life was entirely funneled into the slot machine in front of him” (104).

Later that evening, Franklin is driven mad by the machine and it eventually sends him crashing through the hotel window onto the cold concrete floor beside the pool below. In this way, Rod Serling’s short story closely mirrors the episode. However, in the story there is a brief epilogue in which Flora lives a “silent, patient” life. thereon out except for one moment wherein a one-armed bandit is brought to a Women’s Alliance meeting which sends her into a shrieking terror.

This is another delightful bit of modern folklore from Rod Serling –it is a unique take on the predatory practices unleashed by casinos on good-natured, small-town Americans. It is as amusing as it is cautionary. Nevertheless, Rod Serling’s short story is impossible to divorce from the episode of The Twilight Zone.

Serling, Rod. Stories From The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling Books: 1960 (republished in 1990 by the Serling family), Paperback Edition.

Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.

Click here to read my review of The Twilight Zone episode “The Fever”

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