|“Fair Extension” is available on Full Dark, No Stars|
Story length: 33 pages
Streeter is a married man who is slowly dying of cancer. He’s always been the underdog in his life. Nothing has ever really gone right for him, and this clearly is the final straw. One day while out riding around, he happens upon a small store by an airpot named “Fair Extensions,” run by a man named Elvid. He promises that Streeter can have any sort of extension that he wants, as that’s all the man deals in. Of course, it’s at a fair cost such as a small percentage of his earnings every month to enforce the contract. The only thing Streeter wants, though, is for his health. When he’s told he can extend that, he decides to go ahead and take the deal, as there’s nothing more to lose if it’s a hoax. But, to do so, he has to put the problem on someone else, someone he really hates.
After trying Kim Jing Il and learning it had to be someone he knew, he quickly comes up with the name Tom Goodhugh. Tom has been his best friend since grammar school, and also seen plenty of success to Streeter’s failures. He married the girl that Streeter wanted back in high school, he amassed a fortune in his life with a garbage company, and has healthy children as well. Tapping into that internal hatred, he binds the deal, and slowly the roles begin to reverse.
Of course, given the short nature of the story, there isn’t much room for growth. However, this tale ends up handled like a laundry list. Every chapter seems to just ramble off what happened over the course of a few months or years, comparing and contrasting one another until Tom is essentially worse off than Streeter was during the negotiations. Every once in a while, you’ll get a conversation or two, usually between Streeter and his wife about how the Goodhughs are doing, or him and Tom talking about how things were, concluding in a manner that doesn’t really meet your expectations, nor gives closure, but does suit the aforementioned disgust Streeter held back for so many years.
For a story that’s thirty three pages long, there isn’t much going on to keep the reader invested once the contract between Elvid and Streeter is a binding one. The tension of waiting to see whether Streeter picks up on the anagram to his name, or if he still thinks he’s a loon escaped from a local nut house after the deal is struck is the most engaging of all, and quite a joy to read the entire time. The details are subtle to get the point across to the reader, and given the descriptions that exist early on, and the fact that jealousy is a common trait of mankind, it’s easy to sit back and read this story while relating to Streeter and his decision, not really blaming him one bit despite how bad things get for Tom in the end. With a conclusion that could have been better, this does make for a quick read that is a little on the memorable side.
Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.