Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Glutton for Punishment by Charles Shafer

"Glutton for Punishment" by Charles Shafer, Hardluck Stories, Winter 2005

Two Chins Carter gets in the middle of something bad in this quick-reading tale.

Two Chins, aptly named given his 300-plus pounds, is a two-bit strongarm man who, having recently been released from a year's imprisonment for exercising his talents on Joey, a deli owner, returns for revenge. Having exacted said revenge Two Chins must now beat feet most quickly - but not before gulping down a foot-long hot dog and a handful of fries.

Two Chins steps outside just in time to see an old Caddy driven by a little old lady creeping down the street. Putting himself in danger of a heart attack he catches up to the Caddy and carjacks the old lady. Once inside the car he discovers a passenger in the back seat, a small man that the old lady calls Don.

After discovering that the two people don't have enough money between them to buy him a decent meal, Two Chins decides to take advantage of the home-cooked meal the old lady has waiting for Don at her house - in the Little Italy section of town.

Once at the old lady's house she ignores Two Chins and serves a heaping plate of food to Don. It is, after all, his birthday. Two Chins, not one to be ignored when there's food to be had, takes the plate from Don in spite of the old lady's insistence that Don should eat first. When the old lady tries to give Don another plate, Two Chins takes that as well, leaving Don without.

Two Chins really should have let Don eat first. The ending is nicely twisty.

I particularly liked the way Mr. Shafer handled Two Chins' characterization. In the very first paragraphs of the story he establishes Two Chins' propensity for violence. Then in the twelfth and thirteenth paragraphs of the story he sets up the character traits that make the scene at the old lady's house believable. Set up and payoff, important elements in a crime story.

In short, well done.