||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (September 2011)|
|Published in||Full Dark, No Stars|
On his way home in Derry, Maine, Dave Streeter sees a man with a setup by the road to the airport. He goes out and talks with the man, George Elvid, who tells Streeter that he sells extensions of various types. Elvid claims to have existed for centuries (Elvid's name is an anagram of the word "Devil"). Elvid offers Streeter, who suffers from terminal lung cancer, a chance to live for approximately 15 years if he pays 15 percent of his salary for every one of those years... and transfers the "weight" of his misfortune onto someone he knows. Elvid emphasizes that it has to be someone that Streeter truly hates.
Streeter selects Tom Goodhugh, his best friend since childhood, whom he has secretly hated for years. Streeter has done everything for Goodhugh, who has taken Streeter for granted the entire time. Goodhugh got straight A's with Streeter doing his homework throughout their formative years. Later, Goodhugh stole Streeter's girlfriend in high school and married her while later, seduces Streeter's wife. Goodhugh eventually founded a successful million-dollar waste removal business with Streeter's assistance and now lives a lavish lifestyle with a big house, has three children on the fast track to great lives, and does not look like age has caught up with him, unlike his friend, Streeter.
A couple of days later, Streeter goes to his doctor, who tells him his tumors are shrinking. Four months later, Streeter is declared cancer-free, which perplexes his doctor. The good luck continues in subsequent years, as Streeter is promoted several times at work and his marriage becomes joyous and rich with significant lifestyle improvements. His children begin a long line of career successes: his son creates two bestselling video games and his daughter gets her dream job as a journalist at the Boston Globe after graduating from the Columbia School of Journalism.
At the same time, Goodhugh's misfortunes start to surface when his company goes broke after the accountant embezzles all the money and skips town. His wife dies six months after being diagnosed with breast cancer; his middle son, Carl, a star athlete, has a heart attack in college and, due to oxygen deprivation, suffers permanent brain damage and becomes an invalid who requires constant care; his youngest son, Jake, turns down an athletic scholarship to help save the failing garbage business, which is eventually shut down by the EPA for radioactive contaminants; his daughter, Gracie, loses her husband to a drunk driver, loses all her teeth after developing pyorrhea, and eventually gives birth to a stillborn baby. Carl chokes to death due to neglect after Goodhugh is no longer able to afford his personal caretaker, and Jake is sentenced to prison after killing his wife. Goodhugh suffers mentally as well as physically from the stress, developing both gout, psoriasis and major weight loss. A broken man who barely has enough money to keep himself heated for the winter, Goodhugh likens himself to Job, and believes he has "offended God." Although Streeter pretends to be solemn about his friend's misfortunes, he is secretly glad and enjoys seeing Goodhugh struggle to cope with his family's misfortune.
Streeter's family prospers during this time as Goodhugh's struggles, and he enjoys his life more than ever. The story ends with Streeter and his wife stargazing. She confesses her sadness over Goodhugh's fate, and he assures her that this is only fair, and that some people are simply dealt a bad hand by life. They catch a glimpse of the planet Venus, and Streeter tells his wife to make a wish. She cannot think of anything they need, due to the prosperous past few years. The story ends with Streeter making a single wish—for more.