|Genre(s)||Horror short story|
|Published in||Night Shift|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (January 2010)|
The main character, Richard "Dick" Morrison, is a middle-aged man who smokes. One day he has a chance meeting with his old college roommate, Jim McCann, who had once been a heavy smoker and advises him to go to Quitters, Inc., the firm that he says helped him kick the habit. The firm is said to have a 98% success rate with their clients and guarantees that once the person has enrolled for treatment, he will never smoke again.
Dick pockets McCann's business card and forgets about it. However, one month later when Dick's work is going horribly he stumbles across the business card and decides to go to Quitters, Inc. to take his mind off problems. There Dick is introduced to a man named Victor Donatti, who will be his quitting counselor. Donatti begins by telling the history of Quitters, Inc., saying it was founded by a New Jersey mob boss who had been a heavy smoker and realized before his death of lung cancer that he must aid others in quitting. Donatti says they are serious in their desire to help others be cured of tobacco addiction, despite their shady history. The following day, Donatti states to Morrison that they have found out all the relevant information about his family, which shocks Morrison, in particular the information about his mentally impaired son.
Dick is first told of what will happen; that for the first twelve months he will have round-the-clock surveillance on him at all times to ensure he is not smoking, with the watchers immediately reporting back to Donatti if they see Morrison smoking. After a second twelve months, the surveillance would be reduced to 18 hours a day, but Dick would never know which eighteen. After the third year of Quitters Inc. from then on, Morrison's surveillance would be reduced to random surveillance checks for the remainder of his life. Dick then finds out about the brutal enforcement methods used by Quitters, Inc. from Donatti. These include administering non-fatal electric shocks of increasing intensity to his wife if he is caught smoking a cigarette and a second infraction would put Morrison in the shock room. The third would send the both of them to the shock room. A fourth infraction would involve beatings being administered to his son, and subsequent infractions would result in more trips to the shock room with higher voltage, and more painful beatings of his son and wife. Donatti also reveals that after the ninth infraction, his son's arms would be broken. Finally, if Dick commits a tenth infraction, Donatti says, placing a gun on his desk, Dick would become part of "the unregenerate two percent". "But even the unregenerate 2% never smoke again. We guarantee it."
Donatti then says for Dick not to worry too much about the beatings or shocks, as 40% of Quitters' clients never violate agreement at all, and only 10% are subject to a fourth or greater infraction, and proceeds to tell of a history of tobacco addicition, such as prison riots occuring when cigarettes are banned, and how "the relapse rate for tobacco is 85%; the relapse rate for heroin is lower than that". Victor Donatti says Morrison's greatest problem will probably be temptation as a result of availability, as evidenced by a newsstand that sells all cigarette brands that is on the same street as Quitters Inc.
With some difficulty, Dick is able to quit, after only one slip, which results in his wife Cindy being abducted and shocked. Dick, however, now must deal with other aspects of the firm's strict methods, this being that Dick has gained weight and that is an issue Quitters, Inc. deals with as well. Donatti uses the Mafia connections to obtain some prohibited diet pills for Dick, and sets a target weight for him to adhere to. Should Dick stray from this goal, then his wife's right pinky finger will be cut off. Morrison faithfully exercises and keeps in shape, also giving the Quitters Inc. business card to a barfly with a smoking addiction, echoing what Jim McCann did to Morrison at the start of the story. The story ends where Dick and Cindy have a chance meeting with the McCanns, and Dick learns that Jim McCann had drifted from the weight standards of Quitters, Inc. as his wife is missing her pinky finger.
Tales from the Darkside
- Cat's Eye (1985), as one of the three segments from an adaptation of Night Shift
- Bollywood film No Smoking