|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 college, and married her. Goodhugh eventually founded a successful million-dollar waste removal business with Streeter's assistance (who initially helped in hopes of seeing Goodhugh fail) 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 becomes a millionaire after creating 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.
Goodhugh's misfortunes start to surface a few months after Streeter's deal when his wife is diagnosed with breast cancer that has spread to her lymph nodes; she dies six months later. Goodhugh's business begins to fail after his accountant embezzles two million dollars and skips town, uncaught. Goodhugh's children also suffer. A few months after his wife's death, Goodhugh's middle child, Carl, has a heart attack due to a genetic heart defect. While Carl survives, he has severe permanent brain damage and Goodhugh is forced to hire a full-time caregiver. His oldest child, Gracie, loses her husband to a drunk driver, loses all her teeth after developing pyorrhea, and eventually gives birth to a stillborn baby cursed with the family heart defect. Goodhugh's youngest son, Jake, a star football player with good grades, turns down an athletic scholarship to help save Goodhugh's failing garbage business.
While Streeter and his family continue to enjoy successes in their life, Goodhugh's life becomes grim and joyless. Gracie is forced to move back home and becomes withdrawn and deeply depressed. Carl's caretaker is let go due to lack of funds, and Carl dies 16 months later after choking on an apple. Jake stabs his wife in a drunken, drug-fueled rage and is sentenced to prison. Goodhugh's waste disposal company is seized by the EPA and he faces civil and criminal prosecution for groundwater pollution and dumping of medical wastes.
Throughout the years, Goodhugh suffers financially, legally, physically and mentally. He develops gout (causing him to use a cane) and psoriasis, begins drinking heavily, and experiences major weight loss. Goodhugh becomes a broken man, contemplating suicide, likening himself to Job, and believing he has "offended God." Although Streeter pretends to be caring and supportive about his friend's misfortunes, he is secretly glad and enjoys seeing Goodhugh struggle to cope with his family's misfortune.
The story ends with Streeter and his wife stargazing. She confesses her sadness over the Goodhugh family's troubles, 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, and the story ends with Streeter making a single wish: for more.