If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to read one of Sam W. Anderson’s short stories, you know he’s a writer long on imagination and short on wasted words. His Money Run mythos is so inventive, so damned full of humor and pathos and (most importantly, I think) possibility that I can offer no greater praise than to say I wish I had thought of it myself.
Anyway, like me and the other four members of our little group, Sam wrote a tale for The Yellow Rose Diner and Fill Station. It’s one of my favorites in the book. It’s called “Hate Crimes and Therapy over Creamed Chipped Beef,” and it’s every bit as entertaining as that title suggests.
Despite this not being a Money Run Tale, all of the things that make those stories great are here: humor, pathos, an imagination as sharp as the edge of a straight razor, and that rarest of things in horror fiction—compassion. It’s obvious that Sam loves his characters, and I feel confident that the readers of his stories will too. Here’s a little taste from one of my favorite passages in the story. Check it out. You’ll see what I mean.
In his mind, he was there again, as if he could reach out and pull back the kid. He smelled the subway exhaust and dried urine; saw the grimy white and green tiles decorating the platform walls; experienced the eerie solitude of a Tuesday at two a.m. beneath the streets of Manhattan.
He’d been an NYC cop for less than a month and was working on a joint operation with the Transit Authority to crack down on subway system muggings. For the most part, it’d been pretty uneventful, but he was finally a cop. He’d survived the academy and the nonstop needling about his lack of size and fulfilled his promise. Pop would have approved. Everything in life was coming together.
Until he saw Eldrich Irons standing alone on the platform. The fifteen-year old was one of the suspects linked to the latest rash of muggings, and Darien had seen his picture a thousand times in the last month. The kid belonged to a group not organized enough to be a gang, but reportedly armed enough that they could have been.
Darien’s heart thundered and he put out his cigarette with his foot. The suspect hadn’t noticed. Instead he leaned out over the platform and looked for the next subway. His hands remained in a satin Yankees jacket and he fidgeted as if he needed a bathroom. He wore a black baseball cap, the bill turned backwards. Darien ducked behind a column. He’d wait until the train approached so Eldrich Irons would be less likely to hear footsteps.
A slight rumbling filled the space, but grew louder quickly. Darien quivered with a nervous excitement and anticipation he hadn’t felt since before his first track meet in high school. He slid from behind the graffiti-covered column and unholstered his firearm. The thumping in his chest grew so violent, it throbbed through his arms.
As the volume rose, Darien broke, his adrenaline pumping to the point he could almost fly. A set of headphones plugged the suspect’s ears. The train’s light illuminated the dark tunnel. Darien’s pace seemed to match the subway’s. As he reached for the suspect’s shoulder, the kid turned. His eyes opened comically wide, and he stepped back.
Darien missed with the first grab. As the kid fell, he reached again, but only pulled back the ball cap. A slight scream rose before the crushing of bones and the subway’s brakes.
The doors opened in unison with a loud hiss, but nobody exited the train. Did the driver not see the fall?
Darien stood with hat in hand, waiting for somebody to wake him. After a short eternity, the subway pulled away. Darien peered over the platform edge, the tracks too dark to see anything. He pulled free his flashlight. His hands shook so hard, he needed both to turn it on. When he lowered the light, he closed his eyes. He listened for any signs of life, but only heard the train in the distance. Swallowing hard, he opened his eyes and saw nothing. The body was gone. A pool of blood had formed between the tracks, and it streaked toward the departed subway.
His body went limp, as if it were he who the train had struck. He looked to his hand like the hat could bring the kid back. Through the forming tears, he saw the Chicago Blackhawks emblem.