The Four Fingers of Death by Rick Moody

by Montese Crandall

People often ask me where I get my ideas. Or on one occasion back in 2024 I was asked. This was at a reading in an old-fashioned used-media outlet right here in town, the store called Arachnids, Inc. The audience consisted of five intrepid and stalwart folks, four out of the five no doubt intent on surfing aimlessly at consoles. Or perhaps they intended to leave the store when instead they were herded into a cluster of uncomfortable petrochemical multi-use furniture modules by Noel Stroop, the hard-drinking owner-operator of the shop in question. I’d been pestering Noel about a reading for some time, months, despite the fact that Arachnids was not celebrated for its calendar of arts-related programming. To be honest, the reason for this pestering had most to do with my wife, who’d spend her remaining time on earth counseling me on just how to boost my product. “Ask Noel,” my wife said, her eyes full of implacable purpose.

We used to see Noel at the flea market, which by now took up more than a dozen city blocks. There were more flea markets than licensed, tax-paying emporia in Rio Blanco. I had a booth there where, on weekends, I hawked old baseball cards and other sports memorabilia. In fact, I still do. Let me tell you the story.

From The Four Fingers of Death by Rick Moody. Copyright © 2010 by Rick Moody. Excerpted with permission of Little, Brown.