Quitters, Inc. by Stephen King, 1978
The magic trick:
An intriguing premise worthy of a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode
This one isn’t scary as much as it is suspenseful (and you might recall the ending from yesterday’s Roald Dahl feature). The trick is the premise. It’s a classic too-good-to-be-true setup. A man is guaranteed that Quitters, Inc. will cure his cigarette addiction. He’s not told how the program works, though. That’s the rub, which of course is what keeps us reading on. And that’s quite a trick on King’s part.
‘Sure,’ he said, and Donatti put a pen in his hand. He scratched his name, and Donatti signed below it. A moment later the paper disappeared back into the desk drawer. Well, he thought ironically, I’ve taken the pledge.
He had taken it before. Once it had lasted for two whole days.
‘Good,’ Donatti said. ‘We don’t bother with propaganda here, Mr Morrison. Questions of health or expense or social grace. We have no interest in why you want to stop smoking. We are pragmatists.’
‘Good,’ Morrison said blankly.
‘We employ no drugs. We employ no Dale Carnegie people to sermonize you. We recommend no special diet. And we accept no payment until you have stopped smoking for one year.’
‘My God,’ Morrison said.
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