Short Stories 366:243 — “Annunciation Shotgun,” by Greg Herren

coverOkay, I’m not sure I should admit this, but in this story from Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, there’s a moment when a body hits the ground, and… well. I laughed! I seriously guffawed, enough that my husband asked me what was going on. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Like many of the stories in the collection, “Annunciation Shotgun” centres a writer, a man who writes mysteries and is three days away from a deadline. He owns a double-shotgun house, and rents half to a man he describes as a chaos magnet, and said man lives up to the name almost immediately, because he asks the writer over in a panic and it’s because there’s a dead body.

What follows is a back-and-forth between the clueless chaos renter and the writer about the realities of getting rid of a body, and getting away with murder. That it’s self-defence, and that the writer knows full well the body on the ground belongs to the boyfriend of the renter, a man who was emotionally abusive at least, and apparently tipped over into physical assault, which led to his accidental death and the whole conundrum they’re now faced with. The writer’s evening of pot, television, and red wine is definitely off the menu, and instead he’s calling on everything he knows ends up getting people caught.

If there’s one thing you can count on from the tales in this collection, however, it’s a twist or two, and this one comes mid-way through the plan the writer comes up with (and involves a dropped body), and honestly, the shift in tone and tension that follows is just so very Herren that I was completely unprepared for the sudden moment that ended the story and… well. Like I said. Guffaws. It was a perfect pull-the-rug-from-under-the-reader’s-expectations moment, and I really appreciated it.

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