Supply and Demand by Cheynne Edmonstony is a short horror story with a unique interpretation of the economic theory of supply and demand. It is a story of debt collectors and their methods of the collection set in an unspecified time, probably in 1800(s) England. Readers will get the impression that debt collecting was a common occupation that supported small groups of uneducated thugs and hoodlums who, although uneducated formally, possessed a kind of street cunning that led to success in recovering amounts owed when interviewing selected targets. This 49-page story is worth reading because of the language used. I can only wonder at the amount of research Edmonstony must have done to produce the impression of language period authenticity this tale does.
Shanklin and Randall are two debt collectors working for Mr. Ditchwater in London. The boss sends the two to a remote countryside location where a tenant, Abraham Grave, has a tannery used in making boots and shoes. The products are sold in the Grave’s shop in London, a shop for which Grave has missed paying rent for three months. When Shanklin and Randall arrive, Grave is not present and the two settle in for a long an anticipated long wait. They discuss past cases and their success and failure rates at debt collection.
Grave returns home with a friend. Our heroes try to collect the debt but there is no money available. Will the two take finished boots in lieu of payment? After all, Grave has a deserved reputation for the finest boots in London, perhaps Ditchwater will accept. Shanklin demands to see the boots first so he, Randall, and Grave proceed to the tanning shed behind the house to examine the boots. Tanning may not be a process familiar to many readers today. It is a profession with many offensive smells. I think of smells associated with a paper mill. According to this story, tanning smells are much worse. While examining the boots and to make up for the odiferous experience, Grave offers the debt collectors drinks … heavily dosed with laudanum.
And then the story gets exciting but to write more about content would be spoilers. Instead, I want to note some quotes which make this read very attractive to language lovers:
When commenting on Shanklin’s sympathy for those he must collect from, “Some unfortunate bastard at low tide and no one to turn to, forced into breaking shins from a dun.” (Kindle locations 92-93).
When commenting on a momentary inability to speak, “my tongue’s as fat as innkeeper Tom after a six-course meal.” (Kindle location 234).
When commenting on a colleague’s disappointing ability at storytelling, “‘Y’know, for a ruthless rogue, you’re a proper bell-end,’ said Randall.” (Kindle location 283).
Finally, a comment related to the title of the story, “Supply and demand,’ he said. ‘Just like Daniel Butler told ya. The mob demand the entertainment, the gallows supplies it.” (Kindle locations 293-294).
There are descriptions of sexual activity in this short story but they are phrased in the language of the day. I found them highly amusing. I purchased this short story from Amazon for USD 0.99 and then found I could have downloaded it free from the author’s website. The writing in this story makes it worth more than the Amazon price. I gave it five stars for unique and creative use of language.