PC039: Honest Man

by Naomi Kritzer
Read by Ann Leckie

“Excuse me…” The man from the front of the restaurant was talking to the waitress, his face obviously distressed. “I am so, so sorry, ma’am, but I just realized that I left my wallet back at my room. I’m going to have to go get it before I can pay, but I don’t want you to think I’m running out on my bill. I can leave my instrument here as security…” He had a violin case, Iris saw; he opened it up to show the waitress the violin inside. “This is a good violin. I paid fifty dollars for it, a few years back, but I think it’s worth more.”

The waitress glanced at it and grunted. “It looks like it’s worth more than your meal, anyway. Go ahead and get your wallet.”

“I’ll be right back,” he promised, and went back out into the rain.

Iris was finishing her sandwich when she heard Leo say, “Can I take a look at that?”

“What, the violin?” The waitress shrugged. “I don’t see why not.”

Leo opened the case and took out the instrument, turning it over in his hands and holding it up to the light. She heard him let out a long, appreciative breath, and looked up to see him swallow hard. For a moment, his eyes darted around the room, like a man with a poker hand that he knows will win the night. Then he looked back up at Iris, and at the waitress. “My God,” he said. “This is a Stradivarius.”

Rated PG. Contains some bleakness — but mostly fun and games (well, con games).

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27 Responses so far

  1. 1

    phignewton said,

    January 22, 2009 @ 1:30 am

    nice story, the honest con-man issa bit of a cliche.. like the hooker with the heart of gold, would make a good TV show though, the fellow showing up at a door each week to mess with somebody new, seriously, i’d like to see this, somebody get to work on it!

  2. 2

    Amber said,

    January 22, 2009 @ 4:05 am

    I really liked this story. This is my first PodCastle listen; i’ve been working my way up the time ladder for Pseudopod and today I felt like fantasy. From my perception there wasn’t much in it, but that didn’t take away the fact that it’s a great story and a great read, goodjob.

  3. 3

    Jeffrey Hite said,

    January 22, 2009 @ 11:28 am

    I liked this story, but having lived in Xenia, Ohio, you pronounced it wrong. Just a little thing but it kept throwing me off. Z(ee) nee ah.

    Otherwise a wonderful reading and very nice story. In all fairness I lived In Jamestown, the next town over, not Xenia. But in those days there was not much in Jamestown so to do anything you have to go to Xenia, or Springfield.

    Thanks for the good story. Keep up the good work.

    - Jeff

  4. 4

    JD said,

    January 24, 2009 @ 4:11 am

    I know I’ve heard that violin con somewhere before. Another story? TV show? Someone help me out here…

  5. 5

    Hyperion said,

    January 24, 2009 @ 12:35 pm

    Very sweet story, almost quaint. I liked it.

    It reminded me of a story based on a series of Norman Rockwell paintings, based on a David Mamet story.

    The only thing missing was the dog being in on the scam.

  6. 6

    scatterbrain said,

    January 25, 2009 @ 7:24 pm

    Despite the opening chapter being rather juvenily written, this was a wonderful story to listen to.

  7. 7

    PK said,

    January 27, 2009 @ 1:57 am

    I know I’ve heard that violin con somewhere before.

    Neil Gaiman. I wish the story had disguised the origin a little better; the resemblance makes it obvious what individual book provided the inspiration, rather than letting it just be a generic specimen of a venerable short-con.

  8. 8

    Rachel said,

    January 27, 2009 @ 7:34 am

    To be fair, a brief google search turns up other literary examples of this same con, not all in science fiction and fantasy. Presumably not everyone is drawing from Gaiman.

  9. 9

    James said,

    January 27, 2009 @ 4:07 pm

    There was a great warmth to this. It made me feel good.

  10. 10

    carrie said,

    January 27, 2009 @ 6:29 pm

    I really liked this story. Stories with interesting elderly protagonists are few and far between…

    The detail of slipping the hundred into the filing case for her children or grandchildren to discover really worked for me.

    Enjoyable!

  11. 11

    Blaine Boy said,

    February 2, 2009 @ 2:54 am

    Ah, to be old and ripping off the people who stole your money… However, I must say it was just a story to pass the time; while it may have been a good way to pass the time, it was nothing more than that. Sorry for the negative comment.

  12. 12

    The Dave Formerly Known as Nev the Deranged said,

    February 4, 2009 @ 7:48 pm

    I liked this story when I read it in RoF, and I liked it again here. Few writers (Stephen King aside) do elderly protagonists well. Thanks!

  13. 13

    LaShawn said,

    February 5, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

    I didn’t expect to like this story–Iris seemed almost too goody-goody and nice for me to enjoy. It was only the last part when she was old that I finally took interest. The ending was predictable, but still, I liked seeing the mischievous side of her. It made her more real and fun. Thanks for the story.

  14. 14

    The Fix | From the Podosphere: January 2009 said,

    February 17, 2009 @ 10:46 am

    [...] Kritzer’s “Honest Man” (read by Ann Leckie) is an engaging story of a series of possible confidence tricks, whose [...]

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