The Final Close appeared in the June 1977 issue of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and was totally not made up by me.
The Final Close is the 3rd ‘Scary Injun’ story in the June 1977 issue. Nina was of the “monsters might be indistinguishable from indigenous people/indigenous people might be monsters” variety; The Horse Lord was of the “indigenous people know more about the scary stuff you should stay away from” variety; The Final Close is of the “indigenous people are gonna get ya, whitey, cuz they’re indigenous” variety. Racist? Sure, why not? But it’s like the short fiction version of a dime-store Indian; The Final Close captures a nuanced bit of Americana that can’t just be written off by saying it plays to stereotypes.
One of those door-to-door men that most folks only remember from old Looney Tunes -the kind who’d brag about selling refrigerators to Eskimos- and his young protege are making their way across the country selling folks headstones. If that doesn’t gob-smack you with foreshadowing of impending doom, I don’t know what would.
The ‘hero’ of the story is the young sales apprentice who thinks he’s on the verge of making it rich. He thinks he’s fancy stuff in his suit and tie, so doesn’t realize what a rube he is. Hitting on the counter girl at the burger & fries joint elicits a response of smiling contempt. Watch out for Old Pretty Mouth. The duo makes their way into Chickasaw City to find that the town’s name is only half-accurate. An angry lady and her neighbors end up chasing the “goddamn tourists” with a rifle and various implements straight into the maw of Old Pretty Mouth, a giant bass/serpent/crocogator/monster/something, and probably have a big larff about it after.
The Final Close, while not executed with quite the mastery of craft possessed by Bloch or playing with the depths of fear that The Horse Lord did, is a serviceable piece of disposable horror worthy of inclusion in a Creepshow-like showcase. The first one, not the second one. Like Nina, there’s the aspect of white fear at play, but more of the sort that makes you snicker as the unwitting dopes fall straight into whatever indigenous-peoples-related-doom awaits them.
One of the most striking aspects of the Final Close is the close attention to detail; if you only focus on the silly story of white guys chased by ‘injuns’ then ate by monster, you’ll miss the impressive amount of descriptive work put into making everything seem real and true to life. I’d not only believe that Dixon had driven through Chickasaw City, I’d believe that he ate at that burger & fries joint and had the counter girl snark at him. The last punch is with Old Pretty Mouth itself; after all of the details and descriptions, all we get of OPM is the kid’s dying thought that “Old Pretty Mouth looked just the way the kid had imagined him all along, and there was no escape.”
The best I can say about The Final Close is that this is how The Death of Bunny Munro should have ended.