(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The action proper of “The Man in the Black Suit” begins with nine-year-old Gary performing some Saturday chores in the summer of 1914 on his parents’ farm, chores that his older brother Dan would have helped with had he not died from a bee sting a year earlier. After his chores, Gary is allowed to go fishing in Castle Stream provided he promises not to go too far in the woods and certainly not beyond where the stream forks. Solemnly promising to go no farther than the fork, he sets out by himself; his dog Candy Bill stays behind for the first time.

Gary soon catches a huge brook trout and then a fine rainbow trout. Leaning back against the riverbank, he dozes off, suddenly to be awakened by a tug on his pole and with the horrible realization that a bee is sitting on the tip of his nose. Terrified that the bee will sting him and that he will die as his brother did, Gary is on the verge of panic when he hears the sharp report of a hand clap and the bee falls dead into his lap.

Gary looks over his shoulder and sees the source of the clap. At the edge of the trees at the top of the riverbank stands a tall man with a pale and long face, black hair plastered tight against his skull. He is dressed in a three-piece black suit, and Gary realizes immediately that the man is not human because his eyes lack irises and his pupils are an orange-red and burning like fire. Frightened beyond measure, Gary wets his pants as the man smiles at him from above and greets him in a pleasant and mellow voice: “Are we well-met, fisherboy?”

Walking down the steep bank without leaving an imprint on the ground, the...

(The entire section is 668 words.)