This is just a throw-away two-page one-joke story, but it’s also a play on how a medium can shape our perceptions. In this case, Harry is a headline writer for a newspaper who has fallen into the habit of turning every experience into a headline. ‘FIRST SNOW FLURRIES WHITEN CITY STREETS’, he thinks as he leaves his office one evening. When he observes a well-dressed young man flirting with a shop clerk, he plays with how to frame the story, rejecting ‘YOUNG HEIR WOOS CLERK AT 5 AND 10’ and trying to come up with something suggestive but not lurid, catchy but not hackneyed.
When he gets home, his wife keeps interrupting these reveries and he begins to imagine turning their marriage into a series of scandals. ‘NAGGING WIFE DEMANDS REPLY’ leads to thoughts of leaving, a fantasy of her taking a lover, and, finally, his jealous retribution. ‘HUSBAND IN FURY KILLS WIFE WITH HAMMER’, he thinks. Except that this headline wouldn’t work in what would inevitably be just a one-column story. HAMMER is too long. It has to be something short: AXE? Yes, ‘HUSBAND IN FURY KILLS WIFE WITH AXE’. Except he doesn’t own an axe, so he just has to hang in there.
First published in Redbook magazine, November 1934