Job Offer, by Henry Slesar (1959)

Henry Slesar lived until 2002, and participated in the Internet age.

Joe and Sheila Birnham are terribly worried about their deformed son Wally. They’d always suspected that he was too ugly to ever get a job, or even be drafted into the army… until the day Wally got an offer to be in a freak show. It was insulting, of course, but the economy is going down the toilet, and there are cutbacks at his father’s job, so Wally very reluctantly takes the offer.

TWIST ENDING: Wally’s freakishness is that he’s physically normal and unmutated.

This is the first story from the ‘101’ anthology to which I can sincerely give a positive review. The twist ending may be a bit obvious with five-plus decades of hindsight, but the setting is outlined very cleanly and elegantly (think of the implications of the phrase “War Five”, or “Shelters”, or “plankton plant”), and Joe and Sheila are portrayed as genuinely loving each other and caring about their son.

Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association