Title: Skeleton Crew.
Author: Stephen King.
Genre: Fiction, short stories, poetry, horror.
Publication Date: 1968, 1969, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985 (this collection 1985).
Summary: A collection of 18 short stories, 2 poems, and 2 novellas. The Mist** (1980) is a novella in which David Drayton and his son Billy are swept into a living nightmare when they're imprisoned in a supermarket with fellow citizens by a mysterious mist filled with monsters, and eventually have to face the threat from the inside as well, when the people around them begin to slowly lose their minds. In Here There Be Tygers (1968), a third-grader named Charles runs into trouble when he encounters a tiger in the school bathroom. In The Monkey (1980), two brothers find a cymbal-banging monkey toy and quickly come to discover it is cursed, and every time it bangs the cymbal, someone close to them dies. Cain Rose Up (1985) deals with a depressed and homicidal college student, Curt Garrish, who goes on a murderous sniper rampage from his dormitory room. In Mrs. Todd's Shortcut (1984), a woman obsessed with finding shortcuts seems to find an impossible one, but it appears to take her through an entirely different, horror-filled world. In The Jaunt (1985), in a futuristic world where humans have perfected the art of space travel through a teleportation technique called, a father tells his children about to go to space the story of how the technique was tested and became safe for human use, but makes a grave mistake by leaving out the dark and dangerous realities of the procedure. In The Wedding Gig (1980), a man with his jazz band for a wedding of an extremely overweight woman during the Prohibition, recounts following her story after she is shamed for her weight, which causes the death of her brother, and she successfully takes over his racketeering business. Paranoid: A Chant (1985) is a poem from the diary of a person with paranoid schizophrenia. In The Raft (1982), when four college students swim out to a raft in the middle of the lake on a cold October day, they find themselves trapped by a mysterious, oily black carnivorous shape in the water. In The Word Processor of the Gods (1985), a writer disenchanted with his life and family receives a word-processor from his recently deceased nephew that appears to have the ability to affect and re-write reality. In The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands (1982), a man recounts meeting a stranger who refuses to touch others, and uncovers a dark and terrifying curse that seems to be at the bottom of the stranger's eccentricity. Beachworld (1984) is a story of the far future, where a spacecraft crashes on a mysterious planet filled with sand dunes, that quickly begin to have strange, hypnotizing effects on the survivors. The Reaper's Image (1969) is story is about an antique mirror haunted by the visage of the Grim Reaper, who appears to those who gaze into it. Nona (1978) is the account of a man being held in prison, recounting his life as a college dropout whofell in love with a beautiful girl named Nona, while hitchhiking on a snowy winter's night in Maine, who seduced him into thoughtlessly violent deeds, and revealed herself to be much different from what he imagined. For Owen (1985) is a poem describing King walking his son Owen to school, as the boy describes a fantastical school attended by anthropomorphized fruit. In Survivor Type (1982) is a diary of a disgraced surgeon who gets stranded on an deserted island, and eventually is forced to use his surgical skills to help himself survive. Uncle Otto's Truck (1983) is a story in which after a man deliberately kills his business partner with his truck, he becomes convinced that the derelict truck is now alive, and is out to get him. Morning Deliveries (Milkman #1) (1985) is a story that follows the morning route of a milkman named Spike Milligan, who leaves various disgusting and horrifying "surprises" in the milk bottles for his customers to find. In Big Wheels: A Tale of the Laundry Game (Milkman #2) (1980), a sequel to the previous story, two laundry workers have a run-in with a serial killer, who is a milkman one of the guy's wives left him for. In Gramma (1984), a young boy left alone to take care of his bed-ridden grandmother, a long-suspected witch and occultist, experiences true Lovecraftian horror when the old woman passes away, though perhaps not quite. In The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet (1984), a novella, a fiction editor from a struggling magazine gets a submission that he believes to be brilliant, but when he begins to correspond with the extremely mentally unstable author, he begins a slow descent into his madness. In The Reach (aka Do The Dead Sing?) (1981), Stella Flanders, recently 95, the oldest resident of Goat Island, has never crossed the reach, the body of water that separates the Island from the mainland, until she starts seeing loved one long dead urging her to take the journey across the frozen lake.
**Read individually, refer to the separate entry for quotes.
My rating: 7.5/10.
♥ Outside a cold gust of wind rose, and for a moment lips with no flesh blew a long note through the old, rusty gutter outside. Petey stepped closer to his father, eyes moving uneasily to the rough attic roof through which nailheads poked.
.."Just the wind," Hal said, still looking at the monkey. Its cymbals, crescents of brass rather than full circles in the weak light of the one naked bulb, were moveless, perhaps a foot apart, and he added automatically, "Wind can whistle, but it can't carry a tune." Then he realized that was a saying of Uncle Will's, and a goose ran over his grave.
♥ If the monkey wanted to clap its hellish cymbals now, let it. It could clap and clash them for the crawling bugs and beetles, the dark things that made their home in the well's stone gullet. It would rot down there. Its loathsome cogs and wheels and springs would rush down there. It would die down there. In the mud and the darkness. Spiders would spin it a shroud.
♥ Perhaps it was so, but with an old, old memory like this one, you had to be careful not to believe too much. Old memories could lie.
♥ His mother came in to soothe him with a drink of water and two chalky-orange baby aspirin, those Valiums of childhood's trouble times.
♥ He began by telling Petey that his father had probably brought the monkey home with him from overseas, as a gift for his sons. It wasn't a particularly unique toy—there was nothing strange or valuable about it. There must have been hundreds of thousands of wind-up monkeys in the world, some made in Hong Kong, some in Taiwan, some in Korea. But somewhere along the line—perhaps even in the dark back closet of the house in Connecticut where the two boys had begun their growing up—something had happened to the monkey. Something bad. It might be, Hal said as he tried to coax the clerk's Gremlin up past forty, that some bad things—maybe even most bad things—weren't even really awake and aware of what they were. He left it there because that was probably as much as Petey could understand, but his mind continued on its own course. He thought that most evil might be very much like a monkey full of clockwork that you wind up; the clockwork turns, the cymbals begin to beat, the teeth grin, the stupid glass eyes laugh... or appear to laugh...
♥ A little fella wearing horn-rimmed glasses and a valiantly struggling goatee passed him between four and five, holding a calculus book to his chest like a Bible, his lips moving in a rosary of logarithms. His eyes were blank as blackboards.
♥ "Take care, now." He slapped Garrish's shoulder and then walked back down the hall, pausing once to tell Ron Frane to turn down his stereo. Garrish could see Rollins lying dead in a ditch with maggots in his eyes, Rollins wouldn't care. Neither would the maggots. You either ate the world or the world ate you and it was okay either way.
~~Cain Rose Up.
♥ Summer people like the Todds are nowhere near as interesting to the year-round residents of small Maine towns as they themselves believe. Year-round folk prefer their own love stories and hate stories and scandals and rumors of scandal. When that textile fellow from Amesbury shot himself, Estonia Corbridge found that after a week or so she couldn't even get invited to lunch on her story of how she found him with the pistol still in one stiffening hand. But folks are still not done talking about Joe Camber, who got killed by his own dog.
♥ And when she disappeared, there was concern. Not grieving, exactly, because a disappearance is not exactly like a death. It's not like chipping something off with a cleaver; more like something running down the sink so slow you don't know it's all gone until long after it is.
♥ But then his wife died. Five years ago it was. She was plowing a grade and the tractor tipped over on her and Homer was taken bad off about it. He grieved for two years or so and then seemed to feel better. But he was not the same. He seemed waiting for something to happen, waiting for the next thing. You'd pass his neat little house sometimes at dusk and he would be on the porch smoking a pipe with a glass of mineral water on the porch rail and the sunset would be in his eyes and pipe smoke around his head and you'd think—I did, anyway—Homer is waiting for the next thing. This bothered me over a wider range of my mind than I liked to admit, and at last I decided it was because if it had been me, I wouldn't have been waiting for the next thing, like a groom who has put on his morning coat and finally has his tie right and is only sitting there on a bed in the upstairs of his house and looking first at himself in the mirror and then at the clock on the mantel and waiting for it to be eleven o'clock so he can get married. If it had been me, I would not have been waiting for the next thing; I would have been waiting for the last thing.
♥ "..Do you think a man could just—well—forget a road, Dave?"
I allowed it was. The turnpike is easy to think of. After a while it almost fills a man's mind, and you think not how could I get from here to there but how can I get from here to the turnpike ramp that's closest to there. And that made me think that maybe there are lots of roads all over that are just going begging; roads with rock walls beside them, real roads with blackberry bushes growing alongside them but nobody to eat the berries but the birds and gravel pits with old rusted chains hanging down in low curves in front of their entryways, the pits themselves as forgotten as a child's old toys with scrumgrass growing up their deserted unremembered sides. Roads that have just been forgot except by the people who live on them and think of the quickest way to get off them and onto the turnpike where you can pass on a hill and not fret over it. We like to joke in Maine that you can't get there from here, but maybe the joke is on us. The truth is there's about a damn thousand ways to do it and man doesn't bother.
♥ "You ready for the blue-ribbon winner, Homer? ..At least it's the blue-ribbon winner so far," she says. "Do you know, Homer, that a man wrote an article in Science Today in 1923 proving that no man could run a mile in under four minutes? He proved it, with all sorts of calculations based on the maximum length of the male thing-muscles, maximum length of stride, maximum lung capacity, maximum heart-rate, and a whole lot more. I was taken with that article! I was so taken that I gave it to Worth and asked him to give it to Professor Murray in the math department at the University of Maine. I wanted those figures checked because I was sure they must have been based on the wrong postulates, or something. ..Well, Professor Murray checked through the man's figures quite carefully... and do you know what, Homer? ..Those figures were right. The man's criteria were solid. He proved, back in 1923, that a man couldn't run a mile in under four minutes. He proved that. But people do it all the time, and do you know what that means? ..It means that no blue ribbon is forever," she says. "Someday—if the world doesn't explode itself in the meantime—someone will run a two-minute mile in the Olympics. It may take a hundred years or a thousand, but it will happen. Because there is no ultimate blue ribbon. There is zero, and there is eternity, and there is mortality, but there is no ultimate."
♥ "She stood the car still at the end of it and says, 'You sure?'
"'Let her rip,' I says. The ball bearing in her ankle rolled and that heavy foot come down. I can't tell you nothing much about whatall happened after that. Except after a while I couldn't hardly take my eyes off her. There was somethin wild that crep into her face, Dave—something wild and something free, and it frightened my heart. She was beautiful, and I was took with love for her, anyone would have been, any man, anyway, and maybe any woman too, but I was scairt of her too, because she looked like she could kill you if her eye left the road and fell on you and she decided to love you back."
♥ "Then she laughed, kind of soft, and she give me a kiss. That was the best kiss I ever had in my whole life, Dave. It was just on the cheek, and it was the chaste kiss of a married woman, but it was as ripe as a peach, or like those flowers that open in the dark, and when her lips touched my skin I felt like... I don't know exactly what I felt like, because a man can't easily hold on to those things that happened to him with a girl who was ripe when the world was young or how those things felt—I'm talking around what I mean, but I think you understand. Those things all get a red cast to them in your memory and you cannot see through it at all."
♥ "There are holes in the middle of things," Homer said, and he sat up straighter, like he was mad. "Right on the damn middle of things, not even to the left or right where you p'riph'ral vision is and you could say 'Well, but hell—' They are there and you go around them like you'd go around a pothole in the road that would break an axle. You know? And you forget it. Or like if you are plowin, you can plow a dip. But if there's somethin like a break in the earth, where you see darkness, like a cave might be there, you say 'Go around, old hoss. Leave that alone! I got a good shot over here to the left'ards.' Because it wasn't a cave you was lookin for, or some kind of college excitement, bug good plowin.
"Holes in the middle of things."
♥ "'No,' she says. 'I tell you I am different over there... I am all myself over there. When I am going along that road in my little car I am not Ophelia Todd, Worth Todd's wife who could never carry a child to term, or that woman who tried to write poetry and failed at it, or the woman who sits and takes notes in committee meetings, or anything or anyone else. When I am on that road I am in the heart of myself, and I feel like—'
"'Diana,' I said.
"She looked at me kind of funny and kind of surprised, and then she laughed. 'O like some goddess, I suppose,' she said. 'She will do better than most because I am a night person—I love to stay up until my book is done or until the National Anthem comes on the TV, and because I am very pale, like the moon—Worth is always saying I need a tonic, or blood tests or some sort of similar bosh. But in her heart what every woman wants to be is some kind of goddess, I think—men pick up a ruined echo of that thought and try to put them on pedestals (a woman, who will pee down her own leg if she does not squat! it's funny when you stop to think of it)—but what a man senses is not what a woman wants. A woman wants to be in the clear, is all. To stand if she will, or walk...' Her eyes turned toward that little go-devil in the driveway, and narrowed. Then she smiled. 'Or to drive, Homer. A man will not see that. He thinks a goddess wants to loll on a slope somewhere on the foothills of Olympus and eat fruit, but there is no god or goddess in that. All a woman wants is what a man wants—a woman wants to drive.'"
♥ "..And I don't expect you'll believe a single damn word of the whole yarn."
In the sky one of those big flat-bottomed clouds moved enough to disclose the ghost of the moon—half-full and pale as milk. And something in my head leaped up at the sight, half in fright, half in love.
"I do though," I said. "Every frigging damned word. And even if it ain't true, Homer, it ought to be."
♥ The inside light came on and just for a moment I saw her, long red hair around her face, her forehead shining like a lamp. Shining like the moon. He got in and she drove away. I stood out on my porch and watched the taillights of her little go-devil twinkling red in the dark... getting smaller and smaller. They were like embers, than they were like flickerflies, and then they were gone.
..Other times I think about them, though—all this October I have done so, it seems, because October is the time when men think mostly about far places and the roads which might get them there. I sit on the bench in front of Bell's Market and think about Homer Buckland and about the beautiful girl who leaned over to open his door when he come down that path with the full red gasoline can in his right hand—she looked like a girl of no more than sixteen, a girl on her learner's permit, and her beauty was terrible, but I believe it would no longer kill the man it turned itself on; for a moment her eyes lit on me, I was not killed, although part of me died at her feet.
Olympus must be a glory to the eyes and the heart, and there are those who crave it and those who find a clear way to it, mayhap, but I know Castle Rock like the back of my hand and I could never leave it for no shortcuts where the roads may go; in October the sky over the lake is no glory but it is passing fair, with those big white clouds that move so slow; I sit here on the bench, and think about 'Phelia Todd and Homer Buckland, and I don't necessarily wish I was where they are... but I still wish I was a smoking man.
~~Mrs. Todd's Shortcut.
♥ "And sure enough, the proof was there. It would not, I thought then, convince anyone but myself; but in the beginning, of course, it is only one's self that one has to convince."
♥ "As I said, there was a slight problem..."
Yes. Horror, lunacy, and death. How's that for a slight problem, kids?
♥ By 2045, water-prospecting became the big game and oil had become what it had been in 1906: a toy.
♥ Your mind can be your best friend; it can keep you amused even when there's nothing to read, nothing to do. But it can turn on you when it's left with no input for too long. It can turn on you, which means that it turns on itself, savages itself, perhaps consumes itself in an unthinkable act of auto-cannibalism. How long in there, in terms of years? 0.000000000067 seconds for the body to Jaunt, but how long for the unparticulated consciousness? A hundred years? A thousand? A million? A billion? How long alone with your thoughts in an endless field of white? And then, when a billion eternities have passed, the crashing return of light and form and body. Who wouldn't go insane? The Wedding Gig (1980)
♥ "In other words, you're paying two C's because our last number might be arranged for Enfield rifle accompaniment."
♥ I started to say something, but he didn't give me the chance. He swung me around and pressed his face down until our noses almost touched. I have never seen such anger and humiliation and rage and determination in a man's face. You never see that look on a white face these days, how it is to be hurt and made to feel small. All that love and hate.
♥ "We had a request for 'Camptown Races,'" Charlie said.
"Forget it," I said curtly. "We don't play that nigger stuff till after midnight."
I could see Billy-Boy stiffen as he was sitting down to the piano, and then his face was smooth again. I could have kicked myself around the block, but, goddammit, a man can't shift gears on his mouth overnight, or in a year, or maybe even ten. In those days nigger was a word I hated and kept saying.
I went over to him. "I'm sorry, Bill—I haven't been myself tonight."
"Sure," he said, but his eyes looked over my shoulder and I knew my apology wasn't accepted. That was bad, but I'll tell you what was worse—knowing he was disappointed in me.
..I kept looking at Billy-Boy Williams while I talked, but you could read nothing on the cat's face. It would be easier trying to figure out what a walnut was thinking by reading the wrinkles on the shell. Billy-Boy was the best piano player we ever had, and we were all sorry about the little ways it got taken out on him as we traveled from one place to another. In the south was the worst, of course—Jim Crow car, nigger heaven at the movies, stuff like that—but it wasn't that great in the north, either. But what could I do? Huh? You go on and tell me. In those days you lived with those differences.
♥ Leaving for the night, it came to me. What I should have told her. Life goes on—that's what I should have said. That's what you say to people when a loved one died. But, thinking it over, I was glad I didn't. Because maybe that was what she was afraid of.
♥ It took ten pallbearers to carry he coffin. There was a picture of them toting it in one of the tabloids. It was a horrible picture to look at. Her coffin was the size of a meat locker—which, in a way, I suppose it was.
~~The Wedding Gig.
♥ In the rain, at the bus stop,
black crows with black umbrellas
pretend to look at their watches, but
it's not raining. Their eyes are silver dollars.
Some are scholars in the pay of the FBI
most are the foreigners who pour through
our streets. I fooled them
got off the bus at 25 and Lex
where a cabby watched me over his newspaper.
In the room above me an old woman
had put an electric suction cup on her floor.
It sends out rays through my light fixture
and now I write in the dark
by the bar sign's glow.
I tell you I know.
♥ I don't look in the mailbox anymore.
The greeting cards are letter-bombs.
(Step away! Goddam you!
Step away, I know tall people!
I tell you I know very tall people!)
♥ I have seen strange lights in the sky.
Last night a dark man with no face crawled through nine miles
of sewer to surface in my toilet, listening
for phone calls through the cheap wood with
I tell you, man, I hear.
♥ They have got physicians
advocating weird sex positions.
They are making addictive laxatives
and suppositories that burn.
They know how to put out the sun
I pack myself in ice—have I told you that? It obviates their infrascopes.
I know chants and I wear charms.
You may think you have me but I could destroy you.
Any second now.
Any second now.
Would you like some coffee, my love?
~~Paranoid: A Chant.
♥ For the first time he felt his mind give a sickening wrench—it seemed to cant the way the raft itself had canted when all four of them had stood on the same side. It righted itself, but Randy suddenly understood that madness—real lunacy—was perhaps not far away at all.
♥ Randy screamed. He screamed. And then, for variety, he screamed some more.
Some half an hour later, long after the frantic splashing and struggling had ended, the loons began to scream back.
That night was forever.
♥ His study was in a small shedlike building that stood apart from the house—like the family room, he had fixed it up himself. But unlike the family room, this was a place he thought of as his own—a place where he could shut out the stranger he had married and the stranger she had given birth to.
♥ He had been—
Confident that there was time?
But that was wrong. That was all wrong. Richard knew it. Jon's still, watchful face, the sober eyes behind the thick spectacles... there was no confidence there, no belief in the comforts of time. What was the word that had occurred to him earlier that day? Doomed. It wasn't just a good word for Jon; it was the right word. That sense of doom had hung about the boy so palpably that there had been times when Richard had wanted to hug him, to tell him to lighten up a little bit, that sometimes there were happy endings and the good didn't always die young.
..No confidence, no real hope. He had always exuded a sense of time running out. And in the end he had turned out to be right.
♥ I got scared. I got scared and I let her get away. Was it as simple as that? Dear God help me, I think it was. I'd like to have it a different way, but perhaps it's best not to lie to yourself about such things as cowardice. And shame.
♥ How a machine do that?
He had no idea... but in a way, that made the whole crazy thing easier to accept.
♥ Maybe it was something even simpler: that look of doom was gone from the boy's eyes.
"Jon?" he said hoarsely, wondering if he had actually wanted something more than this. Had he? It seemed ridiculous, but he supposed he had. He supposed people always did.
~~Word Processor of the Gods.
♥ Henry Brower, it appeared, had been unluckily involved in a real tragedy. And, as in all classic tragedies of the stage, it had stemmed from a fatal flaw—in Brower's case, forgetfulness.
♥ In those days there were dozens of flophouses, a few benevolent missions that took drunks in for the night, and hundreds of alleys where a man might hide an old, louse-ridden mattress. I saw scores of men, all of them little more than shells, eaten by drink and drugs. No names were known or used. When a man has sunk to a final basement level, his liver rotted by wood alcohol, his nose an open, festering sore from the constant sniffing or cocaine and potash, his fingers destroyed by frostbite, his teeth rotted to black stubs—a man no longer has a use for a name.
♥ The fire had burned down to reluctant embers, and old was creeping into the deserted room. The tables and chairs seemed spectral and unreal, like furnishings glimpsed in a dream where past and present merge. The flames rimmed the letters cut into the fireplace jetstone with dull orange light: IT IS THE TALE, NOT HE WHO TELLS IT.
♥ "But it did serve to bring me out of my own time of mourning, for any man who can walk among his fellows is not wholly alone."
~~The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands.
♥ Shapiro stared out at the dunes. He wondered how long the sand had been here. A trillion years? A quintillion? Had there been life here once? Maybe even something with intelligence? Rivers? Green places? Oceans to make it a real beach instead of a desert?
Shapiro stood next to Rand and thought about it. The steady wind ruffled his hair. And quite suddenly he was sure all those things had been, and he could picture how they must have ended.
The slow retreat of the cities as their waterways and outlying areas were first specked, then dusted, finally drifted and choked by the creeping sand.
He could see the shiny brown alluvial fans of mud, sleek as sealskins at first but growing duller and duller in color as they spread further and further out from the mouths of the rivers—out and out until they met each other. He could see sleek sealskin mud becoming reed-infested swamp, then gray, gritty till, finally shifting white sand.
He could see mountains shortening like sharpened pencils, their snow melting as the rising sand brought warm thermal updrafts against them; he could see the last few crags pointing at the sky like the fingertips of men buried alive; he could see them covered and immediately forgotten by the profoundly idiotic dunes.
What had Rand called them?
If you just had a vision, Billy-boy, it was a pretty goddam dreadful one.
Oh, but no, it wasn't. It wasn't dreadful; it was peaceful. It was as quiet as a nap on a Sunday afternoon. What was more peaceful than the beach?
♥ "Take a listen, Bill. Listen to the wave."
..He heard the dunes. They sang songs of Sunday afternoon at the beach—naps on the beach with no dreams. Long naps. Mindless peace. The sound of crying gulls. Shifting, thoughtless particles. Walking dunes. He heard... and was drawn. Drawn toward the dunes.
..He opened his eyes again and saw that Rand had become a conch shell on a long deserted beach, straining forward toward all the mysteries of an undead sea, staring out at the dunes and the dunes and the dunes.
No more, Shapiro moaned inside himself.
Oh, but listen to this wave, the dunes whispered back.
Against his better judgment, Shapiro listened.
Then his better judgment ceased to exist.
♥ Spangler said nothing. The man was a fool. Johnson Spangler had learned a long time ago that the only way to talk to a fool was to ignore him.
♥ "You haven't even put a dustcloth over [the mirror]," Spangler said, visibly angered for the first time.
"I think of it as an eye," Mr. Carlin said. His voice was still drained, perfectly empty. "It it's left open, always open, perhaps it will go blind."
♥ And still he could not look away, and the breathing stillness held him. From around one corner of the mirror a moth-eaten buffalo head peered at him with flat obsidian eyes.
The boy had wanted a drink of water and the fountain was in the first-floor lobby. He had gone downstairs and—
And had never come back.
Like the duchess who had paused after primping before her glass for a soirée and decided to go back into the sitting room for her pearls. Like the rum-merchant who had gone for a carriage ride and had left behind him only an empty carriage and two closemouthed horses.
And the DeIver glass had been in New York from 1897 until 1920, had been there when Judge Crater—
Carlin stared as if hypnotized into the shallow depths of the mirror. Below, the blind-eyed Adonis kept watch.
He waited for Spangler much like the Bates family must have waited for their son, much like the duchess's husband must have waited for his wife to return from the sitting room. He stared into the mirror and waited.
The Reaper's Image.
♥ Do you love?
I hear her voice saying this—sometimes I still hear it. In my dreams.
Do you love?
Yes, I answer. Yes—and true love will never die.
Then I wake up screaming.
♥ I try to scream. I try to wake up.
I can't. I'm caught again. I'll always be caught.
I am in the grip of a huge, noisome graveyard rat. Lights away in front of my eyes. October roses. Somewhere a dead bell is chanting.
"Do you love?" thing thing whispers. "Do you love?" The smell of roses is its breath as it swoops toward me, dead flowers in a charnel house.
"Yes," I tell the rat-thing. "Yes—and true love will never die." Then I do scream. And I am awake.
♥ The flat, four-lane stretch of highway had been like an airport landing strip, the wind whooping and pushing membranes of powdery snow skirting along the concrete. And to the anonymous Them behind their Saf-T-Glas windshields, everyone standing in the breakdown lane on a dark night is either a rapist of a murderer, and if he's got long hair you can throw in child molester and faggot on top.
♥ The third thing that struck me was The Eye. You know about The Eye once you let your hair get down below the lobes of your ears. Right then people know you don't belong to the Lions, Elks, or the VFW. You know about The Eye, but you never get used to it.
♥ "Are you from the university?"
"I was. I quit before they could fire me."
"Are you going home?"
"No home to go to. I was a state ward. I got to school on a scholarship. I blew it. Now I don't know where I'm going." My life story in five sentences. I guess it made me feel depressed.
She laughed—the sound made me run hot and cold. "We're cats out of the same bag, I guess."
I thought she said cats. I thought so. Then. But I've had tome to think, in here, and more and more it seems to me that she might have said rats. Rats out of the same bag. Yes. And they are not the same, are they?
♥ We didn't say anything else while we waited, but it seemed as if we did. I won't give you a load of bull about ESP and that stuff; you know what I'm talking about. You've felt it yourself if you've ever been with someone you were really close to, or if you've taken one of those drugs with initials for a name. You don't have to talk. Communication seems to shift over to some high-frequency emotional band. A twist of the hand does it all. We were strangers. I only knew her first name and now that I think back I don't believe I ever told her mine at all. But we were doing it. It wasn't love. I hate to keep repeating that, but I feel I have to. I wouldn't dirty that word with whatever we had—not after what we did, not after Castle Rock, not after the dreams.
♥ I had gotten kicked off the interstate at seven-thirty. It was only eight-thirty then. It's amazing how much you can do in a short time, or how much can be done to you.
♥ To this say I have no idea what she saw in me. I don't even know if she loved me or not. I think she did at first. After that I was just a habit that's hard to break, like smoking or driving with your elbow poked out the window. She held me for a while, maybe not wanting to break the habit. Maybe she held me for wonder, or maybe it was just her vanity. Good boy, roll over, sit up, fetch the paper. Here's a kiss good night. It doesn't matter. For a while it was love, then it was like love, then it was over.
♥ You have to understand how she was to me if this is to be any good at all. She was more beautiful than the girl, but that wasn't it. Good looks are cheap in a wealthy country. It was the her inside. She was sexy, but the sexiness that came from her was somehow plantlike—blind sex, a kind of clinging, not-to-be-denied sex that is not so important because it is as instinctual as photosynthesis. Not like an animal but like a plant. You get that wave? I knew we would make love, that we would make it as men and women do, but that our joining would be as blunt and remote and meaningless as ivy clinging its way up a trellis in the August sun.
The sex was important only because it was unimportant.
I think—no, I'm sure—that violence was the real motive force. The violence was real and not just a dream. ..And there was even something blind and vegetative about that. Maybe she was only a clinging vine after all, because the Venus flytrap is a species of vine, but that plant is carnivorous and will make animal motion when a fly or a bit of raw meat is placed in its jaws. And it was all real. The sporulating vine may only dream that it fornicates, but I am sure the Venus flytrap tastes that fly, relished its diminishing struggle as its jaws close around it.
..I could not fill up the hole in my life. Not the hole left by the girl when she said good-bye—I don't want to lay this at her door—but the hole that had always been there, the dark, confused swirling that never stopped down in the middle of me. Nona filled that hole. She made me move and act.
She made me noble.
Now maybe you understand a little of it. Why I dream of her. Why the fascination remains in spite of the remorse and the revulsion. Why I hate her. Why I fear her. And why even now I still love her.
♥ When you're invisible you get to thinking you're invulnerable.
♥ It was dark and crowded and sweaty and frantic as only a college social before the ax of finals can be. There was sex in the air. You didn't have to smell it; you could almost reach out and grab it in both hands, like a wet piece of heavy cloth. You knew that love was going to be made later on, or what passes for love. People were going to make it under bleachers and in the steam plant parking lot and in apartments and dormitory rooms. It was going to be made by desperate man/boys with the draft one step behind them and by pretty coeds who were going to drop out this year and go home and start a family. It would be made with tears and laughter, drunk and sober, stiffly and with no inhibition. But mostly it would be made quickly.
♥ "Do you love?" she asked, and laughed at me.
I stood in the darkness, feeling everything begin to run together—past, present, future. I wanted to run, run screaming, run fast enough to take back everything I had done.
Nona stood there looking at me, the most beautiful girl in the world, the only thing that had ever been mine.
♥ I opened the door and saw what was there.
It was the girl, my girl. Dead. Her eyes stared vacantly into that October vault, into my own eyes. She smelled of stolen kisses. She was naked and she had been ripped open from throat to crotch, her whole body turned into a womb. And something lived in there. The rats. I could not see them but I could hear them, rustling inside her. I knew that in a moment her dry mouth would open and she would ask me if I loved. I backed away, my whole body numb, my brain floating on a dark cloud.
I turned to Nona. She was laughing, holding her arms out to me. And with a sudden blaze of understanding I knew, I knew, I knew. The last test. The last final. I had passed it and I was free!
I turned back to the doorway and of courser it was nothing but an empty stone closet with dead leaves on the floor.
I went to Nona. I went to my life.
Her arms reached around my neck and I pulled her against me. That was when she began to change, to ripple and run like wax. The great dark eyes became small and beady. The hair coarsened, went brown. The nose shortened, the nostrils dilated. Her body limped and hunched against me.
I twas being embraced by a rat.
"Do you love?" it squealed. "Do you love, do you love?"
Her lipless mouth stretched upward for mine.
I didn't scream. There were nos screams left. I doubt if I will ever scream again.
♥ I could tell you things but better not.
..I could tell you that dying's an art
and I am learning fast.
♥ Sooner or later the question comes up in every medical student's career. How much shock trauma can the patient stand? Different instructors answer the question in different ways, but cut to its base level, the answer is always another question: How badly does the patient want to survive?
♥ You get to know people, you listen, you make connections. You have to, when you're hustling the street. Any asshole knows how to die. The thing to learn is how to survive, you know what I mean?
♥ I was one hell of a surgeon, as I believe I may have said. They drummed me out. It's a laugh, really; they all do it, and they're so bloody sanctimonious when someone gets caught at it. Screw you, Jack, I got mine. The Second Oath of Hippocrates and Hypocrites.
♥ You can't get back from a moral sin, that was his view. I dreamed about him last night, Father Hailley in his black bathrobe, and his whiskey nose, shaking his finger at me and saying. "Shame on you, Richard Pinzetti... a mortal sin... damt to hell, boy... damt to hell..."
I laughed at him. If this place isn't hell, what is? And the only mortal sin is giving up.
♥ He carried me up in his arms, over his shoulder, and I looked at the receding truck, standing there in the field, its huge radiator looming, the dark round hole where the crank was supposed to go looking like a horridly misplaced eye socket, and I wanted to tell him I had smelled blood, and that's why I had cried. I couldn't think of a way to do it. I suppose he wouldn't have believed me anyway.
As a five-year-old who still believed in Santy Claus and the Tooth Fairy and the Allamagoosalum, I also believed that the bad, scary feelings which swamped me when my father boosted me into the cab of the truck came from the truck. It took twenty-two years for me to decide it wasn't the Cresswell that had murdered George McCutheon; my Uncle Otto had done that.
♥ Gossip is always a hot item in a small town; people are condemned as thieves, adulterers, poachers, and cheats on the flimsiest evidence and the wildest deductions. Often, I think the talk gets started out of no more than boredom. I think what keeps this from being actually nasty—which is how most novelists have depicted small towns, from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Grace Matelious—is that most party-line, grocery-store and barbershop gossip is oddly naive—it is as if these people expect meanness and shallowness, will even invent it if it is not there, but that real and conscious evil may be beyond their conception, even when it floats right before their faces like a magic carpet from one o' those greaseball Ay-rab fairy tales.
♥ The Cresswell was there, in the window, less than six feet from me.
I had placed my fingers on one of Uncle Otto's cheeks, my thumb on the other, wanting to investigate that strange swelling, I suppose. When I first saw the truck in the window, my hand tried to tighten into a fist, forgetting that it was cupped loosely around the corpse's lower face.
In that instant the truck disappeared form the window like smoke—or like the ghost I suppose it was. In the same instant I heard an awful squirting noise. Hot liquid filled my hand. I looked down, feeling not just yielding flesh and wetness but something hard and angled. I looked down, and saw, and that was when I began to scream. Oil was pouring out of Uncle Otto's mouth and nose. Oil was leaking from the corners of his eyes like tears. Diamond Gem Oil—the recycled stuff you can buy in a five-gallon plastic container, the stuff McCutcheon had always run in the Cresswell.
But it wasn't just oi; there was something sticking out of his mouth.
I kept screaming but for a while I was unable to move, unable to take my oily hand from his face, unable to take my eyes from that big greasy thing sticking out of his mouth—the thing that had so distorted the shape of his face.
..What fell out was a Champion spark plug—one of the old Maxi-Duty kind, nearly as big as a circus strongman's fist.
..The truck is getting closer every year, he said, and it seems now that he was right... but even Uncle Otto had no idea how close the Cresswell could get.
~~Uncle Otto's Truck.
♥ The dawn washed slowly down Culver Street.
To anyone awake inside, the night was still black, but dawn had actually been tiptoeing around for almost half an hour.
..Culver Street trembled silently on the sunlit edge of the planet—that moving straightedge astronomers call the terminator.
♥ He paused for a moment to sniff the air, fresh and new and infinitely mysterious..
♥ He set the empty carton on top of a case of milk. Then he brushed aside ice-chips until he could see the mayonnaise jar. He grabbed it and looked inside. The tarantula moved, but sluggishly. The cold had doped it. Spike unscrewed the lid of the jar and tipped it over the opened carton. The tarantula made a feeble effort to scramble back up the slick glass side of the jar, and succeeded not at all. It fell into the empty chocolate milk carton with a fat plop. The milkman carefully reclosed the carton, put it in his carrier, and dashed up the McCarthy's walk. Spiders were his favorite, and spiders were his best, even if he did say so himself. A day when he could deliver a spider was a happy day for Spike.
♥ Here the note was pinned in the Mertons' newspaper holder.
Spike opened the door and went in.
The house was crypt-cold and without furniture. Barren it was, stripped to the walls. Even the stove in the kitchen was gone; there was a brighter square of linoleum where it had stood.
In the living room, every scrap of wallpaper had been removed form the walls. The globe was gone from the overhead light. The bulb had been fused black. A huge splotch of drying blood covered part of one wall. It looked like a psychiatrist's inkblot. In the center of it a crater had been gouged deeply into the plaster. There was a matted clump of hair in this crater, and a few splinters of bone.
The milkman nodded, went back out, and stood on the porch for a moment. It would be a fine day. The sky was already bluer than a baby's eye, and patched with guileless little fair-weather clouds... the ones baseball players call "angels."
~~Morning Deliveries (Milkman #1).
♥ The area was known, in fact, as The Devon Woods. It had attained capital-letter status after the torture-murder of a young girl and her boyfriend in 1968. The couple had been parking out here and were found in the boyfriend's 1959 Mercury. The Merc had real leather seats and a large chrome hood ornament. The occupants had been found in the back seat. Also in the front seat, the trunk, and the glove compartment. The killer had never been found.
♥ Bob watched until the taillights were only flickerflies and then walked carefully back inside the garage. On his cluttered workbench was a chrome ornament from some old car. He began to play with it, and soon he was crying cheap tears for the old days. Later, some time after three in the morning, he strangled his wife and then burned down the house to make it look like an accident.
~~Big Wheels: A Tale of the Laundry Game (Milkman #2).
♥ He got up, went through the entryway again. The yellow hand was still. Gramma slept, her face a gray, sagging circle against the pillow, a dying sun surrounded by the wild yellowish-white corona of her hair. To George she didn't look anything like people who were old and getting ready to die were supposed to look. She didn't look peaceful, like a sunset. She looked crazy, and...
...yes, okay, and dangerous—like an ancient she-bear that might have one more good swipe left in her claws.
♥ Maybe, George remembered thinking vaguely, God isn't the only one who plays dirty.
♥ Spilled-out pieces of an unknown puzzle flying together in George's mind, as if by magic.
Magic, George thought, and groaned.
What was the picture? It was Gramma, of course, Gramma and her books, Gramma who had been driven out of town, Gramma who hadn't been able to have babies wand then had been able to, Gramma who had been driven out of the church as well as out of town. The picture was Gramma, yellow and fat and wrinkled and sluglike, her toothless mouth curved into a sunken grin, her faded, blind eyes somehow sly and cunning; and on her head was a black, conical hat sprinkled with silver stars and glittering Babylonian crescents; at her feet were slinking black cats with eyes as yellow as urine, and the smells were pork and blindness, pork and burning, ancient stars and candles as dark as the earth in which coffins lay; he heard words spoken from ancient books, and each word was like a stone and each sentence like a crypt reared in some stinking boneyard and every paragraph like a nightmare caravan of the plague-dead taken to a place of burning; his eye was the eye of a child and in that moment it opened wide in startled understanding on blackness.
♥ Gramma was dead.
Gorge realized with relief and some surprise that he could feel sorry for her now. Maybe she had been a witch. Maybe not. Maybe she had only thought she was a witch. However it had been, she was gone now. He realized with an adult's comprehension that questions of concrete reality became not unimportant but less vital when they were examined in the mute bland face of mortal remains. He realized this with an adult's comprehension and accepted with an adult's relief. This was a passing footprint, the shape of a shoe, in his mind. So are all the child's adult impressions; it is only in later years that the child realizes that he was being made; formed; shaped by random experiences; all that remains in the instant beyond the footprint is that bitter gunpowder smell which is the ignition of an idea beyond a child's given years.
♥ Like being alone in the dark and thinking of dead things that were still lively—seeing shapes in the shadows on the walls and thinking of death, thinking of the dead, those things, the way they would stink and the way they would move toward you in the black: thinking this: thinking that: thinking of bugs turning in flesh: burrowing in flesh: eyes that moved in the dark. Yeah. That most of all. Thinking of eyes that moved in the dark and the creak of floorboards as something came across the room through the zebra-strips of shadows from the light outside. Yeah.
In the dark your thoughts had a perfect circularity, and no matter what you tried to think of—flowers or Jesus or baseball or winning the gold in the 440 at the Olympics—it somehow led back to the form in the shadows with the claws and the unblinking eyes.
♥ ..and the young writer said that he didn't think Plath qualified as a successful writer. She had not committed suicide because of success, he said; she had gained success because she had committed suicide.
♥ "Madness is a flexible bullet. ..That phrase, the image, 'flexible bullet,' is Marianne Moore's. She used it to describe some car or other. I've always thought it described the condition of madness very well. Madness is a kind of mental suicide. Don't the doctors say now that the only way to truly measure death is by the death of the mind? Madness is a kind of flexible bullet to the brain.
♥ The editor snapped a gold Ronson to his cigarette, and in the growing dark they could all see how haggard his face was—the loose, crocodile-skinned pouches under the eyes, the runneled cheeks, the old man's jut of chin emerging out of that late-middle-aged face like the prow of a ship. That ship, the write thought, is called old age. No one particularly wants to cruise on it, but the staterooms are full. The gangholds too, for that matter.
♥ "What's the first thing they teach you in your first college creative-writing course? Write about what you know. Reg Thorpe knew about going crazy, because he was engaged in going there. The story probably appealed to me because I was also going there. Now you could say—if you were an editor—that the one thing the American reading public doesn't need foisted on them is another story about Going Mad Stylishly in America, subtopic A, Nobody Talks to Each Other Anymore. A popular theme in twentieth-century literature. All the greats have taken a hack at it and all the hacks have taken an ax to it."
♥ "You kept grinning, and there were a couple of places in this story—the place where the hero dumps the lime Jell-O on the fat girl's head is the best—where you laugh right out loud. But they're jittery laughs, you know. You laugh and then you want to look over your shoulder to see what heard you."
♥ "Essentially, I was responding to a superstitious impulse. There are plenty of people who won't walk under ladders or open an umbrella in the house. There are basketball players who cross themselves before taking foul shots and baseball players who change their socks when they're in a slump. I think it's the rational mind playing a bad stereo accompaniment with the irrational subconscious. Forced to define 'irrational subconscious,' I would say that it is a small padded room inside all of us, where the only furnishing is a small card table, and the only thing on the card table is a revolver loaded with flexible bullets.
"When you change course on the sidewalk to avoid the ladder or step out of your apartment into the rain with your furled umbrella, part of your integrated self peels off and steps into that room and picks the gun up off the table. You may be aware of two conflicting thoughts: Walking under a ladder is harmless, and Not walking under a ladder is also harmless. But as soon as the ladder is behind you—or as soon as the umbrella is open—you're back together again."
The writer said, "That's very interesting. Take it a step further for me, if you don't mind. When does that irrational part actually stop fooling with the gun and put it up to its temple?"
The editor said, "When the person in question starts writing letters to the op-ed page of the paper demanding that all the ladders be taken down because walking under them is dangerous."
.."But all madness isn't superstitious, is it?" the writer's wife asked timidly.
"Isn't it?" the editor replied. "Jeanne d'Arc heard voices from heaven. Some people think they are possessed by demons. Others see gremlins... or devils... or Fornits. The terms we use for madness suggest superstition in some form or other. Mania... abnormality... irrationality... lunacy... insanity. For the mad person, reality has skewed. The whole person begins to reintegrate in that small room where the pistol is."
♥ "That rational voice was right to be frightened. There's something in us that is very much attracted to madness. Everyone who looks off the edge of a tall building has felt at least a faint, morbid urge to jump."
♥ "Madness has to start somewhere. If this story's about anything—then this is a story about the genesis of insanity. Madness has to start somewhere, and it has to go somewhere. Like a road. Or a bullet from the barrel of a gun."
♥ "YOU may wonder about long-term solutions; I assure you there are none. All wounds are mortal. Take what's given. You sometimes get a little slack in the rope but the rope always has an end. So what. Bless the slack and don't waste breath cursing the drop. A grateful heart knows that in the end we all swing. ..Of course, the more slack you get, the harder you snap when you finally fetch up at the end... but even that quick snap can be a blessing. I reckon—who wants to strangle?"
♥ "And I'm not going to offer a long motivational thesis—the convenient thing about stories that are true is that you only need to say this is what happened and let people worry for themselves about the why. Generally, nobody ever knows why things happen anyway... particularly the ones who say they do."
♥ "That seemed to solve the whole problem so I took a drink to celebrate. And then the drink took a drink. And then the drink took the man. So to speak."
♥ "I felt... outside myself. Unreal. Perhaps this is always the way one feels when one arrives at the point of the inexplicable."
~~The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet.
♥ "The Reach was wider in those days," Stella Flanders told her great-grandchildren in the last summer of her life, the summer before she began to see ghosts.
♥ She would say: "Louis and Margaret Godlin began Stella Godlin, who became Stella Flanders; Bill and Stella Flanders begat Jane and Alden Flanders and Jane Flanders became Jane Wakefield; Richard and Jane Wakefield began Lois Wakefield, who became Lois Perrault; David and Lois Perrault begat Lona and Hal. Those are your names, children: you are Godlin-Flanders-Wakefield-Perrault. Your blood is in the stones of this island, and I stay here because the mainland is too far to reach. Yes, I love; I have loved, anyway, or at least tried to love, but memory is so wide and so deep, and I cannot cross. Godlin-Flanders-Wakefield-Perrault..."
♥ They had watched out for their own in other ways as well, but she would not tell them that. The children would not understand, nor would Lois and David, although Jane had known the truth. There was Norman and Ettie Wilson's baby that was born a mongoloid, its poor dear little feet turned in, its bald skull lumpy and cratered, its fingers webbed together as if it had dreamed too long and too deep while swimming that interior Reach; Reverend McCracken had come and baptized the bay, and a day later Mary Dodge came, who even at that time had midwived over a hundred babies, and Norman took Ettie down the hill to see Frank Child's new boat and although she could barely walk, Ettie went with no complaint, although she had stopped in the door to look back at Mary Dodge, who was sitting calmly by the idiot baby's crib and knitting. Mary had looked up at her and when their eyes met, Ettie burst into tears. "Come on," Norman had said, upset. "Come on, Ettie, come on." And when they came back an hour later the baby was dead, one of those crib-deaths, wasn't it merciful he didn't suffer. And many years before that, before the war, during the Depression, three little girls had been molested coming home from school, not badly molested, at least not where you could see the scar of the hurt, and they all told about a man who offered to show them a deck of cards he had with a different kind of dog on each one. He would show them this wonderful deck of cards, the man said, if the little girls would come into the bushes with him, and once in the bushes this man said, "But you have to touch this first." One of the little girls was Gert Symes, who would go on to be voted Maine's Teacher of the Year in 1978, for her work at Brunswick High. And Gert, then only five years old, told her father that the man had some fingers gone on one hand. One of the other little girls agreed that this was so. The third remembered nothing. Stella remembered Alden going out one thundery day that summer without telling her where he was going, although she asked. Watching from the window, she had seen Alden meet Bull Symes at the bottom of the path, and then Freddy Dinsmore had joined them and down at the cove she saw her own husband, whom she had sent out that morning just as usual, with his dinner pail under his arm. More men joined them, and when they finally moved off she counted just one under a dozen. The Reverend McCracken's predecessor had been among them. And that evening a fellow named Daniels was found at the foot of Slyder's Point, where the rocks poke out of the surf like the fangs of a dragon that drowned with its mouth open. This Daniels was a fellow Big George Havelock had hired to help him put new stills under his house and a new engine in his Model A truck. From New Hampshire he was, and he was a sweet-talker who had found other off jobs to do when work at the Havelocks' was done... and in church, he could carry a tune! Apparently, they said, Daniels had been walking up on top of Slyder's Point and had slipped, tumbling all the way to the bottom. His neck was broken and his head was bashed in. As he had no people that anyone knew of, he was buried on the island, and the Reverend McCracken's predecessor gave the graveyard eulogy, saying as how this Daniels had been a hard worker and a good help even though he was two fingers shy on his right hand. Then he read the benediction and the graveside group had gone back to the town-hall basement where they drank Za-Rex punch and ate cream-cheese sandwiches, and Stella never asked her men where they had gone on the Daniels fell form the top of Slyder's Point.
"Children," she would tell them, "we always watched out for our own. We had to, for the Reach was wider in those days and when the wind roared and the surf pounded and the dark came early, why, we felt very small—no more than dust motes in the mind of God. So it was natural for us to join hands, one with the other.
"We joined hands, children, and if there were times when we wondered what it was all for, or if there was nary such a thing as love at all, it was only because we had heard the wind and the waters on long winter nights, and we were afraid.
"No, I've never felt I needed to leave the island. My life was here. The Reach was wider in those days."
♥ She remembered Bill telling her once that when you were lost in the woods, you had to pretend that the leg which was on the same side of your body as your smart hand was lame. Otherwise that smart leg would begin to lead you and you'd walk in a circle and not even realize it until you came around to your backtrail again.
♥ They stood in a circle in the storm, the dead of Goat Island, and the wind screamed around them, driving its packet of snow, and some kind of song burst from her. It went up into the wind and the wind carried it away. They all sang them, as children will sing in their high, sweet voices as a summer evening draws down to a summer night. They sang, and Stella felt herself going to them and with them, finally across the Reach. There was a bit of pain, but not much; losing her maidenhead had been worse. They stood in a circle in the night. The snow blew around them and they sang. They sang, and—
—and Alden could not tell David and Lois, but in the summer after Stella died, when the children came out for their annual two weeks, he told Lona and Hal. He told them that during the great storms of winter the wind seems to sing with almost human voices, and that sometimes it seemed to him he could almost make out the words: "Praise God from whom all blessings flow/Praise Him, ye creatures here below..."
But he did not tell them (imagine slow, unimaginative Alden Flanders saying such things aloud, even to the children!) that sometimes he would hear the sound and feel cold even by the stove; that he would put his whittling aside, or the trap he had meant to mend, thinking that the wind sang in all the voices of those who were dead and gone... that they stood somewhere out on the Reach and sang as children do. He seemed to hear their voices and on these nights he sometimes slept and dreamed that he was singing the doxology, unseen and unheard, at his own funeral.
.."These are things made for thinking on slowly," he would have told the children id he had known how. "Things to be thought on at length, while the hands do their work and the coffee sits in a solid china mug nearby. They are questions of Reach, maybe: do the dead sing? And do they love the living?"
On the nights after Lona and Hal had gone back with their parents to the mainland in Al Curry's boat, the children standing astern and waving good-bye, Alden considered that question, and others, and the matter of his father's cap.
Do the dead sing? Do they love?
On those long nights alone, with his mother Stella Flanders at long last in her grave, it often seemed to Alden that they did both.