Authors: Stephen King
Tags: #Fiction, #Horror, #Alternative History
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This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real
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Copyright © 2011 by Stephen King
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Library of Congress Control Number: 2011025874
ISBN 978-1-4516-2728-2 (print)
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Image credits: pages ix, 7, 351 (left), and 575: Getty; page 97: courtesy of the Lisbon
Historical Society (special thanks to Russ Dorr for research); pages 223 and 749: Corbis;
page 351 (right): courtesy of Steven Meyers and Bob Rowen.
Lyrics from the song “Honky Tonk Women” are used with permission. Words and Music
by MICK JAGGER and KEITH RICHARDS © 1969 (Renewed) ABKCO MUSIC, INC.,
85 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10003. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission of
ALFRED MUSIC PUBLISHING CO., INC.
Hey, honey, welcome to the party.
It is virtually not assimilable to our reason that a small lonely man felled a giant in the midst of his limousines, his legions, his throng, and his security. If such a nonentity destroyed the leader of the most powerful nation on earth, then a world of disproportion engulfs us, and we live in a universe that is absurd.
If there is love, smallpox scars are as pretty as dimples.
Dancing is life.
I have never been what you’d call a crying man.
My ex-wife said that my “nonexistent emotional gradient” was the main reason she was leaving me (as if the guy she met in her AA meetings was beside the point). Christy said she supposed she could forgive me not crying at her father’s funeral; I had only known him for six years and couldn’t understand what a wonderful, giving man he had been (a Mustang convertible as a high school graduation present, for instance). But then, when I didn’t cry at my own parents’ funerals—they died just two years apart, Dad of stomach cancer and Mom of a thunderclap heart attack while walking on a Florida beach—she began to understand the nonexistent gradient thing. I was “unable to feel my feelings,” in AA-speak.
seen you shed tears,” she said, speaking in the flat tones people use when they are expressing the absolute final deal-breaker in a relationship. “Even when you told me I had to go to rehab or you were leaving.” This conversation happened about six weeks before she packed her things, drove them across town, and moved in with Mel Thompson. “Boy meets girl on the AA campus”—that’s another saying they have in those meetings.
I didn’t cry when I saw her off. I didn’t cry when I went back inside the little house with the great big mortgage, either. The house where no baby had come, or now ever would. I just lay down on the bed that now belonged to me alone, and put my arm over my eyes, and mourned.
But I’m not emotionally blocked. Christy was wrong about that. One day when I was nine, my mother met me at the door when I came home from school. She told me my collie, Rags, had been struck and killed by a truck that hadn’t even bothered to stop. I didn’t cry when we buried him, although my dad told me nobody would think less of me if I did, but I cried when she told me. Partly because it was my first experience of death; mostly because it had been my responsibility to make sure he was safely penned up in our backyard.
And I cried when Mom’s doctor called me and told me what had happened that day on the beach. “I’m sorry, but there was no chance,” he said. “Sometimes it’s very sudden, and doctors tend to see that as a blessing.”
Christy wasn’t there—she had to stay late at school that day and meet with a mother who had questions about her son’s last report card—but I cried, all right. I went into our little laundry room and took a dirty sheet out of the basket and cried into that. Not for long, but the tears came. I could have told her about them later, but I didn’t see the point, partly because she would have thought I was pity-fishing (that’s not an AA term, but maybe it should be), and partly because I don’t think the ability to bust out bawling pretty much on cue should be a requirement for successful marriage.