Authors: Stephen King
Louis noticed that the place did not just
to have a sense of order, a pattern; the memorials had been arranged in rough concentric circles.
SMUCKY THE CAT,
one crate-board marker proclaimed. The hand was childish but careful.
HE WAS OBEDIANT
. And below this: 1971-1974. A little way around the outer circle he came to a piece of natural slate with a name written on it in fading but perfectly legible red paint:
. And below this a bit of verse:
A HELLUVA SNIFFER
UNTIL HE DIED HE MADE US RICHER
“Biffer was the Desslers' cocker spaniel,” Jud said. He had dug a bald place in the earth with the heel of his shoe and was carefully tapping all his ashes into it. “Got run over by a dumpster last year. Ain't that some poime?”
“It sure is,” Louis agreed.
Some of the graves were marked with flowers, some fresh, most old, not a few almost totally decomposed.
Over half of the painted and penciled inscriptions that Louis tried to read had faded away to partial or total illegibility. Others bore no discernible mark at all, and Louis guessed that the writing on these might have been done with chalk or crayon.
“Mom!” Ellie yelled. “Here's a goldfishie! Come and see!”
“I'll pass,” Rachel said, and Louis glanced at her. She was standing by herself, outside the outermost circle, looking more uncomfortable than ever. Louis thought:
Even here she's upset.
She never had been easy around the appearances of death (not, he supposed, that anyone really was), probably because of her sister. Rachel's sister had died very young, and it had left a scar which Louis had learned early in their marriage not to touch. Her name had been Zelda, and her death had been from spinal meningitis. Her mortal illness had probably been long and painful and ugly, and Rachel would have been at an impressionable age. If she wanted to forget it, he thought there could be no harm in that.
Louis tipped her a wink, and Rachel smiled gratefully at him.
Louis looked up. They were in a natural clearing. He supposed that explained how well the grass did; the sun could get through. Nevertheless it would have taken watering and careful tending. That meant cans of water lugged up here or maybe Indian pumps even heavier than Gage in his Gerrypack carried on small backs. He thought again that it was an odd thing for children to have kept up for so long. His own memory
of childhood enthusiasms, reinforced by his dealings with Ellie, was that they tended to burn like newsprintâfastÂ .Â .Â . hotÂ .Â .Â . and quick to die.
Moving inward, the pet graves became older; fewer and fewer of the inscriptions could be read, but those that could yielded a rough timeline extending into the past. Here was
KILT ON THE HIGHWAY SEPT
15, 1968. In the same circle was a wide flat board planted deep in the earth. Frost and thaw had warped it and canted it to one side, but Louis could still make out
IN MEMORY OF MARTA OUR PET RABIT DYED MARCH
1 1965. A row farther in was:
! the inscription amplified), who had died in 1958; and
(who would have been a parrot, if Louis remembered his Doctor Doolittle correctly), who had squawked her last “Polly want a cracker” in the summer of 1953. There was nothing readable in the next two rows, and then, still a long way in from the center, chiseled roughly on a piece of sandstone, was
HANNAH THE BEST DOG THAT EVER LIVED
1929-1939. Although sandstone was relatively softâas a result the inscription was now little more than a ghostâLouis found it hard to conceive of the hours some child must have spent impressing those nine words on the stone. The commitment of love and grief seemed to him staggering; this was something parents did not even do for their own parents or for their children if they died young.
“Boy, this does go back some,” he said to Jud, who had strolled over to join him.
Jud nodded. “Come here, Louis. Want to show you something.”
They walked to a row only three back from the center. Here the circular pattern, perceived as an almost haphazard coincidence in the outer rows, was very evident. Jud stopped before a small piece of slate that had fallen over. Kneeling carefully, the old man set it up again.
“Used to be words here,” Jud said. “I chiseled em myself, but it's worn away now. I buried my first dog here. Spot. He died of old age in 1914, the year the Great War begun.”
Bemused by the thought that here was a graveyard that went farther back than many graveyards for people, Louis walked toward the center and examined several of the markers. None of them were readable, and most had been almost reclaimed by the forest floor. The grass had almost entirely overgrown one, and when he set it back up, there was a small tearing, protesting sound from the earth. Blind beetles scurried over the section he had exposed. He felt a small chill and thought,
Boot Hill for animals. I'm not sure I really like it.
“How far do these go back?”
“Gorry, I don't know,” Jud said, putting his hands deep in his pockets. “Place was here when Spot died, of course. I had a whole gang of friends in those days. They helped me dig the hole for Spot. Digging here ain't that easy, eitherâground's awful stony, you know, hard to turn. And I helped them sometimes.” He pointed here and there with a horny finger. “That
there was Pete LaVasseur's dog, if I remember right, and there's three of Albion Groatley's barncats buried right in a row there.
“Old Man Fritchie kept racing pigeons. Me and Al Groatley and Carl Hannah buried one of them that a dog got. He's right there.” He paused thoughtfully. “I'm the last of that bunch left, you know. All dead now, my gang. All gone.”
Louis said nothing, only stood looking at the pet graves with his hands in his pockets.
“Ground's stony,” Jud repeated. “Couldn't plant nothing here but corpses anyway, I guess.”
Across the way, Gage began to cry thinly, and Rachel brought him over, toting him on her hip. “He's hungry,” she said. “I think we ought to go back, Lou.”
her eyes asked.
“Sure,” he said. He shouldered the Gerrypack again and turned around so Rachel could pop Gage in. “Ellie! Hey Ellie, where are you?”
“There she is,” Rachel said and pointed toward the blowdown. Ellie was climbing as if the blowdown was a bastard cousin to the monkeybars at school.
“Oh, honey, you want to come down off there!” Jud called over, alarmed. “You stick your foot in the wrong hole and those old trees shift, you'll break your ankle.”
Ellie jumped down. “Ow!” she cried and came toward them, rubbing her hip. The skin wasn't broken, but a stiff, dead branch had torn her slacks.
“You see what I mean,” Jud said, ruffling her hair. “Old blowdown like this, even someone wise about the woods won't try to climb over it if he can go around.
Trees that all fall down in a pile get mean. They'll bite you if they can.”
“Really?” Ellie asked.
“Really. They're piled up like straws, you see. And if you was to step on the right one, they might all come down in an avalanche.”
Ellie looked at Louis. “Is that true, Daddy?”
“I think so, hon.”
“Yuck!” She looked back at the blowdown and yelled: “You tore my pants, you cruddy trees!”
All three of the grown-ups laughed. The blowdown did not. It merely sat whitening in the sun as it had done for decades. To Louis it looked like the skeletal remains of some long-dead monster, something slain by a parfait good and gentil knight, perchance. A dragon's bones, left here in a giant cairn.
It occurred to him even then that there was something too convenient about that blowdown and the way it stood between the pet cemetery and the depths of woods beyond, woods which Jud Crandall later sometimes referred to absently as “the Indian woods.” Its very randomness seemed too artful, too perfect for a work of nature. Itâ
Then Gage grabbed one of his ears and twisted it, crowing happily, and Louis forgot all about the blowdown in the woods beyond the pet cemetery. It was time to go home.
Ellie came to him the next day, looking troubled. Louis was working on a model in his study. This one was a 1917 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghostâ680 pieces, over 50 moving parts. It was nearly done, and he could almost imagine the liveried chauffeur, direct descendant of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English coachmen, sitting imperially behind the wheel.
He had been model-crazy since his tenth year. He had begun with a World War I Spad that his Uncle Carl had brought him, had worked his way through most of the Revell airplanes, and had moved on to bigger and better things in his teens and twenties. There had been a boats-in-bottles phase and a war-machines phase and even a phase in which he had built guns so realistic it was hard to believe they wouldn't fire when you pulled the triggerâColts and Winchesters and Lugers, even a Buntline Special. Over the last five years or so, it had been the big cruise ships. A model of the
and one of the
sat on his shelves at his university office, and the
completed just before they left Chicago, was currently cruising the mantel-piece in their living room. Now he had moved on to classic cars, and if previous patterns held true, he supposed it would be four or five years before the urge to do something new struck him. Rachel looked on this, his only real hobby, with a wifely indulgence that held, he
supposed, some elements of contempt; even after ten years of marriage she probably thought he would grow out of it. Perhaps some of this attitude came from her father, who believed just as much now as at the time Louis and Rachel had married that he had gotten an asshole for a son-in-law.
Rachel is right. Maybe I'll just wake up one morning at the age of thirty-seven, put all these models in the attic, and take up hang gliding.
Meanwhile Ellie looked serious.
Far away, drifting in the clear air, he could hear that perfect Sunday morning sound of churchbells calling worshippers.
“Hi, Dad,” she said.
“Hello, pumpkin. Waas happenin?”
“Oh, nothing,” she said, but her face said differently; her face said that plenty was up, and none of it was so hot, thank you very much. Her hair was freshly washed and fell loose to her shoulders. In this light it was still more blond than the brown it was inevitably becoming. She was wearing a dress, and it occurred to Louis that his daughter almost always put on a dress on Sundays, although they did not attend church. “What are you building?”
Carefully glueing on a mudguard, he told her. “Look at this,” he said, carefully handing her a hubcap. “See those linked R's? That's a nice detail, huh? If we fly back to Shytown for Thanksgiving and we get on an L-1011, you look out at the jet engines and you'll see those same R's.”
“Hubcap, big deal.” She handed it back.
“Please,” he said. “If you own a Rolls-Royce, you call that a wheel covering. If you're rich enough to own a Rolls, you can strut a little. When I make my second million, I'm going to buy myself one. Rolls-Royce Corniche. Then when Gage gets carsick, he can throw up into real leather.”
And just by the way, Ellie, what's on your mind?
But it didn't work that way with Ellie. You didn't ask things right out. She was wary of giving too much of herself away. It was a trait Louis admired.
“Are we rich, Daddy?”
“No,” he said, “but we're not going away to starve either.”
“Michael Burns at school says all doctors are rich.”
“Well, you tell Michael Burns at school that lots of doctors
rich, but it takes twenty yearsÂ .Â .Â . and you don't get rich running a university infirmary. You get rich being a specialist. A gynecologist or an orthopedist or a neurologist. They get rich quicker. For utility infielders like me, it takes longer.”
“Then why don't you be a specialist, Daddy?”
Louis thought of his models again and of the way he had one day just not wanted to build any more warplanes, the way he had likewise gotten tired of Tiger tanks and gun emplacements, the way he had come to believe (almost overnight, it seemed in retrospect) that building boats in bottles was pretty dumb; and then he thought of what it would be like to spend your whole life inspecting children's feet for hammertoe or putting on the thin Latex gloves so you could grope along some woman's vaginal canal
with one educated finger, feeling for bumps or lesions.
“I just wouldn't like it,” he said.
Church came into the office, paused, inspected the situation with his bright green eyes. He leaped silently onto the windowsill and appeared to go to sleep.
Ellie glanced at him and frowned, which struck Louis as exceedingly odd. Usually Ellie looked at Church with an expression of love so sappy it was almost painful. She began to walk around the office, looking at various models, and in a voice that was nearly casual, she said, “Boy, there were a lot of graves up in the Pet Sematary, weren't there?”
Ah, here's the nub,
Louis thought but did not look around; after examining his instructions, he began putting the carriage lamps on the Rolls.
“There were,” he said. “Better than a hundred, I'd say.”
“Daddy, why don't pets live as long as people?”
“Well, some animals do live about as long,” he said, “and some live much longer. Elephants live a very long time, and there are some sea turtles so old that people really don't know
old they areÂ .Â .Â . or maybe they do, and they just can't believe it.”