Less Tan
John Tanner in Driver: San Francisco



1977 Original HQ

Current Status:



  • Policia
    • Undercover Prick
Game Appearance:

Less Tan is an undercover cop a.k.a the driver. He drives cars and doesn't afraid of anything.

John Less Tan Faggot.


The StoryEdit

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” He didn’t say any more, but we’ve always been unusually communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence, I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsought—frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon; for the intimate revelations of young men, or at least the terms in which they express them, are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth. And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit. Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes, but after a certain point I don’t care what it’s founded on. When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction—Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the “creative temperament.”—it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again. No—Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men. My family have been prominent, well-to-do people in this Middle Western city for three generations. The Carraways are something of a clan, and we have a tradition that we’re descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, but the actual founder of my line was my grandfather’s brother, who came here in fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil War, and started the wholesale hardware business that my father carries on to-day. I never saw this great-uncle, but I’m supposed to look like him—with special reference to the rather hard-boiled painting that hangs in father’s office I graduated from New Haven in 1915, just a quarter of a century after my father, and a little later I participated in that delayed Teutonic migration known as the Great War. I enjoyed the counter-raid so thoroughly that I came back restless. Instead of being the warm centre of the world, the Middle West now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe—so I decided to go East and learn the bond business. Everybody I knew was in the bond business, so I supposed it could support one more single man. All my aunts and uncles talked it over as if they were choosing a prep school for me, and finally said, “Why—ye—es,” with very grave, hesitant faces. Father agreed to finance me for a year, and after various delays I came East, permanently, I thought, in the spring of twenty-two. The practical thing was to find rooms in the city, but it was a warm season, and I had just left a country of wide lawns and friendly trees, so when a young man at the office suggested that we take a house together in a commuting town, it sounded like a great idea. He found the house, a weather-beaten cardboard bungalow at eighty a month, but at the last minute the firm ordered him to Washington, and I went out to the country alone. I had a dog—at least I had him for a few days until he ran away—and an old Dodge and a Finnish woman, who made my bed and cooked breakfast and muttered Finnish wisdom to herself over the Electric Light Orchestra. It was lonely for a day or so until one morning some man, more recently arrived than I, stopped me on the road. “How do you get to West Egg village?” he asked helplessly. I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I was a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler. He had casually conferred on me the freedom of the neighborhood. And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.
 There was so much to read, for one thing, and so much fine health to be pulled down out of the young breath-giving air. I bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment securities, and they stood on my shelf in red and gold like new money from the mint, promising to unfold the shining secrets that only Midas and Morgan and Maecenas knew. And I had the high intention of reading many other books besides. I was rather literary in college—one year I wrote a series of very solemn and obvious editorials for the “Yale News.”—and now I was going to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most limited of all specialists, the “well-rounded man.” This isn’t just an epigram—life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all. It was a matter of chance that I should have rented a house in one of the strangest communities in North America. It was on that slender riotous island which extends itself due east of New York—and where there are, among other natural curiosities, two unusual formations of land. Twenty miles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in contour and separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out into the most domesticated body of salt water in the Western hemisphere, the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound. they are not perfect ovals—like the egg in the Columbus story, they are both crushed flat at the contact end—but their physical resemblance must be a source of perpetual confusion to the gulls that fly overhead. to the wingless a more arresting phenomenon is their dissimilarity in every particular except shape and size. I lived at West Egg, the—well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them. my house was at the very tip of the egg, only fifty yards from the Sound, and squeezed between two huge places that rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season. the one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard—it was a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and garden. it was Gatsby’s mansion. Or, rather, as I didn’t know Mr. Gatsby, it was a mansion inhabited by a gentleman of that name. My own house was an eyesore, but it was a small eyesore, and it had been overlooked, so I had a view of the water, a partial view of my neighbor’s lawn, and the consoling proximity of millionaires—all for eighty dollars a month. Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water, and the history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanans. Daisy was my second cousin once removed, and I’d known Tom in college. And just after the war I spent two days with them in Chicago. Her husband, among various physical accomplishments, had been one of the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven—a national figure in a way, one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anti-climax. His family were enormously wealthy—even in college his freedom with money was a matter for reproach—but now he’d left Chicago and come East in a fashion that rather took your breath away: for instance, he’d brought down a string of polo ponies from Lake Forest. it was hard to realize that a man in my own generation was wealthy enough to do that. Why they came East I don’t know. They had spent a year in France for no particular reason, and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were rich together. This was a permanent move, said Daisy over the telephone, but I didn’t believe it—I had no sight into Daisy’s heart, but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking, a little wistfully, for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game. And so it happened that on a warm windy evening I drove over to East Egg to see two old friends whom I scarcely knew at all. Their house was even more elaborate than I expected, a cheerful red-and-white Georgian Colonial mansion, overlooking the bay. The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens—finally when it reached the house drifting up the side in bright vines as though from the momentum of its run. The front was broken by a line of French windows, glowing now with reflected gold and wide open to the warm windy afternoon, and Tom Buchanan in riding clothes was standing with his legs apart on the front porch. He had changed since his New Haven years. Now he was a sturdy straw-haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward. Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body—he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing, and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage—a cruel body. His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed. There was a touch of paternal contempt in it, even toward people he liked—and there were men at New Haven who had hated his guts. “Now, don’t think my opinion on these matters is final,” he seemed to say, “just because I’m stronger and more of a man than you are.” We were in the same senior society, and while we were never intimate I always had the impression that he approved of me and wanted me to like him with some harsh, defiant wistfulness of his own. We talked for a few minutes on the sunny porch. “I’ve got a nice place here,” he said, his eyes flashing about restlessly. Turning me around by one arm, he moved a broad flat hand along the front vista, including in its sweep a sunken Italian garden, a half acre of deep, pungent roses, and a snub-nosed motor-boat that bumped the tide offshore. “It belonged to Demaine, the oil man.” He turned me around again, politely and abruptly. “We’ll go inside.” We walked through a high hallway into a bright rosy-colored space, fragilely bound into the house by French windows at either end. The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass outside that seemed to grow a little way into the house. A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags, twisting them up toward the frosted wedding-cake of the ceiling, and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea. The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room, and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor. The younger of the two was a stranger to me. She was extended full length at her end of the divan, completely motionless, and with her chin raised a little, as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall. If she saw me out of the corner of her eyes she gave no hint of it—indeed, I was almost surprised into murmuring an apology for having disturbed her by coming in. The other girl, Daisy, made an attempt to rise—she leaned slightly forward with a conscientious expression—then she laughed, an absurd, charming little laugh, and I laughed too and came forward into the room. “I’m p-paralyzed with happiness.” She laughed again, as if she said something very witty, and held my hand for a moment, looking up into my face, promising that there was no one in the world she so much wanted to see. That was a way she had. She hinted in a murmur that the surname of the balancing girl was Baker. (I’ve heard it said that Daisy’s murmur was only to make people lean toward her; an irrelevant criticism that made it no less charming.) At any rate, Miss Baker’s lips fluttered, she nodded at me almost imperceptibly, and then quickly tipped her head back again—the object she was balancing had obviously tottered a little and given her something of a fright. Again a sort of apology arose to my lips. Almost any exhibition of complete self-sufficiency draws a stunned tribute from me. I looked back at my cousin, who began to ask me questions in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down, as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again. Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered “Listen,” a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour. I told her how I had stopped off in Chicago for a day on my way East, and how a dozen people had sent their love through me. “Do they miss me?” she cried ecstatically. “The whole town is desolate. All the cars have the left rear wheel painted black as a mourning wreath, and there’s a persistent wail all night along the north shore.” “How gorgeous! Let’s go back, Tom. To-morrow!” Then she added irrelevantly: “You ought to see the baby.” “I’d like to.” “She’s asleep. She’s three years old. Haven’t you ever seen her?” “Never.” “Well, you ought to see her. She’s——” Tom Buchanan, who had been hovering restlessly about the room, stopped and rested his hand on my shoulder. “What you doing, Nick?” “I’m a bond man.” “Who with?” I told him. “Never heard of them,” he remarked decisively. This annoyed me. “You will,” I answered shortly. “You will if you stay in the East.” “Oh, I’ll stay in the East, don’t you worry,” he said, glancing at Daisy and then back at me, as if he were alert for something more. “I’d be a God damned fool to live anywhere else.” At this point Miss Baker said: “Absolutely!” with such suddenness that I started—it was the first word she uttered since I came into the room. Evidently it surprised her as much as it did me, for she yawned and with a series of rapid, deft movements stood up into the room. “I’m stiff,” she complained, “I’ve been lying on that sofa for as long as I can remember.” “Don’t look at me,” Daisy retorted, “I’ve been trying to get you to New York all afternoon.” “No, thanks,” said Miss Baker to the four cocktails just in from the pantry, “I’m absolutely in training.” Her host looked at her incredulously. “You are!” He took down his drink as if it were a drop in the bottom of a glass. “How you ever get anything done is beyond me.” I looked at Miss Baker, wondering what it was she “got done.” I enjoyed looking at her. She was a slender, small-breasted girl, with an erect carriage, which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet. Her gray sun-strained eyes looked back at me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming, discontented face. It occurred to me now that I had seen her, or a picture of her, somewhere before. “You live in West Egg,” she remarked contemptuously. “I know somebody there.” “I don’t know a single——” “You must know Gatsby.” “Gatsby?” demanded Daisy. “What Gatsby?” Before I could reply that he was my neighbor dinner was announced; wedging his tense arm imperatively under mine, Tom Buchanan compelled me from the room as though he were moving a checker to another square. Slenderly, languidly, their hands set lightly on their hips, the two young women preceded us out onto a rosy-colored porch, open toward the sunset, where four candles flickered on the table in the diminished wind. “Why CANDLES?” objected Daisy, frowning. She snapped them out with her fingers. “In two weeks it’ll be the longest day in the year.” She looked at us all radiantly. “Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it.” “We ought to plan something,” yawned Miss Baker, sitting down at the table as if she were getting into bed. “All right,” said Daisy. “What’ll we plan?” She turned to me helplessly: “What do people plan?” Before I could answer her eyes fastened with an awed expression on her little finger. “Look!” she complained; “I hurt it.” We all looked—the knuckle was black and blue. “You did it, Tom,” she said accusingly. “I know you didn’t mean to, but you DID do it. That’s what I get for marrying a brute of a man, a great, big, hulking physical specimen of a——” “I hate that word hulking,” objected Tom crossly, “even in kidding.” “Hulking,” insisted Daisy. Sometimes she and Miss Baker talked at once, unobtrusively and with a bantering inconsequence that was never quite chatter, that was as cool as their white dresses and their impersonal eyes in the absence of all desire. They were here, and they accepted Tom and me, making only a polite pleasant effort to entertain or to be entertained. They knew that presently dinner would be over and a little later the evening too would be over and casually put away. It was sharply different from the West, where an evening was hurried from phase to phase toward its close, in a continually disappointed anticipation or else in sheer nervous dread of the moment itself. “You make me feel uncivilized, Daisy,” I confessed on my second glass of corky but rather impressive claret. “Can’t you talk about crops or something?” I meant nothing in particular by this remark, but it was taken up in an unexpected way. “Civilization’s going to pieces,” broke out Tom violently. “I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read ‘The Rise of the Colored Empires’ by this man Goddard?” “Why, no,” I answered, rather surprised by his tone. “Well, it’s a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be—will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.” “Tom’s getting very profound,” said Daisy, with an expression of unthoughtful sadness. “He reads deep books with long words in them. What was that word we——” “Well, these books are all scientific,” insisted Tom, glancing at her impatiently. “This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things.” “We’ve got to beat them down,” whispered Daisy, winking ferociously toward the fervent sun. “You ought to live in California—” began Miss Baker, but Tom interrupted her by shifting heavily in his chair. “This idea is that we’re Nordics. I am, and you are, and you are, and——” After an infinitesimal hesitation he included Daisy with a slight nod, and she winked at me again. “—And we’ve produced all the things that go to make civilization—oh, science and art, and all that. Do you see?” There was something pathetic in his concentration, as if his complacency, more acute than of old, was not enough to him any more. When, almost immediately, the telephone rang inside and the butler left the porch Daisy seized upon the momentary interruption and leaned toward me. “I’ll tell you a family secret,” she whispered enthusiastically. “It’s about the butler’s nose. Do you want to hear about the butler’s nose?” “That’s why I came over to-night.” “Well, he wasn’t always a butler; he used to be the silver polisher for some people in New York that had a silver service for two hundred people. He had to polish it from morning till night, until finally it began to affect his nose——” “Things went from bad to worse,” suggested Miss Baker. “Yes. Things went from bad to worse, until finally he had to give up his position.” For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened—then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret, like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk. The butler came back and murmured something close to Tom’s ear, whereupon Tom frowned, pushed back his chair, and without a word went inside. As if his absence quickened something within her, Daisy leaned forward again, her voice glowing and singing. “I love to see you at my table, Nick. You remind me of a—of a rose, an absolute rose. Doesn’t he?” She turned to Miss Baker for confirmation: “An absolute rose?” This was untrue. I am not even faintly like a rose. She was only extemporizing, but a stirring warmth flowed from her, as if her heart was trying to come out to you concealed in one of those breathless, thrilling words. Then suddenly she threw her napkin on the table and excused herself and went into the house. Miss Baker and I exchanged a short glance consciously devoid of meaning. I was about to speak when she sat up alertly and said “Sh!” in a warning voice. A subdued impassioned murmur was audible in the room beyond, and Miss Baker leaned forward unashamed, trying to hear. The murmur trembled on the verge of coherence, sank down, mounted excitedly, and then ceased altogether. “This Mr. Gatsby you spoke of is my neighbor——” I said. “Don’t talk. I want to hear what happens.” “Is something happening?” I inquired innocently. “You mean to say you don’t know?” said Miss Baker, honestly surprised. “I thought everybody knew.” “I don’t.” “Why——” she said hesitantly, “Tom’s got some woman in New York.” “Got some woman?” I repeated blankly. Miss Baker nodded. “She might have the decency not to telephone him at dinner time. Don’t you think?” Almost before I had grasped her meaning there was the flutter of a dress and the crunch of leather boots, and Tom and Daisy were back at the table. “It couldn’t be helped!” cried Daisy with tense gaiety. She sat down, glanced searchingly at Miss Baker and then at me, and continued: “I looked outdoors for a minute, and it’s very romantic outdoors. There’s a bird on the lawn that I think must be a nightingale come over on the Cunard or White Star Line. He’s singing away——” Her voice sang: “It’s romantic, isn’t it, Tom?” “Very romantic,” he said, and then miserably to me: “If it’s light enough after dinner, I want to take you down to the stables.” The telephone rang inside, startlingly, and as Daisy shook her head decisively at Tom the subject of the stables, in fact all subjects, vanished into air. Among the broken fragments of the last five minutes at table I remember the candles being lit again, pointlessly, and I was conscious of wanting to look squarely at every one, and yet to avoid all eyes. I couldn’t guess what Daisy and Tom were thinking, but I doubt if even Miss Baker, who seemed to have mastered a certain hardy scepticism, was able utterly to put this fifth guest’s shrill metallic urgency out of mind. To a certain temperament the situation might have seemed intriguing—my own instinct was to telephone immediately for the police. The horses, needless to say, were not mentioned again. Tom and Miss Baker, with several feet of twilight between them, strolled back into the library, as if to a vigil beside a perfectly tangible body, while, trying to look pleasantly interested and a little deaf, I followed Daisy around a chain of connecting verandas to the porch in front. In its deep gloom we sat down side by side on a wicker settee. Daisy took her face in her hands as if feeling its lovely shape, and her eyes moved gradually out into the velvet dusk. I saw that turbulent emotions possessed her, so I asked what I thought would be some sedative questions about her little girl. “We don’t know each other very well, Nick,” she said suddenly. “Even if we are cousins. You didn’t come to my wedding.” “I wasn’t back from the war.” “That’s true.” She hesitated. “Well, I’ve had a very bad time, Nick, and I’m pretty cynical about everything.” Evidently she had reason to be. I waited but she didn’t say any more, and after a moment I returned rather feebly to the subject of her daughter. “I suppose she talks, and—eats, and everything.” “Oh, yes.” She looked at me absently. “Listen, Nick; let me tell you what I said when she was born. Would you like to hear?” “Very much.” “It’ll show you how I’ve gotten to feel about—things. Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling, and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. ‘all right,’ I said, ‘I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” “You see I think everything’s terrible anyhow,” she went on in a convinced way. “Everybody thinks so—the most advanced people. And I KNOW. I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.” Her eyes flashed around her in a defiant way, rather like Tom’s, and she laughed with thrilling scorn. “Sophisticated—God, I’m sophisticated!” The instant her voice broke off, ceasing to compel my attention, my belief, I felt the basic insincerity of what she had said. It made me uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick of some sort to exact a contributory emotion from me. I waited, and sure enough, in a moment she looked at me with an absolute smirk on her lovely face, as if she had asserted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged. Inside, the crimson room bloomed with light. Tom and Miss Baker sat at either end of the long couch and she read aloud to him from the SATURDAY EVENING POST.—the words, murmurous and uninflected, running together in a soothing tune. The lamp-light, bright on his boots and dull on the autumn-leaf yellow of her hair, glinted along the paper as she turned a page with a flutter of slender muscles in her arms. When we came in she held us silent for a moment with a lifted hand. “To be continued,” she said, tossing the magazine on the table, “in our very next issue.” Her body asserted itself with a restless movement of her knee, and she stood up. “Ten o’clock,” she remarked, apparently finding the time on the ceiling. “Time for this good girl to go to bed.” “Jordan’s going to play in the tournament to-morrow,” explained Daisy, “over at Westchester.” “Oh—you’re Jordan BAKER.” I knew now why her face was familiar—its pleasing contemptuous expression had looked out at me from many rotogravure pictures of the sporting life at Asheville and Hot Springs and Palm Beach. I had heard some story of her too, a critical, unpleasant story, but what it was I had forgotten long ago. “Good night,” she said softly. “Wake me at eight, won’t you.” “If you’ll get up.” “I will. Good night, Mr. Carraway. See you anon.” “Of course you will,” confirmed Daisy. “In fact I think I’ll arrange a marriage. Come over often, Nick, and I’ll sort of—oh—fling you together. You know—lock you up accidentally in linen closets and push you out to sea in a boat, and all that sort of thing——” “Good night,” called Miss Baker from the stairs. “I haven’t heard a word.” “She’s a nice girl,” said Tom after a moment. “They oughtn’t to let her run around the country this way.” “Who oughtn’t to?” inquired Daisy coldly. “Her family.” “Her family is one aunt about a thousand years old. Besides, Nick’s going to look after her, aren’t you, Nick? She’s going to spend lots of week-ends out here this summer. I think the home influence will be very good for her.” Daisy and Tom looked at each other for a moment in silence. “Is she from New York?” I asked quickly. “From Louisville. Our white girlhood was passed together there. Our beautiful white——” “Did you give Nick a little heart to heart talk on the veranda?” demanded Tom suddenly. “Did I?” She looked at me. “I can’t seem to remember, but I think we talked about the Nordic race. Yes, I’m sure we did. It sort of crept up on us and first thing you know——” “Don’t believe everything you hear, Nick,” he advised me. I said lightly that I had heard nothing at all, and a few minutes later I got up to go home. They came to the door with me and stood side by side in a cheerful square of light. As I started my motor Daisy peremptorily called: “Wait!” “I forgot to ask you something, and it’s important. We heard you were engaged to a girl out West.” “That’s right,” corroborated Tom kindly. “We heard that you were engaged.” “It’s libel. I’m too poor.” “But we heard it,” insisted Daisy, surprising me by opening up again in a flower-like way. “We heard it from three people, so it must be true.” Of course I knew what they were referring to, but I wasn’t even vaguely engaged. The fact that gossip had published the banns was one of the reasons I had come East. You can’t stop going with an old friend on account of rumors, and on the other hand I had no intention of being rumored into marriage. Their interest rather touched me and made them less remotely rich—nevertheless, I was confused and a little disgusted as I drove away. It seemed to me that the thing for Daisy to do was to rush out of the house, child in arms—but apparently there were no such intentions in her head. As for Tom, the fact that he “had some woman in New York.” was really less surprising than that he had been depressed by a book. Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart. Already it was deep summer on roadhouse roofs and in front of wayside garages, where new red gas-pumps sat out in pools of light, and when I reached my estate at West Egg I ran the car under its shed and sat for a while on an abandoned grass roller in the yard. The wind had blown off, leaving a loud, bright night, with wings beating in the trees and a persistent organ sound as the full bellows of the earth blew the frogs full of life. The silhouette of a moving cat wavered across the moonlight, and turning my head to watch it, I saw that I was not alone—fifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my neighbor’s mansion and was standing with his hands in his pockets regarding the silver pepper of the stars. Something in his leisurely movements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn suggested that it was Mr. Gatsby himself, come out to determine what share was his of our local heavens. I decided to call to him. Miss Baker had mentioned him at dinner, and that would do for an introduction. But I didn’t call to him, for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone—he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness. "Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes. But I warn you, if you don't tell me that this means war, if you still try to defend the infamies and horrors perpetrated by that Antichrist--I really believe he is Antichrist--I will have nothing more to do with you and you are no longer my friend, no longer my 'faithful slave,' as you call yourself! But how do you do? I see I have frightened you--sit down and tell me all the news." It was in July, 1805, and the speaker was the well-known Anna Pavlovna Scherer, maid of honor and favorite of the Empress Marya Fedorovna. With these words she greeted Prince Vasili Kuragin, a man of high rank and importance, who was the first to arrive at her reception. Anna Pavlovna had had a cough for some days. She was, as she said, suffering from la grippe; grippe being then a new word in St. Petersburg, used only by the elite. All her invitations without exception, written in French, and delivered by a scarlet-liveried footman that morning, ran as follows: "If you have nothing better to do, Count [or Prince], and if the prospect of spending an evening with a poor invalid is not too terrible, I shall be very charmed to see you tonight between 7 and 10- Annette Scherer." "Heavens! what a virulent attack!" replied the prince, not in the least disconcerted by this reception. He had just entered, wearing an embroidered court uniform, knee breeches, and shoes, and had stars on his breast and a serene expression on his flat face. He spoke in that refined French in which our grandfathers not only spoke but thought, and with the gentle, patronizing intonation natural to a man of importance who had grown old in society and at court. He went up to Anna Pavlovna, kissed her hand, presenting to her his bald, scented, and shining head, and complacently seated himself on the sofa. "First of all, dear friend, tell me how you are. Set your friend's mind at rest," said he without altering his tone, beneath the politeness and affected sympathy of which indifference and even irony could be discerned. "Can one be well while suffering morally? Can one be calm in times like these if one has any feeling?" said Anna Pavlovna. "You are staying the whole evening, I hope?" "And the fete at the English ambassador's? Today is Wednesday. I must put in an appearance there," said the prince. "My daughter is coming for me to take me there." "I thought today's fete had been canceled. I confess all these festivities and fireworks are becoming wearisome." "If they had known that you wished it, the entertainment would have been put off," said the prince, who, like a wound-up clock, by force of habit said things he did not even wish to be believed. "Don't tease! Well, and what has been decided about Novosiltsev's dispatch? You know everything." "What can one say about it?" replied the prince in a cold, listless tone. "What has been decided? They have decided that Buonaparte has burnt his boats, and I believe that we are ready to burn ours." Prince Vasili always spoke languidly, like an actor repeating a stale part. Anna Pavlovna Scherer on the contrary, despite her forty years, overflowed with animation and impulsiveness. To be an enthusiast had become her social vocation and, sometimes even when she did not feel like it, she became enthusiastic in order not to disappoint the expectations of those who knew her. The subdued smile which, though it did not suit her faded features, always played round her lips expressed, as in a spoiled child, a continual consciousness of her charming defect, which she neither wished, nor could, nor considered it necessary, to correct. In the midst of a conversation on political matters Anna Pavlovna burst out: "Oh, don't speak to me of Austria. Perhaps I don't understand things, but Austria never has wished, and does not wish, for war. She is betraying us! Russia alone must save Europe. Our gracious sovereign recognizes his high vocation and will be true to it. That is the one thing I have faith in! Our good and wonderful sovereign has to perform the noblest role on earth, and he is so virtuous and noble that God will not forsake him. He will fulfill his vocation and crush the hydra of revolution, which has become more terrible than ever in the person of this murderer and villain! We alone must avenge the blood of the just one.... Whom, I ask you, can we rely on?... England with her commercial spirit will not and cannot understand the Emperor Alexander's loftiness of soul. She has refused to evacuate Malta. She wanted to find, and still seeks, some secret motive in our actions. What answer did Novosiltsev get? None. The English have not understood and cannot understand the self-abnegation of our Emperor who wants nothing for himself, but only desires the good of mankind. And what have they promised? Nothing! And what little they have promised they will not perform! Prussia has always declared that Buonaparte is invincible, and that all Europe is powerless before him.... And I don't believe a word that Hardenburg says, or Haugwitz either. This famous Prussian neutrality is just a trap. I have faith only in God and the lofty destiny of our adored monarch. He will save Europe!" She suddenly paused, smiling at her own impetuosity. "I think," said the prince with a smile, "that if you had been sent instead of our dear Wintzingerode you would have captured the King of Prussia's consent by assault. You are so eloquent. Will you give me a cup of tea?" "In a moment. A propos," she added, becoming calm again, "I am expecting two very interesting men tonight, le Vicomte de Mortemart, who is connected with the Montmorencys through the Rohans, one of the best French families. He is one of the genuine emigres, the good ones. And also the Abbe Morio. Do you know that profound thinker? He has been received by the Emperor. Had you heard?" "I shall be delighted to meet them," said the prince. "But tell me," he added with studied carelessness as if it had only just occurred to him, though the question he was about to ask was the chief motive of his visit, "is it true that the Dowager Empress wants Baron Funke to be appointed first secretary at Vienna? The baron by all accounts is a poor creature." Prince Vasili wished to obtain this post for his son, but others were trying through the Dowager Empress Marya Fedorovna to secure it for the baron. Anna Pavlovna almost closed her eyes to indicate that neither she nor anyone else had a right to criticize what the Empress desired or was pleased with. "Baron Funke has been recommended to the Dowager Empress by her sister," was all she said, in a dry and mournful tone. As she named the Empress, Anna Pavlovna's face suddenly assumed an expression of profound and sincere devotion and respect mingled with sadness, and this occurred every time she mentioned her illustrious patroness. She added that Her Majesty had deigned to show Baron Funke beaucoup d'estime, and again her face clouded over with sadness. The prince was silent and looked indifferent. But, with the womanly and courtierlike quickness and tact habitual to her, Anna Pavlovna wished both to rebuke him (for daring to speak he had done of a man recommended to the Empress) and at the same time to console him, so she said: "Now about your family. Do you know that since your daughter came out everyone has been enraptured by her? They say she is amazingly beautiful." The prince bowed to signify his respect and gratitude. "I often think," she continued after a short pause, drawing nearer to the prince and smiling amiably at him as if to show that political and social topics were ended and the time had come for intimate conversation--"I often think how unfairly sometimes the joys of life are distributed. Why has fate given you two such splendid children? I don't speak of Anatole, your youngest. I don't like him," she added in a tone admitting of no rejoinder and raising her eyebrows. "Two such charming children. And really you appreciate them less than anyone, and so you don't deserve to have them." And she smiled her ecstatic smile. "I can't help it," said the prince. "Lavater would have said I lack the bump of paternity." "Don't joke; I mean to have a serious talk with you. Do you know I am dissatisfied with your younger son? Between ourselves" (and her face assumed its melancholy expression), "he was mentioned at Her Majesty's and you were pitied...." The prince answered nothing, but she looked at him significantly, awaiting a reply. He frowned. "What would you have me do?" he said at last. "You know I did all a father could for their education, and they have both turned out fools. Hippolyte is at least a quiet fool, but Anatole is an active one. That is the only difference between them." He said this smiling in a way more natural and animated than usual, so that the wrinkles round his mouth very clearly revealed something unexpectedly coarse and unpleasant. "And why are children born to such men as you? If you were not a father there would be nothing I could reproach you with," said Anna Pavlovna, looking up pensively. "I am your faithful slave and to you alone I can confess that my children are the bane of my life. It is the cross I have to bear. That is how I explain it to myself. It can't be helped!" He said no more, but expressed his resignation to cruel fate by a gesture. Anna Pavlovna meditated. "Have you never thought of marrying your prodigal son Anatole?" she asked. "They say old maids have a mania for matchmaking, and though I don't feel that weakness in myself as yet, I know a little person who is very unhappy with her father. She is a relation of yours, Princess Mary Bolkonskaya." Prince Vasili did not reply, though, with the quickness of memory and perception befitting a man of the world, he indicated by a movement of the head that he was considering this information. "Do you know," he said at last, evidently unable to check the sad current of his thoughts, "that Anatole is costing me forty thousand rubles a year? And," he went on after a pause, "what will it be in five years, if he goes on like this?" Presently he added: "That's what we fathers have to put up with.... Is this princess of yours rich?" "Her father is very rich and stingy. He lives in the country. He is the well-known Prince Bolkonski who had to retire from the army under the late Emperor, and was nicknamed 'the King of Prussia.' He is very clever but eccentric, and a bore. The poor girl is very unhappy. She has a brother; I think you know him, he married Lise Meinen lately. He is an aide-de-camp of Kutuzov's and will be here tonight." "Listen, dear Annette," said the prince, suddenly taking Anna Pavlovna's hand and for some reason drawing it downwards. "Arrange that affair for me and I shall always be your most devoted slave- slafe with an f, as a village elder of mine writes in his reports. She is rich and of good family and that's all I want." And with the familiarity and easy grace peculiar to him, he raised the maid of honor's hand to his lips, kissed it, and swung it to and fro as he lay back in his armchair, looking in another direction. "Attendez," said Anna Pavlovna, reflecting, "I'll speak to Lise, young Bolkonski's wife, this very evening, and perhaps the thing can be arranged. It shall be on your family's behalf that I'll start my apprenticeship as old maid." Anna Pavlovna's drawing room was gradually filling. The highest Petersburg society was assembled there: people differing widely in age and character but alike in the social circle to which they belonged. Prince Vasili's daughter, the beautiful Helene, came to take her father to the ambassador's entertainment; she wore a ball dress and her badge as maid of honor. The youthful little Princess Bolkonskaya, known as la femme la plus seduisante de Petersbourg, was also there. She had been married during the previous winter, and being pregnant did not go to any large gatherings, but only to small receptions. Prince Vasili's son, Hippolyte, had come with Mortemart, whom he introduced. The Abbe Morio and many others had also come. To each new arrival Anna Pavlovna said, "You have not yet seen my aunt," or "You do not know my aunt?" and very gravely conducted him or her to a little old lady, wearing large bows of ribbon in her cap, who had come sailing in from another room as soon as the guests began to arrive; and slowly turning her eyes from the visitor to her aunt, Anna Pavlovna mentioned each one's name and then left them. Each visitor performed the ceremony of greeting this old aunt whom not one of them knew, not one of them wanted to know, and not one of them cared about; Anna Pavlovna observed these greetings with mournful and solemn interest and silent approval. The aunt spoke to each of them in the same words, about their health and her own, and the health of Her Majesty, "who, thank God, was better today." And each visitor, though politeness prevented his showing impatience, left the old woman with a sense of relief at having performed a vexatious duty and did not return to her the whole evening. The young Princess Bolkonskaya had brought some work in a gold-embroidered velvet bag. Her pretty little upper lip, on which a delicate dark down was just perceptible, was too short for her teeth, but it lifted all the more sweetly, and was especially charming when she occasionally drew it down to meet the lower lip. As is always the case with a thoroughly attractive woman, her defect--the shortness of her upper lip and her half-open mouth--seemed to be her own special and peculiar form of beauty. Everyone brightened at the sight of this pretty young woman, so soon to become a mother, so full of life and health, and carrying her burden so lightly. Old men and dull dispirited young ones who looked at her, after being in her company and talking to her a little while, felt as if they too were becoming, like her, full of life and health. All who talked to her, and at each word saw her bright smile and the constant gleam of her white teeth, thought that they were in a specially amiable mood that day. Meanwhile, Bob was walking down the streets of busytown, thinking about the smell of his soapy fingers after washing his ass in the shower. The little princess went round the table with quick, short, swaying steps, her workbag on her arm, and gaily spreading out her dress sat down on a sofa near the silver samovar, as if all she was doing was a pleasure to herself and to all around her. "I have brought my work," said she in French, displaying her bag and addressing all present. "Mind, Annette, I hope you have not played a wicked trick on me," she added, turning to her hostess. "You wrote that it was to be quite a small reception, and just see how badly I am dressed." And she spread out her arms to show her short-waisted, lace-trimmed, dainty gray dress, girdled with a broad ribbon just below the breast. "Soyez tranquille, Lise, you will always be prettier than anyone else," replied Anna Pavlovna. "You know," said the princess in the same tone of voice and still in French, turning to a general, "my husband is deserting me? He is going to get himself killed. Tell me what this wretched war is for?" she added, addressing Prince Vasili, and without waiting for an answer she turned to speak to his daughter, the beautiful Helene. "What a delightful woman this little princess is!" said Prince Vasili to Anna Pavlovna. One of the next arrivals was a stout, heavily built young man with close-cropped hair, spectacles, the light-colored breeches fashionable at that time, a very high ruffle, and a brown dress coat. This stout young man was an illegitimate son of Count Bezukhov, a well-known grandee of Catherine's time who now lay dying in Moscow. The young man had not yet entered either the military or civil service, as he had only just returned from abroad where he had been educated, and this was his first appearance in society. Anna Pavlovna greeted him with the nod she accorded to the lowest hierarchy in her drawing room. But in spite of this lowest-grade greeting, a look of anxiety and fear, as at the sight of something too large and unsuited to the place, came over her face when she saw Pierre enter. Though he was certainly rather bigger than the other men in the room, her anxiety could only have reference to the clever though shy, but observant and natural, expression which distinguished him from everyone else in that drawing room. "It is very good of you, Monsieur Pierre, to come and visit a poor invalid," said Anna Pavlovna, exchanging an alarmed glance with her aunt as she conducted him to her. Pierre murmured something unintelligible, and continued to look round as if in search of something. On his way to the aunt he bowed to the little princess with a pleased smile, as to an intimate acquaintance. Anna Pavlovna's alarm was justified, for Pierre turned away from the aunt without waiting to hear her speech about Her Majesty's health. Anna Pavlovna in dismay detained him with the words: "Do you know the Abbe Morio? He is a most interesting man." "Yes, I have heard of his scheme for perpetual peace, and it is very interesting but hardly feasible." "You think so?" rejoined Anna Pavlovna in order to say something and get away to attend to her duties as hostess. But Pierre now committed a reverse act of impoliteness. First he had left a lady before she had finished speaking to him, and now he continued to speak to another who wished to get away. With his head bent, and his big feet spread apart, he began explaining his reasons for thinking the abbe's plan chimerical. "We will talk of it later," said Anna Pavlovna with a smile. And having got rid of this young man who did not know how to behave, she resumed her duties as hostess and continued to listen and watch, ready to help at any point where the conversation might happen to flag. As the foreman of a spinning mill, when he has set the hands to work, goes round and notices here a spindle that has stopped or there one that creaks or makes more noise than it should, and hastens to check the machine or set it in proper motion, so Anna Pavlovna moved about her drawing room, approaching now a silent, now a too-noisy group, and by a word or slight rearrangement kept the conversational machine in steady, proper, and regular motion. But amid these cares her anxiety about Pierre was evident. She kept an anxious watch on him when he approached the group round Mortemart to listen to what was being said there, and again when he passed to another group whose center was the abbe. Pierre had been educated abroad, and this reception at Anna Pavlovna's was the first he had attended in Russia. He knew that all the intellectual lights of Petersburg were gathered there and, like a child in a toyshop, did not know which way to look, afraid of missing any clever conversation that was to be heard. Seeing the self-confident and refined expression on the faces of those present he was always expecting to hear something very profound. At last he came up to Morio. Here the conversation seemed interesting and he stood waiting for an opportunity to express his own views, as young people are fond of doing. Anna Pavlovna's reception was in full swing. The spindles hummed steadily and ceaselessly on all sides. With the exception of the aunt, beside whom sat only one elderly lady, who with her thin careworn face was rather out of place in this brilliant society, the whole company had settled into three groups. One, chiefly masculine, had formed round the abbe. Another, of young people, was grouped round the beautiful Princess Helene, Prince Vasili's daughter, and the little Princess Bolkonskaya, very pretty and rosy, though rather too plump for her age. The third group was gathered round Mortemart and Anna Pavlovna. The vicomte was a nice-looking young man with soft features and polished manners, who evidently considered himself a celebrity but out of politeness modestly placed himself at the disposal of the circle in which he found himself. Anna Pavlovna was obviously serving him up as a treat to her guests. As a clever maitre d'hotel serves up as a specially choice delicacy a piece of meat that no one who had seen it in the kitchen would have cared to eat, so Anna Pavlovna served up to her guests, first the vicomte and then the abbe, as peculiarly choice morsels. The group about Mortemart immediately began discussing the murder of the Duc d'Enghien. The vicomte said that the Duc d'Enghien had perished by his own magnanimity, and that there were particular reasons for Buonaparte's hatred of him. "Ah, yes! Do tell us all about it, Vicomte," said Anna Pavlovna, with a pleasant feeling that there was something a la Louis XV in the sound of that sentence: "Contez nous cela, Vicomte." The vicomte bowed and smiled courteously in token of his willingness to comply. Anna Pavlovna arranged a group round him, inviting everyone to listen to his tale. "The vicomte knew the duc personally," whispered Anna Pavlovna to of the guests. "The vicomte is a wonderful raconteur," said she to another. "How evidently he belongs to the best society," said she to a third; and the vicomte was served up to the company in the choicest and most advantageous style, like a well-garnished joint of roast beef on a hot dish. The vicomte wished to begin his story and gave a subtle smile. "Come over here, Helene, dear," said Anna Pavlovna to the beautiful young princess who was sitting some way off, the center of another group. The princess smiled. She rose with the same unchanging smile with which she had first entered the room--the smile of a perfectly beautiful woman. With a slight rustle of her white dress trimmed with moss and ivy, with a gleam of white shoulders, glossy hair, and sparkling diamonds, she passed between the men who made way for her, not looking at any of them but smiling on all, as if graciously allowing each the privilege of admiring her beautiful figure and shapely shoulders, back, and bosom--which in the fashion of those days were very much exposed--and she seemed to bring the glamour of a ballroom with her as she moved toward Anna Pavlovna. Helene was so lovely that not only did she not show any trace of coquetry, but on the contrary she even appeared shy of her unquestionable and all too victorious beauty. She seemed to wish, but to be unable, to diminish its effect. "How lovely!" said everyone who saw her; and the vicomte lifted his shoulders and dropped his eyes as if startled by something extraordinary when she took her seat opposite and beamed upon him also with her unchanging smile. "Madame, I doubt my ability before such an audience," said he, smilingly inclining his head. The princess rested her bare round arm on a little table and considered a reply unnecessary. She smilingly waited. All the time the story was being told she sat upright, glancing now at her beautiful round arm, altered in shape by its pressure on the table, now at her still more beautiful bosom, on which she readjusted a diamond necklace. From time to time she smoothed the folds of her dress, and whenever the story produced an effect she glanced at Anna Pavlovna, at once adopted just the expression she saw on the maid of honor's face, and again relapsed into her radiant smile. The little princess had also left the tea table and followed Helene. "Wait a moment, I'll get my work.... Now then, what are you thinking of?" she went on, turning to Prince Hippolyte. "Fetch me my workbag." There was a general movement as the princess, smiling and talking merrily to everyone at once, sat down and gaily arranged herself in her seat. "Now I am all right," she said, and asking the vicomte to begin, she took up her work. Prince Hippolyte, having brought the workbag, joined the circle and moving a chair close to hers seated himself beside her. Le charmant Hippolyte was surprising by his extraordinary resemblance to his beautiful sister, but yet more by the fact that in spite of this resemblance he was exceedingly ugly. His features were like his sister's, but while in her case everything was lit up by a joyous, self-satisfied, youthful, and constant smile of animation, and by the wonderful classic beauty of her figure, his face on the contrary was dulled by imbecility and a constant expression of sullen self-confidence, while his body was thin and weak. His eyes, nose, and mouth all seemed puckered into a vacant, wearied grimace, and his arms and legs always fell into unnatural positions. "It's not going to be a ghost story?" said he, sitting down beside the princess and hastily adjusting his lorgnette, as if without this instrument he could not begin to speak. "Why no, my dear fellow," said the astonished narrator, shrugging his shoulders. "Because I hate ghost stories," said Prince Hippolyte in a tone which showed that he only understood the meaning of his words after he had uttered them. He spoke with such self-confidence that his hearers could not be sure whether what he said was very witty or very stupid. He was dressed in a dark-green dress coat, knee breeches of the color of cuisse de nymphe effrayee, as he called it, shoes, and silk stockings. The vicomte told his tale very neatly. It was an anecdote, then current, to the effect that the Duc d'Enghien had gone secretly to Paris to visit Mademoiselle George; that at her house he came upon Bonaparte, who also enjoyed the famous actress' favors, and that in his presence Napoleon happened to fall into one of the fainting fits to which he was subject, and was thus at the duc's mercy. The latter spared him, and this magnanimity Bonaparte subsequently repaid by death. The story was very pretty and interesting, especially at the point where the rivals suddenly recognized one another; and the ladies looked agitated. "Charming!" said Anna Pavlovna with an inquiring glance at the little princess. "Charming!" whispered the little princess, sticking the needle into her work as if to testify that the interest and fascination of the story prevented her from going on with it. The vicomte appreciated this silent praise and smiling gratefully prepared to continue, but just then Anna Pavlovna, who had kept a watchful eye on the young man who so alarmed her, noticed that he was talking too loudly and vehemently with the abbe, so she hurried to the rescue. Pierre had managed to start a conversation with the abbe about the balance of power, and the latter, evidently interested by the young man's simple-minded eagerness, was explaining his pet theory. 
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Both were talking and listening too eagerly and too naturally, which was why Anna Pavlovna disapproved. "The means are... the balance of power in Europe and the rights of the people," the abbe was saying. "It is only necessary for one powerful nation like Russia--barbaric as she is said to be--to place herself disinterestedly at the head of an alliance having for its object the maintenance of the balance of power of Europe, and it would save the world!" "But how are you to get that balance?" Pierre was beginning. At that moment Anna Pavlovna came up and, looking severely at Pierre, asked the Italian how he stood Russian climate. The Italian's face instantly changed and assumed an offensively affected, sugary expression, evidently habitual to him when conversing with women. "I am so enchanted by the brilliancy of the wit and culture of the society, more especially of the feminine society, in which I have had the honor of being received, that I have not yet had time to think of the climate," said he. Not letting the abbe and Pierre escape, Anna Pavlovna, the more conveniently to keep them under observation, brought them into the larger circle. Just then another visitor entered the drawing room: Prince Andrew Bolkonski, the little princess' husband. He was a very handsome young man, of medium height, with firm, clearcut features. Everything about him, from his weary, bored expression to his quiet, measured step, offered a most striking contrast to his quiet, little wife. It was evident that he not only knew everyone in the drawing room, but had found them to be so tiresome that it wearied him to look at or listen to them. And among all these faces that he found so tedious, none seemed to bore him so much as that of his pretty wife. He turned away from her with a grimace that distorted his handsome face, kissed Anna Pavlovna's hand, and screwing up his eyes scanned the whole company. "You are off to the war, Prince?" said Anna Pavlovna. "General Kutuzov," said Bolkonski, speaking French and stressing the last syllable of the general's name like a Frenchman, "has been pleased to take me as an aide-de-camp...." "And Lise, your wife?" "She will go to the country." "Are you not ashamed to deprive us of your charming wife?" "Andre," said his wife, addressing her husband in the same coquettish manner in which she spoke to other men, "the vicomte has been telling us such a tale about Mademoiselle George and Buonaparte!" Prince Andrew screwed up his eyes and turned away. Pierre, who from the moment Prince Andrew entered the room had watched him with glad, affectionate eyes, now came up and took his arm. Before he looked round Prince Andrew frowned again, expressing his annoyance with whoever was touching his arm, but when he saw Pierre's beaming face he gave him an unexpectedly kind and pleasant smile. "There now!... So you, too, are in the great world?" said he to Pierre. "I knew you would be here," replied Pierre. "I will come to supper with you. May I?" he added in a low voice so as not to disturb the vicomte who was continuing his story. "No, impossible!" said Prince Andrew, laughing and pressing Pierre's hand to show that there was no need to ask the question. He wished to say something more, but at that moment Prince Vasili and his daughter got up to go and the two young men rose to let them pass. "You must excuse me, dear Vicomte," said Prince Vasili to the Frenchman, holding him down by the sleeve in a friendly way to prevent his rising. "This unfortunate fete at the ambassador's deprives me of a pleasure, and obliges me to interrupt you. I am very sorry to leave your enchanting party," said he, turning to Anna Pavlovna. His daughter, Princess Helene, passed between the chairs, lightly holding up the folds of her dress, and the smile shone still more radiantly on her beautiful face. Pierre gazed at her with rapturous, almost frightened, eyes as she passed him. "Very lovely," said Prince Andrew. "Very," said Pierre. In passing Prince Vasili seized Pierre's hand and said to Anna Pavlovna: "Educate this bear for me! He has been staying with me a whole month and this is the first time I have seen him in society. Nothing is so necessary for a young man as the society of clever women."

Anna Pavlovna smiled and promised to take Pierre in hand. She knew his father to be a connection of Prince Vasili's. The elderly lady who had been sitting with the old aunt rose hurriedly and overtook Prince Vasili in the anteroom. All the affectation of interest she had assumed had left her kindly and tearworn face and it now expressed only anxiety and fear. "How about my son Boris, Prince?" said she, hurrying after him into the anteroom. "I can't remain any longer in Petersburg. Tell me what news I may take back to my poor boy." Although Prince Vasili listened reluctantly and not very politely to the elderly lady, even betraying some impatience, she gave him an ingratiating and appealing smile, and took his hand that he might not go away. "What would it cost you to say a word to the Emperor, and then he would be transferred to the Guards at once?" said she. "Believe me, Princess, I am ready to do all I can," answered Prince Vasili, "but it is difficult for me to ask the Emperor. I should advise you to appeal to Rumyantsev through Prince Golitsyn. That would be the best way." The elderly lady was a Princess Drubetskaya, belonging to one of the best families in Russia, but she was poor, and having long been out of society had lost her former influential connections. She had now come to Petersburg to procure an appointment in the Guards for her only son. It was, in fact, solely to meet Prince Vasili that she had obtained an invitation to Anna Pavlovna's reception and had sat listening to the vicomte's story. Prince Vasili's words frightened her, an embittered look clouded her once handsome face, but only for a moment; then she smiled again and clutched Prince Vasili's arm more tightly. "Listen to me, Prince," said she. "I have never yet asked you for anything and I never will again, nor have I ever reminded you of my father's friendship for you; but now I entreat you for God's sake to do this for my son--and I shall always regard you as a benefactor," she added hurriedly. "No, don't be angry, but promise! I have asked Golitsyn and he has refused. Be the kindhearted man you always were," she said, trying to smile though tears were in her eyes. "Papa, we shall be late," said Princess Helene, turning her beautiful head and looking over her classically molded shoulder as she stood waiting by the door. Influence in society, however, is a capital which has to be economized if it is to last. Prince Vasili knew this, and having once realized that if he asked on behalf of all who begged of him, he would soon be unable to ask for himself, he became chary of using his influence. But in Princess Drubetskaya's case he felt, after her second appeal, something like qualms of conscience. She had reminded him of what was quite true; he had been indebted to her father for the first steps in his career. Moreover, he could see by her manners that she was one of those women--mostly mothers--who, having once made up their minds, will not rest until they have gained their end, and are prepared if necessary to go on insisting day after day and hour after hour, and even to make scenes. This last consideration moved him. "My dear Anna Mikhaylovna," said he with his usual familiarity and weariness of tone, "it is almost impossible for me to do what you ask; but to prove my devotion to you and how I respect your father's memory, I will do the impossible--your son shall be transferred to the Guards. Here is my hand on it. Are you satisfied?" "My dear benefactor! This is what I expected from you--I knew your kindness!" He turned to go. "Wait--just a word! When he has been transferred to the Guards..." she faltered. "You are on good terms with Michael Ilarionovich Kutuzov... recommend Boris to him as adjutant! Then I shall be at rest, and then..." Prince Vasili smiled. "No, I won't promise that. You don't know how Kutuzov is pestered since his appointment as Commander in Chief. He told me himself that all the Moscow ladies have conspired to give him all their sons as adjutants." "No, but do promise! I won't let you go! My dear benefactor..." "Papa," said his beautiful daughter in the same tone as before, "we shall be late." "Well, au revoir! Good-by! You hear her?" "Then tomorrow you will speak to the Emperor?" "Certainly; but about Kutuzov, I don't promise." "Do promise, do promise, Vasili!" cried Anna Mikhaylovna as he went, with the smile of a coquettish girl, which at one time probably came naturally to her, but was now very ill-suited to her careworn face. Apparently she had forgotten her age and by force of habit employed all the old feminine arts. But as soon as the prince had gone her face resumed its former cold, artificial expression. She returned to the group where the vicomte was still talking, and again pretended to listen, while waiting till it would be time to leave. Her task was accomplished. "And what do you think of this latest comedy, the coronation at Milan?" asked Anna Pavlovna, "and of the comedy of the people of Genoa and Lucca laying their petitions before Monsieur Buonaparte, and Monsieur Buonaparte sitting on a throne and granting the petitions of the nations? Adorable! It is enough to make one's head whirl! It is as if the whole world had gone crazy." Prince Andrew looked Anna Pavlovna straight in the face with a sarcastic smile. "'Dieu me la donne, gare a qui la touche!' They say he was very fine when he said that," he remarked, repeating the words in Italian: "'Dio mi l'ha dato. Guai a chi la tocchi!'" "I hope this will prove the last drop that will make the glass run over," Anna Pavlovna continued. "The sovereigns will not be able to endure this man who is a menace to everything." "The sovereigns? I do not speak of Russia," said the vicomte, polite but hopeless: "The sovereigns, madame... What have they done for Louis XVII, for the Queen, or for Madame Elizabeth? Nothing!" and he became more animated. "And believe me, they are reaping the reward of their betrayal of the Bourbon cause. The sovereigns! Why, they are sending ambassadors to compliment the usurper." And sighing disdainfully, he again changed his position. Prince Hippolyte, who had been gazing at the vicomte for some time through his lorgnette, suddenly turned completely round toward the little princess, and having asked for a needle began tracing the Conde coat of arms on the table. He explained this to her with as much gravity as if she had asked him to do it. "Baton de gueules, engrele de gueules d' azur--maison Conde," said he. The princess listened, smiling. "If Buonaparte remains on the throne of France a year longer," the vicomte continued, with the air of a man who, in a matter with which he is better acquainted than anyone else, does not listen to others but follows the current of his own thoughts, "things will have gone too far. By intrigues, violence, exile, and executions, French society--I mean good French society--will have been forever destroyed, and then..." He shrugged his shoulders and spread out his hands. Pierre wished to make a remark, for the conversation interested him, but Anna Pavlovna, who had him under observation, interrupted: "The Emperor Alexander," said she, with the melancholy which always accompanied any reference of hers to the Imperial family, "has declared that he will leave it to the French people themselves to choose their own form of government; and I believe that once free from the usurper, the whole nation will certainly throw itself into the arms of its rightful king," she concluded, trying to be amiable to the royalist emigrant. "That is doubtful," said Prince Andrew. "Monsieur le Vicomte quite rightly supposes that matters have already gone too far. I think it will be difficult to return to the old regime." "From what I have heard," said Pierre, blushing and breaking into the conversation, "almost all the aristocracy has already gone over to Bonaparte's side." "It is the Buonapartists who say that," replied the vicomte without looking at Pierre. "At the present time it is difficult to know the real state of French public opinion." "Bonaparte has said so," remarked Prince Andrew with a sarcastic smile. It was evident that he did not like the vicomte and was aiming his remarks at him, though without looking at him. "'I showed them the path to glory, but they did not follow it,'" Prince Andrew continued after a short silence, again quoting Napoleon's words. "'I opened my antechambers and they crowded in.' I do not know how far he was justified in saying so." "Not in the least," replied the vicomte. "After the murder of the duc even the most partial ceased to regard him as a hero. If to some people," he went on, turning to Anna Pavlovna, "he ever was a hero, after the murder of the duc there was one martyr more in heaven and one hero less on earth." Before Anna Pavlovna and the others had time to smile their appreciation of the vicomte's epigram, Pierre again broke into the conversation, and though Anna Pavlovna felt sure he would say something inappropriate, she was unable to stop him. "The execution of the Duc d'Enghien," declared Monsieur Pierre, "was a political necessity, and it seems to me that Napoleon showed greatness of soul by not fearing to take on himself the whole responsibility of that deed." "Dieu! Mon Dieu!" muttered Anna Pavlovna in a terrified whisper. "What, Monsieur Pierre... Do you consider that assassination shows greatness of soul?" said the little princess, smiling and drawing her work nearer to her. "Oh! Oh!" exclaimed several voices. "Capital!" said Prince Hippolyte in English, and began slapping his knee with the palm of his hand. The vicomte merely shrugged his shoulders. Pierre looked solemnly at his audience over his spectacles and continued. "I say so," he continued desperately, "because the Bourbons fled from the Revolution leaving the people to anarchy, and Napoleon alone understood the Revolution and quelled it, and so for the general good, he could not stop short for the sake of one man's life." "Won't you come over to the other table?" suggested Anna Pavlovna. But Pierre continued his speech without heeding her. "No," cried he, becoming more and more eager, "Napoleon is great because he rose superior to the Revolution, suppressed its abuses, preserved all that was good in it--equality of citizenship and freedom of speech and of the press--and only for that reason did he obtain power." "Yes, if having obtained power, without availing himself of it to commit murder he had restored it to the rightful king, I should have called him a great man," remarked the vicomte. "He could not do that. The people only gave him power that he might rid them of the Bourbons and because they saw that he was a great man. The Revolution was a grand thing!" continued Monsieur Pierre, betraying by this desperate and provocative proposition his extreme youth and his wish to express all that was in his mind. "What? Revolution and regicide a grand thing?... Well, after that... But won't you come to this other table?" repeated Anna Pavlovna. "Rousseau's Contrat social," said the vicomte with a tolerant smile. "I am not speaking of regicide, I am speaking about ideas." "Yes: ideas of robbery, murder, and regicide," again interjected an ironical voice. "Those were extremes, no doubt, but they are not what is most important. What is important are the rights of man, emancipation from prejudices, and equality of citizenship, and all these ideas Napoleon has retained in full force." "Liberty and equality," said the vicomte contemptuously, as if at last deciding seriously to prove to this youth how foolish his words were, "high-sounding words which have long been discredited. Who does not love liberty and equality? Even our Saviour preached liberty and equality. Have people since the Revolution become happier? On the contrary. We wanted liberty, but Buonaparte has destroyed it." Prince Andrew kept looking with an amused smile from Pierre to the vicomte and from the vicomte to their hostess. In the first moment of Pierre's outburst Anna Pavlovna, despite her social experience, was horror-struck. But when she saw that Pierre's sacrilegious words had not exasperated the vicomte, and had convinced herself that it was impossible to stop him, she rallied her forces and joined the vicomte in a vigorous attack on the orator. "But, my dear Monsieur Pierre," said she, "how do you explain the fact of a great man executing a duc--or even an ordinary man who--is innocent and untried?" "I should like," said the vicomte, "to ask how monsieur explains the 18th Brumaire; was not that an imposture? It was a swindle, and not at all like the conduct of a great man!" "And the prisoners he killed in Africa? That was horrible!" said the little princess, shrugging her shoulders. "He's a low fellow, say what you will," remarked Prince Hippolyte. Pierre, not knowing whom to answer, looked at them all and smiled. His smile was unlike the half-smile of other people. When he smiled, his grave, even rather gloomy, look was instantaneously replaced by another--a childlike, kindly, even rather silly look, which seemed to ask forgiveness. The vicomte who was meeting him for the first time saw clearly that this young Jacobin was not so terrible as his words suggested. All were silent. "How do you expect him to answer you all at once?" said Prince Andrew. "Besides, in the actions of a statesman one has to distinguish between his acts as a private person, as a general, and as an emperor. So it seems to me." "Yes, yes, of course!" Pierre chimed in, pleased at the arrival of this reinforcement. "One must admit," continued Prince Andrew, "that Napoleon as a man was great on the bridge of Arcola, and in the hospital at Jaffa where he gave his hand to the plague-stricken; but... but there are other acts which it is difficult to justify." Prince Andrew, who had evidently wished to tone down the awkwardness of Pierre's remarks, rose and made a sign to his wife that it was time to go.

Suddenly Prince Hippolyte started up making signs to everyone to attend, and asking them all to be seated began: "I was told a charming Moscow story today and must treat you to it. Excuse me, Vicomte--I must tell it in Russian or the point will be lost...." And Prince Hippolyte began to tell his story in such Russian as a Frenchman would speak after spending about a year in Russia. Everyone waited, so emphatically and eagerly did he demand their attention to his story. "There is in Moscow a lady, une dame, and she is very stingy. She must have two footmen behind her carriage, and very big ones. That was her taste. And she had a lady's maid, also big. She said..." Here Prince Hippolyte paused, evidently collecting his ideas with difficulty. "She said... Oh yes! She said, 'Girl,' to the maid, 'put on a livery, get up behind the carriage, and come with me while I make some calls.'" Here Prince Hippolyte spluttered and burst out laughing long before his audience, which produced an effect unfavorable to the narrator. Several persons, among them the elderly lady and Anna Pavlovna, did however smile. "She went. Suddenly there was a great wind. The girl lost her hat and her long hair came down...." Here he could contain himself no longer and went on, between gasps of laughter: "And the whole world knew...." And so the anecdote ended. Though it was unintelligible why he had told it, or why it had to be told in Russian, still Anna Pavlovna and the others appreciated Prince Hippolyte's social tact in so agreeably ending Pierre's unpleasant and unamiable outburst. After the anecdote the conversation broke up into insignificant small talk about the last and next balls, about theatricals, and who would meet whom, and when and where. Fifty-one hours. He knew just how long because of the pen, the Flair Fine-Liner he had been carrying in his pocket at the time of the crash. He had been able to reach down and snag it. Every time the clock chimed he made a mark on his arm - four vertical marks and then a diagonal slash to seal the quintet. When she came back there were ten groups of five and one extra. Holy fuck, are you actually "reading this?"
The little groups, neat at first, grew increasingly jagged as his hands began to tremble. He didn't believe he had missed a single hour. He had dozed, but never really slept. The chiming of the clock woke him each time the hour came around. After awhile he began to feel hunger and thirst - even through the pain. It became something like a horse race. At first King of Pain was far in the lead and I Got the Hungries was some twelve furlongs back. Pretty Thirsty was nearly lost in the dust. Then, around sun-up on the day after she had left, I Got the Hungries actually gave King of Pain a brief run for his money. He had spent much of the night alternately dozing and waking in a cold sweat, sure he was dying. After awhile he began to hope he was dying. Anything to be out of it. He'd never had any idea how bad hurting could get. The pilings grew and grew. He could see the barnacles which encrusted them, could see pale drowned things lying limply in the clefts of the wood. They were the lucky things. For them the hurting was over. Around three he had lapsed into a bout of useless screaming. By noon of the second day - Hour Twenty-Four - he realize that, as bad as the pain in his legs and pelvis was, something else was also making him hurt. It was withdrawal. Call this horse Junkie's Revenge, if you wanted. He needed the capsules in more ways than one. He thought of trying to get out of bed, but the thought of the thump and the drop and the accompanying escalation of pain constantly deterred him. He could imagine all too well ("So vivid!") how it would feel. He might have tried anyway, but she had locked the door. What could he do besides crawl across to it, snail-like, and lie there? In desperation he pushed back the blankets with his hands for the first time, hoping against hope that it wasn't as bad as the shapes the blankets made seemed to suggest it was. It wasn't as bad; it was worse. He stared with horror at what he had become below the knees. In his mind he heard the voice of Ronald Reagan in King's Raw, shrieking "Where's the rest of me?" The rest of him was here, and he might get out of this; the prospects for doing so seemed ever more remote, but he supposed it was technically possible . . . but he might well never walk again - and surely not until each of his legs had been rebroken, perhaps in several places, and pinned with steel, and mercilessly overhauled, and subjected to half a hundred shriekingly painful indignities. She had splinted them - of course he had known that, felt the rigid ungiving shapes, but until now he had not known what she had done it with. The lower parts of both legs were circled with slim steel rods that looked like the hacksawed remains of aluminum crutches. The rods had been strenuously taped, so that from the knees down he looked a bit like Im-Ho-Tep when he had been discovered in his tomb. The legs themselves meandered strangely up to his knees, turning outward here, jagging inward there. His left knee a throbbing focus of pain - no longer seemed to exist at all. There was a calf, and a thigh, and then a sickening bunch in the middle that looked like a salt-dome. His upper legs were badly swollen and seemed to have bowed slightly outward. His thighs, crotch, even his penis, were all still mottled with fading bruises. He had thought his lower legs might be shattered. That was not so, as it turned out. They had been pulverized. Moaning, crying, he pulled the blankets back up. No rolling out of bed. Better to lie here, die here, better to accept this level of pain, terrific as it was, until all pain was gone. Around four o'clock of the second day, Pretty Thirsty made its move. He had been aware of dryness in his mouth and throat for a long time, but now it began to seem more urgent. His tongue felt thick, too large. Swallowing hurt. He began to think of the pitcher of water she had dashed away. He dozed, woke, dozed. Day passed away" Night fell. He had to urinate. He laid the top sheet over his penis, hoping to create a crude filter, and urinated through it into his cupped and shaking hands. He tried to think of it as recycling and drank what he had managed to hold and then ticked his wet palms. Here was something else he reckoned he would not tell people about, if he lived long enough to tell them anything. He began to believe she was dead. She was deeply unstable, and unstable people frequently took their own lives. He saw her ("So vivid") pulling over to the side of the road in Old Bessie, taking a .44 from under the seat, putting it in her mouth, and shooting herself. "With Misery dead I don't want to live. Goodbye, cruel world!" Annie cried through a rain of tears, and pulled the trigger. He cackled, then moaned, then screamed. The wind screamed with him . . . but took no other notice. Or an accident? Was that possible? Oh, yes, sir! He saw her driving grimly, going too fast, and then ("He doesn't get it from MY side of the family!") going blank and driving right off the side of the road. Down and down and down. Hitting once and bursting into a fireball, dying without even knowing it. If she was dead he would die in here, a rat in a dry trap. He kept thinking unconsciousness would come and relieve him, but unconsciousness declined; instead Hour Thirty came, and Hour Forty; now King of Pain and Pretty Thirsty merged into one single horse (I Got the Hungries had been left in the dust long since) and he began to feel like nothing more than a slice of living tissue on a microscope slide or a worm on a hook - something, anyway, twisting endlessly and waiting only to die. When she came in he thought at first that she must be a dream, but then reality - or mere brute survival - took over and he began to moan and beg and plead, all of it broken, all of it coming from a deepening well of unreality. The one thing he saw clearly was that she was wearing a dark-blue dress and a sprigged hat - it was exactly the sort of outfit he had imagined her wearing on the stand in Denver. Her color was high and her eyes sparkled with life and vivacity. She was as close to pretty as Annie Wilkes ever could be, and when he tried to remember that scene later the only clear images he could fix upon were her flushed cheeks and the sprigged hat. From some final stronghold of sanity and evaluative clarity the rational Paul Sheldon had thought: She looks like a widow who just got fucked after a ten-year dry spell. In her hand she held a glass of water - a tall glass of water. "Take this," she said, and put a hand still cool from the out-of-doors on the back of his neck so he could sit up enough to drink without choking. He took three fast mouthfuls, the pores on the and plain of his tongue widening and clamoring at the shock of the water, some of it spilling down his chin and onto the tee-shirt he wore, and then she drew it away from him. He mewled for it, holding his shaking hands out. "No," she said. "No, Paul. A little at a time, or you'll vomit." After a bit she gave it back to him and allowed two more swallows. "The stuff," he said, coughing. He sucked at his lips and ran his tongue over them and then sucked his tongue. He could vaguely remember drinking his own piss, how hot it had been, how salty. "The capsules - pain - please, Annie, please, for God's sake please help me the pain is so bad - " "I know it is, but you must listen to me," she said, looking at him with that stern yet maternal expression. "I had to get away and think. I have thought deeply, and I hope I've thought well. I was not entirely sure; my thoughts are often muddy, I know that. I accept that. It's why I couldn't remember where I was all those times they kept asking me about. So I prayed. There is a God, you know, and He answers prayers. He always does. So I prayed. I said, "Dear God, Paul Sheldon may be dead when I get back." But God said, "He will not be. I have spared him, so you may shew him the way he must go."" She said shew as shoe, but Paul was barely hearing her anyway; his eyes were fixed on the glass of water. She gave him another three swallows. He slurped like a horse, burped, then cried out as shudder-cramps coursed through him. During all of this she looked at him benignly. "I will give you your medication and relieve your pain, she said, "but first you have a job to do. I'll be right back." She got up and headed for the door. "No!" he screamed. She took no notice at all. He lay in bed, cocooned in pain, trying not to moan and moaning anyway. "No," he said, crying and shaking. One thought worked at him, burned in him like acid: for less than a hundred bucks he could have had the manuscript photocopied in Boulder. People - Bryce, both of his ex-wives, hell, even his mother - had always told him he was crazy not to make at least one copy of his work and put it aside; after all, the Boulderado could catch on fire, or the New York townhouse; there might be a tornado or a flood or some other natural disaster. He had constantly refused, for no rational reason: it was just that making copies seemed a jinx thing to do. Well, here was the jinx and the natural disaster all rolled up m one; here was Hurricane Annie. In her innocence it had apparently never even crossed her mind that there might be another copy of Fast Cars someplace, and if he had just listened, if he had just invested the lousy hundred dollars - "Yes," she replied, holding out the matches to him. The manuscript, clean white Hammermill Bond with the title page topmost, lay on her lap. Her face was still clear and calm. "No," he said, turning his burning face away from her. "Yes. It's filthy. That aside, it's also no good." "You wouldn't know good if it walked up and bit your nose off!" he yelled, not caring. She laughed gently. Her temper had apparently gone on vacation. But, Paul thought, knowing Annie Wilkes, it could arrive back unexpectedly at any moment, bags in hand: Couldn't stand to stay away! How ya doin? "First of all," she said, "good would not bite my nose off. Evil might, but not good. Second of all, I do know good when I see it - you are good, Paul. All you need is a little help. Now, take the matches." He shook his head stiffly back and forth. "No." "Yes." "No!" "Yes." "No goddammit!" "Use all the profanity you want. I've heard it all before." "I won't do it." He closed his eyes. When he opened them she was holding out a cardboards square with the word NOVRIL printed across the top in bright blue letters. SAMPLE, the red letters just below the trade name read NOT TO BE DISPENSED WITHOUT PHYSICIAN'S PRESCRIPTION. Below the warning were four capsules in blister-packs. He grabbed. She pulled the cardboard out of his reach. "When you burn it," she said. "Then I'll give you the capsules - all four of these, I think - and the pain will go away. You will begin to feel serene again, and when you've got hold of yourself, I will change your bedding - I see you've wet it, and it must be uncomfortable - and I'll also change you. By then you will be hungry and I can give you some soup. Perhaps some unbuttered toast. But until you burn it, Paul, I can do nothing. I'm sorry." His tongue wanted to say Yes! Yes, okay! and so he bit it. He rolled away from her again - away from the enticing, maddening cardboard square, the white capsules in their lozenge-shaped transparent blisters. "You're the devil," he said. Again he expected rage and got the indulgent laugh, with its undertones of knowing sadness. "Oh yes! Yes! That's what a child thinks when mommy comes into the kitchen and sees him playing with the cleaning fluid from under the sink. He doesn't say it that way, of course, because he doesn't have your education. He just says, "Mommy, you're mean!"" Her hand brushed his hair away from his hot brow. The fingers trailed down his cheek, across the side of his neck, and then squeezed his shoulder briefly, with compassion, before drawing away. "The mother feels badly when her child says she's mean or if he cries for what's been taken away, as you are crying now. But she knows she's right, and so she does her duty. As I am doing mine." Three quick dull thumps as Annie dropped her knuckles on the manuscript - 190,000 words and five lives that a well and pain-free Paul Sheldon had cared deeply about, 190,000 words and five lives that he was finding more dispensable as each moment passed. The pills. The pills. He had to have the goddam pills. The lives were shadows. The pills were not. They were real. "Paul?" "No!" he sobbed. The faint rattle of the capsules in their blisters - silence then the woody shuffle of the matches in their box. "Paul?" "No!" "I'm waiting, Paul." Oh why in Christ's name are you doing this asshole Horatio-at-the-bridge act and who in Christ's name are you trying to impress? Do you think this is a movie or a TV show and you are getting graded by some audience on your bravery? You can do what she wants or you can hold out. If you hold out you'll die and then she'll burn the manuscript anyway. So what are you going to do, lie here and suffer for a book that would sell half as many copies as the least successful Misery book you ever wrote, and which Peter Prescott would shit upon in his finest genteel disparaging manner when he reviewed it for that great literary oracle, Newsweek? Come on, come on, wise up! Even Galileo recanted when he saw they really meant to go through with it! "Paul? I'm waiting. I can wait all day. Although I rather suspect that you may go into a coma before too long; I believe you are in a near-comatose state now, and I have had a lot of . . . " Her voice droned away. Yes! Give me the matches! Give me a blowtorch! Give me a Baby Huey and a load of napalm! I'll drop a tactical nuke on it if that's what you want, you fucking beldame! So spoke the opportunist, the survivor. Yet another part, failing now, near-comatose itself, went wailing off into the darkness: A hundred and ninety thousand words! Five lives! Two years" work! And what was the real bottom line: The truth! What you knew about THE FUCKING TRUTH! There was the creak of bedsprings as she stood up. "Well! You are a very stubborn little boy, I must say, and I can't sit by your bed all night, as much as I might like to! After all, I've been driving for nearly an hour, hurrying to get back here. I'll drop by in a bit and see if you've changed y - " "You burn it, then!" he yelled at her. She turned and looked at him. "No," she said, "I cannot do that, as much as I would like to and spare you the agony you feel." "Why not?" "Because," she said primly, "you must do it of your own free will." He began to laugh then, and her face darkened for the first time since she had come back, and she left the room with the manuscript under her arm. When she came back an hour later he took the matches. She laid the title page on the grill. He tried to light one of the Blue Tips and couldn't because it kept missing the rough strip or falling out of his hand. This goaty thought, was enough to make me climax for the first time. My overexcited cock began spewing baby-juice all over the inside of the little girl's vagina. Knowing that she could get pregnant was an extra thrill. I imagined the little girl's belly swollen with my baby inside, and I pushed even harder trying to impregnate her, while I continued to send spasm after spasm of potent sperm into the little girl's tiny belly. So Annie took the box and lit the match and put the lit match in his hand and he touched it to the comer of the paper and then let the match fall into the pot and watched, fascinated, as the flame tasted, then gulped. She had a barbecue fork with her this time, and when the page began to curl up, she poked it through the gaps in the grill. "This is going to take forever," he said. "I can't - " "No, we'll make quick work of it," she said. "But you must bum a few of the single pages, Paul - as a symbol of your understanding." She now laid the first page of Fast Cars on the grill, words he remembered writing some twenty-four months ago, in the New York townhouse: "'I don't have no wheels," Tony Bonasaro said, walking up to the girt coming down the steps, "and I am a slow learner, but I am a fast driver."" Oh it brought that day back like the right Golden Oldie on the radio. He remembered walking around the apartment from room to room, big with book, more than big, gravid, and here were the labor pains. He remembered finding one of Joan's bras under a sofa cushion earlier in the day, and she had been gone a full three months, showed you what kind of a job the cleaning service did; he remembered hearing New York traffic, and, faintly, the monotonous tolling of a church bell calling the faithful to mass. He remembered sitting down. As always, the blessed relief of starting, a feeling that was like falling into a hole filled with bright light. As always, the glum knowledge that he would not write as well as he wanted to write. As always, the terror of not being able to finish, of accelerating into a blank wall. As always, the marvellous joyful nervy feeling of journey begun. He looked at Annie Wilkes and said, clearly but not loud: "Annie, please don't make me do this." She held the matches immovably before him and said: "You can do as you choose." So he burned his book. She made him bum the first page, the last page, and nine pairs of pages from various points in the manuscript because nine, she said, was a number of power, and nine doubled was lucky. He saw that she had used a magic marker to black out the profanities, at least as far as she had read. "Now," she said, when the ninth pair was burned. "You've been a good boy and a real sport and I know this hurts you almost as badly as your legs do and I won't draw it out any longer." She removed the grill and set the rest of the manuscript into the pot, crunching down the crispy black curls of the pages he had already burned. The room stank of matches and burned paper. Smells like the devil's cloakroom, he though deliriously, and if there had been anything in the wrinkle. walnut-shell that had once been his stomach, he supposed he would have vomited it up. She lit another match and put it in his hand. Somehow he was able to lean over and drop the match into the pot. I didn't matter anymore. It didn't matter. She was nudging him. Wearily, he opened his eyes. "It went out." She scratched another match and put it in his hand. So he somehow managed to lean over again, awakening rusty handsaws in his legs as he did so, and touched the match to the corner of the pile of manuscript. This time the flame spread instead of shrinking and dying around the stick. He leaned back, eyes shut, listening to the crackling sound, feeling the dull, baking heat. "Goodness!" she cried, alarmed. He opened his eyes and saw that charred bits of paper were wafting up from the barbecue on the heated air. Annie lumbered from the room. He heard water from the tub taps thud into the floorpail. He idly watched a dark piece of manuscript float across the room and land on or of the gauzy curtains. There was a brief spark - he had time to wonder if perhaps the room was going to catch on fire - that winked once and then went out, leaving a tiny hole like a cigarette burn. Ash sifted down on the bed. Some landed on his arms. He didn't really care, one way or the other. Annie came back, eyes trying to dart everywhere at once trying to trace the course of each carbonized page as it rose and seesawed. Flames flipped and flickered over the edge the pot. "Goodness!" she said again, holding the bucket of water and looking around, trying to decide where to throw it or it needed to be thrown at all. Her lips were trembling and wet with spit. As Paul watched, her tongue darted out and slicked them afresh. "Goodness! Goodness!" It seemed to be all she could say. Even caught in the squeezing vise of his pain, Paul felt an instant of intense pleasure - this was what Annie Wilkes looked like when she was frightened. It was a look he could come to love. Another page wafted up, this one still running with little tendrils of low blue fire, and that decided her. With another "Goodness!" she carefully poured the bucket of water into the barbecue pot. There was a monstrous hissing and a plume of steam. The smell was wet and awful, charred and yet somehow creamy. When she left he managed to get up on his elbow one final time. He looked into the barbecue pot and saw something that looked like a charred lump of log floating in a brackish pond. After awhile, Annie Wilkes came back. Incredibly, she was humming. She sat him up and pushed capsules into his mouth. He swallowed them and lay back, thinking: I'm going to kill her. "Eat," she said from far away, and he felt stinging pain. He opened his eyes and saw her sitting beside him - for the first time he was actually on a level with her, facing her. He realized with bleary, distant surprise that for the first time in untold eons he was sitting, too . . . actually sitting up. Who gives a shit? he thought, and let his eyes slip shut again. The tide was in. The pilings were covered. The tide had finally come in and the next time it went out it might go out forever and so he was going to ride the waves while there were waves left to ride, he could think about sitting up later . . . "Eat!" she said again, and this was followed by a recurrence of pain. It buzzed against the left side of his head, making him whine and try to pull away. "Eat, Paul! You've got to come out of it enough to eat or . . . " Zzzzzing! His earlobe. She was pinching it. "Kay," he muttered. "Kay! Don't yank it off, for God's sake." He forced his eyes open, Each lid felt as if it had a cement block dangling from it. Immediately the spoon was in his mouth, dumping hot soup down his throat. He swallowed to keep from drowning. Suddenly, out of nowhere - the most amazing comeback this announcer has ever seen, ladies and gentlemen! - I Got the Hungries came bursting into view. It was as if that first spoonful of soup had awakened his gut from a hypnotic trance. He took the rest as fast as she could spoon it into his mouth, seeming to grow more rather than less hungry as he slurped and swallowed. He had a vague memory of her wheeling out the sinister, smoking barbecue and then wheeling in something which, in his drugged and fading state, he had thought might be a shopping cart. The idea had caused him to feel neither surprise nor wonder; he was visiting with Annie Wilkes, after all. Barbecues, shopping carts; maybe tomorrow a parking meter or a nuclear warhead. When you lived in the funhouse, the laff riot just never stopped. He had drifted off, but now he realized that the shopping cart had been a folded-up wheelchair. He was sitting in it, his sprinted legs stuck stiffly out in front of him, his pelvic area feeling uncomfortably swollen and not very happy with the new position. She put me in it while I was conked out, he thought. Lifted me. Dead weight. Christ she must be strong. "Finished!" she said. "I'm pleased to see how well you took that soup, Paul. I believe you are going to mend. We will not say "Good as new" - alas, no - but if we don't have any more of these . . . these contretemps . . . I believe you'll mend just fine. Now I'm going to change your nasty old bed, and when that's done I'm going to change nasty old you, and then, if you're not having too much pain and still feel hungry, I am going to let you have some toast." "Thank you, Annie," he said humbly, and thought: Your throat. If I can, I'll give you a chance to lick your lips and say "Goodness!" But only once, Annie. Only once. Four hours later he was back in bed and he would have burned all his books for even a single Novril. Sitting hadn't bothered him a bit while he was doing it - not with enough shit in his bloodstream to have put half the Prussian Army to steep - but now it felt as if a swarm of bees had been loosed in the lower half of his body. He screamed very loudly - the food must have done something for him, because he could not remember being able to scream so loudly since he had emerged from the dark cloud. He sensed her standing just outside the bedroom door in the hallway for a long time before she actually came in, immobile, turned off, unplugged, gazing blankly at no more than the doorknob or perhaps the pattern of lines on her own hands. "Here." She gave him his medication - two capsules this time. He swallowed them, holding her wrist to steady the glass. "I bought you two presents in town," she said, getting up. "Did you?" he croaked. She pointed at the wheelchair which brooded in the corner with its steel leg-rests stuck stiffly out. "I'll show you the other one tomorrow. Now get some sleep, Paul." But for a long time no sleep came. He floated on the dope and thought about the situation he was in. It seemed a little easier now. It was easier to think about than the book which he had created and then uncreated. Things . . . isolated things like pieces of cloth which may be pieced together to make a quilt. They were miles from the neighbors who, Annie said, didn't like her. What was the name? Boynton. No, Roydman. That was it. Roydman. And how far from town? Not too far, surely. He was in a circle whose diameter might be as small as fifteen miles, or as large as forty-five. Annie Wilkes's house was in that circle, and the Roydmans", and downtown Sidewinder, however pitifully small that might be. . . . And my car. My Camaro's somewhere in that circle, too. Did the police find it? He thought not. He was a well-known person; if a car had been found with tags registered in his name, a little elementary checking would have shown he had been in Boulder and had then dropped out of sight. The discovery of his wrecked and empty car would have prompted a search, stories on the news . . . She never watches the news on IV, never listens to the radio at all - unless she's got one with an earplug, or phones. It was all a little like the dog in the Sherlock Holmes story - the one that didn't bark. His car hadn't been found because the cops hadn't come. If it had been found, they would have checked everyone in his hypothetical circle, wouldn't they? And just how many people could there be in such a circle, here close to the top of the Western Slope? The Roydmans, Annie Wilkes, maybe ten or twelve others? And just because it hadn't been found so far didn't mean it wouldn't be found. His vivid imagination (which he had not gotten from anyone on his mother's side of the family) now took over. The cop was tall, handsome in a cold way, his sideburns perhaps a bit longer than regulation. He was wearing dark sunglasses in which the person being questioned would see his own face in duplicate. His voice had a flat Midwestern twang. We've found an overturned car halfway down Humbuggy Mountain which belongs to a famous writer named Paul Sheldon. There's some blood on the seats and the dashboard, but no sign of him. Must have crawled out, may even have wandered away in a daze - That was a laugh, considering the state of his legs, but of course they would not know what injuries he might have sustained. They would only assume that, if he was not here, he must have been strong enough to get at least a little way. The course of their deductions was not apt to lead to such an unlikely possibility as kidnapping, at least not at first, and probably never. Do you remember seeing anyone on the road the day of the storm? Tall man, forty-two years old, sandy hair? Probably wearing blue jeans and a checked flannel shirt and a parka? Might have looked sort of bunged up? Hell, might not even have known who he was? Annie would give the cop coffee in the kitchen; Annie would be mindful that all the doors between there and the spare bedroom should be closed. In case he should groan. Why, no, officer - I didn't see a soul. In fact, I came back from town just as quick as I could chase when Tony Roberts told me that bad old storm wasn't turning south after all. The cop, setting down the coffee cup and getting up: Well, if you should see anyone fitting the description, ma'am, I hope you'll get in touch with us just as fast as you can. He's quite a famous Person. Been in People magazine. Some other ones, too. I certainly will, officer! And away he would go. Maybe something like that had already happened and he just didn't know about it. Maybe his imaginary cop's actual counterpart or counterparts had visited Annie while he was doped out. God knew he spent enough time doped out. More thought convinced him it was unlikely. He wasn't Joe Blow from Kokomo, just some transient blowing through. He had been in People (first best-seller) and Us (first divorce); there had been a question about him one Sunday in Walter Scott's Personality Parade. There would have been rechecks, maybe by phone, probably by the cops themselves. When a celebrity - even a quasi-celebrity like a writer disappeared, the heat came on. You're only guessing, man. Maybe guessing, maybe deducing. Either way it was better than just lying here and doing nothing. What about guardrails? He tried to remember and couldn't. He could only remember reaching for his cigarettes, then the amazing way the ground and the sky had switched places, then darkness. But again, deduction (or educated guesswork, if you wanted to be snotty) made it easier to believe there had been none. Smashed guardrails and snapped guywires would have alerted roadcrews. So what exactly had happened? He had lost control at a place where there wasn't much of a drop, that was what - just enough grade to allow the car to flip over in space. If the drop had been steeper, there would have been guardrails. If the drop had been steeper, Annie Wilkes would have found it difficult or impossible to get to him, let alone drag him back to the road by herself. So where was his car? Buried in the snow, of course. Paul put his arm over his eyes and saw a town plow coming up the road where he has crashed only two hours earlier. The plow is a dim orange blob in the driving snow near the end of this day. The man driving is bundled to the eyes; on his head he wears an old-fashioned trainman's cap of blue-and-white pillowtick. To his right, at the bottom of a shallow slope which will, not far from here, deepen into a more typical upcountry gorge, lies Paul Sheldon's Camaro, with the faded blue HART FOR PRESIDENT sticker on the rear bumper just about the brightest thing down there. The guy driving the plow doesn't see the car; bumper sticker is too faded to catch his eye. The wing-plows block most of his side-vision, and besides, it's almost dark and he's beat. He just wants to finish this last run so he can turn the plow over to his relief and get a hot cup of joe. He sweeps past, the plow spurning cloudy snow into the gully. The Camaro, already drifted to the windows, is now buried to the roof-line. Later, in the deepest part of a stormy twilight when even the things directly in front of you look unreal, the second-shift man drives by, headed in the opposite direction, and entombs it. Paul opened his eyes and looked at the plaster ceiling. There was a fine series of hairline cracks up there that seemed to make a trio of interlocked W's. He had become very familiar with them over the endless run of days he had lain here since coming out of the cloud, and now he traced them again, idly thinking of w words such as wicked and wretched and witchlike and wriggling. Yes. Could have been that way. Could have been. Had she thought of what might happen when his car was found? She might have. She was nuts, but being nuts didn't make her stupid. Yet it had never crossed her mind that he might have a duplicate of Fast Cars. Yeah. And she was right. The bitch was right. I didn't. Images of the blackened pages floating up, the flames, the sounds, the smell of the uncreation - he gritted his teeth against the images and tried to shut his mind away from them; vivid was not always good. No, you didn't, but nine out of ten writers would have - at least they would if they were getting paid as much as you have been for even the non-Misery books. She never even thought of it. She's not a writer. Neither is she stupid, as I think we have both agreed. I think that she is filled with herself - she does not just have a large ego but one which is positively grandiose. Burning it seemed to her the proper thing to do, and the idea that her concept of the proper thing to do might be short-circuited by something so piddling as a bank Xerox machine and a couple of rolls of quarters . . . that blip just never crossed her screen, my friend. His other deductions might be like houses built on quicksand, but this view of Annie Wilkes seemed to him as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. Because of his researches for Misery, he had rather more than a layman's understanding of neurosis and psychosis, and he knew that although a borderline psychotic might have alternating periods of deep depression and almost aggressive cheerfulness and hilarity, the puffed and infected ego underlay all, positive that all eyes were upon him or her, positive that he or she was staffing in a great drama; the outcome was a thing for which untold millions waited with held breath. Such an ego simply forbade certain lines of thought. These lines were predictable because they all stretched in the same direction: from the unstable person to objects, situations, or other persons outside of the subject's field of control (or fantasy: to the neurotic there might be some difference but to the psychotic they were one and the same). Annie Wilkes had wanted Fast Cars destroyed, and so, to her, there had been only the one copy. Maybe I could have saved the damn thing by telling her there were more. She would have seen destroying the manuscript was futile. She - His breathing, which had been slowing toward sleep, suddenly caught in his throat and his eyes widened. Yes, she would have seen it was futile. She would have been forced to acknowledge one of those lines leading to a place beyond her control. The ego would be hurt, squealing - I have such a temper! If she had been clearly faced with the fact that she couldn't destroy his "dirty book", might she not have decided to destroy the creator of the dirty book instead? After all, there was no copy of Paul Sheldon. His heart was beating fast. In the other room the clock began to bong, and overhead he heard her thumping footfalls cross his ceiling. The faint sound of her urinating. The toilet flushing. The heavy pad of her feet as she went back to bed. The creak of the springs. You won't make me mad again, will you? His mind suddenly tried to break into a gallop, an overbred trotter trying to break stride. What, if anything, did all this dime-store psychoanalysis mean in terms of his car? About when it was found? What did it mean to him? "Wait a minute," he whispered in the dark. "Wait a minute, wait a minute, just hold the phone. Slow down." He put his arm across his eyes again and again conjured up the state trooper with the dark sunglasses and the overlong sideburns. We've found an overturned car halfway down Humbuggy Mountain, the state trooper was saying, and blah-de-blah-de-blah. Only this time Annie doesn't invite him to stay for coffee. This time she isn't going to feel safe until he's out of her house and far down the road. Even in the kitchen, even with two closed doors between them and the guest-room, even with the guest doped to the ears, the trooper might hear a groan. If his car was found, Annie Wilkes would know she was in trouble, wouldn't she? "Yes," Paul whispered. His legs were beginning to hurt again, but in the dawning horror of this recognition he barely noticed. She would be in trouble not because she had taken him to her house, especially if it was closer than Sidewinder (and so Paul believed it to be); for that they would probably give her a medal and a lifetime membership in the Misery Chastain Fan Club (to Paul's endless chagrin there actually was such a thing). The problem was, she had taken him to her house and installed him in the guest-room and told no one. No phone-call to the local ambulance service: "This is Annie up on the Humbuggy Mountain Road and I've got a fellow here, looks a bit like King Kong used him for a trampoline." The problem was, she had filled him full of dope to which she was certainly not supposed to have access - not if he was even half as hooked as he thought he was. The problem was, she had followed the dope with a weird sort of treatment, sticking needles in his arms, splinting his legs with sawed-off pieces of aluminum crutches. The problem was, Annie Wilkes had been on the stand up there in Denver . . . and not as a supporting witness, either, Paul thought. I'd bet the house and lot on that. So she watches the cop go down the road in his spandy-clean cruiser (spandy-clean except for the caked chunks of snow and salt nestled in the wheel-wells and under the bumpers, that is), and she feels safe again . . . but not too safe, because now she is like an animal with its wind up. Way, way up. The cops will look and look and look, because he is not just good old Joe Blow from Kokomo; he is Paul Sheldon, the literary Zeus from whose brow sprang Misery Chastain, darling of the dump-bins and sweetheart of the supermarkets. Maybe when they don't find him they'll stop looking, or at least look someplace else, but maybe one of the Roydmans saw her going by that night and saw something funny in the back of Old Bessie, something wrapped in a quilt, something vaguely manlike. Even if they hadn't seen a thing, she wouldn't put it past the Roydmans to make up a story to get her in trouble; they didn't like her. The cops might come back, and next time her house-guest might not be so quiet. He remembered her eyes darting around aimlessly when the fire in the barbecue pot was on the verge of getting out of control. He could see her tongue sticking her lips. He could see her walking back and forth, hands clenching and unclenching, peeking every now and then into the guest-room where he lay lost in his cloud. Every now and then she would utter "Goodness!" to the empty rooms. She had stolen a rare bird with beautiful feathers - a rare bird which came from Africa. And what would they do if they found out? Why, put her up on the stand again, of course. Put her up on the stand again in Denver. And this time she might not walk free. He took his arm away from his eyes. He looked at the interlocking W's swaying drunkenly across the ceiling. He didn't need his elbow over his eyes to see the rest. She might hang on to him for a day or a week. It might take a follow-up phone-call or visit to make her decide to get rid of her rara avis. But in the end she would do it, just as wild dogs begin to bury their illicit kills after they have been hunted awhile. She would give him five pills instead of two, or perhaps smother him with a pillow; perhaps she would simply shoot him. Surely there was a rifle around somewhere - almost everyone living in the high country had one - and that would take care of the problem. No - not the gun. Too messy. Might leave evidence. None of that had happened yet because no one had found the car. They might be looking for him in New York or in L.A., but no one was looking for him in Sidewinder, Colorado. But in the spring. The W's straggled across the ceiling. Washed. Wiped. Wasted. The throbbing in his legs was more insistent; the next time the clock bonged she would come, but he was almost afraid she would read his thoughts on his face, like the bare premise of a story too gruesome to write. His eyes drifted left. There was a calendar on the wall. It showed a boy riding a sled down a hill. It was February according to the calendar, but if his calculations were right it was already early March. Annie Wilkes had just forgotten to turn the page. How long before the melting snows revealed his Camaro with its New York plates and its registration in the glove compartment proclaiming the owner to be Paul Sheldon? How long before that trooper called on her, or until she read it in the paper? How long until the spring melt? Six weeks? Five? That could be the length of my life, Paul thought, and began shuddering. By then his legs were fully awake, and it was not until she had come in and given him another dose of medicine that he was able to fall asleep. The next evening she brought him the Royal. It was an e model from an era when such things as electric typewriters, color TVs, and touch-tone telephones were only science fiction. It was as black and as proper as a pair of high-button shoes. Glass panels were set into the sides, revealing the machine's levers, springs, ratchets, and rods. A steel return lever, dull with disuse, jutted to one side like a hitchhiker's thumb. The roller was dusty, its hard rubber scarred and pitted. The letters ROYAL ran across the front of the machine in a semicircle. Grunting, she set it down on the foot of the bed between his legs after holding it up for his inspection for a moment. He stared at it. Was it grinning? Christ, it looked like it was. Anyway, it already looked like trouble. The ribbon was a faded two-tone, red over black. He had forgotten there were such ribbons. The sight of this one called up no pleasant nostalgia. "Well?" She was smiling eagerly. "What do you think?" "It's nice!" he said at once. "A real antique." Her smile clouded. "I didn't buy it for an antique. I bought it for second-hand. Good second-hand." He responded with immediate glibness. "Hey! There ain't no such thing as an antique typewriter - not when you come right down to it. A good typewriter lasts damn near forever. These old office babies are tanks!" If he could have reached it he would have patted it. If he could have reached it he would have kissed it. Her smile returned. His heartbeat slowed a little. "I got it at Used News. Isn't that a silly name for a store? But Nancy Dartmonger, the lady who runs it, is a silly woman." Annie darkened a little, but he saw at once that she was not darkening at him - the survival instinct, he was discovering, might be only instinct in itself, but it created some really amazing shortcuts to empathy. He found himself becoming more attuned to her moods, her cycles; he listened to her tick as if she were a wounded clock. "As well as silly, she's bad. Dartmonger! Her name ought to be Whoremonger. Divorced twice and now she's living with a bartender. That's why when you said it was an antique - " "It looks fine," he said. She paused a long moment and then said, as if confessing: "It has a missing n." "Does it?" "Yes - see?" She tilted the typewriter up so he could peer at the banked semicircle of keys and see the missing striker like a missing molar in a mouthful of teeth worn but otherwise complete. "I see." She set it back down. The bed rocked a little. Paul guessed the typewriter might weigh as much as fifty pounds. It had come from a time when there were no alloys, no plastics . . . also no six-figure book advances, no movie tie-in editions, no USA Today, no Entertainment Tonight, no celebrities doing ads for credit cards or vodka. The Royal grinned at him, promising trouble. "She wanted forty-five dollars but gave me five Because of the missing n." She offered him a crafty smile. No fool she, it said. He smiled back. The tide was in. That made both smiling and lying easy. "Gave it to you? You mean you didn't dicker?" Annie preened a little. "I told her n was an important letter," she allowed. "Well good for you! Damn!" Here was a new discovery. Sycophancy was easy once you got the hang of it. Her smile grew sly, inviting him to share a delicious secret. "I told her n was one of the letters in my favorite writer's name." "It's two of the letters in my favorite nurse's name." Her smile became a glow. Incredibly, a blush rose in her solid cheeks. That's what it would look like, he thought, if you built a furnace inside the mouth of one of those idols in the H. Rider Haggard stories. That is what it would look like at night. "You fooler!" she simpered. "I'm not!" he said. "Not at all." "Well!" She looked off for a moment, not blank but just pleased, a little flustered, taking a moment to gather her thoughts. Paul could have taken some pleasure in the way this was going if not for the weight of the typewriter, as solid as the woman and also damaged; it sat there grinning with its missing tooth, promising trouble. "The wheelchair was much more expensive," she said. "Ostomy supplies have gone right out of sight since I -" She broke off, frowned, cleared her throat. Then she looked back at him, smiling. "But it's time you began sitting up, and I don't begrudge the cost one tiny bit. And of course you can't type lying down, can you?" "No . . . " "I've got a board . . . I cut it to size . . . and paper . . . wait!" She dashed from the room like a girl, leaving Paul and the typewriter to regard each other. His grin disappeared the moment her back was turned. The Royal's never varied. He supposed later that he had pretty well known what all this was about, just as he supposed he had known what the typewriter would sound like, how it would clack through its grin like that old comic-strip character Ducky Daddles. She came back with a package of Corrasable Bond in shrink-wrap and a board about three feet wide by four feet long. "Look!" She put the board on the arms of the wheelchair that stood by his bed like some solemn skeletal visitor. Already he could see the ghost of himself behind that board, pent in like a prisoner. She put the typewriter on the board, facing the ghost, and put the package of Corrasable Bond - the paper he hated most in all the world because of the way the type blurred when the pages were shuffled together - beside it. She had now created a kind of cripple's study. "What do you think?" "It looks good," he said, uttering the biggest lie of his life with perfect ease, and then asked the question to which he already knew the answer. "What will I write there, do you think?" "Oh, but Paul" she said, turning to him, her eyes dancing animatedly in her flushed face. "I don't think, I know! You're going to use this typewriter to write a new novel! Your best novel! Misery's Return!" Misery's Return. He felt nothing at all. He supposed a man who had just cut his hand off in a power saw might feel this same species of nothing as he stood regarding his spouting wrist with dull surprise. "Yes!" Her face shone like a searchlight. Her powerful hands were clasped between her breasts. "It will be a book just for me, Paul! My payment for nursing you back to health! The one and only copy of the newest Misery book! I'll have something no one else in the world has, no matter how much they might want it! Think of it!" "Annie, Misery is dead." But already, incredibly, he was thinking, I could bring her back. The thought filled him with tired revulsion but no real surprise. After all, a man who could drink from a floor-bucket should be capable of a little directed writing. "No she's not," Annie replied dreamily. "Even when I was . . . when I was so mad at you, I knew she wasn't really dead. I knew you couldn't really kill her. Because you're good." "Am I?" he said, and looked at the typewriter. It grinned at him. We're going to find out just how good you are, old buddy, it whispered. "Yes!" "Annie, I don't know if I can sit in that wheelchair. Last time - " "Last time it hurt, you bet it did. And it will hurt next time, too. Maybe even a little more. But there will come a day - and it won't be long, either, although it may seem longer to you than it really is - when it hurts a little less. And a little less. And a little less." "Annie, will you tell me one thing?" "Of course, dear!" "If I write this story for you - " "Novel! A nice big one like all the others - maybe even bigger!" He closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them. "Okay - if I write this novel for you, will you let me go when it's done?" For a moment unease slipped cloudily across her face, and then she was looking at him carefully, studiously. "You speak as though I were keeping you prisoner, Paul." He said nothing, only looked at her. "I think that by the time you finish, you should be up to the . . . up to the strain of meeting people again," she said. "Is that what you want to hear?" "That's what I wanted to hear, yes." "Well, honestly! I knew writers were supposed to have big egos, but I guess I didn't understand that meant ingratitude, too!" He went on looking at her and after a moment she looked away, impatient and a little flustered. At last he said: "I'll need all the Misery books, if you've got them, because I don't have my concordance." "Of course I have them!" she said. Then: "What's a concordance?" "It's a loose-leaf binder where I have all my Misery stuff," he said. "Characters and places, mostly, but cross-indexed three or four different ways. Time-lines. Historical stuff . . . " He saw she was barely listening. This was the second time she'd shown not the slightest interest in a trick of the trade that would have held a class of would-be writers spellbound. The reason, he thought, was simplicity itself. Annie Wilkes was the perfect audience, a woman who loved stories without having the slightest interest in the mechanics of making them. She was the embodiment of that Victorian archetype, Constant Reader. She did not want to hear about his concordance and indices because to her Misery and the characters surrounding her were perfectly real. Indices meant nothing to her. If he had spoken of a village census in Little Dunthorpe, she might have shown some interest. "I'll make sure you get the books. They're a little dog-eared, but that's a sign a book has been well read and well loved, isn't it?" "Yes," he said. No need to lie this time. "Yes it is. "I'm going to study up on book-binding," she said dreamily. "I'm going to bind Misery's Return myself. Except for my mother's Bible, it will be the only real book I own." "That's good," he said, just to say something. He was feeling a little sick to his stomach. I'll go out now so you can put on your thinking cap," she said. "This is exciting! Don't you think so?" "Yes, Annie. I sure do." "I'll be in with some breast of chicken and mashed potatoes and peas for you in half an hour. Even a little Jell-O because you've been such a good boy. And I'll make sure you get your pain medication right on time. You can even have an extra pill in the night if you need it. I want to make sure you get your sleep, because you have to go back to work tomorrow. You'll mend faster when you're working, I'll bet!" She went to the door, paused there for a moment, and then, grotesquely, blew him a kiss. The door closed behind her. He did not want to look at the typewriter and for awhile resisted, but at last his eyes rolled helplessly toward it. It sat on the bureau, grinning. Looking at it was a little like looking at an instrument of torture - boot, rack, 
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strappado - which is standing inactive, but only for the moment. I think that by the time you finish, you should be . . . up to the strain of meeting people again. Ah, Annie, you were lying to both of us. I knew it, and you did, too. I saw it in your eyes. The limited vista now opening before him wag extremely unpleasant: six weeks of life which he would spend suffering with his broken bones and renewing his acquaintance with Misery Chastain, nee Carmichael, followed by a hasty interment in the back yard. Or perhaps she would feed his remains to Misery the pig - that would have a certain justice, black and gruesome though it might be. Then don't do it. Make her mad. She's like a walking bottle of nitroglycerine as it is. Bounce her around a little. Make her explode. Better than lying here suffering. He tried looking up at the interlocked W's, but all too soon he was looking at the typewriter again. It stood atop the bureau, mute and thick and full of words he did not want to write, grinning with its one missing tooth. I don't think you believe that, old buddy. I think you want to stay alive even if it does hurt. If it means bringing Misery back for an encore, you'll do it. You'll try, anyway - but first you are going to have to deal with me . . . and I don't think I like your face. "Makes us even," Paul croaked. This time he tried looking out the window, where fresh snow was falling. Soon enough, however, he was looking at the typewriter again with avid repulsed fascination, not even aware of just when his gaze had shifted. Getting into the chair didn't hurt as much as he had feared, and that was good, because previous experience had shown him that he would hurt plenty afterward. She set the tray of food down on the bureau, then rolled the wheelchair over to the bed. She helped him to sit up - there was a dull, thudding flare of pain in his pelvic area but it subsided - and then she leaned over, the side of her neck pressing against his shoulder like the neck of a horse. For an instant he could feel the thump of her pulse, and his face twisted in revulsion. Then her right arm was firmly around his back, her left under his buttocks. "Try not to move from the knees down while I do this," she said, and then simply slid him into the chair. She did it with the ease of a woman sliding a book into an empty slot in her bookcase. Yes, she was strong. Even in good shape the outcome of a fight between him and Annie would have been in doubt. As he was now it would be like Wally Cox taking on Boom Boom Mancini. She put the board in front of him, "See how well it fits?" she said, and went to the bureau to get the food. "Annie?" "Yes." "I wonder if you could turn that typewriter around. So it faces the wall." She frowned. "Why in the world would you want me to do that?" Because I don't want it grinning at me all night. "Old superstition of mine," he said. "I always turn my typewriter to the wall before I start writing." He paused and added: "Every night while I am writing, as a matter of fact." "It's like step on a crack, break your mother's back," she said. "I never step on a crack if I can help it." She turned it around so it grinned at nothing but blank wall. "Better?" "Much." "You are such a silly," she said, and came over and began to feed him. He dreamed of Annie Wilkes in the court of some fabulous Arabian caliph, conjuring imps and genies from bottles and then flying around the court on a magic carpet. When the carpet banked past him (her hair streamed out behind her; her eyes were as bright and flinty as the eyes of a sea-captain navigating among icebergs), he saw it was woven all in green and white; it made a Colorado license plate. Once upon a time, Annie was calling. Once upon a time it came to pass. This happened in the days when my grandfather's grandfather was a boy. This is the story of how a poor boy. I heard this from a man who. Once upon a time. Once upon a time. When he woke up Annie was shaking him and bright morning sun was slanting in the window - the snow had ended. "Wake up, sleepyhead!" Annie was almost trilling. "I've got yogurt and a nice boiled egg for you, and then it will be time for you to begin." He looked at her eager face and felt a strange new emotion - hope. He had dreamed that Annie Wilkes was Scheherazade, her solid body clad in diaphanous robes, her big feet stuffed into pink sequined slippers with curly toes as she rode on her magic carpet and chanted the incantatory phrases which open the doors of the best stories. But of course it wasn't Annie that was Scheherazade. He was. And if what he wrote was good enough, if she could not bear to kill him until she discovered how it all came out no matter how much or how loudly her animal instincts yelled for her to do it, that she must do it . . . Might he not have a chance? He looked past her and saw she had turned the typewriter around before waking him; it grinned resplendently at him with its missing tooth, telling him it was all right to hope and noble to strive, but in the end it was doom alone which would count. She rolled him over to the window so the sun fell on him for the first time in weeks, and it seemed to him he could feel his pasty-white skin, dotted here and there with minor bedsores, murmur its pleasure and thanks. The windowpanes were edged on the inside with a tracery of frost, and when he held out his hand he could feel a bubble of cold like a dome around the window. The feel of it was both refreshing and somehow nostalgic, like a note from an old friend. For the first time in weeks - it felt like years - he was able to look at a geography different from that of his room with its unchanging verities - blue wallpaper, picture of the Arc de Triomphe, the long, long month of February symbolized by the boy sliding downhill on his sled (he thought that his mind would turn to that boy's face and stocking cap each time January became February, even if he lived to see that change of months another fifty times). He looked into this new world as eagerly as he had watched his first movie Bambi - as a child. The horizon was near; it always was in the Rockies, where longer views of the world were inevitably cut off by uptilted plates of bedrock. The sky was a perfect early-morning blue, innocent of clouds. A carpet of green forest climbed the flank of the nearest mountain. There were perhaps seventy acres of open ground between the house and the edge of the forest - the snow-cover over it was a perfect and blazing white. It was impossible to tell if the land beneath was tilled earth or open meadow. The view of this open square was interrupted by only one building: a neat red barn. When she spoke of her livestock or when he saw her trudging grimly past his window, breaking her breath with the impervious prow of her face, he had imagined a ramshackle outbuilding like an illustration from a child's book of ghost stories - rooftree bowed and sagging from years of snowweight, windows blank and dusty, some broken and blocked with pieces of cardboard, long double doors perhaps off their tracks and swaying outward. This neat and tidy structure with its dark-red paint and neat cream-colored trim looked like the five-car garage of a well-to-do country squire masquerading as a barn. In front of it stood a jeep Cherokee, maybe five years old but obviously well cared for. To one side stood a Fisher plow in a home-made wooden cradle. To attach the plow to the Jeep, she would only need to drive the Jeep carefully up to the cradle so that the hooks on the frame matched the catches on the plow, and throw the locking lever on the dashboard. The perfect vehicle for a woman who lived alone and had no neighbor she could call upon for help (except for those dirty-birdie Roydmans, of course, and Annie probably wouldn't take a plate of pork chops from them if she was dying of starvation). The driveway was neatly plowed, a testament to the fact that she did indeed use the blade, but he could not see the road - the house cut off the view. "I see you're admiring my barn, Paul." He looked around, startled. The quick and uncalculated movement awoke his pain from its doze. It snarled dully in what remained of his shins and in the bunched salt-dome that had replaced his left knee. It turned over, needling him from where it lay imprisoned in its cave of bones, and then fell lightly asleep again. She had food on a tray. Soft food, invalid food . . . but his stomach growled at the sight of it. As she crossed to him he saw that she was wearing white shoes with crepe soles. "Yes," he said. "It's very handsome." She put the board on the arms of the wheelchair and then put the tray on the board. She pulled a chair over beside him and sat down, watching him as he began to eat. "Fiddle-de-foof! Handsome is as handsome does, my mother always said. I keep it nice because if I didn't, the neighbors would yap. They are always looking for a way to get at me, or start a rumor about me. So I keep everything nice. Keeping up appearances is very, very important. As far as the barn goes, it really isn't much work, as long as you don't let things pile up. Keeping the snow from breaking in the roof is the oogiest part." The oogiest part, he thought. Save that one for the Annie Wilkes lexicon in your memoirs - if you ever get a chance to write your memoirs, that is. Along with dirty birdie and fiddle-de-foof and all the others which I'm sure will come up in time. "Two years ago I had Billy Haversham put heat-tapes in the roof. You throw a switch and they get hot and melt the ice. I won't need them much longer this winter, though see how it's melting on its own?" He had a forkful of egg halfway to his mouth. It stopped in midair as he looked out at the barn. There was a row of icicles along the cave. The tips of these icicles were dripping - dripping fast. Each drop sparkled as it fell onto a narrow canal of ice which lay at the base of the barn's side. "It's up to forty-five degrees and it's not even nine o'clock!" Annie was going on gaily as Paul imagined the rear bumper of his Camaro surfacing through the rotted snow for the sun to twinkle on. "Of course it won't last - we've got a hard snap or three ahead of us yet, and probably another big storm as well - but spring is coming, Paul, and my mother always used to say that the hope of spring is like the hope of heaven." He put his fork back down on the plate with the egg still on it. "Don't want that last bite? All done?" "All done," he agreed, and in his mind he saw the Roydmans driving up from Sidewinder, saw a bright arrow of light strike Mrs Roydman's face, making her wince and put a shielding hand up - What's down there, Ham? . . . Don't tell me I'm crazy, there's something down there! Reflection damn near burned m'eye out! Back up, I want to take another look. "Then I'll just take the tray," she said, "and you can get started." She favored him with a glance that was very warm. "I just can't tell you how excited I am, Paul." She went out, leaving him to sit in the wheelchair and look at the water running from the icicles which clung to the edge of the barn. "I'd like some different paper, if you could get it," he said when she came back to put the typewriter and paper on the board. "Different from this?" she asked, tapping the cellophane-wrapped package of Corrasable Bond. "But this is the most expensive of all! I asked when I went into the Paper Patch!" "Didn't your mother ever tell you that the most expensive is not always the best?" Annie's brow darkened. Her initial defensiveness had been replaced by indignation. Paul guessed her fury would follow. "No, she did not. What she told me, Mister Smart Guy, is that when you buy cheap, you get cheap." The climate inside her, he had come to discover, was like springtime in the Midwest. She was a woman full of tornadoes waiting to happen, and if he had been a farmer observing a sky which looked the way Annie's face looked right now, he would have at once gone to collect his family and herd them into the storm cellar. Her brow was too white. Her nostrils flared regularly, like the nostrils of an animal scenting fire. Her hands had begun to spring limberly open and then snatch closed again, catching air and squashing it. His need for her and his vulnerability to her screamed at him to back off, to placate her while there was still time if indeed there still was - as a tribe in one of -those Rider Haggard stories would have placated their goddess when she was angry, by making sacrifice to her effigy. But there was another part of him, more calculating and less cowed, which reminded him that he could not play the part of Scheherazade if he grew frightened and placatory whenever she stormed. If he did, she would storm all the more. If you didn't have something she badly wants, this part of him reasoned, she would have taken you to the hospital right away or killed you later on to protect herself from the Roydmans - because for Annie the world is full of Roydmans, for Annie they're lurking behind every bush. And if you don't bell this bitch right now, Paulie my boy, you may never be able to. She was beginning to breathe more rapidly, almost to hyperventilate; the rhythm of her clenching hands was likewise speeding up, and he knew that in a moment she would be beyond him. Gathering up the little courage he had left, trying desperately to summon exactly the right note of sharp and yet almost casual irritability, he said: "And you might as well stop that. Getting mad won't change a thing." She froze as if he had slapped her and looked at him, wounded. "Annie," he said patiently, "this is no big deal." "It's a trick," she said. "You don't want to write my book and so you're making up tricks not to start. I knew you would. Oh boy. But it's not going to work. It - " "That's silly," he said. "Did I say I wasn't going to start?" "No . . . no, but - " "That's right. Because I am. And if you come here and take a look at something, I'll show you what the problem is. Bring that Webster Pot with you, please." "The what?" "Little jar of pens and pencils, " he said. "On newspapers, they sometimes call them Webster Pots. After Daniel Webster." This was a lie he had made up on the spur of the moment, but it had the desired effect - she looked more confused than ever, lost in a specialists" world of which she had not the slightest knowledge. The confusion had diffused (and thus defused) her rage even more; he saw she now didn't even know if she had any right to be angry. She brought over the jar of pens and pencils and slammed them down on the board and he thought: Goddam! I won No - that wasn't right. Misery had won. But that isn't right, either. It was Scheherazade. Scheherazade won. "What?" she said grumpily. "Watch." He opened the package of Corrasable and took out a sheet He took a freshly sharpened pencil and drew a fine on the paper. Then he took a ballpoint pen and drew another line parallel to the first. Then he slid his thumb across the slightly waffled surface of the paper. Both lines blurred smudgily in the direction his thumb was travelling, the pencil-line slightly more than the one he had drawn with the pen. "See?" "So what?" "Ribbon-ink will blur, too," he said. "It doesn't blur a much as that pencil-line, but it's worse than the ballpoint-ink line." "Were you going to sit and rub every page with your thumb?" "Just the shift of the pages against each other will accomplish plenty of blurring over a period of weeks or ever days," he said, "and when a manuscript is in work, it get shifted around a lot. You're always hunting back through to find a name or a date. My God, Annie, one of the first thing you find out in this business is that editors hate reading manuscripts typed on Corrasable Bond almost as much a they hate hand-written manuscripts." "Don't call it that. I hate it when you call it that." He looked at her, honestly puzzled. "Call what what?" "When you pervert the talent God gave you by calling it a business. I hate that." "I'm sorry." "You ought to be," she said stonily. "You might as well call yourself a whore." No, Annie, he thought, suddenly filled with fury. I'm no whore. Fast Cars was about not being a whore. That's what killing that goddamned bitch Misery was about, now that I think about it. I was driving to the West Coast to celebrate my liberation from a state of whoredom. What you did was to pull me out of the wreck when I crashed my car and stick me back in the crib again. Two dollar straight up, four dollar I take you around the world. And every now and then I see a flicker in your eyes that tells me a part of you way back inside knows it too. A jury might let you off by reason of insanity, but not me, Annie. Not this kid. "A good point," he said. "Now, going back to the subject of the paper - " "I'll get you your cockadoodie paper," she said sullenly. "Just tell me what to get and I'll get it." "As long as you understand I'm on your side - " "Don't make me laugh. No one has been on my side since my mother died twenty years ago." "Believe what you want, then," he said. "If you're so insecure you can't believe I'm grateful to you for saving my life, that's your problem." He was watching her shrewdly, and again saw a flicker of uncertainty, of wanting to believe, in her eyes. Good. Very good. He looked at her with all the sincerity he could muster, and again in his mind he imagined shoving a chunk of glass into her throat, once and forever letting out the blood that serviced her crazy brain. "At least you should be able to believe that I am on the book's side. You spoke of binding it. I assume that you meant binding the manuscript? The typed pages?" "Of course that's what I meant." Yes, you bet. Because if you took the manuscript to a printer, it might raise questions. You may be naive about the world of books and publishing, but not that naive. Paul Sheldon is missing, and your printer might remember receiving a book-length manuscript concerning itself with Paul Sheldon's most famous character right around the time the man himself disappeared, mightn't he? And he'd certainly remember the instructions - instructions so queer any printer would remember them. One printed copy of a novel-length manuscript. Just one. "What did she look like, officer? Well, she was a big woman. Looked sort of like a stone idol in a H. Rider Haggard story. Just a minute, I've got her name and address here in the files . . . Just let me look up the carbons of the invoices . . . " "Nothing wrong with the idea, either," he said. "A bound manuscript can be damned handsome. Looks like a good folio edition. But a book should last a long time, Annie, and if I write this one on Corrasable, you're going to have nothing but a bunch of blank papers in ten years or so. Unless, of course, you just put it on the shelf." But she wouldn't want that, would she? Christ, no. She'd want to take it down every day, maybe every few hours. Take it down and gloat over it. An odd stony look had come onto her face. He did not like this mulishness, this almost ostentatious look of obduracy. It made him nervous. He could calculate her rage, but there was something in this new expression which was as opaque as it was childish. "You don't have to talk anymore," she said. "I already told you I'll get you your paper. What kind?" "In this business-supply store you go to - " "The Paper Patch." "Yes, the Paper Patch. You tell them you'd like two reams - a ream is a package of five hundred sheets - " "I know that. I'm not stupid, Paul." "I know you're not," he said, becoming more nervous still. The pain had begun to mutter up and down his legs again, and it was speaking even more -loudly from the area of his pelvis - he had been sitting up for nearly an hour, and the dislocation down there was complaining about it. Keep cool, for God's sake - don't lose everything you've gained! But have I gained anything? Or is it only wishful thinking? "Ask for two reams of white long-grain mimeo. Hammermill Bond is a good brand; so is Triad Modem. Two reams of mimeo will cost less than this one package of Corrasable, and it should be enough to do the whole job, write and rewrite." "I'll go right now," she said, getting up suddenly. He looked at her, alarmed, understanding that she meant to leave him without his medication again, and sitting up this time, as well. Sitting already hurt; the pain would be monstrous by the time she got back, even if she hurried. "You don't have to do that," he said, speaking fast. "The Corrasable is good enough to start with - after all, I'll have to rewrite anyway - " "Only a silly person would try to start a good work with a bad tool." She took the package of Corrasable Bond, then snatched the sheet with the two smudged lines and crumpled it into a ball. She tossed both into the wastebasket and turned back to him. That stony, obdurate look covered her face like a mask. Her eyes glittered like tarnished dimes. "I'm going to town now," she said. "I know you want to get started as soon as you can, since you're on my side - " she spoke these last words with intense, smoking sarcasm (and, Paul believed, more self-hate than she would ever know) "and so I'm not even going to take time to put you back in your bed." She smiled, a pulling of the lips that was grotesquely puppet-like, and slipped to his side in her silent white nurse" shoes. Her fingers touched his hair. He flinched. He tried not to but couldn't help it. Her dead-alive smile widened. "Although I suspect we may have to put off the actual start of Misery's Retum for a day . . . or two . . . perhaps even three. Yes, it may be as long as three days before you are able to sit up again. Because of the pain. Too bad. I had champagne chilling in the fridge. I'll have to put it back in the shed." "Annie, really, I can start if you'll just - " "No, Paul." She moved to the door and then turned, looking at him with that stony face. Only her eyes, those tarnished dimes, were fully alive under the shelf of her brow. "There is one thought I would like to leave you with. You may think you can fool me, or trick me; I know I look slow and stupid. But I am not stupid, Paul, and I am not slow." Suddenly her face broke apart. The stony obduracy shattered and what shone through was the countenance of an insanely angry child. For a moment Paul thought the extremity of his terror might kill him. Had he thought he had gained the upper hand? Had he? Could one possibly play Scheherazade when one's captor was insane? She rushed across the room at him, thick legs pumping, knees flexing, elbows chopping back and forth in the stale sickroom air like pistons. Her hair bounced and joggled around her face as it came loose from the bobby-pins that held it up. Now her passage was not silent; it was like the tread of Goliath striding into the Valley of Bones. The picture of the Arc de Triomphe cracked affrightedly on the wall. "Geeeee-yahhh!" she screamed, and brought her fist down on the bunched salt-dome that had been Paul Sheldon's left knee. He threw his head back and howled, veins standing out in his neck and on his forehead. Pain burst out from his knee and shrouded him, whitely radiant, in the center of a nova. She tore the typewriter off the board and slammed it down on the mantel, lifting its weight of dead metal as he might have lifted an empty cardboard box. "So you just sit there," she said, lips pulled back in that grinning rictus, "and you think about who is in charge here, and all the things I can do to hurt you if you behave badly or try to trick me. You sit there and you scream if you want to, because no one can hear you. No one stops here because they all know Annie Wilkes is crazy, they all know what she did, even if they did find me innocent." She walked back to the door and turned again, and he screamed again when she did, in anticipation of another bull-like charge, and that made her grin more widely. "I'll tell you something else," she said softly. "They think I got away with it, and they are right. Think about that, Paul, while I'm in town getting your cockadoodie paper." She left, slamming the bedroom door hard enough to shake the house. Then there was the click of the lock. He leaned back in the chair, shaking all over, trying not to shake because it hurt, not able to help it. Tears streamed down his cheeks. Again and again he saw her flying across the room, again and again he saw her bringing her fist down on the remains of his knee with all the force of an angry drunk hammering on an oak bar, again and again he was swallowed in that terrible blue-white nova of pain. "Please, God, please," he moaned as the Cherokee started outside with a bang and a roar. "Please, God, please - let me out of this or kill me . . . let me out of this or kill me." The roar of the engine faded off down the road and God did neither and he was left with his tears and the pain, which was now fully awake and raving through his body. He thought later that the world, in its unfailing perversity, would probably construe those things which he did next as acts of heroism. And he would probably let them - but in fact what he did was nothing more than a final staggering grab for self-preservation. Dimly he seemed to hear some madly enthusiastic sportscaster - Howard Cosell or Warner Wolf or perhaps that all-time crazy Johnny Most - describing the scene, as if his effort to get at her drug supply before the pain killed him was some strange sporting event - a trial substitution for Monday Night Football, perhaps. What would you call a sport like that, anyway? Run for the Dope? "I just cannot believe the guts this Sheldon kid is displaying today! the sportscaster in Paul Sheldon's head was enthusing. "I don't believe anyone in Annie Wilkes Stadium - or in the home viewing audience, for that matter - thought he had the sly-test chance of getting that wheelchair moving after the blow he took, but I believe . . . yes, it is! It's moving! Let's look at the replay!" Sweat ran down his forehead and stung his eyes. He licked a mixture of salt and tears off his lips. The shuddering would not stop. The pain was like the end of the world. He thought: There comes a point when the very discussion of pain becomes redundant. No one knows there is pain the size of this in the world. No one. It is like being possessed by demons. It was only the thought of the pills, the Novril that she kept somewhere in the house, which got him moving. The locked bedroom door . . . the possibility the dope might not be in the downstairs bathroom as he had surmised but hidden somewhere . . . the chance she might come back and catch him . . . these things mattered not at all, these things were only shadows behind the pain. He would deal with each problem as it came up or he would die. That was all. Moving caused the band of fire below his waist and in his legs to sink in deeper, cinching his legs like belts studded with hot, inward-pointing spikes. But the chair did move. Very slowly the chair began to move. He had managed about four feet before realizing he was going to do nothing more useful than roll the wheelchair past the door and into the far comer unless he could turn it. He grasped the right wheel, shuddering, (think of the pills, think of the relief of the pills) and bore down on it as hard as he could. Rubber squeaked minutely on the wooden floor, the cries of mice. He bore down, once strong and now flabby muscles quivering like jelly, lips peeling back from his gritted teeth, and the wheelchair slowly pivoted. He grasped both wheels and got the chair moving again. This time he rolled five feet before stopping to straighten himself out. Once he'd done it, he grayed out. He swam back to reality five minutes later, hearing the dim, goading voice of that sportscaster in his head: "He's trying to get going again! I just cannot be-leeve the guts of this Sheldon kid!" The front of his mind only knew about the pain; it was the back that directed his eyes. He saw it near the door and rolled over to it. He reached down, but the tips of his fingers stopped a clear three inches short of the floor, where one of the two or three bobby-pins that had fallen from her hair as she charged him lay. He bit his lip, unaware of the sweat running down his face and neck and darkening his pajama shirt. "I don't think he can get that pin, folks - it's been a fan-tas-tic effort, but I'm afraid this is where it all ends." Well, maybe not. He let himself slouch to the right in the wheelchair, at first trying to ignore the pain in his right side - pain that felt like an increasing bubble of pressure, something similar to a tooth impaction - and then giving way and screaming. As she said, there was no one to hear him anyway. The tips of his fingers still hung an inch from the floor, brushing back and forth just above the bobby-pin, and his right hip really felt as if it might simply explode outward in a squirt of some vile white bone-jelly. Oh God please please help me - He slumped farther in spite of the pain. His fingers brushed the pin but succeeded only in pushing it a quarter of an inch away. Paul slid down in the chair, still slumped to the right, and screamed again at the pain in his lower legs. His eyes were bulging, his mouth was open, his tongue straight down between his teeth like the pull on a window-shade. Little drops of spittle ran from its tip and spatted on the floor. He pinched the bobby-pin between his fingers . . . tweezed it . . . almost lost it . . . and then it was locked in his fist. Straightening up brought a fresh slough of pain, and when the act was accomplished he could do no more than sit and pant for awhile, his head tilted as far as the unc Compromising back of the wheelchair would allow, the bobby-pin lying on the board across the chair's arms. For awhile he was quite sure he was going to puke, but that passed. What are you doing? part of his mind scolded wearily after awhile. Are you waiting for the pain to go away? It won't. She's always quoting her mother, but your own mother had a few sayings, too, didn't she? Yes. She had. Sitting there, head thrown back, face shiny with sweat, hair plastered to his forehead, Paul spoke one of them aloud now, almost as an incantation: "There may be fairies, there may be elves, but God helps those who help themselves." Yeah. So stop waiting, Paulie - the only elf that's going to show up here is that all-time heavyweight, Annie Wilkes. He got moving again, rolling the wheelchair slowly across to the door. She had locked it, but he believed he might be able to unlock it. Tony Bonasaro, who was now only so many blackened flakes of ash, had been a car-thief. As part of his preparation for writing Fast Cars, Paul had studied the mechanics of car-thievery with a tough old ex-cop named Tom Twyford. Tom had shown him how to hot-wire an ignition, how to use the thin and limber strip of metal car-thieves called Slim Jims to yank the lock on a car door, how to short out a car burglar alarm. Or, Tom had said on a spring day in New York some two and a half years ago, let's say you don't want to steal a car at all. You got a car, but you're a little low on gas. You got a hose, but the car you pick for the free donation has got a locking gas-cap. Is this a problem? Not if you know what you're doing, because most gas-cap locks are strictly Mickey Mouse. All you really need is a bobby-pin. It took Paul five endless minutes of backing and filling to get the wheelchair exactly where he wanted it, with the left wheel almost touching the door. The keyhole was the old-fashioned sort, reminding Paul of John Tenniel's Alice in Wonderland drawings, set in the middle of a tarnished keyplate. He slid down a bit in the wheelchair - giving out a single barking groan - and looked through it. He could see a short hallway leading down to what was clearly the parlor: a dark-red rug on the floor, an old-fashioned divan upholstered in similar material, a lamp with tassels hanging from its shade. To his left, halfway down the hallway, was a door which stood ajar. Paul's pulsebeat quickened. That was almost surely the downstairs bathroom - he had heard her running enough water in there (including the time she had filled the floor-bucket from which he had enthusiastically drunk), and wasn't it also the place she always came from before giving him his medicine? He thought it was. He grasped the bobby-pin. It spilled out of his fingers onto the board and then skittered toward the edge. "No!" he cried hoarsely, and clapped a hand over it just before it could fall. He clasped it in one fist and then grayed out again. Although he had no way of telling for sure, he thought he was out longer this second time. The pain - except for the excruciating agony of his left knee - seemed to have abated a tiny bit. The bobby-pin was on the board across the arms of the wheelchair. This time he flexed the fingers of his right hand several times before picking it up. Now, he thought, unbending it and holding it in his right hand. You will not shake. Hold that thought. YOU WILL NOT SHAKE. He reached across his body with the pin and slipped it into the keyhole, listening as the sportscaster in his mind (so vivid!) described the action. Sweat ran steadily down his face like oil. He listened . . . but even more, he felt. The tumbler in a cheap lock is nothing but a rocker, Tom Twyford had said, seesawing his hand to demonstrate. You want to turn a rocking chair over? Easiest thing in the world, tight? Just grab the rockers and flip the mother right over . . . nothing to it. And that's all you got to do with a lock like this. Slide the tumbler up and then open the gas-cap quick, before it can snap back. He had the tumbler twice, but both times the bobby-pin slipped off and the tumbler snapped back before he could do more than begin to move it. The bobby-pin was starting to bend. He thought that it would break after another two or three tries. "Please God," he said, sliding it in again. "Please God, what do you say? Just a little break for the kid, that's all I'm asking." ("Folks, Sheldon has performed heroically today, but this has got to be his last shot. The crowd has fallen silent . . .") He closed his eyes, the sportscaster's voice fading as he listened avidly to the minute rattle of the pin in the lock. Now! Here was resistance! The tumbler! He could see it lying in there like the curved foot of a rocking chair, pressing the tongue of the lock, holding it in place, holding him in place. It's strictly Mickey Mouse, Paul. Just stay cool. When you hurt this badly, it was hard to stay cool. He grasped the doorknob with his left hand, reaching under his right arm to do it, and began to apply gentle pressure to the bobby-pin. A little more . . . a little more . . . In his mind he could see the rocker beginning to move in its dusty little alcove; he could see the lock's tongue begin to retract. No need for it to go all the way, good God, no - no need to overturn the rocking chair, to use Tom Twyford's metaphor. Just the instant it cleared the doorframe - a push - The pin was simultaneously starting to bend and slip. He felt it happening, and in desperation he pushed upward as hard as he could, turned the knob, and shoved at the door. There was a snap as the pin broke in two, the part in the lock falling in, and he had a dull moment to consider his failure before he saw that the door was slowly swinging open with the tongue of the lock sticking out of the plate like a steel finger. "Jesus," he whispered. "Jesus, thank you." Let's go to the videotape! Warner Wolf screamed exultantly in his mind as the thousands in Annie Wilkes Stadium - not to mention the untold millions watching at home - broke into thunderous cheers. "Not now, Warner," he croaked, and began the long, draining job of backing and filling the wheelchair so he could get a straight shot at the door. He had a bad - no, not just bad; terrible, horrible - moment when it seemed the wheelchair was not going to fit. It was no more than two inches too wide, but that was two inches too much. She brought it in collapsed, that's why you thought it was a shopping cart at first, his mind informed him drearily. In the end he was able to squeeze through - barely - by positioning himself squarely in the doorway and then leaning forward enough to grab the jambs of the door in his hands. The axle-caps of the wheels squalled against the wood, but he was able to get through. After he did, he grayed out again. He voice called him out of his daze. He opened his eyes and saw she was pointing a shotgun at him. Her eyes glittered furiously. Spit shone on her teeth. "If you want your freedom so badly, Paul," Annie said, "I'll be happy to grant it to you." She pulled back both hammers. He jerked, expecting the shotgun blast. But she wasn't there, of course; his mind had already recognized the dream. Not a dream - a warning. She could come back anytime. Anytime at all. The quality of the light fanning through the half-open bathroom door had changed, grown brighter. It looked like moonlight. He wished the clock would chime and tell him just how close to right he was, but the clock was obstinately silent. She stayed away fifty hours before. So she did. And she might stay away eighty this time. Or you might hear that Cherokee pulling in five seconds from now. In case you didn't know it, friend, the Weather Bureau can post tornado warnings, but when it comes to telling exactly when and where they'll touch down, they don't know fuck-all. "True enough," he said, and rolled the wheelchair down to the bathroom. Looking in, he saw an austere room floored with hexagonal white tiles. A bathtub with rusty fans spreading below the faucets stood on clawed feet. Beside it was a linen closet. Across from the tub was a sink. Over the sink was a medicine cabinet. The floor-bucket was in the tub - he could see its plastic top. The hall was wide enough for him to swing the chair around and face the door, but now his arms were trembling with exhaustion. He had been a puny kid and so he had tried to take reasonably good care of himself as an adult, but his muscles were now the muscles of an invalid and the puny kid was back, as if all that time spent doing laps and jogging and working out on the Nautilus machine had only been a dream. At least this doorway was wider - not much, but enough to make his passage less hair-raising. Paul bumped over the lintel, and then the chair's hard rubber wheels rolled smoothly over the tiles. He smelled something sour that he automatically associated with hospitals - Lysol, maybe. There was no toilet in here, but he had already suspected that - the only flushing sounds came from upstairs, and now that he thought of it, one of those upstairs flushes always followed his use of the bedpan. Here there was only the tub, the basin, and the linen closet with its door standing open. He gazed briefly at the neat piles of blue towels and washcloths - he was familiar with both from the sponge-baths she had given him - and then turned his attention to the medicine cabinet over the washstand. It was out of reach. No matter how much he strained, it was a good nine inches above the tips of his fingers. He could see this but reached anyway, unable to believe Fate or God or Whoever could be so cruel. He looked like an outfielder reaching desperately for a home-run ball he had absolutely no chance of catching. Paul made a wounded, baffled noise, lowered his hand, and then leaned back, panting. The gray cloud lowered. He willed it away and looked around for something he could use to open the medicine cabinet's door and saw an O-Cedar mop leaning stiffly in the corner on a long blue pole. You going to use that? Really? Well, I guess you could. Pry open the medicine cabinet door and then just knock a bunch of stuff out into the basin. But the bottles will break and even if there are no bottles, fat chance, everyone has at least a bottle of Listerine or Scope or something in their medicine cabinet, you have no way of putting back what you knock down. So when she comes back and sees the mess, what then? "I'll tell her it was Misery," he croaked. "I'll tell her she dropped by looking for a tonic to bring her back from the dead." Then he burst into tears . . . but even through the tears his eyes were conning the room, looking for something, anything, inspiration, a break, just a fucking br - He was looking into the linen closet again, and his rapid breath suddenly stopped. His eyes widened. His first cursory glance had taken in the shelves with their stacks of folded sheets and pillow-cases and washcloths and towels. Now he looked at the floor and on the floor were a number of square cardboard cartons. Some were labelled UPJOHN. Some were labelled LILY. Some were labelled CAM PHARMACEUTICALS. He turned the wheelchair roughly, hurting himself, not caring. Please God don't let it be her cache of extra shampoo or her tampons or pictures of her dear old sainted mother or - He fumbled for one of the boxes, dragged it out, and opened the flaps. No shampoo, no Avon samples. Far from it. There was a wild jumble of drugs in the carton, most of them in small boxes marked SAMPLES. At the bottom a few pills and capsules, different colors, rolled around loose. Some, like Motrim and Lopressor, the hypertension drug his father had taken during the last three years of his life, he knew. Others he had never heard of. "Novril," he muttered, raking wildly through the box while sweat ran down his face and his legs pounded and throbbed. "Novril, where's the fucking Novril?" No Novril. He pushed the flaps of the carton closed and shoved it back into the linen closet, making only a token effort to replace it in the same place it had been. Should be all right, the place looked like a goddam junk-heap - Leaning far to his left, he was able to snag a second carton. He opened it and was hardly able to credit what he was seeing. Darvon. Darvocet. Darvon Compound. Morphose and Morphose Complex. Librium. Valium. And Novril. Dozens and dozens and dozens of sample boxes. Lovely boxes. Dear boxes. O lovely dear sainted boxes. He clawed one open and saw - the capsules she gave him every six hours, enclosed in their little blisters. NOT TO BE DISPENSED WITHOUT PHYSICIAN'S PRESCRIPTION, the box said. "Oh dear Jesus, the doctor is in!" Paul sobbed. He tore the cellophane apart with his teeth and chewed up three of the capsules, barely aware of the bruisingly bitter taste. He halted, stared at the five that were left encased in their mutilated cellophane sheet, and gobbled a fourth. He looked around quickly, chin down on his breastbone, eyes crafty and frightened. Although he knew it was too soon to be feeling any relief, he did feel it - having the pills, it seemed, was even more important than taking the pills. It was as if he had been given control of the moon and the tides - or had just reached up and taken it. It was a huge thought, awesome . . . and yet also frightening, with undertones of guilt and blasphemy. If she comes back now - "All right - okay. I get the message." He looked into the carton, trying to calculate how many of the sample boxes he might be able to take without her realizing a little mouse named Paul Sheldon had been nibbling away at the supply. He giggled at this, a shrill, relieved sound, and he realized the medication wasn't just working on his legs. He had gotten his fix, if you wanted to be perfectly vulgar about it. Get moving, idiot. You have no time to enjoy being stoned. He took five of the boxes - a total of thirty capsules. He had to restrain himself from taking more. He stirred the remaining boxes and bottles around, hoping the result would look no more or less helter-skelter than it had when he first peered into the box. He refolded the flaps and slipped the box back into the linen closet. A car was coming. He straightened up, eyes wide. His hands dropped to the arms of the wheelchair and gripped them with panicky tightness. If it was Annie, he was screwed and that was the end of it. He would never be able to maneuver this balky, oversized thing back to the bedroom in time. Maybe he could whack her once with the O-Cedar mop or something before she wrung his neck like a chicken. He sat in the wheelchair with the sample boxes of Novril in his lap and his broken legs stuck stiffly out in front of him and waited for the car to pass or turn in. The sound swelled endlessly . . . then began to diminish. Okay. Do you need a more graphic warning, Paul-baby? As a matter of fact, he did not. He took a final glance at the cartons. They looked to him about as they had when he had first seen them - although he had been looking at them through a haze of pain and could not be completely sure but he knew that the piles of boxes might not be as random as they had looked, oh, not at all. She had the heightened awareness of the deep neurotic, and might have had the position of each box carefully memorized. She might take one casual glance in here and immediately realize in some arcane way what had happened. This knowledge did not bring fear but a sense of resignation - he had needed the medication, and he had somehow managed to escape his room and get it. If there were consequences, punishment, he could face them with at least the understanding that he could have done nothing but what he had done. And of all she had done to him, this resignation was surely a symptom of the worst - she had turned him into a pain-racked animal with no moral options at all. He slowly backed the wheelchair across the bathroom, glancing behind himself occasionally to make sure he wasn't wandering off-course. Before, such a movement would have made him scream with pain, but now the pain was disappearing under a beautiful glassiness. He rolled into the hall and then stopped as a terrible thought struck him: if the bathroom floor had been slightly damp, or even a bit dirty - He stared at it, and for a moment the idea that he must have left tracks on those clean white tiles was so persuasive that he actually saw them. He shook his head and looked again. No tracks. But the door was open farther than it had been. He rolled forward, swung the wheelchair slightly to the right so he could lean over and grab the knob, and pulled the door half-closed. He eyed it, then pulled it a bit closer to the jamb. There. That looked right. He was reaching for the wheels, meaning to pivot the chair so he could roll back to his room, when he realized he was pointed more or less toward the living room, and the living room was where most people kept their telephone and - Light bursting in his mind like a flare over a foggy meadow. "Hello, Sidewinder Police Station, Officer Humbuggy speaking." "Listen to me, Officer Humbuggy. Listen very carefully and don't interrupt, because I don't know how much time I have. My name is Paul Sheldon. I'm calling you from Annie Wilkes's house. I've been her prisoner here for at least two weeks, maybe as long as a month. I - " "Annie Wilkes!" "Get out here tight away. Send an ambulance. And for Christ's sake get here before she gets back . "Before she gets back," Paul moaned. "Oh yeah " Far out." What makes you think she even has a phone? Who have you ever heard her call? Who would she call? Her good friends the Roydmans? Just because she doesn't have anyone to chatter with all day doesn't mean she is incapable of understanding that accidents can happen; she could fall downstairs and break an arm or a leg, the barn might catch on fire - How many times have you heard this supposed telephone ring? So now there's a requirement? Your phone has to ring at least once a day or Mountain Bell comes and takes it out? Besides, I haven't even been conscious most of the time. You're pushing your luck. You're pushing your luck and you know it. Yes. He knew it, but the thought of that telephone, the imagined sensation of the cool black plastic under his fingers, the click of the rotary dial or the single booping sound as he touch-toned 0 - these were seductions too great to resist. He worked the wheelchair around until it was directly facing the parlor, and then he rolled down to it. The place smelled musty, unaired, obscurely tired. Although the curtains guarding the bow windows were only half-drawn, affording a lovely view of the mountains, the room seemed too dark - because its colors were too dark, he thought. Dark red predominated, as if someone had spilled a great deal of venous blood in here. Over the mantel was a tinted photograph portrait of a forbidding woman with tiny eyes buried in a fleshy face. The rosebud mouth was pursed. The photograph, enclosed in a rococo frame of gold gilt, was the size of the President's photograph in the lobby of a big-city post office. Paul did not need a notarised statement telegram to tell him that this was Annie's sainted mother. He rolled farther into the room. The left side of the wheelchair struck a small occasional table covered with ceramic gewgaws. They chattered together and one of them - a ceramic penguin sitting on a ceramic ice-block - fell off the side. Without thinking, he reached out and grabbed it. The gesture was almost casual . . . and then reaction set in. He held the penguin tightly in his curled fist, trying to will the shakes away. You caught it, no sweat, besides, there's a rug on the floor, probably wouldn't have broken anyway - But if it HAD! his mind screamed back. If it HAD! Please, you have to go back to your room before you leave something . . . a track . . . No. Not yet. Not yet, no matter how frightened he was. Because this had cost him too much. If there was a payoff, he was going to have it. He looked around the room, which was stuffed with heavy graceless furniture. It should have been dominated by the bow windows and the gorgeous view of the Rockies beyond them but was instead dominated by the picture of that fleshy woman imprisoned in the ghastly glaring frame with its twists and curlicues and frozen gilded swags. On a table at the far end of the couch, where she would sit to watch TV, was a plain dialer telephone. Gently, hardly daring to breathe, he put the ceramic penguin (NOW MY TALE IS TOLD! the legend on the block of ice read) back on the knickknack table and rolled across the room toward the phone. There was an occasional table in front of the sofa; he gave it a wide berth. On it was a spray of dried flowers in an ugly green vase, and the whole thing looked topheavy, ready to tip over if he so much as brushed it. No cars coming outside - only the sound of the wind. He grasped the handset of the phone in one hand and slowly picked it up. A queer predestinate sense of failure filled his mind even before he got the handset to his ear and heard the nothing. He replaced the receiver slowly, a line from an old Roger Miller song occurring to him and seeming to make a certain senseless sense: No phone, no pool, no pets . . . I ain't got no cigarettes. . . He traced the phone cord with his eye, saw the small square module on the baseboard, saw that the jack was plugged into it. Everything looked in perfect working order. Like the barn, with its heat-tapes. Keeping up appearances is very, very important. He closed his eyes and saw Annie removing the jack and squeezing Elmer's Glue into the hole in the module. Saw her replacing the jack in the dead-white glue, where it would harden and freeze forever. The phone company would have no idea that anything was wrong unless someone attempted to call her and reported the line out of service, but no one called Annie, did they? She would receive regular monthly bills on her dead line and she would pay them promptly, but the phone was only stage dressing, part of her never-ending battle to keep up appearances, like the neat barn with its fresh red paint and cream trim and heat-tapes to melt the winter ice. Had she castrated the phone in case of just such an expedition as this? Had she foreseen the possibility that he might get out of the room? He doubted it. The phone - the working phone - would have gotten on her nerves long before he came. She would have lain awake at night, looking up at the ceiling of her bedroom, listening to the high-country whine of the wind, imagining the people who must be thinking of her with either dislike or outright malevolence - all the world's Roydmans - people who might, any of them, at any time, take a notion to call her on the telephone and scream: You did it, Annie! They took you all the way to Denver, and we know you did it! They don't take you all the way to Denver if you're innocent! She would have asked for and gotten an unlisted number, of course - anyone tried for and acquitted of some major crime (and if it had been Denver, it had been major) would have done that - but even an unlisted number would not comfort a deep neurotic like Annie Wilkes for long. They were all in league against her, they could get the number if they wanted, probably the lawyers who had been against her would be glad to pass it out to anyone who asked for it, and people would ask, oh yes - for she would see the world as a dark place full of moving human masses like seas, a malevolent universe surrounding a single small stage upon which a single savagely bright pinspot illuminated . . . only her. So best to eradicate the phone, silence it, as she would silence him if she knew he had gotten even this far. Panic burst shrilly up in his mind, telling him that he had to get out of here and back into his room, hide the pills somewhere, return to his place by the window so that when she returned she would see no difference, no difference at all, and this time he agreed with the voice. He agreed wholeheartedly. He backed carefully away from the phone, and when he gained the room's one reasonably clear area, he began the laborious job of turning the wheelchair around, careful not to bump the occasional table as he did so. He had nearly finished the turn when he heard an approaching car and knew, simply knew it was her, returning from town. He nearly fainted, in the grip of the greatest terror he had ever known, a terror that was filled with deep and unmanning guilt. He suddenly remembered the only incident in his life that came remotely close to this one in its desperate emotional quality. He had been twelve. It was summer vacation, his father working, his mother gone to spend the day in Boston with Mrs Kaspbrak from across the street. He had seen a pack of her cigarettes and had lit one of them. He smoked it enthusiastically, feeling both sick and fine, feeling the way he imagined robbers must feel when they stick up banks. Halfway through the cigarette, the room filled with smoke, he had heard her opening the front door. "Paulie? It's me I've forgotten my purse!" He had begun to wave madly at the smoke, knowing it would do no good, knowing he was caught, knowing he would be spanked. It would be more than a spanking this time. He remembered the dream he'd had during one of his gray-outs: Annie cocking the shotgun's twin triggers and saying If you want your freedom so badly, Paul, I'll be happy to grant it to you. The sound of the engine began to drop as the approaching car slowed down. It was her. Paul settled hands he could barely feel on the wheels and rolled the chair toward the hallway, sparing one glance at the ceramic penguin on its block of ice. Was it in the same place it had been? He couldn't tell. He would have to hope. He rolled down the hall toward the bedroom door, gaining speed. He hoped to shoot right through, but his aim was a little off. Only a little . . . but the fit was so tight that a little was enough. The wheelchair thumped against the right side of the doorway and bounced back a little. Did you chip the paint? his mind screamed at him. Oh Jesus Christ, did you chip the paint, did you leave a track? No chip. There was a small dent but no chip. Thank God. He backed and filled frantically, trying to navigate the fineness of the doorway's tight fit. The car motor swelled, nearing, still slowing. Now he could hear the crunch of its snow tires. Easy . . . easy does it . . . He rolled forward and then the hubs of the wheels stuck solid against the sides of the bedroom door. He pushed harder, knowing it wasn't going to do any good, he was stuck in the doorway like a cork in a wine-bottle, unable to go either way - He gave one final heave, the muscles in his arms quivering like overtuned violin strings, and the wheelchair passed through with that same low squealing noise. The Cherokee turned into the driveway. She'll have packages, his mind gibbered, the typewriter paper, maybe a few other things as well, and she'll be careful coming up the walk because of the ice, you're in here now, the worst is over, there's time, still time . . . He rolled farther into the room, then turned in a clumsy semicircle. As he rolled the wheelchair parallel to the open bedroom door, he heard the Cherokee's engine shut off. He leaned over, grasped the doorknob, and tried to pull the door shut. The tongue of the lock, still stuck out like a stiff steel finger, bumped the jamb. He pushed it with the ball of his thumb. It began to move . . . then stopped. Stopped dead, refusing to let the door close. He stared at it stupidly for a moment, thinking of that old Navy maxim: Whatever CAN go wrong WILL go wrong. Please God, no more, wasn't it enough she killed the phone? He let go of the tongue. It sprang all the way out again. He pushed it in again and encountered the same obstruction. Inside the guts of the lock he heard an odd rattling and understood. It was the part of the bobby-pin which had broken off. It had fallen in some way that was keeping the lock's tongue from retracting completely. He heard the Cherokee's door open. He even heard her grunt as she got out. He heard the rattle of paper bags as she gathered up her parcels. "Come on," he whispered, and began to chivvy the tongue gently back and forth. It went in perhaps a sixteenth of an inch each time and then stopped. He could hear the goddam bobby-pin rattling inside there. "Come on . . . come on . . . come on . . . " 
He was crying again and unaware of it, sweat and tears mingling freely on his cheeks; he was vaguely aware that he was still in great pain despite all the dope he had swallowed, that he was going to pay a high price for this little piece of work. Not so high as the one she'll make you pay if you can't get this goddam door closed again, Paulie. He heard her crunching, cautious footsteps as she made her way up the path. The rattle of bags . . . and now the rattle of her housekeys as she took them from her purse. "Come on . . . come on . . . come on . . . " This time when he pushed the tongue there was a flat click from inside the lock and the jut of metal slid a quarter of an inch into the door. Not enough to clear the jamb . . . but almost. "Please . . . come on . . . " He began to chivvy the tongue faster, diddling it, listening as she opened the kitchen door. Then, like a hideous flashback to that day when his mother had caught him smoking, Annie called cheerily: "Paul? It's me! I've got your paper!" Caught! I'm caught! Please God, no God, don't let her hurt me God - His thumb pressed convulsively tight against the tongue of the lock, and there was a muffled snap as the bobby-pin broke. The tongue slid all the way into the door. In the kitchen he heard a zipper-rasp as she opened her parka. He closed the bedroom door. The click of the latch (did she hear that? must have must have heard that!) sounded as loud as a track-starter's gun. He backed the wheelchair up toward the window. He was still backing and filling as her footsteps began to come down the hallway. "I've got your paper, Paul! Are you awake?" Never . . . never in time . . . She'll hear . . . He gave the guide-lever a final wrench and rolled the wheelchair into place beside the window just as her key rattled in the lock. It won't work . . . the bobby-pin . . . and she'll be suspicious . . . But the piece of alien metal must have fallen all the way to the bottom of the lock, because her key worked perfectly. He sat in his chair, eyes half-closed, hoping madly that he had gotten the chair back where it had been (or at least close enough to it so she wouldn't notice), hoping that she would take his sweat-drenched face and quivering body simply as reactions to missing his medication, hoping most of all that he hadn't left a track - It was as the door swung open that he looked, down and saw that by looking for individual tracks with such agonized concentration, he had ignored a whole buffalo run: the boxes of Novril were still in his lap. She had two packages of paper, and she held one up in each hand, smiling. "Just what you asked for, isn't it? Triad Modem. Two reams here, and I have two more in the kitchen, just in case. So you see - " She broke off, frowning, looking at him. "You're dripping with sweat . . . and your color is very hectic." She paused. "What have you been doing?" And although that set the panicky little voice of his lesser self to squealing again that he was caught and might as well give it up, might as well confess and hope for her mercy, he managed to meet her suspicious gaze with an ironic weariness. "I think you know what I've been doing," he said. "I've been suffering." From the pocket of her skirt she took a Kleenex and wiped his brow. The Kleenex came away wet. She smiled at him with that terrible bogus maternity. "Has it been very bad?" "Yes. Yes, it has. Now can I - " "I told you about making me mad. Live and learn, isn't that what they say? Well, if you live, I guess you'll learn." "Can I have my pills now?" "In a minute," she said. Her eyes never left his sweaty face, its waxy pallor and red rashlike blotches. "First I want to make sure there's nothing else you want. Nothing else stupid old Annie Wilkes forgot because she doesn't know how a Mister Smart Guy goes about writing a book. I want to make sure you don't want me to go back to town and get you a tape recorder, or maybe a special pair of writing slippers, or something like that. Because if you want me to, I'll go. Your wish is my command. I won't even wait to give you your pills. I'll hop right into Old Bessie again and go. So what do you say, Mister Smart Guy? You all set?" "I'm all set," he said. "Annie, please - " "And you won't make me mad anymore?" "No. I won't make you mad anymore." "Because when I get mad I'm not really myself." Her eyes dropped. She was looking down to where his hands were cupped tightly together over the sample boxes of Novril. She looked for a very long time. "Paul?" she asked softly. "Paul, why are you holding your hands like that?" He began to cry. It was guilt he cried from, and he hated that most of all: in addition to everything else that this monstrous woman had done to him, she had made him feel guilty as well. So he cried from guilt . . . but also from simple childish weariness. He looked up at her, tears flowing down his cheeks, and played the absolute last card in his hand. "I want my pills," he said, "and I want the urinal. I held it all the time you were gone, Annie, but I can't hold it much longer, and I don't want to wet myself again." She smiled softly, radiantly, and pushed his tumbled hair off his brow. "You poor dear. Annie has put you through a lot, hasn't she? Too much! Mean old Annie! I'll get it right away." He wouldn't have dared put the pills under the rug even if he thought he had time to do so before she came back - the packages were small, but the bulges would still be all too obvious. As he heard her go into the downstairs bathroom, he took them, reached painfully around his body, and stuffed them into the back of his underpants. Sharp cardboard corners poked into the cleft of his buttocks. She came back with the urinal, an old-fashioned tin device that looked absurdly like a blow-dryer, in one hand. She had two Novril capsules and a glass of water in the other. Two more of those on top of the ones you took half an hour ago may drop you into a coma and then kill you, he thought, and a second voice answered at once: Fine with me. He took the pills and swallowed them with water. She held out the urinal. "Do you need help?" "I can do it," he said. She turned considerately away while he fumbled his penis into the cold tube and urinated. He happened to he looking at her when the hollow splashing sounds commenced, and he saw that she was smiling. "All done?" she asked a few moments later. "Yes." He actually had needed to urinate quite badly - in all the excitement he hadn't had time to think of such things. She took the urinal away from him and set it carefully on the floor. "Now let's get you back in bed," she said. "You must be exhausted . . . and your legs must be singing grand opera." He nodded, although the truth was that he could not feel anything - this medication on top of what he'd already given himself was rolling him toward unconsciousness at an alarming rate, and he was beginning to see the room through gauzy layers of gray. He held onto one thought - she was going to lift him into bed, and when she did that she would have to be blind as well as numb not to notice that the back of his underwear happened to be stuffed with little boxes. She got him over to the side of the bed. "Just a minute longer, Paul, and you can take a snooze." "Annie, could you wait five minutes?" he managed. She looked at him, gaze narrowing slightly. "I thought you were in a lot of pain, buster." "I am," he said. "It hurts . . . too much. My knee, mostly. Where you . . . uh, where you lost your temper. I'm not ready to be picked up. Could I have five minutes to . . . to . . . " He knew what he wanted to say but it was drifting away from him. Drifting away and into the gray. He looked at her helplessly, knowing he was going to be caught after all. "To let the medication work?" she asked, and he nodded gratefully. "Of course. I'll just put a few things away and come right back." As soon as she was out of the room he was reaching behind him, bringing out the boxes and stuffing them under the mattress one by one. The layers of gauze kept thickening, moving steadily from gray toward black. Get them as far under as you can, he thought blindly. Make sure you do that so if she changes the bed she won't pull them out with the ground sheet. Get them as far under as you . . . you . . . He shoved the last under the mattress, then leaned back and looked up at the ceiling, where the W's danced drunkenly across the plaster. Africa, he thought. Now I must rinse, he thought. Oh, I am in so much trouble here, he thought. Tracks, he thought. Did I leave tracks? Did I - Paul Sheldon got scared, so he said "you're moving with your auntie and uncle in bel-air". I whistled for a cab and when it came near The license plate said 'FRESH' and it had dice in the mirror If anything I can say this cab is rare But I thought 'Now forget it' - 'Yo homes to Bel Air' I pulled up to the house about 7 or 8 And I yelled to the cabbie 'Yo homes smell ya later' I looked at my kingdom I was finally there To settle my throne as the Prince of Bel Air.



Driver sucks

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