Misery, p.3
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       Misery, p.3

           Stephen King
 
Page 3

  "I knew she would marry Ian," she said, smiling dreamily, and I believe Geoffrey and Ian will become friends again, eventually. Do they?" But immediately she said: "No, don't tell! I want to find out for myself. I'm making it last. It always seems so long before there is another one. " The pain throbbed in his legs and made a deep steel circlet around his crotch. He had touched himself down there, and he thought his pelvis was intact, but it felt twisted and weird. Below his knees it felt as if nothing was intact. He didn't want to look. He could see the twisted, lumpy shapes outlined in the bedclothes, and that was enough.

  "Please? Miss Wilkes? The pain - "

  "Call me Annie. All my friends do. " She gave him the glass. It was cool and beaded with moisture. She kept the capsules. The capsules in her hand were the tide. She was the moon, and she had brought the tide which would cover the pilings. She brought them toward his mouth, which he immediately dropped open. . . and then she withdrew them.

  "I took the liberty of looking in your little bag. You don't mind, do you?"

  "No. No, of course not. The medicine - " The beads of sweat on his forehead felt alternately hot and cold. Was he going to scream? He thought perhaps he was.

  "I see there is a manuscript in there," she said. She held the capsules in her right hand, which she now slowly tilted. They fell into her left hand. His eyes followed them. "It's called Fast Cars. Not a Misery novel, I know that. " She looked at him with faint disapproval - but, as before, it was mixed with love. It was a maternal look. "No cars in the nineteenth century, fast or otherwise!" She tittered at this small joke. "I also took the liberty of glancing through it. . . You don't mind, do you?"

  "Please," he moaned. "No, but please - " Her left hand tilted. The capsules rolled, hesitated, and then fell back into her right hand with a minute clicking sound.

  "And if I read it? You wouldn't mind if I read it?"

  "No - " His bones were shattered, his legs filled with festering shards of broken glass. "No. . . "He made something he hoped was a smile. "No, of course not. "

  "Because I would never presume to do such a thing without your permission," she said earnestly. "I respect you too much. In fact, Paul, I love you. " She crimsoned suddenly and alarmingly. One of the capsules dropped from her hand to the coverlet. Paul snatched at it, but she was quicker. He moaned, but she did not notice; after grabbing the capsule she went vague again, looking toward the window. "Your mind," she said, "Your creativity, That is all I meant" In desperation, because it was the only thing he could think of, he said: "I know. You're my number-one fan. " She did not just warm up this time; she lit up. "That's it!" she cried. "That's it exactly! And you wouldn't mind if I read it in that spirit, would you? That spirit of. . . of fan-love? Even though I don't like your other books as well as the Misery stories?"

  "No," he said, and closed his eyes. No, tum the pages of the manuscript into paper hats if you want, just. . . please. . . I'm dying in here. . .

  "You're good, she said gently. "I knew you would be. Just reading your books, I knew you would be. A man who could think of Misery Chastain, first think of her and then breathe life into her, could be nothing else. " Her fingers were in his mouth suddenly, shockingly intimate, dirtily welcome. He sucked the capsules from between them and swallowed even before he could fumble the spilling glass of water to his mouth.

  "Just like a baby," she said, but he couldn't see her because his eyes were still closed and now he felt the sting of tears. "But good. There is so much I want to ask you. . . so much I want to know. " The springs creaked as she got up.

  "We are going to be very happy here," she said, and although a bolt of horror ripped into his heart, Paul still did not open his eyes.

  Chapter 2

  8

  He drifted. The tide came in and he drifted. The TV played in the other room for awhile and then didn't. Sometimes the clock chimed and he tried to count the chimes but he kept getting lost between. IV. Through tubes. That's what those marks on your arms are.

  He got up on one elbow and pawed for the lamp and finally got it turned on. He looked at his arms and in the folds of his elbows he saw fading, overlapped shades of purple and ocher, a hole filled with black blood at the center of each bruise.

  He lay back, looking at the ceiling, listening to the wind. He was near the top of the Great Divide in the heart of winter, he was with a woman who was not right in her head, a woman who had fed him with IV drips when he was unconscious, a woman who had an apparently never-ending supply of dope, a woman who had told no one he was here.

  These things were important, but he began to realize that something else was more important: the tide was going out again. He began to wait for the sound of her alarm clock upstairs. It would not go off for some long while yet, but it was time for him to start waiting for it to be time.

  She was crazy but he needed her.

  Oh I am in so much trouble he thought, and stared blindly up at the ceiling as the droplets of sweat began to gather on his forehead again.

  9

  The next morning she brought him more soup and told him she had read forty pages of what she called his "manuscript-book". She told him she didn't think it was as good as his others.

  "It's hard to follow. It keeps jumping back and forth in time. "

  "Technique," he said. He was somewhere between hurting and not hurting, and so was able to think a little better about what she was saying. "Technique, that's all it is. The subject. . . the subject dictates the form. " In some vague way he supposed that such tricks of the trade might interest, even fascinate her. God knew they had fascinated the attendees of the writers" workshops to whom he had sometimes lectured when he was younger. "The boy's mind, you see, is confused, and so - "

  "Yes! He's very confused, and that makes him less interesting. Not uninteresting - I'm sure you couldn't create an uninteresting character - but less interesting. And the profanity! Every other word is that effword! It has - " She ruminated, feeding him the soup automatically, wiping his mouth when he dribbled almost without looking, the way an experienced typist rarely looks at the keys; so he came to understand, effortlessly, that she had been a nurse. Not a doctor, oh no; doctors would not know when the dribble would come, or be able to forecast the course of each with such a nice exactitude.

  If the forecaster in charge of that storm had been half as good at his job as Annie Wilkes is at hers, I would not be in this fucking jam, he thought bitterly.

  "It has no nobility!" she cried suddenly, jumping and almost spilling beef-barley soup on his white, upturned face.

  "Yes," he said patiently. "I understand what you mean, Annie. It's true that Tony Bonasaro has no nobility. He's a slum kid trying to get out of a bad environment, you see, and those words. . . everybody uses those words in - "

  "They do not!" she said, giving him a forbidding look "What do you think I do when I go to the feed store in town? What do you think I say? "Now Tony, give me a bag of that effing pigfeed and a bag of that bitchly cow-corn and some of that Christing ear-mite medicine"? And what do you think he says to me? "You're effing right, Annie, comin right the eff up"?" She looked at him, her face now like a sky which might spawn tornadoes at any instant. He lay back, frightened. The soup-bowl was tilting in her hands. One, then two drops fell on the coverlet.

  "And then do I go down the street to the bank and say to Mrs Bollinger, "Here's one big bastard of a check and you better give me fifty effing dollars just as effing quick as you can"? Do you think that when they put me up there on the stand in Den - " A stream of muddy-colored beef soup fell on the coverlet. She looked at it, then at him, and her face twisted. "There! Look what you made me do!"

  "I'm sorry. "

  "Sure! You! Are!" she screamed, and threw the bowl into the corner, where it shattered. Soup splashed up the wall. He gasped.

  She turned off then. She just sat there for what might have been thirty seconds. During that time Paul Sheldon's he
art did not seem to beat at all.

  She roused a little at a time, and suddenly she tittered.

  "I have such a temper," she said.

  "I'm sorry," he said out of a dry throat.

  "You should be. " Her face went slack again and she looked moodily at the wall. He thought she was going to blank out again, but instead she fetched a sigh and lifted her bulk from the bed.

  "You don't have any need to use such words in the Misery books, because they didn't use such words at all back then. They weren't even invented. Animal times demand animal words, I suppose, but that was a better time. You ought to stick to your Misery stories, Paul. I say that sincerely. As your number-one fan. " She went to the door and looked back at him. "I'll I put that manuscript-book back in your bag and finish Misery's Child. I may go back to the other one later, when I'm done. "

  "Don't do that if it makes you mad," he said. He tried to smile. "I'd rather not have you mad. I sort of depend on you, you know. " She did not return his smile "Yes," she said. "You do. You do, don't you, Paul?" She left.

  10

  The tide went out. The pilings were back. He began to wait for the clock to chime. Two chimes. The chimes came. He lay propped up on the pillows, watching the door. She came in. She was wearing an apron over her cardigan and one of her skirts. In one hand she held a floor-bucket.

  "I suppose you want" your cockadoodie medication," she said.

  "Yes, please. " He tried to smile at her ingratiatingly and felt that shame again - he felt grotesque to himself, a stranger.

  "I have it," she said, "but first I have to clean up the mess in the comer. The mess you made. You'll have to wait until I do that. " He lay in the bed with his legs making shapes like broken branches under the coverlet and cold sweat running down his face in little slow creeks, he lay and watched as she crossed to the corner and set the bucket down and then picked up the pieces of the bowl and took them out and came back and knelt by the bucket and fished in it and brought out a soapy rag and wrung it out and began to wash the dried soup from the wall. He lay and watched and at last he began to shiver and the shivering made the pain worse but he could not help it. Once she turned around and saw him shivering and soaking the bedclothes in sweat, and she favored him with such a sly knowing smile that he could easily have killed her.

  "It's dried on," she said, turning her face back into tie corner. "I'm afraid this is going to take awhile, Paul. " She scrubbed. The stain slowly disappeared from the plaster but she went on dipping the cloth, wringing it out, scrubbing, and then repeating the whole process. He could not see her face, but the idea - the certainty - that she had gone blank and might go on scrubbing the wall for hours tormented him.

  At last - just before the clock chimed once, marking two-thirty - she got up and dropped the rag into the water. She took the bucket from the room without a word. He lay in bed, listening to the creaking boards which marked tier heavy, stolid passage, listening as she poured the water (out of her bucket - and, incredibly, the sound of the faucet as she drew more. He began to cry soundlessly. The tide had never gone out so far; he could see nothing but drying mudflats and those splintered pilings which cast their eternal damaged shadows.

  She came back and stood for just a moment inside the doorway, observing his wet face with that same mixture of sternness and maternal love. Then her eyes drifted to the corner, where no sign of the splashed soup remained.

  "Now I must rinse," she said, "or else the soap will leave a dull spot. I must do it all; I must make everything right. Living alone as I do is no excuse whatever for scamping the job. My mother had a motto, Paul, and I live by it. "Once nasty, never neat," she used to say. "

  "Please," he groaned. "Please, the pain, I'm dying. "

  "No. You're not dying. "

  "I'll scream," he said, beginning to cry harder. It hurt lo cry. It hurt his legs and it hurt his heart. "I won't be able lo help it. "

  "Then scream," she said. "But remember that you made that mess. Not me. It's nobody's fault but your own. " Somehow he was able to keep from screaming. He watched as she dipped and wrung and rinsed, dipped and wrung and rinsed. At last, just as the clock in what he assumed was the parlor began to strike three, she rose and picked up the bucket.

  She's going to go out now. She's going to go out and I'll hear her pouring the rinse-water down the sink and maybe she won't come back for hours because maybe she's not done punishing me yet.

  But instead of leaving, she walked over to the bed and fished in her apron pocket. She brought out not two capsules but three.

  "Here," she said tenderly.

  He gobbled them into his mouth, and when he looked up he saw her lifting the yellow plastic floor-bucket toward him. It filled his field of vision like a falling moon. Grayish water slopped over the rim onto the coverlet.

  "Wash them down with this," she said. Her voice was still tender.

  He stared at her, and his face was all eyes.

  "Do it," she said. "I know you can dry-swallow them, but please believe me when I say I can make them come right back up again. After all, it's only rinse-water. It won't hurt you. " She leaned over him like a monolith, the bucket slightly tipped. He could see the rag twisting slowly in its dark depths like a drowned thing; he could see a thin scrum of soap on top. Part of him groaned but none of him hesitated. He drank quickly, washing the pills down, and the taste in his mouth was as it had been on the occasions when his mother made him brush his teeth with soap.

  His belly hitched and he made a thick sound.

  "I wouldn't throw them up, Paul. No more until nine tonight. " She looked at him for a moment with a flat empty gaze, and then her face lit up and she smiled.

  "You won't make me mad again, will you?"

  "No," he whispered. Anger the moon which brought the tide? What an idea! What a bad idea!

  "I love you," she said, and kissed him on the cheek. She left, not looking back, carrying the floor-bucket the way a sturdy countrywoman might carry a milk-pail, slightly away from her body with no thought at all, so that none would spill.

  He lay back, tasting grit and plaster in his mouth and throat. Tasting soap.

  I won't throw up. . . won't throw up. . . won't throw up.

 
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