Uncollected Stories 2003 by Stephen King

“Oh, shit,” Lottie Kilgallon whispered in the dark. It was dismaying for her to realize just how badly her nerves were shot.

As on the other nights, there would be no more sleep for her now. She would lie here in bed until the sun started to come up and then she would get an uneasy hour or so.

Smoking in bed was a bad habit, a terrible habit, but she had begun to leave her cigarettes in an ashtray on the floor by the bed in case of the dreams. Sometimes it calmed her. She reached down to get the ashtray and the thought burst on her like a revelation:

It does creep, the whole place – like it’s alive!

And that was when the hand reached out unseen from under the bed and gripped her wrist firmly … almost lecherously. A fingerlike canvas scratched suggestively against her palm and something was under there, 128

something had been under there the whole time, and Lottie began to scream. She screamed until her throat was raw and hoarse and her eyes were bulging from her face and Bill was awake and pallid with terror beside her.

When he put on the lamp she leaped from the bed, retreated into the farthest corner of the room and curled up with her thumb in her mouth.

Both Bill and Dr. Verecker tried to find out what was wrong; she told them but she was still sucking her thumb, so it was some time before they realized she was saying, “It crept under the bed. It crept under the bed.”

And even though they flipped up the coverlet and Bill actually lifted up the whole bed by its foot off the floor to show her there was nothing under there, not even a litter of dust kitties, she would not come out of the corner. When the sun came up, she did at last come out of the corner. She took her thumb out of her mouth. She stayed away from the bed. She stared at, Bill Pillsbury from her clown-white face.

“We’re going back to New York,” she said. “This morning.”

“Of course,” Bill muttered. “Of course, dear.”

Bill Pillsbury’s father died of a heart attack two weeks after the stock-market crash. Bill and Lottie could not keep the company’s head above water. Things went from bad to worse. In the years that followed she thought often of their honeymoon at the Overlook Hotel, and the dreams, and the canvas hand that had crept out from under the bed to squeeze her own. She thought about those things more and more. She committed suicide in a Yonkers motel room in 1949, a woman who was prematurely gray and prematurely lined. It had been 20 years and the hand that had gripped her wrist when she reached down to get her cigarettes had never really let go. She left a one-sentence suicide note written on Holiday Inn stationery.

The note said: “I wish we had gone to Rome.”


In that long, hot summer of 1953, the summer Jacky Torrance turned 6, his father came home one night from the hospital and broke Jacky’s arm.

He almost killed the boy. He was drunk. Jacky was sitting on the front porch reading a Combat Casey comic book when his father came down the street, listing to one side, torpedoed by beer somewhere down the line. As he always did, the boy felt a mixture of love-hate-fear rise in his chest at the sight of the old man, who looked like a giant, malevolent ghost in his hospital whites. Jacky’s father was an orderly at the Berlin Community Hospital. He was like God, like Nature-sometimes lovable, 129

sometimes terrible. You never knew which it would be. Jacky’s mother feared and served him. Jacky’s brothers hated him. Only Jacky, of all of them, still loved him in spite of the fear and the hate, and sometimes the volatile mixture of emotions made him want to cry out at the sight of his father coming, to simply cry out: “I love you, Daddy! Go away! Hug me! I’ll kill you! I’m so afraid of you! I need you!” And his father seemed to sense in his stupid way – he was a stupid man, and selfish –

that all of them had gone beyond him but Jacky, the youngest, knew that the only way he could touch the others was to bludgeon them to attention. But with Jacky there was still love, and there had been times when he had cuffed the boy’s mouth into running blood and then hugged him with a frightful force, the killing force just, barely held back by some other thing, and Jackie would let himself be hugged deep into the atmosphere of malt and hops that hung around his old man forever, quailing, loving, fearing.

He leaped off the step and ran halfway down the path before something stopped him.

“Daddy?” he said. “Where’s the car?”

Torrance came toward him, and Jacky saw how very drunk he was.

“Wrecked it up,” he said thickly.

“Oh…” Careful now. Careful what you say. For your life, be careful.

“That’s too bad.”

His father stopped and regarded Jacky from his stupid pig eyes. Jacky held his breath. Somewhere behind his father’s brow, under the lawn-mowered brush of his crew cut, the scales were turning. The hot, afternoon stood still while Jacky waited, staring up anxiously into his father’s face to see if his father would throw a rough bear arm around his shoulder, grinding Jacky’s cheek against the rough, cracked leather of the belt that held up his white pants and say, “Walk with me into the house, big boy.” in the hard and contemptuous way that was the only way he could even approach love without destroying himself – or if it would be something else.

Tonight it was something else.

The thunderheads appeared on his father’s brow. “What do you mean,

‘That’s too bad’? What kind of shit is that?”

“Just…too bad, Daddy. That’s all I meant. it’s – ”

Torrance’s hand swept out at the end of his arm, huge hand, hamhock arm, but speedy, yes, very speedy, and Jacky went down with church bells in his head and a split lip. “Shutup” his father said, giving it a broad A.

Jacky said nothing. Nothing would do any good now. The balance had swung the wrong way.


“You ain’t gonna sass me,” said Torrance. “You won’t sass your daddy. Get up here and take your medicine.”

There was something in his face this time, some dark and blazing thing. And Jacky suddenly knew that this time there might be no hug at the end of the blows, and if there was he might, be unconscious and unknowing…maybe even dead.

He ran.

Behind him, his father let out a bellow of rage and chased him, a flapping specter in hospital whites, a juggernaut of doom following his son from the front yard to the back.

Jacky ran for his life. The tree house, he was thinking. He can’t get up there; the ladder nailed to the tree won’t hold him. I’ll get up there, talk to him; maybe he’ll go to sleep – Oh, God, please let him go to sleep –

he was weeping in terror as he ran.

“Come back here, goddammit!” His father was roaring behind him.

“Come back here and take your medicine! Take it like a man!”

Jacky flashed past the back steps. His mother, that thin and defeated woman, scrawny in a faded housedress, had come out through the screen door from the kitchen, just as Jacky ran past with his father in pursuit. She opened her mouth as if to speak or cry out, but her hand came up in a fist and stopped whatever she might have said, kept it safely behind her teeth. She was afraid for her son, but more afraid that her husband would turn on her.

“No, you don’t! Come back here!”

Jacky reached the large elm in the backyard, the elm where last year his father had smoke-drugged a colony of wasps then burned their nest with gasoline. The boy went up the haphazardly hung nailed-on rungs like greased lightning, and still he was nearly not fast enough. His father’s clutching, enraged hand grasped the boy’s ankle in a grip like flexed steel, then slipped a little and succeeded only in pulling off Jacky’s loafer. Jacky went up the last, three rungs and crouched on the floor of the tree house, 12 feet above the ground, panting and crying on his hands and knees.

His father seemed to go crazy. He danced around the tree like an Indian, Bellowing his rage. He slammed his fists into the tree, making bark fly and bringing lattices of blood to his knuckles. He kicked it. His huge moon face was white with frustration and red with anger.

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Categories: Stephen King