Authors: Stephen King
Billy nods. Colin White is currently holding a cardboard box with a couple of tacos in it. He stops to talk with Phyllis, and something he says causes her to throw back her head and laugh.
“He's a doll,” Jim says, with what sounds like genuine affection.
Phyllis strolls off and sits with a few other women. A couple of Colin White's cohorts make room for him. Before sitting down, he puts one foot behind the other and executes a quick turn that would have done the Gloved One proud. Billy puts him at five-nine, five-ten at most. Another piece of the plan. Maybe. Level 4 in the parking garage, maybe more laptops, and now Colin White. A bird of rare plumage.
That afternoon he sets the Mac Pro to playing itself at cribbage, with a five-second delay before each Player 1 move. He also sets it so that Player 2 will beat Player 1 every time. That should hold any lookie-loos for an hour or so. Then he powers up his own Mac, returns to Amazon, and buys two wigs: a blond one with short hair and a black one with long hair. In other circumstances he would have these sent to a storefront mail drop, but on this job there's no point, not when David Lockridge will be ID'd as the shooter before the sun goes down on the day it happens.
With the wigs taken care of, he puts one of the blank Staples notebooks beside his personal lappie and begins a virtual tour of houses and apartments for rent. He finds a number of possibles, but any boots-on-the-ground investigation will have to wait until he gets his goods from Amazon.
It's only two o'clock when he finishes his virtual house-hunting, too early to call it a day. It's time to actually start writing. He's thought about this quite a lot. At first he assumed he would use his own machine for that. Using the Pro might mean his employerâand possibly his “literary agent”âcould be reading over his shoulder, which makes him think of the telescreens in
Would Nick and Giorgio be suspicious if they looked in and didn't see any copy? Billy thinks they would be. They wouldn't say anything, but it might give them the idea that Billy knows more about snooping and hacking than he wants them to know.
And there's another reason to write on the Pro, even though it may be bugged. It's a challenge. Can he really write a fictionalized
version of his own life story? Risky, but he thinks maybe he can. Faulkner wrote dumb in
The Sound and the Fury
Flowers for Algernon
, by Daniel Keyes, is another example. There are probably more.
Billy quits the automated cribbage game and opens a blank Word document. He titles it
The Story of Benjy Compson
âa nod to Faulkner he's sure neither Nick nor Giorgio will tip to. He sits for several seconds, drumming his fingers on his chest and looking at the blank screen.
This is a crazy risk, he thinks.
This is the last job, he thinks, and types the sentence he's been holding in his mind for just this occasion.
The man my ma lived with came home with a broke arm.
He looks at this for almost a minute, then types again.
I don't even remember his name. But he was plenty mad. I guess he must have went to the hospital first because it was in a cast. My sister
Billy shakes his head and fixes it so it's better. He thinks so, anyway.
The man my ma lived with came home with a broke arm. I guess he must have went to the hospital first because it was in a cast. My sister was trying to bake cookies and she burnt them. I guess she forgot to keep track of the time. When that man came home he was plenty mad. He killed my sister and I don't even remember his name.
He looks at what he's written and thinks he can do this. More, he wants to do this. Before starting to write, he would have said
Yes I remember what happened, but only a little
. Only now there's more. Even that short paragraph has unlocked a door and opened a window. He remembers the smell of burned sugar, and seeing smoke seep out of the oven, and the chip on the side of the stove, and flowers in a teacup on the table, and some kid outside chanting “One p'tater two p'tater three p'tater
.” He remembers the heavy clod-clod-clod of that man's boots coming up the steps. That man, that boyfriend. And now he even remembers the name. It was Bob Raines. He remembers thinking when he heard that man use his fists on Ma,
Bob is raining. Bob is raining on Ma
. He remembers her smiling after and saying
He didn't mean it
It was my fault
Billy writes for an hour and a half, wanting to bolt ahead but holding himself back. If Nick or Giorgio or even Elvis is looking in, they must see the
going slowly. Struggling for every sentence. At least he doesn't have to deliberately misspell words; the ones the computer doesn't correct automatically it underlines in red.
At four o'clock he saves what he's written and shuts down. He finds he's looking forward to picking up the thread tomorrow.
Maybe he's a writer after all.
When he gets back to Midwood, Billy finds a note thumbtacked to his door. It's an invitation to have ribs and slaw and cherry cobbler at the Raglands' down the street. He goes because he doesn't want to be seen as standoffish, but with no enthusiasm, expecting an after-dinner conversation over cans of suds having to do with commie college kids this and dirty immigrants that. He is stunned to discover that Paul and Denise Ragland voted for Hillary Clinton and can't stand Trump, who they call “President Crybaby.” Proving once more, Billy supposes as he walks home, that you can't judge a man by his wifebeater.
He's already been sucked in by a Netflix show called
and is ready to start the third episode when his cell phoneâhis David Lockridge cellâdings with a text. George Russo, ever the concerned agent, wants to know how his first day went.
DLock: Pretty well. I did some writing.
GRusso: Good to hear. We'll make you a bestseller yet. Can you drop by Thurs night? 7 PM, dinner. N wants to talk to you.
Nick is still in town, then, and probably in Vegas withdrawal.
DLock: Sure. But no H.
GRusso: Absolutely not.
That's good. Billy thinks he could live long and die happy if he never saw Ken Hoff again. He turns off the TV and goes to bed. He slips easily into sleep, and at some point just before dawn's prologue, he slips just as easily into a nightmare. Which he will write down tomorrow, as Benjy Compson. Changing the names to protect the guilty.
The man my ma lived with came home with a broke arm. I guess he must have went to the hospital first because it was in a cast. My sister was trying to bake cookies and she burnt them. I guess she forgot to keep track of the time. When that man came home he was plenty mad. He killed my sister and I don't even remember his name. He started yelling as soon as he came in. I was on the floor of the trailer, putting together a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle that when it was done would be 2 kittens playing with a ball of yarn. I could smell the booze he was drinking even with the smoke from the cookies and found out later he got into a fight at Wally's Tavern. He must have lost because he had a black eye too. My sister
Catherine was her name, although that's not the one he'll useâalmost but not quite. Catherine Ann Summers, just nine on the day she died. Blond. Small.
My sister Cassie was at the table we ate off, coloring in her book. She would have turned 10 in 2 or 3 months and she was looking forward to being in 2 figures instead of just 1. I was 11 and suppose to be looking out for her.
The boyfriend was yelling and waving at the smoke which only just started before he came in, asking what did you do what did you do and Cathy
Billy deletes that fast, hoping nobody is looking right then.
Cassie said I was baking cookies I guess they burnt I am sorry.
And he said you are a stupid little bitch I don't believe how stupid you are.
He open the oven door and more smoke come out. If we had a smoke detector it would have gone off but we didn't have one in our trailer. He picked up a dish towel and started flapping it at the smoke. I would have got up to open the outside door but it was open already. The boyfriend reached in to get that cookie sheet. He grab it with his good hand but the dish towel slipped and he burnt his hand and spilled those cookies that were in shapes I helped Cassie cut out and they went all over the floor. Cassie got down to pick them up and that's when he started killing her. Or maybe it happened right away when he swatted her with that cast upside her head and she flew into the wall. Out like a light anyway but maybe still alive only then he started kicking her with these boots he always wore that my ma called motorhuckle boots.
Stop it your killing her I said but he didn't stop until I said stop it you son of a bitch bully chickenshit fucker STOP HURTING MY SISTER. So then I went to tackle him and he push me down
Billy gets up and goes to the window of the office that is nowâhe supposesâhis writing room. People are coming and going on the courthouse steps, but he doesn't see them. He goes into the little kitchenette for a drink of water. He spills a bit of it because his hands are trembling. They don't tremble when he's going to take a shot, they are always stone-steady then, but they are now. Not a lot, but enough to spill some water. His mouth and throat are dry and he drinks down the whole glass.
It has all come back to him and it all makes him ashamed. He will leave what he has written about trying to tackle Bob Raines, because it puts a layer of heroic fiction over the truth, which is close to unbearable. He didn't tackle Bob Raines while Bob Raines was kicking his sister and stepping on her and crushing her fragile chest on which no breasts would ever appear. Billy was supposed to take care of her.
Take care of your sister
was the last thing Ma always said
when she left for her job at the laundry. But he didn't take care of her. He ran. He ran for his life.
But it was in my mind even then, he thinks as he goes back to the table and the laptop. It must have been, because it wasn't our room I ran for.
“I ran for theirs,” Billy says, and picks up where he left off.
So then I went to tackle him and he push me down and I got up and ran down the trailer to their room at the end and slam the door behind me. He started pounding on it right away, calling me every name in the book and said if you don't open this door right now Benjy you are going to be one sorry-ass motherfucker. Only I knew it didn't matter if I opened the door or not because he'd do me like he did Cassie. Because she was dead, even a kid of 11 could see that.
Ma's boyfriend use to be in the army and he kept his footlocker at the end of the bed with a blanket over it. I pushed the blanket off and open the footlocker. He had a padlock for it but hardly ever used it, maybe never. If he had've I wouldn't be writing this because I would be dead. And if that gun of his hadn't been loaded I would be dead but I knew it was because he kept it loaded in case of what he called burg-gurg-gurglers.
Burg-gurg-gurglers, Billy thinks. Christ, how it all comes back.
He bust in the door like I was pretty sure he would
Not pretty sure, Billy thinks, I knew. Because it was nothing but fiberboard. Cathy and I used to hear them going at it just about every night. In the afternoon, if Ma came home early. But that was another fiction he would leave.
and when he come in I was sitting with my back against the foot of the bed with his gun pointing at him. It was an M9X19 that took 15 Parabellum rounds. I didn't know that then of course but I knew it was heavy and I held it in both hands against my chest. He said give that to me you useless piece of shit don't you know kids ain't supposed to play with guns.
Then I shot him, dead center mass. He just stood there in the
doorway like nothing happen but I knew it did because I saw the blood fly out of his back. The M9 recoiled against my chest
Billy remembers making an
sound. And burping. And later on he had a bruise there above his sternum.
and he fell down. I went over to him and said to myself that I might have to shoot him again. If I had to I would. He was my mother's boyfriend but he was wrong. He was a bad guy!
“Except he was dead,” Billy says. “Bob Raines was dead.”
He thinks briefly of deleting everything he's written, it's awful, but saves it instead. He doesn't know what anyone else might think, but Billy thinks it's good. And good that it's awful, because awful is sometimes the truth. He guesses he really is a writer now, because that's a writer's thought. Ãmile Zola might have thought the same when he was writing
, or when Nana gets sick and all of her beauty rots away.
His face feels hot. He goes back to the kitchenette and splashes water on it, then stands bent over the little sink with his eyes shut. The memory of shooting Bob Raines doesn't bother him, but it hurts to remember Cathy.
Take care of your sister
Writing is good. He's always wanted to do it, and now he is. That's good. Only who knew it hurt so much?
The landline phone rings, making him jump. It's Irv Dean, telling him he has a package from Amazon. Billy says he'll come right down and pick it up.
“Man, that company sells everything,” Irv says.
Billy agrees, thinking You don't know the half of it.
It's not the wigs; even with Amazon's speedy delivery, those won't come until tomorrow. What he's got today would fit in the cubby
over the doorway between the office and the kitchen, but Billy has no intention of stowing it there; all his Amazon swag is going back to the yellow house in Midwood.
He opens the box and takes out the things he ordered one by one. From Fun Time Ltd. in Hong Kong is a box containing a mustache made of real human hair. Blond, like one of the wigs he's ordered. It's a little bushy; when the time comes he'll trim it. He wants to disguise, not to stand out. Next is a pair of horn-rimmed glasses with clear lenses. These are surprisingly hard to find. You can buy reading glasses at any drugstore, but Billy's vision is 20/10 and even slight magnification gives him headaches. He tries them on and finds the fit is a little loose. He could tighten the bows, but won't. If they slide down his nose a bit, they'll give him a scholarly air.