Night Shift

Night Shift
June 9, 2010 Constant Readers

Night Shift was Stephen King’s first collection of short stories, published a year after The Shining, five months after Rage, and nine months before The Stand. Given its place in King’s bibliography, it’s hard to make the argument that the collection was a stalling technique for either the publisher or the writer himself—even considering Rage‘s publication under the Richard Bachman pseudonym. That means, essentially, that there’s no excuse for it except, perhaps, that Doubleday thought they could spend the majority of ’78 raking in pre-Stand cash up till and including the publication of that particular book. The Constant Readers are trying to figure out the motives for the simple reason that Night Shift wasn’t all that great on this, the nth reading, which may have something to do with the knowledge that better collections—Skeleton Crew, Nightmares & Dreamscapes, and Everything’s Eventual—followed.

The quality of the work suffers from the quality of everything that came after it, which is pretty much everything when you consider that most of the stories collected in Night Shift were initially published when King was in his early to mid-twenties, seemingly trying to sow his genre oats and experimenting heavily with twist endings. Four of the stories—”Jerusalem’s Lot,” “Quitters, Inc.” “The Last Rung On The Ladder,” and “The Woman In The Room”—had been previously unpublished, and maybe that was for the best. An even larger number of the stories were made into movies (as well as some of King’s first “Dollar Babies”), with “Children Of The Corn” being the most recognizable and “The Lawnmower Man,” “Trucks” (Maximum Overdrive), “Sometimes They Come Back,” and “The Mangler” having thankfully been relegated to the bargain bin of your local video store (do you still have video stores?) where they can no longer do anyone any harm.

OR CAN THEY?

Andrea: Are you prepared to discuss Night Shift?

Pat: I’m prepared to discuss how Stephen King was obsessed with LARGE VERSIONS OF NORMAL ANIMALS. See: the giant worm under the church in “Jerusalem’s Lot,” and the bats and rats in “Graveyard Shift.”

Andrea: So you’re done “Graveyard Shift”?

Pat: I’m in the middle of “I Am the Doorway: Or, Check Out These Eyes In My Fingers.” See also: Totally an early instance of vague references to the then-probably-not-thought-up-yet Star Wormwood.

Andrea: I have a soft spot in my heart for this book because my mom bought it for me in the airport when I was 14 and about to go on my first plane ride. And I was reading the foreword and got to the part where it talks about a plane plunging in midair and I panicked. However, on this, what is probably my 10th or 12th reread—it is kind of amateurish.

Pat: Well, he was barely a professional when he wrote most of these stories.

Andrea: I know. They are still entertaining though. The foreword is pretty much not at all notable except for one line: “The French, who have somehow come to an arrangement with both sex and death.”

Pat: I heartily agree with that sentiment. I’d say it’s all of Europe, though.

Andrea: At least Western Europe. Full disclosure: I’ve never been to Europe.

Pat: Neither have I.

“Jerusalem’s Lot”

Andrea: Does this story have anything to do with Salem’s Lot? I really couldn’t tell except that I had the suspicion he was living in the old Marsten house.

Pat: I took that for granted. And what do you mean, does it have anything to do with it? THE TOWN HAS THE SAME NAME.

Andrea: I mean BESIDES THAT DUH.

Pat: No vampires in the story, though. Just zombies. We are talking a few centuries before the book is set, though.

Andrea: This read like a pale copy of Edgar Allen Poe to me. There was only one part that kind of gave me chills: “The birds, the whippoorwills, have begun to gather.”

Pat: Dark Half, anyone?

Andrea: Is the grand conclusion of this when we finish going to be “King reuses everything ever?”

Pat: Well, the whole episode in the cellar of the house is pretty much the end of Salem’s Lot.

Andrea: It is. It was a pale copy of Poe, and then the worm comes out and it gets all Lovecraft all of a sudden.

Pat: I was fine with the worm, ultimately. Huge fuck-off worms are never a bad choice. Especially when it vaguely references the then-probably-not-thought-up-yet Star Wormwood.

Andrea: Who doesn’t like a giant fucking worm plunging up from the floorboards?

Pat: See also: Beetlejuice, Dune. On second thought, don’t see also: Dune. At least not the one with Sting in it.

Andrea: I always skipped “Jerusalem’s Lot” on my rereads for some reason, and I didn’t much like it this time either.

Pat: It’s an awful lot of buildup. Once he gets himself in the shit, I liked it and stopped caring about the annoying MISSIVES FROM OLDEN TIMES trope.

Andrea: Agreed. I think the whole reason I skipped it was because of the stupid letter motif. For some reason I wrote down “the milk of the cosmos.” Okay, Stoner King.

Pat: There’s a difference between stoner thinking and ye olde poetic way of talking.

Andrea: Ye olde poetic = ye olde cornball. Case in point: “Sweet Jesus, the evil days have come again!”

Pat: At least it wasn’t a ye olde Maine hick accent.

Andrea: The ending was kind of interesting, when they thought he went crazy and forged Calvin’s journal. But then I realized every freaking story in this collection has a twist like that.

Pat: That’s pretty much what he does, though. Let’s call it “LONGER THAN YOU THINK” disease.

Andrea: I would argue that he does it way better in the Skeleton Crew stories though (the twist ending, I mean).

Pat: He does pretty much everything better in Skeleton Crew. How could he do worse?

Andrea: Shall we move on to “Graveyard Shift”?

“Graveyard Shift”

Pat: If we have to. That one was a little too Saturday matinee for me.

Andrea: I preferred it to “Jerusalem’s Lot.”

Pat: The story isn’t written very well. He was 31 when the book came out, so it stands to reason he was our age or younger when the stories themselves were written. And I tend to hate on younger writers. Because they’re young. Ah, he was 23 when “Graveyard Shift” was published.

Andrea: I feel like King has a lot of these stories where there is a “college boy” working in a job that he feels is way beneath him and is misunderstood by the blue collar townsfolk, which is obviously autobiographical. It comes up again in Under The Dome.

Pat: Ugh, “college boy?” Maybe that didn’t work for me because I wasn’t hearing the phrase in a Maine accent. Hall isn’t quite given enough reason to become the kind of guy who feeds his foreman to the manga mater rat anyway.

Andrea: Yeah, there is no reason for him to do that. It comes out of nowhere. King is way better at foreshadowing later in his career.

Pat: It kind of ruined the whole thrust of the story that Hall gets killed by a bat.

Andrea: How so?

Pat: Warwick getting fed to mutants kind of fit the bill, once SK started bumrushing us with reasons he should be made dead. But if Hall gets eaten, too, then there’s no real winner. However, if Hall had survived, SK couldn’t have done the ending where the rest of the guys are clearly going to go down and get their asses eaten.

Andrea: I like the bleakness of the ending. But yeah, EVERYONE GETS EATEN BY GIANT THINGS is wearing thin already, and we are only on story #2. One really great detail was the Orange Crush thermometer by the elevator. I could totally picture it but it was ruined for me because he uses it again in a later story!

Pat: It bears mentioning that it’s the same exact ending as “Jerusalem’s Lot.” Well, it’s not the people-getting-eaten-by-giant-things thing, because no one gets eaten by the worm. It’s the it’s-the-end-of-the-story-OR-IS-IT? thing.

Andrea: Proverbially eaten.

Pat: Explain how Calvin was “proverbially eaten.”

Andrea: He was killed!

Pat: Explain how that’s proverbially eaten.

Andrea: Eaten = killed = destroyed.

Pat: Do you even know what a proverb is?

Andrea: ANYWAYS. I liked when he describe the rats as looking like a jury. It made my skin crawl.

Pat: There was something about the phrasing of it that annoyed me. That it was a separate sentence instead of a comma-appended simile. That’s probably just a matter of personal taste.

Andrea: I thought Wisconsky the complainer was a great characterization. Everyone knows someone like that at work.

Pat: Fuck Wisconsky.

Andrea: For some reason, the membranous wings sticks with me.

Pat: I mean, they are membranous. That’s not particularly evocative. I’d get the same picture if he’d said “bat wings.” Well, I’d also get the other picture of bat wings.

Andrea: This was a movie, and for the life of me I can’t figure out how they stretched it to movie length. I don’t even know where to start with this statement from Wikipedia:

“There are many differences between the story and the movie adaptation. First, the main antagonist in the story is a cow-sized broodmother rat, while in the movie, it is a giant bat.”

Um, it is obviously a rat mutated to a bat. Not to be pedantic or anything.

Pat: In the story, it seems like the bats are mutated bats, not mutated rats.

Andrea: Perhaps. The other thing that bothers me is calling the bat/rat whatever an antagonist. Clearly the boss is the antagonist. Didn’t the Wikipedia writers take Mrs. Cohen’s 7th grade English class?

Pat: Wait, are you telling me that huge, cow-sized rats aren’t antagonistic?

Andrea: They are not purposely antagonistic. They just livin’ life!

Pat: Why, because they’re just naturally into eating whatever they can get their claws on?

Andrea: Yes! It’s the food chain!

Pat: So then Barlow isn’t an antagonist. Cause he just is that way.

Andrea: That is pretty much the end of my notes. The last thing I wrote was ARGH MUTANT RATS.

Pat: That’s the last thing a lot of people say. Just before the mutant rats eat them. Proverbially.
“Night Surf”

Pat: I remember this being a significantly more awesome story. Par for the course, so far.

Andrea: I liked it. My favorite of the three so far. It was a really sleazy story, I felt. I don’t know why I felt that way, just the vibe.

Pat: Well, the dude was a bit of a dick to Susie.

Andrea: He was. “Her fat ass and cranberry bell bottoms.”

Pat: In a hundred years, people will look back on Night Shift and say, “This book had too many Coreys.”

Andrea: I thought it was really skillful writing that I felt bad for Susie but also kind of hated her. The other thing was about how they set the guy on fire. Oh, and Susie getting turned on by the guy getting set on fire. That gave me an icky feeling.

Pat: I mean, that’s what you do with dead, diseased bodies. You burn them to prevent the corpse causing more disease. Because you can’t bloody well bury it.

Andrea: He was alive.

Pat: Let’s not make this a debate on whether assisted suicide by immolation is moral.

Andrea: So the world ends, and everyone becomes total nihilists. It is like the dark side of The Stand, almost. Because that whole Franny/Stan group was so wholesome.

Pat: Except Flagg and his people were already the dark side of The Stand.

Andrea: There were two parts of this story I thought were really awesome.
1. “A week before they closed the university, a month before they started carrying bodies away in dump trucks.”
2. Him remembering the summer at the beach with his girlfriend
I thought both those parts express real pathos and created sympathy for a generally unlikeable character.

Pat: I disagree. You are dumb. Here’s what you should’ve liked, because it’s what I liked.

Andrea: THE PAT HIPP SCHOOL OF I AM THE AWESOME-EST

Pat: The whole genesis of Captain Trips is different. The sequential flus, the Hong Kong Flu, an actual reason for immunity that doesn’t involve God or Max Headroom.

Andrea: Agreed. I mean, that’s one of the reasons his short stories are better than the novels in general. Because he doesn’t need to fill 900 pages by making up something supernatural.

Pat: I’m going to start editing out every “Agreed” that you type.

Andrea: FINE. I am going to stop agreeing with you. What else did you like?

Pat: What story are we talking about again?

Andrea: NIGHT SURF YOU TOOL.

Pat: I always like when things are hinted at that have a depth of possibilities to them. I don’t want to beat The Stand correlations to death, but the immunity thing was just too open in that. It left nothing to the imagination by leaving everything to the imagination. Little tiny bits of information like the Hong Kong Flu, the very vague references to what happened when the superflu hit while they were in college, they paint just enough of the picture that I can do the rest.

Andrea: Agreed.

Pat: I don’t know why anyone would read “Night Surf” when they could read “The Raft” instead.

Andrea: Agreed. But we are not up to Skeleton Crew yet. It is, however, a far superior collection.
“I Am The Doorway”

Pat: I just finished “I Am The Doorway.” Probably the best of the stories so far.

Andrea: You think so? I didn’t love it. Too sci-fi for me.

Pat: How is this too sci-fi for you, but you love “The Jaunt?”

Andrea: I don’t know! I’m a complex woman.

Pat: I particularly like “I did not poke again.” Not that he didn’t poke it again. He just didn’t poke ever again.

Andrea: I laughed really hard at the idea of the NASA guy getting drunk and saying “Just find something out there.”

Pat: “Like a blind conductor stretching his arms out over a lunatic orchestra.” I’m a big fan of the word “lunatic” as an adjective. It’s fine as a noun and all, but it’s a super awesome adjective. Criminally underutilized.

Andrea: I concur.

Pat: I was wondering how he’d made the kid’s head burst, but I guess if the aliens can call down lightning, head bursting is probably pretty easy.

Andrea: Another common theme here that pops up in tons of King’s work: the year-round dwellers v. the loud mouth tourists. And again with the twist ending. “IT’S STARTED AGAIN, YOU SEE.”

Pat: I thought it was really well done, though. He burns his hands up for naught.

Andrea: I apparently thought nothing in this story was worth writing down. I found it really boring.

Pat: You didn’t even note that the title is a reference back to “Jerusalem’s Lot”?

Andrea: Nope.
“The Mangler”

Andrea: Okay, so we talked “I Am The Doorway,” right?

Pat: Well, I talked, you complained.

Andrea: Okay, so “The Mangler.” Yet another industrial work story, obviously based on King’s experience working in a laundry.

Pat: I pretty much only liked the part where they tried to kill it. The previous part, with the hokey private eye-like shit, was dumb.

Andrea: This was effective in its goriness, but totally silly. The stupid thing about the jello instead of the horses hoof in the spell, blood of a virgin, etc. Dumb.

Pat: The idea that not knowing what we put in our bodies anymore could lead to demonic possession: should’ve gotten its own story. Someone eats a bowl of Jell-O, takes two of those pills, cuts their finger and tastes a little virgin blood trying to staunch the flow, etc.

Andrea: Totally dumb.

Pat: Here we have a side story that’s strangely similar to the Patrick Hockstetter section of IT.

Andrea: Yes. The refrigerator thing. The idea of an evil refrigerator is stupid but I’m not gonna lie, I thought it was kind of scary. The way he described the deaths was gross but really good: “folded with grotesque and bloodstained neatness.”

Pat: For some reason, I was on board with The Mangler trying to pull itself out of the concrete. I was not on board with it succeeding.

Andrea: So you would have been okay if it tried to pull itself out of the ground, but couldn’t do it and gave up? That is ludicrous.

Pat: I don’t know if I would characterize it as “giving up.” Maybe it could’ve pulled itself out of the concrete a little, but brought the whole building down on top of itself. Clearly, it would try and try until it broke itself.

Andrea: My notes say: “The machine got out? Stupid.” I also can’t believe someone actually uttered the words: “It fits…it all fits!” King watched too much Scooby-Doo before writing this.

Pat: Here’s how I would rewrite the ending: Hunton gets to the guy’s house, tells him about the Mangler being alive, killing Jackson. All that is the same. Other guy reaches for the phone, just the same, but he’s stopped short by the doorbell ringing. So he hangs up the phone and answers the door. It’s the Mangler, standing on the doorstep.

Andrea: How does the whole Mangler fit on the doorstep?

Pat: They share a nervous stare. For several long moments.

Andrea: Then kiss?

Pat: Until finally, he turns away from the door and says, “It’s for you, Hunton.” THE END.

Andrea: I can’t get over the whole stupid coincidental spell causing the possession.

Pat: That means that the words don’t matter to the spell, right? That it was just the potions?

Andrea: I guess so. That wasn’t really clear.

Pat: The more I read these stories, the more it feels like a kid in his early twenties sowing his genre-fetish oats.

Andrea: Totally.

Pat: Whereas, later, we get stuff that’s still genre, but is really good writing.

Andrea: These are definitely all bargain basement horror.
“The Boogeyman”

Pat: I liked it.

Andrea: Agreed. Best one so far. Notable because it was once read aloud at a campfire at a party I was at.

Pat: HOWEVER. The weird slithery creature is holding a Dr. Harper mask? WTF?

Andrea: Yeah! Dr. Harper was the creature all along!

Pat: That just leads to too many logistical questions.

Andrea: My question is, did any of this really happen or is it the insane hallucination of a guilt-ridden father?

Pat: If it took a year for the creature to find their new home, how did it find the psychiatrist between the time he made the appointment and the time he had the appointment? Or is this a Birther Conspiracy, where the creature became a licensed psychiatrist so that in twenty five years he’d be able to pull this prank on the guy?

Andrea: I think he killed them all and his guilt-addled brain made up the creature. “Children tie a man down.” This story seems really dated right off the bat because he is 28 and divorced with three children. That really doesn’t happen too much anymore, at least around here. And he was also really casually cruel to/about his wife. What’s up with that, King?

Pat: The kids probably died because they were scared of the Cthulhu mobile he put over their crib.

Andrea: I just snorted.

Pat: That’s what I imagined. A kind of tentacly, black thing with no real central body, just a mass of tentacles.

Andrea: “I know a kid don’t get convulsions just because their brain frigged up.” Actually they do, Captain Educated.

Pat: He keeps using convulse and convulsions and convulsively. I have to say, I’m sick to frig of it.

Andrea: A lot of his protagonists are totally repulsive in this book so far.

Pat: What? I liked the astronaut and the cop.

Andrea: To wit: “When they’re little, you don’t get so attached to them.” and “This women’s lib only makes sick people.” I mostly am just thinking him and the rat guy.

Pat: Here’s how I would’ve ended “Boogeyman.”

Andrea: OMG

Pat: He comes back into the room, the creature has the Dr. Harper mask. He says, “You were the psychiatrist the whole time?”And the creature says, icily, “I’m sorry, but OUR TIME IS UP.”

Andrea: Speaking of the ending, what happened to Rita? Do they ever say?

Pat: Who cares about Rita? Fuck Rita. Rita’s a jerk.

Andrea: Also, that must have been one really realistic mask. Is the creature BFF with Tom Savini?

Pat: Wait, forget the mask. Wouldn’t it have needed a human body, too?

Andrea: Maybe it was a full body mask. I mean, he could have just been wearing a suit but wouldn’t he have slimed the suit all up?

Pat: Like I said, too many logistical questions. How did it get to the office? Did it take the Long Island Railroad or did it catch the A train from Far Rockaway?

Andrea: It took the sewers, obviously.

Pat: Does it have EZ Pass?

Andrea: No EZ Pass in the 70s.

Pat: Oh, right. Sorry for spoiling the realism of the story.

Andrea: He is constantly trashing logistics in this book. We are supposed to be suspending disbelief, I guess.

Pat: The story would’ve been fine if it hadn’t ended with a monster holding a people mask.

Andrea: Agreed. I think they should have just left it with him making the appointments.

Pat: Better yet, with the monster making appointments.

Andrea: That is nice and ambiguous because you still don’t know if he killed the kids himself. There was one line that I really liked, the one about maybe all the monsters were real, real enough to kill the kids who were supposed to have just never have been found.

Pat: If I ever reread that story again with the ending in mind, I’m going to imagine the doctor sitting there with one of those heavy paper masks with the eyeholes cut out and the string around the head.

Andrea: Or the plastic Halloween costume with a picture of who it is supposed to be on the front. “Radioactive Man wouldn’t wear a smock with a picture of himself on it.” “He would if it was Halloween!”

Pat: SIGH.

Andrea: WTF are you sighing about, curmudgeon?

Pat: I was hoping for a Skeleton Crew-level experience, and I’m not getting it. Where’s my “The Mist”?

Andrea: I know, I know. Wait, have you never read Night Shift before?

Pat: I read it back before it sucked.
“Gray Matter”

Pat: One of the better endings in the book so far, but a pretty dumb story.

Andrea: How did it end? They shot him, right? Can’t even remember now.

Pat: They ran out and are waiting in the store to see who comes, Henry or the blob.

Andrea: Oh right. His dad ate a cat. Gross!

Pat: A cat and some people. There’s incredible and there’s un-credible, and after twenty years of reading Stephen King, I am still not willing to just bite into an idea like “there was some fucked up mold in his beer. So he turned into a humanoid fungus.”

Pat: “And ate cats.”

Andrea: And people.

Pat: “And shit.”

Andrea: Especially hobos.

Pat: What does Stephen King have against hobos, by the way?

Andrea: Everything

Pat: He’s either setting fungus creatures or Nazis after them.

Andrea: And you know the part where they said basically, you know how you get a funky beer sometime? That has NEVER happened to me.

Pat: I think they meant a skunked beer.

Andrea: That would be a beer that went bad because it was left out.

Pat: Which doesn’t generally happen with cans so long as refrigeration is maintained. It’s a bigger problem with bottles. As a then-alcoholic (allegedly), King should’ve known that.

Andrea: He was probably too drunk to know the difference. It sounded like they were just talking about like, a beer that went green (?!) for no reason.

Pat: I’ve never had one of those. I probably wouldn’t drink that.

Andrea: This is why I drink vodka.

Pat: Anyway. DUMB.

Andrea: The thing that sticks out most to me is the sub-story about the guy who saw the gigantic spider with a web full of puppies and kittens. *shudder*

Andrea: I really have nothing else to say about this story. The characterization of the Maine ol’ timers was pretty good, as always. Or wait, am I confusing it with something else now? Were there Maine ol’ timers in this?

Pat: You’re confusing it with every other Stephen King story.

Pat: Yeah, it was a bunch of old timers in a general store or whatever.

Andrea: I want a general store. And not the one at Cracker Barrel either.

Pat: Maine seems to be the retarded third generation of real Frenchmen. Like the ones that didn’t stay in Canada and become docile, health-care having, gun-less freaks who kind of wish they were in Canada, so they make Maine this innocuous den of “Ayuhs” and sodie pop.

Andrea: I have no idea what the hell you are talking about right now.

Pat: Half of Maine is descendants of French furtrappers.

Pat: That’s not a sexual euphemism.

Andrea: Got it.

Pat: That’s why a good number of SK’s characters have names like Podelaire or DeLaurence or whatever. There were like nine in Carrie alone. Wait, Miss Dejardin might be the only actual one.

Pat: WHATEVER. I think “Gray Matter” was a swing and a miss, to use a baseball analogy in deference to the writer.

Andrea: It was okay. Passable. NEXT!
“Battleground”

Pat: What’s next?

Andrea: “Battleground.” EVEN WORSE

Pat: And does it have a trick ending?

Andrea: Yeah, sort of. It was very Twilight Zone. Hated it.

Pat: I remembered at the last minute that there was the unmentioned thermonuclear warhead.

Andrea: SURPRISE NUCLEAR WARHEAD.

Pat: Here’s the problem with it, a la Twilight Zone: too much backstory. The whole assassin thing was necessary to set up his fighting back, but I don’t know. It was too heavy-handed.

Andrea: Yeah, like who the hell is Mama or whatever? And who cares?

Pat: I like that his response to the surrender note was “Nuts,” which means something different now. We don’t say “nuts to that.” It’s more of a, “Shit, I dropped my fudgecicle in poop.”

Andrea: A fudgecicle sounds really good right now.

Pat: Are you a fungus monster?

Andrea: Yup! This was the worst story so far.

Andrea: And in fact the worst in the book. Its cardinal sin was that it was boring.

Pat: Wait, are we talking about “Battleground” still?

Andrea: Yeah.

Pat: See, “Battleground” is one of the few stories in this book that does the thing SK does the best: set up something tremendously insane and otherworldly, and not only not explain the mechanics of it, but treat it like, “Hey, there are magical circumstances, so fuck you and AWAY WE GO.” Which is to its credit.

Pat: Unlike “Sometimes They Come Back,” which I thought shouldn’t have had the “I know you’re dead, do you know you’re dead?” “I know I’m dead, did you know we’re gonna make you dead?” exchange. But I digress.

Andrea: I guess so, but I think his best stories are when he goes to great lengths to explain the logistics of the predicament his character is in. Like in Cujo.

Pat: Right, but that’s a rabid fucking dog. We understand how rabies works. Whereas he doesn’t give us an inch when bulldozers are coming to life.

Andrea: No, but I mean why she was stuck in the car for the whole weekend with no escape—her husband was away, the family was away, etc.

Pat: Right, but that wasn’t explaining mystical circumstances. It was setting up the story. He can set up the story all he wants, but he’s better at and seems to lean towards not explaining the unexplained.

Andrea: He should explain why “Battleground” sucked so much.
“Trucks”

Andrea: But anyway. “Trucks”?

Pat: “Trucks”: whatever. More like “Sucks.”

Andrea: I kinda liked this one.

Pat: Like I said, it has the minimum of explanations. Cars have come to life. That’s it. Also: maybe airplanes.

Andrea: Also, TRUCKS.

Pat: It had his usual rogues’ gallery of characters. The normal dude, the business guy, the small business owner, the redneck, the teenagers.

Andrea: The innocent girl. I liked all the characters.

Pat: Most of the characters were fucking semis speaking in Morse code.

Andrea: Is this a precursor to Christine?

Pat: No. And I hate that you asked that question.

Andrea: Evil cars. Evil trucks. I think it is.

Pat: I just don’t like the idea. Even though there have been other pre-novel ideas floating around in other stories. This is just too obvious. So let’s not talk about it.

Pat: Or I will Springheel Jack you.

Andrea: Okay. But I want you to acknowledge that it is not a dumb question.

Pat: It is a dumb question, because it’s obvious!

Andrea: Okay, let me rephrase: CLEARLY THIS IS A PRECURSOR TO CHRISTINE.

Pat: Clearly. NEXT TOPIC.

Andrea: I like in this book how he has paragraphs that are one sentence, for dramatic effect.

Andrea: “THERE WAS NO ONE IN THE TRUCKS.”

Pat: I think I might secretly hate Stephen King now

Andrea: Hahaha.

Pat: Because look, man, you can’t just possess anything without reason. Why did it start with trucks? How do they know they’re running out of fuel?

Andrea: Maybe it started with toy cars. Like in Battleground. And we are just supposed to infer that part. Also, I think we can agree that a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is necessary.

Pat: I know it’s stupid to get annoyed by SK stories being creepy and unexplained, but COME ON, HOW DO THE TRUCKS KNOW MORSE CODE?

Andrea: Does anyone even know Morse code anymore?

Pat: This was forty years ago, though.

Andrea: I know that, dur.

Pat: Still. How would they have even come across it? No one has a telegraph in their big rig.

Andrea: Well, how do they know how to navigate on their own, with no eyes?

Pat: That I can buy. Sight is a natural occurrence in living things. Mostly. But knowledge of Morse code is NOT.

Andrea: Unless all truckers knew Morse code for some reason, so it is inherent?

Pat: Why didn’t they just drop a throat lozenge in each gas tank while filling them up? You know, fuck up their works?

Andrea: Cause you weren’t there to come up with that idea?

Pat: Yet again with the creepy ending he doesn’t nail until “The Mist.”

Andrea: Ugh.

Pat: SK has two kinds of stories: the ones where it ends before the end with a hopeful sentiment, or ones where it ends before the end with an implication that shit will be shitty forever.

Andrea: Which one do you like better?

Pat: Hopeful. He gets so much better at it. Maybe that’s the saving grace. I can’t tolerate Night Shift because his short stories got so much better. These were probably all the stories he started with and collected because his books were awesome.

Andrea: Okay, so Rob A. wanted to weigh in on this, but he is going to Portugal in a couple of days, so I doubt he will. So I will just repeat the review of Maximum Overdrive that he texted to me: “I want to review this for you. The machines took over.”

Pat: The tagline: “Who Made Who?”

Andrea: I think King famously directed that in a coke-induced haze because he was unhappy with how The Shining movie turned out.

Pat: Wait a goddamn minute. One of the other taglines is “Imagine Your Worst Nightmare: Machines Take Over The World!”

Pat: Is that anyone’s worst nightmare?

Andrea: I don’t think so. Apparently it was Stephen King’s since approximately 46 percent of the stories in this collection are about that.

Pat: Is cranky Uncle Stevie just scared of everything taking over?

Pat: Maybe “Trucks” doesn’t work because it would be like someone writing about the horse-drawn carriage taking over. There’s a famous unpublished Dickens story about bicycles and unicycles taking over.

Andrea: Would it have to have a horse? Because I think that would just be a horse running wild. Which I assume happens.

Pat: They menace people to ride them, since they can’t ride themselves. If this had been written 400 years ago, what would it have been written about? Scissors?

Andrea: Sewing needles.

Pat: Butter churns.

Andrea: It would be like that scene in Beauty and the Beast with all the kitchen shit coming to life.

Pat: I’d be much more scared of a candelabra coming to life. Everyone owns a fucking vehicle. A candlestick, though?

Andrea: We own candlesticks. Where the hell do you expect us to put our candles?

Pat: Here are the other tag lines: “The day horror went into overdrive,” “Evil’s wheels.”

Andrea: They are all terrible, especially Evil’s wheels. WTF????? I feel like I have to watch this now. Apparently, it’s not even on DVD.

Andrea: According to Netflix, its genres are “Sci-Fi Horror, Deadly Disasters, Dramas Based on the Book.” The movie is “Exciting, Dark.”

Pat: Probably because Yeardley Smith is in it.

Andrea: SERIOUSLY?

Pat: Yes. I could not be more serious. I guess I could always stand to be marginally more serious, but not right now.

Andrea: Playing whom?

Pat: She played Connie. I can’t even remember which character trope that was.

Andrea: Was it the girlfriend? I don’t even think she had a name in the story.

Pat: I have no idea. I’m not sure I even care.

Pat: True story: I confuse Maximum Overdrive with Collision Course all the time.

Andrea: WTF is Collision Course?

Pat: Jay Leno/Pat Morita buddy cop film.

Andrea: That sounds like my worst nightmare. Jay Leno is no one’s buddy.
“Sometimes They Come Back”

Andrea: I HATED THIS SO MUCH.

Pat: I feel like everything I could say about these stories is invalidated by SK’s eventual improvement as a writer.

Andrea: Agreed. I mean, Skeleton Crew is leaps and bounds ahead of this collection.

Pat: For instance, my editorial mind wanted to excise the part where the teacher has the conversation with the dead kid about the dead kid being a dead kid.

Andrea: Why not just hit us over the head with it, Stevie.

Pat: I took it for goddamn granted. I didn’t need that sell.

Andrea: Also hit us over the head with the Milford High/Milford Cemetary connection. It was so cornball.

Andrea: Also, again with the stupid demon book? seriously?

Pat: It’s fine when demon books call forth HUGE UNDERGROUND HELLWORMS. The problem is also that when you actually have the devil talking to a character, and vice versa, it takes away the mystical nature.

Pat: “BLACK LORD, I CALL TO THEE.”

Pat: “Yo, sup?”

Pat: “OH TWISTED ONE, I REQUIRE YOUR AID.”

Pat: “Choo need?”

Pat: “Why are you being so cavalier?”

Pat: “I don’t stand much on ceremony.”

Andrea: Why am I picturing the demon as that guy from Gone Baby Gone? The guy Cheese?

Pat: Because you’re a lunatic? That loves cheese?

Andrea: This closely mimics the plot of Christopher Pike’s Chain Letter 2, FYI. Which was actually much better than this crap story.

Pat: Is it a sign of my own demented mind that I read a lot of kid-touching into the retired cop asking teacher guy if he stills likes “pie a la mode?” I bet the place didn’t even have whipped cream. Dude provided the a la mode himself.

Andrea: Aw, he was nice

Pat: Reading about a dog in an overcoat sodomizing children in a library has warped my mind.

Andrea: It made me sad that in these modern times, I will have to steer my own child away from pie-wielding strangers.

Pat: So no clowns, either? I was about to ask why SK never wrote any evil clown stories.

Pat: The last line of the story is fucking crap, too.

Andrea: What was the last line?

Pat: “He walked down the stairs again, wondering if the nightmare was over after all.” COME ON. MY HEAD IS TENDER FROM HAVING THINGS BEATEN OVER IT.

Andrea: Snort.

Pat: Especially when he could’ve cut that line and the story would’ve ended with “But sometimes they come back.”

Andrea: The last line of my notes says: “This story sucked.”

Pat: True or false: you would’ve liked this story better if Angela Chase had fallen in love with one of the ghost students.

Andrea: True. Of course true. Who doesn’t want a hunky greaser?

Pat: Clearly, Shawn Hunter’s mom.

Andrea: For Halloween, I should dress up as Angela Chase dressed up as the 50s girl.

Pat: I hate that idea so much I’ve gone blind.
“Strawberry Spring”

Andrea: Okay, I sort of liked this one.

Pat: I was sort of hoping there’d be something evil about fog that caused men to kill. Like some sort of demonic fog that possesses people with the spirit of Jack the Ripper. Which is probably why I’m not a horror writer.

Andrea: No, you don’t. Because if that was the case you’d be all like “WELL HOW WAS THE FOG A DEMON? WHERE DID THE SPIRIT COME FROM?”

Pat: Nah, I could dig that, as long as he didn’t get into explaining that Jack the Ripper had been put into a furnace on an especially foggy night and ESCAPED INTO THE AIR.

Andrea: My notes simply say “AND I WAS THE KILLER”

Pat: I’m not particularly impressed by your notes. He liked this idea so much he repeated it in “The Man Who Loved Flowers.”

Andrea: Yes. Which I thought was better. I really loved the passage where they talk about all the conflicting rumors about the dead girl.

Pat: It was a nice portrayal of college. And FINALLY a good goddamn ending.

Andrea: Agreed. It made me wish I went to college in the day. I could have been a coed.

Pat: Sorry—a story about women getting brutally murdered on campus back in the day made you want to be a woman on campus back in the day?

Andrea: Yup. It all seemed so quaint.

Pat: I don’t think you understand the definition of “quaint.” A murdery college campus is intrinsically not quaint.

Andrea: It is if everyone’s going around saying “Ayuh” all the time.

Pat: I like when he talks about the SDS offshoot rumor, and how a “fair-sized offshoot would have bankrupted the whole organization.”

Andrea: Yeah, that made me laugh too.

Pat: Which reminds me of the Carol section of Hearts In Atlantis with the protests and stuff. Anything SK writes about college, I feel, lacks compared to that part of that book, which I haven’t read in a long, long time but is still hauntingly present in my mind.

Andrea: The Hearts part? I love that. It makes me want to play Hearts but I can never find 3 other people who want to play.

Pat: It’s the John Shooter of his college stories.

Andrea: It hides behind a shower curtain while you’re poopin’?

Pat: Sort of? You can tell what parts of his life have been the most impressive for him. College, childhood.

Pat: Alcoholism.

Pat: Sparrows.

Andrea: Working in an industrial laundry.

Pat: Getting his first period.

Andrea: Killing astral spiders in the sewer.

Pat: Murdering coeds.

Andrea: Being scared of cell phones.

Pat: Having the flu.

Andrea: Do you think Stephen King would hate us if he read this?

Pat: I don’t know. I kind of hate us.
“The Ledge”

Andrea: Can we move on to “The Ledge”?????

Pat: Do we have to?

Andrea: ARE YOU SERIOUS?

Pat: Please tell me you didn’t like this.

Andrea: I loved this one. This story actually made me anxious. Is that only because I am so deathly afraid of heights?

Pat: I’m more afraid of them than you.

Andrea: Uh, how so?

Pat: I’m fucking terrified of heights.

Andrea: I am the one that freaked out on the ET ride, and no one would be my ride partner.

Pat: ET was like ten feet off the ground, you lunatic.

Andrea: I know, and I was petrified! Ergo, I am more afraid of heights than you are. My palms were actually sweaty.

Pat: We’ve established that you’re scared of heights that aren’t even heights, so piss on that.

Andrea: Whatever. It was a success.

Pat: Maybe it’s because I just rewatched The Big Sleep, but the pulp noir feel of this story SUCKITY SUCKED.

Andrea: Heh.

Pat: “I’ve got a proposition for you, old chap!” Come on. Tennis pro versus the mob boss?

Andrea: Yeah, that was cheesy. But as a horror story it succeeded—I was horrified.

Pat: The only scary thing about this story is that it was published by a real magazine.

Andrea: WHATEV.
“The Lawnmower Man”

Andrea: “You are able to observe his, uh, genitals and so on?”

Pat: Pan. Pan’s the boss.

Andrea: This was ridic.

Pat: This is SK just being weird for weirdness’ sake.

Andrea: Agreed. So, the movie had nothing to do with this story, right?

Pat: There was a guy that did the lawn in both.

Andrea: Yes. And the movie came out in 1992 and was all about virtual reality which is pretty much the most 1992 thing in the universe.

Pat: I’m really glad VR never caught on. Mostly so I never have to say “VR” again. There’s a picture of me somewhere in my possession at the Franklin Institute in a VR machine.

Pat: It looks like a sweatbox for dweebs. I was wearing a windbreaker as well, had spiked hair and a tail.

Pat: Speaking of the most 1992 things in the universe. All of which are way scarier than Pan the Goat God’s landscaping service.

Andrea: Were you wearing your snake necklace? And making people call you Zack?

Pat: I HAVE NEVER DISAVOWED OR ARGUED THAT I WAS/AM A WEIRD KID, OKAY.

Pat: You wore pants the size of three pairs of pants. You could’ve been the clippings bag on a lawnmower.

Andrea: I know. In hindsight they looked really stupid

Pat: In hindsight, this story is stupid. Here’s a surprise. The guy who directed The Lawnmower Man went on to make such CompuServe-level films as Virtuousity and Hideaway.

Andrea: All computer movies pale in comparison to Brainscan.

Pat: Should we make the Eddie Furlong-Pet Sematary connection?

Andrea: Pet Sematary 2. I watched the first one the other night. It was pretty silly.

Pat: That’s news to you?

Andrea: My favorite thing ever is when people post their plot ideas for sequel on the IMDb message boards.

Pat: That’s probably where they got the idea for Pet Sematary 2.

Andrea: Or when people ask serious questions like, “What happens to your soul if you get buried in pet sematary?”

Pat: IMDb message boards are where the people who are too dumb to use Yahoo Answers go.
“Quitters Inc.”

Pat: Not as good as I remembered.

Andrea: Yeah, but it was still pretty good though.

Pat: As a smoker, I don’t know.

Andrea: Do people really put their mentally handicapped kids in institutions? I mean, I know they do. But really.

Pat: They said the kid was unteachably retarded. Sounds like most of our high school class.

Andrea: It had another DEN DEN DEEEEEEN ending. With the guy’s finger missing

Pat: Wife’s finger. I don’t understand why the weight loss thing was part of the service.

Andrea: Because you stop smoking and get fat, dur

Pat: I call bullshit. Technically, they could just make you do whatever forever. “All right, now you have to wear a bra all day long or we beat your idiot child with dildos.”

Andrea: That’s all I have in my notes.

Pat: I bet when Stephen King quit smoking, these guys got him to do it by threatened to beat up his retarded child. By which I mean this entire short story collection.

Pat: MORE LIKE QUITTERS, STINK.
“I Know What You Need”

Andrea: I sort of liked this because of the college thing, again. But AGAIN WITH THE STUPID VOODOO?

Pat: Voodoo raises too many questions. It was more compelling as a story about a girl in college, stuck in a relationship.

Andrea: Exactly. I mean, the idea of how well do you really know someone you are dating is compelling. Can you ever really truly know another person?

Pat: I think we truly know Stephen King by now.

Andrea: The one line I really liked: “how quietly you could come to depend on a person, like a junkie with a habit?”

Pat: What a tired goddamn metaphor. Let’s stop referring to any relationship as a drug habit. As a culture.

Pat: It’s time to move on.

Pat: So, what, this kid discovered voodoo at a young age, and that’s how he did the casino trick?

Andrea: I don’t know how the psychicness tied in with the voodoo.

Pat: Maybe it was a lightning rod for his power, a way to focus in on someone. YOU CAN’T HALF EXPLAIN THINGS, STEVE.

Pat: Also: the roommate hired a private investigator?

Pat: Known today as “Doing a Google search?”

Andrea: Yeah, her dad did. That did not ring true. If I asked my dad to do that he would be like, wtf.

Andrea: QUESTION: Would you have stayed with him? I mean, HE BOUGHT HER A HAIRDRYER?

Andrea: was this story set in a time when hairdryers did not cost $14.95?

Pat: I hope it was this hair dryer:

Andrea: I need to own that immediately.

Pat: That’s scarier than goddamn trucks driving themselves.

Andrea: It looks like it would electrocute your head

Pat: I bet I could just fly to work with that hair dryer.

Pat: Also, come on, they went to grade school together?

Andrea: And he carried a torch for all that time? Yeah, come on. Not believable.

Pat: So do we agree that “I Know What You Want” was “Super Hella Stupid”?

Andrea: It was enjoyable but dumb.
“The Children Of The Corn”

Andrea: I liked this. It was an interesting portrait of a marriage unraveling. I mean, I think we can agree that he actually portrays people and relationships better than he portrays the supernatural.

Pat: I’m not sure I bought that a feuding couple decided that being cooped up in a car driving cross-country would save their marriage.

Andrea: Meh. People were different in the 70s.

Pat: “Honey, I fucking hate your guts, but let’s be stuck in a metal box for fucking ever together.”

Andrea: “From all around, the children were coming.”

Pat: Was there an actual He Who Walks Behind The Rows in the movie? That was some Cthulhu-level fucked-upness.

Andrea: I have no memory of it except for gross Malachi.

Pat: I nominate this story as the one that would have most benefited from being a book.

Andrea: Agreed

Pat: It would have been a great commentary on Midwestern religious zealotry.

Andrea: I wanted to know more, like about the whole process leading up to how they decided to kill everyone over 19.

Pat: Oh! And the whole thing with the 9 year old seer telling them the new age was 18 as penance to He Who Walks Behind The Stalks And Talks The Talk While Also Walking The Walk? That was great.

Andrea: I really liked it. Let’s petition Stevie to write a whole book.

Pat: Can we petition mid-80s Stevie to write it? I don’t know how I’d feel about Present Stevie writing it.

Pat: There’d be some sort of war between a technology god that comes forth through someone’s cell phone to battle the Corn God.

Andrea: He’d call it a “mobile phone,” though.

Pat: UGH. Did anyone review this book and say they were “a-maized?”

Andrea: If only.

Pat: Or did they think it was too corny?

Andrea: UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Pat: Was this the story that finally separated Stephen King from the chaff?

Andrea: You are the worst.

Pat: Was the film the best popcorn flick of ’84?

Pat: The porn version should be Children Of The Creamed Corn. Wait, that’d probably be illegal.

Andrea: In French, it was called Les Démons du Maïs.

Pat: “In their world adults are not allowed… to live.”

Andrea: Is that a real tagline or a made-up one by you?

Pat: Have you even been paying attention to the horrible taglines his movies get? Of course that one was real!

Andrea: Okay, anything else on “Children Of The Corn”?

Pat: Does that include Children Of The Corn?

Andrea: Shut up.

Pat: Okay, yes. One thing: I want to know what the corn god looks like. But I will not ask Tim to draw it.

Andrea: I pictured it as a big corn-shaped shadow with eyes. Do you want me to draw it for you?

Pat: No. Because that’s possibly the dumbest god ever.
“The Last Rung On The Ladder”

Pat: Where did we leave off?

Andrea: We’re up to “Last Rung On The Ladder.”

Pat: Ugh.

Andrea: WHAT OMG ARE YOU SERIOUS? I love this story. So much.

Pat: Sometimes I don’t know how we’re even still friends.

Andrea: Alcohol.

Andrea: Diving into hay sounds gross, what with all the dust and mice flying everywhere. Who knew i was secretly such a girly girl?

Pat: It’s not like every time they landed, a hundred mice flew into the air and then rained down on them.

Andrea: That image just literally made me laugh out loud. I know when people say LOL they are not necessarily L-ing OL, but I assure you that I did.

Pat: I liked the whole brother-sister barn stuff, but come on. She becomes a prostitute because her brother doesn’t answer her calls? What is this, “Cat’s In The Cradle” in story form?

Andrea: No, I think she became a prostitute because she had failed marriages and hated her life. He felt guilty, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he was the cause.

Pat: As your lawyer, I advise you to fuck all that noise.

Andrea: I agree that it was very Harry Chapin.

Pat: There’s a first time for everything.

Andrea: I guess I have nothing else to add. It bothered me that her name was Kitty.

Pat: Nothing supernatural about this story, but it’s nowhere near as good as his other pedestrian-reality stories. Like, uh… Shawshank or Apt Pupil. To be fair, stories like “The Man Who Loved Flowers” and “Strawberry Spring” aren’t really supernatural either.

Andrea: Can we agree that it is one of the better stories in the collection?

Pat: What, “Last Rung”?

Andrea: Yes.

Pat: Were you asleep when we started talking about it? Why would you even think I liked this story best?

Andrea: I didn’t say best. I said “one of the better.”

Pat: I don’t think it was even one of the better stories on pages 279-290.
“The Man Who Loved Flowers”

Pat: I sort of think this is SK trying to make a story out of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” Which is, in itself, creepy because Paul McCartney sucks.

Andrea: Agreed.

Pat: I liked this one, actually. I like the idea that this guy is fucking unhinged and thinks everyone is this girl who died a decade before and runs around bashing heads in with hammers. He has the realization that it’s not Norma, and then just slips back into the lunacy. It’s great.

Pat: I probably shouldn’t tell the girl I’m seeing that.

Andrea: I like that too. It’s also a really great portrait of summer in the city.

Andrea: It’s a really good story. It also perfectly captures the kind of warm feeling you get after a friendly exchange with a stranger.

Pat: I think the flower guy might have been a little too colorful.

Andrea: Best line: “where cats made alien love in the dark.”

Pat: Have you ever heard cats fucking? As if you need any more proof that they were left behind when the space aliens gave humans the secret of fire.

Andrea: Yes. You know that little creek behind our apartment? Full of feral cats.

Pat: I’m aware. It’s like the ravine behind the Friendly’s dumpsters. Cat Town, USA.

Andrea: Yeah. I liked that this story was short and to the point. Obviously I knew what was going to happen, but I can see myself being surprised if I didn’t.

Pat: Well, don’t you remember reading it the first time?

Andrea: No. it was like 15 years ago.

Pat: Maybe you can see yourself being surprised because you’re remembering being surprised the first time.

Andrea: I wish I had flowers and a hammer so I could hit you with both.
“One For The Road”

Pat: Okay, this is the one I thought I remembered as “Jerusalem’s Lot.”

Andrea: They do mention Salem’s Lot.

Pat: OH DO THEY.

Pat: I also remembered them burning the town to the ground. But that had already happened before the family broke down in the car, apparently.

Andrea: I felt sad for the whole family. This was a classic “Maine folk dislike dem der out of towners.”

Pat: I like that New Jersey was the only thing worse than New York.

Andrea: Good line: She was going to be seven for an eternity of nights. It reminded me of the part in Let The Right One In where Eli says, “I’m twelve. But I’ve been twelve for a long time.”

Pat: Corny.

Andrea: Which?

Pat: Both. He Who Walks Behind The Rows And Tickles Toes And Picks His Nose is probably pleased, but I say both of those statements can suck it.

Andrea: I felt for the man worried that his family was going to freeze to death. But other than that? BORING.

Pat: Come on, you didn’t like the little details?

Andrea: I didn’t like any of them enough to write them down, I’ll put it that way.

Pat: Like the fact that the vampires left no footprints in the snow?

Andrea: Is that even part of vampire lore? Are they Jesus vampires?

Pat: The psychological grip of the vampires was great, too.

Andrea: Meh. Again, not part of vampire lore, at least not as far as I am concerned.

Andrea: STICK TO CANON, KING.

Pat: Who says that’s not part of vampire lore?

Andrea: Me.

Pat: You’re not the Lordess Of All Vampiric Knowledge.

Andrea: Me and Poppy Z. Brite.

Pat: Okay, so vampire lure isn’t canon, but sucking off your illegitimate son is.

Andrea: OMG. Well. It sounds kinda gross when you say it like that.

Pat: I would say that’s worse than the travesty of the Twilight vampires sparkling like diamonds in sunlight.

Andrea: Nothing is worse than that.

Pat: Yeah there is. The ending of the story.

Andrea: UGH.

Pat: There was a lot of “says” in there, which contributes to the camp fire feel, which culminates in the EGREGIOUSLY BAD ENDING.

Andrea: Yeah, the ending sucked.

Pat: And if you listen really closely, you can still hear the hook dangling from the WHAT THE FUCK EVER, STEVIE.
“The Woman In The Room”

Andrea: FACT: “The Woman In The Room” was the first Dollar Baby—directed by Frank Darabont.

Pat: FACT: I forgot we were doing this.

Andrea: WORST.

Pat: I didn’t really like the story. It was nice to see him experimenting with form

Andrea: In what way?

Pat: The paragraphs that end abruptly and start again with a different thought that still fits the last half of the sentence. That was probably before he figured out the brilliant maneuver of inner voice he used in The Shining, which may be the greatest contribution he’s made to fiction.

Andrea: Can you think offhand of any other authors who use that?

Pat: None whatsoever. Still—a great invention.

Pat: Wait, I’ve used it.

Andrea: Hahaha. The Great And Wondrous Hipp.

Pat: Suck it™.

Andrea: The description of the patients in the nursing home kind of reminded me of Night Of The Living Dead.

Andrea: Also, “there is no dignity to putting things up your ass.”

Pat: What if it’s a distinguished southern gentleman? With a monocle?

Andrea: No.

Pat: I had almost no sympathy for the protagonist.

Andrea: No, me either. He seemed very blank.

Pat: Maybe it was a more weighty subject when it was written. I just did not care. Didn’t they have patient directives back then?

Andrea: I don’t know. I’m for euthanasia if the person wants it, and she clearly wanted to die. So yeah, not controversial as far as I’m concerned.

Pat: I guess she wasn’t brain dead or comatose. So a DNR doesn’t really matter.

Andrea: I understand that that would not have been easy for him to do, presumably, but that did not come across in the story.

Pat: Ultimately, it wasn’t very compelling.

Andrea: Agreed. So. We are at the end.

Pat: That’s it? That’s what he fucking ended with?
Closing Arguments

Andrea: I know.

Pat: Can I ask the obvious question?

Andrea: It can’t be that obvious since I have no idea what you are going to say.

Pat: If you’ve got a collection of short stories, why wouldn’t you bookend it with the two related stories?

Andrea: You would think so, wouldn’t you? Especially when the second one is NEXT TO LAST. I think they are in order of when he wrote them, but maybe not.

Pat: I wonder how much of our disappointment is owed to knowing that he eventually wrote far, far superior short stories.

Andrea: I would say all of it. It’s weird because he seems to have paid no attention to story ordering here. But in Everything’s Eventual, it’s integral.

Andrea: But if Skeleton Crew sucks more than I remember, I will cry.

Pat: Not much chance of that—it starts with “The Goddamn Mist.” And has “The Motherfucking Jaunt.”

Andrea: That’s true.

Pat: And “The Raft.”

Andrea: “The Raft” is the bomb diggity.

Andrea: So best/worst of Night Shift?

Pat: Best story in this book might’ve been “Children Of The Corn.” Although I hated the marriage issues.

Andrea: I liked “Children Of The Corn” too.

Pat: It was the most sinister and explanation-less story, which is where SK’s rocks get off the best.

Andrea: My top 5 would have been that, “The Ledge,” “Last Rung,” “I Know What You Need,” and “Man Who Loved Flowers.”

Andrea: They are all kind of blending together now

Pat: “The Man Who Loved Who Flowers” was good. Everything else was dumb.

Andrea: Worst, “Battleground.” No question. I would have thought I would say “Jerusalem’s Lot” was the worst, but the giant worm thing redeemed.

Pat: I might say that “The Ledge” was the worst.

Andrea: For real? This from the man who liked Salem’s Lot?

Pat: Possibly “The Boogeyman” because I can’t stop laughing at the image of the boogeyman holding a psychiatrist mask.

Pat: I’m LOLing at it right now.

Andrea: I did like “The Boogeyman.”

Pat: Nothing in it every really stuck with me, I’m realizing. Except “Strawberry Spring.” That always stuck with me.

Andrea: That one was pretty good. The giant mutant rat thing stuck with me.

Pat: But nothing quite like “The Mist” or that fucking “Monkey Shines” story. Holy good fucking god.

Andrea: I know. Nothing indelible here, for sure.

Andrea: In all, I didn’t hate this book—it was good enough, but I doubt I will ever again reread it.

Pat: I might pick through the stories.

Pat: It’s like he was still deciding the depth and scale of the world he was going to spend his life writing about. Just how fucked up stuff was. What the rules were. Obviously these stories were all from the very nascent years of his writing career. And nearly all of them were published in Cavalier, so he might have been encouraged by that to write to their tastes. Once he started publishing in Esquire and Penthouse and the like, his stories were much, much better.

Andrea: Until he bought a cell phone. And opened that particular can of giant undead worms.

Pat: “Mobile phone.”