Vic and Donna are married. They have a child, a precocious boy named Tad who is afraid of his closet. Which: good on you, Tad, there’s the fucking spirit of a serial killer living in there, and it keeps opening the door while you’re in bed with the lights out. Also, the evil spirit is going to possess a huge dog and give it rabies. But you’ll see. Donna has been cheating on Vic with a guy who plays tennis, drives a van with a mural on the side, and refinishes furniture. She breaks it off with Steve Kemp, TENNIS PRO, and he threatens her. Then he goes off and writes Vic a letter. THE AFFAIR IS BROUGHT TO LIGHT, just as Vic and his partner Roger have to go save their advertising agency with a trip to New York! What fun. At some point, Steve Kemp breaks into their home and comes all over their comforter. Good pun, that.
Pat: WELCOME TO CASTLE ROCK. POPULATION: MARRITAL STRIFE.
Andrea: YEAH SERIOUSLY.
What are you up to?
I mean in the book, not in life.
Pat: Pinto just crapped out, but they got back to the house. Ol’ Joe Cambers is dead as fuck.
Vic calls from Wherevertown.
Andrea: I can’t believe you just called New York City “Wherevertown.”
Pat: I didn’t know where the shit Vic and Roger went.
Andrea: You have no reading comprehension.
They went to go fix the cereal business. All of that seemed very archaic in our age of email, like, “OH HEY TRAVELING FOR BUSINESS NOT SURE WHEN GONNA BE BACK KBAI.”
Pat: I know why they went, and where their ad agency had formerly been located. Doesn’t mean the shitting account was in New York.
Andrea: OH TRUE.
That was very deux ex machina. King was like, “OH HEY HOW DO I GET EVERYONE OUT OF TOWN LOLZ.”
Pat: I don’t think that’s deus ex machina.
Andrea: Well, YOU know what I mean.
It is some Latin thing.
Pat: You mean “convenient.”
Andrea: I didn’t really care about Vic’s partner, Roger. He seemed to serve no purpose.
Pat: I don’t think you’re supposed to care.
Andrea: The whole idea of them leaving their NYC agency and going off on their own in Maine seemed kinda wonky.
Pat: It seems absolutely wonky, but Roger makes it pretty fucking clear by the end that he hates New York and will do anything to keep from having to move him family back there, so that works for the story.
I liked the interlude about George Meara, the farting mailman.
Pat: You like farting anything.
Andrea: OH. I really liked the dynamic between the Cambers and the whole idea of Charity and Joe fighting for Brett’s soul. And the visit to Mrs. Cambers’ sister, Holly’s. I thought that was well done. And I was really really happy for them that Joe Cambers died.
Pat: That was good, although, honestly, what the fuck did it have to do with anything? It’s like SK just had to make it seem like the characters didn’t JUST exist to leave Cujo on the farm.
Andrea: Well, it got them away. It was at least as integral as the stupid Roger story line.
So do you think he did a good job of that, or not?
Pat: The sister visit? Yeah, although he didn’t bother trying to rope it through the Donna/Tad storyline.
Andrea: Maybe it was to demonstrate that something good came out of the whole thing.
Pat: I mean, mother and son struggling against something evil that wants to ruin them. WE GET IT, KING.
Andrea: Right. It’s parallel.
Pat: But there’s no interplay between what’s going on, except if you make that general leap on your own.
Andrea: Which is part of what being a good reader is all about!
Pat: What, using our brains to make connections the writer didn’t bother paralleling better?
Andrea: Ha, yes. I mean, he paralleled them well enough if we made the connection, right?
Pat: This is called “Constant Readers,” not “Constantly Making Up For The Shortfalls In Your Fucking Story, Stevie.”
Vic and Donna are totally loving parents. Tad loves them, too. They are so happy when Donna isn’t fucking Steve Kemp, FURNITURE REFURBISHER and TENNIS PRO.
Pat: Vic and Donna seemed like good parents, even if they had the most 70s fucking names ever.
Andrea: Even with Donna’s extracurricular van-driver banging? And the fact that they named the kid Tad?
Pat: She didn’t do it with Tad around.
Andrea: True. But you could argue that she was jeopardizing the family unit.
Pat: Yeah, well, whatever. You could argue a lot of things, and you’d be WRONG ABOUT THEM ALL.
Andrea: So you don’t think she was jeopardizing the unit?
Pat: No. I mean, in hindsight, knowing that Steve Kemp, POET AND TENNIS PRO, would later try to have revenge on her, trash her apartment and tell her husband about the affair, all after rather pointedly threatening to rape her, yeah, okay, that was jeopardy.
Andrea: One weird and kind of half-assed thing was the “shaped like a question mark” motif–Donna’s mole and Cujo’s bat scratch.
Pat: Let me ask you this: how the fuck can a mole be shaped like a question mark? Just because King needs a way to convince Vic that Steve Kemp is fucking his wife?
Andrea: Her dermatologist should totes check that mole out.
I kept waiting for the sponge glove thing.
Pat: That’s Pet Sematary, you dunce. Is that the entire reason you were excited to read Cujo? Bathtub handjobs that were in a completely different book?
Andrea: No comment.
Remember back in The Dead Zone, the strangley guy who killed all those little girls? A policeman by the name of Frank Dodd? Well, this all happens in a neighboring town! So what does King do? HE MAKES THE EVIL SPIRIT OF FRANK DODD SORT OF A SENTIENT THING, LIKE YOU DO.
Andrea: What did you think about the Frank Dodd legend stuff?
Pat: Not a bad lead-in.
Andrea: It kind of made me wish there was a book just about Frank Dodd.
Pat: I think the best you could hope for in a continuation is what SK did. Frank Dodd was invented just to pad out The Dead Zone and make us think it was Stillson that was strangling girls.
Andrea: Oh, right. How quickly I forget.
Do you buy that the Dodd murders would have been in Tad’s subconsciousness?
Pat: Yeah, why not? Kids key into boogeymen pretty easily. And Dodd would have been all over their local news.
Andrea: I kind of remember being aware of all the kidnapping stuff in the early 80s.
Pat: He just couldn’t have made it a straight-up RABID DOG TRAPS FAMILY IN CAR story. There had to have a supernatural fucking closet. And the wandering soul of a serial killer.
Andrea: Yeah, what was the deal with the supernatural closet?
Was Cujo in there?
Pat: It was something Cujo-esque.
AND THE DOOR THAT OPENED BY ITSELF OMG
Andrea: I don’t know if that is a sarcastic OMG or not?
Pat: Very sarcastic.
Long story short—and because the book is, after all, well worth reading—Vic leaves, Steve Kemp trashes the house, Donna’s broke-ass Pinto, which Vic didn’t have a chance to fix the engine of because Donna threw him for a loop by being a whore, dies on the way to the Cambers’ Family Auto-Shop, Dairy Farm And Evil Petting Zoo, out in the middle of nowhere. Donna and Tad are stuck in the Pinto. You could say that, as far as the car is concerned, they’ve bean had. Anyhow, guess what? Mrs. Charity Cambers and her son, who is improbably named Brett, go to visit Aunt Holly because Charity won a few thousand on the lottery! And Joe Cambers is an abusive douche who is trying to draw Brett to the dark red side of the neck! Oh, right, their 200lb. Saint Bernard, Cujo, has had rabies for a week by then, and has killed Joe Cambers and a few other guys that live in the area. How convenient for Donna and Tad in their stalled car!
Andrea: Part of the reason I didn’t like this book as much as I once did was because, how dumb was Donna? Drive out to Bumfuck with a four year old in a car that might crap out? Seriously? DONNA TRENTON I AM JUDGING YOUR TERRIBLE PARENTING.
Pat: She hadn’t read the book. She didn’t know no one was home, the car would break down, and a humongous rabid extra from Beethoven was lurking under the porch.
Andrea: True, but she was so stupid about it.
Pat: So if you were alone with a four year old Avery, and you had to get the car fixed, you’d leave her in the house and be like, “KBAI”?
Andrea: I would make sure it was taken care of before Tim left town.
Pat: You’d have Tim take care of it, even after a big blow-out involving you banging a guy who refinishes cabinets?
Andrea: idk, I don’t bang cabinet refurbishers. She even had a babysitter, but Tad whined so much she didn’t leave him. EXACTLY WHAT YOU TOLD ME NOT TO DO ON SATURDAY.
Pat: IF YOUR MARRIAGE WAS FRACTURING, AND TIM WAS AWAY ON BUSINESS, THAT’D BE DIFFERENT.
Avery isn’t acting a fool because she senses some marital rift. She’s just being a complainy pants like her mother.
I don’t see what’s the problem with taking the kid. It makes more sense than leaving him alone in the house, which is dangerous.
Andrea: Well, the problem is the car could break down, and they’d have to walk.
Pat: And if she breaks down, they call the one cab in town, and at least she’s got the kid with her.
Andrea: How are they gonna call a cab?
Pat: Walk to a fucking house.
It’s Maine. Someone will let them use their phone.
Andrea: Maybe I just can’t wrap my mind around banging a guy with murals painted on his van.
Pat: I think you think you’ve got more common sense than you actually do. It was the 70s/80s. Murals on vans were de rigeur. A sign of virility, even.
Back then, towns would choose mayors based on who had the best paintjob on their car.
Andrea: You don’t see me banging the mullety guy who flirts with me at the gas station.
Pat: You’re in 2012, biatch, and this was thirty years ago. You don’t see Donna banging a guy who looks like Leave It To Beaver, do you?
Andrea: No, I guess Steve Whatsit is kinda bitchin’.
Pat: You don’t even have the strength of your convictions. You’re an argument-manipulating flip-flopper.
Andrea: I was not aware that this was an argument. Perhaps that is the source of my flopping.
Pat: Well, it’s only an argument because you are talking trash heaps of shit, and I WILL NOT LET IT STAND.
Andrea: Whoa. You are feisty today.
They are in the fucking car forever. Not literary. Sort of feels like it though, when Donna isn’t actually doing a damn thing. Vic has LOST CONTACT WITH DONNA. The police have discovered that someone has broken into their house, and their Pinto is gone. DEAR GOD, SOMEONE’S MASTURBATED ON DONNA’S PILLOW. Steve Kemp, POET and SUSPECT #1, is chased down. He doesn’t know where fucking Donna or Tad are! Oh, shit! There’s a lot of this. For a long time. But the police do send someone out to the Cambers’ residence, a cop who is pretty quickly eaten alive by Cujo. Go figure. No one’s bothered that he never checks back in with headquarters, because the police are stupid. Not as stupid as Donna, who doesn’t even try to make a run for the cop car, where there’s a radio and probably a shotgun and DEFINITELY A WORKING FUCKING ENGINE.
Pat: I know Donna’s a woman and all, and she has a kid to protect, but I’m fairly certain she could’ve just kicked Cujo in the fucking head and been done with it on day one.
Andrea: Yeah, I feel like if I was her I would have just gone for it sooner.
Are we underestimating the power of a 250-lb dog, though? Picture me at my most pregnant. That’s how big this dog was.
Pat: It’s a fucking dog. A very sick dog. You’re telling me there wasn’t a tire iron in the car?
Andrea: Are there typically tire irons in cars? Is that like, with the spare?
Pat: Yes. Have you heard of cars, ever?
Andrea: I probably wouldn’t have thought of that, to be honest.
Pat: Well, you’re an awful mother then. And not only that, but you are borderline retarded. “I’m stuck in my car. If only there was something to hit the dog with. But as we all know, cars don’t have anything in them.”
Andrea: Here is an idea I have: unfold Avery’s stroller. Stand behind it and ram it into the dog or lift it over my head and bash the dog.
Pat: Unfold it in the car?
Andrea: Yeah, in the trunk. You can unfold it with one hand, it just pops right up.
Pat: I mean, here’s an easy one: unbuckle, get into the back of the car, reach forward, open the driver’s side door, wait for Cujo to attack, open the hatch, wait for him to come through the back of the car, slam the hatchback closed, run around, close the other door.
Pat: It was a hatchback.
Andrea: OH, you mean shut him in the car
What about the kid?
Pat: The kid is in the back with you, dumbass.
Andrea: And you would have to be pretty damn sure that he was actually going to get in the car.
Pat: If he doesn’t, there’s no problem.
I’m fuzzy on the timeline, but Cujo should probably have died.
Andrea: Maybe the reason he didn’t die was because he was possessed by Frank Dodd.
Pat: Incubation stage of rabies is 3-weeks, then the dog lives for up to 14 days after.
Andrea: Are you saying that coked-up SK didn’t do enough rabies research?
Eventually, for some reason, as the sun is baking the fuck out of the Pinto (refried!) and Donna and Tad and the somehow not-at-all-bothered Cujo, Vic gets the idea to check up at the Cambers’ anyway, which is good, because that’s where his wife and kid are. Except: Tad is dying, and Donna finally finds that spare pair of balls she got from STEVE KEMP: WUNDERLUST. She runs to the porch, grabs a bat, and she and Cujo enter the FINAL BATTLE.
THE BATTLE GOES ON FOR FUCKING EVER. Cujo just doesn’t want to die! Except he’s still got a bit of the nice puppy left in him. This whole situation is no fun for anyone, guys. Least of all, in the end, for Cujo, who gets an eyeful of shattered bat. GET IT? BATS GAVE HIM RABIES? THEN A BAT CURED HIM OF THEM WITH DEATH? We’ll take that Nobel Prize for Literary Criticism now. Thanks so much!
Andrea: I liked the cracked-out-on-rabies stuff from the dog’s point of view.
Pat: It’s awesome. And it’s exactly how I imagine a dog’s thoughts.
Andrea: I think that was a very smart move by SK because it made me feel sympathy for Cujo even though he was all murdery.
Pat: Yeah, but him being all murdery is offset by that, sure, but also how nice a dog he was at the beginning, playing with Tad in the yard, and at the end, SK is like, “It would perhaps not be amiss to point out that he had always tried to be a good dog… He had never wanted to kill anybody.”
Andrea: Yeah that was the part that made me really sad.
Pat: That was TOTALLY the saddest part.
You imagine this contrite dog, all fluffy and cute, making that face they make when they know they’ve done something wrong.
That shit was sadder than them finding out Tad was dead.
Andrea: Sadder than Donna going all feral and not wanting to leave Tad’s dead body?
Pat: Yeah, sadder than that.
That car must’ve weighed nothing, in the grand scheme of things, so I don’t know why she didn’t just wait until Cujo went into the barn, open the door, and start rolling the car backwards towards the road with her foot.
Andrea: Yeah but what would she have done when she got it to the road?
Pushed it down the road?
Pat: I don’t know, but maybe someone would have passed or seen the weirdly parked car in the middle of the road.
AT THE VERY LEAST SHE COULD HAVE ROLLED THE FUCKING THING INTO THE SHADE.
And let me tell you this fucking thing right here: if that heat killed a child, it would have killed a 200lb., furry-as-fuck dog WHO HADN’T DRANK WATER IN FUCKING DAYS.
Andrea: Yeah, but it’s way hotter in the car than outside
Pat: Hotter than fur? On an animal that doesn’t perspire?
Andrea: I AIN’T KNOW HOW DOGS BE LIVIN.
Tad is dead. You probably guessed that from the section above. What we didn’t tell you is that Donna has rabies from fighting with Cujo! She doesn’t become a superhero or a supervillain. Whatever.
Andrea: So what did you think?
Pat: I’m not sure what I think. I was expecting TERROR MOST EXTREME.
I did not get TERROR MOST EXTREME.
Andrea: You hadn’t read it before?
Pat: I have, that’s why I was expecting TERROR MOST EXTREME.
Andrea: So it wasn’t as scary as last time you read it?
Pat: I don’t know that it was scary the last time I read it, but I remembered it being more intense.
Andrea: It was less intense than anxiety-inducing. Mostly at the end when you know that time is running out for them, and there are several near-misses.
Andrea: So… are we done with Cujo?
Pat: Unless you’ve got something else to say.
I LIKED IT.
Oh, except that I don’t like books where kids die. I felt awful at the end.
Pat: Yeah, seriously, what was the fucking point of Tad dying? What was gained in that? That it wasn’t a hunky-dory ending? GROUNDBREAKING, STEVIE.
Andrea: Are we getting old and curmudgeonly?
Pat: What doing you mean, “getting”?