Pet Sematary

Pet Sematary
July 22, 2013 Constant Readers

Louis Creed and his Super Family have moved from Chicago to Ludlow, Maine, because Louis is taking a job as a doctor at the University Of Maine and he’s never read any Stephen King books. Bad look, Lou. Real bad look. They’re in the car, tooling towards Ludlow and CERTAIN FUCKING DOOM, and it is bedlam. There’s Louis, his wife Rachel, his daughter Ellie, his son Gage, and the improbably named Winston Churchill—”Church” for short—the Cat Who Will Be Dead Soon Enough.

Andrea: Dumbasses always be moving to Maine and then bad things happen.
Pat: So we get a little vignette of family life with the Creeds, and it is hunky dory.
Andrea: His wife, Rachel, is kind of personality-less. In the usual way of King women.
Pat: I think she had a bit more to her than most. Louis seems like he wants out.
Although that is literally never brought up again until the end.
Andrea: Wants out of what?
Pat: He’s in the car dreaming about running away to Disneyland
Andrea: I took that to be stress-induced and not indicative of his actual feelings.
Louis is all stressed from the move, and there is lots of chaos with the one kid barfing and the other kid cutting her knee.
Pat: You mean getting stung by a bee.
Jesus, Hallowell.
Andrea: This is why you need to read the book first.
Pat: Pardon?
Andrea: So I don’t forget everything
Pat: I read the book second and I still got that right.
And me having it fresher in my mind argues the opposite.
Andrea: Right, I’m saying you need to read the book first so it is fresh in my mind.
Because I suck.
I’m doing your job for you by insulting myself
Pat: You’re usually not much better when you’re in-step with me.
Andrea: I hope you never again see boobs.
Pat: By the way, one Stephen King, writer, used to live in a rented house in Orrington, Maine, while he was teaching at University of Maine. A lot of local pets were killed in the road, and there was a cemetery the local kids had created near the house. His daughter’s cat died in the road. It’s name was Smucky, which I think is the name of one of the interred in the pet cemetery in the book.
Andrea: I think I read that before.
Also, Owen King apparently made a run for the road once.
Andrea: OH GOD
We were at a barbecue yesterday, and this freaking little weiner kid ran straight into a busy intersection without even looking because his parents weren’t watching him.
Pat: You know what’s scarier than that?
Andrea: Do I want to know?
Pat: The tagline for Pet Sematary Two. “Back by popular demand.”

The Creeds pretty much immediately meet the Crandalls, an elderly couple across the ROAD OF CERTAIN FUCKING DOOM from their new house. Jud is the one with the liver-spotted penis; Norma is the one with the dry, wrinkly vagina. Will the horrors never cease?

Andrea: I love Jud. He is my John Goodman of print.
Pat: “Hi there, I’m Jud Crandall, homespun motherfucker.”
Andrea: Norma is pretty sweet too.
Pat: Louis thinks that Jud is one of those guys you meet where you’re like, “Oh shit, you should’ve been my father!”
Andrea: I like to think that SK is just like Jud to his neighbors.
Pat: Meaning he leads them out to Native American cemeteries where they bury their dead and then come back to life and murder half their family and later killing Stephen King himself?
I figure you could do that once, tops.
Andrea: No, all yarn-spinning and rustic.
Pat: So Louis now has an old buddy to sip beers with on the porch while Norma Crandall tells Jud not to cuss. And Jud Crandall reels off the entire fucking history of the universe.
Andrea: You were just complaining about this in Christine with Roland LeBay’s brother.
Pat: When this doesn’t happen in a Stephen King story, I’ll dance the jig of a thousand orgasms.
Andrea: I LOVED this.
Pat: I mean, it’s to the point where, several places in the book, you might as well be reading a short story.
Andrea: I love that about SK. His little mini-histories are my fave. I thought it was an interesting way to weave in the backstory of the town without resorting to flashbacks or other cheesery.
Pat: It IS a flashback, you goon. What do you think talking about stuff that happened in the past for ten pages IS?
Andrea: Yeah but it’s not like, a dream sequence, for example
Pat: Speaking of dream sequences: Jud wastes no time at all taking the family on a hike behind their house through the woods to the pet cemetery
Andrea: Yes. Which I found slightly bizarre.
I mean, was that the same day they moved?
Pat: I think it was a few weeks after.
Andrea: So slightly less weird but still probably kinda weird.
Pat: He pretty much immediately says, “You best watch out for those Orinco trucks barrelin’ down this here rud. They’re liable to murderize your young’un so’s his cap fills with blud.”
Andrea: Do you think the warnings about the rud were too heavy-handed
Pat: What about this book isn’t unnecessary? In hindsight they are, but reading for the first time, maybe not.
Although what the hell else is going to happen in a book about an evil pet cemetery? The cat comes back and kills everyone?
Andrea: Or, as in the case of the movie sequel with Eddie Furlong, the dog.
Pat: Speaking of movies, The Shining was published in 1977. The movie came out in 1980. Which means that, in Pet Sematary, which was published in 1983, Stephen King plagiarized the adaptation of The Shining.
Andrea: Huh?
Pat: The day after he buries Church, Masterson asks him to play some raquetball, because: the 80s. And admonishes Creed that “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy.”
Andrea: Oh snap. I didn’t even catch that.

Life in Ludlow goes on forever. That crazy Jud Crandall takes the Creeds on a little nature hike into the woods behind their new house, because nothing says “Welcome!” like a creepy clearing in the middle of a forest where kids have been burying their dead pets for a hundred years.

Pat: It won’t surprise you to know that I thought there was TOO MUCH in the first part of the book.
Everything was too much.
Andrea: Well, yes. We did discuss this. I thought it was great because we get to know the family really intimately.
Before they are picked off one by one starting with the cat.
Pat: It’s still meandery. Whereas after page 200, it shoots off.
Although there is that argument between Louis and Rachel after they visit the cemetery.
Over what to tell their eldest kid, Ellie, about death and stuff.
Andrea: Right. Gosh, that’s a tough one. I agree with Louis that it is necessary and shouldn’t be pathologized. Families are so weird about death.
Pat: I suppose the book would be wildly different without Rachel’s death issues. And we’d lose one of the scariest moments of the book.

On Louis’s first day as the director of Giving College Kids Condoms And Removing Foreign Objects From Places They Don’t Damn-Well Belong, a student is hit by a car and is all kinds of almost-dead when he’s brought to the infirmary. Later, he is way more dead. In the final moments of his life, Victor Pascow starts talking some crazy shit, calling Louis by name even though he doesn’t know Louis’s name. And he talks about the goddamn pet cemetery. Holy shit!

Pat: First day at work as the campus doctor, a kid dies jogging. Believable?
Andrea: Not really, but I assumed it was all part of the cemetery’s master plan
The description of that was harrowing, with the candy stripers going into hysterics.
Pat: There’s something sinister about the name Victor Pascow.
Andrea: Do you think that’s because it was repeated throughout the book in a sinister way?
Pat: It may have been that. But the name is just kind of sinister. I mean, exclusive of him lying on the table fucked up and bloody and then gurgling up things warnings about the pet cemetery.
And knowing Louis’s full name.
Andrea: Victor in general is kind of a witchy name

Even worse: Victor Pascow comes by the house while everyone’s asleep and brings Louis out to the pet cemetery again to tell him, look, don’t go beyond that deadfall of trees back there, it’s bad mojo. Also, hey, here’s the recipe for my famous guacamole dip. I won’t be using it anymore. Louis thinks it was all a dream, but he finds dirt on his feet when he wakes up! Hygiene is important, Lou, Jesus.

Pat: So far I haven’t been scared by anything in the book.
Andrea: You’re not up to the scary part yet.
Pat: I’m “not up to the scary part yet”? You don’t think a dying man saying Louis’s name and then WALKING HIM TO THE PET SEMATARY later on is a scary part?
Andrea: Obviously not, if neither of us thought it was scary.
The scary part is Louis’s grief and desperation after Gage’s death and the rapid dissolution of the marriage.
Pat: That ain’t scary.
Andrea: I have never met a person as contrary as you. I feel for your saintly mother.
Pat: You’re only saying that because YOU are the most contrary person, and I am just the least tolerant of your constant contrariness.
Andrea: I am the picture of agreeability.
Pat: The prosecution calls Tim Miller to the stand.

Norma Crandall has a mild heart attack because she accidentally flipped the channel and caught a second or two of Skinemax. Or something like that.

Pat: So Norma suffers a fairly severe heart attack while Ellie and Gage are at their house trick-or-treating, which is a double-whammy of traumatizing.
Andrea: Right. But Ellie takes it mostly in stride. Gage doesn’t go. He is too sick
Pat: He had the croup. There were too many kids involved in Halloween.
The Norma heart attack bit was good. As if it wasn’t already solid enough in your head that Jud and Norma were FOREVA LOVAS
Andrea: Oh man. That was sad.
Pat: But she’s all right. For now.
Query: are Jud Crandall and Judd Apatow related? Discuss.
Andrea: Um, no.
Next question?
Pat: Look, I’d feel guilty if you were the only one who ever asked dumb questions.

The stupid cat dies while Rachel and the kids are away, leaving Louis at home to be a plot device. Church the cat sure is dead! Louis peels the roadkill off of Jud’s lawn, tosses it in a bag.

Pat: And then the Louis Creeds go to Chicago to visit the Big Bad Grandparents without Louis Creed. And Church beefs it on the road.
Which I believe is also how the real Winston Churchill died. Hit by a truck on a road in rural Maine.
Andrea: A question that plagues me. What was so bad about Louis Creed that Rachel’s parents hated him? I mean, is a doctor not the ultimate son in law coup?
Pat: Especially for Jewish parents.
But we get an answer for that at the end. Did you not read the end?
Where Irwin Goldman capitulates after beating Lou up at Gage’s funeral?
Andrea: Yeah, but I still didn’t get why he was so bad.
Pat: He wasn’t, but Rachel’s parents had lost one daughter, felt bad about what had happened to Rachel while her sister was sick and dying and the shit afterwards, and here was this goy whose medical schooling was forcing her to work some shit job for like five years.
Andrea: Okay, true. But I feel like their hatred of Louis was at cross-purposes for giving Rachel whatever she wanted to make up for Zelda’s death.
Pat: Look, Stephen King is a writer of horror, of supernatural shit, of things that are other-worldly but entirely plausible.
Pat: Parents who act logically are fantasy.
Andrea: That’s true
Pat: But you didn’t buy the dislike of Louis Creed, Goy Med Student, by Dory and Irv Goldman, Rachel’s Jewish parents with a dead daughter?
Andrea: I mean, I’m not saying I didn’t buy it. Parents are stupid. I just thought they were dumbasses
Pat: Well, that’s kind of the point.
Pat: They need to be unreasonable dumbasses, or the scene after the funeral doesn’t work. Hell, the scene AT the funeral wouldn’t work.
Andrea: Well, yeah. Oh man that funeral scene. Heart-wrenching.
How about the description of Louis scraping Church up off of Jud’s lawn?

Then Jud says to himself, “You know what, I like this family, and I’m going to help them resurrect their cat by showing this here fellow the real pet cemetery because I am just plumb stupid.” What a swell guy.

Pat: I like that Jud doesn’t explain a goddamn thing about their trip into the woods and beyond the normal pet cemetery.
Except, of course, “Still got to walk a piece.”
Andrea: Right.
And like, was that something he immediately planned to show the new owners?
Pat: No, this is the second time they go. Just Jud and Louis. To the real pet cemetery.
Are you unfamiliar with linear time? Which is the way I’ve been guiding this conversation?
Andrea: OH GOD
Pat: I’m talking about after Church’s death. Which is why I brought it up AFTER CHURCH’S DEATH.
Andrea: You are such a persnickety curmudgeon.
Pat: I’m never going to notice if you develop Alzheimer’s.
Andrea: I might already have it.
Pat: Like I said, I wouldn’t have noticed.
Andrea: OK SO
Pat: All Jud says on the way to the super-secret Micmac burial ground beyond the deadfall is, “Weird loon sounds out here, ayup” and the like.
Andrea: Yeah. So Louis just thinks they are going on a regular trip to bury Church in the regular cemetery. And then he seems to get somehow hypnotized, possibly around the time that Jud climbs over the deadfall like it ain’t no thang.
Pat: The cackling laughter was spooky as all hell. And then the feeling of seeing a face out of the corner of his eyes? And Jud being like, “Uh, don’t fucking look at anything you think you might’ve heard around here.”
Andrea: Super creepy. It kind of made me wonder if he had been up there more than he let on.
Pat: The implication is that there’s essentially a buried, smaller-scale version of a Mayan pyramid up there, right? All the way back in the woods?
Andrea: Yes. That was my takeaway, anyway.
I would love to know how they figured out it was up there
Pat: It’s safe to assume some settler just got the itch to explore and the place drew him in.
And on and on throughout Ludlow’s history.
Andrea: Right. And then they somehow knew that if something got buried up there it will come back to life? Like, the place told them once they’d been up there?
Pat: No, they would just have had the itch to bury something up there.
Andrea: OK, that is not funny but it made me LOL
Pat: This is why I think the lack of explanation from Jud until the next day—when Church has already showed up at the house again, stinking of the grave—was intentional.
Andrea: Man, “stinking of the grave” is such a great turn of phrase.
Pat: The act is instinctive. Because it’s not the person actively deciding to do the deed, it’s the burial ground.
Andrea: Right.
Pat: You don’t get the explanation and any kind of conscious thought until after.
Andrea: Which explains why, when things went so horribly wrong with Church, then Gage, he still couldn’t stop from burying Rachel.
Also, he was insane by then
Pat: And then you’re like, “Micmac is a fucking goofy name for a tribe of Native Americans that could raise the fucking dead.”
Even the Wendigo. A real stupid name for a huge goat-headed beezlebub. None of that is scary. And yet it is TOTALLY FUCKING SCARY.

The stupid cat comes back to life. Bozo move, Creed.

Pat: So Church returns to life. Sort of.
Andrea: Yes. We definitely left off there.
Pat: I know, that’s why I said that. You were supposed to, you know, engage in an actual response.
Pat: Church is now awful and a little dumb. And clumsy as fuck.
Andrea: And stinks and starts tearing up birds and mice and shit even though he is fixed.
Pat: It’s kind of weird that, before he finds Church resurrected, he gets that note from Jud that is about a thousand fucking pages long.
Andrea: That is really weird
But Jud is kind weird
Pat: I guess it came to Jud that he had some explaining to do. See? THOUGHT AFTER ACTION. Because the cemetery wasn’t in control anymore.
Andrea: Yes, that makes total sense.
Pat: Honesty, the long-ass story of Stanny B. bored me.
Andrea: Yeah, I mean, it was OK
Pat: Although it does kind of illuminate that Jud, who fucking knew better because his dog Spot had come back to life all dull and bumbling, wasn’t really in the driver’s seat when he took Louis up to the burial ground.
It’s almost worse what happened to Church. The dumbness, the kind of lazy evil. Like he’d murder everything if he had the energy. Maybe tomorrow.
Andrea: Then Rachel and Ellie come back and Ellie immediately realizes that Church is gross now.
Pat: Well, sort of subconsciously.
Andrea: And Louis keeps saying the weird thing about buying this responsibility. That wasn’t the exact wording but you know what I mean
Pat: “A man grows what he can… and tends it.”
Andrea: YES
Pat: “…in bed.”
Andrea: NO
Andrea: That phrase gave me chills.
Pat: “In bed” gives you chills?

Jud gives Louis the story of burying his own pet Spot in the pet cemetery, and how Spot came back stupid and dull. One time, someone even buried a bull up there! The bull turned mean and had to be killed a second time. Lord. The Creeds return, and Ellie no longer likes Church because he is a fucking supernatural undead creepfest now. This goes on for SOME TIME. Then Norma dies! Jud is all kinds of sad, but not stupid enough to bring her wrinkled dug on over to the Micmac burial ground.

Pat: See also: Norma dies.
Andrea: Yes, during trick or treating which might ruin Halloween for Ellie forever if she wasn’t already headed to the asylum after her whole family dies
Pat: No, that was the heart attack.
Andrea: Oh, the stroke, right?
Pat: I don’t know why you insist on barreling ahead to the next book when you can’t remember the one before.
Andrea: Because you are all into reading IT in july!
She dies, Ellie is kind of blasé about it. Rachel pitches a fucking fit about death with Louis Creed, MD.

The curtain comes down on the first part of the book. Norma is dead, Church is undead, Ellie thinks death is kind of okay, Rachel is a nattering twat about death, and Louis Creed is getting sexy emails from the pet cemetery IN HIS HEAD. Sort of. The last scene is a wonderful sunny day with Louis and Gage flying a kite. Things are great! Is this really a Stephen King novel?

Andrea: I think it’s actually really useful that he spends so much time fleshing out their family life. It’s really well-done and it makes it that much more of a gut punch when the kid gets mowed over by a fucking truck.
Pat: But I mean: there are three parts to this book. The first is HALF THE BOOK. A solid YEAR.
Andrea: So you think that part should have been shorter?
Pat: Much shorter, but then again, I always think that.
Andrea: SUBQUESTION: what would you have cut?
I mean, it’s all really masterful as a portrait of a family and of a child’s growing understanding of what death means.
Pat: The way you use “masterful” is never masterful.
I wouldn’t cut any specific thing. I’d just make the thing more lean, less gristle.
If anything, the first trip to the Micmac burial ground and Jud’s rambling story of burying his dog Spot could have been shorter, snappier.
Andrea: Okay, yeah, agreed.
Pat: The thing is, before that kite incident, I didn’t particularly care about Gage.
The whole onus is on Ellie until the kite.
Andrea: And then at the end of that chapter, the throat punch of “and he only had three months to live.”
Pat: He’s always making with the throat punches at the end of chapters.
Andrea: He also telegraphs the truck thing A LOT. Maybe almost too much.
Although I can see that if you were reading this for the first time and had no idea what was going to happen, Gage’s death would be shocking.
Pat: I don’t think it’s shocking because it’s obvious that someone is going to die. Louis is out, because he’s the one who would do the burying; Ellie is the one learning to deal with death, so it wouldn’t be her; Rachel also has a relationship with death that will need to be played out when Whoever’s Gonna Die Dies.
That leaves Gage, Jud, and Norma. Jud’s too homespun to be resurrected. And after seeing Baterman, there’d be no way either of them would resurrect each other.
Which leaves us with Gage.
Andrea: Well yeah, I guess I don’t analyze that much when I’m reading something for the first time. I’d probably thinking more like “that scary cat on the cover is going to murder them all.”
Pat: It couldn’t be the cat. By the way, what King seems to be describing about Church having been to the other side and seen something that ate away at whatever intelligence the cat had? Sounds like the deadlights from IT to me.
Andrea: I don’t remember anything about the deadlights.
Pat: I’m starting to think you’ve looked into them too.
It’s what put Aubrey into a coma. And King describes someone seeing it. One of the thug kids that goes crazy.
Andrea: Maybe it’s the thing that the kid saw on “The Jaunt.”
Pat: Anyway, Gage had to die, though. I don’t understand the mechanics of the place, but it seems like the rule was your reward for doing its bidding was death every time.
Like the act of resurrection assigned a debt to the person.

Oh, right. Gage is dead now. A truck hit him on the road because Louis sucks at running. Whoops!

Pat: So Gage is dead.
Andrea: This was the saddest thing to happen in any book ever.
Especially in the wake of Louis and Gage having that golden moment with the kite.
Pat: Oh god, right. What a fucking dick move, King.
Andrea: And Louis replays the scene with Gage running towards the truck over and over, trying to change it in his mind, and it’s horrifying.
Pat: Leave the summarizing to me. Your memory is pudding.
Andrea: I did think it was kind of weird that they were not letting her parents come to the house at all.
Pat: He gives us a good long while of “Gage is dead” without bothering to tell us why or how.
Andrea: I don’t really remember that? Maybe because I already knew how he died?
Pat: He doesn’t mention it until Louis replays it in his head. It doesn’t take forever, but we’re already ensconced in the he’s-dead tea he be brewin’.
Andrea: But don’t you think it’s weird that they don’t let Rachel’s parents to the house?
Pat: No, because it is EXPLICITLY MENTIONED that Steve Masterson is trying to keep her secluded from everyone until she can manage.
Andrea: I guess
Andrea: I just feel like death, family should be together, blah blah.
Andrea: ANYWAY
Pat: They ARE together. Just not at the house, not when the wife is still all fuddled and half tranqued.

Everyone is insanely sad now. Rachel’s the worst off, and her douchetingle parents are around, blaming Louis for the whole thing. There’s a funeral, because, look, that’s what happens when someone dies. King isn’t making that part up.

Pat: What a book. Snuck right the fuck up on me with its slow, gamboling first hundred pages.
Andrea: I know. omg
Pat: You will probably not be surprised that I spent the first fifty pages of the second part crying every five minutes.
Andrea: I cried a lot too. It was really unbelievably sad. The parts after Gage’s funeral really hit home. Where Louis keeps imagining it over and over again except he saves him? Yeesh. And the baseball cap full of blood and the tiny inside out overalls.
Pat: The fight between Rachel’s father and Louis is… gah. Rough.
Andrea: Oh god. It was pretty awful.
Rachel leaves the church screaming.
Pat: Particularly the waiting to see if the motherfucking casket was going to dump Gage’s body on the carpet.
Andrea: For some reason I thought that it did, probably because I imagined it as way worse than it actually was.
Pat: It was bad enough with Louis seeing a split second of Gage’s head before the lid shut itself again.
Andrea: ughhhghhghhghgh
I’m cringing just thinking about it.

Irv and Louis GET IT ON, fisticuffs-wise. It is a bad scene. Then it’s back home for the shell-shocked family. Home is where you lay your stupid undead cat.

Andrea: Oh! Ellie carrying around Gage’s photo. My heart broke. and sitting in his chair.
Pat: I wonder if her thing about keeping his stuff ready for him, like sitting in his chair and eating the cereal she used to hate but Gage loved, was an indication of her sort of powers of prediction.
Andrea: Oh yeah! I didn’t think about that.
I like when Steve is basically like, pull it together you assholes.
Pat: Doesn’t he only say it to Louis?
How come Jud never invited Louis over to set back and whittle?
Andrea: Yeah. I have no idea? Oh, Jud was really sweet to Ellie too. I wish that the book ended with him living and adopting her.

Irv calls Louis. Louis is drunk!

Pat: Uh, Irwin trying to make amends to Louis over the phone?
Andrea: That was weird
Pat: I don’t think you’ll be surprised to know that along with that scene, I was pretty much in tears the entire last half of the book.
Andrea: Yeah, you told me that. I was too. And I rarely ever cry at books or movies anymore
Louis is drunk and crying on the phone, right?
Pat: He’s definitely drunk, and definitely crying. Jesus, Lou, who died?

Creed is thinking about using the pet cemetery again. He doesn’t think that’s what he’s thinking, but he is. Hell, even Jud knows he’s thinking about it! That’s why Homespun Jud Crandall of the Ludlow Crandalls tells Louis the story of Baterman, a local kid who was killed to death in the war. Probably Korea? Maybe Vietnam? Anyway, Baterman’s father buries the kid in the Micmac Flower Garden of Death and Rebirth, and the kid comes back off his shit and possessed of knowledge from BEYOND. Like the bull, Resurrection Baterman gets put down a second time.

Pat: Again, it was like a short story jammed into the book. Jud is a fuckin’ gas-bag.
Andrea: I don’t care. I love that stuff.
That Timmy Baterman part would have made an excellent short story.
Pat: I really don’t know if I believe the stuff about Norma banging everybody ever.
Even though it came from the MAW OF OBLIVION ITSELF.
Andrea: No, me either. I thought he was probably using that to shake Jud up, although who knows.
Pat: It would fit with King’s custom of “EVERYONE IS HUGGING.”
Andrea: Now who’s making Simpsons references?

This, Jud is trying to tell Louis, is why we don’t bury people in the goddamn pet cemetery, so don’t even think about burying Gage, you nutbar.

Andrea: I think the way SK insidiously drops in that Louis is beginning to think about the burial ground is pretty well done.
Pat: I wouldn’t say it’s insidious the way he does it. The thoughts themselves are insidious. But inevitable.
Maybe you mean the fact that he is suddenly able to feel the pull of the place?
Andrea: Yeah, that’s what I meant. The insidiousness of the thoughts and the way that is written is well done.
Pat: The second part of the book is pretty much all well done.
Andrea: And even as he is assuring himself that he would never do that, he’s already taking steps to do it.
That is what made my skin crawl. That Louis would even entertain having his son back like that. Like when he imagines him never being able to talk or feed himself or use the bathroom.
Pat: He does think about it though, although again, it’s cloudy, bad thinking that stinks of the burial ground’s influence. He thinks that Bill Bateman waited too long to bury his kid, and so the kid came back all fucked in the head, but Church was buried WITHIN THE DAY.
Pat: So best case, Gage comes back retarded and minimally evil. Which, did you consider the consequences of that?
Pat: Would Gage age? Or stay three years old forever? Would he develop at all, mentally?
Andrea: Right, exactly. And the fact that how the fuck are you going to explain to your wife and daughter , albeit the rest of the known world, that your son came back to life?
Andrea: The fact that he is justifying this totally speaks of the burial ground’s influence.
Pat: Exactly. And especially after just no longer giving a fuck once Church was reanimated, Ellie would’ve been like, yeah, hey, kinda wish my bro Gage would die. Again.
Andrea: Also super creepy? The recurrent dreams of being with Gage at Disneyland. They were literally dreadful
Pat: Anything involving Disneyland is dreadful.
Andrea: Womp womp.
Pat: How about the fact that someone lugged a fucking BULL up to the burial ground?
Andrea: OMG
I don’t think I even was able to wrap my brain around that.
Pat: Leave it to a Maine bumpkin to have a prize bull.

There’s no way around it: Louis sends his remaining family off to see the reconciled grandparents, because that motherfucker is going to do the deed. He heads to a hardware store and asks the clerk, “So, if you were going to exhume a body from a cemetery under cover of night, illegally, what supplies would you need? I’m asking for a friend.”

Andrea: I wasn’t crazy about the whole digging up the grave part. Not sure why.
Pat: Probably because it was a gravedigging scene? And it involved a dead child? And it wasn’t meant for you to be crazy about it?
Andrea: I mean the way it’s written. It seemed really drawn out and convoluted.
But I guess that it drove home the point of, “oh, hey, digging up your dead son’s grave is really shitty–also, it’s hard work.”
Pat: I will say: the hardware store visit was weirdly captivating.
So much so, in fact, that I have had that bit about covering a flashlight with felt and poking a hole in it to create a pencil-thin beam of light bouncing around my head for the last decade and a half.
Andrea: Oh yeah!!!
Pat: It is, in fact, such a potent thing, that flashlight, that when I read that section, I was remembering the flashlight I was imagining twenty or so years ago.
Andrea: It’s weird how certain things stick like that
Pat: Not as weird as how nonchalant Louis is about shopping.
Andrea: Do you think they made it seem too easy? I mean, he’s digging up a grave.
Pat: If by “they” you mean King, no. It takes for fucking ever for Louis to even get into the cemetery where Gage is buried.
Andrea: And all that stuff about ball-impaling when he’s scaling the fence.
Pat: The actual digging up is glossed over, thankfully. But then it’s back to super-slo-mo for the exit. Which honestly, I didn’t understand what the fuck was going on.
Andrea: That’s the part that I felt like was too drawn out.
Pat: There was a mausoleum and a hill and it was the fucking pipe in the hotel basement from Running Man all over again.
Andrea: I mean, as a literary device I think it kind of worked in illustrating that Louis is having a LONG FUCKING NIGHT.
And also kind of indicating that he almost has to be driven by an outside force in order to have the stamina to do this.
Pat: But it’s fuck-all for pacing’s sake. There are better ways to have made it seem long and arduous and like Louis had to be somewhat possessed to get it done.
I say that because I know it to be true. And I know it to be true because MUTHAFUCKIN KING HAS DONE IT BEFORE.
And lemme just tell you: I think it would have been a lot more effective if it had been written more as a fugue state or like that dream with Pascow.
Andrea: I agree.

Louis hauls his former son’s husk of a body back to the house, then lugs him through the forest in a trance. The Wendigo appears and is fucking HELLISH. Jesus Christmas. But Lou doesn’t care, the burial ground’s got his back, and the Wendigo is like the janitor. As long as Lou has his hall pass, he’s safe.

Andrea: When Louis wakes up and he’s like holy shit, Gage might be back, it is absolutely nerve-wracking. And then he’s like, oh, lemme just make a cup of coffee and see what happens.
Pat: I mean, shit, he was so clinical about the whole thing. “Hey, you know, I’ll try this shit out and then Gage will come back and, oh, I guess I’ll just… make a diagnosis when he does. And if he sucks, I’ll off him again. Re-off him.”
Andrea: I know!!!! Oh man.

What Louis doesn’t know is that Gage has already come back and hung around creepily in Lou’s bedroom while he’s sleeping off the night’s mischief. Yikes.

Pat: It is super weird that Gage comes back seeming like he’s the wrong age.
Andrea: What do you mean?
Pat: As in, the thing inside him is not the same age as Gage was when he died.
Andrea: Oh yeah.
Pat: So it feels super off.
Andrea: I didn’t think that was weird. It’s obviously a demon or something, right?
Pat: Something like that. The Wendigo, maybe.
Andrea: It would be weirder if he was still a two-year old, but with the propensity for scalpel murder.
Pat: Why do you think Gage comes in, grabs the scalpel out of Louis’s room, and heads over the Jud’s first?
Andrea: That is a really good question.
Probably because he knows that Jud will try to stop him and needs to get to him first.
Pat: Did the Wendigo spirit thing learn from Baterman that if he didn’t get to killing real soon, his new body would get kilt?
Andrea: Maybe?

Gage goes over to Jud’s house to visit and have some milk and cookies and tell the old man that his dead wife pretty much sucked a thousand cocks. So it’s the same thing in Gage that was in Baterman! Or else all reanimated corpses are vulgarians.

Pat: Again, we’ve got a reanimated dead person talking some shit.
Andrea: That is super creepy to me for some reason.
Pat: Yeah, for some reason. Maybe that it’s a two year old talking about cheating wives?
Andrea: Did he slice Jud’s Achilles’ tendon in the book or was that just in the movie?
Pat: Just the movie.
By the way:
‘”Hello, Jud,’ Gage piped in a babyish but perfectly understandable voice. “I’ve come to see your rotten, stinking old soul straight to hell. You fucked with me once. Did you think I wouldn’t come back sooner or later and fuck with you?”
“Jud raised the cleaver. ‘Come on and get your pecker out then, whatever you are. We’ll see who fucks with who.’”
Andrea: Oh man. Jud is boss.
Pat: I guess that confirms it: he’s the last of the people who went to see Bill Baterman about his recently deceased/more recently resurrected son, and the thing inside Timmy Baterman blames them for Bill burning down the house with them both in it.
Andrea: I don’t like that Gage killed Jud.
Although I did enjoy the tormenting by the evil Gage-thing.

Meanwhile, Ellie is having fucked up dreams about Gage coming back, starring Victor Pascow.

Pat: I didn’t really buy the Pascow dreams. The whole system there seemed to have no sense or rules to it. People need rules to believe in supernatural shit. Otherwise, it’s like, uh, what? Louis would even agree with me. Dude was making up all kinds of rules about the cemetery.
Andrea: I just took it as kids being really susceptible to picking up on energy around them
And she probably picked up on it when Pascow was in their house
Pat: But again, it’s the thing about Pascow that is throwing me off. It makes no real sense. He’s connected to Louis but can’t talk to him anymore after the first time, and yet he can get through to the kid? And all his dreams do, throughout the book, is bring about the thing they’re supposed to be preventing.
Pat: I really can’t figure the Pascow thing out. He was ineffectual. He had no point in the story except to give a little… ahem, CREEDENCE to the power of the place. But he can’t talk to Louis after a while, and the only use he is is that he visits Ellie’s dreams later on and spurs Rachel to flee back to Maine to make sure Louis is okay.
Which sort of makes him seem like an agent of the cemetery. BUT THEN HOW THE HELL DID HE GET TANGLED UP IN THE PLACE?
Andrea: Maybe someone in his family used it? Or maybe he used it himself?
Pat: Doesn’t it explicitly say there is no connection between Pascow and Ludlow?
Andrea: I think it said he lived somewhere else. But that doesn’t mean some relative didn’t come from Ludlow.
Andrea: I think it’s just beyond the scope of the story.
Pat: Explaining Pascow’s real role in everything?
Andrea: Yeah.
Pat: It just seems convenient, and so it feels pointless to me.
Andrea: Meh. I am fine with it.
Pat: Even the fucking Wendigo, a huge LIZARD CREATURE WITH GOAT HORNS doesn’t raise my suspicions because it is TIED TO THE FUCKING CEMETERY WITH FOLKLORE. Pascow is just a dead guy whose soul was close to Creed’s when he died. That’s the only explanation we get.
NOT CLOSE ENOUGH THOUGH THAT HE CAN COMMUNICATE WITH CREED AFTER THE FIRST TIME. But he can get to the daughter. So the mechanics of the whole thing threw me off.
Andrea: I already did! I am fine with the whole deal. Freaky things happen in Pet Sematary, and I am okay with Pascow being an unexplained freaky thing.
And even if SK dropped the ball, it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of the book.

Rachel calls Louis and mentions that Ellie has totally flipped shit. She asks him if he knows the name “Pascow.” Oh fuck, Louis. This is bad. Rachel decides she’s got to get back to Maine, pronto.

Pat: Tell me if this is an unfair criticism: Ellie’s dreams and Rachel’s scramble to get back to Maine is pretty much exactly The Shining.
Andrea: Sort of, yeah. I mean, he revels in that kind of race against time to beat unbeatable forces. Usually futile. Like when the husband is on his way back in Cujo, but he’s minutes too late.
Pat: Considering the malevolent will of the cemetery, why the hell did it try to stop Rachel? Or was it just delaying her exactly enough so that Gage could kill her?
In which case, her getting sent back by Pascow, who seemed to be a force for good who could no longer speak to Louis once the cemetery had him in its power, makes me think it was the cemetery’s will, which casts Pascow’s goodness into doubt.
Andrea: Hmmm.
I will consider. Gotta go this kid just stripped naked and is demanding a bath.

Andrea’s child doesn’t murder her.

Pat: Rachel’s trip back to Maine was extremely tense for me. But I think mostly because I hate traveling and missing connecting flights and especially driving.
Andrea: Yeah, I hated that whole part. I mean, didn’t hate it but it made me really anxious. Which is dumb because I know the outcome.
Pat: I actually didn’t remember that part of the end. So I couldn’t remember if she actually got there in time, whatnot.
And this is the same as the Pascow shit: she gets all the flights she needs.

Rachel gets there before Lou even wakes up. Sheesh. She goes to Jud’s house first, for some reason, and oh boy, Jud is all kinds of dead. There’s a kid giggling somewhere in the house. FUCKING RUN, RACHEL. She doesn’t! She sees a vision of her dead sister, Zelda, warped and bent from multiple sclerosis, but it’s just Gage being Gage. When he turns back into her son, she’s like, aw, my son! and goes to him.

Pat: Zelda hallucination: THOUGHTS?
Andrea: Which part?
Pat: Wait, does Rachel see Zelda? Or is that Louis?
Andrea: I don’t even remember that happening. OH WAIT. Yes, I think it is Rachel. Gage seems to turn into Zelda for a minute. Or she thinks it is her at first.
Pat: It is deeply unsettling that Gage can shapeshift.
Andrea: Um, yes. Are the resurrected people beginning to evolve? Like, the cemetery is getting smarter?
Pat: We don’t really have anything to go on except Timmy Baterman, and we didn’t get any of that in the flashback. Maybe dude was just enjoying being alive and in a body again, and this time, it was for keepsies.
Andrea: I would have preferred more of that and less of the gravedigging. Like, for example, what was Rachel’s reaction when she saw dead Gage.
Pat: Well, that we know. She just went all gooey like nothing had happened and knelt down to embrace him.
Which, we also know how THAT turned out for her.
Andrea: Um, wtf. From Wikipedia: When Rachel arrives at Jud’s house, Gage kills her also (and, it is implied, partially eats her corpse).
Pat: Wait, WHAT?
Andrea: I don’t remember that AT ALL
Pat: Found it. “Rachel had not just been killed. Something had been… something had been at her.”
Andrea: Ahhhhhhh
Oh man. That adds a whole layer of grossness
Pat: Here’s the thing though: while we have the whole Wendigo-touch-causes-cannibalism thing to go on, I think it’s far more likely that it was Church what did the eatin’.
Andrea: Yeah, I think that’s what I assumed too.

Louis wakes up and, long story short, figures he should mosey on over to the Crandall residence, where stupid Church is hanging out. He’s got a good number of syringes filled with deadly stuff and makes Church double-dead.

Pat: There’s no mention of blood anywhere on Church when Louis finds him. So I guess Gage was the one who did the chewin’ on Rachel.
Andrea: Ugh.
Pat: Yeah, Gage appears after Louis finds Rachel’s body, and his mouth is covered in blood, “his chin dripping.”
Andrea: Ughhhhhhh
I don’t know how I missed that. Possibly my horrified brain blocked it out
Pat: This whole sequence could’ve been a lot longer and still worked.
But at this point, it was just like, “OKAY, LET’S GET THIS OVER WITH, I’M TIRED FROM THE CEMETERIES.”

Louis enters the house. Rachel is goddamn dead. Gage is tooling around somewhere with the scalpel he plucked out of Louis’s medical bag earlier. You are now scared of a two year old child. Gage goes all Satan again, shapeshifting and trying to kill his dad. Lou handles his shit and gives Gage a neck-full of syringey death.

Pat: So, probably the most gut-wrenching part of the book: Gage looking at Louis just before he dies again, after all the face-shifting, and yelling, “Daddy!”
Andrea: Um, yeah. Probably as a trick to get him to think that Gage is still in there, which leads him to think that if he just gets Rachel in the ground sooner, she’ll come back more normal.
Pat: But it WAS clearly the real Gage coming back.
You think the demon thing let him resurface intentionally?
Andrea: Yeah, I think the demon let him resurface to reel Louis in further.
Pat: I took it as the demon taking flight from the dying body.
Andrea: That is also a possibility.

Louis burns down Jud’s house with both Crandall and his son’s bodies still in there. But only those two. Gage is dead because he came back from the cemetery off, but, you know, he wasn’t buried very quickly. Rachel’s fresh out-the-box. Perhaps you already know where this is heading.

Pat: Is Steve Masterson only allowed to exist in this novel because somebody had to see Louis carrying Rachel’s body into the woods and over the deadfall?
Andrea: Yeah, I mean other than that he’s kind of useless. Louis’s hair turning white. Christ.
Pat: I assume that was the result of the “lightning strike” that blew a fuse in his head when he found Rachel dead. That was a haiku.
Andrea: Thank god it didn’t go into the whole thing about the burial AGAIN.

Louis heads on back home for a beer and some solitaire while waiting to see if burying someone quickly has any bearing on whether or not they come back homicidal. SPOILER: NOPE.

Andrea: So he’s playing solitaire and patiently waiting for Rachel to come back.
Pat: Oh god. “Darling.”
Andrea: Shivers down the spine.
Pat: He’s dealing the Queen of Spades when she comes in by the way. Known in Hearts as “the Bitch.”
Andrea: The ending is one of the few times that SK has really, truly stuck the ending.
Pat: Honestly, I don’t know if I agree.
I can’t explain it exactly, but it feels too clean to be good. Too expected.
The white hair was good. Steve Mastersen almost following him over the deadfall was good.
The realization that the cemetery had the power to really bring a person back but chose to regurgitate these ruined versions was awesome.

Surprise, she’s got something behind her back! Probably a scalpel! The book ends. Maybe she was just going to use it to make salad. We’ll never know!

Andrea: Rankings compared to other books we’ve read so far? I think this is by far my favorite. Although I now have no desire to ever put myself through the emotional wringer of reading it again.
Pat: The emotional Mangler?
Andrea: Yup. I got spit out the other end.
Pat: I don’t know if I agree about the ending. I’m fine with ambiguous endings, but we’re talking about a force we now KNOW is homicidal and not at all the person who was buried, and so what, it’s just going to hang out? Forever? Living with its body’s white-haired, traumatized husband?
Andrea: I assume that Rachel kills him. I don’t feel like I need to know.
But I don’t know what happens to her after that.
Andrea: Snort
Pat: So it’s going to kill Louis for killing it when it was in Gage?
Andrea: I don’t know? I don’t think it needs a reason. I think it just wants to kill.
Pat: It didn’t kill Bill Baterman. But then again, it had no reason to kill Rachel.
Andrea: Look. I don’t feel the need to speculate on the motivations of a Wendigo demon.
Maybe it’s scamming for a dude’s body?
So it can bone?
Andrea: Um, women can bone.
Andrea: You didn’t tell me where this ranks for you.
Pat: I’d put Pet Sematary up there.
Andrea: Top three?
Pat: So far? Let’s see… no.
Gunslinger, Long Walk, Shawshank, Apt Pupil, all four are better.
Andrea: I would put it in the top three with Apt Pupil and Carrie.
Pat: Carrie is in your top three? Christ.
Andrea: I love that book
Pat: You’re not even worth exhuming and reanimating. The Wendigo can have you.
Andrea: I would be happy with the Wendigo
Andrea: We’d have a pleasant life together
Pat: Maybe you’d have a pleasant life together. But the Wendigo would be miserable.

Current Rankings
1. Carrie &
Cujo &
Pet Sematary
2. The Shining &
The Stand &
3. The Long Walk &
Apt Pupil
4. Rage &
5. ‘Salem’s Lot
6. Firestarter &
The Gunslinger &
The Body
7. The Dead Zone &
The Breathing Method
8. Running Man
9. Roadwork
  1. Shawshank
  2. The Long Walk
  3. Christine
  4. Pet Sematary
  5. The Stand
  6. Apt Pupil
  7. Rage
  8. Cujo
  9. The Gunslinger
10. ‘Salem’s Lot
11. The Shining
12. The Dead Zone
13. Firestarter
14. The Body
15. Carrie
16. The Running Man
17. The Breathing Method
18. Roadwork