Welcome to Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew, which starts off with the novella “The Mist,” which we put over here for your reading ease.
Here There Be Tygers
For some reason, there is a tiger in the boys’ bathroom at an elementary school. It eats a kid and a teacher. That’s, uh… that’s pretty much it.
Andrea: WTF even was this story?
Pat: First of all, don’t publish a short story with the same name as a Ray Bradbury story.
Andrea: It is basically written by a third-grader.
“Oh shit there’s a tiger. I had to poop and I was scared. The tiger ate my teacher.”
Pat: Second of all, why did this kid think of going to the bathroom as going to the “basement”?
Andrea: I have no clue. Was he trying to allude to janitor molesting or something?
Pat: I mean, I like that there’s blood down the end of the bathroom and the teacher is gonna get eaten, but what the holy fuck was going on?
Andrea: I kept thinking we’d find out, but… we didn’t.
ONE OF THOSE JANGLY MONKEYS WITH THE CYMBALS CAN KILL PEOPLE BY JANGLIN’. IT HAPPENED BEFORE AND NOW IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN.
Andrea: I thought this was pretty solid.
Pat: Okay, the premise is scary, and I don’t like evil inanimate objects that just show up places other than where they were put.
Andrea: I mean, it was fine. That fucking jangly monkey. I didn’t like that.
Pat: And the idea that maybe, just maybe, Hal Shelburn is actually doing this himself, under the control of the monkey.
Andrea: That’s interesting. I didn’t get that from it at all. But it seems plausible.
Pat: But in terms of storytelling, this was all over the map. You get tripped up by where in time you are CONSTANTLY.
Andrea: Also, it wasn’t really clear whether the monkey was causing the deaths or if he was just the harbinger. At least to me.
Pat: No, he was causing the deaths. I think that was crystal clear. Hell, with Hal’s finger between the cymbals, the thing still managed to fell a fly.
Hal Shelburn takes it out on the lake in a bag filled with rocks, a DARK CLOUD IN THE SHAPE OF A MONKEY APPEARS, he ditches the fucking back, makes it safely back to shore. BUT IS IT REALLY OVER?
Pat: I mean, come on. Dark monkey cloud? Really?
Andrea: And then the lake starts sucking him down and he’s rowing like a banshee.
Pat: You must not know what a banshee is.
I think this was a lazy ending, tacking on the newspaper clipping about all the fish in the lake dying. Without that pasted on, I think it would’ve been all right. Not great, but not annoyingly rib-elbowing. “Get it? Ah? AH? IS IT REALLY OVER, HUH?”
Andrea: Yeah. Very amateurish, which actually describes most of the stories in this book. Which I guess makes sense since a lot of them date back to his early career. It’s weird that almost none of these were made into movies compared with every damn thing from Night Shift.
Pat: Wasn’t “The Monkey” made into a movie?
Andrea: Nope. At least I don’t think so. It might have been an episode of Tales From The Dark Side or something.
Pat: Stephen King wrote an episode of The X-Files that was almost exactly the same. “Chinga.”
Andrea: Okay, so yeah, I guess so. I give it a C minus. NEXT
Pat: There’s also The Devil’s Gift from 84. “An elderly woman, Elmira Johnson, uses a Ouija board to communicate with a dead spirit. When a spirit becomes angry, it manifests itself into a cymbal-banging monkey toy. The monkey’s eyes glow red and uses its cymbals to cause lightning to strike the old woman’s house, presumably killing her.”
“See also: KIller Toys.” See yourself, Wikipedia.
Cain Rose Up
A kid with the ridiculous last name of Garrish fails his chemistry final and starts shooting people. It is the shortest version of Apt Pupil on the market, although it is sort of intimated that maybe Garrish has the ability to see how people are going to die.
Pat: SK: “I wonder what would happen if I subtracted Rage from Apt Pupil?”
Andrea: This was dumb. I have literally nothing to say about it.
I don’t think it could have possibly been more derivative.
Pat: Agreed. NEXT.
Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut
Told almost entirely in dialogue, Homer Buckland regales us with the story of Mrs. Todd and her love of finding shortcuts between Shitsburg, Maine, and Bangor. Turns out she’s actually flipping into another dimension or something, and it’s reversing the aging process. Also, possibly the Roman gods are involved? Who knows! Homer eventually joins her! There, now you can skip the story, which is the only kind of shortcut we know.
Pat: This story-told-in-dialogue shit needs to stop.
Andrea: I thought this one was actually kind of cool. In a kooky way. Especially when she finds a really short shortcut but there’s some kind of freaky weasel roadkill stuck on her car.
Pat: And everything is Narnia. And she’s Diana, Roman goddess of motor oil.
I think one of SK’s main problems is that sometimes he doesn’t realize that the premise doesn’t match the length. It wasn’t that the idea was boring or stupid or uninteresting, but that it just went on for fucking ever, and the premise doesn’t support a story that long. There’s not enough to keep it interesting. We’ve gotten the idea already, and the story just keeps on going regardless. It’s a story for the writer, not the reader.
If this story was a city, it would be considered “over-bounded.”
Andrea: I agree it was too long. I kinda like that he found her later and they both stayed young. I give it a B minus.
It was an interesting departure for him.
Pat: I think that sentence is an interesting bozo thing to say.
Teleportation exists in the future! We learn all about how it was discovered as Mark Oates waits for his family to get gassed and Science-Slingshotted to Mars.
Pat: YES YES YES YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES TO THIS STORY
Again with the story-in-dialogue, BUT King slips in and out of straight exposition, so I have no problem with it.
Andrea: “The Jaunt” rules. The first time you read it, that ending sneaks up and bashes you over the head. It’s a perfect example of what a short story should be.
Pat: RIGHT IN THE HEAD
They’re being relocated for a job, I think. Which brings me to this point: lots of job losses and transfers and relocations happening in King stories.
Andrea: Well, that makes sense. It’s known that he struggled with being unemployed/underemployed during the early years of his marriage. He even talks about it in the intro to this book.
Pat: So the Jaunt is invented in 1987. We are always convinced the future is way closer than it actually is.
Andrea: For real. I remember someone saying on New Year’s Eve in 2001: “Where’s my flying car? where’s my robotic sex lady?”
Pat: And by the way, Mark Oates mentions oldbucks.
UGH OLDBUCKS ENOUGH ALREADY RUNNING MAN
Here are some niggling details for you: first, he says that Bell “inadvertently” used the telephone for the first time. Nope, that’s not it at all. Second, “Watson, come here!” isn’t what he said. He said, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.”
Third, I am a pain in the ass.
Andrea: You sure are. I also noted the oldbucks thing.
Pat: He also mentions that only one expedition ever landed on Mars, in 2030, which I thought was remarkably plausible for being a guess however many decades ago. Although thinking it would be the French was a stretch even for a Stephen King story.
Andrea: Yeah that makes no sense. Just make it the Russians, dude.
Pat: At one point, he’s talking about Carune’s calculator watch like it’s some amazing invention.
WELCOME TO THE EIGHTIES STEPHEN KING WILL BE YOUR GUIDE
Andrea: I have never even seen anyone with a calculator watch, and I hope to never.
Pat: Here’s something I never got from “The Jaunt” before: the idea that without a physical frame of reference, the mind would have no way to properly perceive time. So that it might not actually BE eternity inside the Jaunt, but it is for the mind.
Andrea: I can’t really even wrap my mind around that. No pun intended.
I liked the prisoner testing angle.
Apparently, there were all these test mice that just died on the other side of the Jaunt. Some prisoners are tested! One is offered parole if he stays awake during the process. HE SEES ETERNITY ITSELF INSIDE.
Andrea: Man, the dad in this story is kind of a blowhard.
Pat: You don’t understand, you’re not evolved enough to get 24th century dads.
Andrea: My dad would totally not trust that space doohickey. He doesn’t even really trust planes.
Pat: The little bits about the mafia using Jaunt machines with no receiving station to dump bodies was interesting. As well as the story about the guy who Jaunted his wife into oblivion.
Andrea: That would be a whole other awesome short story I think. The Jaunt as murder weapon.
Pat: I don’t think the PREMISE SUPPORTS IT AS ITS OWN STORY BOOOOOM
Whoops, young Ricky Oates didn’t take his medicine. He was awake the entire time! “LONGER THAN YOU THINK!” he shouts before gouging his own eyes out. Fuck!
Andrea: The description of him as an old man in a young man’s body was creepy as all hell.
Pat: Great ending, but it does beg the question: why is the physical change immediate? The body doesn’t experience the Jaunt at all, and how long would it take a person who is actually in that much shock to develop white hair and CATARACTS?
Andrea: I assumed the physical change was brought on by the mental strain, i.e. Louis’s hair turning white in Pet Sematary.
Pat: But it would have to have been immediate. He’s already developed cataracts by the time his father sees what’s going on. I don’t know, I just didn’t buy that. It’s a niggling little detail, I’ll admit.
Andrea: You are always focusing on these niggling details. Just enjoy the magic, you jaded New York curmudgeon.
1:58:16 PM Pat: The best part about this is I’m now going to remember you said that the next time you have some princess-and-the-pea problem with something.
Andrea: I never do. I am blissfully unaware.
The Wedding Gig
A jazz band leader tells the story of playing a mobster’s sister’s wedding. She is super fat. No one is allowed to laugh at her. The mobster gets tricked into leaving the wedding hall by a man who makes fun of his sister! He gets gunned down by his rival. The End.
Andrea: I hated this. So stupid.
1:59:31 PM Pat: It was the equivalent of hearing someone’s dad say, “Man, those ninja turtles sure are gnarly!” Leave the 20s speech to people from the 20s.
Andrea: This was clearly an experiment in genre that went horribly wrong.
Pat: Dumb, awful story. There’s no point in it being in here.
Andrea: Agreed. Next.
Pat: Check out my summary for the next one.
Paranoid: A Chant
Andrea: This is the clearly the point in his career where he realizes he can publish his phone book and people will buy it. Plus, he tricks you with “The Mist.” Or maybe it overlaps with the peak of his drug addiction and he really needs the money.
2:03:07 PM Pat: I mean, I get it. It’s a circular thing. The paranoia feeds itself. I would’ve preferred if he had just written, “Paranoia feeds paranoia feeds paranoia…” because then I wouldn’t have keep reading and waiting for it to get better.
Andrea: Yes. This book has two freaking poems which is two too many
Pat: Shall we move on to greener pastures?
Andrea: Slightly greener, I guess.
OH SWEET CHRIST THERE IS SOMETHING UNDER THE RAFT IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS LAKE AND IT CAN JUST MELT THE HUMAN BODY OH FUCK OH SWEET HELL hold on, we can probably still bone on this thing if we keep an eye on the black patch that killed the other two kids NOPE FUCK IT GOT HER AND I DIDN’T EVEN REACH ORGASM AND NOW IT’S HOURS LATER AND NO ONE’S EVER COMING hey, I’ll just stare into the black patch’s swirling hypno-colors because that’ll end this all COOL GUYS I’M DEAD NOW TOO
Pat: Slightly greener? This story is awesome!
Andrea: Well I don’t know what came next.
YES THE RAFT RULES OMG
I don’t know why this story ruled so hard, but it did. It’s greater than the sum of its parts.
Pat: Sub-summary: “A guy named Deke owns a Camaro. SCARED YET?”
Andrea: The dude… gets sucked through the frigging raft.
It’s also the primal thing of LA LA LA SEX BOOZE FUN OH SHIT YOU’RE DEAD
Pat: There’s that one moment where the dude realizes they should’ve run while the girl was being eaten. Or while Deke was. Here’s the thing, though: don’t those things usually have guy-lines tied to them to keep them from drifting off?
Andrea: I have no clue. I’m not really what you would call “outdoorsy.”
How would that help them though? It seemed like the ooze was prescient.
Pat: I think it was just QUICK. All reflex and instinct. By the way, I completely forgot to be all like WHAT NO WORD ON WHERE THIS THING CAME FROM? while I was reading.
Andrea: Yeah, you don’t need to know. Long live the freaky hypnotic ooze.
It’s actually filmed in Creepshow 2 which is pretty good.
Pat: There’s no way you could even do it. Not even with today’s technology. There’s just no way they could create what I saw in my head when Deke is being digested slowly through the boards of the raft.
Andrea: The ending was changed for the film. As soon as the creature eats LaVerne, Randy makes a swim for shore and is quickly pursued. Crawling a few feet from the water’s edge in apparent safety, he yells “I beat you!” but the creature becomes a wave and engulfs him. As the creature quietly returns to the lake, the screen pans over a no-swimming sign near the now-abandoned Camaro which was hidden in overgrown reeds.
Pat: That is arguably goofier than the changed ending of The Mist.
“Oh hey I’m a wave now LOLZ”
Andrea: There are no waves in lakes for chrissakes. Also, like they even would have abided by a No Swimming sign.
Pat: I think the implication is that the creature CAUSES a wave. Not that he was just unlucky enough to be on the shore of the lake the first time a lake ever generated its own wave.
Pat: “I came up with a new ending for ‘The Raft’!”
“Boffo, Jimmy, what is it? Does it maintain the horror of the story’s ending?”
“Sort of! I just made things up that don’t make any real rational sense!”
“Cool, I had a lobotomy yesterday! Let’s get a pizza for lunch topped with Elmer’s Glue!”
“YAY STICKY CHEESE!”
Who are these people who are like, “Let me just go swim in this cold jankety lake”? Don’t they know that lakes have all kinds of gross lake slime?
Pat: Yeah, sorry, but if there’s “no swimming,” why is there a fucking raft?
Andrea: Next, please.
Pat: Wait, we have to talk about the sex. Banging the girl on the raft after Deke gets melted down for scrap flesh.
Including the #1 hit, “The Delta Of Her Sex Sculpted Neatly In Silk, Each Buttock A Taut Crescent.”
What. the fuck. is up. with Stephen King. and using “buttocks”?
Andrea: OMG that part. Stevie gets blue. “Sculpted delta” sounds much nicer than “camel toe.”
Pat: I mean, holy hell.
Andrea: The relationship between the two couples was weird too. They both wanted the one chick which made me feel bad for the other chick.
Pat: Doesn’t matter, they all die. OF COURSE the other chick dies during intercourse. That’s Rule #44.
Man, it just slides up her hair and dissolves her face. Jeezum-crow, as the kids in IT would say.
Meanwhile, back in “Wedding Gig,” the narrator does mention that a girl has “no breastworks to speak of,” which almost made everything all right.
Andrea: I did enjoy the word breastworks
Pat: So, “The Raft”: awesome.
Andrea: Agreed. Second favorite to “The Mist.”
Word Processor Of The Gods
Uncle Richard Hagstrom’s nephew Jonathan is dead. His shitbird brother killed both his son and his wife while drunk driving. Which is a shame, because Richard’s wife and son both suck, and Jonathan and Belinda were the tits, as far as he’s concerned. Before he died, though, Super Nephew Jonathan was building his favorite uncle a computer. TURNS OUT IT CAN WARP REALITY (??)
Andrea: I kinda liked this one. I don’t know. It falls into the same category as “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut” for me
Pat: I like it, but that means it falls into a different category than “Mrs. Todd’s Shitcunt.”
It’s kind of obvious, though. Glaringly obvious. Through and through. There’s not a damn thing you don’t see coming.
Andrea: Agreed. It is amateurish. I like that he totally changed his life to the life he wanted to have, since his wife and kid sucked and all.
Pat: I wouldn’t say amateurish because it’s well written. I could go into the logistical problems I have with the mechanics of the thing, but whatever. It’s a computer powered by a train set.
Andrea: Well, yeah. I approve.
Richard erases his wife and son and replaces them with Belinda and Jonathan! The computer asplodes!
Pat: I did enjoy the detail of Jonathan showing up, all like, “HEY DAD I’M YOUR SON JUST LIKE ALWAYZ!” but he displays these physical differences that are described as the difference in parentage between two brothers.
Andrea: I give this story a C+.
Pat: I give you grading every goddamn story and L-.
The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands
It’s “The Breathing Method,” but with a guy who was cursed, like in Thinner, except he can’t touch anything or else it will die. APPARENTLY HE TOUCHED THIS STORY
Andrea: I literally DO NOT remember this story. Oh wait, he freaked out and didn’t want to shake hands. This was stupid.
Most of the stories in this book suffer from having a very stupid concept. Or a vaguely interesting concept that is poorly executed.
Pat: As soon as you know it’s the story club from “Breathing Method,” you know you’re in for a mouthful of unflavored sand. He eventually commits suicide by shaking his own hand.
Andrea: The only piece that even sparked my interest is that maybe the butler is immortal.
Pat: Yeah, Stevens may be an immortal, or he may just have really strong genes on his grandfather’s side. Which might be a really interesting story we’ll never hear, because King went with this bozo handshaking curse idea.
Andrea: Yup. Bad move, SK.
IN THE FUTURE, A WORLD OF LIVING SAND. Not the best place to crash your space-hopper, guys.
Andrea: Totally don’t remember this one either. I think this book melted my brain.
Pat: These three guys crash on a planet that’s entirely beach and no ocean. Which is called a damn desert, anyway. One of them is already dead, one is trying to hole up in the space ship until help arrives, one sits on a dune and communes with the sand. Apparently, it’s alive.
Andrea: Oh yeah. I think this was my least favorite besides the poems. I don’t care about stupid acid trip guy.
Pat: Help comes, and they’re like, “HECK WE’RE TAKING BOTH OF YOU.” And then he starts using SAND POWERS against them. The captain is a robot of some sort.
Andrea: What a shitbird he was. This was incoherent and nonsensical.
Pat: It’s pulpy crap meant for sci-fi-only magazines.
Boys’ Life would have rejected it for being too goofy.
Andrea: I bet $500 you used to read Boys’ Life.
Pat: Yeah, really fucking risky bet, since you know I was a Boy Scout. And the fact that you probably saw them around my house growing up.
Hey, Andrea, I bet $500 you have two sisters and a cat that died in a dryer mishap.
Andrea: Oh man, you were STILL reading Boys’ Life by the time I was around your house???
Pat: It was included with your monthly or yearly dues or whatever.
Anyways. This was the worst story.
Pat: Doesn’t bring Daisy back to life, smellin’ like dryer sheets ‘n shit.
SOMETIMES DEAD IS BETTER
The Reaper’s Image
So there’s this famous mirror. Some people see the Grim Reaper behind them when they look into it, and sometimes those people disappear. Cool story, bro.
Pat: “Hello, I’m Stephen King, and here’s a story I thought up while antiquing with my wife and wearing her frilly undergarments.”
Andrea: Yeah, this was pointless. All of these seem like the same dumb story.
The story of how this book sucks.
Pat: “Something’s wrong here. This is what.”
Some fat kid ran away from the mirror and disappeared. Oh, great. Maybe he disappeared into the inescapable suck of the story.
Andrea: I have nothing to say about this story.
Pat: You’d almost get the feeling sometimes that we don’t even like Stephen King’s writing.
Andrea: I mean, when he is good he is amazing, but when he isn’t, oh man, watch out for the low-flying shitbirds.
Pat: It’s sort of the George Lucas problem. Who’s going to say, “Hey, Stevie, this story just sucked all of the dicks in our office, and we still don’t want to publish it”?
Andrea: Wouldn’t you be sad if it turned out that Stephen King is actually a huge jerk?
Pat: There’s no possible way. He is probably the exact size and warmth of the hole we’ve always felt in our lives but never knew was there.
A hitchhiker meets a beautiful girl at a rest stop, and she inspires him to be all the homicidal maniac he can be. But it turns out, after many miles and murders, that she’s a ghost. Sure, why not?
Andrea: Okay, this was pretty cool. I like hitchhiker ghost stories.
Pat: “First Published In Cage-Linings For Shitbirds, Issue 42.”
Andrea: What was your beef with this one? I thought it was a solid B.
Pat: I liked the beginning. How he deals on the truckers who are picking on him for having long hair. And of course I wanted him to get with the smokin’ hot chick at the diner.
But, and I may be reaching on this, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this all started with King listening to “Turn The Page” by Bob Seger a thousand times. “Well you walk into a restaurant, strung out from the road, and you feel the eyes upon you as you’re shakin’ off the cold. You pretend it doesn’t bother you, but you just want to explode. Most times you can’t hear ’em talk, other times you can. All the same old cliches, ‘Is that a woman or a man?’ And you always seem outnumbered, you don’t dare make a stand.”
Andrea: I’m not picking up what you’re putting down
Pat: He’s got long hair, goes into a restaurant, and is given shit by the redneck locals. Except here, Stephen King’s like, “Fuck that noise, Seger, he will be INSPIRED TO MASTERFUL MANSLAUGHTER.”
Anyway, Nona drives him to kill.
Andrea: I liked Nona. This was weird but good. It was different at least.
Pat: “The sex was important only because it was unimportant.” He describes his earlier relationship with a girl who looked suspiciously like Nona.
“What is she doing when I’m not around? What does she really thing of me? And maybe most of all, How much of me has she got? How much is left?”
Andrea: So you think it might have been all in his imagination a la Springheel Jack.
Pat: It’s entirely possible his ass has been on the run since he killed that girl.
Andrea: Oh yeah, I highlighted that part. So good.
Pat: And this is the ghost of that girl? Using him to… murder more? I guess that analysis falls flat.
Andrea: See, this is a good one because it actually gives us something to talk about, unlike 85 percent of the others
Pat: This is true. But that’s because MAN WHY? WHY? I KNOW GHOSTS CAN BE MALEVOLENT AND SHIT, BUT GIMME SOMETHING, ANYTHING
Andrea: I am firmly in the all-in-his-head, driven-mad-with-guilt, murder school.
Pat: Fun fact: “Nona” is an anagram of “Anon.” Which could be taken as either “anonymous” or “soon.”
Someone just hurled a Pulitzer Prize through my window.
Andrea: Was it someone discarding it?
Pat: THEY WERE AWARDING IT TO ME
For my crack-shot thinking and wit and my tolerance of your constant forgetful mehing.
Andrea: If only crapass blogs could get Pulitzers.
“Thanks for buying my book of short stories. Here’s ANOTHER GODDAMN POEM.”
Pat: Enough said.
Andrea: I liked this OK as a mother, but I hated it as a reader.
Pat: What’s interesting about that is I hate you as a mother, but like you okay as a reader.
Andrea: Since the Decemberists’ “Dear Avery” exists, I never have to write a song about her.
Pat: A world full of people with two ears thanks you.
A disgraced surgeon is beached on a desert island with nothing to eat but the mass quantity of heroin he bought in Asia. He will never be rescued, so he starts killing seagulls and eating raw crab, but then he moves on to amputating his own feet and legs and eventually fingers, all while writing in his diary!
Pat: Remembered this being better than it was. I guess half the fun is that you do not know where this shit is going.
Andrea: This story is pretty awesome actually. I think it was better than I remembered
Pat: I mean, the guy seems like a prick.
Andrea: He is a prick.
Pat: And a common criminal with a medical license. (Revoked)
Andrea: Why did he get it revoked again? He was a pill pusher?
Pat: He was involved in a group of doctors who defrauded insurance companies by performing unnecessary surgeries or some shit. Then he got in deep with some whatshis and made the heroin deal. Why people always be small-time heroin dealers in SK stories?
He said, realizing immediately that Andrea has not read the second Dark Tower book yet.
Andrea: Cause SK loves heroin? I mean, small time pot dealers seems more realistic to me, but only because I’m from Williamstown.
Pat: There were a lot of parts where I had to just skip ahead because holy fuck, no thanks on the CSI descriptions of self-amputations.
Andrea: Oh, I didn’t mind that at all, even though I expected to be totally grossed out.
Pat: The dates get all wonky at the end. “Feb?” “February.” “Fe.” “Febba.” “Fe/40?”
Andrea: Everything is wonky because he is all heroined up and losing blood. And starving.
Pat: I guess he was left with only his right hand. Can’t very well amputate your last remaining hand with your last remaining hand.
Andrea: Why doesn’t he just overdose himself? This is my eternal question every time a character is 1. in torment 2. has access to drugs.
Pat: Well, that’s obvious. It’s the theme of the damn story. It’s the TITLE of the story. The question is, “how much does the patient want to live?”
The answer here is: “Enough to eat the entirety of his legs, probably at least one arm, and definitely five fingers.”
Andrea: Gross. I don’t even want to eat my arm flab.
Pat: He probably doesn’t want to live that badly.
Uncle Otto’s Truck
So Uncle Otto was rich, and he had a partner he most likely killed by dropping a truck on him. Years later, Uncle Otto is convinced the truck is moving ever closer to his house from where it currently sits across the street. Then his nephew finds him, dead in his house, bleeding oil from every which hole! WELL PLAYED, TRUCK.
Andrea: Oh snap the truck killed him.
Pat: I kind of liked the backstory of how Uncle Otto got rich, but the whole did-he-murder-his-partner-or-not thing left me wanting.
Andrea: I thought this was really boring and a less-good retread of Christine.
Pat: Are you aware of the pun you just made?
Andrea: Yes. Yes I am.
Pat: Is this truck related to Christine or the vehicles in “Trucks”? Inquiring Minds Don’t Really Care.
Andrea: I assume there is a whole sub-world of machinery that kills.
Pat: Fun fact: Frank Dodd’s father is mentioned in “Uncle Otto’s Truck.” As if he wasn’t already getting enough bad press.
Morning Deliveries (Milkman #1)
Here’s what this milkman is delivering one morning. Half of the stuff is poisoned! Some things are just straight-up acid! Here, have a bottle of milk WITH A FREE COMPLIMENTARY SPIDER THROWN IN.
Pat: I get it, King. I just don’t want it.
Andrea: Okay. I sort of liked this. It was hella funny!
Pat: Who knows what the people we trust may do!
Andrea: La-la, here’s some poisoned milk and a fat fucking spider. Take that, suburbia!
Pat: Facial cream that’s really acid! Boom!
Andrea: What I totally didn’t get though, was the “Milkman #2.” This whole thing was really just totally off the wall
Pat: I guess a lot of King’s ideas must come from knowing deep down that suburban life is really, truly unsettling, but not knowing precisely WHY.
Andrea: It is unsettling because people are fucking loony, and in suburbia they are really trying to hide it
Pat: “Maybe it’s because an ethereal spider lives under the Canal! Maybe it’s because the milkman is slowly going insane! Hi, I’m Stephen King, you probably remember me from your nightmares.”
Andrea: I mean, the idea of pouring some milk and a spider coming out is so fucking gross. And I like the idea that he has a truck full of belladonna, other poison herbs, spiders and toads, etc. WHAT A WEIRDO.
Big Wheels: A Tale Of The Laundry Game (Milkman #2)
Back by popular demand, the Milkman makes his drunk enemy drive off the road. He is presumably banging the drunk’s girlfriend, which is fine by us because his name is Rocky. Anyway.
Pat: Um. So this was a story with words in it.
Andrea: I don’t even know what to say about this. I think one story about this particular milkman was enough, thank you very much.
Pat: “‘Milkman #1’ was DYNAMITE! I have to make a sequel! Here I go… whoops!”
I don’t particularly remember a single tale about the laundry game.
Andrea: None whatsoever.
Pat: Just a lot of Rocky drinking with Shitstain Pete. Booger Bob? What was the guy’s name? Jasper the Jack-off?
Andrea: I have no freaking idea. I think I was ready to hurl myself out of the plane at this point.
Pat: “Big Wheels: A Tale Of Shut Up, Stephen King.”
Andrea: ENABLE THE EMERGENCY SLIDE! MY BOOK SUCKS!
Gramma is invoked with BLACK FUCKING MAGIC, and that’s how she became a mother and a grandmother in the first place. She is super fat and mostly useless, and her grandson is keeping an eye on her, even though the family is all pretty much scared to shit of her. Long story short, she does some sort of spell and possesses the body of her grandson because it beats dying.
Pat: I mean, OR DOES SHE?
Andrea: I actually really liked this. It was suitably creepy.
Pat: Again, it was belabored to fucking death.
Andrea: And it is becoming a movie which I think will also be pretty creepy.
Pat: I get it, the kid is scared of Gramma, has always been scared of Gramma, so let’s get to the why he was right to be scared.
It’s like he comes up with the ending first, but doesn’t keep it chugging along nicely throughout the story. Or worse, he’s holding back so that we won’t see what’s up his sleeve. And it makes the story disengaging and humdrum.
Andrea: Gramma is gross, in addition to being a witch. I found the descriptions of her powdery flabby skin grosser than anything in “Survivor Type.”
Pat: There’s no living way a child who is AWARE HER MOTHER IS A WITCH would leave her fucking son there to watch her all by himself.
Andrea: Some moms be dumb.
Pat: See also: JUST LET HER DIE
Andrea: Maybe she is denial about the witchness. I mean, this smacks of Rachel’s parents leaving her alone with dying Zelda.
Pat: No, they fucking knew. She’s yelling about whether or not Gramma touched him.
She knows. The whole fucking family knows.
Andrea: So, in sum, they suck as much as Rachel’s parents, the funeral-wreckers.
Pat: “Gramma” is an anagram of “Rag Mam.” Make of that what you will.
I myself make nothing of it.
Andrea: Stop with your dumb anagrams.
The Ballad Of The Flexible Bullet
So anyway, there was this author who was a bit kooky, and this editor who fed into it and ended up going a bit kooky himself. All over a race of elf-like creatures called Fornits, who turn out to actually be real. They live in typewriters and inspire stories! Also, they are super vulnerable to fake ray guns wielded by young kids. The author’s Fornit dies, and sanity resumes.
Pat: NEWSFLASH: I LOVE THIS STORY
Pat: Yeah, even though it’s story-in-dialogue again.
Madness is catching! Here’s why! I thought it was great. It even made goofy typewriter elves endearing.
Andrea: I thought it was… wait for it… stupid.
Man, I have a bad attitude today.
Pat: Maybe I like this because of my flirting proximity to the publishing world? And the crazy people therein?
And it contains one of my favorite lines by King: “All wounds are mortal.”
Andrea: That is dumb.
That’s a shitbird line.
Pat: THAT LINE IS AWESOME.
WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU
Andrea: Maybe it’s awesome if you’re a shitbird
I seem to have taken on the role of you today.
Pat: WHEN I ADD THE FUCKING PERIODS YOU KEEP LEAVING OUT IN EDITING, I’M GONNA SAVE ONE OF THOSE BLACK DOTS FOR RIGHT BETWEEN YOUR EYES
Because bullet holes kind of look like periods. Did you dig that?
Andrea: Whoa. That was hostile.
I had a dream last night that Tim got some Asian chick pregnant, and I was also seven months pregnant, but I didn’t know, and I had been drinking the whole time. I woke up in a really bad mood.
Pat: Thanks for writing “Milkman #3.”
Okay everyone, Andrea hated “Flexible Bullet,” but I liked it a lot. There’s no right or wrong opinion here, unless you agree with Andrea, in which case you are wrong, and I will toss you into the sun.
This old bitch was born on this one island, right? This was way-back, you understand, and she never did cross over to the mainland ever in her entire life. Turns out this is all just a metaphor for CROSSING THE GREAT DIVIDE OF DEATH because holy shit she dies and it’s all metaphorical.
Pat: My favorite part about this was that your reading is constantly being interrupted by memories, and you can’t remember who the hell any of the characters are or where they belong in time, and it’s roughly what I imagine Alzheimer’s feels like.
Andrea: I liked this one.
Pat: By favorite part, I mean: “shittttbirddddddd.”
Andrea: It was poignant. It sort of reminds my of “My Pretty Pony” from Nightmares and Dreamscapes.
Andrea: King is good at writing about growing up and the nature of the passage of time.
AND THE CAT’S IN THE CRADLE AND THE SILVER SPOON, ETC ETC
Pat: You think “All wounds are mortal” sucks, but this Misty Of Chincoteague rip-off was POINTLESS?
IT DIDN’T EVEN HAVE NO PONIES.
Andrea: YOU HAVE clearly never even read Misty Of Chincoteague.
Pat: Yeah, I have, it’s about that half-horse, half-woman stripper.
Consider this: I have to have read it, because I just REACHed back into third grade and spelled “Chincoteague” right, against all fucking odds.
Andrea: This is like when Rob asked me if I liked the part in Candyman when Candyman got Helen from behind. Which so did not happen.
Pat: Which, talk about coincidence, I just was on the Q train today and passed a stop I’d never been to that’s called 39 Ave/Beebe Ave. The family in Misty are the Beebes. Isn’t that the one where they have to swim all these goddamn horses across from the island to the mainland?
Andrea: I never had to read that book, believe it or not.
Pat: You JUST said, “YOU HAVE clearly never even read Misty Of Chincoteague.”
Based on what, chum? BASED ON WHAT, THEN?
Andrea: Based on that I know there is no strippers in it
Pat: That was a joke. That I made AFTER YOU ACCUSED ME OF NEVER HAVING READ Misty. I like that it’s the stripper part that rubbed you as unlikely, and not the horse-human hybrid part.
Andrea: Okay, we need to wrap this book or finish it tomorrow cause I am getting out of here pronto.
Pat: Did I successfully scare you off of talking about “The Reach”? Which strangely doesn’t even give the reader the courtesy of a reach-around?
Because I’m done with that story. So so done.
So we leave it with: you think this is inferior to Night Shift and me thinking it’s superior, while both of us are leaning towards thinking Nightmares is better than both.
Andrea: So…we both think it’s inferior?
Pat: I think Night Shift is inferior.
Night Shift isn’t even as good as Night Court.