Weclome to Part 4 of our It discussion. To your left, you will see Part 1. To your right, you will see Part 2. Creeping up behind you, with its clammy fingers reaching towards your exposed neck, is Part 3
July Of 1958
The Apocalyptic Rockfight
We find out that Mike Hanlon is black and—despite everyone else each thinking that they’re the one Henry Bowers hates the most—the Loser that Bowers would most like to see dead. Why? Well, being black would be strike one, and being raised by Butch Bowers, who still hates Will Hanlon for the whole you-kill-’em-you-buy-’em chicken fiasco, would be another. By the way, Henry poisoned Mike’s childhood dog, Mr. Chips, who Bowers lovingly called “Niggerdog.” Jesus Christ, Hank. Add to that the time Henry caught Mike unawares and slathered him in mud to make him a “tarbaby.” What the living fuck, Bowers!
Pat: This chapter starts with them meeting up at the library at 7pm, which is when curfew starts in Derry. That has to be intentional, if uninteresting to anyone but me.
Andrea: Yeah, it’s sure not interesting to me.
Pat: It’s strange that at this point, Mike still isn’t a Loser. You read and read and know he’s going to be, and it keeps getting later and later in the day, and he still isn’t.
Andrea: Right. Until you get to the point where he becomes one, and you’re like, “Huh? This didn’t happen already?”
Oh man, the description of Henry covering him in mud, and it getting in his nose. I wanted to cry. And when Henry tells his dad that he poisoned the dog, and he claps him on the back and gives him a beer.
Pat: I know I’m a mid-Atlantic liberal pantywaist, but “Niggerdog”?
What did the goddamn dog ever do to Henry? What did the Hanlons ever do to the Bowerses? Get a fucking grip on yourselves, you fucking yokels.
Andrea: Seriously. I mean, I definitely know plenty of people with prehistoric attitudes on race, but I can’t imagine any of them behaving even close to this way.
Pat: The psychotic streak it takes to slowly win a dog’s trust so you can safely poison it must be astounding. And possibly unnecessary: I’m pretty sure if I had some poisoned chuck meat and gave it to a dog that have never ever seen me in its life, it would wolf it down without batting an eyelash.
Andrea: Um, yeah. I have never known a dog to turn down food. Holly eats paper plates if they have pizza crumbs on them.
Pat: This was the worst of it for me: “When the pains started, Henry produced a piece of clothesline and tied Mr. Chips to a birch so he couldn’t get away and run home.”
Andrea: : ( : ( : (
Pat: It wouldn’t have occurred to me that a dog would run home if it started feeling sick, and once it was put in my head, the image of Mr. Chips straining at the clothesline to run home was devastating.
Andrea: Or when the dog has eaten half the meat and then wags his tail happily at Henry.
Pat: Henry was ten years old when he did that. Almost makes Patrick Hockstetter look tame in comparison BUT NOT FUCKING REALLY I GUESS.
Andrea: What did you think of Mike’s parents handling of the tarbaby situation?
Pat: I think that, if it were anyone whose mind could be changed, who could have that Ed Norton In The Laundry Room In American History X moment, Will would have handled it differently.
But you’re not going to change Henry or Butch Bowers’s minds. The only thing Mike would be able to do is make them angrier, crazier. Staying out of their way, he stays at the same level of hated, and maybe even gets forgotten a little.
Andrea: Right. But Will is really cognizant of the fact that BUTCH BOWERS IS FUCKING INSANE
Pat: It isn’t RIGHT, and it isn’t FAIR, and Will knows that. But he also knows you can’t change hate when it’s predicated on crazy.
Pat: “Niggerdog” is so ludicrously racist that it goes beyond something I can get angry at or take offense to and steams right on through to goofy territory, right up there with the Seven Jew Bankers Who Live Under The Earth’s Crust And Control The World’s Entire Reserve Of Money and The World Is Run By Lizards In People Suits. Or another favorite of mine, Black People Have An Extra Muscle In Their Calves That Makes Them Better At Sports.
Andrea: WHAT? People really think that?
Pat: Oh my god. Yes.
Andrea: Why are people insane?
Pat: They’re scared. It’s all about being scared and frightened and feeling powerless. Same goes for Henry and Butch. They’re scared and powerless.
Meanwhile, the Losers of ’58 have figured out that It lives in the sewers somewhere, and that It is something called a “glamour,” which isn’t as gay as it sounds, although you are no doubt now imagining Pennywise not as a clown, but as a clown/Dr. Frankenfurter from Rocky Horror hybrid. You are probably also sporting a half-chub. It’s okay.
Andrea: No, I am picturing the part in The Craft where they use their magic powers to change each other’s hair colors.
Pat: THAT IS NOT WHAT IT MEANS
“Glamour.” British spelling and all.
Andrea: No, that’s what it meant in the movie too. They use it for other things.
Pat: But a glamour in this case is a being, not a glamour as in a magic trick.
I guess the distinction is mild and boring.
Andrea: It is.
Pat: SUCK IT
Andrea: You are such a curmudgeonly nitpicker in your old age.
Pat: “In your old age.”
Andrea: Which witch is your favorite in The Craft?
Pat: Whoever dies first.
So Bill goes to his dad about the sewers, which are apparently just like ten different systems, some completed, some not, that no one knows the full extent of or where they go and don’t go. Which, I guess was probably the influence of It trying to make sure no one ever found Its lair?
Andrea: This creeped me out so much. Would there be anything worse than being stuck in an underground tunnel with no idea of which way to go and no way out? It’s sort of like The Descent, the scariest movie of the ’00s.
Pat: Get the fuck out of here.
I think the worst thing is that there could be as many as half of the pipes or more that don’t even go anywhere, that might dead-end in dirt in an unfinished tunnel. A little bad luck and you could wander forever before finding a tunnel that goes ANYWHERE, let alone OUT.
Andrea: Yeah, exactly.
Pat: It sounds goofy as hell, but for some reason, the whole description of the Ritual of Chüd is kind of cool. And ingenious.
Please describe it to our readers.
Andrea: So, the Ritual of Chüd. I thought this was really dumb, actually. You have to face the demon, and then you bite each other’s tongues? Gross. And then whoever makes the other laugh first win?
Pat: Exactly. It comes from the Himalayas, where holy men would have to battle this monster called the taelus.
Andrea: What I didn’t understand is how you get the taelus close enough that you can bite its tongue.
Pat: Well, it wants to do battle is the feeling I got. And the questions of how you can even tell jokes when you’re biting down on someone’s tongue and they’re biting yours are answered later.
Andrea: What is the answer? It’s telepathic right?
Pat: That’s what we’re given to understand when they enter the ritual with It. Unlike the Wendigo, this little mythological story is completely fabricated.
Andrea: I was wondering that.
Pat: Although there is a Romulan commander named Taelus in a Star Trek video game. That’s according to Google, not my own personal Star Trek nerdiness.
Stan’s got firecrackers, so the Losers are off to the gravel pit to fire them off. They have a pretend jungle safari on the way there. What?
Andrea: What a bunch of wieners. Did you ever do anything like that?
Pat: I was going to say something about how kids are so chuffed about firecrackers, but then I remembered the Great Fireworks Incident Of 2005, in which we all had to run from the cops—all of us in our mid-twenties—and your cousin lost his flip-flops in the escape.
Andrea: I must have missed that one. I some how made it to my 30s without ever running or hiding from the cops.
Pat: Henry and his crew also have firecrackers and have the exact same idea as the Losers, when they run into a completely oblivious Mike Hanlon on his way home from trombone practice (???????). In which it is revealed that even Victor and Belch know how fucking crazy Butch Bowers is and try to hang around the Bowers Castle as seldom as possible.
Pat: Dumb as he was, Belch Huggins had expressed it best: “I don’t fuck with crazy people,” he told Victor one day two years before. Victor had laughed and agreed.
Andrea: I thought it was pretty funny that every time they go over there they end up having to do chores.
Pat: See also: Butch sits in his armchair with a Japanese sword across his lap. FUCKING CALM DOWN, BUTCH
This is perfect: “The nigger?” Belch Huggins looked puzzled—he had seen the Hanlons only rarely—and then his dim eyes lit up. “Oh yeah! The nigger! Let’s get him, Henry!”
“Oh yeah! I totally forgot I’m supposed to be racist for a second there!”
This is the first time, I think, since Henry tried to carve his name in Ben’s fat front, that there’s any indication Henry’s friends keep this constant mental vigil over whether Henry will go “TOO FAR.”
Andrea: You’re right, it is. Although I don’t know why the carving didn’t stop them in their tracks anyways.
Pat: It almost did.
Meanwhile, Mike has been caught out by the Bowers gang again and is running for his life, and doing a damn good job of it, which Henry probably attributes to that extra muscle he thinks black people have in each of their calves. He reaches the gravel pit and closes the gate behind him, but Bowers—who has his own cache of fireworks—starts chucking M80s and cherry bombs over the fence. Mike takes off, and they start to climb over.
Pat: By the way, Mike is kind of bad-ass.
Andrea: He’s totally badass. I would have just curled up and cried.
Pat: Incredibly, he said: “Come on, kid, open the gate. That’s not fair.”
“What’s your idea of fair?” Mike asked, panting. “Five against one?”
“Fair-up,” Peter repeated, as if he had not heard Mike at all.
Bullies are the fucking worst. And dumb bullies are the antithesis of all joy.
Andrea: Seriously. And it starts so, so young.
Pat: He could understand Henry chasing after him when he got the chance, but Mr. Chips? … killing Mr. Chips? My DOG wasn’t a nigger, you cheapshit bastard, Mike thought as he ran, and the bewildered anger grew.
The Losers have reached the other side of the gravel pit, and they hear the explosions. Bill tells them all to gather ammo—that is to say, rocks—and when Mike appears over the hill with Bowers and his boys close at heel, Bill tells them to fuck on out of there because the Barrens are theirs, and they’re through taking Henry’s particular brand of shit. Bowers does not dig this suggestion, so the Losers open fire.
Pat: OH THIS IS SO FUCKING COOL
Five seconds after Mike hucks a fucking lump of charcoal at Henry’s noggin, the Losers are like, “SHIT’S GOING DOWN, ROCK UP BITCHES.”
I LOVE IT.
Andrea: This is seriously awesome
Pat: “Ben moved closer to Beverly without even thinking about it.”
OH MY GOD BEN WHY ARE YOU SO FUCKING AWESOME.
In a scant four minutes, the Losers bloody the hell out of Bowers and his gang. Victor and Bill have a face-off, and Bill is a badass.
Pat: That shit is FOR REAL.
Just walking towards each other, pinging rocks.
Andrea: Again, I would totally just be hiding in a corner. They are all SO badass.
Pat: And Victor’s like, yeah, no, that rock is the size of a fuckin’ duck’s egg and goes home. And Henry is like, fuck it, I ain’t leavin’, you fagpoops.
“I think the s-s-six of u-us can p-put you in the huh-huh-hospital.”
“Seven,” Mike Hanlon said, and joined them.
UGHHHHHHH CALGONE TAKE ME AWAY
I’m tearing up just copying and pasting it.
Andrea: DEn DEN DEN! The Loser tribe is fully realized!
The Losers are all together now.
Everyone brings booze to the library after their day of walking around Derry alone, and Mike finds Stan’s head in the fridge. What the fresh hell is going on??
Pat: Before you even ask, no, this isn’t the part where Stan’s head comes out of a jack-in-the-box on a spring.
Andrea: Stan’s head is multipurpose.
Pat: LOL OF THE MONTH
Back in 1958, the Losers decide to build a clubhouse IN THE GROUND. This sounds like a famously bad fucking idea, but kids will be kids. Mike comes around and tells them the story of the BIG FUCKING BIRD at the Ironworks. They’re like, “Uh, big deal, Eddie saw a fellatious hobo with leprosy.” They get the idea to make fucking silver bullets, like this is The Monster Squad or some shit.
Pat: The whole idea of the underground clubhouse made me nervous, but Ben is so full of confidence and know-how, I would totally trust it.
Andrea: It made me super nervous. My mom made me totally paranoid about digging holes in snow or sand and then getting inside them.
Pat: There’s this lovely tentativeness on Mike’s part when he goes to meet them for the first time since the rock-fight that rings so sweetly true.
Andrea: I know. That moment where you THINK you are getting to be friends with someone, but you don’t totally KNOW. I still get this as an adult.
Pat: Like, right, we were buddies the other day, but today is a different day. Childhood is so littered with anxieties of transient everything, friendship, feelings, home, whatevs.
Andrea: I know. It makes me anxious to think about it even now. And anxious for Avery.
Pat: And King nails it because he is Superman.
While they’re building the underground clubhouse, Mike brings his dad’s old photo album to the Barrens to show the other kids. This idea is as Dumb As It Sounds, but because the photo album has little plastic sheets over the pages, they are Safe From It. Mike shows them that the clown appears in all kinds of pictures from newspapers dating back hundreds of years. OH OF COURSE OF THE PICTURES START MOVING, and Pennywise tells them he’s going to kill them all.
Pat: This. is. killer.
Even after we’ve already had a grand old time with moving photographs.
Andrea: It’s amazing. I can imagine them filling with dread as they continue to turn the pages and Pennywise is in every. fucking. picture.
Pat: “Oh man,” Mike said, and now he was laughing so hard he could barely talk. “That was priceless. I mean, that was really priceless.”
“Negroes have no taste,” Richie said. “I think it even says so in the Bible.”
“Yo mamma,” Mike said, laughing harder than ever.
Andrea: I love all the parts with the kids ragging on each other.
Pat: “You probably think I want to be a Negro.”
Now Ben also fell down, laughing wildly. His whole body rippled and quaked alarmingly. His eyes bulged. “No more, Richie,” he managed. “I’m gonna shit my pants. I’m gonna d-d-die if you don’t stub-stop—”
“I don’t want to be a Negro,” Richie said. “Who wants to wear pink pants and live in Boston and buy pizza by the slice? I want to be Jewish like Stan. I want to own a pawn-shop and sell people switchblades and plastic dog-puke and used guitars.”
Andrea: LOL for real. Pizza by the slice???? Wtf??
Pat: I mean, that’s the heart of Richie’s cleverness. None of those things are even real stereotypes. Except perhaps living in Boston and owning pawnshops.
Andrea: I thought Boston was super white.
Pat: Keep in mind, these are kids who grew up outside of BANGOR in a town with ONE BLACK FAMILY.
Andrea: Okay, true.
Pat: This is also where Richie rolls out the line, “no matter how much you squirm and dance, the last two drops go in your pants,” which I have been using for 22 years without knowing where the hell I got it from.
Just like the “three guesses and the first two don’t count.”
Reading this at age 11 was apparently super affecting.
In 1985, Richie has gone back to wearing glasses for the first time in twenty years, and he suddenly remembers why: back in 1958, they turned the goddamn clubhouse into a smoke-hole, like the ones Native Americans used to have vision quests in. Another stellar fucking idea from the Kids Most Likely To Die Before Pennywise Even Has A Chance At Killing Them Himself.
Pat: Seriously, it’s like they’re saying, “KILL US? FUCK YOU WE’LL KILL OURSELVES FIRST!”
Andrea: It’s so dumb. I mean, it’s cool in the book, but goddamn are these kids stupid.
Beverly has a stellar meltdown when Bill tries to get her not to join the vision quest, what with her being a girl and all, and so instead, they draw lots to see who keeps watch while the others trip balls underground. She burns one match and then hides it in six unburned matches. AND WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT, THEY ALL DRAW UNBURNED MATCHES!
Pat: You go, Bev!
She is a hardy fucking chick, that Beverly Marsh.
“…you’re not going to cut me out just because I’m a girl. Do you understand? You better, or I’m leaving right now. And if I go, I’m gone. For good. You understand?”
Andrea: She is tough as nails. That’s why she’s my total fave.
They go down into the smoke-hole, and one by one, kids start tapping out, leaving only Mike and Richie, who both see the same vision of a prehistoric Derry where a fucking comet or spaceship but not really a comet or spaceship crashes into the forest that is now downtown Derry.
Pat: Oh this shit is unnerving as fuck.
First of all, even though I know all seven survive to fight It, I’m thinking they’re all going to die of asphyxiation.
Andrea: Me too. I felt almost panicky.
GET OUT OF THE SMOKE FILLED HOLE FOR CHRISSAKES
Pat: So, It is an alien. Sort of. You okay with that?
Andrea: I guess so. I prefer the term “otherworldly being.” It’s not as ET-ish.
Pat: Well, I just had the mitigating thought: if It appears to people as they want to see It—or as they don’t, whichever—then maybe that’s why this thing crashing into the planet looks like a spaceship but not and a comet but not.
Andrea: You mean that the kids imagine it this way, and that’s not actually how it got to Derry?
Pat: It’s just the representation that their brains understand and can project, since, uh, technically It isn’t all the way on Earth either?
Andrea: Maybe it’s so big and mystic that the rocket is the closest their brains can come to picturing it.
Pat: I mean, It is actually mostly beyond the edge of the universe, no? Maybe it’s the Turtle giving them an explanation they can comprehend, something that says, very simply, “It is not of this world.” Because “It is from the fucking space outside the universe, outside ALL universes, where I do all my puking and farting” would probably melt their brains.
Andrea: I was more okay with the alien idea than the stupid Turtle. I mean, was the Turtle supposed to be God?
Pat: You watch your mouth what you say about Maturin.
You should already understand a little from reading this book, but you will understand completely somewhere around The Wastelands. This is heavy Dark Tower shit right here.
The more I think about it, the more I like and am convinced that this whole UFO crashing is more figurative than literal
Andrea: I am almost certain that it is figurative.
Pat: Although obviously the blast crater that It lives in for a hundred thousand millennia before people come isn’t figurative at all.
Or maybe it is. I DON’T FUCKING KNOW I AM NOT A TURTLE.
Andrea: Just like the spider is figurative.
Pat: SHHHHHH SPOILERS
When Bill and Ben go in to pull Richie and Mike out, at first they can’t find the two trippers. We are meant to understand that this means they TOTALLY ACTUALLY WERE BACK IN TIME. Essentially, the clubhouse is a TARDIS.
Pat: This little detail of them NOT BEING THERE AT FIRST is troubling. Tied with the clubhouse losing all linear dimensions just before they wink out to the past.
Andrea: And then them not being able to find each other in there.
Pat: That’s what I just said.
It’s a little Louis Creed Wakes Up From His Pascow Dream And HIS PILLOW IS GONE. Because pants are torn and shoes are muddy or whatever.
Andrea: So are you saying you didn’t like it for that reason?
Pat: No, I dug it.
Andrea: Or do you mean troubling as in scary?
BOSS AS HELL.
Eddie’s Bad Break
Eddie Kaspbrak’s pharmacist decides the jig is up, that Eddie should know that his asthma medicine is just a placebo, that he doesn’t have asthma in his lungs, he’s got it in his head.
Andrea: This part was weird as hell. I thought the pharmacist was trying to do Eddie a service, but the way he went about it was really patronizing and creepy.
Pat: I think he was trying to slap some sense into him and knew that the Mama Kaspbrak psych-out was so fucking deeply embedded that he had to do it roughly. I mean, Eddie thinks: Maybe he’s going to tell me I got cancer or something. That kid-cancer. Leukemia. Jesus!
Even as Keene is telling him his inhaler is loaded to the brim with horseshit, Eddie starts desperately needing a toot of the ol’ lung savior. That’s how deep it goes.
Oh Eddie, you are such a fucking goober. A lovable goober, but a goober nonetheless.
Andrea: There is a huge undercurrent of this book about kids getting fucked up psychologically by adults big time. This. Henry. Ben and the food. Bev. Bill and his ghosty parents.
Pat: Would you have told Eddie in Keene’s place?
Andrea: Well, yeah. I don’t think I would have filled the prescription in the first place.
Pat: I mean, shit, SHE doesn’t know, does she? I don’t think she does.
Andrea: No. The doctor wrote a phony prescription to placate her.
Pat: Eddie’s life is pretty much Pink Floyd’s “Mother.”
Outside the grocery store, Eddie runs into Henry, Victor, a guy with the improbable name of Moose Sadler, and Patrick Hockstetter, who is about as fucking weird as it gets. This is bad news for ol’ Eddie the Aspirator. The grocer tries to break it up, but shit doesn’t work that way in Derry when Pennywise is in town. Eddie runs, but the older boys catch him, and Henry breaks his arm.
Pat: GET OUT OF HERE HOCKSTETTER NO ONE LIKES YOU YOU ARE FUCKING WEIRD
Andrea: I can’t get the description of his slimy hot dog lips out of my mind.
Pat: This is fucking terrifying. Being cornered by four bigger kids and having no hope of salvation. That kind of fear just sticks the fuck with you.
Andrea: I’m trying to think of a situation where that has happened to me, and I can’t. But I agree that , yeah: really damn scary. I tend to avoid all situations of conflict.
While he’s doped up in the hospital, Eddie dreams that his mother chewed out the other Losers when they came to visit him. She is a massive twat, that woman, and apparently this vision Eddie has isn’t all that off the mark. So Eddie, possessed of the Soul Of The Turtle, faces down his mother. And she is firmly put in her place, because he’s got The Power.
Pat: T-U-R-T-L-E POWER
TEEN-AGE MU-TANT NIN-JA TURT-LES
Andrea: I really can’t get behind this damn turtle, to be quite candid.
Pat: Are you kidding me? The Turtle is great. He’s not getting much face time now, but come on, they are Possessed Of The Glow necessary to beat It.
Maybe you don’t like the Turtle because you are one yourself. A sad turtle.
Why are you a sad turtle, Andrea? What did the bad man behind the bleachers do to you?
Andrea: I am so not a sad turtle. I’m more like a caustic buffalo.
Pat: So no comments on the Eddie vs. Mama Kaspbrak fracas?
Andrea: We are talking turtles right now, excuse me.
Eddie really stood up, and it made me like him way more. IN YO FACE MAMA KASPBRAK
Pat: I’ve liked Eddie for a while now, but it was difficult at first. Tenuous. But man, he gets to be as much a favorite as anyone.
Andrea: Did you think it was realistic that she would back down like that?’
Pat: I think given Eddie’s confidence in the rectitude of what he’s saying—which is fucking true, so much so that even ol’ Kuntbag Kaspbrak can’t argue with it—plus the power surrounding their group and willing things to keep them together, yeah, I buy that shit.
The Losers return to the hospital, and Eddie gets the story of the silver ball bearings, which Haystack has used his Innate Engineering Knowledge to fashion, and of Beverly becoming the group’s gunslinger by besting the other five in a slingshot shoot-off.
Pat: I should warn you that at no point in the Dark Tower does Ben Hanscom ever make Roland some bitchin’ ass bullets. It is the greatest mistake of Stephen King’s life.
Andrea: I loved this. She showed their asses up!
Pat: I don’t really get why she’s so reticent to be the gunslinger.
Andrea: She wants to be, doesn’t she? Or she at least doesn’t want to get left out?
Pat: A chapter ago she was ready to have all their guts for garters for trying to cut her out of the vision quest, now she’s like, UGH BILL YOU DO IT
Andrea: Maybe she is realizing that this is the actual real fucking deal now.
Pat: It’s sort of the only time she isn’t entirely badass.
Which I guess it gives her DEPTH?
Andrea: Well yeah, I mean, she is a 12-year-old girl with surging hormones. MAYBE SHE JUST DOESN’T FEEL LIKE USING THE SLINGSHOT, OK? *SLAMS DOOR*
Pat: Is her period mentioned even once in the span of this summer?
Andrea: I DON’T THINK SO
Andrea: But that doesn’t mean she isn’t swirling with hormones and angst.
Pat: Maybe she wasn’t yet menstruating? She’s getting “bigger up there.” We’ll discuss lubrication later.
Pat: You’d think—given what we know of Stephen King thus far—there’d be some tie-in with her period, like she’s rafting the Red Sea when they confront It the first time, and it gives her some sort of menses power.
“THIS PERIOD BLOOD IS STEROIDS, FUCKNUTS”
Andrea: You would think. But maybe he felt like “been there, done that.”
Pat: “I already earned my red wings, gtfo.”
Andrea: If he really knew about periods, he’d know that she’d be laying in bed with a bowl of chocolate ice cream watching trash TV.
Pat: Not every woman gets the Uterus Of A Thousand Knives every month, you know.
Andrea: I don’t either. It’s called THE MAGIC OF BIRTH CONTROL. But if I did, that’s what I’d be doing.
Pat: I’m actively skimming through the chapters as we discuss them, meanwhile you probably don’t even have your notes.
My how the world has moved on.
Andrea: Why are you being a jerkass?
I am also actively skimming the chapters.
Pat: You are so not.
Andrea: Yes, I am.
I’m skimming through it on my phone.
Pat: “Killing cans is one thing,” Beverly said. “If it was something else … something alive … Bill, you should be the one. Really.”
Andrea: So maybe she is showing her maternal instinct. The softness of womanhood, as it were.
Pat: Slingshots sound goofy, but the second Beverly is in action, it seems fucking badass.
ut we’ll get to that DIRECTLY
They all sign Eddie’s cast, and with that, they have all officially signed on to Kill Pennywise.
Pat: I like that touch. It’s a fucking sneaky, ingenious detail.
Andrea: I liked the way the nurses were all oh man, this fucking crazy lady” about Eddie’s mom ”
Pat: Cast? Nothing? Are you trying to rush me into Hockstetter?
Andrea: I agree that it was a good detail, and I wish that it came with a picture of all their signatures. What would be really creepy though, would be if he woke up and Pennywise had signed it.
Let’s see, I read half of It in fifth grade, which means it was after the summer I spent in a cast.
Andrea: Why did you have to spend the summer in a cast?
Pat: Because I broke my fucking arm.
Andrea: WELL DUH BUT HOW
Pat: Riding my bike in the construction site behind our development. Bottom of this hill was sandy, I fell, arm when through the little handlebar thing, wheel twisted, broke my forearm.
Andrea: OK MOVING ON
Another One Of The Missing: The Death Of Patrick Hockstetter
Back in 1985, Beverly tells the story of running into the Bowers gang at the dump, where she was planning to get in some practice with the Bullseye and get that much closer to becoming the Roland Deschain of slingshots. This plan is disrupted by the more relevant issue of Watching Bowers & Co. Light Each Others’ Farts, which is what the hell they’re doing with their free time.
Pat: I mean, seriously, guys. Get a fucking grip on yourselves.
Andrea: This was hilarious, and I loved the detail of Bev both cracking up and also terrified. Did you ever do that?
Pat: I was never One Of Those Boys.
Andrea: Wait. We skipped over Hockstetter showing girls his fly collection. What the ever-loving fuck??
Pat: I have this chapter sorted in a sensible fashion
Subquestion: why girls always gotta pee, man?
Subsubquestion: fucking roller-skates, Bev?
Andrea: What is the problem with roller-skates?
Pat: I find it even less believable that roller-skates were ever popular, even in the rinky-dink 50s, than the fact that rollerblades were briefly popular.
Andrea: I actually think that the 50s were kind of early for roller-skates–I think their heyday was in the 60s and 70s.
The reason here is simple: Butch Bowers’s girlfriend makes slow-cooked beans every fucking week. The math goes like this: beans = farts + teenage boys + lighters = not exactly an excerpt from Dickens. Also, Beverly can see their cocks and everything!
Andrea: Her girlish curiosity about it is a nice detail.
Pat: “Bill has one of those, she thought, an unknowable moistness spreading in her panties.”
Andrea: It did not say moistness!!!!
Pat: I may have added that part.
Andrea: You are a dirty old man.
Pat: Oh yeah, sure, Stephen King, at age 39, writes about six kids taking turns having sex with their best girl friend, and I’m a pervert for pointing out that a teenage girl looking at weens was probably moist.
Andrea: Also super creepy in this section and in the same vein: when Bev talks about the “smell” that has crept up when she’s alone in the apartment with her dad.
Pat: Oh god, that is horrifying. And it’s even worse because she’s so naive about what it is. Meanwhile, you’re reading it, and it’s like, yep, Pennywise was right, he wanted to suck her clit through his teeth.
I mean, at least he doesn’t actually do it, I guess?
Pat: Well, I think he would’ve, but we’re not there yet.
Belch and Victor end up going home, leaving Patrick Hockstetter behind to give Henry a fucking handjob. No kidding, right there in the dump. It is beyond awkward, especially when Patrick is like, oh, hey, dude, do you want me to put it in my mouth? Which sends Bowers into a super-bro anti-gay rant. He extracts an agreement from Patrick to not goddamn talk about what all just happened by threatening to tell people about his refrigerator. Fortunately, we don’t know what the hell that even means. Unfortunately, we’re going to find out soon enough.
Pat: This was intensely uncomfortable to read, and I don’t particularly know why. Maybe it’s to do with these two being the biggest fucking lunatics in the book, and the kind of mindlessness of Hockstetter giving Henry a handjob and trying to blow him is just unnervingly detached.
Andrea: “Those are his balls. Do boys have to go around with them all the time?”
Pat: “Let me show you something,” Patrick said.
“What?” Henry asked.
“Just something.” Patrick paused. “It feels good.”
Which, come on, these kids weren’t already jerking off? Why didn’t Henry say, “Yeah, fuckbait, I know about this little trick here, but keep doing what you’re doing.”
Andrea: I don’t know if they were already jerking off, I’m not a dude. I’m more concerned about Bev picturing cupping Bill’s testicles.
Pat: I don’t get touching/having your balls touched.
Andrea: Can we go back to the handjob for a second? Patrick tries to extort Henry for a dollar. And points out that he must have liked it because he got a boner. What a creepshow.
Pat: “BIGGEST BONER I EVER SAW!”
At which point he calls Patrick a “homo faggot,” which is right up there with “babyfag.”
Patrick Hockstetter is beyond fucking creepy. Beyond just handjobs at the dump, even. For one thing, he has a pencil box he lugs around at school, but he doesn’t keep pencils in it. Just, you know, the corpses of the flies he murders throughout the school day with a plastic ruler. Which is all fine in Patrick’s world, because as far as he knows, he’s the only Real Person in the universe.
Andrea: Let’s talk for a second about the realism of Hockstetter’s “condition.” For one thing, SK implies that he “graduates” from being a sociopath to a psychopath. Not sure that’s really how it works, Steve-O.
Pat: That’s true, no argument there.
Andrea: For another thing, apparently Patrick doesn’t feel pain?
Pat: He feels it, but it doesn’t bother him because nothing truly final can happen to him, because he’s the only Real Person in the world.
Pat: I was so gobsmacked when I read this because I couldn’t believe anyone else had ever had that thought, that no one else was real, that you couldn’t be sure of anyone else’s realness, that everyone could be robots or actors or just some sort of hologram and your life was just basically The Truman Show, which is what I thought.
Andrea: And yet, you managed to not murder anyone. Certainly not your baby brother because of the fear that he might be real, too.
Pat: Maybe King saved me from that, who knows?
Andrea: I think every kid has that thought to some extent—it seems like a normal part of psychological development. But around 7-8, you’re supposed to develop empathy.
This whole Realness Deal is super unfortunate for Patrick’s baby brother, Avery, because it’s the first time he’s had to grapple with the possibility that another human being is actually real—Avery came from the hospital and everything! So Patrick plays Smothers Brothers with Avery, which basically involves suffocating the baby. Whoops, that’s one less Hockstetter!
Pat: Now is the point in the proceedings where I needle you about having named your daughter Avery.
Andrea: Ugh, whatev.
Pat: I mean, I was named Patrick before King wrote Hockstetter, but he wrote Avery Hockstetter a good, what, twenty years before your kid was born?
Andrea: “Patrick was gratified that once things settled down his meals began to come on time again.” And the idea that his dad suspected.
Pat: The detail of his boots with the snow melting off while he suffocates the baby slowly over the course of like twenty minutes… yeesh.
Andrea: This part was verym very hard to read.
Pat: Man, babies suck at survival.
Andrea: Probably more so than anything else in King’s oeuvre except for the Gage death.
So anyway, this refrigerator business: Patrick found an old fridge out by the dump that somebody had forgotten to pry the latch off of, and this loopy motherfucker starts putting all sorts of animals in there, birds, stray cats and dogs, family pets.
Andrea: A FRIGGING COCKER SPANIEL NO LESS
Pat: It always starts with killing animals, and yet rarely does it go: baby THEN animals.
Andrea: Oh man. The part about the cocker spaniel killed me. How it kept wagging its tail. I am tearing up just thinking about it.
Pat: He opens that fridge up with all the emotion of a guy checking his briefcase for a pen.
Andrea: No, he is excited.
Pat: Did people in the town just think, fuck, maybe the kid-killer is branching out into cats?
Andrea: I think they were just preoccupied with the Derry-style brainwashing
And now he’s more than a little worried that Henry will rat him out about the fridge, so he figures he ought to remove the latest carcass in case anyone finds out. Beverly, who had been boiling over with pee during the Fart-Lighting And Hand-Jobbing part of the proceedings, has now peed and is stuck in the trees just beyond Patrick’s fridge. So, you know, she has to watch what happens next: Crazypants Hockstetter opens his fridge to find it pulsing with flying leeches. What do these leeches do? They kill Patrick! HOLY CHRIST.
Pat: This would be the exact moment when I learned the word “proboscis.”
Andrea: Yeah, and it sucked out his eyeball!!! Jesus god, this was brutal.
Pat: I didn’t remember anything about these leeches right up until he opened the fridge.
Andrea: Oh god, I could not get them out of my mind. They are probably my most-remembered thing from book.
Pat: For some reason, I had it in my head that he puts a kid in there, or tries to, and then It closes the door on him. And he dies in the fridge.
Andrea: Nope. But that would be preferable to me than those damn leeches.
Pat: Once the fridge opened, I was like OH RIGHT GOD FUCKING DAMMIT
Bev gets one on the arm. She got lucky as fuck. The Losers Nearly Lose One Again.
Just before he passed out, he saw a figure step from behind the last of the junked cars… as the figure drew closer, he saw its face was running like wax. Sometimes it began to harden and look like something—or someone—and then it would start to run again, as if it couldn’t make up its mind who or what it wanted to be.
“Hello and goodbye,” a bubbling voice said from inside the running tallow of its features, and Patrick tried to scream again. He didn’t want to die; as the only “real” person, he wasn’t supposed to die. If he did, everyone else in the world would die with him.
Double drinking game score: wax AND tallow.
No dice, Patrick—you’re dead. Worse than that, It is dragging you off through the woods. Beverly beefs it on out of there, but returns with the rest of the gang because these kids are really just asking for It. What they find inside the fridge is an avalanche of orange pom-poms, like the ones on Pennywise’s clown suit, and a note written in Patrick Hockstetter’s blood: “Stop now before I kill you all. A word to the wise from your friend Pennywise.” Bill freaks the fuck out, half-cocked and murderous, and everybody hugs.
Pat: Somehow it’s worse when he leaves them written messages than when he shows up or shouts at them.
Andrea: I know. I’m not sure why, either. I think, though, that the showing up in pictures is even freakier than the writing.
Pat: I like the thing where they’re trying to get a rope to open the fridge from afar. Kids are just endlessly inventive when they’re doing something FUCKING DANGEROUS AS HELL.
Andrea: These kids more than most. This story could so not have taken place in modern times, and if they really do a movie, I hope they don’t try to make it so.
Pat: That would be a mistake I don’t think Guillermo del Toro is capable of making.
Andrea: Is he doing it? I hadn’t heard that.
Pat: It’s one of the things he wants to do soon.
I don’t know if I want any of this sullied by seeing it on film again.
The thrilling intricacies of making ball bearings from melted down silver coins. Huzzah!
Pat: I mean, this was kind of cool because Ben can do anything he fucking wants.
Andrea: Call me naive, but I was kinda like, why didn’t they just go to a hardware store and buy ball bearings?
Pat: You think hardware stores sell ball bearings made out of SILVER?
Andrea: Oh, right.
Then of course the kids fuck off to the house on Neibolt Street, because there’s seven of them, and seven is the Magic Number for idiots doing stupid things. Ben gets predictably stuck going in the basement window.
Andrea: Poor fat Ben.
Pat: “…And there he would be, with his extremely large ass practically in his beloved’s face.”
They check out the kitchen and open up the cabinets because they are Beyond Dumb, but at least it’s with purpose.
Pat: I bet you loved what they found in the cabinets.
Rats. Hundreds of rats. So many that their tails are all knotted together.
Andrea: OH! OH OH! THERE IS ACTUALLY A NAME FOR THAT PHENOMENON
Pat: Which is known in urban parlance as a “king rat.”
Andrea: Perhaps we discussed this already. Apparently, the biggest king rat ever found was like a hundred.
Pat: You want nightmares, doing an image search for “king rat.”
And then never sleep again.
Andrea: I will not.
Pat: I don’t even want to see two rats knotted together.
Andrea: I don’t even want to see one rat, period. I am lifting my feet up off the floor as we speak, lest there is a rat lurking under my desk.
Pat: The rats, we should note, are described as “mewling.”
So maybe that’s drinking game material.
Andrea: I thought that was already in there. If it’s not, it absolutely should be
They move through the house. A stroke book cover girl winks at Ben. Mike somehow goes pale. The dimensions of the house start getting really fucked up and stretched out.
Pat: And on the cover of the stroke book: Mrs. Kersh, aka Ms. Bob Gray aka Pennywise’s Daughter.
Andrea: The leaves outside the house smell like an unwrapped mummy, according to Ben.
Pat: Well, he’s smelling his It.
Maybe we should discuss this, given Mrs. Kersh’s reappearance: does the Pennywise/Bob Gray face of It come from somewhere?
Andrea: What do you mean?
Pat: It’s kind of odd that It gave itself a full human name, a little less odd that It gave itself a full-on clown name like Pennywise the (very specifically!) Dancing Clown.
Andrea: That’s a really good question, but I think it’s beyond the scope of this book.
Pat: And nothing else It becomes is original. There are no solo albums.
Andrea: The creepiest thing about the house, beyond the rats, is that it’s bigger on the inside than on the outside.
Pat: My thinking here is that, very possibly, there was some sort of homicidal maniac clown at some point who so many people were scared of that It took it on as Its common face.
Andrea: Do you think Bob Gray is analogous to Frank Dodd?
Pat: I think there’s something to it, yeah. Although Frank Dodd was, what, supposedly POSSESSED BY SOME EVIL SHIT?
Or what he just the EVIL DUDE WHO BECAME A POSSESSING SPIRIT, SEE ALSO: CUJO?
Andrea: RIGHT SO MAYBE BOB GRAY IS AN EVIL DUDE WHO BECOMES IT
OR MAYBE BOB GRAY AND FRANK DODD ARE THE SAME
Pat: Are you fucking retarded?
Andrea: OR MAYBE IT’S JUST IT IN EVERYONE EVIL
Pat: It came before people lived in Maine, for fuck’s sake. Before there was such a thing as clowns.
Anyhow, yes: The dimensions of the house start getting really fucked up and stretched out. Sort of like the TARDIS.
Andrea: The angles are all wrong.
SO THEN, Stan is kind of a pussy in this section, surprise, surprise.
Pat: Backing up a little bit, though: can black people pale?
Andrea: I don’t see why not
Pat: Mike goes “ashy.” Which I guess proves King doesn’t know much about black people because ashy is a whole other thing.
Pat: “Damn Mikey,” Richie said. “Your elbows is all ashy. You scairt?”
Andrea: I think it means that he gets pale.
Pat: I know what it MEANS, I’m saying King doesn’t know what it MEANS. Anyhow, you were asking me about the Black Hotel in The Talisman and the one in Black House, and here we have another house that qualifies for the Dark Tower real estate listings.
Andrea: Totally. Neibolt Street and its funhouse aesthetics freak me right the hell out.
Pat: I like that it’s controllable though, like most of Pennywise’s illusions, if a Pennywise illusion this be. Like the fortune cookies, sort of. Willing it to not be real, like Bill jumping up and punching the ceiling to show that the house on Neibolt isn’t actually warping around them, it’s just fake.
Which is a fucking tight rope to walk, having to be as youthfully credulous as you have to be to destroy It, but not so credulous that you get killed by Its artifice.
IT’S A METAPHOR FOR LIFE
Andrea: Uh… okay. Back to Stan’s pussiness
Pat: What about it?
Andrea: He annoys me.
Pat: That’s very evocative. You have illuminated me.
Pat: “You got your brother, man, but I don’t have anything!” ““You got your BUH-BUH-BUH-BIRDS! Your BUH-BUH-BIRDS!”
In the movie, this should have sparked a five-minute dance interlude to “Bird Is The Word.”
Andrea: Yeah, Stan is weak and I don’t even know why he is in the book. He can’t do anything right!
Pat: HE REPRESENTS THE DEATH OF CHILDLIKE WONDERMENT, THE FINAL, PERMANENT CHANGE INTO ADULTHOOD.
Or not, I just made that up.
Andrea: My brain is moping.
Pat: You don’t even know what words mean anymore.
Andrea: I seriously feel like I get dumber every day.
Pat: I feel that way too.
Surprising no one, the bathroom is where the action’s at. The fucking werewolf POURS ITSELF OUT OF THE FUCKING DRAIN. The werewolf gets its claws on Ben, who is all, hey, let me try to gouge out a werewolf’s eyes, but by then Beverly has gotten slingshotty as fuck and obliterated its face. It escapes back down the drain, promising again to kill the fuckers. Yeah, yeah, Pennywise, we’ve heard it before.
Andrea: Not only the drain—he comes out of the fucking toilet!
Pat: Pennywise: reverse poop artist.
Andrea: Prompting fart jokes by all!
Pat: “Whatever it was, Ben thought, it blew that poor toilet right to hell.”
Andrea: Cool detail that the werewolf is literally a teen werewolf, with a Derry High letter jacket and everything.
Pat: Well, yeah, it’s the same werewolf it was before, the Michael Landon werewolf Richie saw when It also got Bill in the basement. It only has the faces they give It, and apparently they all fixed on the werewolf.
“Shoot It, baby,” he said. His voice was perfectly calm; almost serene. “You shoot It right now.”
Did you just jive Beverly, Mikey?
Andrea: So then they escape and everyone gets all blushy cause Bev’s shirt is open.
Beverly loses her shirt, somehow, and everyone gets an eyeful of youthful tit before heading out of the house.
Pat: “Good luck, Big Bill, Ben thought, and he turned away from that gaze. It was hurting him, hurting him in a deeper place than any vampire or werewolf would ever be able to reach. But all the same, there was such a thing as propriety. The word he didn’t know; on the concept he was very clear. Looking at them when they were looking at each other that way would be as wrong as looking at her breasts when she let go of the front of her blouse to pull Bill’s tee-shirt over her head. If that’s the way it is. But you’ll never love her the way I do. Never.”
Nice recovery from a super-saccharine sentiment like “NO WEREWOLF COULD CUT ME DEEPER THAN YOU DID, BILL.”
Andrea: Poor bittersweet Ben/Bev/Bill triangle.
Pat: I like that even as this Bill and Bev thing is getting off the ground, Ben is still possessed of an almost RIGHTEOUS CERTITUDE that he is the better of the two boys. LOVE-WISE.
Andrea: Yeah, he has a conviction that is really honorable, somehow.
Pat: It’s not creepy, it’s nearly Shakespearean.
That summary was supposed to end with “Damn fucking right, Haystack.”
Damn fucking right, Haystack.
Derry: The Fourth Interlude
Mike Hanlon is drunk in April, 1985 as he writes down the story of Claude Heroux, who was a union organizer or something and most definitely of French-Canadian descent, and witnessed and escaped the brutal murder of his colleagues. After that, he just kind of tooled around, all out of sorts, until he confronts the reputed killers in the Silver Dollar bar. He axes them all to death, boy howdy!
Pat: “Tell you what, friends and neighbors—I’m drunk tonight. Fuck-drunk.”
Who among us can dislike Adult Mike?
Andrea: I found this part to be really boring. There is this weird part where he talks about the founding fathers raping the forest in a strangely specific way “impregnating them with a litter of junk spruce.”
Pat: “Tore the hymen of those great forests open.”
Andrea: Also, it had the grossness of “laying in jizzum an inch deep.”
Pat: See, I thought this was much more interesting than the Bradley Gang. Heroux is a fucking whackjob. But a vengeful one, though. He hacks five people apart with a goddamn axe!
Andrea: Yeah. And then the kicker: “I remember thinking there must be a county fair up Bangor way. There was a fella in there… a comical sort of fella…”
Pat: “Seen him a few now’n thens since,” Thoroughgood said. “Figure maybe he had such a good time that nigh… that he decided to stick around.”
Now THAT is a chillingly apt description of Pennywise.
The upshot of the story is that not a damn person in that bar in 1905 acted like anything strange was going on while Heroux hacked up a handful of people with an ax. Derry Is For Lovers!
Pat: Speaking of unsettling.
Andrea: Yeah, and basically no one ever mentions it again.
Pat: Then he goes on to muse about what It really eats, that it only partially mutilates children’s bodies, but not much seems EATEN.
Andrea: IT FEEDS ON SOULS
Pat: It doesn’t feed on souls. At all. That is a non-starter.
Mike says he thinks It feeds on faith. And I think it’s mentioned at one point that people are always bit near the armpit, where the lymphatic system runs thick or something, where chemicals concerning fear flow freely.
But he’s a fucking librarian, so what does he know.
“Why call us back? Why not just let us die? Because we nearly killed It, because we frightened It, I think. Because It wants revenge.”
“And now, now that we no longer believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Hansel and Gretel, or the troll under the bridge, It is ready for us.
“Come on back and we’ll see if you remember the simplest thing of all: how it is to be children, secure in belief and thus afraid of the dark.
“On that one at least, I score a thousand percent: I am frightened. So goddam frightened.”
Andrea: That was a really good passage.
Pat: I’M SO EXCITED. I’M SO EXCITED. I’M… SO… SCARED.