In which I spend most of the time covering my eyes and rocking back and forth.
…Who’s Christopher Bradenton? Is this another one of those random perspective chapters? Because I really like those, and I know there’s one coming up soon.
*flips back a few chapters* Oh. Him. Flagg’s contact.
It’s easy to forget who many of the characters are, especially if they only pop up for one or two chapters and are quickly killed off. I do have to give King credit here, the opening of Chapter Thirty-One is a long, feverish, stream-of-consciousness ramble; no wonder I go into this thinking this is going to be another montage chapter.
Now the running footsteps clattered straight toward him along the upstairs hall, boards groaning and creaking and protesting under the weight of those merciless rundown bootheels and suddenly Kit Bradenton knew who it was and he shrieked as the door burst inward and the man in the faded jeans jacket ran in, his murderer’s grin flashing of his face like a whirring circle of knives…
O hai Flagg.
Flagg, being the embodiment of evil, decides to drop in on the dying Bradenton, looking for a car and new papers. (In the name of Randall Flagg, but here he’s Richard Fry, so why is he Flagg already and I have to go read Dark Tower to understand this, don’t I? I get the significance of R.F. in King’s work, but…how does it work.) And to try out his new powers, Flagg decides to float over Bradenton and interrogate him.
“I’m not on you, man, come on. I’m just hanging suspended above you. Like the great invisible world.”
And to get across the point that Flagg is in fact, evil and not just an extremely cruel jokester, he nearly chokes Kit to death in order to get information on the location of his new car.
So…what does this chapter do? Show us Flagg’s powers? Explains how he’s going to go recruiting in person?
Someone had left the door open between Maximum Security and the cellblock beyond it…Lloyd Henreid thought that, between the cries and the very natural fear that he felt, he would go utterly and completely bugshit.
“Mother,” the hoarse, echoing cry came. “Mootherr!”
So the first thing I have to say about this chapter: NOPE. Nope nope nope. We open with a detailed description of Lloyd’s activities since the superflu hit his prison; he’s been trying to take off the bolts on his bedframe. With his fingers.
…and he had actually gotten five of the six bolts. As a result his fingers looked like a spongy mess of raw hamburger. The sixth bolt was the one that had turned out to be the bitch-kitty, but he was beginning to think he might actually get it.
*rocks in the corner* I don’t do gore. I just don’t. I know that’s hypocritical given that I’m a huge zombie fan, but with zombies, the amount of gore feels like parody sometimes. I watched Saw once and the majority of that was with my eyes closed. Plus, I work with my fingers a lot—I write and I cross-stitch for fun, I’m surprised my hands haven’t turned into twisted claws; a description like that is going to make me wince.
Lloyd has figured out that he’s still screwed—he’s not getting his trial at this point. However, he’s stuck in a prison with a dwindling population, a dwindling staff, and the growing notion that the food supply is probably going to dwindle away soon. He does know what’s going on outside, thanks to a deal his neighbor Trask strikes with the guards: martial law, everyone’s dying, you’re all screwed. (Lloyd also gets smart and starts saving half of his dinners, just in case.)
This is the part I do find horrifying about this part—Lloyd flashes back on a rabbit he had when he was a kid. And like a lot of kids who want a pet for Christmas or birthdays or special events, he quickly loses interest in it. Lloyd forgot about it for two weeks. The results were not pretty.
And while I don’t think Lloyd’s situation would really happen in real life, I also realize—everyone’s dying and they’re too busy figuring out what’s happening, rather than worrying about prisoners. And given that the flu acts so quickly, there’s barely any time for anyone to go “Hey, human rights laws? Anyone?” and get prisoners in a more secure location. Because what’s going to happen when Lloyd’s supply of food does run out…
When it was close enough, Lloyd got on his knees and pulled the rat through to his side. He picked it up by the tail and held the dangling body before his eyes for a long time. Then he put it under his mattress where the flies could not get at it…
“Just in case,” Lloyd Henreid whispered to the silence. “Just in case, is all.”
At twenty-two minutes of nine by the clock over the sheriff’s office doorway, the lights went off.
So disabilities in fiction. Nick isn’t quite at the level of disability superpower (despite being able to read lips fairly well in the dark, but that seems to be the extent of his abilities) but he’s still able to get around and figure out what people are saying with very little trouble. But at least it’s not impossible for someone to sneak up on him.
Nick’s back was turned, and he had no idea he was no longer alone in Sheriff Baker’s office until the hands closed around his neck and locked there…He was half-strangled before he got over his first terror and he felt sudden certainty that the black creature from his dreams had come to life…
Ray Booth, the idiot who landed Nick in this situation in the first place, finally shows up again, half-mad from the fever and hunger. The whole encounter is nothing more than another run of Nick’s really bad luck and now it’s dark and he’s completely helpless. He does manage to shoot Booth in the leg and then
One of Ray Booth’s thumbs jammed into Nick’s right eye. Exquisite pain flared and sparkled in his head. Booth’s thumb, work-callused and hard, turned briskly clock and counterclock, grinding Nick’s eyeball.
*rocks some more*
Nick manages to fatally shoot Booth in the end. This is the thing that I really like about Nick, he doesn’t want trouble and he’s not even out for major revenge. But whenever a guy just tried to kill him, or at best, leave him blind…I’m not going to fault him for kicking Booth’s corpse a few times.
What’d ole lady Semple say when you lit up her pension check, Trash?
The ‘bad guys’ of this book aren’t really sympathetic. There’s the truly eviiiil (Flagg), bad guy but has sympathetic moments (Lloyd), and the general population of Las Vegas who may or may not be entirely all bad, but they sided with Flagg, so obviously there’s no hope of redeeming them. (Which in the one case gets really sad and depressing.) If there is one truly sympathetic villain in the whole book, from the moment he’s introduced, I’d say it’s Don Elbert aka “Trashcan Man.”
It’d be easy to paint Trash as ripe for playing into Flagg’s hands as he’s a pyromaniac and somewhat destruction-happy—but I read his backstory, and I’m not surprised that he’s messed-up. His father gets drunk and kills two other men and Trash’s older brother and sister before being gunned down on the steps of the local Methodist Church by the Sheriff. A year later, the six-year-old Trash starts lighting fires in trashcans. (Hence the name.) Then the same Sheriff Greeley finds out who it is, and starts dating his mother. And after the Sheriff becomes Trash’s new stepfather, Trash takes to lighting up people’s mailboxes. Eventually, Trash lights up an abandoned house, and that’s the act that gets him sent to Terre Haute and submitted to electro-shock therapy.
Yeah. Tell me you’re surprised that he cracked.
I do really feel bad for Trash, that he’s stuck in a situation that he has no hope of getting out of. When we first meet him in this chapter, he’s just escaped from prison and haunted by the ghosts of all of his tormentors. And the only way he feels like he can exorcise all of these old demons is to not only burn his hometown down, but the whole country.
I know what Trash’s ultimate role in this book is, but I still can’t help but feel sorry for him.
(Actually I was writing here and thinking, it just finally hit me—if you were to keep making the Lord of the Rings comparisons to The Stand, Trashcan is essentially Gollum. Holy crap, I’ve been reading both books for roughly the same amount of time and the parallel JUST hit me.)