As Part 1 comes to an end…
Lloyd Henreid was down on his knees…He was trying to turn Trask’s body around so he could get at the leg. Please, waiter, bring me some more of that cole slaw and another leg.
Mmm. How does that long pork taste, Lloyd?
This is one of those nice sympathetic moments for Lloyd—that even though he’s one of the bad guys, both in what he did with Poke and in the grander scheme, he’s still locked up and starving. And then he starts justifying his own behavior and that all he needed to get the key and he’d be free.
Lloyd manages to get the leg close enough—just in case, mind you, it’s not like he wants to eat Trask—to his cell. Sometime later in the day (or it could be another day, it’s not really made clear in the book), he finally hears someone entering the jail…
His gaze rose slowly, taking in the faded jeans snugged down over the boots…the jeans jacket with a button pinned to each of the breast pockets—a smiley-smile face on one, a dead pig and the words HOW’S YOUR PORK on the other.
So clearly Randall Flagg and I have the same sense of humor. Kinda disturbing when I think about it.
Lloyd starts begging Flagg to help him out of the cellblock, while Flagg is basically tormenting Lloyd by suggesting that Lloyd did take a few bites out of Trask (but of course he couldn’t have, the teeth marks aren’t Lloyd’s…or are they?) And then Lloyd hits the head of the nail with this:
“Because I don’t think you’re real,” Lloyd whispered,” And if you are real…mister, if you’re real, you’re the devil.”
YOU HAVE NO IDEA, LLOYD.
Flagg springs Lloyd in exchange for Lloyd’s absolute loyalty. And given the treatment, Lloyd’s been given until this point, it’s not a huge surprise that Lloyd jumps at the chance. And thus, there were two.
Speaking of temptation, we’re back to Nick Andros as he’s suffering through his own fever and delirium after his encounter with Ray Booth.
Then the dark man was turning toward him, and Nick was terribly afraid. This creature, whatever is was, performed no free miracles.
–If you fall down and worship me.
And Nick put his hands over his face because he wanted all the things the black manshape had shown him from this high desert place: cities, women, treasure, power. But most of all he wanted to hear the entrancing sound his fingernails made of his shirt, the tick of a clock in empty house after midnight, and the secret sound of rain.
But the word he said was No…
This being a reread, this is one of the many moments I’ve been having when I’ll read a line like that and promptly smack myself for missing SYMBOLISM. (!) Did I mention I was an English Lit major? It’s a very subtle bit of foreshadowing to come (especially in Nick’s case) but I never quite picked up on it until now. I fail at comprehensive reading.
By the way, Nick can apparently hear and speak in the dream which I don’t know if this is a real thing or not. I know there’s lucid dreaming and some people have really good senses in dreams, but if Nick’s deaf from birth, how does he know what…sound sounds like? I like that King actually lampshades this here with Nick thinking “Oh, that’s music. Oh, that’s what a guitar sounds like.”
This is also when we finally meet the other half of our Good v. Evil showdown, Mother Abagail. (I…I have things to say about Mother Abagail, and when we get to her chapter, we’ll discuss them there. Along with another upcoming character.) She’s shown up before, or at least her farm has, but we haven’t really met her yet.
‘But how do I get out of this?
God bless you, boy, no one ever does. You just look up to the best and come see Mother Abagail anytime you take a mind to. I be right here, I guess; don’t move around much anymore. So you come see me.’
And thus, we have our first pilgrim: Nick Andros.
(I’m going to get a lot of shit for what happens in this chapter, aren’t I.)
Larry wakes up on the side of the road on July Fourth. It’s nice to have some sense of the passage of time—not only is the plague happening in the summer going to be hugely important towards the climax (for reasons)—but it also illustrates how fast things are happening. And I like that we get how time’s passing for everyone. For Stu, it was monotonous and he wasn’t even sure what day it was anymore. For Larry and Rita, they have some idea of how long they’ve got until the weather starts getting cold.
As it is July Fourth, Larry decides to bring in the morning.
He cleared his throat, spat, an hummed a little to find his pitch. He drew breath, very much of the light morning breeze on his naked chest and buttocks and burst into song.
“Oh! Say, can you see,
By the dawn’s early light…”
He sang it all the way through, facing Bennington, doing a little burlesque bump and grind at the end, because by now Rita would be standing at the flap of the tent, smiling at him.
Let’s just appreciate Stephen King’s sense of humor, here, shall we? It’s a nice little laugh to start off this chapter. Because we’ll definitely need a laugh.
He rolled [Rita] over and one of her pill bottles fell out of her hand and her eyes were cloudy dull marbles behind half-closed lids and her mouth was filled with the green puke she had strangled on.
I keep going back to Chapter 38 whenever I read this—hell, Larry even thinks about all the people who are immune to the flu but are dying of other causes—because it makes you stop and think about everyone who can’t cope. How many others like Rita are out there, anyway? We sorta got an example in the aforementioned chapter, a woman who gets drunk and accidently sets her house on fire; but that’s still treated like an accidental death. Could you imagine what it’s like to be depressed and have everyone around you die and there’s really nothing at all you can do? The idea already terrifies me, so what about when you add depression or being bipolar?
So even though I really couldn’t stand her, I do feel sorry for Rita in the end. Yes, I even agreed with Larry that she needed to face life as it is and not hide behind pills and men. But there’s some people who can’t. Maybe it’s because I believe in the strength to move on. And for Rita, she never had to summon that strength before, and she took the only way out that she knew. Or alternately, it’s an accident, which is my own theory. And it happens, and if Rita didn’t overdose now, she would have at some point later on.
But the truth of the matter is, we don’t actually know what happened to Rita, if her overdose was on purpose or accidental. It happens.
Now on his own, Larry continues to press onward north.
It started on the third kick, and he putted out of Bennington at no more than walking speed. He was wearing bracelets of cold sweat on his arms and suddenly he had never, no never, in his whole life wanted so badly to see another human face.
But he didn’t see one that day.
Stu, who has being spending a little far too much time in Glen Bateman’s company, is having lunch and mulling over life and how awful people can be, when he hears motorcycles.
Stu raised an empty hand and said “Hi!” in an amiable voice…
For a moment he was puzzled by the tenseness in their postures. Particularly the boy; he looked as if a gallon of adrenaline had just been dumped in his blood. Of course Stu had a rifle, but he wasn’t holding it on them and they were armed themselves…
“I think he’s all right, Harold,” the girl said…
Hey! It’s Frannie and Harold! Established characters are meeting up!
Harold automatically goes into manly man mode (which Stu automatically notices) and tries to just pass information off to Stu, but they’re not really interested in more people traveling with them kthxbai. And this is the beginning of Stu and Harold’s cock fight that’s going to end very, very badly.
Stu tries to Harold that everyone involved at the Stovington Center’s dead save for him, and by the sounds of it, Atlanta is gone too. Harold automatically discredits Stu’s story because they just met Stu, he could be just making up the story. Harold has a little bit of justification on his part—not everyone in post-apocalyptic society is going to be nice and offer beer and caviar like Glen Bateman—but I wanna smack him for being so insistent on discrediting Stu. And Stu gleans on to the reason why Harold’s so protective of Frannie pretty quickly,
“I’ll be just as plain as I have to,” Stu went on, still speaking very nearly into Harold’s ear.., and taking the trouble to speak very, very calmly. “You know and I know that there’s no need for a man to be rapin women. Not if know what to do with his hand.”
“That’s—“ Harold licked his lip and then looked over at the side of the road where Fran was still standing…”That’s pretty disgusting.”
“Well maybe it is and maybe it isn’t…I just want to speak plain, between you and me. I’m not here to squeeze you out like some bully at a country fair dance.”
(Tangenting on a weird point…why the hell is it important for us to know about Harold’s ear wax? You know by this point, we get it, Harold’s disgusting and fat. This is making me feel more sorry for Harold now instead of being disgusted by him.)
You know, I would have loved for this scenario to stay throughout the whole book. Because what the end of this chapter is the start of Frannie being played back and forth for no good reason. Frannie/Stu bothers me a little. Not the May/December romance aspect, it’s the “Poor pregnant girl needs a manly older man to care of her.” (I had the exact same issue with Bag of Bones.) Harold has plenty of good reasons to be tempted by the dark side; we don’t need a love triangle to add fuel to the fire.
So, at the end of Book 1: We’ve got most of our characters beginning to move West. We’ve met the Devil, and he is Randall Flagg. We’ve seen Mother Abagail, but still haven’t met her proper. God’s in his heaven and the world is moving on. To pull a quote from Everything’s Eventual (as I’m in the middle of rereading that right now), “All the hard times are coming.”