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Black House

Stephen King

For David Gernert and Ralph Vicinanza


  You take me to a place I never go,

  You send me kisses made of gold,

  I 'll place a crown upon your curls,

  All hail the Queen of the World!

  -The Jayhawks.

  Right Here and Now . . . . . . . RIGHT HERE AND NOW,as an old friend used to say,we are in the fluid present,where clear-sightedness never guarantees perfect vision. Here:about two hundred feet,the height of a gliding eagle,above Wisconsin's far western edge,where the vagaries of the Mississippi River declare a natural border. Now:an early Friday morning in mid-July a few years into both a new century and a new millennium,their way-ward courses so hidden that a blind man has a better chance of seeing what lies ahead than you or I. Right here and now,the hour is just past six a. m. , and the sun stands low in the cloudless eastern sky,a fat,confi-dent yellow-white ball advancing as ever for the first time toward the fu-ture and leaving in its wake the steadily accumulating past,which darkens as it recedes,making blind men of us all.

  Below,the early sun touches the river 's wide,soft ripples with molten highlights. Sunlight glints from the tracks of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad running between the riverbank and the backs of the shabby two-story houses along County Road Oo,known as Nailhouse Row,the lowest point of the comfortable-looking little town extending uphill and eastward beneath us. At this moment in the Coulee Country, life seems to be holding its breath. The motionless air around us carries such remarkable purity and sweetness that you might imagine a man could smell a radish pulled out of the ground a mile away.