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Doctor Sleep, Page 2

Stephen King

  They walked in silence for a bit. Little birds--peeps, Danny's mother called them--ran in and out of the waves.

  "Did it ever strike you funny, how I showed up when you needed me?" He looked down at Danny and smiled. "No. It didn't. Why would it? You was just a child, but you're a little older now. A lot older in some ways. Listen to me, Danny. The world has a way of keeping things in balance. I believe that. There's a saying: When the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear. I was your teacher."

  "You were a lot more than that," Danny said. He took Dick's hand. "You were my friend. You saved us."

  Dick ignored this . . . or seemed to. "My gramma also had the shining--do you remember me telling you that?"

  "Yeah. You said you and her could have long conversations without even opening your mouths."

  "That's right. She taught me. And it was her great-gramma that taught her, way back in the slave days. Someday, Danny, it will be your turn to be the teacher. The pupil will come."

  "If Mrs. Massey doesn't get me first," Danny said morosely.

  They came to a bench. Dick sat down. "I don't dare go any further; I might not make it back. Sit beside me. I want to tell you a story."

  "I don't want stories," Danny said. "She'll come back, don't you get it? She'll come back and come back and come back."

  "Shut your mouth and open your ears. Take some instruction." Then Dick grinned, displaying his gleaming new dentures. "I think you'll get the point. You're far from stupid, honey."


  Dick's mother's mother--the one with the shining--lived in Clearwater. She was the White Gramma. Not because she was Caucasian, of course, but because she was good. His father's father lived in Dunbrie, Mississippi, a rural community not far from Oxford. His wife had died long before Dick was born. For a man of color in that place and time, he was wealthy. He owned a funeral parlor. Dick and his parents visited four times a year, and young Dick Hallorann hated those visits. He was terrified of Andy Hallorann, and called him--only in his own mind, to speak it aloud would have earned him a smack across the chops--the Black Grampa.

  "You know about kiddie-fiddlers?" Dick asked Danny. "Guys who want children for sex?"

  "Sort of," Danny said cautiously. Certainly he knew not to talk to strangers, and never to get into a car with one. Because they might do stuff to you.

  "Well, old Andy was more than a kiddie-fiddler. He was a damn sadist, as well."

  "What's that?"

  "Someone who enjoys giving pain."

  Danny nodded in immediate understanding. "Like Frankie Listrone at school. He gives kids Indian burns and Dutch rubs. If he can't make you cry, he stops. If he can, he never stops."

  "That's bad, but this was worse."

  Dick lapsed into what would have looked like silence to a passerby, but the story went forward in a series of pictures and connecting phrases. Danny saw the Black Grampa, a tall man in a suit as black as he was, who wore a special kind of

  ( fedora)

  hat on his head. He saw how there were always little buds of spittle at the corners of his mouth, and how his eyes were red-rimmed, like he was tired or had just gotten over crying. He saw how he would take Dick--younger than Danny was now, probably the same age he'd been that winter at the Overlook--on his lap. If they weren't alone, he might only tickle. If they were, he'd put his hand between Dick's legs and squeeze his balls until Dick thought he'd faint with the pain.

  "Do you like that?" Grampa Andy would pant in his ear. He smelled of cigarettes and White Horse scotch. "Coss you do, every boy likes that. But even if you don't, you dassn't tell. If you do, I'll hurt you. I'll burn you."

  "Holy shit," Danny said. "That's gross."

  "There were other things, too," Dick said, "but I'll just tell you one. Grampy hired a woman to help out around the house after his wife died. She cleaned and cooked. At dinnertime, she'd slat out everything on the table at once, from salad to dessert, because that's the way ole Black Grampa liked it. Dessert was always cake or puddin. It was put down on a little plate or in a little dish next to your dinnerplate so you could look at it and want it while you plowed through the other muck. Grampa's hard and fast rule was you could look at dessert but you couldn't eat dessert unless you finished every bite of fried meat and boiled greens and mashed potatoes. You even had to clean up the gravy, which was lumpy and didn't have much taste. If it wasn't all gone, Black Grampa'd hand me a hunk of bread and say 'Sop er up with that, Dickie-Bird, make that plate shine like the dog licked it.' That's what he called me, Dickie-Bird.

  "Sometimes I couldn't finish no matter what, and then I didn't get the cake or the puddin. He'd take it and eat it himself. And sometimes when I could finish all my dinner, I'd find he'd smashed a cigarette butt into my piece of cake or my vanilla puddin. He could do that because he always sat next to me. He'd make like it was a big joke. 'Whoops, missed the ashtray,' he'd say. My ma and pa never put a stop to it, although they must have known that even if it was a joke, it wasn't a fair one to play on a child. They just made out like it was a joke, too."

  "That's really bad," Danny said. "Your folks should have stood up for you. My mom does. My daddy would, too."

  "They were scairt of him. And they were right to be scairt. Andy Hallorann was a bad, bad motorcycle. He'd say, 'Go on, Dickie, eat around it, that won't poison ya.' If I took a bite, he'd have Nonnie--that was his housekeeper's name--bring me a fresh dessert. If I wouldn't, it just sat there. It got so I could never finish my meal, because my stomach would get all upset."

  "You should have moved your cake or puddin to the other side of your plate," Danny said.

  "I tried that, sure, I wasn't born foolish. He'd just move it back, saying dessert went on the right." Dick paused, looking out at the water, where a long white boat was trundling slowly across the dividing line between the sky and the Gulf of Mexico. "Sometimes when he got me alone he bit me. And once, when I said I'd tell my pa if he didn't leave me alone, he put a cigarette out on my bare foot. He said, 'Tell him that, too, and see what good it does you. Your daddy knows my ways already and he'll never say a word, because he yella and because he wants the money I got in the bank when I die, which I ain't fixing to do soon.' "

  Danny listened in wide-eyed fascination. He had always thought the story of Bluebeard was the scariest of all time, the scariest there ever could be, but this one was worse. Because it was true.

  "Sometimes he said that he knew a bad man named Charlie Manx, and if I didn't do what he wanted, he'd call Charlie Manx on the long-distance and he'd come in his fancy car and take me away to a place for bad children. Then Grampa would put his hand between my legs and commence squeezing. 'So you ain't gonna say a thing, Dickie-Bird. If you do, ole Charlie will come and keep you with the other children he done stole until you die. And when you do, you'll go to hell and your body will burn forever. Because you peached. It don't matter if anybody believes you or not, peaching is peaching.'

  "For a long time I believed the old bastard. I didn't even tell my White Gramma, the one with the shining, because I was afraid she'd think it was my fault. If I'd been older I would've known better, but I was just a kid." He paused. "There was something else, too. Do you know what it was, Danny?"

  Danny looked into Dick's face for a long time, probing the thoughts and images behind his forehead. At last he said, "You wanted your father to get the money. But he never did."

  "No. Black Grampa left it all to a home for Negro orphans in Alabama, and I bet I know why, too. But that's neither here nor there."

  "And your good gramma never knew? She never guessed?"

  "She knew there was something, but I kep it blocked away, and she left me alone about it. Just told me that when I was ready to talk, she was ready to listen. Danny, when Andy Hallorann died--it was a stroke--I was the happiest boy on earth. My ma said I didn't have to go to the funeral, that I could stay with Gramma Rose--my White Gramma--if I wanted to, but I wanted to go. You bet I did. I wanted to make sure old Black Grampa was
really dead.

  "It rained that day. Everybody stood around the grave under black umbrellas. I watched his coffin--the biggest and best one in his shop, I have no doubt--go into the ground, and I thought about all the times he'd twisted my balls and all the cigarette butts in my cake and the one he put out on my foot and how he ruled the dinner table like the crazy old king in that Shakespeare play. But most of all I thought about Charlie Manx--who Grampa had no doubt made up out of whole cloth--and how Black Grampa could never call Charlie Manx on the long-distance to come in the night and take me away in his fancy car to live with the other stolen boys and girls.

  "I peeped over the edge of the grave--'Let the boy see,' my pa said when my ma tried to pull me back--and I scoped the coffin down in that wet hole and I thought, 'Down there you're six feet closer to hell, Black Grampa, and pretty soon you'll be all the way, and I hope the devil gives you a thousand with a hand that's on fire.' "

  Dick reached into his pants pocket and brought out a pack of Marlboros with a book of matches tucked under the cellophane. He put a cigarette in his mouth and then had to chase it with the match because his hand was trembling and his lips were trembling, too. Danny was astounded to see tears standing in Dick's eyes.

  Now knowing where this story was headed, Danny asked: "When did he come back?"

  Dick dragged deep on his cigarette and exhaled smoke through a smile. "You didn't need to peek inside my head to get that, did you?"


  "Six months later. I came home from school one day and he was laying naked on my bed with his half-rotted prick all rared up. He said, 'You come on and sit on this, Dickie-Bird. You give me a thousand and I'll give you two thousand.' I screamed but there was no one there to hear it. My ma and pa, they was both working, my ma in a restaurant and my dad at a printing press. I ran out and slammed the door. And I heard Black Grampa get up . . . thump . . . and cross the room . . . thump-thump-thump . . . and what I heard next . . ."

  "Fingernails," Danny said in a voice that was hardly there. "Scratching on the door."

  "That's right. I didn't go in again until that night, when my ma and pa were both home. He was gone, but there were . . . leavings."

  "Sure. Like in our bathroom. Because he was going bad."

  "That's right. I changed the bed myself, which I could do because my ma showed me how two years before. She said I was too old to need a housekeeper anymore, that housekeepers were for little white boys and girls like the ones she took care of before she got her hostessing job at Berkin's Steak House. About a week later, I see ole Black Grampa in the park, a-settin in a swing. He had his suit on, but it was all covered with gray stuff--the mold that was growing on it down in his coffin, I think."

  "Yeah," Danny said. He spoke in a glassy whisper. It was all he could manage.

  "His fly was open, though, with his works stickin out. I'm sorry to tell you all this, Danny, you're too young to hear about such things, but you need to know."

  "Did you go to the White Gramma then?"

  "Had to. Because I knew what you know: he'd just keep comin back. Not like . . . Danny, have you ever seen dead people? Regular dead people, I mean." He laughed because that sounded funny. It did to Danny, too. "Ghosts."

  "A few times. Once there were three of them standing around a railroad crossing. Two boys and a girl. Teenagers. I think . . . maybe they got killed there."

  Dick nodded. "Mostly they stick close to where they crossed over until they finally get used to bein dead and move on. Some of the folks you saw in the Overlook were like that."

  "I know." The relief in being able to talk about these things--to someone who knew--was indescribable. "And this one time there was a woman at a restaurant. The kind, you know, where they have tables outside?"

  Dick nodded again.

  "I couldn't see through that one, but no one else saw her, and when a waitress pushed in the chair she was sitting in, the ghost lady disappeared. Do you see them sometimes?"

  "Not for years, but you're stronger in the shining than I was. It goes back some as you get older--"

  "Good," Danny said fervently.

  "--but you'll have plenty left even when you're grown up, I think, because you started with so much. Regular ghosts aren't like the woman you saw in Room 217 and again in your bathroom. That's right, isn't it?"

  "Yes," Danny said. "Mrs. Massey's real. She leaves pieces of herself. You saw them. So did Mom . . . and she doesn't shine."

  "Let's walk back," Dick said. "It's time you saw what I brought you."


  The return to the parking lot was even slower, because Dick was winded. "Cigarettes," he said. "Don't ever start, Danny."

  "Mom smokes. She doesn't think I know, but I do. Dick, what did your White Gramma do? She must have done something, because your Black Grampa never got you."

  "She gave me a present, same like I'm gonna give you. That's what a teacher does when the pupil is ready. Learning itself is a present, you know. The best one anybody can give or get.

  "She wouldn't call Grampa Andy by his name, she just called him"--Dick grinned--"the preevert. I said what you said, that he wasn't a ghost, he was real. And she said yes, that was true, because I was making him real. With the shining. She said that some spirits--angry spirits, mostly--won't go on from this world, because they know what's waiting for them is even worse. Most eventually starve away to nothing, but some of them find food. 'That's what the shining is to them, Dick,' she told me. 'Food. You're feeding that preevert. You don't mean to, but you are. He's like a mosquito who'll keep circling and then landing for more blood. Can't do nothing about that. What you can do is turn what he came for against him."

  They were back at the Cadillac. Dick unlocked the doors, then slid behind the steering wheel with a sigh of relief. "Once upon a time I could've walked ten miles and run another five. Nowadays, a little walk down the beach and my back feels like a hoss kicked it. Go on, Danny. Open your present."

  Danny stripped off the silver paper and discovered a box made of green-painted metal. On the front, below the latch, was a little keypad.

  "Hey, neat!"

  "Yeah? You like it? Good. I got it at the Western Auto. Pure American steel. The one White Gramma Rose gave me had a padlock, with a little key I wore around my neck, but that was long ago. This is the nineteen eighties, the modern age. See the number pad? What you do is put in five numbers you're sure you won't forget, then push the little button that says SET. Then, anytime you want to open the box, you punch your code."

  Danny was delighted. "Thanks, Dick! I'll keep my special things in it!" These would include his best baseball cards, his Cub Scouts Compass Badge, his lucky green rock, and a picture of him and his father, taken on the front lawn of the apartment building where they'd lived in Boulder, before the Overlook. Before things turned bad.

  "That's fine, Danny, I want you to do that, but I want you to do something else."


  "I want you to know this box, inside and out. Don't just look at it; touch it. Feel it all over. Then stick your nose inside and see if there's a smell. It needs to be your closest friend, at least for awhile."


  "Because you're going to put another one just like it in your mind. One that's even more special. And the next time that Massey bitch comes around, you'll be ready for her. I'll tell you how, just like ole White Gramma told me."

  Danny didn't talk much on the ride back to the apartment. He had a lot to think about. He held his present--a lockbox made of strong metal--on his lap.


  Mrs. Massey returned a week later. She was in the bathroom again, this time in the tub. Danny wasn't surprised. A tub was where she had died, after all. This time he didn't run. This time he went inside and closed the door. She beckoned him forward, smiling. Danny came, also smiling. In the other room, he could hear the television. His mother was watching Three's Company.

  "Hello, Mrs. Massey," Danny said. "I brought you something."
br />   At the last moment she understood and began to scream.


  Moments later, his mom was knocking at the bathroom door. "Danny? Are you all right?"

  "Fine, Mom." The tub was empty. There was some goo in it, but Danny thought he could clean that up. A little water would send it right down the drain. "Do you have to go? I'll be out pretty soon."

  "No. I just . . . I thought I heard you call."

  Danny grabbed his toothbrush and opened the door. "I'm a hundred percent cool. See?" He gave her a big smile. It wasn't hard, now that Mrs. Massey was gone.

  The troubled look left her face. "Good. Make sure you brush the back ones. That's where the food goes to hide."

  "I will, Mom."

  From inside his head, far inside, where the twin of his special lockbox was stored on a special shelf, Danny could hear muffled screaming. He didn't mind. He thought it would stop soon enough, and he was right.


  Two years later, on the day before the Thanksgiving break, halfway up a deserted stairwell in Alafia Elementary, Horace Derwent appeared to Danny Torrance. There was confetti on the shoulders of his suit. A little black mask hung from one decaying hand. He reeked of the grave. "Great party, isn't it?" he asked.

  Danny turned and walked away, very quickly.

  When school was over, he called Dick long-distance at the restaurant where Dick worked in Key West. "Another one of the Overlook People found me. How many boxes can I have, Dick? In my head, I mean."

  Dick chuckled. "As many as you need, honey. That's the beauty of the shining. You think my Black Grampa's the only one I ever had to lock away?"

  "Do they die in there?"

  This time there was no chuckle. This time there was a coldness in Dick's voice the boy had never heard before. "Do you care?"

  Danny didn't.

  When the onetime owner of the Overlook showed up again shortly after New Year's--this time in Danny's bedroom closet--Danny was ready. He went into the closet and closed the door. Shortly afterward, a second mental lockbox went up on the high mental shelf beside the one that held Mrs. Massey. There was more pounding, and some inventive cursing that Danny saved for his own later use. Pretty soon it stopped. There was silence from the Derwent lockbox as well as the Massey lockbox. Whether or not they were alive (in their undead fashion) no longer mattered.