The Shining

Part Five. Matters of Life and Death Chapter 38. Florida


Mrs. Hallorann's third son, Dick, dressed in his cook's whites, a Lucky Strike parked in the corner of his mouth, backed his reclaimed Cadillac limo out of its space behind the One-A Wholesale Vegetable Mart and drove slowly around the building. Masterton, part owner now but still walking with the patented shuffle he had adopted back before World War II, was pushing a bin of lettuces into the high, dark building.
Hallorann pushed the button that lowered the passenger side window and hollered: "Those avocadoes is too damn high, you cheapskate!"
Masterton looked back over his shoulder, grinned widely enough to expose all three gold teeth, and yelled back, "And I know exactly where you can put em, my good buddy."
"Remarks like that I keep track of, bro."
Masterton gave him the finger. Hallorann returned the compliment.
"Get your cukes, did you?" Masterton asked.
"I did."
"You come back early tomorrow, I gonna give you some of the nicest new potatoes you ever seen."
"I send the boy," Hallorann said. "You comin up tonight?"
"You supplyin the juice, bro?"
"That's a big ten-four."
"I be there. You keep that thing off the top end goin home, you hear me? Every cop between here an St. Pete knows your name."
"You know all about it, huh?" Hallorann asked, grinning.
"I know more than you'll ever learn, my man."
"Listen to this sassy nigger. Would you listen?"
"Go on, get outta here fore I start throwin these lettuces."
"Go on an throw em. I'll take anything for free."
Masterton made as if to throw one. Hallorann ducked, rolled up the window, and drove on. He was feeling fine. For the last half hour or so he had been smelling oranges, but he didn't find that queer. For the last half hour he had been in a fruit and vegetable market.
It was 4:30 p. m., EST, the first day of December, Old Man Winter settling his frostbitten rump firmly onto most of the country, but down here the men wore open-throated shortsleeve shirts and the women were in light summer dresses and shorts. On top of the First Bank of Florida building, a digital thermometer bordered with huge grapefruits was flashing 79 over and over. Thank God for Florida, Hallorann thought, mosquitoes and all.
In the back of the limo were two dozen avocados, a crate of cucumbers, ditto oranges, ditto grapefruit. Three shopping sacks filled with Bermuda onions, the sweetest vegetable a loving God ever created, some pretty good sweet peas, which would be served with the entree and come back uneaten nine times out of ten, and a single blue Hubbard squash that was strictly for personal consumption.
Hallorann stopped in the turn lane at the Vermont Street light, and when the green arrow showed he pulled out onto state highway 219, pushing up to forty and holding it there until the town began to trickle away into an exurban sprawl of gas stations, Burger Kings, and McDonalds. It was a small order today, he could have sent Baedecker after it, but Baedecker had been chafing for his chance to buy the meat, and besides, Hallorann never missed a chance to bang it back and forth with Frank Masterton if he could help it. Masterton might show up tonight to watch some TV and drink Hallorann's Bushmill's, or he might not. Either way was all right. But seeing him mattered. Every time it mattered now, because they weren't young anymore. In the last few days it seemed he was thinking of that very fact a great deal. Not so young anymore, when you got up near sixty years old (ortell the truth and save a lie-past it) you had to start thinking about stepping out. You could go anytime. And that had been on his mind this week, not in a heavy way but as a fact. Dying was a part of living. You had to keep tuning in to that if you expected to be a whole person. And if the fact of your own death was hard to understand, at least it wasn't impossible to accept.
Why this should have been on his mind he could not have said, but his other reason for getting this small order himself was so he could step upstairs to the small office over Frank's Bar and Grill. There was a lawyer up there now (the dentist who had been there last year had apparently gone broke), a young black fellow named McIver. Hallorann had stepped in and told this McIver that he wanted to make a will, and could McIver help him out? Well, McIver asked, how soon do you want the document? Yesterday, said Hallorann, and threw his head back and laughed. Have you got anything complicated in mind? was McIver's next question. Hallorann did not. He had his Cadillac, his bank account-some nine thousand dollars-a piddling checking account, and a closet of clothes. He wanted it all to go to his sister. And if your sister predeceases you? McIver asked. Never mind, Hallorann said. If that happens, I'll make a new will. The document had been completed and signed in less than three hours-fast work for a shyster-and now resided in Hallorann's breast pocket, folded into a stiff blue envelope with the word WILL on the outside in Old English letters.
He could not have said why he had chosen this warm sunny day when he felt so well to do something he had been putting off for years, but the impulse had come on him and he hadn't said no. He was used to following his hunches.
He was pretty well out of town now. He cranked the limo up to an illegal sixty and let it ride there in the left-hand lane, sucking up most of the Petersburgbound traffic. He knew from experience that the limo would still ride as solid as iron at ninety, and even at a hundred and twenty it didn't seem to lighten up much. But his screamin days were long gone. The thought of putting the limo up to a hundred and twenty on a straight stretch only scared him. He was getting old.
(Jesus, those oranges smell strong. Wonder if they gone over?)
Bugs splattered against the window. He dialed the radio to a Miami soul station and got the soft, wailing voice of Al Green.
"What a beautiful time we had together,
Now it's getting late and we must leave each other..."
He unrolled the window, pitched his cigarette butt out, then rolled it further down to clear out the smell of the oranges. He tapped his fingers against the wheel and hummed along under his breath. Hooked over the rearview mirror, his St. Christopher's medal swung gently back and forth.
And suddenly the smell of oranges intensified and he knew it was coming, something was coming at him. He saw his own eyes in the rearview, widening, surprised. And then it came all at once, came in a huge blast that drove out everything else: the music, the road ahead, his own absent awareness of himself as a unique human creature. It was as if someone had put a psychic gun to his head and shot him with a. 45 caliber scream.
The limo had just drawn even with a Pinto station wagon driven by a man in workman's clothes. The workman saw the limo drifting into his lane and laid on the born. When the Cadillac continued to drift he snapped a look at the driver and saw a big black man bolt upright behind the wheel, his eyes looking vaguely upward. Later the workman told his wife that he knew it was just one of those niggery hairdos they were all wearing these days, but at the time it had looked just as if every hair on that coon's head was standing on end. He thought the black man was having a heart attack.
The workman braked hard, dropping back into a luckilyempty space behind him. The rear end of the Cadillac pulled ahead of him, still cutting in, and the workman stared with bemused horror as the long, rocket-shaped rear taillights cut into his lane no more than a quarter of an inch in front of his bumper.
The workman cut to the left, still laying on his horn, and roared around the drunkenly weaving limousine. He invited the driver of the limo to perform an illegal sex act on himself. To engage in oral congress with various rodents and birds. He articulated his own proposal that all persons of Negro blood return to their native continent. He expressed his sincere belief in the position the limo-driver's soul would occupy in the afterlife. He finished by saying that he believed be had met the limo-driver's mother in a New Orleans house of prostitution.
Then he was ahead and out of danger and suddenly aware that he had wet his pants.
In Hallorann's mind the thought kept repeating
but it began to fade off the way a radio station will as you approach the limits of its broadcasting area. He became fuzzily aware that his car was tooling along the soft shoulder at better than fifty miles an hour. He guided it back onto the road, feeling the rear end fishtail for a moment before regaining the composition surface.
There was an A/W Rootbeer stand just ahead. Hallorann signaled and turned in, his heart thudding painfully in his chest, his face a sickly gray color. He pulled into a parking slot, took his handkerchief out of his pocket, and mopped his forehead with it.
(Lord God!)
"May I help you?"
The voice startled him again, even though it wasn't the voice of God but that of a cute little carhop, standing by his open window with an order pad.
"Yeah, baby, a rootbeer float. Two scoops of vanilla, okay?"
"Yes, sir." She walked away, hips rolling nicely beneath her red nylon uniform.
Hallorann leaned back against the leather seat and closed his eyes. There was nothing left to pick up. The last of it had faded out between pulling in here and giving the waitress his order. All that was left was a sick, thudding headache, as if his brain had been twisted and wrung out and bung up to dry. Like the headache he'd gotten from letting that boy Danny shine at him up there at Ullman's Folly.
But this had been much louder. Then the boy had only been playing a game with him. This had been pure panic, each word screamed aloud in his bead.
He looked down at his arms. Hot sunshine lay on them but they had still goosebumped. He had told the boy to call him if he needed help, he remembered that. And now the boy was calling.
He suddenly wondered how he could have left that boy up there at all, shining the way he did. There was bound to be trouble, maybe bad trouble.
He suddenly keyed the limo, put it in reverse, and pulled back onto the highway, peeling rubber. The waitress with the rolling hips stood in the A/W stand's archway, a tray with a rootbeer float on it in her hands.
"What is it with you, a fire?" she shouted, but Hallorann was gone.
The manager was a man named Queems, and when Hallorann came in Queems was conversing with his bookie. He wanted the four-horse at Rockaway. No, no parlay, no quinella, no exacta, no goddam futura. Just the little old four, six hundred dollars on the nose. And the Jets on Sunday. What did he mean, the Jets were playing the Bills? Didn't he know who the Jets were playing? Five hundred, seven-point spread. When Queems hung up, looking put-out, Hallorann understood how a man could make fifty grand a year running this little spa and still wear suits with shiny seats. He regarded Hallorann with an eye that was still bloodshot from too many glances into last night's bourbon bottle.
"Problems, Dick?"
"Yes, sir, Mr. Queems, I guess so. I need three days off."
There was a package of Kents in the breast pocket of Queems's sheer yellow shirt. He reached one out of the pocket without removing the pack, tweezing it out, and bit down morosely on the patented Micronite filter. He lit it with his desktop Cricket.
"So do I," he said. "But what's on your mind?"
"I need three days," Hallorann repeated. "It's my boy."
Queems's eyes dropped to Hallorann's left hand, which was ringless.
"I been divorced since 1964," Hallorann said patiently.
"Dick, you know what the weekend situation is. We're full. To the gunnels. Even the cheap seats. We're even filled up in the Florida Room on Sunday night. So take my watch, my wallet, my pension fund. Hell, you can even take my wife if you can stand the sharp edges. But please don't ask me for time off. What is he, sick?"
"Yes, sir," Hallorann said, still trying to visualize himself twisting a cheap cloth hat and rolling his eyeballs. "He shot."
"Shot!" Queems said. He put his Kent down in an ashtray which bore the emblem of Ole Miss, of which he was a business admin graduate.
"Yes, sir," Hallorann said somberly.
"Hunting accident?"
"No, sir," Hallorann said, and let his voice drop to a lower, huskier note. "Jana, she's been livin with this truck driver. A white man. He shot my boy. He's in a hospital in Denver, Colorado. Critical condition."
"How in hell did you find out? I thought you were buying vegetables."
"Yes, sir, I was." He had stopped at the Western Union office just before coming here to reserve an Avis car at Stapleton Airport. Before leaving he had swiped a Western Union flimsy. Now he took the folded and crumpled blank form from his pocket and flashed it before Queems's bloodshot eyes. He put it back in his pocket and, allowing his voice to drop another notch, said: "Jana sent it. It was waitin in my letterbox when I got back just now."
"Jesus. Jesus Christ," Queems said. There was a peculiar tight expression of concern on his face, one Hallorann was familiar with. It was as close to an expression of sympathy as a white man who thought of himself as "good with the coloreds" could get when the object was a black man or his mythical black son.
"Yeah, okay, you get going," Queems said. "Baedecker can take over for three days, I guess. The potboy can help out."
Hallorann nodded, letting his face get longer still, but the thought of the potboy helping out Baedecker made him grin inside. Even on a good day Hallorann doubted if the potboy could hit the urinal on the first squirt.
"I want to rebate back this week's pay," Hallorann said. "The whole thing. I know what a bind this puttin you in, Mr. Queems, sir."
Queems's expression got tighter still it looked as if he might have a fishbone caught in his throat. "We can talk about that later. You go on and pack. I'll talk to Baedecker. Want me to make you a plane reservation?"
"No, sir, I'll do it."
"All right." Queems stood up, leaned sincerely forward, and inhaled a raft of ascending smoke from his Kent. He coughed heartily, his thin white face turning red. Hallorann struggled hard to keep his somber expression. "I hope everything turns out, Dick. Call when you get word."
"I'll do that."
They shook hands over the desk.
Hallorann made himself get down to the ground floor and across to the hired help's compound before bursting into rich, bead-shaking laughter. He was still grinning and mopping his streaming eyes with his handkerchief when the smell of oranges came, thick and gagging, and the bolt followed it, striking him in the head, sending him back against the pink stucco wall in a drunken stagger.
He recovered a little at a time and at last felt capable of climbing the outside stairs to his apartment. He kept the latchkey under the rush-plaited doormat, and when he reached down to get it, something fell out of his inner pocket and fell to the second-floor decking with a flat thump. His mind was still so much on the voice that had shivered through his head that for a moment he could only look at the blue envelope blankly, not knowing what it was.
Then he turned it over and the word WILL stared up at him in the black spidery letters.
(Oh my God is it like that?)
He didn't know. But it could be. All week long the thought of his own ending had been on his mind like a... well, like a
(Go on, say it)
like a premonition,.
Death? For a moment his whole life seemed to flash before him, not in a historical sense, no topography of the ups and downs that Mrs. Hallorann's third son, Dick, had lived through, but his life as it was now. Martin Luther King had told them not long before the bullet took him down to his martyr's grave that he had been to the mountain. Dick could not claim that. No mountain, but he had reached a sunny plateau after years of struggle. He had good friends. He had all the references he would ever need to get a job anywhere. When he wanted fuck, why, he could find a friendly one with no questions asked and no big shitty struggle about what it all meant. He had come to terms with his blackness-happy terms. He was up past sixty and thank God, he was cruising.
Was he going to chance the end of that-the end of him-for three white people he didn't even know?
But that was a lie, wasn't it?
He knew the boy. They had shared each other the way good friends can't even after forty years of it. He knew the boy and the boy knew him, because they each had a kind of searchlight in their heads, something they hadn't asked for, something that had just been given.
(Naw, you got a flashlight, he the one with the searchlight.)
And sometimes that light, that shine, seemed like a pretty nice thing. You could pick the horses, or like the boy had said, you could tell your daddy where his trunk was when it turned up missing. But that was only dressing, the sauce on the salad, and down below there was as much bitter vetch in that salad as there was cool cucumber. You could taste pain and death and tears. And now the boy was stuck in that place, and he would go. For the boy. Because, speaking to the boy, they had only been different colors when they used their mouths. So he would go. He would do what he could, because if he didn't, the boy was going to die right inside his head.
But because he was human he could not help a bitter wish that the cup had never been passed his way.
(She had started to get out and come after him.)
He had been dumping a change of clothes into an overnight bag when the thought came to him, freezing him with the power of the memory as it always did when he thought of it. He tried to think of it as seldom as possible.
The maid, Delores Vickery her name was, had been hysterical. Had said some things to the other chambermaids, and worse still, to some of the guests. When the word got back to Ullman, as the silly quiff should have known it would do, he had fired her out of hand. She had come to Hallorann in tears, not about being fired, but about the thing she had seen in that second-floor room. She had gone into 217 to change the towels, she said, and there had been that Mrs. Massey, lying dead in the tub. That, of course, was impossible. Mrs. Massey had been discreetly taken away the day before and was even then winging her way back to New York-in the shipping hold instead of the first class she'd been accustomed to.
Hallorann hadn't liked Delores much, but he had gone up to look that evening. The maid was an olive-complected girl of twenty-three who waited table near the end of the season when things slowed down. She had a small shining, Hallorann judged, really not more than a twinkle; a mousy-looking man and his escort, wearing a faded cloth coat, would come in for dinner and Delores would trade one of her tables for theirs. The mousy little man would leave a picture of Alexander Hamilton under his plate, bad enough for the girl who had made the trade, but worse, Delores would crow over it. She was lazy, a goof-off in an operation run by a man who allowed no goof-offs. She would sit in a linen closet, reading a confession magazine and smoking, but whenever Ullman went on one of his unscheduled prowls (and woe to the girl he caught resting her feet) he found her working industriously, her magazine hidden under the sheets on a high shelf, her ashtray tucked safely into her uniform pocket. Yeah, Hallorann thought, she'd been a goof-off and a sloven and the other girls had resented her, but Delores had had that little twinkle. It had always greased the skids for her. But what she had seen in 217 had scared her badly enough so she was more than glad to pick up the walking papers Ullman had issued her and go.
Why had she come to him? A shine knows a shine, Hallorann thought, grinning at the pun.
So he had gone up that night and bad let himself into the room, which was to be reoccupied the next day. He had used the office passkey to get in, and if Ullman had caught him with that key, he would have joined Delores Vickery on the unemployment line.
The shower curtain around the tub had been drawn. He had pushed it back, but even before he did he'd had a premonition of what he was going to see. Mrs. Massey, swollen and purple, lay soggily in the tub, which was half-full of water. He had stood looking. down at her, a pulse beating thickly in his throat. There had been other things at the Overlook: a bad dream that recurred at irregular intervals-some sort of costume party and he was catering it in the Overlook's ballroom and at the shout to unmask, everybody exposed faces that were those of rotting insects-and there had been the hedge animals. Twice, maybe three times, he had (or thought he had) seen them move, ever so slightly. That dog would seem to change from his sitting-up posture to a slightly crouched one, and the lions seemed to move forward, as if menacing the little tykes on the playground. Last year in May Ullman had sent him up to the attic to look for the ornate set of firetools that now stood beside the lobby fireplace. While he had been up there the three lightbulbs strung overhead had gone out and he had lost his way back to the trapdoor. He had stumbled around for an unknown length of time, closer and closer to panic, barking his shins on boxes and bumping into things, with a stronger and stronger feeling that something was stalking him in the dark. Some great and frightening creature that had just oozed out of the woodwork when the lights went out. And when he had literally stumbled over the trapdoor's ringbolt he had hurried down as fast as he could, leaving the trap open, sooty and disheveled, with a feeling of disaster barely averted. Later Ullman had come down to the kitchen personally, to inform him he had left the attic trapdoor open and the lights burning up there. Did Hallorann think the guests wanted to go up there and play treasure hunt? Did he think electricity was free?
And he suspected-no, was nearly positive-that several of the guests had seen or heard things. too. In the three years he had been there, the Presidential Suite had been booked nineteen times. Six of the guests who had put up there had left the hotel early, some of them looking markedly ill. Other guests had left other rooms with the same abruptness. One night in August of 1974, near dusk, a man who had won the Bronze and Silver Stars in Korea (that man now sat on the boards of three major corporations and was said to have personally pink-slipped a famous TV news anchorman) unaccountably went into a fit of screaming hysterics on the putting green. And there had been dozens of children during Hallorann's association with the Overlook who simply refused to go into the playground. One child had had a convulsion while playing in the concrete rings, but Hallorann didn't know if that could be attributed to the Overlook's deadly siren song or not-word had gone around among the help that the child, the only daughter of a handsome movie actor, was a medically controlled epileptic who had simply forgotten her medicine that day.
And so, staring down at the corpse of Mrs. Massey, he had been frightened but not completely terrified. It was not completely unexpected. Terror came when she opened her eyes to disclose blank silver pupils and began to grin at him. Horror came when
(she had started to get out and come after him.)
He had fled, heart racing, and had not felt safe even with the door shut and locked behind him. In fact, he admitted to himself now as he zipped the fiightbag shut, he had never felt safe anywhere in the Overlook again.
And now the boy-calling, screaming for help.
He looked at his watch. It was 5:30 P. m. He went to the apartment's door, remembered it would be heavy winter now in Colorado, especially up in the mountains, and went back to his closet. He pulled his long, sheepskin-lined overcoat out of its polyurethane dry-cleaning bag and put it over his arm. It was the only winter garment he owned. He turned off all the lights and looked around. Had he forgotten anything? Yes. One thing. He took the will out of his breast pocket and slipped it into the margin of the dressing table mirror. With luck he would be back to get it.
Sure, with luck.
He left the apartment, locked the door behind him, put the key under the rush mat, and ran down the outside steps to his converted Cadillac.
Halfway to Miami International, comfortably away from the switchboard where Queems or Queems's toadies were known to listen in, Hallorann stopped at a shopping center Laundromat and called United Air Lines. Flights to Denver?
There was one due out at 6:36 P. m. Could the gentleman make that?
Hallorann looked at his watch, which showed 6:02, and said he could. What about vacancies on the flight?
Just let me check.
A clunking sound in his ear followed by saccharine Montavani, which was supposed to make being on bold more pleasant. It didn't. Hallorann danced from one foot to the other, alternating glances between his watch and a young girl with a sleeping baby, in a hammock on her back unloading a coin-op Maytag. She was afraid she was going to get home later than she planned and the roast would burn and her husband-Mark? Mike? Matt?-would be mad.
A minute passed. Two. He had just about made up his mind to drive ahead and take his chances when the cannedsounding voice of the flight reservations clerk came back on. There was an empty seat, a cancellation. It was in first class. Did that make any difference?
No. He wanted it.
Would that be cash or credit card?
Cash, baby, cash. I've got to fly.
And the name was-?
Hallorann, two l's, two n's. Catch you later.
He hung up and hurried toward the door. The girl's simple thought, worry for the roast, broadcast at him over and over until be thought he would go mad. Sometimes it was like that, for no reason at all you would catch a thought, completely isolated, completely pure and clear... and usually completely useless.
He almost made it.
He had the limo cranked up to eighty and the airport was actually in sight when one of Florida's Finest pulled him over.
Hallorann unrolled the electric window and opened his mouth at the cop, who was flipping up pages in his citation book.
"I know," the cop said comfortingly. "It's a funeral in Cleveland. Your father. It's a wedding in Seattle. Your sister.
A fire in San Jose that wiped out your gramp's candy store. Some really fine Cambodian Red just waiting in a terminal locker in New York City. I love this piece of road just outside the airport. Even as a kid, story hour was my favorite part of school."
"Listen, officer, my son is-"
"The only part of the story I can never figure out until the end," the officer said, finding the right page in his citation book, "is the driver's-license number of the offending motorist/storyteller and his registration informationSo be a nice guy. Let me peek."
Hallorann looked into the cop's calm blue eyes, debated telling his my-son-isin-critical-condition story anyway, and decided that would make things worse. This Smokey was no Queems. He dug out his wallet.
"Wonderful," the cop said. "Would you take them out for me, please? I just have to see how it's all going to come out in the end."
Silently, Hallorann took out his driver's license and his Florida registration and gave them to the traffic cop.
"That's very good. That's so good you win a present."
"What?" Hallorann asked hopefully.
"When I finish writing down these numbers, I'm going to let you blow up a little balloon for me."
"Oh, Jeeeesus!" Hallorann moaned. "Officer, my flight-"
"Shhhh," the traffic cop said. "Don't be naughty."
Hallorann closed his eyes.
He got to the United desk at 6:49, hoping against hope that the flight had been delayed. He didn't even have to ask. The departure monitor over the incoming passengers desk told the story. Flight 901 for Denver, due out at 6:36 EST, had left at 6:40. Nine minutes before.
"Oh shit," Dick Hallorann said.
And suddenly the smell of oranges, heavy and cloying, he had just time to reach the men's room before it came, deafening, terrified: