The Shining

Part Five. Matters of Life and Death Chapter 43. Drinks on the House


Jack stood in the dining room just outside the batwing doors leading into the Colorado Lounge, his head cocked, listening. He was smiling faintly.
Around him, he could hear the Overlook Hotel coming to life.
It was hard to say just how he knew, but he guessed it wasn't greatly different from the perceptions Danny had from time to time... like father, like son. Wasn't that how it was popularly expressed?
It wasn't a perception of sight or sound, although it was very near to those things, separated from those senses by the filmiest of perceptual curtains. It was as if another Overlook now lay scant inches beyond this one, separated from the real world (if there is such a thing as a "real world," Jack thought) but gradually coming into balance with it. He was reminded of the 3-D movies he'd seen as a kid. If you looked at -the screen without the special glasses, you saw a double image-the sort of thing he was feeling now. But when you put the glasses on, it made sense.
All the hotel's eras were together now, all but this current one, the Torrance Era. And this would be together with the rest very soon now. That was good. That was very good.
He could almost hear the self-important ding!ding! of the silver-plated bell on the registration desk, summoning bellboys to the front as men in the fashionable flannels of the 1920s checked in and men in fashionable 1940s double-breasted pinstripes checked out. There would be three nuns sitting in front of the fireplace as they waited for the check-out line to thin, and standing behind them, nattily dressed with diamond stickpins holding their blueand-white-figured ties, Charles Grondin and Vito Gienelli discussed profit and loss, life and death. There were a dozen trucks in the loading bays out back, some laid one over the other like bad time exposures. In the east-wing ballroom, a dozen different business conventions were going on at the same time within temporal centimeters of each other. There was a costume ball going on. There were soirees, wedding receptions, birthday and anniversary parties. Men talking about Neville Chamberlain and the Archduke of Austria. Music. Laughter. Drunkenness. Hysteria. Little love, not here, but a steady undercurrent of sensuousness. And he could almost hear all of them together, drifting through the hotel and making a graceful cacophony. In the dining room where he stood, breakfast, lunch, and dinner for seventy years were all being served simultaneously just behind him. He could almost... no, strike the almost. He could hear them, faintly as yet, but clearly-the way one can hear thunder miles off on a hot summer's day. He could hear all of them, the beautiful strangers. He was becoming aware of them as they must have been aware of him from the very start.
All the rooms of the Overlook were occupied this morning.
A full house.
And beyond the batwings, a low murmur of conversation drifted and swirled like lazy cigarette smoke. More sophisticated, more private. Low, throaty female laughter, the kind that seems to vibrate in a fairy ring around the viscera and the genitals. The sound of a cash register, its window softly lighted in the warm halfdark, ringing up the price of a gin rickey, a Manhattan, a depression bomber, a sloe gin fizz, a zombie. The jukebox, pouring out its drinkers' melodies, each one overlapping the other in time.
He pushed the batwings open and stepped through
"Hello, boys," Jack Torrance said softly. "I've been away but now I'm back."
"Good evening, Mr. Torrance," Lloyd said, genuinely pleased. "It's good to see you."
"It's good to be back, Lloyd," he said gravely, and hooked his leg over a stool between a man in a sharp blue suit and a bleary-eyed woman in a black dress who was peering into the depths of a singapore sling.
"What will it be, Mr. Torrance?"
"Martini," he said with great pleasure. He looked at the backbar with its rows of dimly gleaming bottles, capped with their silver siphons. Jim Beam. Wild Turkey. Gilby's. Sharrod's Private Label. Toro. Seagram's. And home again.
"One large martian, if you please," he said. "They've landed somewhere in the world, Lloyd." He took his wallet out and laid a twenty carefully on the bar.
As Lloyd made his drink, Jack looked over his shoulder. Every booth was occupied. Some of the occupants were dressed in costumes... a woman in gauzy harem pants and a rhinestone-sparkled brassiere, a man with a foxhead rising slyly out of his evening dress, a man in a silvery dog outfit who was tickling the nose of a woman in a sarong with the puff on the end of his long tail, to the general amusement of all.
"No charge to you, Mr. Torrance," Lloyd said, putting the drink down on Jack's twenty. "Your money is no good here. Orders from the manager."
A faint unease came over him; nevertheless he picked up the martini glass and swirled it, watching the olive at the bottom bob slightly in the drink's chilly depths.
"Of course. The manager." Lloyd's smile broadened, but his eyes were socketed in shadow and his skin was horribly white, like the skin of a corpse. "Later he expects to see to your son's well-being himself. He is very interested in your son. Danny is a talented boy."
The juniper fumes of the gin were pleasantly maddening, but they also seemed to be blurring his reason. Danny? What was all of this about Danny? And what was he doing in a bar with a drink in his hand?
What could they want with his son? What could they want with Danny? Wendy and Danny weren't in it. He tried to see into Lloyd's shadowed eyes, but it was too dark, too dark, it was like trying to read emotion into the empty orbs of a skull.
(It's me they must want... isn't it? I am the one. Not Danny, not Wendy. I'm the one who loves it here. They wanted to leave. I'm the one who took care of the snowmobile... went through the old records... dumped the press on the boiler... lied... practically sold my soul... what can they want with ham?)
"Where is the manager?" He tried to ask it casually but his words seemed to come out between lips already numbed by the first drink, like words from a nightmare rather than those in a sweet dream.
Lloyd only smiled.
"What do you want with my son? Danny's not in this.,. is he?" He heard the naked plea in his own voice.
Lloyd's face seemed to be running, changing, becoming something pestilent. The white skin becoming a hepatitic yellow, cracking. Red sores erupting on the skin, bleeding foul smelling liquid. Droplets of blood sprang out on Lloyd's forehead like sweat and somewhere a silver chime was striking the quarter-hour.
(Unmask, unmask!)
"Drink your drink, Mr. Torrance," Lloyd said softly. "It isn't a matter that concerns you. Not at this point."
He picked his drink up again, raised it to his lips, and hesitated. He heard the hard, horrible snap as Danny's arm broke. He saw the bicycle flying brokenly up over the hood of Al's car, starring the windshield. He saw a single wheel lying in the road, twisted spokes pointing into the sky like jags of piano wire.
He became aware that all conversation had stopped.
He looked back over his shoulder. They were all looking at him expectantly, silently. The man beside the woman in the sarong had removed his foxhead and Jack saw that it was Horace Derwent, his pallid blond hair spilling across his forehead. Everyone at the bar was watching, too. The woman beside him was looking at him closely, as if trying to focus. Her dress had slipped off one shoulder and looking down he could see a loosely puckered nipple capping one sagging breast. Looking back at her face he began to think that this might be the woman from 217, the one who had tried to strangle Danny. On his other hand, the man in the sharp blue suit had removed a small pearl-handled. 32 from his jacket pocket and was idly spinning it on the bar, like a man with Russian roulette on his mind.
(I want-)
He realized the words were not passing through his frozen vocal cords and tried again.
"I want to see the manager. I... I don't think he understands. My son is not a part of this. He... "
"Mr. Torrance," Lloyd said, his voice coming with hideous gentleness from inside his plague-raddled face, "you will meet the manager in due time. He has, in fact, decided to make you his agent in this matter. Now drink your drink."
"Drink your drink," they all echoed.
He picked it up with a badly trembling hand. It was raw gin. He looked into it, and looking was like drowning.
The woman beside him began to sing in a flat, dead voice: "Roll... out... the barrel... and we'll have,... a barrel... of fun..."
Lloyd picked it up. Then the man in the blue suit. The dog-man joined in, thumping one paw against the table
"Now's the time to roll the barrel-"
Derwent added his voice to the rest. A cigarette was cocked in one corner of his mouth at a jaunty angle. His right arm was around the shoulders of the woman in the sarong, and his right band was gently and absently stroking her right breast. He was looking at the dog-man with amused contempt as he sang.
"-because the gang's... all... here!"
Jack brought the drink to his mouth and downed it in three long gulps, the gin highballing down his throat like a moving van in a tunnel, exploding in his stomach, rebounding up to his brain in one leap where it seized hold of him with a final convulsing fit of the shakes.
When that passed off, he felt fine.
"Do it again, please," he said, and pushed the empty glass toward Lloyd.
"Yes, sir," Lloyd said, taking the glass. Lloyd looked perfectly normal again. The olive-skinned man had put his. 32 away. The woman on his right was staring into her singapore sling again. One breast was wholly exposed now, leaning on the bar's leather buffer. A vacuous crooning noise came from her slack mouth. The loom of conversation had begun again, weaving and weaving.
His new drink appeared in front of him.
" Muchas gracias, Lloyd," he said, picking it up.
"Always a pleasure to serve you, Mr. Torrance." Lloyd smiled.
"You were always the best of them, Lloyd."
"Why, thank you, sir."
He drank slowly this time, letting it trickle down his throat, tossing a few peanuts down the chute for good luck.
The drink was gone in no time, and he ordered another. Mr. President, I have met the martians and am pleased to report they are friendly. While Lloyd fixed another, he began searching his pockets for a quarter to put in the jukebox. He thought of Danny again, but Danny's face was pleasantly fuzzed and nondescript now. He had hurt Danny once, but that had been before he had learned how to handle his liquor. Those days were behind him now. He would never hurt Danny again.
Not for the world.