The Shining

Part Five. Matters of Life and Death Chapter 47-48


47. Danny
It was three in the afternoon of a long, long day.
They were sitting on the big bed in their quarters. Danny was turning the purple VW model with the monster sticking out of the sun roof over and over in his hands, compulsively.
They had heard Daddy's batterings at the door all the way across the lobby, the batterings and his voice, hoarse and petulantly angry in a weak-king sort of a way, vomiting promises of punishment, vomiting profanity, promising both of them that they would live to regret betraying him after he had slaved his guts out for them over the years.
Danny thought they would no longer be able to hear it upstairs, but the sounds of his rage carried perfectly up the dumb-waiter shaft: Mommy's face was pale, and there were horrible brownish bruises on her neck where Daddy had tried to...
He turned the model over and over in his hands, Daddy's prize for having learned his reading lessons.
(...where Daddy had tried to hug her too tight.)
Mommy put some of her music on the little record player, scratchy and full of horns and flutes. She smiled at him tiredly. He tried to smile back and failed. Even with the volume turned up loud he thought he could still hear Daddy screaming at them and battering the pantry door like an animal in a zoo cage: What if Daddy had to go to the bathroom? What would he do then?
Danny began to cry.
Wendy turned the volume down on the record player at once, held him, rocked him on her lap.
"Danny, love, it will be all right. It will. If Mr. Hallorann didn't get your message, someone else will. As soon as the storm is over. No one could get up here until then anyway. Mr. Hallorann or anyone else. But when the storm is over, everything will be fine again. We'll leave here. And do you know what we'll do next spring? The three of us?"
Danny shook his head against her breasts. He didn't know. It seemed there could never be spring again.
"We'll go fishing. We'll rent a boat and go fishing, just like we did last year on Chatterton Lake. You and me and your daddy. And maybe you'll catch a bass for our supper. And maybe we won't catch anything, but we're sure to have a good time."
"I love you, Mommy," he said, and hugged her.
"Oh, Danny, I love you, too."
Outside, the wind whooped and screamed,
Around four-thirty, just as the daylight began to fail, the screams ceased.
They had both been dozing uneasily, Wendy still holding Danny in her arms, and she didn't wake. But Danny did. Somehow the silence was worse, more ominous than the screams and the blows against the strong pantry door. Was Daddy asleep again? Or dead? Or what?
(Did he get out?)
Fifteen minutes later the silence was broken by a hard, grating, metallic rattle. There was a heavy grinding, then a mechanical humming. Wendy came awake with a cry.
The elevator was running again.
They listened to it, wide-eyed, hugging each other. It went from floor to floor, the grate rattling back, the brass door slamming open. There was laughter, drunken shouts, occasional screams, and the sounds of breakage.
The Overlook was coming to life around them,
48. Jack
He sat on the floor of the pantry with his legs out in front of him, a box of Triscuit crackers between them, looking at the door. He was eating the crackers one by one, not tasting them, only eating them because he had to eat something. When he got out of here, he was going to need his strength. All of it.
At this precise instant, he thought he had never felt quite so miserable in his entire life. His mind and body together made up a large-writ scripture of pain. His head ached terribly, the sick throb of a hangover. The attendant symptoms were there, too: his mouth tasted like a manure rake had taken a swing through it, his ears rung, his heart had an extra-heavy, thudding beat, like a tom-tom. In addition, both shoulders ached fiercely from throwing himself against the door and his throat felt raw and peeled from useless shouting. He had cut his right hand on the doorlatch.
And when he got out of here, he was going to kick some ass.
He munched the Triscuits one by one, refusing to give in to his wretched stomach, which wanted to vomit up everything. He thought of the Excedrins in his pocket and decided to wait until his stomach had quieted a bit. No sense swallowing a painkiller if you were going to throw it right back up. Have to use your brain. The celebrated Jack Torrance brain. Aren't you the fellow who once was going to live by his wits? Jack Torrance, best-selling author. Jack Torrance, acclaimed playwright and winner of the New York Critics Circle Award. John Torrance, man of letters, esteemed thinker, winner of the Pulitzer Prize at seventy for his trenchant book of memoirs, My Life in the Twentieth Century. All any of that shit boiled down to was living by your wits.
Living by your wits is always knowing where the wasps are.
He put another Triscuit into his mouth and crunched it up.
What it really came down to, he supposed, was their lack of trust in him. Their failure to believe that he knew what was best for them and how to get it. His wife had tried to usurp him, first by fair
(sort of)
means, then by foul. When her little hints and whining objections had been overturned by his own well-reasoned arguments, she had turned his boy against him, tried to kill him with a bottle, and then had locked him, of all places, in the goddamned fucking pantry.
Still, a small interior voice nagged him.
(Yes but where did the liquor come from? Isn't that really the central point? You know what happens when you drink, you know it from bitter experience. When you drink, you lose your wits.)
He hurled the box of Triscuits across the small room. They struck a shelf of canned goods and fell to the floor. He looked at the box, wiped his lips with his hand, and then looked at his watch. It was almost six-thirty. He had been in here for hours. His wife had locked him in here and he'd been here for fucking hours.
He could begin to sympathize with his father
The thing he'd never asked himself, Jack realized now, was exactly what had driven his daddy to drink in the first place. And really... when you came right down to what his old students had been pleased to call the nifty-gritty... hadn't it been the woman he was married to? A milksop sponge of a woman, always dragging silently around the house with an expression of doomed martyrdom on her face? A ball and chain around Daddy's ankle? No, not ball and chain. She had never actively tried to make Daddy a prisoner, the way Wendy had done to him. For Jack's father it must have been more like the fate of McTeague the dentist at the end of Frank Norris's great novel: handcuffed to a dead man in the wasteland. Yes, that was better. Mentally and spiritually dead, his mother had been handcuffed to his father by matrimony. Still, Daddy had tried to do right as he dragged her rotting corpse through life. He had tried to bring the four children up to know right from wrong, to understand discipline, and above all, to respect their father.
Well, they had been ingrates, all of them, himself included. And now he was paying the price; his own son had turned out to be an ingrate, too. But there was hope. He would get out of here somehow. He would chastise them both, and harshly. He would set Danny an example, so that the day might come when Danny was grown, a day when Danny would know what to do better than he himself had known.
He remembered the Sunday dinner when his father had caned his mother at the table... how horrified he and the others had been. Now he could see how necessary that bad been, how his father had only been feigning drunkenness, how his wits had been sharp and alive underneath all along, watching for the slightest sign of disrespect.
Jack crawled after the Triscuits and began to eat them again, sitting by the door she had so treacherously bolted. He wondered exactly what his father had seen, and how he had caught her out by his playacting. Had she been sneering at him behind her hand? Sticking her tongue out? Making obscene finger gestures? Or only looking at him insolently and arrogantly, convinced that he was too stupidly drunk to see? Whatever it had been, he had caught her at it, and he had chastised her sharply. And now, twenty years later, he could finally appreciate Daddy's wisdom.
Of course you could say Daddy had been foolish to marry such a woman, to have handcuffed himself to that corpse in the first place... and a disrespectful corpse at that. But when the young marry in haste they must repent in leisure, and perhaps Daddy's daddy had married the same type of woman, so that unconsciously Jack's daddy had also married one, as Jack himself had. Except that his wife, instead of being satisfied with the passive role of having wrecked one career and crippled another, had opted for the poisonously active task of trying to destroy his last and best chance: to become a member of the Overlook's staff, and possibly to rise... all the way to the position of manager, in time. She was trying to deny him Danny, and Danny was his ticket of admission. That was foolish, of course-why would they want the son when they could have the father?-but employers often had foolish ideas and that was the condition that had been made.
He wasn't going to be able to reason with her, he could see that now. He had tried to reason with her in the Colorado Lounge, and she had refused to listen, had hit him over the head with a bottle for his pains. But there would be another time, and soon. He would get out of here.
He suddenly held his breath and cocked his head. Somewhere a piano was playing boogie-woogie and people were laughing and clapping along. The sound was muffled through the heavy wooden door, but audible. The song was "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight."
His hands curled helplessly into fists; he had to restrain himself from battering at the door with them. The party had begun again. The liquor would be flowing freely. Somewhere, dancing with someone else, would be the girl who had felt so maddeningly nude under her white silk gown.
"You'll pay for this!" he howled. "Goddam you two, you'll pay! You'll take your goddam medicine for this, I promise you! You-"
"Here, here, now," a mild voice said just outside the door, "No need to shout, old fellow. I can hear you perfectly well."
Jack lurched to his feet
"Grady? Is that you?"
"Yes, sir. Indeed it is. You appear to have been locked in."
"Let me out, Grady. Quickly."
"I see you can hardly have taken care of the business we discussed, sir. The correction of your wife and son."
"They're the ones who locked me in. Pull the bolt, for God's sake!"
"You let them lock you in?" Grady's voice registered wellbred surprise. "Oh, dear. A woman half your size and a little boy? Hardly sets you off as being of top managerial timber, does it?"
A pulse began to beat in the clockspring of veins at Jack's right temple. "Let me out, Grady. I'll take care of them."
"Will you indeed, sir? I wonder." Well-bred surprise was replaced by well-bred regret. "I'm pained to say that I doubt it. I-and others-have really come to believe that your heart is not in this, sir. That you haven't the... the belly for it"
"I do!" Jack shouted. "I do, I swear it!"
"You would bring us your son?"
"Yes! Yes!"
"Your wife would object to that very strongly, Mr. Torrance. And she appears to be... somewhat stronger than we had imagined. Somewhat more resourceful. She certainly seems to have gotten the better of you."
Grady tittered.
"Perhaps, Mr. Torrance, we should have been dealing with her all along."
"I'll bring him, I swear it," Jack said. His face was against the door now. He was sweating. "She won't object. I swear she won't. She won't be able to."
"You would have to kill her, I fear," Grady said coldly.
"I'll do what I have to do. Just let me out."
"You'll give your word on it, sir?" Grady persisted.
"My word, my promise, my sacred vow, whatever in hell you want. If you-"
There was a flat snap as the bolt was drawn back. The door shivered open a quarter of an inch. Jack's words and breath halted. For a moment he felt that death itself was outside that door.
The feeling passed.
He whispered: "Thank you, Grady. I swear you won't regret it. I swear you won't."
There was no answer. He became aware that all sounds had stopped except for the cold swooping of the wind outside.
He pushed the pantry door open; the hinges squealed faintly.
The kitchen was empty. Grady was gone. Everything was still and frozen beneath the cold white glare of the fluorescent bars. His eyes caught on the large chopping block where the three of them had eaten their meals.
Standing on top of it was a martini glass, a fifth of gin, and a plastic dish filled with olives.
Leaning against it was one of the roque mallets from the equipment shed.
He looked at it for a long time.
Then a voice much deeper and much more powerful than Grady's, spoke from somewhere, everywhere... from inside him.
(Keep your promise, Mr. Torrance.)
"I will," he said. He heard the fawning servility in his own voice but was unable to control it. "I will."
He walked to the chopping block and put his hand on the handle of the mallet.
He hefted it.
Swung it.
It hissed viciously through the air.
Jack Torrance began to smile.