The Shining

Part Five. Matters of Life and Death Chapter 58. Epilogue / Summer


After he had finished checking over the salads his understudy had made and peeked in on the home-baked beans they were using as appetizers this week, Hallorann untied his apron, hung it on a hook, and slipped out the back door. He had maybe forty-five minutes before he had to crank up for dinner in earnest.
The name of this place was the Red Arrow Lodge, and it was buried in the western Maine mountains, thirty miles from the town of Rangely. It was a good gig, Hallorann thought. The trade wasn't too heavy, it tipped well, and so far there hadn't been a single meal sent back. Not bad at all, considering the season was nearly half over.
He threaded his way between the outdoor bar and the swimming pool (although why anyone would want to use the pool with the lake so handy he would never know), crossed a greensward where a party of four was playing croquet and laughing, and crested a mild ridge. Pines took over here, and the wind soughed pleasantly in them, carrying the aroma of fir and sweet resin.
On the other side, a number of cabins with views of the lake were placed discreetly among the trees. The last one was the nicest, and Hallorann had reserved it for a party of two back in April when he had gotten this gig.
The woman was sitting on the porch in a rocking chair, a book in her hands. Hallorann was struck again by the change in her. Part of it was the stiff, almost formal way she sat, in spite of her informal surroundings-that was the back brace, of course. She'd had a shattered vertebra as well as three broken ribs and some internal injuries. The back was the slowest healing, and she was still in the brace... hence the formal posture. But the change was more than that. She looked older, and some of the laughter had gone out of her face. Now, as she sat reading her book, Hallorann saw a grave sort of beauty there that had been missing on the day he had first met her, some nine months ago. Then she had still been mostly girl. Now she was a woman, a human being who had been dragged around to the dark side of the moon and had come back able to put the pieces back together. But those pieces, Hallorann thought, they never fit just the same way again. Never in this world.
She heard his step and looked up, closing her book. "Dick! Hi!" She started to rise, and a little grimace of pain crossed her face.
"hope, don't get up," he said. "I don't stand on no ceremony unless it's white tie and tails."
She smiled as he came up the steps and sat down next to her on the porch.
"How is it going?"
"Pretty fair," he admitted. "You try the shrimp creole tonight. You gonna like it."
"That's a deal."
"Where's Danny?"
"Right down there." She pointed, and Hallorann saw a small figure sitting at the end of the dock. He was wearing jeans rolled up to the knee and a redstriped shirt. Further out on the calm water, a bobber floated. Every now and then Danny would reel it in, examine the sinker and hook below it, and then toss it out again.
"He's gettin brown," Hallorann said.
"Yes. Very brown." She looked at him fondly.
He took out a cigarette, tamped it, lit it. The smoke raftered away lazily in the sunny afternoon. "What about those dreams he's been havin?"
"Better," Wendy said. "Only one this week. It used to be every night, sometimes two and three times. The explosions. The hedges. And most of all... you know."
"Yeah. He's going to be okay, Wendy."
She looked at him. "Will he? I wonder."
Hallorann nodded. "You and him, you're coming back. Different, maybe, but okay. You ain't what you were, you two, but that isn't necessarily bad."
They were silent for a while, Wendy moving the rocking chair back and forth a little, Hallorann with his feet up on the porch rail, smoking. A little breeze came up, pushing its secret way through the pines but barely ruffling Wendy's hair. She had cut it short.
"I've decided to take Al-Mr. Shockley-up on his offer," she said.
Hallorann nodded. "It sounds like a good job. Something you could get interested in. When do you start?"
"Right after Labor Day. When Danny and I leave here, we'll be going right on to Maryland to look for a place. It was really the Chamber of Commerce brochure that convinced me, you know. It looks like a nice town to raise a kid in. And I'd like to be working again before we dig too deeply into the insurance money Jack left. There's still over forty thousand dollars. Enough to send Danny to college with enough left over to get him a start, if it's invested right."
Hallorann nodded. "Your mom?"
She looked at him and smiled wanly. "I think Maryland is far enough."
"You won't forget old friends, will you?"
"Danny wouldn't let me. Go on down and see him, he's been waiting all day."
"Well, so have L" He stood up and hitched his cook's whites at the hips. "The two of you are going to be okay," he repeated. "Can't you feel it?"
She looked up at him and this time her smile was warmer. "Yes," she said. She took his hand and kissed it. "Sometimes I think I can."
"The shrimp creole," he said, moving to the steps. "Don't forget."
"I won't."
He walked down the sloping, graveled path that led to the dock and then out along the weather-beaten boards to the end, where Danny sat with his feet in the clear water. Beyond, the lake widened out, mirroring the pines along its verge. The terrain was mountainous around here, but the mountains were old, rounded and humbled by time. Hallorann liked them just fine.
"Catchin much?" Hallorann said, sitting down next to him. He took off one shoe, then the other. With a sigh, he let his hot feet down into the cool water.
"No. But I had a nibble a little while ago."
"We'll take a boat out tomorrow morning. Got to get out in the middle if you want to catch an eatin fish, my boy. Out yonder is where the big ones lay."
"How big?"
Hallorann shrugged. "Oh... sharks, marlin, whales, that sort of thing."
"There aren't any whales!"
"No blue whales, no. Of course not. These ones here run to no more than eighty feet. Pink whales."
"How could they get here from the ocean?"
Hallorann put a hand on the boy's reddish-gold hair and rumpled it. "They swim upstream, my boy. That's how."
They were silent for a time, looking out over the stillness of the lake, Hallorann just thinking. When he looked back at Danny, he saw that his eyes had filled with tears.
Putting an arm around him, he said, "What's this?"
"Nothing," Danny whispered.
"You're missin your dad, aren't you?"
Danny nodded. "You always know." One of the tears spilled from the corner of his right eye and trickled slowly down his cheek.
"We can't have any secrets," Hallorann agreed. "That's just how it is."
Looking at his pole, Danny said: "Sometimes I wish it had been me. It was my fault. All my fault."
Hallorann said, "You don't like to talk about it around your mom, do you?"
"No. She wants to forget it ever happened. So do I, but-"
"But you can't."
"Do you need to cry?"
The boy tried to answer, but the words were swallowed in a sob. He leaned his head against Hallorann's shoulder and wept, the tears now flooding down his face. Hallorann held him and said nothing. The boy would have to shed his tears again and again, he knew, and it was Danny's luck that he was still young enough to be able to do that. The tears that heal are also the tears that scald and scourge.
When he had quieted a little, Hallorann said, "You're gonna get over this. You don't think you are right now, but you will. You got the shi-"
"I wish I didn't!" Danny choked, his voice still thick with tears. "I wish I didn't have it!"
"But you do," Hallorann said quietly. "For better or worse. You didn't get no say, little boy. But the worst is over. You can use it to talk to me when things get rough. And if they get too rough, you just call me and I'll come."
"Even if I'm down in Maryland?"
"Even there."
They were quiet, watching Danny's bobber drift around thirty feet out from the end of the dock. Then Danny said, almost too low to be heard, "You'll be my friend?"
"As long as you want me."
The boy held him tight and Hallorann hugged him.
"Danny? You listen to me. I'm going to talk to you about it this once and never again this same way. There's some things no six-year-old boy in the world should have to be told, but the way things should be and the way things are hardly ever get together. The world's a hard place, Danny. It don't care. It don't hate you and me, but it don't love us, either. Terrible things happen in the world, and they're things no one can explain. Good people die in bad, painful ways and leave the folks that love them all alone. Sometimes it seems like it's only the bad people who stay healthy and prosper. The world don't love you, but your momma does and so do I. You're a good boy. You grieve for your daddy, and when you feel you have to cry over what happened to him, you go into a closet or under your covers and cry until it's all out of you again. That's what a good son has to do. But see that you get on. That's your job in this hard world, to keep your love alive and see that you get on, no matter what. Pull your act together and just go on."
"All right," Danny whispered. "I'll come see you again next summer if you want... if you don't mind. Next summer I'm going to be seven."
"And I'll be sixty-two. And I'm gonna hug your brains out your ears. But let's finish one summer before we get on to the next."
"Okay." He looked at Hallorann. "Dick?"
"You won't die for a long time, will you?"
"I'm sure not studyin on it. Are you?"
"No, sir. I-"
"You got a bite, sonny." He pointed. The red and white bobber had ducked under. It came up again glistening, and then went under again.
"Hey!" Danny gulped.
Wendy had come down and now joined them, standing in back of Danny. "What is it?" she asked. "Pickerel?"
"No, ma'am," Hallorann said, "I believe that's a pink whale."
The tip of the fishing rod bent. Danny pulled it back and a long fish, rainbow-colored, flashed up in a sunny, winking parabola, and disappeared again.
Danny reeled frantically, gulping.
"Help me, Dick! I got him! I got him! Help me!"
Hallorann laughed. "You're doin fine all by yourself, little man. I don't know if it's a pink whale or a trout, but it'll do. It'll do just fine."
He put an arm around Danny's shoulders and the boy reeled the fish in, little by little. Wendy sat down on Danny's other side and the three of them sat on the end of the dock in the afternoon sun.