The Shining

Part Four. Snowbound Chapter 29. Kitchen Talk


Jack carried Danny into the kitchen. The boy was still sobbing wildly, refusing to look up from Jack's chest. In the kitchen he gave Danny back to Wendy, who still seemed stunned and disbelieving.
"Jack, I don't know what he's talking about. Please, you must believe that."
"I do believe it," he said, although he had to admit to himself that it gave him a certain amount of pleasure to see the shoe switched to the other foot with such dazzling, unexpected speed: But his anger at Wendy had been only a passing gut twitch. In his heart he knew Wendy would pour a can of gasoline over herself and strike a match before harming Danny.
The large tea kettle was on the back burner, poking along on low heat. Jack dropped a teabag into his own large ceramic cup and poured hot water halfway.
"Got cooking sherry, don't you?" he asked Wendy.
"What?... oh, sure. Two or three bottles of it."
"Which cupboard?"
She pointed, and Jack took one of the bottles down. He poured a hefty dollop into the teacup, put the sherry back, and filled the last quarter of the cup with milk. Then he added three tablespoons of sugar and stirred. He brought it to Danny, whose sobs had tapered off to snifflings and hitchings. But he was trembling all over, and his eyes were wide and starey.
"Want you to drink this, doc," Jack said. "It's going to taste frigging awful, but it'll make you feel better. Can you drink it for your daddy?"
Danny nodded that he could and took the cup. He drank a little, grimaced, and looked questioningly at Jack. Jack nodded and Danny drank again. Wendy felt the familiar twist of jealousy somewhere in her middle, knowing the boy would not have drunk it for her.
On the heels of that came an uncomfortable, even startling thought: Had she wanted to think Jack was to blame? Was she that jealous? It was the way her mother would have thought, that was the really horrible thing. She could remember a Sunday when her Dad had taken her to the park and she had toppled from the second tier of the jungle gym, cutting both knees. When her father brought her home, her mother had shrieked at him: What did you do? Why weren't you watching her? What kind of a father are you?
(She had hounded him to his grave; by the time he divorced her it was too late.)
She had never even given Jack the benefit of the doubt. Not the smallest. Wendy felt her face burn yet knew with a kind of helpless finality that if the whole thing were to be played over again, she would do and think the same way. She carried part of her mother with her always, for good or bad.
"Jack-" she began, not sure if she meant to apologize or justify. Either, she knew, would be useless.
"Not now," he said.
It took Danny fifteen minutes to drink half of the big cup's contents, and by that time he had calmed visibly. The shakes were almost gone.
Jack put his hands solemnly on his son's shoulders. "Danny, do you think you can tell us exactly what happened to you? It's very important."
Danny looked from Jack to Wendy, then back again. In the silent pause, their setting and situation made themselves known: the whoop of the wind outside, driving fresh snow down from the northwest; the creaking and groaning of the old hotel as it settled into another storm. The fact of their disconnect came to Wendy with unexpected force as it sometimes did, like a blow under the heart.
"I want... to tell you everything," Danny said. "I wish I had before." He picked up the cup and held it, as if comforted by the warmth.
"Why didn't you, son?" Jack brushed Danny's sweaty, tumbled hair back gently from his brow.
"Because Uncle Al got you the job. And I couldn't figure out how it was good for you here and bad for you here at the same time. It was..." He looked at them for help. He did not have the necessary word.
"A dilemma?" Wendy asked gently. "When neither choice seems any good?"
"Yes, that." He nodded, relieved.
Wendy said: "The day that you trimmed the hedges, Danny and I had a talk in the truck. The day the first real snow came. Remember?"
Jack nodded. The day he had trimmed the hedges was very clear in his mind.
Wendy sighed. "I guess we didn't talk enough. Did we, doc?"
Danny, the picture of woe, shook his head.
"Exactly what did you talk about?" Jack asked. "I'm not sure how much I like my wife and son-"
"-discussing how much they love you?"
"Whatever it was, I don't understand it. I feel like I came into a movie just after the intermission."
"We were discussing you," Wendy said quietly. "And maybe we didn't say it all in words, but we both knew. Me because I'm your wife and Danny because he... just understands things."
Jack was silent.
"Danny said it just right. The place seemed good for you. You were away from all the pressures that made you so unhappy at Stovington. You were your own boss, working with your hands so you could save your brain-all of your brain- for your evenings writing. Then... I don't know just when... the place began to seem bad for you. Spending all that time down in the cellar, sifting through those old papers, all that old history. Talking in your sleep-"
"In my sleep?" Jack asked. His face wore a cautious, startled expression. "I talk in my sleep?"
"Most of it is slurry. Once I got up to use the bathroom and you were saying, 'To hell with it, bring in the slots at least, no one will know, no one will ever know. ' Another time you woke me right up, practically yelling, `Unmask, unmask, unmask. "'
"Jesus Christ," he said, and rubbed a hand over his face. He looked ill.
"All your old drinking habits, too. Chewing Excedrin. Wiping your mouth all the time. Cranky in the morning. And you haven't been able to finish the play yet, have you?"
"No. Not yet, but it's only a matter of time. I've been thinking about something else... a new project-"
"This hotel. The project Al Shockley called you about. The one he wanted you to drop."
"How do you know about that?" Jack barked. "Were you listening in? You-"
"No," she said. "I couldn't have listened in if I'd wanted to, and you'd know that if you were thinking straight. Danny and I were downstairs that night. The switchboard is shut down. Our phone upstairs was the only one in the hotel that was working, because it's patched directly into the outside line. You told me so yourself."
"Then how could you know what Al told me?"
"Danny told me. Danny knew. The same way he sometimes knows when things are misplaced, or when people are thinking about divorce."
"The doctor said-"
She shook her head impatiently. "The doctor was full of shit and we both know it. We've known it all the time. Remember when Danny said he wanted to see the firetrucks? That was no hunch. He was just a baby. He knows things. And now I'm afraid..." She looked at the bruises on Danny's neck.
"Did you really know Uncle Al had called me, Danny?"
Danny nodded. "He was really mad, Daddy. Because you called Mr. Ullman and Mr. Ullman called him. Uncle AI didn't want you to write anything about the hotel."
"Jesus," Jack said again. "The bruises, Danny. Who tried to strangle you?"
Danny's face went dark. "Her," he said. "The woman in that room. In 217. The dead lady." His lips began to tremble again, and he seized the teacup and drank.
Jack and Wendy exchanged a scared look over his bowed head.
"Do you know anything about this?" he asked her.
She shook her head. "Not about this, no."
"Danny?" He raised the boy's frightened face. "Try, son. We're right here."
"I knew it was bad here," Danny said in a low voice. "Ever since we were in Boulder. Because Tony gave me dreams about it."
"What dreams?"
"I can't remember everything. He showed me the Overlook at night, with a skull and crossbones on the front. And there was pounding. Something... I don't remember what... chasing after me. A monster. Tony showed me about redrum."
"What's that, doc?" Wendy asked.
He shook his head. "I don't know."
"Rum, like yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum?" Jack asked.
Danny shook his head again. "I don't know. Then we got here, and Mr. Hallorann talked to me in his car. Because he has the shine, too."
"It's..." Danny made a sweeping, all-encompassing gesture with his hands. "It's being able to understand things. To know things. Sometimes you see things. Like me knowing Uncle Al called. And Mr. Hallorann knowing you call me doc. Mr. Hallorann, he was peeling potatoes in the Army when he knew his brother got killed in a train crash. And when he called home it was true."
"Holy God," Jack whispered. "You're not making this up, are you, Dan?"
Danny shook his head violently. "No, I swear to God." Then, with a touch of pride he added: "Mr. Hallorann said I had the best shine of anyone he ever met. We could talk back and forth to each other without hardly opening our mouths."
His parents looked at each other again, frankly stunned.
"Mr. Hallorann got me alone because he was worried," Danny went on. "He said this was a bad place for people who shine. He said he'd seen things. I saw something, too; Right after I talked to him. When Mr. Ullman was taking us around."
"What was it?" Jack asked.
"In the Presidential Sweet. On the wall by the door going into the bedroom. A whole lot of blood and some other stuff. Gushy stuff. I think... that the gushy stuff must have been brains."
"Oh my God," Jack said.
Wendy was now very pale, her lips nearly gray.
"This place," Jack said. "Some pretty bad types owned it awhile back. Organization people from Las Vegas."
"Crooks?" Danny asked.
"Yeah, crooks." He looked at Wendy. "In 1966 a big-time hood named Vito Gienelli got killed up there, along with his two bodyguards. There was a picture in the newspaper. Danny just described the picture."
"Mr. Hallorann said he saw some other stuff," Danny told them. "Once about the playground. And once it was something bad in that room. 217. A maid saw it and lost her job because she talked about it. So Mr. Hallorann went up and he saw it too. But he didn't talk about it because he didn't want to lose his job. Except he told me never to go in there. But I did. Because I believed him when he said the things you saw here couldn't hurt you." This last was nearly whispered in a low, husky voice, and Danny touched the puffed circle of bruises on his neck.
"What about the playground?" Jack asked in a strange, casual voice.
"I don't know. The playground, he said. And the hedge animals."
Jack jumped a little, and Wendy looked at him curiously.
"Have you seen anything down there, Jack?"
"No," he said. "Nothing."
Danny was looking at him.
"Nothing," he said again, more calmly. And that was true. He had been the victim of an hallucination. And that was all.
"Danny, we have to hear about the woman," Wendy said gently.
So Danny told them, but his words came in cyclic bursts, sometimes almost verging on incomprehensible garble in his hurry to spit it out and be free of it. He pushed tighter and tighter against his mother's breasts as he talked.
"I went in," he said. "I stole the passkey and went in. It was like I couldn't help myself. I had to know. And she... the lady... was in the tub. She was dead. All swelled up. She was nuh-nuh... didn't have no clothes on." He looked miserably at his mother. "And she started to get up and she wanted me. I know she did because I could feel it. She wasn't even thinking, not the way you and Daddy think. It was black... it was hurt-think... like... like the wasps that night in my room! Only wanting to hurt. Like the wasps."
He swallowed and there was silence for a moment, all quiet while the image of the wasps sank into them.
"So I ran," Danny said. "I ran but the door was closed. I left it open but it was closed. I didn't think about just opening it again and running out. I was scared. So I just... I leaned against the door and closed my eyes and thought of how Mr. Hallorann said the things here were just like pictures in a book and if I... kept saying to myself... you're not there, go away, you're not there... she would go away. But it didn't work."
His voice began to rise hysterically.
"She grabbed me... turned me around... I could see her eyes... how her eyes were... and she started to choke me... I could smell her... I could smell how dead she was... s"
"Stop now, shhh," Wendy said, alarmed. "Stop, Danny. It's all right. It-"
She was getting ready to go into her croon again. The Wendy Torrance Allpurpose Croon. Pat. Pending.
"Let him finish," Jack said curtly.
"There isn't any more," Danny said. "I passed out. Either because she was choking me or just because I was scared. When I came to, I was dreaming you and Mommy were fighting over me and you wanted to do the Bad Thing again, Daddy. Then I knew it wasn't a dream at all... and I was awake... and... I wet my pants. I wet my pants like a baby." His head fell back against Wendy's sweater and he began to cry with horrible weakness, his hands lying limp and spent in his lap.
Jack got up. "Take care of him."
"What are you going to do?" Her face was full of dread.
"I'm going up to that room, what did you think I was going to do? Have coffee? "
"No! Don't, Jack, please don't!"
"Wendy, if there's someone else in the hotel, we have to know."
"Don't you dare leave us alone!" she shrieked at him. Spittle flew from her lips with the force of her cry.
Jack said: "Wendy, that's a remarkable imitation of your mom."
She burst into tears then, unable to cover her face because Danny was on her lap.
"I'm sorry," Jack said. "But I have to, you know. I'm the goddam caretaker. It's what I'm paid for."
She only cried harder and he left her that way, going out of the kitchen, rubbing his mouth with his handkerchief as the door swung shut behind him.
"Don't worry, mommy," Danny said. "He'll be all right. He doesn't shine. Nothing here can hurt him."
Through her tears she said, "No, I don't believe that."