CHRISTINE - By Stephen King

Hey, looky there!

Across the street!

There's a car made just for me,

To own that car would be a luxury. . . .

That car's fine-lookin, man,

That's somethin else.

- Eddie Cochran

'Oh my God!' my friend Arnie Cunningham cried out suddenly.

'What is it?' I asked. His eyes were bulging from behind his steel-rimmed glasses, he had plastered one hand over his face so that his palm was partially cupping his mouth, and his neck could have been on ball-bearings the way he was craning back over his shoulder.

'Stop the car, Dennis! Go back!'

'What are you - '

'Go back, I want to look at her again.'

Suddenly I understood. 'Oh, man, forget it,' I said. 'If you mean that . . . thing we just passed - '

'Go back!' He was almost screaming.

I went back, thinking that it was maybe one of Arnie's subtle little jokes. But it wasn't. He was gone, lock, stock, and barrel. Arnie had fallen in love.

She was a bad joke, and what Arnie saw in her that day I'll never know. The left side of her windscreen was a snarled spiderweb of cracks. The right rear deck was bashed in, and an ugly nest of rust had grown in the paint-scraped valley. The back bumper was askew, the boot-lid was ajar, and stuffing was bleeding out through several long tears in the seat covers, both front and back. It looked as if someone had worked on the upholstery with a knife. One tyre was flat. The others were bald enough to show the canvas cording. Worst of all, there was a dark puddle of oil under the engine block.

Arnie had fallen in love with a 1958 Plymouth Fury, one of the long ones with the big fins. There was an old and sun-faded FOR SALE sign propped on the right side of the windscreen - the side that was not cracked.

'Look at her lines, Dennis!' Arnie whispered. He was running around the car like a man possessed. His sweaty hair flew and flopped. He tried the back door on the passenger side, and it came open with a scream.

'Arnie, you're having me on, aren't you?' I said. 'It's sunstroke, right? Tell me it's sunstroke. I'll take you home and put you under the frigging air conditioner and we'll forget all about this, okay?' But I said it without much hope. He knew how to joke, but there was no joke on his face then. Instead ' there was a kind of goofy madness I didn't like much.

He didn't even bother to reply. A hot, stuffy billow of air, redolent of age, oil, and advanced decomposition, puffed out of the open door. Arnie didn't seem to notice that, either. He got in and sat down on the ripped and faded back seat. Once, twenty years before, it had been red. Now it was a faded wash pink.

I reached in and pulled up a little puff of stuffing, looked at it, and blew it away. 'Looks like the Russian army marched over it on their way to Berlin,' I said.

He finally noticed I was still there. 'Yeah . . . yeah. But she could be fixed up. She could . . . she could be tough. A moving unit, Dennis. 'A beauty. A real - '

'Here! Here! What you two kids up to?'

It was an old guy who looked as if he was enjoying - more or less - his seventieth summer. Probably less. This particular dude struck me as the sort of man who enjoyed very little. His hair was long and scraggy, what little there was left of it. He had a good case of psoriasis going on the bald part of his skull.

He was wearing green old man's pants and low-topped Keds. No shirt; instead there was something cinched around his waist that looked like a lady's corset. When he got closer I saw it was a back brace. From the look of it I would say, just offhand, that he had changed it last somewhere around the time Lyndon Johnson died.

'What you kids up to?' His voice was shrill and strident.

'Sir, is this your car?' Arnie asked him. Not much question that it was. The Plymouth was parked on the lawn of the postwar tract house from which the old