If It Bleeds - Stephen King

Thinking of Russ Dorr

I miss you, Chief.


My home town was just a village of six hundred or so (and still is, although I have moved away), but we had the Internet just like the big cities, so my father and I got less and less personal mail. Usually all Mr. Nedeau brought was the weekly copy of Time, fliers addressed to Occupant or Our Friendly Neighbors, and the monthly bills. But starting in 2004, the year I turned nine and began working for Mr. Harrigan up the hill, I could count on at least four envelopes hand-addressed to me each year. There was a Valentine’s Day card in February, a birthday card in September, a Thanksgiving Day card in November, and a Christmas card either just before or just after the holiday. Inside each card was a one-dollar scratch ticket from the Maine State Lottery, and the signature was always the same: Good Wishes from Mr. Harrigan. Simple and formal.

My father’s reaction was always the same, too: a laugh and a good-natured roll of the eyes.

“He’s a cheapster,” Dad said one day. This might have been when I was eleven, a couple of years after the cards began arriving. “Pays you cheap wages and gives you a cheap bonus—Lucky Devil tickets from Howie’s.”

I pointed out that one of those four scratchers usually paid off a couple of bucks. When that happened, Dad collected for me at Howie’s, because minors weren’t supposed to play the lottery, even if the tickets were freebies. Once, when I hit it big and won five dollars, I asked Dad to buy me five more dollar scratch-offs. He refused, saying if he fed my gambling addiction, my mother would roll over in her grave.

“Harrigan doing it is bad enough,” Dad said. “Besides, he should be paying you seven dollars an hour. Maybe even eight. God knows he could afford it. Five an hour may be legal, since you’re just a kid, but some would consider it child abuse.”

“I like working for him,” I said. “And I like him, Dad.”

“I understand that,” he said, “and it’s not like reading to him and weeding his flower garden makes you a twenty-first-century Oliver Twist, but he’s still a cheapster. I’m surprised he’s willing to spring for postage to mail those cards, when it can’t be more than a quarter of a mile from his mailbox to ours.”

We were on our front porch when we had this conversation, drinking glasses of Sprite, and Dad cocked a thumb up our road (dirt, like most of them in Harlow) to Mr. Harrigan’s house. Which was really a mansion, complete with an indoor pool, a conservatory, a glass elevator that I absolutely loved to ride in, and a greenhouse out back where there used to be a dairy barn (before my time, but Dad remembered it well).

“You know how bad his arthritis is,” I said. “Now he uses two canes instead of one sometimes. Walking down here would about kill him.”

“Then he could just hand the damn greeting cards to you,” Dad said. There was no bite to his words; he was mostly just teasing. He and Mr. Harrigan got along all right. My dad got on all right with everyone in Harlow. I suppose that’s what made him a good salesman. “God knows you’re up there enough.”

“It wouldn’t be the same,” I said.

“No? Why not?”

I couldn’t explain. I had plenty of vocabulary, thanks to all the reading I did, but not much life experience. I just knew I liked getting those cards, looked forward to them, and to the lottery ticket I always scratched off with my lucky dime, and to the signature in his old-fashioned cursive: Good Wishes from Mr. Harrigan. Looking back, the word ceremonial comes to mind. It was like how Mr. Harrigan always wore one of his scrawny black ties when he and I drove to town, even though he’d mostly just sit behind the wheel of his sensible Ford sedan reading the Financial Times while I went into the IGA and got the things on his shopping list. There was always corned beef hash on that list, and a dozen eggs. Mr. Harrigan sometimes opined that a man could live perfectly well on eggs and corned beef hash once he had reached a certain age. When I asked him what that age would be, he said sixty-eight.

“When a man turns sixty-eight,” he said, “he no longer needs vitamins.”


“No,” he said. “I only say that to justify