If It Bleeds - Stephen King Page 0,1

my bad eating habits. Did you or did you not order satellite radio for this car, Craig?”

“I did.” On Dad’s home computer, because Mr. Harrigan didn’t have one.

“Then where is it? All I can get is that damn windbag Limbaugh.”

I showed him how to get to the XM radio. He turned the knob past a hundred or so stations until he found one specializing in country. It was playing “Stand By Your Man.”

That song still gives me the chills, and I suppose it always will.

* * *

On that day in my eleventh year, as my dad and I sat drinking our Sprites and looking up at the big house (which was exactly what Harlowites called it: the Big House, as if it were Shawshank Prison), I said, “Getting snail-mail is cool.”

Dad did his eye-roll thing. “Email is cool. And cellular phones. Those things seem like miracles to me. You’re too young to understand. If you’d grown up with nothing but a party line and four other houses on it—including Mrs. Edelson, who never shut up—you might feel differently.”

“When can I have a cell phone?” This was a question I’d asked a lot that year, more frequently after the first iPhones went on sale.

“When I decide you’re old enough.”

“Whatever, Dad.” It was my turn to roll my eyes, which made him laugh. Then he grew serious.

“Do you understand how rich John Harrigan is?”

I shrugged. “I know he used to own mills.”

“He owned a lot more than mills. Until he retired, he was the grand high poobah of a company called Oak Enterprises. It owned a shipping line, shopping centers, a chain of movie theaters, a telecom company, I don’t know whatall else. When it came to the Big Board, Oak was one of the biggest.”

“What’s the Big Board?”

“Stock market. Gambling for rich people. When Harrigan sold out, the deal wasn’t just in the business section of the New York Times, it was on the front page. That guy who drives a six-year-old Ford, lives at the end of a dirt road, pays you five bucks an hour, and sends you a dollar scratch ticket four times a year is sitting on better than a billion dollars.” Dad grinned. “And my worst suit, the one your mother would make me give to the Goodwill if she was still alive, is better than the one he wears to church.”

I found all of this interesting, especially the idea that Mr. Harrigan, who didn’t own a laptop or even a TV, had once owned a telecom company and movie theaters. I bet he never even went to the movies. He was what my dad called a Luddite, meaning (among other things) a guy who doesn’t like gadgets. The satellite radio was an exception, because he liked country music and hated all the ads on WOXO, which was the only c&w station his car radio could pull in.

“Do you know how much a billion is, Craig?”

“A hundred million, right?”

“Try a thousand million.”

“Wow,” I said, but only because a wow seemed called for. I understood five bucks, and I understood five hundred, the price of a used motor scooter for sale on the Deep Cut Road that I dreamed of owning (good luck there), and I had a theoretical understanding of five thousand, which was about what my dad made each month as a salesman at Parmeleau Tractors and Heavy Machinery in Gates Falls. Dad was always getting his picture on the wall as Salesman of the Month. He claimed that was no big deal, but I knew better. When he got Salesman of the Month, we went to dinner at Marcel’s, the fancy French restaurant in Castle Rock.

“Wow is right,” Dad said, and toasted the big house on the hill, with all those rooms that went mostly unused and the elevator Mr. Harrigan loathed but had to use because of his arthritis and sciatica. “Wow is just about goddam right.”

* * *

Before I tell you about the big-money lottery ticket, and Mr. Harrigan dying, and the trouble I had with Kenny Yanko when I was a freshman at Gates Falls High, I should tell you about how I happened to go to work for Mr. Harrigan. It was because of church. Dad and I went to First Methodist of Harlow, which was the only Methodist of Harlow. There used to be another church in town, the one the Baptists used, but it burned down in 1996.

“Some people shoot off fireworks to celebrate the arrival of a