If It Bleeds - Stephen King Page 0,2

new baby,” Dad said. I couldn’t have been more than four then, but I remember it—probably because fireworks interested me. “Your mom and I said to hell with that and burned down a church to welcome you, Craigster, and what a lovely blaze it made.”

“Never say that,” my mother said. “He might believe you and burn one down when he has a kid of his own.”

They joked a lot together, and I laughed even when I didn’t get it.

The three of us used to walk to church together, our boots crunching through packed snow in winter, our good shoes puffing up dust in summer (which my mom would wipe off with a Kleenex before we went inside), me always holding Dad’s hand on my left and Mom’s on my right.

She was a good mom. I still missed her bad in 2004, when I started working for Mr. Harrigan, although she had been dead three years then. Now, sixteen years later, I still miss her, although her face has faded in my memory and photos only refresh it a little. What that song says about motherless children is true: they have a hard time. I loved my dad and we always got along fine, but that song’s right on another point, too: there’s so many things your daddy can’t understand. Like making a daisy chain and putting it on your head in the big field behind our house and saying today you’re not just any little boy, you’re King Craig. Like being pleased but not making it out to be a big deal—bragging and all—when you start reading Superman and Spider-Man comic books at the age of three. Like getting in bed with you if you wake up in the middle of the night from a bad dream where Dr. Octopus is chasing you. Like hugging you and telling you it’s okay when some bigger boy—Kenny Yanko, for instance—beats the living shit out of you.

I could have used one of those hugs on that day. A mother-hug on that day might have changed a lot.

* * *

Never boasting about being a precocious reader was a gift my parents gave me, the gift of learning early that having some talent doesn’t make you better than the next fellow. But word got around, as it always does in small towns, and when I was eight, Reverend Mooney asked me if I would like to read the Bible lesson on Family Sunday. It might have been the novelty of the thing that fetched him; usually he got a high school boy or girl to do the honors. The reading was from the Book of Mark that Sunday, and after the service, the Rev said I’d done such a good job I could do it every week, if I wanted.

“He says a little child shall lead them,” I told Dad. “It’s in the Book of Isaiah.”

My father grunted, as if that didn’t move him much. Then he nodded. “Fine, as long as you remember you’re the medium, not the message.”


“The Bible is the Word of God, not the Word of Craig, so don’t get a big head about it.”

I said I wouldn’t, and for the next ten years—until I went off to college where I learned to smoke dope, drink beer, and chase girls—I read the weekly lesson. Even when things were at their very worst, I did that. The Rev would give me the scriptural reference a week in advance—chapter and verse, as the saying is. Then, at Methodist Youth Fellowship on Thursday night, I’d bring him a list of the words I couldn’t pronounce. As a result, I may be the only person in the state of Maine who can not only pronounce Nebuchadnezzar, but spell it.

* * *

One of America’s richest men moved to Harlow about three years before I started my Sunday job of delivering scripture to my elders. The turn of the century, in other words, right after he sold his companies and retired, and before his big house was even completely finished (the pool, the elevator, and the paved driveway came later). Mr. Harrigan attended church every week, dressed in his rusty black suit with the sagging seat, wearing one of his unfashionably narrow black ties, and with his thinning gray hair neatly combed. The rest of the week that hair went every whichway, like Einstein’s after a busy day of deciphering the cosmos.

Back then he only used one cane, which he leaned on when we rose to sing