The Institute - Stephen King Page 0,1
take him to Ellenton. There he paid the driver, strolled to the nearest 301-N sign, and stuck out his thumb. Fifteen minutes later he was picked up by an old guy in a Case gimme cap. There were no melons in the back of his pickup, and no stake sides, but otherwise it pretty much conformed to his vision of the previous night.
“Where you headed, friend?” the old guy asked.
“Well,” Tim said, “New York, eventually. I guess.”
The old guy spat a ribbon of tobacco juice out the window. “Now why would any man in his right mind want to go there?” He pronounced it raht mahnd.
“I don’t know,” Tim said, although he did; an old service buddy had told him there was plenty of private security work in the Big Apple, including some for companies that would give more weight to his experience than to the Rube Goldberg fuckup that had ended his career in Florida policing. “I’m just hoping to get to Georgia tonight. Maybe I’ll like that better.”
“Now you’re talking,” the old guy said. “Georgia ain’t bad, specially if you like peaches. They gi’ me the backdoor trots. You don’t mind some music, do you?”
“Not at all.”
“Got to warn you, I play it loud. I’m a little on the deef side.”
“I’m just happy to be riding.”
It was Waylon Jennings instead of REO Speedwagon, but that was okay with Tim. Waylon was followed by Shooter Jennings and Marty Stuart. The two men in the mud-streaked Dodge Ram listened and watched the highway roll. Seventy miles up the line, the old guy pulled over, gave Tim a tip of his Case cap, and wished him a real fahn day.
Tim didn’t make Georgia that night—he spent it in another cheesedog motel next to a roadside stand selling orange juice—but he got there the following day. In the town of Brunswick (where a certain kind of tasty stew had been invented), he took two weeks’ work in a recycling plant, doing it with no more forethought than he had put into deciding to give up his seat on the Delta flight out of Tampa. He didn’t need the money, but it seemed to Tim that he needed the time. He was in transition, and that didn’t happen overnight. Also, there was a bowling alley with a Denny’s right next door. Hard to beat a combo like that.
With his pay from the recycling plant added to his airline windfall, Tim was standing on the Brunswick ramp of I-95 North and feeling pretty well-heeled for a rambling man. He stood there for over an hour in the sun, and was thinking of giving up and going back to Denny’s for a cold glass of sweet tea when a Volvo station wagon pulled over. The back was filled with cartons. The elderly woman behind the wheel powered down the passenger side window and peered at him through thick glasses. “Although not large, you look well-muscled,” she said. “You are not a rapist or a psychotic, are you?”
“No, ma’am,” Tim told her, thinking: But what else would I say?
“Of course you would say that, wouldn’t you? Are you going as far as South Carolina? Your duffel bag suggests that you are.”
A car swept around her Volvo and sped up the ramp, horn blaring. She took no notice, only kept her serene gaze fixed on Tim.
“Yes, ma’am. All the way to New York.”
“I’ll take you to South Carolina—not far into that benighted state, but a little way—if you’ll help me out a bit in return. One hand washes the other, if you see what I mean.”
“You scratch my back and I scratch yours,” Tim said, grinning.
“There will be no scratching of any kind, but you may get in.”
Tim did so. Her name was Marjorie Kellerman, and she ran the Brunswick library. She also belonged to something called the Southeastern Library Association. Which, she said, had no money because “Trump and his cronies took it all back. They understand culture no more than a donkey understands algebra.”
Sixty-five miles north, still in Georgia, she stopped at a pokey little library in the town of Pooler. Tim unloaded the cartons of books and dollied them inside. He dollied another dozen or so cartons out to the Volvo. These, Marjorie Kellerman told him, were bound to the Yemassee Public Library, about forty miles further north, across the South Carolina state line. But not long after passing Hardeeville, their progress came to a stop. Cars and trucks were stacked up in both