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Needful Things(2)
Author: Stephen King

And there goes Lenore Potter, lookin like she just stepped out of a bandbox. Going to the Western Auto, no doubt, to see if her special organic fertilizer came in yet. That woman has got more kinds of flowers growin around her house than Carter has liver pills.

Awful proud of em, she is. She ain't a great favorite with the ladies of this town-they think she's snooty, with her flowers and her mood-beads and her seventy-dollar Boston perms. They think she's snooty, and I'll tell you a secret, since we're just sittin here side by side on this splintery bandstand step. I think they're right.

All ordinary enough, I guess you'd say, but not all our troubles in Castle Rock are ordinary; I got to set you straight on that. No one has forgotten Frank Dodd, the crossing guard who went crazy here twelve years ago and killed those women, and they haven't forgotten the dog, either, the one that came down with rabies and killed Joe Camber and the old rummy down the road from him.

The dog killed good old Sheriff George Bannerman, too. Alan Pangborn is doing that job these days, and he's a good man, but he won't never stack up to Big George in the eyes of the town.

Wasn't nothing ordinary about what happened to Reginald "Pop" Merrill, either-Pop was the old miser who used to run the town junk shop. The Emporium Galorium, it was called. Stood right where that vacant lot is across the street. The place burned down awhile ago, but there are people in town who saw it (or claim they did, anyway) who'll tell you after a few beers down at The Mellow Tiger that it was a lot more than a simple fire that destroyed the Emporium Galorium and took Pop Merrill's life.

His nephew Ace says something spooky happened to his uncle before that fire-something like on The Twilight Zone. Of course, Ace wasn't even around when his uncle bit the dust; he was finishing a four-year stretch in Shawshank Prison for breaking and entering in the nighttime.

(People always knew Ace Merrill would come to a bad end; when he was in school he was one of the worst bullies this town has ever seen, and there must have been a hundred kids who crossed to the far side of the street when they saw Ace comin toward em with the buckles and zippers on his motorcycle jacket jingling and the cleats on his engineer boots clockin along the sidewalk.) Yet people believe him, you know; maybe there really was something strange about what happened to Pop that day, or maybe it's just more talk in Nan's over those cups of coffee and slabs of apple pie.

It's the same here as where you grew up, most likely. People getting bet up over religion, people carryin torches, people carryin secrets, people carryin grudges... and even a spooky story every now and then, like what might or might not have happened on the day Pop died in his junk shop, to liven up the occasional dull day.

Castle Rock is still a pretty nice place to live and grow, as the sign you see when you come into town says. The sun shines pretty on the lake and on the leaves of the trees, and on a clear day you can see all the way into Vermont from the top of Castle View. The summer people argue over the Sunday newspapers, and there is the occasional fight in the parkin lot of The Mellow Tiger on Friday or Saturday night (sometimes both), but the summer people always go home and the fights always end. The Rock has always been one of the good places, and when people get scratchy, you know what we say? We say He'll get over i't or She'll get over it.

Henry Beaufort, for instance, is sick of Hugh Priest kickin the Rock-Ola when he's drunk... but Henry will get over it. Wilma jerzyck and Nettle Cobb are mad at each other... but Nettle will get over it (probably) and being mad's just a way of life for Wilma.

Sheriff Pangborn's still mourning his wife and younger child, who died untimely, and it was a sure-enough tragedy, but he'll get over it in time. Polly Chalmers's arthritis isn't getting any better-in fact, it's getting worse, a little at a time-and she may not get over it, but she'll learn to live with it. Millions have.

We bump up against each other every now and then, but mostly things go along all right. Or always have, until now. But I have to tell you a real secret, my friend; it's mostly why I called you over once I saw you were back in town. I think trouble-real trouble is on its way. I smell it, just over the horizon, like an out-of-season storm full of lightning. The argument between the Baptists and the Catholics over Casino Nite, the kids who tease poor Slopey about his stutter, John LaPointe's torch, Sheriff Pangborn's grief... think those things are going to look like pretty small potatoes next to what is coming.

See that building across Main Street? The one three doors up from the vacant lot where the Emporium Galorium used to stand?

Got a green canopy in front of it? Yup, that's the one. The windows are all soaped over because it's not quite open yet. NEEDFUL THINGS, the sign says-now just what the dog does that mean? I dunno, either, but that's where the bad feeling seems to come from.

Right there.

Look up the street one more time. You see that boy, don't you?

The one who's walking his bike and looks like he's havin the sweetest daydream any boy ever had? Keep your eye on him, friend.

I think he's the one who's gonna get it started.

No, I told you, I dunno what... not exactly. But watch that kid. And stick around town for a little while, would you? Things just feel wrong, and if something happens, it might be just as well if there was a witness.

I know that kid-the one who's pushin his bike. Maybe you do, too.

His name's Brian-something. His dad installs siding and doors over in Oxford or South Paris, I think.

Keep an eye on him, I tell you. Keep an eye on everything.

You've been here before, but things are about to change.

I know it.

I feel it.

There's a storm on the way.

CHAPTER ONE

1

In a small town, the opening of a new store is big news. it wasn't as big a deal to Brian Rusk as it was to some; his mother, for instance. He had heard her discussing it (he wasn't supposed to call it gossiping, she had told him, because gossiping was a dirty habit and she didn't do it) at some length on the telephone with her best friend, Myra Evans, over the last month or so.

The first workmen had arrived at the old building which had last housed Western Maine Realty and Insurance right around the time school let in again, and they had been busily at work ever since.

Not that anyone had much idea what they were up to in there; their first act had been to put in a large display window, and their second had been to soap it opaque.

Two weeks ago a sign had appeared in the doorway, hung on a string over a plastic see-through suction-cup.

OPENING SOON!

the sign read.

NEEDFUL THINGS A NEW KIND OF STORE "You won't believe your eyes!"

"It'll be just another antique shop," Brian's mother said to Myra.

Cora Rusk had been reclining on the sofa at the time, holding the telephone with one hand and eating chocolate-covered cherries with the other while she watched Santa Barbara on the TV. "Just another antique shop with a lot of phony early American furniture and moldy old crank telephones. You wait and see."

That had been shortly after the new display window had been first installed and then soaped over, and his mother spoke with such assurance that Brian should have felt sure the subject was closed.

Only with his mother, no subject ever seemed to be completely closed. Her speculations and suppositions seemed as endless as the problems of the characters on Santa Barbara and General Hospital, Last week the first line of the sign hanging in the door was changed to read:

GRAND OPENING OCTOBER 9TH-BRING YOUR FRIENDS!

Brian was not as interested in the new store as his mother (and some of the teachers; he had heard them talking about it in the teachers' room at Castle Rock Middle School when it was his turn to be Office Mailman), but he was eleven, and a healthy eleven-year-old boy is interested in anything new. Besides, the name of the place fascinated him. Needful Things: what, exactly, did that mean?

He had read the changed first line last Tuesday, on his way home from school. Tuesday afternoons were his late days. Brian had been born with a harelip, and although it had been surgically corrected when he was seven, he still had to go to speech therapy.

He maintained stoutly to everyone who asked that he hated this, but he did not. He was deeply and hopelessly in love with Miss Ratcliffe, and he waited all week for his special ed class to come around. The Tuesday schoolday seemed to last a thousand years, and he always spent the last two hours of it with pleasant butterflies in his stomach.

There were only four other kids in the class, and none of them came from Brian's end of town. He was glad. After an hour in the same room with Miss Ratcliffe, he felt too exalted for company.

He liked to make his way home slowly in the late afternoon, usually pushing his bike instead of riding it, dreaming of her as yellow and gold leaves fell around him in the slanting bars of October sunlight.

His way took him along the three-block section of Main Street across from the Town Common, and on the day he saw the sign announcing the grand opening, he had pushed his nose up to the glass of the door, hoping to see what had replaced the stodgy desks and industrial yellow walls of the departed Western Maine Realtors and Insurance Agents. His curiosity was defeated. A shade had been installed and was pulled all the way down. Brian saw nothing but his own reflected face and cupped hands.

On Friday the 4th, there had been an ad for the new store in Castle Rock's weekly newspaper, the Call. It was surrounded by a ruffled border, and below the printed matter was a drawing of angels standing back to back and blowing long trumpets. The ad really said nothing that could not be read on the sign dangling from the suction cup: the name of the store was Needful Things, it would open for business at ten o'clock in the morning on October 9th, and, of course, "You won't believe your eyes." There was not the slightest hint of what goods the proprietor or proprietors of Needful Things intended to dispense.

 

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