Nov 21, 2016

Another Big Bang

There's this big hippie dude, see, strolling a side street in empty Lodi, California.  Big hair down to his waist,  wearing a gimme cap and a cool-message tee. "I gave up sex and drinking and it was the scariest 30 minutes of my life."

That is how it was according to Stephen King as he wrote about life in America after the super-flu wiped out some 99 out of every 100.

In a little house along that street lived Irma Fayette, 26 and virginal and a people hater. She particularly hated men because they would rape her. Her mother told her so, and she had spent most of her 26 years worrying and worrying about the evil-deed horror, possibly over and over in great clinical detail. 

Part of Mama's sex problem was her ex-husband. He was possibly also Irma's daddy, a sailor who planted a seed in Ma's garden and weighed anchor instead of hanging around to nurture.

Barnacle Bill is necessary to Mr. King's narrative because he left a trunk behind, stored for ages in Irma's attic.

She picked through it and found  a nice box with little brass hinges containing  "...a gun . A .45 calibre pistol. It lay on red velvet, and in a secret compartment below the red velvet were some bullets ...  green and mossy looking, but Irma thought they would work all right. Bullets were metal. They didn't spoil like milk or cheese. "

So she was armed when Mr. Hippie passed her porch, saw prey, and staggered her way.

"Irma pulled the trigger. The pistol exploded, killing her instantly."


Now see here, Stephen. That might have happened, but it almost certainly didn't. Far more likely, the pistol went click and Irma was soon suffering the fate worse than death. 

I've often thought a serious gun guy could earn a little side income editing firearms references. He could have advised Mr. King that "cartridges" was the term he was actually looking for  and that ancient cartridges don't get magically stronger. More likely their chemical contents weaken, if anything. 

Furthermore, while it is quite possible to make a pistol "explode" in one way or another,  I doubt that any shooter, ever, instantly killed himself. (Herself in the case of the unfulfilled Irma.) We see bloody   hands, faces full of powder burns and metal bits, smashed eyeballs, but hardly ever -- maybe never -- do we see instant death.


I like Stephen King anyway, and maybe this little piece is just an excuse  to say so. Allow me to repeat,  along with many before me,  that I wish he worked a little less in horror and a little more with straightforward stuff that doesn't  require so massive a suspension of your disbelief.  For instance as in "The Body" (his novella which became "Stand By Me"  when the movie ignoramuses got their slimy paws on it).

Never mind. I rarely reread King, but sometimes I'm drawn back solely by his power  to create characters who charm --or the absolute reverse -- readers. When King introduces a human player you know this character is going to engage your interest and your emotions. I know no one who does it better except John D. McDonald. I give him the edge because he could do it in sharper terms with fewer words.


We're awaiting an overnight strike of winter misery, so I decided to escape reality by leafing through  the monster edition of "The Stand," the 1153-page complete edition. Its blurb says it is "uncut." No shit Sam Spade? What gave you your first clue?  Maybe the three-inch shelf-width? (The Irma tale is on page 352.)

I may do something like this again. Stephen is sloppy on guns, and cosmic rulers require all of us gun experts to point out and dilate on the tiniest  departure from technical firearms truth.

Until now I have been doing it only with my silenced revolver.