"What was it? Some sort of afreet? An ordinary car that had
somehow become the dangerous, stinking dwelling-place of a demon? A
weird manifestation of LeBay's lingering personality, a hellish
haunted house that rolled on Goodyear rubber? I didn't know. All I
knew was that I was scared, terrified. I didn't think I could go
through with this."
For some reason reading Shooter left me wanting to revisit one
of Stephen King's earlier works, a real vintage volume that rolled off
the line in 1983. The clue in that sentence should have you guessing
Christine. That's right, the killer car. Across decades, authors,
and target audiences you have a uniting theme: the revenge of the
left out and left behind.
Narrator Dennis is driving home from work. Suddenly his
passenger, Arnie, yells for him to stop and go back. The object of
his sudden interest is a decrepit car with a for sale sign. Next
thing Dennis knows, Arnie is negotiating with the curmudgeonly owner,
Roland LeBay, and putting down a ten percent deposit without as much
as looking under the hood or seeing if it runs. This is especially
disconcerting since, in addition to a college prep load, Arnie excells
in auto shop.
Dennis and Arnie are heading into their senior year in high
school. They are about the most odd couple one could find in the late
70s in that millieu. Dennis is the football quarterback. Arnie is at
the exact opposite end of the power and popularity continuum.
"He was a loser, you know. Every high school has to have at
least two; it's like a national law. One male, one female.
Everyone's dumping ground..."
Dennis sees red flags starting with when Arnie buys a clunker
seemingly destined for an auto graveyard. There's his friend's
obsession with the vehicle, his calling it Christine as LeBay had
done. It's almost like the car is a girl. There are the truly evil
things he learns about the former owner and the premature deaths of
his child and wife. And then there's the way Christine is seeming to
regenerate, to roll back the miles.
Read Christine if you want a good spine chiller that has well
stood the test of time. But don't read it too close up bed time if
sleep is on your night agenda.
On a personal note, I was struck by the wisdom of one of King's
lines: "If being a kid is about learning how to live, then being a
grown up is about learning how to die." I have a very strong suspicion
that in our youth obsessed culture there is a point where we're
supposed to let go of dreaming and striving and shamble into that next
to last television lighted good night. And the ads on the shows
targeted to this demographic. Yeesh!
A great big shout out goes out to my college and grad school chums who
keep my odometer running backward and light up my far from geezerly
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