The Stephen King Project

for constant readers by a constant reader


1976, 12 – The Shining

The Shining – Crayolas & Christopher Robin

“His pictures of Pooh and Eyore [sic] and Christopher Robin were tacked neatly to the wall, soon enough to be replaced with pin-ups and photographs of dope-smoking rock singers, she supposed.”

My childhood bedroom was blue.  Blue blue blue.  We had our colors & apparently, mine as a kid, was blue.  Elle’s was pink.  Where she had Strawberry Shortcake, I had Holly Hobbie.  Strewn about, I had dolls, crayons, & books.  These were my main playthings.

Dolls were a way of acting out imaginery situations.  I was limited only by what I could conjur up.  This was exhilerating.  I could be the person I wished I was.

Crayons were a source of pride.  I was the best colorer around.  I had very little by way of original artistic skill, but I could maneuver a Crayola like no body’s business.  Shading, darks, lights, shadow, & staying in the lines?  Fuggedaboudit.  Also, when dolls were scarce, “colors” could easily be used as people.  Red, Orange, Yellow – females.  Green, Blue, Violet – males.

And books.  Sigh.  Books.  When my imagination proved too limiting, all I needed to do was crack the spine of a book to visit all sorts of new worlds.  Interesting people doing interesting things all released the moment my eyes afixed to the page.

I loved owning books – knowing that that story was now officially mine – but there was something magical about the Public Library.  If I could replicate “Public Library Smell” & put it in an air freshener (freshener? un-freshener?), I would do so gladly.  My Public Library’s children’s area (the basement, essentially, on the side) was my favorite place to go on a weekend morning.  The intensity with which I dreaded Sunday mass was matched only by the intensity with which I anticipated Saturday storytime.

And whom would I find on the walls of the storytime room?  When the doors were slid open, yellows & tans – Winnie the Pooh, Christopher Robin, Eeyore, Tigger, Kanga & Roo, all of the characters from the Hundred Acre Woods greeted me like old friends.

So I suppose, as my parents flicked off my lights when they put me to bed, quickly assessing my blue bedroom as they did so, they may have shared in the thoughts of Wendy Torrance.

They’d have been right.

Holly Hobbie turned to Barbie turned to Michael Jackson turned to Johnny Depp turned to Pearl Jam turned to Audrey Hepburn.  Magazine clippings & photos taped haphazardly to my walls & wooden doors.  Crayolas turned to markers turned to ballpoints turned to keyboards.  Books turned to … well … books.  But Christopher Robin turned to Nancy Drew turned to Ramona Quimby turned to Judy Blume turned to … heh … Stephen King.

And there we are.  The visible changing signs of a child growing older.

And yet … and yet … From the bed in which I sit, typing away, I see an open jewelry box with a tiny, spinning Holly Hobbie inside.  I can still hum the tune it plays when twisted & released.  I know that just around the corner, in the living room, there is a stack of colored construction paper underneath a box of Crayola markers & crayons.  Below the construction paper, in a small green crate, are the books of my childhood.  Judy Blume, Ramona Quimby, Maurice Sendak, & yes, a few coloring books.

So while I have definitely grown up, rest assured, I have not yet grown old.

The Shining – The Wasps’ Nest

“When you unwittingly stuck your hand into the wasps’ nest, you hadn’t made a convenant with the devil to give up your civilized self with its trappings of love and respect and honor.  It just happened to you.  Passively, with no say, you ceased to be a creature of the mind and became a creature of the nerve endings: from college-educated man to wailing ape in five easy seconds.”

And so it begins – Jack Torrance’s rationalization of his behavior.  Of course, he couldn’t be to blame.  He was the victim here.  He had wandered into the wasps’ nest his whole life & this was just one more situation in which he couldn’t be expected to mind his manners.  No, no.

Of course, we all see through that.  There is no justification for murder.  But the beauty of King – particularly in this novel – is that he so logically explains even the most twisted of behavior from his subject.  At this point, we’ve all seen the movie, we know the catchphrase, we get the gist (that being said, read the book if you enjoyed the film – seriously – read the book).  Spoiler alerts – whatever – he is a dangerously bad man.  & yet, why do we feel a kinship, a connection with him, an empathy?

Because we’ve all been there.

Joanie & I were waiting to jaywalk across Diversey on our way to this cheap Mexican restaurant for lunch.  Look to the left, step out a little more, look to the right, one more step, look again to the—

“Ho-lee shit!”

From seemingly out of nowhere, a blue sedan came barreling eastbound.  In a span of time lasting no longer than a half-second, I dashed backwards, stumbling as I did so.

“Christ, Nik!” Joanie shouted, then began laughing.

I had no idea what was so funny, but, because when I’ve just had the piss scared out of me, my natural reaction is to laugh, I did, too.

“Way to throw me under the bus!”

I was still clueless & apparently, it showed on my face.

“You pushed yourself back on ME, making me go forward!”  She could barely get the words out, between chuckles.

It dawned on me & the slow-motion memory played itself out in my brain.  I had.  In my rush to safety, I disregarded anything & anyone else.  I had grabbed her arm as a way of catapulting myself away from the car, in effect, shoving her in the line of traffic.  Luckily, her legs had buckled & the car had swerved.

I was embarrassed, disgusted, ashamed.  She insisted that it was no big deal – no harm, no foul – but I couldn’t stop apologizing.

I take great pride in my insistence that I would gladly put myself in danger to save a friend.  It’s who I am.  That’s me.

Or so I thought.

In that split-second of fear of my life, I had disregarded anything else.  I had, in fact, become an arm-flailing ape, with one thing & one thing only of concern: Do. Not. Die.

At the expense of my friend.

As is the case with all of my moments of which I am most ashamed & act out of character, I come back to that second often when considering life or death situations.  Given an instance where a choice could be made in due time, I still believe that I would – no question – take the burden upon myself in order to spare a loved one.  But those gut reaction moments frighten me more in theory than in practice.  Would I really – really – sacrifice myself?  I want so badly to still insist I would.

So it’s easy to understand the justification.  We do it all the time.  I cannot be  held responsible for accidentally pushing my friend into the street.  I was trying to not get myself killed.  I had my hand firmly planted in the wasps’ nest, imminent danger was upon me, & I just – flinched.  Who could blame me?

I could.

I could.

The Shining

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