Книга The Dead Zone. Содержание - CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

“Serve my ass, you cheap bastards,” Johnny said. He fell on his knees and began to gather up the letters, sweeping them together with his mittens. His fingers ached dully, a reminder of the frostbite, a reminder of Frank Dodd riding a dead toilet seat into eternity, blood in his all-American blond hair. I CONFESS.

He swept the letters up and heard himself muttering over and over, like a defective record: “Killing me, you people are killing me, let me alone, can't you see you're killing me?”

He made himself stop. This was no way to behave. Life would go on. One way or another, life would most certainly go on.

Johnny started back to the house, wondering what he could do now. Perhaps something would come along. At any rate, he had fulfilled his mother's prophecy. If God had had a mission for him, then he had done it. No matter now that it had been a kamikaze mission, He had done it.

He was quits.


The Laughing Tiger



The boy read slowly, following the words with his finger, his long brown football-player's legs stretched out on the chaise by the pool in the bright clear light of June.

“Of course young Danny Ju… Juniper… young Danny Juniper was dead, and I…… suppose that there were few in the world who would say he had not de duh. -. dee…” Oh, shit, I don't know.”

“Few in the world who would say he had not deserved his death,"” Johnny Smith said. “Only a slightly fancier way of saying that most would agree that Danny's death was a good thing.”

Chuck was looking at him, and the familiar mix of emotions was crossing his usually pleasant face: amusement, resentment, embarrassment, and a trace of sullenness. Then he sighed and looked down at the Max Brand Western again.

“Deserved his death. But it was my great trah… truhjud… “

“Tragedy,” Johnny supplied.

“But it was my great tragedy that he had died just as he was about to redeem some of his e-e-evil work by one great service to the world.

“Of course that……… that…… sih

Chuck closed the book, looked up at Johnny, and smiled brilliantly.

“Let's quit for the day, Johnny, what do you say?” Chuck's smile was his most winning, the one that had probably tumbled cheerleaders into bed all over New Hampshire. “Doesn't that pool look good? You bet it does. The sweat is running right off your skinny, malnourished little bod.”

Johnny had to admit-at least to himself-that the pool did look good. The first couple of weeks of the Bicentennial Summer of “76 had been uncommonly hot and sticky”. From behind them, around on the other side of the big, gracious white house, came the soporific drone of the riding lawnmower as Ngo Phat, the Vietnamese groundsman, mowed what Chuck called the front forty. It was a sound that made you want to drink two glasses of cold lemonade and then nod off to sleep.

“No derogatory comments about my skinny bod,” he said. “Besides, we just started the chapter.”

“Sure, but we read two before it. “Wheedling.

Johnny sighed. Usually he could keep Chuck at it, but not this afternoon. And today the kid had fought his way gamely through the way John Sherburne had set up his net of guards around the Amity jail and the way the evil Red Hawk had broken through and killed Danny Juniper.

“Yeah, well, just finish this page, then,” he said. “That word you're stuck on's “sickened”. No teeth in that one, Chuck.”

“Good man!” The grin widened. “And no questions, right?”

“Well… maybe just a few.”

Chuck scowled, but it was a puton; he was getting off easy and knew it. He opened the paperback with the picture of the gunslinger shouldering his way through a set of saloon batwings again and began to read in his slow, halting voice… a voice so different from his normal speaking voice that it could have belonged to a different young man altogether.

“Of course that suh… sickened me at” once. But it was… was nothing to what waited for me at the bedside of poor Tom Keyn… Kenyon.

“'He had been shot through the body and he was fast drying when I… “

“Dying,” Johnny said quietly. “Context, Chuck. Read for context.

“Fast drying,” Chuck said, and giggled. Then he resumed “… and he was fast dying when I ar-ar when I arrived. "”

Johnny felt a sadness for Chuck steal over him as he watched the boy, hunched over the paperback copy of Fire” Brain, a good oat opera that should have read like the wind-and instead, here was Chuck, following Max Brand's simple point-to-point prose with a laboriously moving finger. His father, Roger Chatsworth, owned Chatsworth Mills and Weaving, a very big deal indeed in southern New Hampshire. He owned this sixteen-room house in Durham, and there were five people on the staff, including Ngo Phat, who went down to Portsmouth once a week to take United States citizenship classes. Chatsworth drove a restored 1957 Cadillac convertible. His wife, a sweet, clear-eyed woman of forty-two, drove a Mercedes. Chuck had a Corvette. The family fortune was in the neighborhood of five million dollars.

And Chuck, at seventeen, was what God had really meant when he breathed life into the clay, Johnny often thought. He was a physically lovely human being. He stood six-two and weighed a good muscular one hundred and ninety pounds. His face was perhaps not quite interesting enough to be truly handsome, but it was acneand pimple-free and set off by a pair of striking green eyes which had caused Johnny to think that the only other person he knew with really green eyes was Sarah Hazlett. At his high school, Chuck was the apotheosis of the BMOC, almost ridiculously so. He was captain of the baseball and football teams, president of the junior class during the school year just ended, and president-elect of the student council this coming fall. And most amazing of all, none of it had gone to his head. In the words of Herb Smith, who had been down once to check out Johnny's new digs, Chuck was “a regular guy”. Herb had no higher accolade in his vocabulary. In addition, he was someday going to be an exceedingly rich regular guy.

And here he sat, bent grimly over his book like a machine gunner at a lonely outpost, shooting the words down one by one as they came at him. He had taken Max Brand's exciting, fast-moving story of drifting John “Fire Brain” Sherburne and his confrontation with the outlaw Comanche Red Hawk and had turned it into something that sounded every bit as exciting as a trade advertisement for semiconductors or radio components.

But Chuck wasn't stupid. His math grades were good, his retentive memory was excellent, and he was manually adept. His problem was that he had great difficulty storing printed words. His oral vocabulary was fine, and he could grasp the theory of phonics but apparently not it-practice; and he would sometimes reel a sentence off flawlessly and then come up totally blank when you asked him to rephrase it. His father had been afraid that Chuck was dyslexic, but Johnny didn't think so-he had never met a dyslexic child that he was aware of, although many parents seized on the words to explain or excuse the reading problems of their children. Chuck's problem seemed more general-a loose, across-the-board reading phobia.

It was a problem that had become more and more apparent over the last five years of Chuck's schooling, but his parents had only begun to take it seriously-as Chuck had-when his sports eligibility became endangered. And that was not the worst of it. This winter would be Chuck's last good chance to take the Scholastic Achievement Tests, if he expected to start college in the fall of 1977. The maths were not much of a problem, but the rest of the exam… well… if he could have the questions read aloud to him, he would do an average-to-good job. Five hundreds, no sweat. But they don't let you bring a reader with you when you take the SATs, not even if your dad is a biggie in the world of New Hampshire business.

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