Книга The Dead Zone. Содержание - CHAPTER TWENTY

“The lesson?”

Roger stood up. “Don't fuck the people over for too long,” he said. “That's the lesson. Adam Clayton Powell found out. Agnew and Nixon did, too. Just… don't fuck the people for too long. “He glanced at his watch. “Come on over to the big house and have a drink, Johnny.

Shelley and I are going out later on, but we've got time for a short one.”

Johnny smiled and got up. “Okay,” he said. “You twisted my arm.



In mid-August, Johnny found himself alone at the Chatsworth estate except for Ngo Phat, who had his own quarters over the garage. The Chatsworth family had closed up the house and had gone to Montreal for three weeks of r amp;r before the new school year and the fall rush at the mills began.

Roger had left Johnny the keys to his wife's Mercedes and he motored up to his dad's house in Pownal, feeling like a potentate. His father's negotiations with Charlene MacKenzie had entered the critical stage, and Herb was no longer bothering to protest that his interest in her was only to make sure that the house didn't fall down on top of her. In fact, he was in full courting plumage and made Johnny a little nervous. After three days of it Johnny went back to the Chatsworth house, caught up on his reading and his correspondence, and soaked up the quiet.

He was sitting on a rubber chair float in the middle of the pool, drinking a Seven-Up and reading the New York Times Book Review, when Ngo came over to the pool's apron, took off his zori, and dipped his feet into the water.

“Ahhhh,” he said. “Much better. “He smiled at Johnny. “Quiet, huh?”

“Very quiet,” Johnny agreed. “How goes the citizenship class, Ngo?”

“Very nice going,” Ngo said. “We are having a field trip on Saturday. First one. Very exciting. The whole class will be tripping.”

“Going,” Johnny said, smiling at an image of Ngo Phat's whole citizenship class freaking on LSD or psilpcybin.

“Pardon?” He raised his eyebrows politely.

“Your whole class will he going.”

“Yes, thanks. We are going to the political speech and rally in Trimbull. We are all thinking how lucky it is to be taking the citizenship class in an election year. It is most instructive.”

“Yes, I'll bet it is. Who are you going to see?”

“Greg Stirrs… “He stopped and pronounced it again, very carefully. “Greg Stillson, who is running independently for a seat in the U. S. House of Representatives.”

“I've heard of him,” Johnny said. “Have you discussed him in class at all, Ngo?”

“Yes, we have had some conversation of this man. Born in 1933. A man of many jobs. He came to New Hampshire in 1964. Our instructor has told us that now he is here long enough so people do not see him as a carpetfogger.”

“Bagger,” Johnny said.

Ngo looked at him with blank politeness.

“The term is carpetbagger.”

“Yes, thanks.”

“Do you find Stillson a bit odd?”

“In America perhaps he is odd,” Ngo said. “In Vietnam there were many like him. People who are… “He sat thinking, swishing his small and delicate feet in the blue-green water of the pool. Then he looked up at Johnny again.

“I do not have the English for what I wish to say. There is a game the people of my land play, it is called the Laughing Tiger. It is old and much loved, like your baseball. One child is dressing up as the tiger, you see. He puts on a skin. And the other children tries to catch him as he runs and dances. The child in the skin laughs, but he is also growling and biting, because that is the game. In my country, before the Communists, many of the village leaders played the Laughing Tiger. I think this Still-son knows that game, too.”

Johnny looked over at Ngo. disturbed.

Ngo did not seem disturbed at all. He smiled. “So we will all go and see for ourselves. After, we are having the picnic foods. I myself am making two pies. I think it will be nice.”

“It sounds great.”

“It will be very great,” Ngo said, getting up. “Afterward, in class, we will talk over all we saw in Trimbull. Maybe we will be writing the compositions. It is much easier to write the compositions, because one can look up the exact word. Le mot juste.

“Yes, sometimes writing can be easier. But I never had a high school comp class that would believe it.”

Ngo smiled. “How does it go with Chuck?”

“He's doing quite well.”

“Yes, he is happy now. Not just pretending. He is a good boy. “He stood up. “Take a rest, Johnny. I'm going to take a nap.”

“All right.”

He watched Ngo walk away, small, slim, and lithe in blue jeans and a faded chambray work shirt.

The child in the skin laughs, but he is also growling and biting, because that is the game… I think this Stillson knows that game, too.

That thread of disquiet again.

The pool chair bobbed gently up and down. The sun beat pleasantly on him. He opened his Book Review again, but the article he had been reading no longer engaged him. He put it down and paddled the little rubber float to the edge of the pool and got out. Trimbull was less than thirty miles away. Maybe he would just hop into Mrs. Chatsworth's Mercedes and drive down this Saturday. See Greg Stillson in person. Enjoy the show. Maybe… maybe shake his hand.

No. No!

But why not? After all, he had more or less made politicians his hobby this election year. What could possibly be so upsetting about going to see one more?

But he was upset, no question about that. His heart was knocking harder and more rapidly than it should have been, and he managed to drop his magazine into the pool. He fished it out with a curse before it was saturated.

Somehow, thinking about Greg Stilison made him think about Frank Dodd.

Utterly ridiculous. He couldn't have any feeling at all about Stillson one way or the other from having just seen him on TV.

Stay away.

Well, maybe he would and maybe he wouldn't. May-be he would go down to Boston this Saturday instead. See a film.

But a strange, heavy feeling of fright had settled on him by the time he got back to the guest house and changed his clothes. In a way the feeling was like an old friend-the sort of old friend you secretly hate. Yes, he would go down to Boston on Saturday. That would be better.

Although he relived that day over and over in the months afterward, Johnny could never remember exactly how or why it was that he ended up in Trimbull after all. He had set out in another direction, planning to go down to Boston and take in the Red Sox at Fenway Park, then maybe go over to Cambridge and nose through the book-shops. If there was enough cash left over (he had sent four hundred dollars of Chatsworth's bonus to his father, who in turn sent it on to Eastern Maine Medical-a gesture tantamount to a spit in the ocean) he planned to go to the Orson Welles Cinema and see that reggae movie, The Harder They Come. A good day's program, and a fine day to implement it; that August 19 had dawned hot and dear and sweet, the distillation of the perfect New England summer's day.

He had let himself into the kitchen of the big house and made three hefty ham-and-cheese sandwiches for lunch, put them in an old-fashioned wicker picnic basket he found in the pantry, and after a little soul-searching, had topped off his haul with a sixpack of Tuborg Beer. At that point he had been feeling fine, absolutely first-rate. No thought of either Greg Stillson or his homemade bodyguard corps of iron horsemen had so much as crossed his mind.

He put the picnic basket on the floor of the Mercedes and drove southeast toward 1-95. All clear enough up to that point. But then other things had begun to creep in. Thoughts of his mother on her deathbed first. His mother's face, twisted into a frozen snarl, the hand on the counterpane hooked into a claw, her voice sounding as if it were coming through a big mouthful of cotton wadding.

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