Carrie Chapter Nine
‘Something like that.’
‘And Tommy went along with it?’ This was the part that most fascinated her.
‘Yea,’ Sue said, and did not elaborate. After a pause: ‘I suppose the other kids think I’m stuck up.’
Helen thought it over. ‘Well … they’re all talking about it. But most of them still think you’re okay. Like you said, you make your own decisions. There is, however, a small dissenting faction.’ She snickered dolefully.
‘The Chris Hargensen people?’
‘And the Billy Nolan people. God, he’s scuzzy.’
‘She doesn’t like me much?’ Sue said, making it a question.
‘Susie, she hates your guts.’
Susan nodded, surprised to find the thought both distressed and excited her.
‘I heard her father was going to sue the school department and then he changed his mind,’ she said.
Helen shrugged. ‘She hasn’t made any friends out of this,’ she said. ??I don’t know what got into us, any of us. It makes me feel like I don’t even know my own mind.’
They worked on in silence. Across the room, Don Barrett was putting up an extension ladder preparatory to gilding the overhead steel beams with crepe paper.
‘Look,’ Helen said. ‘There goes Chris now.’
Susan looked up just in time to see her walking into the cubby-hole office to the left of the gym entrance. She was wearing wine-coloured velvet hot pants and a silky white blouse – no bra, from the way things were jiggling up front – a dirty old man’s dream, Sue thought sourly, and then wondered what Chris could want in where the Prom Committee had set up shop. Of course Tina Blake was on the Committee and the two of them were thicker than thieves.
Stop it, she scolded herself. Do you want her in sackcloth and ashes?
Yes, she admitted. A part of her wanted just that.
‘Are they going to do something?’
Helen’s face took on an unwilling masklike quality. ‘I don’t know.’ The voice was light, over innocent.
‘Oh,’ Sue said noncommittally.
(you know you know something: accept something goddammit if its only yourself tell me)
They continued to colour, and neither spoke. She knew it wasn’t as all right as Helen had said. It couldn’t be; she would never be quite the same golden girl again in the eyes of her mates. She had done an ungovernable, dangerous thing – she had broken cover and shown her face.
The late afternoon sunlight, warm as oil and sweet as childhood, slanted through the high, bright gymnasium windows.
From My Name Is Susan Snell (p. 40).
I can understand some of what must have led up to the prom. Awful as it was, I can understand how someone like Billy Nolan could go along, for instance. Chris Hargensen led him by the nose-at least, most of the time.
His friends were just as easily led by Billy himself. Kenny Garson, who dropped out of high school when he was eighteen, had a tested third-grade reading level. In the clinical sense, Steve Deighan was little more than an idiot. Some of the others had police records; one of them, Jackie Talbot, was first busted at the age of nine, for stealing hubcaps. If you’ve got a social-worker mentality, you can even regard these people as unfortunate victims.
But what can you say for Chris Hargensen herself?
It seems to me that from first to last, her one and only object in view was the complete and total destruction of Carrie White …
‘I’m not supposed to,’ Tina Blake said uneasily. She was a small, pretty girl with a billow of red hair. A pencil was pushed importantly in it. ‘And if Norma comes back, she’ll spill.’
‘She’s in the crapper,’ Chris said. ‘Come on.’
Tina, a little shocked, giggled in spite of herself. Still, she offered token resistance: ‘Why do you want to see, anyway? You can’t go.’
‘Never mind,’ Chris said. As always, she seemed to bubble with dark humour.
‘Here,’ Tina said, and pushed a sheet enclosed in limp plastic across the desk. ‘I’m going out for a Coke. If that bitchy Norma Watson comes back and catches you I never saw you.’
‘Okay,’ Chris murmured, already absorbed in the floor plan. She didn’t hear the door close.
George Chizmar had also done the floor plan, so it was perfect. The dance floor was clearly marked. Twin bandstands. The stage where the King and Queen would be crowned
(i’d like to crown that fucking snell bitch carrie too)
at the end of the evening. Ranged along the three sides of the floor were the prom-goers’ tables. Card tables, actually, but covered with a froth of crepe and ribbon, each holding party favours, prom programmes, and ballots for King and Queen.
She ran a lacquered, spade-shaped fingernail down the tables to the right of the dance floor, then the left. There: Tommy R. & Carrie W. They were really going through with it. She could hardly believe it. Outrage made her tremble. Did they really think they would be allowed to get away with it? Her lips tautened grimly.
She looked over her shoulder. Norma Watson was still nowhere in sight.
Chris put the seating chart back and rifled quickly through the rest of the papers on the pitted and initialwarred desk. Invoices (mostly for crepe paper and hapenny nails), a list of parents who had loaned card tables, petty-cash vouchers, a bill from Star Printers, who had run off the prom tickets, a sample King and Queen ballot
Ballot! She snatched it up.
No one was supposed to see the actual King and Queen ballot until Friday, when the whole student body would hear the candidates announced over the school’s intercom. The King and Queen would be voted in by those attending the prom, but blank nomination ballots had been circulated to home rooms almost a month earlier. The results were supposed to be top secret.
There was a gaining student move afoot to do away with the King and Queen business all together – some of the girls claimed it was sexist, the boys thought it was just plain stupid and a little embarrassing. Chances were good that this would be the last year the dance would be so formal or traditional.
But for Chris, this was the only year that counted. She stared at the ballot with greedy intensity.
George and Frieda. No way. Frieda Jason was a Jew.
Peter and Myra. No way here, either. Myra was one of the female clique dedicated to erasing the whole horse race. She wouldn’t serve even if elected. Besides, she was about as good-looking as the ass end of old drayhorse Ethel.
Frank and Jessica. Quite possible. Frank Grier had made the All New England football team this year, but Jessica was another little sparrowfart with more pimples than brains.
Don and Helen. Forget it. Helen Shyres couldn’t get elected dog catcher.
And the last pairing. Tommy and Sue. Only Sue, of course, had been crossed out, and Carrie’s name had been written in. There was a pairing to conjure with! A kind of strange, shuffling laughter came over her, and she clapped a hand over her mouth to hold it in.
Tina scurried back in. ‘Jesus, Chris, you still here? She’s coming!’
‘Don’t sweat it, doll,’ Chris said, and put the papers back on the desk. She was still grinning as she walked out, pausing to raise a mocking hand to Sue Snell, who was slaying her skinny butt off on that stupid mural.
In the outer hall, she fumbled a dime from her bag, dropped it into the pay phone, and called Billy Nolan.
From The Shadow Exploded (pp. 100- 10 1):
One wonders just how much planning went into the ruination of Carrie White – was it a carefully made plan, rehearsed and gone over many times, or just something that happened in a bumbling sort of way?
… I favour the latter idea. I suspect that Christine Hargensen was the brains of the allair, but that she herself had only the most nebulous of ideas on how one might ‘get’ a girl like Carrie. I rather suspect it was she who suggested that William Nolan and his friends make the trip to Irwin Henty’s farm in North Chamberlain. The thought of that trip’s imagined result would have appealed to a warped sense of poetic justice, I am sure. ..
The car screamed up the rutted Stack End Road in North Chamberlain at a sixty-five that was dangerous to life and limb on the washboard unpaved hardpan. A low-hanging branch, lush with May leaves, occasionally scraped the roof of the ’61 Biscayne, which was fender-dented, rusted out, jacked in the back, and equipped with dual glasspack mufflers. One headlight was out; the other flickered in the midnight dark when the car struck a particularly rough bump.
Billy Nolan was at the pink fuzz-covered wheel. Jackie Talbot, Henry Blake, Steve Deighan, and the Garson brothers, Kenny and Lou, were also squeezed in. Three joints were going, passing through the inner dark like the lambent eyes of some rotating Cerberus.
‘You sure Henty ain’t around?’ Henry asked. ‘I got no urge to go back up, ole Sweet William. They feed you shit.’
Kenny Garson, who was wrecked to the fifth power found this unutterably funny and emitted a slipstream of high-pitched giggles.
‘He aint around,’ Billy said. Even those few words seemed to slip out grudgingly, against his win. ‘Funeral.’
Chris had found this out accidentally. Old man Henty ran one of the few successful independent farms in the Chamberlain area. Unlike the crotchety old farmer with a heart of gold that is one of the staples of pastoral literature, old man Henty was as mean as cat dirt. He did not load his shotgun with rock salt at apple time, but with birdshot. He had also prosecuted several fellows for pilferage. One of them had been a friend of these boys, a luckless bastard named Freddy Overlock. Freddy had been caught red-handed in old man Henty’s henhouse, and had received a double dose of number-six bird where the good Lord had split him. Good ole Fred had spent four raving, cursing hours on his belly in an Emergency Wing examining room while a jovial interne picked tiny pellets off his butt and dropped them into a steel pan. To add insult to injury, he had been fined two hundred dollars for larceny and trespass. There was no love lost between Irwin Henty and the Chamberlain greaser squad.
‘What about Red?’ Steve asked.
‘He’s trying to get into some new waitress at The Cavalier,’ Billy said, swinging the wheel and puffing the Biscayne through a juddering racing drift and on to the Henty Road. Red Trelawney was old man Henty’s hired hand. He was a heavy drinker and just as handy with the bird-shot as his employer. ‘He won’t be back until they close up.’
‘Hell of a risk for a joke,’ Jackie Talbot grumbled.
Billy stiffened. ‘You want out?’
‘No, uh-uh,’ Jackie said hastily. Billy had produced an ounce of good grass to split among the five of them – and besides, it was nine miles back to town. ‘It’s a good joke, Billy.’
Kenny opened the glove compartment, took out an ornate scrolled roach clip (Chris’s), and fixed the smouldering butt-end of a joint in it This operation struck him as highly amusing, and he let out his highpitched giggle again.
Now they were flashing past No Tresspassing signs on either side of the road, barbed wire, newly turned fields. The smell of fresh earth was heavy and gravid and sweet on the warm May air.
Billy popped the headlights off as they breasted the next hill, dropped the gearshift into neutral and killed the ignition. They rolled, a silent hulk of metal, toward the Henty driveway.
Billy negotiated the turn with no trouble, and most of their speed bled away as they breasted another small rise and passed the dark and empty house. Now they could see the huge bulk of barn and beyond it, moonlight glittering dreamily on the cow pond and the apple orchard.
In the pigpen, two sows poked their flat snouts through the bars. In the bar, one cow lowed softly, perhaps in sleep.
Billy stopped the car with the emergency brake – not really necessary since the ignition was off, but it was a nice Commando touch – and they got out.
Lou Garson reached past Kenny and got something out of the glove compartment. Billy and Henry went around to the trunk and opened it.
‘The bastard is going to shit where he stands when he comes back and gets a look,’ Steve said with soft glee.
‘For Freddy,’ Henry said, taking the hammer out of the trunk.
Billy said nothing, but of course it was not for Freddy Overlock, who was an asshole. It was for Chris Hargensen, just as everything was for Chris, and had been since the day she swept down from her lofty collegecourse Olympus and made herself vulnerable to him He would have done murder for her, and more.
Henry was swinging the nine-pound sledge experimentally in one hand. The heavy block of its business end made a portentous swishing noise in the night air, and the other boys gathered around as Billy opened the lid of the ice chest and took out the two galvanized steel pads. They were numbingly cold to the touch, lightly traced with frost
‘Okay,’ he said.
The six of them walked quickly to the hogpen, their respiration shortening with excitement. The two sows were both as tame as tabbies, and the old boar lay asleep on his side at the far end. Henry swung the sledge once more through the air, but this time with no conviction. He handed it to Billy.
‘I can’t,’ he said sickly. ‘You.’
Billy took it and looked questioningly at Lou, who held the broad butcher knife he had taken from the glove compartment.
‘Don’t worry,’ he said, and touched the ball of his thumb to the honed edge.
‘The throat,’ Billy reminded.
Kenny was crooning and grinning as he fed the remains of a crumpled bag of potato chips to the pigs. ‘Doan worry, piggies, doan worry, big Bills gonna bash your fuckin heads in and you woan have to worry about the bomb any more.’ He scratched their bristly chins, and the pigs grunted and munched contentedly.
‘Here it comes,’ Billy remarked, and the sledge flashed down.
There was a sound that reminded him of the time he and Henry had dropped a pumpkin off Claridge Road overpass, which crossed 495 west of town. One of the sows dropped dead with its tongue protruding, eyes still open, potato chip crumbs around its snout
Kenny giggled. ‘She didn’t even have time to burp.’
‘Do it quick, Lou,’ Billy said.
Kenny’s brother slid between the slates, lifted the pig’s head toward the moon-the glazing eyes regarded the crescent with rapt blackness – and slashed.
The flow of blood was immediate and startling. Several of the boys were splattered and jumped back with little cries of disgust.
Billy leaned through and put one of the buckets under the main flow. The pail filled up rapidly, and he set it aside. The second was half full when the flow trickled and died.
‘The other one,’ he said.
‘Jesus, Billy,’ Jackie whined. ‘Isn’t that en-‘
‘The other one,’ Billy repeated.
‘Soo-ee, pig-pig-pig,’ Kenny called, grinning and rattling the empty potato-chip bag. After a pause, the sow returned to the fence, the sledge flashed, the second bucket was filled and the remainder of the blood allowed to flow into the ground. A rank, coppery smell hung on the air. Billy found he was slimed in pig blood to the forearms.
Carrying the pails back to the trunk, his mind made a dim, symbolic connection. Pig blood. That was good. Chris was right. It was really good. It made everything solidify.
Pig blood for a pig.
He nestled the galvanized steel pails into the crushed ice and slammed the lid of the chest. ‘Let’s go,’ he said.
Billy got behind the wheel and released the emergency brake. The five boys got behind, put their shoulders into it, and the car turned in a tight, noiseless circle and trundled up past the barn to the crest of the hill across from Henty’s house.
When the car began to roll on its own, they trotted up beside the doors and climbed in panting.
The car gained speed enough to slew a little as Billy whipped it out of the long driveway and on to the Henty Road. At the bottom of the hill he dropped the transmission into third and popped the clutch. The engine hitched and grunted into life.
Pig blood for a pig. Yes, that was good, all right. That was really good. He smiled, and Lou Garson felt a start of surprise and fear. He was not sure he could recall ever having seen Billy Nolan smile before. There had not even been rumours.
‘Whose funeral did ole man Henty go to?’ Steve asked.
‘His mother’s,’ Billy said.
‘His mother?’ Jackie Talbot said, stunned. ‘Jesus Christ, she musta been older’n God.’
Kenny’s high-pitched cackle drifted back on the redolent darkness that trembled at the edge of summer.