Carrie Chapter Seven
‘Wait Just wait. Let me talk. You want me to ask Carrie White to the Spring Ball. Okay, I got that. But there’s a couple of things I don’t understand.’
`Name them.’ She leaned forward.
‘First, what good would it do? And second, what makes YOU think shed say yes if I asked her?’
‘Not say yes! Why – ‘ She floundered. ‘You’re … everybody likes you and-‘
‘We both know Carrie’s got no reason to care much for people that everybody likes.’
‘She’d go with you.’
Pressed, she looked defiant and proud at the same time. ‘I’ve seen the way she looks at you. She’s got a crush. Like half the girls at Ewen.’
He rolled his eyes.
‘Well, I’m just telling you,’ Sue said defensively. ‘She won’t be able to say no.’
‘Suppose I believe you,’ he said. ‘What about the other thing?’
‘You mean what good will it do? Why it’ll, bring her out of her shell, of course. Make her…’ She trailed off
‘A part of things? Come on, Suze. You don’t believe that bullshit.’
‘All right,’ she said. ‘Maybe I don’t. But maybe I still think I’ve got something to make up for.’
‘The shower room?’
‘A lot more than that. Maybe if that was all I could let it go, but the mean tricks have been going on ever since grammar school. I wasn’t in on many of them, but I was on some. If I’d been in Chris’s group, I bet I would have been in on even more. It seemed like. . oh, a big laugh. Girls can be cat-mean about that sort of thing, and boys don’t really understand. The boys would tease Carrie for a little while and then forget, but the girls … it went on and on and on and I can’t even remember where it started any more. If I were Carrie, I couldn’t even face showing myself to the world. I’d just find a big rock and hide under it.’
‘You were kids,’ he said. ‘Kids don’t know what they’re doing. Kids don’t even know their reactions really, actually, hurt other people. They have no, uh, empathy. Dig?’
She found herself struggling to express the thought this called up in her, for it suddenly seemed basic, bulking over the shower-room incident the way sky bulks over mountains.
‘But hardly anybody ever finds out that their actions really, actually hurt other people! People don’t get better, they just get smarter. When you get smarter you don’t stop pulling the wings off flies you just think of better reasons for doing it. Lots of kids say they feel sorry for Carrie White-mostly girls, and that’s a laugh-but I bet none of them understand what it’s like to be Carrie White, every second of every day. And they don’t really care.’
‘I don’t know!’ she cried. ‘But someone ought to try and be sorry in a way that counts … in a way that means something.’.
‘All right. I’ll ask her.’
‘You will?’ The statement came out in a flat, surprised way. She had not thought he actually would.
‘Yea. But I think she’ll say no. You’ve overestimated my box-office appeal. That popularity stuff is bullshit. You’ve got a bee in your bonnet about that.’
‘Thank you,’ she said, and it sounded odd, as if she had thanked an Inquisitor for torture.
‘I love you,’ he said.
She looked at him, startled. It was the first time he had said it.
From My Name is Susan Snell (p. 6):
There are lots of people-mostly men-who aren’t surprised that I asked Tommy to take Carrie to the Spring Ball. They are surprised that he did it, though, which shows you that the male mind expects very little in the way of altruism from its fellows.
Tommy took her because he loved me and because it was what I wanted. How, asks the sceptic from the balcony, did you know he loved you? Because he told me so, mister. And if you’d known him, that would have been good enough for you, too …
He asked her on Thursday, after lunch, and found himself as nervous as a kid going to his first ice-cream party.
She sat four rows over from him in Period Five study hall, and when it was over he cut across to her through the mass of rushing bodies. At the teacher’s desk Mr Stephens, a tall man just beginning to run to fat, was folding papers abstractedly back into his ratty brown briefcase.
She looked up from her books with a startled wince, as if expecting a blow. The day was overcast and the bank of fluorescents embedded in the ceiling was not particularly kind to her pale complexion. But he saw for the first time (because it was the first time he had really looked) that she was far from repulsive. Her face was round rather than oval, and the eyes were so dark that they seemed to cast shadows beneath them, like bruises. Her hair was darkish blonde, slightly wiry, pulled back in a bun that was not becoming to her. The lips were full, almost lush, the teeth naturally white. Her body, for the most part, was indeterminate. A baggy sweater concealed her breasts except for token nubs. The skirt was colourful but awful all the same: It fell to a 1958 midshin hem in an odd and clumsy A-line. The calves were strong and rounded (the attempt to conceal these with heathery knee-socks was bizarre but unsuccessful) and handsome.
She was looking up with an expression that was slightly fearful, slightly something else. He was quite sure he knew what the something else was. Sue had been right, and being right, he had just time to wonder if this was doing a kindness or making things even worse.
‘If you don’t have a date for the Ball, would you want to go with me?’
Now she blinked, and as she did so, a strange thing happened. The time it took to happen could have been no more than the doorway to a second, but afterwards he had no trouble recalling it, as one does with dreams or the sensation of deja vu. He felt a dizziness as if his mind was no longer controlling. his body – the miserable, out-of-control feeling he associated with drinking too much and then coming to the vomiting point.
Then it was gone.
She wasn’t angry, at least. He had expected a brief gust of rage and then a sweeping retreat. But she wasn’t angry; she seemed unable to cope with what he had said at all. They were alone in the study hall now, perfectly between the ebb of old students and the flow of new ones.
‘The Spring Ball,’ he said, a little shaken. ‘It’s next Friday and I know this is late notice but-?
‘I don’t like to be tricked,’ she said softly, and lowered her head. She hesitated for just a second, and then passed him by. She stopped and turned and he suddenly saw dignity in her, something so natural that he doubted if she was even aware of it. ‘Do You People think you can just go on tricking me forever? I know who you go around with.’
‘I don’t go around with anyone I don’t want to,?? Tommy said patiently. ‘I’m asking you because I want to ask you.’ Ultimately, he knew this to be the truth. If Sue was making a gesture of atonement, she was doing it only at secondhand.
The Period Six students were coming in now, and some of them were looking over curiously. Dale Ullman said something to a boy Tommy didn’t know and both of them snickered.
‘Come on,’ Tommy said. They walked out into the hall.
They were halfway to Wing Four – his class was the other way – walking together but perhaps only by accident, when she said, almost too quietly to hear: ‘I’d love to. Love to.’
He was perceptive enough to know it was not an acceptance, and again doubt assailed him. Still, it was started. ‘Do it, then. It will be all right. For both of us. We’ll see to it.’
‘No,’ she said, and in her sudden pensiveness she could have been mistaken for beautiful. ‘It will be a nightmare.’
‘I don’t have tickets,’ he said, as if he hadn’t heard. ‘This is the last day they sell them.’
‘Hey, Tommy, you’re going the wrong way!’ Brent Gillian yelled.
She stopped. ‘You’re going to be late.’
‘Your class,’ she said distraught. ‘Your class. The bell is going to ring.’
‘Yes,’ she said with angry helplessness. ‘You knew I would.’ She swiped at her eyes with the back of her hand.
‘No,’ he said. ‘But now I do. I’ll pick you up at seventhirty.’
‘Fine,’ she whispered. `Thank you.’ She looked as if she might swoon.
And then, more uncertain than ever, he touched her hand.
From The Shadow Exploded (pp. 74-76):
Probably no other aspect of the Carrie White affair had been so misunderstood, second-guessed, and shrouded in mystery as the part played by Thomas Everett Ross, Carrie’s ill-starred escort to the Ewen High School Spring Ball.
Morton Cratzchbarken, in an admittedly sensationalized address to The National Colloquium on Psychic Phenomena last year, said that the two most stunning events of the twentieth century have been the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 and the destruction that came to Chamberlain, Maine, in May of 1979. Cratzchbarken points out that both events were driven home to the citizenry by mass media, and both events have almost shouted the frightening fact that, while something had ended, something else had been irrevocably set in motion, for good or ill. If the comparison can be made, then Thomas Ross played the part of Lee Harvey Oswald – trigger man in a catastrophe. The question that still remains is: Did he do so wittingly or unwittingly?
Susan Snell, by her own admission, was to have been escorted by Ross to the annual event. She claims that she suggested Ross take Carrie to make up for her part in the shower-room incident. Those who oppose this story, most lately led by George Jerome of Harvard, claim that this is either a highly romantic distortion or an outright lie. Jerome argues with great force and eloquence that it is hardly typical of high-school-age adolescents to feel that they have to ‘atone’ for anything – particularly for an offence against a peer who has been ostracized from existing cliques.
‘It would be uplifting if we could believe that adolescent human nature is capable of salvaging the pride and self image of the low bird in the pecking order with such a gesture,’ Jerome has said in a recent issue of The Atlantic Monthly, ‘but we know better. The low bird is not picked tenderly out of the dust by its fellows; rather, it is despatched quickly and without mercy.’
Jerome, of course, is absolutely right-about birds, at any rate – and his eloquence is undoubtedly responsible in large part for the advancement of the ‘practical joker’ theory, which The White Commission approached but did not actually state. This theory hypothesizes that Ross and Christine Hargensen (see pp. 10-18) were at the centre of a loose conspiracy to get Carrie White to the Spring Ball, and, once there, complete her humiliation. Some theorists (mostly crime writers) also claim that Sue Snell was an active part of this conspiracy. This casts the mysterious Mr Ross in the worst possible light, that of a practical joker deliberately manoeuvring an unstable girl into an situation of extreme stress.
The author doesn’t believe that likely in fight of Mr Ross’s character. This is a facet which has remained largely unexplored by his detractors, who have painted him as a rather dull clique-centred athlete; the phrase ‘dumb jock’ expresses this view of Tommy Ross perfectly.
It is true that Ross was an athlete of above-average ability. His best sport was baseball, and he was a member of the Ewen varsity squad from his Sophomore year. Dick O’Connell, general manager of the Boston Red Sox, has indicated that Ross would have been offered a fairly large bonus for signing a contract, had he lived.
But Ross was also a straight-A student (hardly fitting the ‘dumb-jock’ image), and his parents have both said that he had decided pro baseball would have to wait until he had finished college, where he planned to study for an English degree. His interests including writing poetry, and a poem written six months prior to his death was published in an established ‘little magazine’ called Everleaf. This is available in Appendix V.
His surviving classmates also give him high marks, and this is significant. There were only twelve survivors of what has become known in the popular press as Prom Night. Those who were not in attendance were largely the unpopular members of the Junior and Senior classes. If these ‘outs’ remember Ross as a friendly, goodnatured fellow (many referred to him as ‘a hell of a good shit’), does not Professor Jerome’s thesis suffer accordingly’
Ross’s school records – which cannot, according to state law, be photostated here – when taken with class mates’ recollections and the comments of relatives, neighbours, and teachers, form a picture of an extraordinary young man. This is a fact that jells very badly with Professor Jerome’s picture of a peer-worshipping, sly young tough. He apparently had a high enough tolerance to verbal abuse and enough independence from his peer group to ask Carrie in the first place. In fact, Thomas Ross appears to have been something of a rarity – a socially conscious young man.
No case will be made here for his sainthood. There is none to be made. But intensive research has satisfied me that neither was he a human chicken in a public-school barnyard, joining mindlessly in the ruin of a weaker hen …
(i am not afraid not afraid of her)
on her bed with an arm thrown over her eyes. It was Saturday night. If she was to make the dress she had in mind, she would have to start tomorrow at the
(i’m not afraid momma)
latest. She had already bought the material at John’s in Westover. The heavy, crumpled velvet richness of it frightened her. The price had also frightened her, and she had been intimidated by the size of the place, the chic ladies wandering here and here in their light spring dresses, examining bolts of cloth. There was an echoing strangeness in the atmosphere and it was worlds from the Chamberlain Woolworth’s where she usually bought her material.
She was intimidated but not stopped. Bemuse, if she wanted to, she could send them all screaming into the streets. Mannequins toppling over, light fixtures failing, bolts of cloth shooting through the air in unwinding shelters. Like Samson in the temple, she could rain destruction on their heads if she so desired.
(i am not afraid)
The package was now hidden on a dry shelf in the cellar, and she was going to bring it up. Tonight.
She opened her eyes.
The bureau rose into the air, trembled for a moment and then rose until it nearly touched the ceiling. She lowered it. Lifted it. Lowered it. Now the bed, complete with her weight. Up. Down. Up. Down. Just like an elevator.
She was hardly tired at all. Well, a little. Not much. The ability, almost lost two weeks ago, was in full flower. It had progressed at a speed that was
Well, almost terrifying.
And now, seemingly unbidden – like the knowledge of menstruation – a score of memories had come, as if some mental dam had been knocked down so that strange waters could gush forth. They were cloudy, distorted little-girl memories, but very real for all that. Making the pictures dance on the walls; turning on the water faucets from across the room; Momma asking her
(carrie shut the windows it’s going to rain)
to do something and windows suddenly banging down all over the house; giving Miss Macaferty four flat tyres all at once by unscrewing the valves in the tyres of her Volkswagen; the stones
(!!!!! no no no no no !!!!!!)
-but now there was no denying the memory, no more than there could be a denying of the monthly flow, and that memory was not cloudy, no, not that one; it was harsh and brilliant, like jagged strokes of lightning: the little girl
(momma stop momma can’t i can’t breathe o my throat o momma i’m sorry i looked momma o my tongue blood in my mouth)
the poor little girl
(screaming: little slut o i know how it is with you i see what has to be done)
the poor little girl lying half in the closet and half out of it, swing black stars dancing in front of everything, a sweet, faraway buzzing, swollen tongue lolling between her lips, throat circled with a bracelet of puffed, abraded flesh where Momma had throttled her and then Momma coming back, coming for her, Momma holding Daddy Ralph’s long butcher knife
(cut it out i have to cut out the evil the nastiness sins of the flesh o i know about that the eyes cut out your eyes)
in her right hand, Momma’s face twisted and working, drool on her thin, holding Daddy Ralph’s Bible in her other hand
(you’ll never look at that naked wickedness again)
and something flexed, not flex but FLEX, something huge and unformed and titanic, a wellspring of power that was not hers now and never would be again and then something fell on the roof and Momma screamed and dropped Daddy Ralph’s Bible and that was good, and then more bumps and thumps and then the house began to throw its furnishings around and Momma dropped the knife and got on her knees and began to pray, holding up her hands and swaying on her knees while chairs whistled down the hall and the beds upstairs fell over and the dining room table tried to jam itself through a window and then momma’s eyes growing huge and crazed, bulging, her finger pointing at the little girl
(it’s you it’s you devilspawn witch imp of the devil it’s you doing it)
and then the stones and Momma had fainted as their roof cracked and thumped as if with the footfalls of God and then…
Then she had fainted herself. And after that there were no more memories. Momma did not speak of it. The butcher knife was back in its drawer. Momma dressed the huge black and blue bruises on her neck and Carrie thought she could remember asking Momma how she had gotten them and Momma tightening her lips and saying nothing. Little by little it was forgotten. The eye of memory opened only in dreams. The pictures no longer danced on the walls. The windows did not shut themselves. Carrie did not remember a time when things had been different. Not until now.