Carrie Chapter Thirteen
She had done it; that was enough; she was satisfied.
(maybe he’ll fall in love with her)
She looked up as if someone had spoken from the hallway, a startled smile curving her lips. That would be a fairy-tale ending, all right. The Prince bends over the Sleeping Beauty, touches his lips to hers.
Sue, I don’t know how to tell you this but
The smile faded.
Her period was late. Almost a week late. And she had always been as regular as an almanac.
The record changer clicked; another record dropped down. In the sudden, brief silence, she heard something within her turn over. Perhaps only her soul.
It was nine-fifteen.
Billy drove to the far end of the parking lot and pulled into a stall that faced the asphalt ramp leading to the highway. Chris started to get out and he jerked her back. His eyes glowed ferally in the dark.
‘What?’ she said with angry nervousness.
‘They use a P.A. system to announce the King and Queen,’ he said. Then one of the bands will play the school song. That means they’re sitting there in those thrones, on target.’
‘I know all that. Let go of me. You’re hurting.’
He squeezed her wrist tighter still and felt small bones grind. It gave him a grim pleasure. Still, she didn’t cry out She was pretty good.
‘You listen to me. I want you to know what you’re getting into. Pull the rope when the song is playing. Pull it hard. There will be a little slack between the pulleys, but not much. When you pull it and feel those buckets go, run. You don’t stick around to hear the screams or anything else. This is out of the cute-little-joke league. This is criminal assault, you know? They don’t fine you. They put you in jail and throw the key over their shoulder.’
It was an enormous speech for him.
Her eyes only glared at him, full of defiant anger.
‘All right. When the-buckets go, I’m going to run. When I get to the car, I’m going to drive away. If you’re there, you can come. If youre not, I’ll leave you. If I leave you and you spill your guts, I’ll kill you. Do you believe me’
‘Yes. Take your fucking hand off me.’
He did. An unwilling shadow-grin touched his face. May. ‘It’s going to be good.’
They got out of the car.
It was almost nine-thirty.
Vic Mooney, President of the Senior Class, was calling jovially into the mike.. ‘All right, ladies and gennelmen. Take your seats, please. Ifs time for the voting. We’re going to vote for the King and Queen.’
‘This contest insults women!’ Myra Crewes called with uneasy good nature.
‘It insults men, too!’ George Dawson called back, and there was general laughter. Myra was silent. She had made her token protest.
‘take your seats, please!’ Vic was smiling into the mike, and blushing furiously, fingering a pimple on his chin. The huge Venetian boatman behind him looked dreamily over Vic’s shoulder. ‘Time to vote.’
Carrie and Tommy sat down. Tina Blake and Norma Watson were circulating mimeographed ballots, and when Norma dropped one at their table and breathed ‘Good LUCK!’ Carrie picked up the ballot and studied it. Her mouth popped open.
‘Tommy, we’re on here!’
‘Yeah, I saw that,’ he said. ‘The school votes for single candidates and their dates get sort of shanghaied into it. Welcome aboard. Shall we decline?’
She bit her lip and looked at him. ‘Do you want to decline?’
‘Hell, no,’ he said cheerfully. ‘If you win, an you do is sit up there for the school song and one dance and wave a sceptre and look like a goddam idiot. They take your picture for the yearbook so everyone can see you look like a goddam idiot.’
‘Who do we vote for?’ She looked doubtfully from the ballot to the tiny pencil by her boatful of nuts. ‘They’re more your crowd than mine.’ A chuckle escaped her. ‘In fact, I don’t really have a crowd.’
He shrugged. ‘Let’s vote for ourselves. To the devil with false modesty.’
She laughed out loud, then clapped a hand over her mouth. The sound was almost entirely foreign to her. Before she could think, she circled their names, third from the top. The tiny pencil broke in her hand, and she gasped. A splinter had scratched the pad of one finger, and a small bead of blood welled.
‘You hurt yourself?’
‘No.’ She smiled, but suddenly it was difficult to smile. The sight of the blood was distasteful to her. She blotted it away with her napkin. ‘But I broke the pencil and it was a souvenir. Stupid me.’
`There’s your boat,’ he said, and pushed it toward her. ‘Toot, toot.’ Her throat closed, and she felt sure she would weep and then be ashamed. She did not, but her eyes glimmered like prisms and she lowered her head so he would not see.
The band was playing catchy fill-in music while the Honour Society ushers collected the folded-over ballots. They were taken to the chaperones’ table by the door, where Vic and Mr Stephens and the Lublins counted them. Miss Geer surveyed it all with grim gimlet eyes.
Carrie felt an unwilling tension worm into her, tightening muscles in her stomach and back. She held Tommy’s hand tightly. It was absurd, of course. No one was going to vote for them. The stallion, perhaps, but not when harnessed in tandem with a she-ox. It would be Frank and Jessica or maybe Don Farnham and Helen Shyres. Or – hell!
Two piles were growing larger than the others. Mr Stephens finished dividing the slips and all four of them took turns at counting the large piles, which looked about the same. They put their heads together, conferred, and counted once more. Mr Stephens, nodded, thumbed the ballots once more like a man about to deal a hand of poker, and gave them back to Vic. He climbed back on stage and approached the mike. The Billy Bosman Band played a flourish. Vic smiled nervously, harrumphed into the mike, and blinked at the sudden feedback whine. He nearly dropped the ballots to the floor, which was covered with heavy electrical cables, and somebody snickered.
‘We’ve sort of hit a snag,’ Vic said artlessly. ‘Mr Lublin says this is the first time in the history of the Spring Ball-‘ ‘How far does he go back?’ someone behind Tommy mumbled. ‘Eighteen hundred?’
‘We’ve got a tie.’
This got a murmer from the crowd. ‘Polka dots or striped?’ George Dawson called, and there was some laughter. Vic gave a twitchy smile and almost dropped the ballots again.
‘Sixty-three votes for Frank Grier and Jessica MacLean, and sixty-three votes for Thomas Ross and Carrie White.’
This was followed by a moment of silence, and then sudden, swelling applause. Tommy looked across at his date. Her head was lowered, as if in shame, but he had a sudden feeling.
(carrie carrie carrie)
not unlike the one he had had when he asked her to the prom. His mind felt as if something alien was moving in there, calling Carrie’s name over and over again. As if
‘Attention!’ Vic was calling. ‘If I could have your attention, please.’ The applause quieted. ‘We’re going to have a run-off ballot. When the people passing out the slips of paper get to you, please write the couple you favour on it.’
He left the mike, looking relieved.
The ballots were circulated; they had been hastily torn from leftover prom programmes. The band played unnoticed and people talked excitedly.
‘They weren’t applauding for us,’ Carrie said, looking up The thing he had felt (or thought he had felt) was gone ‘It couldn’t have been for us.’
‘Maybe it was for you.’
She looked at him, mute.
‘What’s taking it so long?’ she hissed at him. ‘I beard them clap. Maybe that was it. If you fucked up-‘ The length of jute cord hung between them limply, untouched since Billy had poked a screwdriver through the vent and lifted it out.
‘Don’t worry,’ he said calmly. ‘They’ll play the school song. They always do.’
‘Shut up. You talk too fucking much.’ The tip of his cigarette winked peacefully in the dark.
She shut. But
(oh when this is over you’re going to get it buddy maybe you’ll go to bed with lover’s nuts tonight)
her mind ran furiously over his words, storing them. People did not speak to her in such a manner. Her father was a lawyer.
It was seven minutes to ten.
He was holding the broken pencil in his hand, ready to write, when she touched his wrist lightly, tentatively.
‘Don’t . .’
‘Don’t vote for us,’ she said finally.
He raised his eyebrows quizzically. ‘Why not? In for a penny, in for a pound. That’s what my mother always says.’
A picture rose in her mind instantly, her mother droning endless prayers to a towering, faceless, columnar God who prowled roadhouse parking lots with a sword of fire in one hand. Terror rose in her blackly, and she had to fight with all her spirit to hold it back. She could not explain her dread, her sense of premonition. She could only smile helplessly and repeat: ‘Don’t. Please.’
The Honour Society ushers were coming back, collecting folded slips. He hesitated a moment longer, then suddenly scrawled Tommy and Carrie on the ragged slip of paper. ‘For you,’ he said. ‘Tonight you go first-class.’
She could not reply, for the premonition was on her. her mother’s face.
The knife slipped from the whetstone, and in an instant it had sliced the cup of her palm below the thumb.
She looked at the cut. It bled slowly, thickly, from the open lips of the wound running out of her hand and spotting the worn linoleum of the kitchen floor. Good, then. It was good. The blade had tasted flesh and let blood. She did not bandage it but tipped the flow over the cutting edge, letting the blood dull the blade’s edge, then she began to sharpen again, heedless of the droplets which splattered her dress.
If thine right eye offend thee, pluck it out
If it was a hard scripture, it was also sweet and good. A fitting scripture for those who lurked in the doorway shadows of one-night hotels and in the weeds behind bowling alleys.
Pluck it out
(oh and the nasty music they play)
(the girls show their underwear how it sweats how it sweats blood)
The Black Forest cuckoo began to strike ten and
(cut her guts out on the floor)
if thine right eye offend thee, pluck it out
The dress was done and she could not watch the television or take out her books or call Nancy on the phone. There was nothing to do but sit on the sofa facing the blackness of the kitchen window and feel some nameless sort of fear growing in her like an infant coming to dreadful term.
With a sigh she began to massage her arms absently. They were cold and prickly. It was twelve after ten and there was no reason, really no reason, to feel that the world was coming to an end.
The stacks were higher this time, but they still looked exactly the same. Again, three counts were taken to make sure. Then Vic Mooney went to the mike again. He paused a moment, relishing the blue feel of tension in the air, and then announced simply:
`Tommy and Carrie win. By one vote.’
Dead silence for a moment, then applause filled the hall again, some of it not without satiric overtones. Carrie drew in a startled, smothered gasp, and Tommy again felt (but for only a second) that weird vertigo in his mind
(carrie carrie carrie carrie)
that seemed to blank out all thought but the name and image of this strange girl he was with. For a fleeting second he was literally scared shitless.
Something fell on the floor with a clink, and at the same instant the candle between them whiffed out.
Then Josie and the Moonglows were playing a rock version of Pomp and Circumstance, the ushers appeared at their table (almost magically; all this had been rehearsed meticulously by Miss Geer who, according to rumour, ate slow and clumsy ushers for lunch), a sceptre wrapped in aluminium foil was thrust into Tommy’s hand, a robe with a lush dog-fur collar was thrown over Carrie’s shoulders, and they were being led down the centre aisle by a boy and a girl in white blazers. The band blared. The audience applauded. Miss Geer looked vindicated. Tommy Ross was grinning bemusedly.
They were ushered up the steps to the apron, led across to the thrones, and seated. Still the applause swelled. The sarcasm in it was lost now; it was honest and deep, a little frightening. Carrie was glad to sit down. It was all happening too fast. Her legs were trembling under her and suddenly, even with the comparatively high neck of her gown, her breasts
felt dreadfully exposed. The sound of the applause in her ears made her feel woozy, almost punch-drunk. Part of her was actually convinced that all this was a dream from which she would wake with mixed feeling of loss and relief.
Vic boomed into the mike: ‘The King and Queen of the 1979 Spring Ball – Tommy ROSS and Carrie WHITE’
Still applause, swelling and booming and crackling. Tommy Ross in the fading moments of his life now, took Carrie’s hand and grinned at her, thinking that Suzie’s intuition had been very right. Somehow she grinned back. TOMMY
(she was right and i love her well i love this one too this carrie she is beautiful and it’s right and i love all of them the light the light in her eyes)
(can’t see them the lights are too bright i can hear them but can’t see them the shower remember the shower o momma it’s too high i think i want to get down o are they laughing and ready to throw things to point and scream with laughter i can’t see them i can’t see them it’s all too bright)
and the beam above them.
Both bands, in a sudden and serendipitous coalition of rock and brass, swung into the school song. The audience rose to its feet and began to sing, still applauding.
It was ten-o-seven.
Billy had just flexed his knees to make the Joints pop. Chris Hargensen stood next to him with increasing aura of nervousness. Her hands played aimlessly along the seams of the jeans she had worn and she was biting the softness of her lower lip, chewing at it, making it a little ragged.
‘You think they’ll vote for them?, Billy said softly.