Doctor Sleep (The Shining #2)
When I was playing my primitive brand of rhythm guitar with a group called the Rock Bottom Remainders, Warren Zevon used to gig with us. Warren loved gray t-shirts and movies like Kingdom of the Spiders. He insisted I sing lead on his signature tune, “Werewolves of London,” during the encore portion of our shows. I said I was not worthy. He insisted that I was. “Key of G,” Warren told me, “and howl like you mean it. Most important of all, play like Keith.”
I’ll never be able to play like Keith Richards, but I always did my best, and with Warren beside me, matching me note for note and laughing his fool head off, I always had a blast.
Warren, this howl is for you, wherever you are. I miss you, buddy.
We stood at the turning point. Half-measures availed us nothing.
—The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. [It is] the dubious luxury of normal men and women.
—The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
FEAR stands for f**k everything and run.
—Old AA saying
On the second day of December in a year when a Georgia peanut farmer was doing business in the White House, one of Colorado’s great resort hotels burned to the ground. The Overlook was declared a total loss. After an investigation, the fire marshal of Jicarilla County ruled the cause had been a defective boiler. The hotel was closed for the winter when the accident occurred, and only four people were present. Three survived. The hotel’s off-season caretaker, John Torrance, was killed during an unsuccessful (and heroic) effort to dump the boiler’s steam pressure, which had mounted to disastrously high levels due to an inoperative relief valve.
Two of the survivors were the caretaker’s wife and young son. The third was the Overlook’s chef, Richard Hallorann, who had left his seasonal job in Florida and come to check on the Torrances because of what he called “a powerful hunch” that the family was in trouble. Both surviving adults were quite badly injured in the explosion. Only the child was unhurt.
Physically, at least.
Wendy Torrance and her son received a settlement from the corporation that owned the Overlook. It wasn’t huge, but enough to get them by for the three years she was unable to work because of back injuries. A lawyer she consulted told her that if she were willing to hold out and play tough, she might get a great deal more, because the corporation was anxious to avoid a court case. But she, like the corporation, wanted only to put that disastrous winter in Colorado behind her. She would convalesce, she said, and she did, although back injuries plagued her until the end of her life. Shattered vertebrae and broken ribs heal, but they never cease crying out.
Winifred and Daniel Torrance lived in the mid-South for awhile, then drifted down to Tampa. Sometimes Dick Hallorann (he of the powerful hunches) came up from Key West to visit with them. To visit with young Danny especially. They shared a bond.
One early morning in March of 1981, Wendy called Dick and asked if he could come. Danny, she said, had awakened her in the night and told her not to go in the bathroom.
After that, he refused to talk at all.
He woke up needing to pee. Outside, a strong wind was blowing. It was warm—in Florida it almost always was—but he did not like that sound, and supposed he never would. It reminded him of the Overlook, where the defective boiler had been the very least of the dangers.
He and his mother lived in a cramped second-floor tenement apartment. Danny left the little room next to his mother’s and crossed the hall. The wind gusted and a dying palm tree beside the building clattered its leaves. The sound was skeletal. They always left the bathroom door open when no one was using the shower or the toilet, because the lock was broken. Tonight the door was closed. Not because his mother was in there, however. Thanks to facial injuries she’d suffered at the Overlook, she now snored—a soft queep-queep sound—and he could hear it coming from her bedroom.
Well, she closed it by accident, that’s all.
He knew better, even then (he was possessed of powerful hunches and intuitions himself ), but sometimes you had to know. Sometimes you had to see. This was something he had found out at the Overlook, in a room on the second floor.
Reaching with an arm that seemed too long, too stretchy, too boneless, he turned the knob and opened the door.