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Chapter Six

'Ewen, four years,' Grayle overrode him. 'Graduation slated June seventy-nine; next month. Tested I.Q. of a hundred and forty. Eighty-three average. Nonetheless, I see she's been accepted at Oberlin. I'd guess someone - probably you, Mr Hargensen - has been yanking some pretty long strings. Seventy-four assigned detentions. Twenty of those have been for harassment of misfit pupils, I might add. Fifth wheels, I understand that Chris's clique calls them Mortimer Snurds. They find it all quite hilarious. She skipped out on fifty-one of those assigned detentions. At Chamberlain Junior High, one suspension for putting a firecracker in a girl's shoe ... the note on the card says that little prank almost cost a little girl named Irma Swope two toes. The Swope girl has a harelip, I understand. I'm talking about your daughter, Mr Hargensen. Does that tell you anything?'

'Yes,' Hargensen said, rising. A thin flush had suffused his features, 'It tells me I'll see you in court. And when I'm done with you, you'll be lucky to get a job selling encyclopedias door to door.'

Grayle also rose, angrily, and the two men faced each other across the desk

'Let it be court, then,' Grayle said.

He noted a faint flick of surprise on Hargensen's face, crossed his fingers, and went in for what he hoped would be a knockout - or at least a TKO that would save Desjardin's job and take this silk-ass son of a bitch down a notch.

'You apparently haven't realized all the implications of in loco parentis in this matter, Mr Hargensen. The same umbrella that covers your daughter also covers Carrie White. And the minute you file for damages on the grounds of physical and verbal abuse, we will cross-file against your daughter on those same grounds for Carrie White.'

Hargensen's mouth dropped open, then closed, 'You can't get away with a cheap gimmick like that, you-'

'Shyster lawyer? Is that the phrase you were looking for?' Grayle smiled grimly. 'I believe you know your way out, Mr Hargensen. The sanctions against your daughter stand. If you care to take the matter further, that is your right.'

Hargensen crossed the room stiffly, paused as if to add something, then left, barely restraining himself from the satisfaction of a hard doorslam.

Grayle blew out breath. It wasn't hard to see where Chris Hargensen came by her self-willed stubbornness.

A. P. Morton entered a minute later. 'How did it go?'

'Time'll tell, Morty,' Grayle said. Grimacing, he looked at the twisted pile of paper clips. 'He was good for seven clips, anyway. That's some kind of record.'

'Is he going to make it a civil matter?'

'Don't know. It rocked him when I said we'd counter sue.��

'I bet it did.' Morton glanced at the phone on Grayle's desk. 'It's time we let the superintendent in on this bag of garbage, isn't it?'

'Yes,' Grayle said, picking up the phone. 'Thank God my unemployment insurance is paid up.'

'Me too,' Morton said loyally.

From The Shadow Exploded (appendix Ill):

Carrie White passed in the following short verse as a poetry assignment in the seventh grade. Mr Edwin King, who had Carrie for grade seven English, says: 'I don't know why I saved it. She certainly doesn't stick out in my mind as a superior pupil, and this isn't a superior verse. She was very quiet and I can't remember her ever raising her hand even once in class. But something in this seemed to cry out.'

Jesus watches from the wall. But his face is cold as stone. And if he loves me - As she tells me Why do I feel so all alone?

The border of the paper on which this little verse is written is decorated with a great many cruciform figures which almost seem to dance ...

Tommy was at baseball practice Monday afternoon, and Sue went down to the Kelly Fruit Company in The Centre to wait for him.

Kelly's was the closest thing to a high school hangout the loosely sprawled community of Chamberlain could boast since Sheriff Doyle had closed the rec centre following a large drug bust. It was run by a morose fat man named Hubert Kelly who dyed his hair black and complained constantly that his electronic pacemaker was on the verge of electrocuting him.

The place was a combination grocery, soda fountain and gas station-there Was a rusted Jenny pump out front that Hubie had never bothered to change when the company merged. He also sold beer, cheap wine, dirty books, and a wide selection of obscure cigarettes such as Mirads, King Sano, and Marvel Straights.

The soda fountain was a slab of real marble, and there were four or five booths for kids unlucky enough or friendless enough to have no place to go and get drunk or stoned. An ancient pinball machine that always tilted on the third ball stuttered lights on and off in the back beside the rack of dirty books.

When Sue walked in she saw Chris Hargensen immediately. She was sitting in one of the back booths. Her current amour, Billy Nolan, was looking through the latest issue of Popular Mechanix at the magazine rack. Sue didn't know what a rich, Popular girl like Chris saw in Nolan, who was like some strange time traveller from the 1950s with his greased hair, zipper-bejewelled leather jacket, and manifold-bubbling Chevrolet road machine.

'Sue!' Chris hailed, 'come on over!'

Sue nodded and raised a hand, although dislike rose in her throat like a paper snake. Looking at Chris was like looking through a slanted doorway to a place where Carrie White crouched with hands over her head. Predictably she found her own hypocrisy (inherent in the wave and the nod) incomprehensible and sickening. Why couldn't she just cut her dead?

'A dime root beer,' she told Hubie. Hubie had genuine draft root beer, and he served it in huge, frosted 1890s mugs. She had been looking forward to tipping a long one while she read a paper novel and waited for Tommy - in spite of the havoc the root beers raised with her complexion, she was hooked. But she wasn't surprised to find she'd lost her taste for this one.

'How's your heart, Hubie?' she asked.

'You kids,' Hubie said, scraping the head off Sue's beer with a table knife and filling the mug the rest of the way. 'You don't understand nothing. I plugged in my electric razor this morning and got a hundred a ten volts right through this pacemaker. You kids don't know what that's like, am I right?'

'I guess not.'

'No, Christ Jesus forbid you should ever have to find out. How long can my old ticket take it? You kids'll all find out when I buy the farm and those urban renewal poops turn this place into a parking lot. That's a dime.'

She pushed her dime across the marble.

'Fifty million volts right up the old tubes,' Hubie said darkly, and stared down at the small bulge in his breast pocket.

Sue went over and slid carefully into the vacant side of Chris's booth. She was looking exceptionally pretty, her black hair held by a shamrock-green band and a tight basque blouse that accentuated her firm, upthrust breasts.

'How are you, Chris?'

'Bitchin' good,' Chris said a little too blithely. 'You heard the latest? I'm out of the prom. I bet that cocksucker Grayle loses his job, though.'

Sue had heard the latest. Along with everyone at Ewen.

'Daddy's suing them,' Chris went on. Over her shoulder; 'Billeee! Come over here and say hi to Sue.'

He dropped his magazine and sauntered over, thumbs booked into his side-hitched garrison belt, fingers dangling limply toward the stuffed crotch of his pegged levis. Sue felt a wave of unreality surge over her and fought an urge to put her hands to her face and giggle madly.

'Hi, Suze,' Billy said. He slid in beside Chris and immediately began to massage her shoulder. His face was utterly blank. He might have been testing a cut of beef.

'I think we're going to crash the prom anyway,' Chris said. 'As a protest or something.'

'Is that right?' Sue was frankly startled.

'No,' Chris replied, dismissing it, 'I don't know.' Her face suddenly twisted into in expression of fury, as abrupt and surprising as a tornado funnel. 'That goddamned Carrie White! I wish she'd taken her goddam holy joe routine and stuff it straight up her ass!'

'You'll get over it,' Sue said.

'If only the rest of you had walked out with me ... Jesus Sue, why didn't you? We could have had them by the balls. I never figured you for an establishment pawn.'

Sue felt her face grow hot. 'I don't know about anyone else, but I wasn't being anybody's pawn. I took the punishment because I thought I earned it. We did a suck-off thing. End of statement.'

'Bullshit. That fucking Carrie runs around saying everyone but her and her gilt-edged momma are going to bell and you can stick up for her? We should have taken those rags and stuffed them down her throat.'

'Sure. Yeah. See you around, Chris.' She pushed out of the booth.

This time it was Chris who coloured the blood slammed to her face in a sudden rush, as if a red cloud had passed over some inner sun.

'Aren't you getting to be the Joan of Arc around here! I seem to remember you were in there pitching with the rest of us.'

'Yes,' Sue said trembling. 'But I stopped.'

'Oh, aren't you just it?' Chris marvelled. 'Oh my yes. Take your root beer with you. I'm afraid I might touch it and turn to gold.'

She didn't take her root beer. She turned and half-walked, half-stumbled out. The upset inside her was very great, too great yet for either tears or anger. She was a getalong girl, and it was the first fight she had been in, physical or verbal, since grade-school pigtail pulling. And it was the first time in her life that she had actively espoused a Principle.

And of course Chris had hit her in just the right place, had hit her exactly where she was most vulnerable: She way being a hypocrite, there seemed no way to avoid that, and deeply, sheathed within her and hateful, was the knowledge that one of the reasons she had gone to Miss Desjardin's hour of calisthenics and sweating runs around the gym Floor had nothing to do with nobility. She wasn't going to miss her last Spring Ball for anything. Not for anything.

Tommy was nowhere in sight.

She began to walk back toward the school, her stomach churning unhappily, Little Miss Sorority, Suzy Creemcheese, The Nice Girl who only does It with the boy she plans to marry - with the proper Sunday supplement coverage, of course. Two kids. Beat the living shit out of them if they show any signs of honesty; screwing, fighting, or refusing to grin each time some mythic honcho yelled frog.

Spring Ball. Blue gown. Corsage kept all the afternoon in the fridge. Tommy in a white dinner jacket, cummerbund, black pants, black shoes. Parents taking photos posed by the living-room sofa with Kodak Starflashes and Polaroid Big-Shots. Crepe masking the stark gymnasium girders. Two bands: one rock, one mellow. No fifth wheels need apply. Mortimer Snurd, please keep out. Aspiring country club members and future residents of Kleen Korners only.

The tears finally came and she began to run.

From The Shadow Exploded (p. 60):

The following excerpt is from a letter to Donna Kellogg from Christine Hargensen. The Kellogg girl moved from Chamberlain to Providence, Rhode Island, in the fall of 1978. She was apparently one of Chris Hargensen's few close friends and a confidante. The letter is postmarked May 17,1979:

'So I'm out of the Prom and my yellow-guts father says he won't give them what they deserve. But they're not going to get away with it. I don't know what exactly I'm going to do yet but I guarantee you everyone is going to get a big fucking surprise . . .'

It was the seventeenth. May seventeenth. She crossed the, day off the calendar in her room as soon as she slipped into her long white nightgown. She crossed off each day as it passed with a heavy black felt pen, and she supposed it expressed a very bad attitude toward life. She didn't really care. The only thing she really cared about was knowing that Momma was going to make her go back to school tomorrow and she would have to face all of Them.

She sat down in the small Boston rocker (bought and paid for with her own money) beside the window, closed her eyes, and swept Them and all the clutter of her conscious thoughts from her mind. It was like sweeping a floor. Lift the rug of your subconscious mind and sweep all the dirt under. Good-bye.

She opened her eyes. She looked at the hairbrush on her bureau.


She was lifting the hairbrush. It was heavy. It was like lifting a barbell with very weak arms. Oh. Grunt.

The hairbrush slid to the edge of the bureau, slid out past the point where gravity should have toppled it, and then dangled, as if on an invisible string. Carrie's eyes had closed to slits. Veins pulsed in her temples. A doctor might have been interested in what her body was doing at that instant; it made no rational sence. Respiration had fallen to sixteen breaths per minute. Blood pressure up to 190/100. Heartbeat up to 140 - higher than astronauts under the heavy g-load of lift-off. Temperature down to 94.3. Her body was burning energy that seemed to be coming from nowhere and seemed to be going nowhere. An electroencephalogram would have shown alpha waves that were no longer waves at all, but great, jagged spikes.

She let the hairbrush down carefully. Good. Last night she had dropped it. Lose all your points, go to jail.

She closed her eyes again and rocked. Physical functions began to revert to the norm; her respiration speeded until she was nearly panting. The rocker had a slight squeak. Wasn't annoying, though. Was soothing. Rock, rock. Clear your mind.

'Carrie?' Her mother's voice, slightly disturbed, floated up.

(she's getting interference like the radio when you turn on the blender good good)

'Have you said your prayers, Carrie?'

'I'm saying them,' she called back.

Yes. She was saying them, all right.

She looked at her small studio bed.


Tremendous weight. Huge. Unbearable.

The bed trembled and then the end came up perhaps three inches.

It dropped with a crash. She waited, a small smile playing about her lips, for Momma to call upstairs angrily. She didn't. So Carrie got up, went to her bed. and slid between the cool sheets. Her head ached and she felt giddy, as she always did after these exercise sessions. Her heart was pounding in a fierce, scary way.

She reached over, turned off the light, and lay back. No pillow. Momma didn't allow her a pillow.

She thought of imps and families and witches.

(am i a witch momma the devil's whore)

riding through the night, souring milk, overturning butter chums, blighting crops while They huddled inside their houses with hex signs scrawled on Their doors.

She closed her eyes, slept, and dreamed of huge, living stones crashing through the night, seeking out Momma, seeking out Them. They were trying to run, trying to hide. But the rock would not hide them; the dead tree gave no shelter.

From My Name is Susan Snell, by Susan Snell (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986), pp. i-iv:

There's one thing no one has understood about what happened in Chamberlain on Prom Night. The press hasn't understood it, the scientists at Duke University haven't understood it, David Congress hasn't understood it - although his The Shadow Exploded is probably the only half-decent book written on the subject - and certainly The White Commission, which used me as a handy scapegoat, did not understand it.

This one thing is the most fundamental fact: We were kids.

Carrie was seventeen, Chris Hargensen was seventeen, I was seventeen, Tommy Ross was eighteen, Billy Nolan (who spent a year repeating the ninth grade, presumably before he learned how to shoot his cuffs during examinations) was nineteen ...

Older kids react in more socially acceptable ways than younger kids, but they still have a way of making bad decisions, of over-reacting, or underestimating.

In the first section which follows this introduction I must show these tendencies in myself as well as I am able. Yet the matter which I am going to discuss is at the root of my involvement in Prom Night, and if I am to clear my name, I must begin by recalling scenes which I find particularly painful ...

I have told this story before, most notoriously before The White Commission, which received it with incredulity. In the wake of two hundred deaths and the destruction of an entire town, it is so easy to forget one thing. We were kids. We were kids. We were kids trying to do our best ...

'You must be crazy.'

He blinked at her, not willing to believe that he had actually heard it. They were at his house, and the television was on but forgotten. His mother had gone over to visit Mrs Klein across the street His father was in the cellar workroom making a bird-house.

Sue looked uncomfortable but determined. 'Ifs the way I want it, Tommy.'

'Well, it's not the way I want it. I think ifs the craziest goddam thing I ever heard. Like something you might do on a bet.'

Her face tightened. 'Oh? I thought you were the one doing the big speeches the other night. But when it comes to putting your money where your big fat mouth

'Wait, whoa.' He was unoffended, grinning. ��I didn't say no, did I? Not yet, anyway.'

'YOU �C'

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