News item from the Westover (Me.) weekly Enterprise, August 19, 1966:
RAIN OF STONES REPORTED
It was reliably reported by several persons that a rain of stones fell from a clear blue sky on Carlin Street in the town of Chamberlain on August 17th. The stones fell principally on the home of Mrs. Margaret White, damaging the roof extensively and ruining two gutters and a downspout valued at approximately $25. Mrs. White, a widow, lives with her three-year-old daughter, Carietta.
Mrs. White could not he reached for comment.
Nobody was really surprised when it happened, not really, not at the subconscious level where savage things grow. On the surface, all the girls in the shower room were shocked, thrilled, ashamed, or simply glad that the White bitch had taken it in the mouth again. Some of them might also have claimed surprise, but of course their claim was untrue. Carrie had been going to school with some of them since the first grade, and this had been building since that time, building slowly and immutably, in accordance with all the laws that govern human nature, building with all the steadiness of a chain reaction approaching critical mass.
What none of them knew, of course, was that Carrie White was telekinetic.
Graffiti scratched on a desk of the Barker Street Grammar School in Chamberlain:
Carrie White eats shit.
The locker room was filled with shouts, echoes, and the subterranean sound of showers ~plashing on tile. The girls had been playing volleyball in Period One, and their morning sweat was light and eager.
Girls stretched and writhed under the hot water, squalling, flicking water, squirting white bars of soap from hand to hand. Carrie stood among them stolidly, a frog among swans. She was a chunky girl with pimples on her neck and back and buttocks, her wet hair completely without color. It rested against her face with dispirited sogginess and she simply stood, head slightly bent, letting the water splat against her flesh and roll off. She looked the part of the sacrificial goat, the constant butt, believer in left-handed monkey wrenches, perpetual foul-up, and she was. She wished forlornly and constantly that Ewen High had individual-and thus private-showers, like the high schools at Westover or Lewiston. They stared. They always stared.
Showers turning off one by one, girls stepping out, removing pastel bathing caps, toweling, spraying deodorant, checking the clock over the door. Bras were hooked, underpants stepped into. Steam hung in the air; the place might have been an Egyptian bathhouse except for the constant rumble of the Jacuzzi whirlpool in the corner. Calls and catcalls rebounded with all the snap and flicker of billiard balls after a hard break.
“-so Tommy said he hated it on me and I-”
“-I’m going with my sister and her husband. He picks his nose but so does she, so they’re very-” “-shower after school and-”
“-too cheap to spend a goddam penny so Cindi and I-”
Miss Desjardin, their slim, nonbreasted gym teacher, stepped in, craned her neck around briefly, and slapped her hands together once, smartly. “What are you waiting for, Carrie? Doom? Bell in five minutes.” Her shorts were blinding white, her legs not too curved but striking in their unobtrusive muscularity. A silver whistle, won in college archery competition, hung around her neck.
The girls giggled and Carrie looked up, her eyes slow and dazed from the heat and the steady, pounding roar of the water. “Ohuh?”
It was a strangely froggy sound, grotesquely apt, and the girls giggled again. Sue Snell had whipped a towel from her hair with the speed of a magician embarking on a wondrous feat and began to comb rapidly. Miss Desjardin made an irritated cranking gesture at Carrie and stepped out.
Carrie turned off the shower. It died in a drip and a gurgle.
It wasn’t until she stepped out that they all saw the blood running down her leg.
From The Shadow Exploded: Documented Facts and Specific Conclusions Derived from the Case of Carietta White, by David R. Congress (Tulane University Press: 1981), p. 34:
It can hardly be disputed that failure to note specific instances of telekinesis during the White girl’s earlier years must be attributed to the conclusion offered by White and Stearns in their paper Telekinesis: A Wild Talent Revisited-that the ability to move objects by effort of the will alone comes to the fore only in moments of extreme personal stress. The talent is well hidden indeed; how else could it have remained submerged for centuries with only the tip of the iceberg showing above a sea of quackery?
We have only skimpy hearsay evidence upon which to lay our foundation in this case, but even this is enough to indicate that a “TK” potential of immense magnitude existed within Carrie White. The great tragedy is that we are now all Monday morning quarterbacks…
The catcall came first from Chris Hargensen. It struck the tiled walls, rebounded, and struck again. Sue Snell gasped laughter from her nose and felt an odd, vexing mixture of hate, revulsion, exasperation, and pity. She just looked so dumb, standing there, not knowing what was going on. God, you’d think she never-“PERiod!”
It was becoming a chant, an incantation. Someone in the background (perhaps Hargensen again, Sue couldn’t tell in the jungle of echoes) was yelling, “Plug it up!” with hoarse, uninhibited abandon.
“PER-jod, PER-iod, PER-iod!”
Carrie stood dumbly in the center of a forming circle, water rolling from her skin in beads. She stood like a patient ox, aware that the joke was on her (as always), dumbly embarrassed but unsurprised.
Sue felt welling disgust as the first dark drops of menstrual blood struck the tile in dime-sized drops. “For God’s sake, Carrie, you got your period!” she cried. “Clean yourself up!”
She looked around bovinely. Her hair stuck to her cheeks in a curving helmet shape. There was a cluster of acne on one shoulder. At sixteen, the elusive stamp of hurt was already marked clearly in her eyes.
“She thinks they’re for lipstick!” Ruth Gogan suddenly shouted with cryptic glee, and then burst into a shriek of laughter. Sue remembered the comment later and fitted it into a general picture, but now it was only another senseless sound in the confusion. Sixteen? She was thinking. She must know what’s happening, she-More droplets of blood. Carrie still blinked around at her classmates in slow bewilderment.
Helen Shyres turned around and made mock throwing-up gestures.
“You’re bleeding!” Sue yelled suddenly, furiously. “You’re bleeding, you big dumb pudding!”
Carrie looked down at herself.
The sound was very loud in the humid locker room.
A tampon suddenly struck her in the chest and fell with a plop at her feet. A red flower stained the absorbent cotton and spread.
Then the laughter, disgusted, contemptuous, horrified, seemed to rise and bloom into something jagged and ugly, and the girls were bombarding her with tampons and sanitary napkins, some from purses, some from the broken dispenser on the wall. They flew like snow and the chant became: “Plug it up, plug it up, plug it up, plug it-”
Sue was throwing them too, throwing and chanting with the rest, not really sure what she was doing-a charm had occurred to her mind and it glowed there like neon: There’s no harm in it really no harm in it really no harmIt was still flashing and glowing, reassuringly, when Carrie suddenly began to howl and back away, flailing her arms and grunting and gobbling.
The girls stopped, realizing that fission and explosion had finally been reached. It was at this point, when looking back, that some of them would claim surprise. Yet there had been all these years, all these years of let’s short-sheet Carrie’s bed at Christian Youth Camp and I found this love letter from Carrie to Flash Bobby Pickett let’s copy it and pass it around and hide her underpants somewhere and put this snake in her shoe and duck her again, duck her again; Carrie tagging along stubbornly on biking trips, known one year as pudd’n and the next year as truck-face, always smelling sweaty, not able to catch up; catching poison ivy from urinating in the bushes and everyone finding out (hey, scratch-ass, your bum itch?); Billy Preston putting peanut butter in her hair that time she fell asleep in study hall; the pinches, the legs outstretched in school aisles to trip her up, the books knocked from her desk, the obscene postcard tucked into her purse; Carrie on the church picnic and kneeling down clumsily to pray and the seam of her old madras skirt splitting along the zipper like the sound of a huge wind-breakage; Carrie always missing the ball, even in kickball, falling on her face in Modern Dance during their sophomore year and chipping a tooth, running into the net during volleyball; wearing stockings that were always run, running, or about to run, always showing sweat stains under the arms of her blouses; even the time Chris Hargensen called up after school from the Kelly Fruit Company downtown and asked her if she knew that pig poop was spelled C-A-R-R-I-E: Suddenly all this and the critical mass was reached. The ultimate shit-on, gross-out, put-down, long searched for, was found. Fission.
She backed away, howling in the new silence, fat forearms crossing her face, a tampon stuck in the middle of her pubic hair.
The girls watched her, their eyes shining solemnly.
Carrie backed into the side of one of the four large shower compartments and slowly collapsed into a sitting position. Slow, helpless groans jerked out of her. Her eyes rolled with wet whiteness, like the eyes of a hog in the slaughtering pen.
Sue said slowly, hesitantly: “I think this must be the first time she ever-That was when the door pumped open with a flat and
hurried bang and Miss Desjardin burst in to see what the matter was.
From The Shadow Exploded (p. 41):
Both medical and psychological writers on the subject are in agreement that Carrie White’s exceptionally late and traumatic commencement of the menstrual cycle might well have provided the trigger for her latent talent.
It seems incredible that, as late as 1979, Carrie knew nothing of the mature woman’s monthly cycle. It is nearly as incredible to believe that the girl’s mother would permit her daughter to reach the age of nearly seventeen without consulting a gynecologist concerning the daughter’s failure to menstruate.
Yet the facts are incontrovertible. When Carrie White realized she was bleeding from the vaginal opening, she had no idea of what was taking place. She was innocent of the entire concept of menstruation.
One of her surviving classmates, Ruth Gogan, tells of entering the girls’ locker room at Ewen High School the year before the events we are concerned with and seeing Carrie using a tampon to blot her lipstick with. At that time Miss Gogan said: “What the hell are you up to?” Miss White replied: “Isn’t this right?” Miss Gogan then replied: “Sure. Sure it is.” Ruth Gogan let a number of her girl friends in on this (she later told this interviewer she thought it was “sorta cute”), and if anyone tried in the future to inform Carrie of the true purpose of what she was using to make up with, she apparently dismissed the explanation as an attempt to pull her leg. This was a facet of her life that she had become exceedingly wary of…
When the girls were gone to their Period Two classes and the bell had been silenced (several of them had slipped quietly out the back door before Miss Desjardin could begin to take names), Miss Desjardin employed the standard tactic for hysterics: She slapped Carrie smartly across the face. She hardly would have admitted the pleasure the act gave her, and she certainly would have denied that she regarded Carrie as a fat, whiny bag of lard. A first-year teacher, she still believed that she thought all children were good.
Carrie looked up at her dumbly, face still contorted and working. “M-M-Miss D-D-Des-D~”
“Get up,” Miss Desjardin said dispassionately. “Get up and tend to yourself.”
“I’m bleeding to death!” Carrie screamed, and one blind, searching hand came up and clutched Miss Desjardin’s white shorts. It left a bloody handprint.
“I… you… The gym teacher’s face contorted into a pucker of disgust, and she suddenly hurled Carrie, stumbling, to her feet. “Get over there!”
Carrie stood swaying between the showers and the wall with its dime sanitary-napkin dispenser, slumped over, breasts pointing at the floor, her arms dangling limply. She looked like an ape. Her eyes were shiny and blank.
“Now,” Miss Desjardin said with hissing, deadly emphasis, you take one of those napkins out… no, never mind the coin slot, it’s broken anyway… take one and… damn it, will you do it! You act as if you never had a period before.”
“Period?” Carrie said.
Her expression of complete unbelief was too genuine, too full of dumb and hopeless horror, to be ignored or denied. A terrible and black foreknowledge grew in Rita Desjardin’s mind. It was incredible, could not be. She herself had begun menstruation shortly after her eleventh birthday and had gone to the head of the stairs to yell down excitedly: “Hey, Mum, I’m on the rag!”
“Carrie?” she said now. She advanced toward the girl. “Carrie?”
Carrie flinched away. At the same instant, a rack of softball bats in the corner fell over with a large, echoing bang. They rolled every which way, making Desjardin jump.
“Carrie, is this your first period?”
But now that the thought had been admitted, she hardly had to ask. The blood was dark and flowing with terrible heaviness. Both of Carrie’s legs were smeared and splattered with it, as though she had waded through a river of blood.
“It hurts,” Carrie groaned. “My stomach…
“That passes,” Miss Desjardin said. Pity and self-shame met in her and mixed uneasily. “You have to… uh, stop the flow of blood. You-”
There was a bright flash overhead, followed by a flashgun-like pop as a light bulb sizzled and went out. Miss Desjardin cried out with surprise, and it occurred to her
(the whole damn place is falling in)
that this kind of thing always seemed to happen around Carrie when she was upset, as if bad luck dogged her every step. The thought was gone almost as quickly as it had come. She took one of the sanitary napkins from the broken dispenser and unwrapped it.
“Look,” she said. “Like this-”
From The Shadow Exploded (p. 54):
Carrie White’s mother, Margaret White, gave birth to her daughter on September 21, 1963, under circumstances which can only be termed bizarre. In fact, an overview of the Carrie White case leaves the careful student with one feeling ascendant over all others: that Carrie was the only issue of a family as odd as any that has ever been brought to popular attention.
As noted earlier, Ralph White died in February of 1963 when a steel girder fell out of a carrying sling on a housing-project job in Portland. Mrs. White continued to live alone in their suburban Chamberlain bungalow.
Due to the Whites’ near-fanatical fundamentalist religious beliefs, Mrs. White had no friends to see her through her period of bereavement. And when her labor began seven months later, she was alone.
At approximately 1:30 P. M. on September 21, the neighbors on Carlin Street began to hear screams from the White bungalow. The police, however, were not summoned to the scene until after 6:00 P. M. We are left with two unappetizing alternatives to explain this time lag: Either Mrs. White’s neighbors on the street did not wish to become involved in a police investigation, or dislike for her had become so strong that they deliberately adopted a wait-and-see attitude. Mrs. Georgia McLaughlin, the only one of three remaining residents who were on the street at that time and who would talk to me, said that she did not call the police because she thought the screams had something to do with “holy rollin’.”
When the police did arrive at 6:22 P. M. the screams had become irregular. Mrs. White was found in her bed upstairs, and the investigating officer, Thomas G. Mearton, at first thought she had been the victim of an assault. The bed was drenched with blood, and a butcher knife lay on the floor. It was only then that he saw the baby, still partially wrapped in the placental membrane, at Mrs. White’s breast. She had apparently cut the umbilical cord herself with the knife.
It staggers both imagination and belief to advance the hypothesis that Mrs. Margaret White did not know she was pregnant, or even understand what the word entails, and recent scholars such as J. W. Bankson and George Fielding have made a more reasonable case for the hypothesis that the concept, linked irrevocably in her mind with the “sin” of intercourse, had been blocked entirely from her mind. She may simply have refused to believe that such a thing could happen to her.
We have records of at least three letters to a friend in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that seem to prove conclusively that Mrs. White believed, from her fifth month on, that she had “a cancer of the womanly parts” and would soon join her husband in heaven…
When Miss Desjardin led Carrie up to the office fifteen minutes later, the halls were mercifully empty. Classes droned onward behind closed doors.
Carrie’s shrieks had finally ended, but she had continued to weep with steady regularity. Desjardin had finally placed the napkin herself, cleaned the girl up with wet paper towels, and gotten her back into her plain cotton underpants.
She tried twice to explain the commonplace reality of menstruation, but Carrie clapped her hands over her ears and continued to cry.
Mr. Morton, the assistant principal, was out of his office in a flash when they entered. Billy deLois and Henry Trennant, two boys waiting for the lecture due them for cutting French I, goggled around from their chairs.
“Come in,” Mr. Morton said briskly. “Come right in.” He glared over Desjardin’s shoulder at the boys, who were staring at the bloody handprint on her shorts. “What are you looking at?”
“Blood,” Henry said, and smiled with a kind of vacuous surprise.
“Two detention periods,” Morton snapped. He glanced down at the bloody handprint and blinked.
He closed the door behind them and began pawing through the top drawer of his filing cabinet for a school accident form.
“Are you all right, uh-”
“Carrie,” Desjardin supplied. “Carrie White.” Mr. Morton had finally located an accident form. There was a large coffee stain on it. “You won’t need that, Mr. Morton.”
“I suppose it was the trampoline. We just… I won’t?”
“No. But I think Carrie should be allowed to go home for the rest of the day. She’s had a rather frightening experience.” Her eyes flashed a signal which he caught but could not interpret.
“Yes, okay, if you say so. Good. Fine.” Morton crumpled the form back into the filing cabinet, slammed it shut with his thumb in the drawer, and grunted. He whirled gracefully to the door, yanked it open, glared at Billy and Henry, and called: “Miss Fish, could we have a dismissal slip here, please? Carrie Wright.”
“White,” said Miss Desjardin.
“White,” Morton agreed.
Billy deLois sniggered.
“Week’s detention!” Morton barked. A blood blister was forming under his thumbnail. Hurt like hell. Carrie’s steady, monotonous weeping went on and on.
Miss Fish brought the yellow dismissal slip and Morton scrawled his initials on it with his silver pocket pencil, wincing at the pressure on his wounded thumb.
“Do you need a ride, Cassie?” he asked. “We can call a cab if you need one.”
She shook her head. He noticed with distaste that a large bubble of green mucus had formed at one nostril. Morton looked over her head and at Miss Desjardin.
“I’m sure she’ll be all right,” she said. “Carrie only has to go over to Carlin Street. The fresh air will do her good.”
Morton gave the girl the yellow slip. “You can go now, Cassie,” he said magnanimously.
“That’s not my name!” she screamed suddenly.
Morton recoiled, and Miss Desjardin jumped as if struck from behind. The heavy ceramic ashtray on Morton’s desk (it was Rodin’s Thinker with his head turned into a receptacle for cigarette butts) suddenly toppled to the rug, as if to take cover from the force of her scream. Butts and flakes of Morton’s pipe tobacco scattered on the pale-green nylon rug.
“Now, listen,” Morton said, trying to muster sternness. “I know you’re upset, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stand for-”
“Please,” Miss Desjardin said quietly.
Morton blinked at her and then nodded curtly. He tried to project the image of a lovable John Wayne figure while performing the disciplinary functions that were his main job as Assistant Principal, but did not succeed very well. The administration (usually represented at Jay Cee suppers, P. T. A. functions, and American Legion award ceremonies by Principal Henry Grayle) usually termed him “lovable Mort.” The student body was more apt to term him “that crazy ass-jabber from the office.” But, as few students such as Billy deLois and Henry Trennant spoke at P. T. A. functions or town meetings, the administration’s view tended to carry the day.
Now lovable Mort, still secretly nursing his jammed thumb, smiled at Carrie and said, “Go along then if you like, Miss Wright. Or would you like to sit a spell and just collect yourself)”
“I’ll go,” she muttered, and swiped at her hair. She got up, then looked around at Miss Desjardin. Her eyes were wide open and dark with knowledge. “They laughed at me. Threw things. They’ve always laughed.”
Desjardin could only look at her helplessly.
For a moment there was silence; Morton and Desjardin watched her go. Then, with an awkward throat-clearing sound, Mr. Morton hunkered down carefully and began to sweep together the debris from the fallen ashtray.
“What was that all about?”
She sighed and looked at the drying maroon handprint on her shorts with distaste. “She got her period. Her first period. In the shower.”
Morton cleared his throat again and his cheeks went pink. The sheet of paper he was sweeping with moved even faster. “Isn’t she a bit, uh-”
“Old for her first? Yes. That’s what made it so traumatic for her. Although I can’t understand why her mother… ” The thought trailed off, forgotten for the moment. “I don’t think I handled it very well, Morty, but I didn’t understand what was going on. She thought she was bleeding to death.”
He stared up sharply.
“I don’t believe she knew there was such a thing as menstruation until half an hour ago.
“Hand me that little brush there, Miss Desjardin. Yes, that’s it.” She handed him a little brush with the legend Chamberlain Hardware and Lumber Company NEVER Brushes You Off written up the handle. He began to brush his pile of ashes onto the paper. “There’s still going to be some for the vacuum cleaner, I guess. This deep pile is miserable. I thought I set that ashtray back on the desk further. Funny how things fall over.” He bumped his head on the desk and sat up abruptly. “It’s hard for me to believe that a girl in this or any other high school could get through three years and still be alien, to the fact of menstruation, Miss Desjardin.”
“It’s even more difficult for me,” she said. “But it’s all I can think of to explain her reaction. And she’s always been a group scapegoat.”
“Um.” He funneled the ashes and butts into the wastebasket and dusted his hands. “I’ve placed her, I think. White.
Margaret White’s daughter. Must be. That makes it a little easier to believe.” He sat down behind his desk and smiled apologetically. “There’s so many of them. After five years or so, they all start to merge into one group face. You call boys by their brother’s names, that type of thing. It’s hard.”
“Of course it is.”
“Wait ’til you’ve been in the game twenty years, like me,” he said morosely, looking down at his blood blister. “You get kids that look familiar and find out you had their daddy the year you started teaching. Margaret White was before my time, for which I am profoundly grateful. She told Mrs. Bicente, God rest her, that the Lord was reserving a special burning seat in hell for her because she gave the kids an outline of Mr. Darwin’s beliefs on evolution. She was suspended twice while she was here-once for beating a classmate with her purse. Legend has it that Margaret saw the classmate smoking a cigarette. Peculiar religious views. Very peculiar.” His John Wayne expression suddenly snapped down. “The other girls. Did they really laugh at her?”
“Worse. They were yelling and throwing sanitary napkins at her when I walked in. Throwing them like… like peanuts.”
“Oh. Oh, dear.” John Wayne disappeared. Mr. Morton went scarlet. “You have names?”
“Yes. Not all of them, although some of them may rat on the rest. Christine Hargensen appeared to be the ringleader
“Chris and her Mortimer Snerds,” Morton murmured.
“Yes. Tina Blake, Rachel Spies, Helen Shyres, Donna Thibodeau and her sister Mary Lila Grace, Jessica Upshaw. And Sue Snell.” She frowned. “You wouldn’t expect a trick like that from Sue. She’s never seemed the type for this kind of a-a stunt.”
“Did you talk to the girls involved?”
Miss Desjardin chuckled unhappily. “I got them the hell out of there. I was too flustered. And Carrie was having hysterics.”
“Um.” He steepled his fingers. “Do you plan to talk to them?”
“Yes.” But she sounded reluctant.
“Do I detect a note of-”
“You probably do,” she said glumly. “I’m living in a glass house, see. I understand how those girls felt. The whole thing just made me want to take the girl and shake her. Maybe there’s some kind of instinct about menstruation that makes women want to snarl, I don’t know. I keep seeing Sue Snell and the way she looked.”
“Um,’ Mr. Morton repeated wisely. He did not understand women and had no urge at all to discuss menstruation.
“I’ll talk to them tomorrow,” she promised, rising. “Rip them down one side and up the other.”
“Good. Make the punishment suit the crime. And if you feel you have to send any of them to, ah, to me, feel free-”
“I will,” she said kindly. “By the way, a light blew out while I was trying to calm her down. It added the final touch.”
“I’ll send a janitor right down,” he promised. “And thanks for doing your best, Miss Desjardin. Will you have Miss Fish send in Billy and Henry?”
“Certainly.” She left.
He leaned back and let the whole business slide out of his mind. When Billy deLois and Henry Trennant, class-cutters extraordinaire, slunk in, he glowered at them happily and prepared to talk tough.
As he often told Hank Grayle, he ate class-cutters for lunch.
Graffiti scratched on a desk in Chamberlain Junior High School:
Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, but Carrie White eats skit.
She walked down Ewen Avenue and crossed over to Carlin at the stoplight on the corner. Her head was down and she was trying to think of nothing. Cramps came and went in great, gripping waves, making her slow down and speed up like a car with carburetor trouble. She stared at the sidewalk. Quartz glittering in the cement. Hopscotch grids scratched in ghostly, rain-faded chalk. Wads of gum stamped flat. Pieces of tinfoil and penny-candy wrappers. They all hate and they never stop. They never get tired of it. A penny lodged in a crack. She kicked it. Imagine Chris Hargensen all bloody and screaming for mercy. With rats crawling all over her face. Good. Good. That would be good. A dog turd with a foot-track in the middle of it. A roll of blackened caps that some kid had banged with a stone. Cigarette butts. Crash in her head with a rock, with a boulder. Crash in all their heads. Good. Good.
(saviour jesus meek and mild)
That was good for Momma, all right for her. She didn’t have to go among the wolves every day of every year, out into a carnival of laughers, joke-tellers, pointers, snickerers. And didn’t Momma say there would be a Day of Judgment
(the name of that star shall be wormwood and they shall be scourged with scorpions)
and an angel with a sword?
If only it would be today and Jesus coming not with a lamb and a shepherd’s crook, but with a boulder in each hand to crush the laughers and the snickerers, to root out the evil and destroy it screaming-a terrible Jesus of blood and righteousness.
And if only she could be His sword and His arm.
She had tried to fit. She had defied Momma in a hundred little ways, had tried to erase the red-plague circle that had been drawn around her from the first day she had left the controlled environment of the small house on Carlin Street and had walked up to the Barker Street Grammar School with her Bible under her arm. She could still remember that day, the stares, and the sudden, awful silence when she had gotten down on her knees before lunch in the school cafeteria-the laughter had begun on that day and had echoed up through the years.
The red-plague circle was like blood itself-you could scrub and scrub and scrub and still it would be there, not erased, not clean. She had never gotten on her knees in a public place again, although she had not told Momma that. Still, the original memory remained, with her and with them. She had fought Momma tooth and nail over the Christian Youth Camp, and had earned the money to go herself by taking in sewing. Momma told her darkly that it was Sin, that it was Methodists and Baptists and Congregationalists and that it was Sin and Backsliding. She forbade Carrie to swim at the camp. Yet although she had swum and had laughed when they ducked her (until she couldn’t get her breath any more and they kept doing it and she got panicky and began to scream) and had tried to take part in the camp’s activities, a thousand practical jokes had been played on ol’ prayin’ Carrie and she had come home on the bus a week early, her eyes red and socketed from weeping, to be picked up by Momma at the station, and Momma had told her grimly that she should treasure the memory of her scourging as proof that Momma knew, that Momma was right, that the only hope of safety and salvation was inside the red circle. “For strait is the gate,” Momma said grimly in the taxi, and at home she had sent Carrie to the closet for six hours.
Momma had, of course, forbade her to shower with the other girls; Carrie had hidden her shower things in her school locker and had showered anyway, taking part in a naked ritual that was shameful and embarrassing to her in hopes that the circle around her might fade a little, just a little-(but today o today)
Tommy Erbter, age five, was biking up the other side of the street. He was a small, intense-looking boy on a twenty-inch Schwinn with bright-red training wheels. He was humming “Scoobie Doo, where are you?” under his breath. He saw Carrie, brightened, and stuck out his tongue.
“Hey, ol’ fart-face! Ol’ prayin’ Carrie!”
Carrie glared at him with sudden smoking rage. The bike wobbled on its training wheels and suddenly fell over. Tommy screamed. The bike was on top of him. Carrie smiled and walked on. The sound of Tommy’s wails was sweet, jangling music in her ears.
If only she could make something like that happen whenever she liked.
She stopped dead seven houses up from her own, staring blankly at nothing. Behind her, Tommy was climbing tearfully back onto his bike, nursing a scraped knee. He yelled something at her, but she ignored it. She had been yelled at by experts.
She had been thinking:
(fall off that bike kid push you off that bike and split your rotten head) and something had happened.
Her mind had… had… she groped for a word. Had flexed. That was not just right, but it was very close. There had been a curious mental bending, almost like an elbow curling a dumbbell. That wasn’t exactly right either, but it was all she could think of. An elbow with no strength. A weak baby muscle.
She suddenly stared fiercely at Mrs. Yorraty’s big picture window. She thought:
(stupid frumpy old bitch break that window)
Nothing. Mrs. Yorraty’s picture window glittered serenely in the fresh nine o’clock glow of morning. Another cramp gripped Carrie’s belly and she walked on.
The light. And the ashtray; don’t forget the ashtray.
She looked back
(old bitch hates my momma)
over her shoulder. Again it seemed that something flexed… but very weakly. The flow of her thoughts shuddered as if there had been a sudden bubbling from a wellspring deeper inside.
The picture window seemed to ripple. Nothing more. It could have been her eyes. Could have been.
Her head began to feel tired and fuzzy, and it throbbed with the beginning of a headache. Her eyes were hot, as if she had just sat down and read the Book of Revelations straight through.
She continued to walk down the street toward the small white house with the blue shutters. The familiar hate-love-dread feeling was churning inside her. Ivy had crawled up the west side of the bungalow (they always called it the bungalow because the White house sounded like a political joke and Momma said all politicians were crooks and sinners and would eventually give the country over to the Godless Reds who would put all the believers of Jesus-even the Catholics-up against the wall), and the ivy was picturesque, she knew it was, but sometimes she hated it. Sometimes, like now, the ivy looked like a grotesque giant hand ridged with great veins which had sprung up out of the ground to grip the building. She approached it with dragging feet.
Of course, there had been the stones.
She stopped again, blinking vapidly at the day. The stones. Momma never talked about that; Carrie didn’t even know if her momma still remembered the day of the stones. It was surprising that she herself still remembered it. She had been a very little girl then. How old? Three? Four? There had been that girl in the white bathing suit, and then the stones came. And things had flown in the house. Here the memory was, suddenly bright and clear. As if it had been here all along, just below the surface, waiting for a kind of mental puberty.
Waiting, maybe, for today.
From Carrie: The Black Dawn of T. K. (Esquire magazine, September 12, 1980) by Jack Gaver:
Estelle Horan has lived in the neat San Diego suburb of Parrish for twelve years, and outwardly she is typical Ms. California:
She wears bright print shifts and smoked amber sunglasses; her hair is black-streaked blonde; she drives a neat maroon Volkswagen Formula Vee with a smile decal on the gas cap and a green-flag ecology sticker on the back window. Her husband is an executive at the Parrish branch of the Bank of America; her son and daughter are certified members of the Southern California Sun ‘n Fun Crowd, burnished-brown beach creatures. There is a hibachi in the small, beautifully kept back yard, and the door chimes play a tinkly phrase from the refrain of “Hey, Jude.”
But Ms. Horan still carries the thin, difficult soil of New
England somewhere inside her, and when she talks of Carrie
White her face takes on an odd, pinched look that is more like
Lovecraft out of Arkham than Keronac out of Southern Cal.
“Of course she was strange,” Estelle Horan tells me, lighting a second Virginia Slim a moment after stubbing out her first. “The whole family was strange. Ralph was a construction worker, and people on the street said he carried a Bible and a. 38 revolver to work with him every day. The Bible was for his coffee break and lunch. The. 38 was in case he met Antichrist on the job. I can remember the Bible myself. The revolver… who knows? He was a big olive-skinned man with his hair always shaved into a flattop crew cut. He always looked mean. And you didn’t meet his eyes, not ever. They were so intense they actually seemed to glow. When you saw him coming you crossed the street and you never stuck out your tongue at his back, not ever. That’s how spooky he was.”
She pauses, puffing clouds of cigarette smoke toward the pseudo-redwood beams that cross the ceiling. Stella Horan lived on Carlin Street until she was twenty, commuting to day classes at Lewin Business College in Motton. But she remembers the incident of the stones very clearly.
“There are times,” she says, “when I wonder if I might have caused it. Their back yard was next to ours, and Mrs. White had put in a hedge but it hadn’t grown out yet. She’d called my mother dozens of times about ‘the show’ I was putting on in my back yard. Well, my bathing suit was perfectly decent-prudish by today’s standards-nothing but a plain old one-piece Jantzen. Mrs. White used to go on and on about what a scandal it was for ‘her baby. ‘ My mother… well, she tries to be polite, but her temper is so quick. I don’t know what Margaret White said to finally push her over the edge-called me the Whore of Babylon, I suppose-but my mother told her our yard was our yard and I’d go out and dance the hootchie-kootchie buck naked if that was her pleasure and mine. She also told her that she was a dirty old woman with a can of worms for a mind. There was a lot more shouting, but that was the upshot of it.
“I wanted to stop sunbathing right then. I hate trouble. It upsets my stomach. But Mom-when she gets a case, she’s a terror. She came home from Jordan Marsh with a little white bikini. Told me I might as well get all the sun I could. ‘After all,’ she said, ‘the privacy of our own back yard and all. ‘”
Stella Horan smiles a little at the memory and crushes out her cigarette.
“I tried to argue with her, tell her I didn’t want any more trouble, didn’t want to be a pawn in their back-fence war. Didn’t do a bit of good. Trying to stop my mom when she gets a bee in her hat is like trying to stop a Mack truck going downhill with no brakes. Actually, there was more to it. I was scared of the Whites. Real religious nuts are nothing to fool with. Sure, Ralph White was dead, but what if Margaret still had that. 38 around?
“But there I was on Saturday afternoon, spread out on a blanket in the back yard, covered with suntan lotion and listening to Top Forty on the radio. Mom hated that stuff and usually she’d yell out at least twice for me to turn it down before she went nuts. But that day she turned it up twice herself. I started to feel like the Whore of Babylon myself.
“But nobody came out of the Whites’ place. Not even the old lady to hang her wash. That’s something else-she never hung any undies on the back line. Not even Carrie’s, and she was only three back then. Always in the house.
“I started to relax. I guess I was thinking Margaret must have taken Carrie to the park to worship God in the raw or something. Anyway, after a little while I rolled on my back, put one arm over my eyes, and dozed off.
“When I woke up, Carrie was standing next to me and looking down at my body.”
She breaks off, frowning into space. Outside, the cars are whizzing by endlessly. I can hear the steady little whine my tape recorder makes. But it all seems a little too brittle, too glossy, just a cheap patina over a darker world-a real world where nightmares happen.
“She was such a pretty girl,” Stella Horan resumes, lighting another cigarette. “I’ve seen some high school pictures of her, and that horrible fuzzy black-and-white photo on the cover of Newsweek. I look at them and all I can think is, Dear God, where did she go? What did that woman do to her? Then I feel sick and sorry. She was so pretty, with pink cheeks and bright brown eyes, and her hair the shade of blonde you know will darken and get mousy. Sweet is the only word that fits. Sweet and bright and innocent. Her mother’s sickness hadn’t touched her very deeply, not then.
“I kind of started up awake and tried to smile. It was hard to think what to do. I was logy from the sun and my mind felt sticky and slow. I said ‘Hi. ‘ She was wearing a little yellow dress, sort of cute but awfully long for a little girl in the summer. It came down to her shins.
“She didn’t smile back. She just pointed and said, ‘What are those?’
“I looked down and saw that my top had slipped while I was asleep. So I fixed it and said, ‘Those are my breasts, Carrie. ‘
“Then she said-very solemnly: ‘I wish I had some. ‘
“I said: ‘You have to wait, Carrie. You won’t start to get them for another… oh, eight or nine years.
“’No, I won’t,’ she said. ‘Momma says good girls don’t. ‘ She looked strange for a little girl, half sad and half self-righteous.
“I could hardly believe it, and the first thing that popped into my mind also popped right out my mouth. I said: ‘Well, I’m a good girl. And doesn’t your mother have breasts?’
“She lowered her head and said something so softly I couldn’t hear it. When I asked her to repeat it, she looked at me defiantly and said that her momma had been bad when she made her and that was why she had them. She called them dirty pillows, as if it was all one word.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was just dumbfounded. There was nothing at all I could think to say. We just stared at each other, and what I wanted to do was grab that sad little scrap of a girl and run away with her.
“And that was when Margaret White came out of her back door and saw us.
“For a minute she just goggled as if she couldn’t believe it. Then she opened her mouth and whooped. That’s the ugliest sound I’ve ever heard in my life. It was like the noise a bull alligator would make in a swamp. She just whooped. Rage. Complete, insane rage. Her face went just as red as the side of a fire truck and she curled her hands into fists and whooped at the sky. She was shaking all over. I thought she was having a stroke. Her face was all scrunched up, and it was a gargoyle’s face.
“I thought Carrie was going to faint-or die on the spot. She sucked in all her breath and that little face went a cottage-cheesy color.
“Her mother yelled: ‘CAAAARRRIEEEEEE!’
“I jumped up and yelled back: ‘Don’t you yell at her that way! You ought to be ashamed!’ Something stupid like that. I don’t remember. Carrie started to go back and then she stopped and then she started again, and just before she crossed over from our lawn to theirs she looked back at me and there was a look… oh, dreadful. I can’t say it. Wanting and hating and fearing… and misery. As if life itself had fallen on her like stones, all at the age of three.
“My mother came out on the back stoop and her face just crumpled when she saw the child. And Margaret… oh, she was screaming things about sluts and strumpets and the sins of the fathers being visited even unto the seventh generation. My tongue felt like a little dried-up plant.
“For just a second Carrie stood swaying back and forth between the two yards, and then Margaret White looked up ward and I swear sweet Jesus that woman bayed at the sky. And then she started to… to hurt herself, scourge herself. She was clawing at her neck and cheeks, making red marks and scratches. She tore her dress.
“Carrie screamed out ‘Momma!’ and ran to her.
“Mrs. White kind of… squatted, like a frog, and her arms swooped wide open. I thought she was going to crush her and I screamed. The woman was grinning. Grinning and drooling right down her chin. Oh, I was sick. Jesus, I was so sick.
“She gathered her up and they went in. I turned off my radio and I could hear her. Some of the words, but not all. You didn’t have to hear all the words to know what was going on. Praying and sobbing and screeching. Crazy sounds. And Margaret telling the little girl to get herself into her closet and pray. The little girl crying and screaming that she was sorry, she forgot. Then nothing. And my mother and I just looked at each other. I never saw Mom look so bad, not even when Dad died. She said: ‘The child-‘ and that was all. We went inside.”
She gets up and goes to the window, a pretty woman in a yellow no-back sundress. “It’s almost like living it all over again, you know,” she says, not turning around. “I’m all riled up inside again.” She laughs a little and cradles her elbows in her palms.
“Oh, she was so pretty. You’d never know from those pictures.
Cars go by outside, back and forth, and I sit and wait for her to go on. She reminds me of a pole-vaulter eyeing the bar and wondering if it’s set too high.
“My mother brewed us scotch tea, strong, with milk, the way she used to when I was tomboying around and someone would push me in the nettle patch or I’d fall off my bicycle. It was awful but we drank it anyway, sitting across from each other in the kitchen nook. She was in some old housedress with the hem falling down in back, and I was in my Whore of Babylon two-piece swimsuit. I wanted to cry but it was too real to cry about, not like the movies. Once when I was in New York I saw an old drunk leading a little girl in a blue dress by the hand. The girl had cried herself into a bloody nose. The drunk had goiter and his neck looked like an inner tube. There was a red bump in the middle of his forehead and a long white string on the blue serge jacket he was wearing. Everyone kept going and coming because, if you did, then pretty soon you wouldn’t see them any more. That was real, too.
“I wanted to tell my mother that, and I was just opening my mouth to say it when the other thing happened… the thing you want to hear about, I guess. There was a big thump outside that made the glasses rattle in the china cabinet. It was a feeling as well as a sound, thick and solid, as if someone had just pushed an iron safe off the roof.”
She lights a new cigarette and begins to puff rapidly.
“I went to the window and looked out, but I couldn’t see anything. Then, when I was getting ready to turn around, something else fell. The sun glittered on it. I thought it was a big glass globe for a second. Then it hit the edge of the Whites’ roof and shattered, and it wasn’t glass at all. It was a big chunk of ice. I was going to turn around and tell Mom, and that’s when they started to fall all at once, in a shower.
“They were falling on the Whites’ roof, on the back and front lawn, on the outside door to their cellar. That was a sheet-tin bulkhead, and when the first one hit it made a huge bong noise, like a church bell. My mother and I both screamed. We were clutching each other like a couple of girls in a thunderstorm.
“Then it stopped. There was no sound at all from their house. You could see the water from the melting ice trickling down their slate shingles in the sunshine. A great big hunk of ice was stuck in the angle of the roof and their little chimney. The light on it was so bright that my eyes hurt to look at it.
“My mother started to ask me if it was over, and then Margaret screamed. The sound came to us very clearly. In a way it was worse than before, because there was terror in this one. Then there were clanging, banging sounds, as if she was throwing every pot and pan in the house at the girl.
The back door slammed open and slammed closed. No one came out. More screams. Mom said for me to call the police but I couldn’t move. I was stuck to the spot. Mr. Kirk and his wife Virginia came out on their lawn to look. The Smiths, too. Pretty soon everyone on the street that was home had come out, even old Mrs. Warwick from up the block, and she was deaf in one ear.
‘Things started to crash and tinkle and break. Bottles, glasses, I don’t know what all. And then the side window broke open and the kitchen table fell halfway through. With God as my witness. It was a big mahogany thing and it took the screen with it and it must have weighed three hundred pounds. How could a woman-even a big woman-throw that?” I ask her if she is implying something.
“I’m only telling you,” she insists, suddenly distraught. “I’m not asking you to believe-”
She seems to catch her breath and then goes on flatly:
“There was nothing for maybe five minutes. Water was dripping out of the gutters over there. And there was ice all over the Whites’ lawn. It was melting fast.”
She gives a short, chopping laugh and butts her cigarette.
“Why not? It was August.”
She wanders aimlessly back toward the sofa, then veers away. “Then the stones. Right out of the blue, blue sky. Whistling and screaming like bombs. My mother cried out, ‘What, in the name of God!’ and put her hands over her head. But I couldn’t move. I watched it all and I couldn’t move. It didn’t matter anyway. They only fell on the Whites’ property.
“One of them hit a downspout and knocked it onto the lawn. Others punched holes right through the roof and into the attic. The roof made a big cracking sound each time one hit, and puffs of dust would squirt up. The ones that hit the ground made everything vibrate. You could feel them hitting in your feet.
“Our china was tinkling and the fancy Welsh dresser was shaking and Mom’s teacup fell on the floor and broke.
“They made big pits in the Whites’ back lawn when they struck. Craters. Mrs. White hired a junkman from across town to cart them away, and Jerry Smith from up the street paid him a buck to let him chip a piece off one. He took it to B. U. and they looked at it and said it was ordinary granite.
“One of the last ones hit a little table they had in their back yard and smashed it to pieces.
“But nothing, nothing that wasn’t on their property was hit.”
She stops and turns from the window to look at me, and her face is haggard from remembering all that. One hand plays forgetfully with her casually stylish shag haircut. “Not much of it got into the local paper. By the time Billy Harris came around-he reported the Chamberlain news-she had already gotten the roof fixed, and when people told him the stones had gone right through it, 1 think he thought we were all pulling his leg.
“Nobody wants to believe it, not even now. You and all the people who’ll read what you write will wish they could laugh it off and call me just another nut who’s been out here in the sun too long. But it happened. There were lots of people on the block who saw it happen, and it was just as real as that drunk leading the little girl with the bloody nose. And now there’s this other thing. No one can laugh that off, either. Too many people are dead.
“And it’s not just on the White’s property any more.”
She smiles, but there’s not a drop of humor in it. She says:
“Ralph White was insured, and Margaret got a lot of money when he died… double indemnity. He left the house insured, too, but she never got a penny of that. The damage was caused by an act of God. Poetic justice, huh?”
She laughs a little, but there’s no humor in that, either…
Found written repeatedly on one page of a Ewen Consolidated High School notebook owned by Carrie White:
Everybody’s guessed/that baby can’t be blessed/’til she finally sees that she’s like all the rest…
Carrie went into the house and closed the door behind her. Bright daylight disappeared and was replaced by brown shadows, coolness, and the oppressive smell of talcum powder. The only sound was the ticking of the Black Forest cuckoo clock in the living room. Momma had gotten the cuckoo clock with Green Stamps. Once, in the sixth grade, Carrie had set out to ask Momma if Green Stamps weren’t sinful, but her nerve had failed her.
She walked up the hall and put her coat in the closet. A luminous picture above the coat hooks limned a ghostly Jesus hovering grimly over a family seated at the kitchen table. Beneath was the caption (also luminous): The Unseen Guest.
She went into the living room and stood in the middle of the faded, starting-to-be-threadbare rug. She closed her eyes and watched the little dots flash by in the darkness. Her headache thumped queasily behind her temples.
Momma worked on the speed ironer and folder down at the Blue Ribbon Laundry in Chamberlain Center. She had worked there since Carrie was five, when the compensation and insurance that had resulted from her father’s accident had begun to run out. Her hours were from seven-thirty in the morning until four in the afternoon. The laundry was Godless. Momma had told her so many times. The foreman, Mr. Elton Mott, was especially Godless. Momma said that Satan had reserved a special blue corner of Hell for Elt, as he was called at the Blue Ribbon.
She opened her eyes. The living room contained two chairs with straight backs. There was a sewing table with a light where Carrie sometimes made dresses in the evening while Momma tatted doilies and talked about The Coming. The Black Forest cuckoo clock was on the far wall.
There were many religious pictures, but the one Carrie liked best was on the wall above her chair. It was Jesus leading lambs on a hill that was as green and smooth as the Riverside golf course. The others were not as tranquil: Jesus turning the moneychangers from the temple, Moses throwing the Tablets down upon the worshipers of the golden calf, Thomas the doubter putting his hand in Christ’s wounded side (oh, the horrified fascination of that one and the nightmares it had given her as a girl!), Noah’s ark floating above the agonized, drowning sinners, Lot and his family fleeing the great burning of Sodom and Gomorrah.
On a small deal table there were a lamp and a stack of tracts. The top pamphlet showed a sinner (his spiritual status was obvious from the agonized expression on his face) trying to crawl beneath a large boulder. The title blared: Neither shall the rock hide him ON THAT DAY!
But the room was actually dominated by a huge plaster crucifix on the far wall, fully four feet high. Momma had mail-ordered it special from St. Louis. The Jesus impaled upon it was frozen in a grotesque, muscle-straining rictus of pain, mouth drawn down in a groaning curve. His crown of thorns bled scarlet streams down temples and forehead. The eyes were turned up in a medieval expression of slanted agony. Both hands were also drenched with blood and the feet were nailed to a small plaster platform. This corpus had also given Carrie endless nightmares in which the mutilated Christ chased her through dream corridors, holding a mallet and nails, begging her to take up her cross and follow Him. Just lately these dreams had evolved into something less understandable but more sinister. The object did not seem to be murder but something even more awful.
The pain in her legs and belly and privates had drained away a little. She no longer thought she was bleeding to death. The word was menstruation, and all at once it seemed logical and inevitable. It was her Time of the Month. She giggled a strange, affrighted giggle in the solemn stillness of the living room. It sounded like a quiz show. You too can win an all-expenses-paid trip to Bermuda on Time of the Month. Like the memory of the stones, the knowledge of menstruation seemed always to have been there, blocked but waiting.
She turned and walked heavily upstairs. The bathroom had a wooden floor that had been scrubbed nearly white (Cleanliness is next to Godliness) and a tub on claw feet. Rust stains dripped down the porcelain below the chrome spout, and there was no shower attachment. Momma said showers were sinful.
Carrie went in, opened the towel cabinet, and began to hunt purposefully but carefully, not leaving anything out of place. Momma’s eyes were sharp.
The blue box was in the very back, behind the old towels they didn’t use any more. There was a fuzzily silhouetted woman in a long, filmy gown on the side.
She took one of the napkins out and looked at it curiously. She had blotted the lipstick she snuck into her purse quite openly with these-once on a street corner. Now she remembered (or imagined she did) quizzical, shocked looks. Her face flamed. They had told her. The flush faded to a milky anger.
She went into her tiny bedroom. There were many more religious pictures here, but there were more lambs and fewer scenes of righteous wrath. A Ewen pennant was tacked over her dresser. On the dresser itself was a Bible and a plastic Jesus that glowed in the dark.
She undressed-first her blouse, then her hateful knee-length skirt, her slip, her girdle, her pettipants, her garter belt, her stockings. She looked at the pile of heavy clothes, their buttons and rubber, with an expression of fierce wretchedness. In the school library there was a stack of back issues of Seventeen and often she leafed through them, pasting an expression of idiotic casualness on her face. The models looked so easy and smooth in their short, kicky skirts, pantyhose, and frilly underwear with patterns on them. Of course easy was one of Momma’s pet words (she knew what Momma would say 0 no question) to describe them. And it would make her dreadfully self-conscious, she knew that. Naked, evil, blackened with the sin of exhibitionism, the breeze blowing lewdly up the backs of her legs, inciting lust. And she knew that they would know how she felt. They always did. They would embarrass her somehow, push her savagely back down into clowndom. It was their way.
She could, she knew she could be
in another place. She was thick through the waist only because sometimes she felt so miserable, empty, bored, that the only way to fill that gaping, whistling hole was to eat and eat and eat-but she was not that thick through the middle. Her body chemistry would not allow her to go beyond a certain point. And she thought her legs were actually pretty, almost as pretty as Sue Snell’s or Vicky Hanscom’s. She could be
(what 0 what 0 what)
could stop the chocolates and her pimples would go down. They always did. She could fix her hair. Buy pantyhose
and blue and green tights. Make little skirts and dresses from Butterick and Simplicity patterns. The price of a bus
ticket, a train ticket. She could be, could be, could be-
She unsnapped her heavy cotton bra and let it fall. Her breasts were milk-white, upright and smooth. The nipples were a light coffee color. She ran her hands over them and a little shiver went through her. Evil, bad, oh it was. Momma had told her there was Something. The Something was dangerous, ancient, unutterably evil. It could make you Feeble. Watch, Momma said. It comes at night. It will make you think of the evil that goes on in parking lots and roadhouses.
But, though this was only nine-twenty in the morning, Carrie thought that the Something had come to her. She ran her hands over her breasts
again, and the skin was cool but the nipples were hot and hard, and when she tweaked one it made her feel weak and dissolving. Yes, this was the Something.
Her underpants were spotted with blood.
Suddenly she felt that she must burst into tears, scream, or rip the Something out of her body whole and beating, crush it, kill it.
The napkin Miss Desjardin had fixed was already wilting and she changed it carefully, knowing how bad she was, how bad they were, how she hated them and herself. Only Momma was good. Momma had battled the Black Man and had vanquished him. Carrie had seen it happen in a dream. Momma had driven him out of the front door with a broom, and the Black Man had fled up Carlin Street into the night, his cloven feet striking red sparks from the cement.
Her momma had torn the Something out of herself and was pure.
Carrie hated her.
She caught a glimpse of her own face in the tiny mirror she had hung on the back of the door, a mirror with a cheap green plastic rim, good only for combing hair by.
She hated her face, her dull, stupid, bovine face, the vapid eyes, the red, shiny pimples, the nests of blackheads. She hated her face most of all.
The reflection was suddenly split by a jagged, silvery crack. The mirror fell on the floor and shattered at her feet, leaving only the plastic ring to stare at her like a blinded eye.
From Ogilvie’s Dictionary of Psychic Phenomena:
Telekinesis is the ability to move objects or to cause changes in objects by force of the mind. The phenomenon has most reliably been reported in times of crisis or in stress situations, when automobiles have been levitated from pinned bodies or debris from collapsed buildings, etc.
The phenomenon is often confused with the work of poltergeists, which are playful spirits. It should be noted that poltergeists are astral beings of questionable reality, while telekinesis is thought to be an empiric function of the mind, possibly electrochemical in nature…
When they had finished making love, as she slowly put her clothes in order in the back seat of Tommy Ross’s 1963 Ford, Sue Snell found her thoughts turning back to Carrie White.
It was Friday night and Tommy (who was looking pensively out the back window with his pants still down around his ankles; the effect was comic but oddly endearing) had taken her bowling. That, of course, was a mutually accepted excuse. Fornication had been on their minds from the word go.
She had been going out more or less steadily with Tommy ever since October (it was now May) and they had been lovers for only two weeks. Seven times, she amended. Tonight had been the seventh. There had been no fireworks yet, no bands playing “Stars and Stripes Forever,” but it had gotten a little better.
The first time had hurt like hell. Her girl friends, Helen Shyres and Jeanne Gault, had both done It, and they both assured her that it only hurt for a minute-like getting a shot of penicillin-and then it was roses. But for Sue, the first time had been like being reamed out with a hoe handle. Tommy had confessed to her since, with a grin, that he had gotten the rubber on wrong, too.
Tonight was only the second time she had begun to feel something like pleasure, and then it was over. Tommy had held out for as long as he could, but then it was just… over. It seemed like an awful lot of rubbing for a little warmth.
In the aftermath she felt low and melancholy, and her thoughts turned to Carrie in this light A wave of remorse caught her with all emotional guards down, and when Tommy turned back from the view of Brickyard Hill, she was crying.
“Hey,” he said, alarmed. “Oh, hey.” He held her clumsily.
“’S all right,” she said, still weeping. “It’s not you. I did a not-so-good thing today. I was just thinking of it.”
“What?” Re patted the back of her neck gently.
So she found herself launching into the story of that morning’s incident, hardly believing it was herself she was listening to. Facing the thing frankly, she realized the main reason she had allowed Tommy to have her was because she was in
(love? infatuation? didn’t matter results were the same)
with him, and now to put herself in this position-cohort in a nasty shower-room joke-was hardly the approved method to hook a fella. And Tommy was, of course, Popular. As someone who had been Popular herself all her life, it had almost seemed written that she would meet and fall in love with someone as Popular as she. They were almost certain to be voted King and Queen of the high school Spring Ball, and the senior class had already voted them class couple for the yearbook. They had become a fixed star in the shifting firmament of the high school’s relationships, the acknowledged Romeo and Juliet. And she knew with sudden hatefulness that there was one couple like them in every white suburban high school in America.
And having something she had always longed for-a sense of place, of security, of status-she found that it carried uneasiness with it like a darker sister. It was not the way she had conceived it. There were dark things lumbering around their warm circle of light. The idea that she had let him fuck her
(do you have to say it that way yes this time I do)
simply because he was Popular, for instance. The fact that they fit together walking, or that she could look at their reflection in a store window and think, There goes a handsome couple. She was quite sure
(or only hopeful)
that she wasn’t that weak, not that liable to fall docilely into the complacent expectations of parents, friends, and even herself. But now there was this shower thing, where she had gone along and pitched in with high, savage glee. The word she was avoiding was expressed To Confirm, in the infinitive, and it conjured up miserable images of hair in rollers, long afternoons in front of the ironing board in front of the soap operas while hubby was off busting heavies in an anonymous Office; of joining the P. T. A. and then the country club when their income moved into five figures; of pills in circular yellow cases without number to insure against having to move out of the misses’ sizes before it became absolutely necessary and against the intrusion of repulsive little strangers who shat in their pants and screamed for help at two in the morning; of fighting with desperate decorum to keep the niggers out of Kleen Korners, standing shoulder to shoulder with Tern Smith (Miss Potato Blossom of 1975) and Vicki Jones (Vice President of the Women’s League), armed with signs and petitions and sweet, slightly desperate smiles.
Carrie, it was that goddamned Carrie, this was her fault. Perhaps before today she had heard distant, circling footfalls around their lighted place, but tonight, hearing her own sordid, crummy story, she saw the actual silhouettes of all these things, and ye]low eyes that glowed like flashlights in the dark.
She had already bought her prom gown. It was blue. It was beautiful.
“You’re right,” he said when she was done; “Bad news. Doesn’t sound a bit like you.” His face was grave and she felt a cool slice of terror. Then he smiled-he had a very jolly smile-and the darkness retreated a bit.
“I kicked a kid in the slats once when he was knocked out. Did I ever tell you about that?”
She shook her head.
“Yeah.” He rubbed his nose reminiscently and his cheek gave a small tic, the way it had when he made his confession about getting the rubber wrong the first time. “The kid’s name was Danny Patrick. He beat the living shit out of me once when we were in the sixth grade. I hated him, but I was scared, too. I was laying for him. You know how that is?”
She didn’t, but nodded anyway.
“Anyway, he finally picked on the wrong kid a year or so later. Pete Taber. He was just a little guy, but he had lots of muscle. Danny got on him about something, I don’t know, marbles or something, and finally Peter just rose up righteous and beat the shit out of him. That was on the playground of the old Kennedy Junior High. Danny fell down and hit his head and went out cold. Everybody ran We thought he might be dead. I ran away too, but first I gave him a good kick in the ribs. Felt really bad about it afterward. You going to apologize to her?”
It caught Sue flat-footed and all she could do was clinch weakly: “Did you?”
“Huh? Hell no! I had better things to do than spend my time in traction. But there’s a big difference, Susie.”
“It’s not seventh grade any more. And I had some kind of reason, even if it was a piss-poor reason. What did that sad, silly bitch ever do to you?”
She didn’t answer because she couldn’t. She had never passed more than a hundred words with Carrie in her whole life, and three dozen or so had come today. Phys Ed was the only class they’d had in common since they had graduated from Chamberlain Junior High. Carrie was taking the commercial/business courses. Sue, of course, was in the college division.
She thought herself suddenly loathsome.
She found she could not bear that and so she twisted it at him. “When did you start making all these big moral decisions? After you started fucking me?”
She saw the good humor fade from his face and was sorry.
“Guess I should have kept quiet,” he said, and pulled up his pants.
“It’s not you, it’s me.” She put a hand on his arm. “I’m ashamed, see?”
“I know,” he said. “But I shouldn’t be giving advice. I’m not very good at it.”
“Tommy, do you ever hate being so… well, Popular?”
“Me?” The question wrote surprise on his face. “Do you mean like football and class president and that stuff”
“No. It’s not very important. High school isn’t a very important place. When you’re going you think it’s a big deal, but when it’s over nobody really thinks it was great unless they’re beered up. That’s how my brother and his buddies are, anyway.
It did not soothe her; it made her fears worse. Little Susie mix ‘n match from Ewen High School Head Cupcake of the entire Cupcake Brigade. Prom gown kept forever in the closet, wrapped in protective plastic.
The night pressed dark against the slightly steamed car windows.
“I’ll probably end up working at my dad’s car lot,” he said. “I’ll spend my Friday and Saturday nights down at Uncle Billy’s or out at The Cavalier drinking beer and talking about the Saturday afternoon I got that fat pitch from Saunders and we upset Dorchester. Get married to some nagging broad and always own last year’s model, vote Democrat-”
“Don’t,” she said, her mouth suddenly full of a dark, sweet horror. She pulled him to her. “Love me. My head is so bad tonight. Love me. Love me.”
So he loved her and this time it was different, this time there finally seemed to be room and there was no tiresome rubbing but a delicious friction that went up and up: Twice he had to stop, panting, and held himself back, and then he went again
(he was a virgin before me and admitted it i would have believed a lie)
and went hard and her breath came in short, digging gasps and then she began to yell and hold at his back, helpless to stop, sweating, the bad taste washed away, every cell seeming to have its own climax, body filled with sunlight, musical notes in her mind, butterflies behind her skull in the cage of her mind.
Later, on the way home, he asked her formally if she would go to the Spring Ball with him. She said she would. He asked her if she had decided what to do about Carrie. She said she hadn’t. He said that it made no difference, but she thought that it did. It had begun to seem that it meant all the difference.
From “Telekinesis: Analysis and Aftermath” (Science Yearbook 1981), by Dean D. L. McGuffin:
There are, of course, still these scientists today-regretfully, the Duke University people are in their forefront-who reject the terrific underlying implications of the Carrie White affair. Like the Flatlands Society, the Rosicrucians, or the Corlies of Arizona, who are positive that the atomic bomb does not work, these unfortunates are flying in the face of logic with their heads in the sand-and beg your pardon for the mixed metaphor.
Of course one is able to understand the consternation, the raised voices, the angry letters and arguments at scientific convocations. The idea of telekinesis itself has been a bitter pill for the scientific community to swallow, with its horror-movie trappings of ouija boards and mediums and table rappings and floating coronets; but understanding will still not excuse scientific irresponsibility.
The outcome of the White affair raises grave and difficult questions. An earthquake has struck our ordered notions of the way the natural world is supposed to act and react. Can you blame even such a renowned physicist as Gerald Luponet for claiming the whole thing is a hoax and a fraud, even in the face of such overwhelming evidence as the White Commission presented? For if Carrie White is the truth, then what of Newton?.
They sat in the living room, Carrie and Momma, listening to Tennessee Ernie Ford singing “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning” on a Webcor phonograph (which Momma called the victrola, or, if in a particularly good mood, the vic). Carrie sat at the sewing machine, pumping with her feet as she sewed the sleeves on a new dress. Momma sat beneath the plaster crucifix tatting doilies and bumping her feet in time to the song, which was one of her favorites. Mr. P. P. Bliss, who had written this hymn and others seemingly without number, was one of Momma’s shining examples of God at work upon the face of the earth. He had been a sailor and a sinner (two terms that were synonymous in Momma’s lexicon), a great blasphemer, a laugher in the face of the Almighty. Then a great storm had come up at sea, the boat had threatened to capsize, and Mr. P. P. Bliss had gotten down on his sin-sickly knees with a vision of Hell yawning beneath the ocean floor to receive him, and he had prayed to God. Mr. P. P. Bliss promised God that if He saved him, he would dedicate the rest of his life to Him. The storm, of course, had cleared immediately.
Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From his lighthouse evermore,
But to us he gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore
All of Mr. P. P. Bliss’s hymns had a seagoing flavor to them.
The dress she was sewing was actually quite pretty, a dark wine color-the closest Momma would allow her to red-and the sleeves were puffed. She tried to keep her mind strictly on her sewing, but of course it wandered.
The overhead light was strong and harsh and yellow, the small dusty plush sofa was of course deserted (Carrie had never had a boy in To Sit), and on the far wall was a twin shadow: the crucified Jesus, and beneath Him, Momma.
The school had called Momma at the laundry and she had come home at noon. Carrie had watched her come up the walk, and her belly trembled.
Momma was a very big woman, and she always wore a hat. Lately her legs had begun to swell, and her feet always seemed on the point of overflowing her shoes. She wore a black cloth coat with a black fur collar. Her eyes were blue and magnified behind rimless bifocals. She always carried a large black satchel purse and in it was her change purse, her billfold (both black), a large King James Bible (also black) with her name stamped on the front in gold, and a stack of tracts secured with a rubber band. The tracts were usually orange, and smearily printed.
Carrie knew vaguely that Momma and Daddy Ralph had been Baptists once but had left the church when they became convinced that the Baptists were doing the work of the Anti-christ. Since that time, all worship had taken place at home. Momma held worship on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. These were called Holy Days. Momma was the minister, Carrie the congregation. Services lasted from two to three hours.
Momma had opened the door and walked stolidly in. She and Carrie had stared at each other down the short length of the front hall for a moment, like gunfighters before a shoot-out. It was one of those brief moments that seem
(fear could it really have been fear in momma’s eyes) much longer in retrospect.
Momma closed the door behind her. “You’re a woman,” she said softly.
Carrie felt her face twisting and crumpling and could not help it. “Why didn’t you tell me?” she cried. “Oh Momma, I was so scared! And the girls all made fun and threw things and-”
Momma had been walking toward her, and now her hand flashed with sudden limber speed, a hard hand, laundry-callused and muscled. It struck her backhand across the jaw and Carrie fell down in the doorway between the hall and the living room, weeping loudly.
“And God made Eve from the rib of Adam,” Momma said. Her eyes were very large in the rimless glasses; they looked like poached eggs She thumped Carrie with the side of her foot and Carrie screamed. “Get up, woman. Let’s us get in and pray. Let’s us pray to Jesus for our woman-weak, wicked, sinning souls.”
The sobs were too strong to allow more. The latent hysterics had come out grinning and gibbering. She could not stand up. She could only crawl into the living room with her hair hanging in her face, braying huge, hoarse sobs. Every now and again Momma would swing her foot. So they progressed across the living room toward the place of the altar, which had once been a small bedroom.
“And Eve was weak and-say it, woman. Say it!”
“No, Momma, please help me-”
The foot swung. Carrie screamed.
“And Eve was weak and loosed the raven on the world,” Momma continued, “and the raven was called Sin, and the first Sin was Intercourse. And the Lord visited Eve with a Curse, and the Curse was the Curse of Blood. And Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden and into the World and Eve found that her belly had grown big with child.”
The foot swung and connected with Carrie’s rump. Her nose scraped the wood floor. They were entering the place of the altar. There was a cross on a table covered with an embroidered silk cloth. On either side of the cross there were white candles Behind this were several paint-by-the-numbers of Jesus and His apostles. And to the right was the worst place of all, the home of terror, the cave where all hope, all resistance to God’s will-and Momma’s-was extinguished The closet door leered open. Inside, below a hideous blue bulb that was always lit, was Derrault’s conception of Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
“And there was a second Curse, and this was the Curse of Childbearing, and Eve brought forth Cain in sweat and blood.”
Now Momma dragged her, half-standing and half-crawling, down to the altar, where they both fell on their knees. Momma gripped Carrie’s wrist tightly.
“And following Cain, Eve gave birth to Abel, having not yet repented of the Sin of Intercourse. And so the Lord visited Eve with a third Curse, and this was the Curse of Murder. Cain rose up and slew Abel with a rock. And still Eve did not repent, nor all the daughters of Eve, and upon Eve did the Crafty Serpent found a kingdom of whoredoms and pestilences.”
“Momma!” she shrieked. “Momma, please listen! It wasn’t my fault!”
“Bow your head,” Momma said. “Let’s us pray.
“You should have told me!”
Momma brought her hand down on the back of Carrie’s neck, and behind it was all the heavy muscle developed by eleven years of slinging heavy laundry bags and trucking piles of wet sheets. Carrie’s eye-bulging face jerked forward and her forehead smacked the altar, leaving a mark and making the candles tremble.
“Let’s us pray,” Momma said softly, implacably.
Weeping and snuffling, Carrie bowed her head. A runner of snot hung pendulously from her nose and she wiped it away
(if i had a nickel for every time she made me cry here) with the back of her hand.
“0 Lord,” Momma declaimed hugely, her head thrown back, “help this sinning woman beside me here see the sin of her days and ways. Show her that if she had remained sinless the Curse of Blood never would have come on her. She may have committed the Sin of Lustful Thoughts. She may have been listening to rock ‘n roll music on the radio. She may have been tempted by the Antichrist. Show her that this is Your kind, vengeful hand at work and-”
“No! Let me go!”
She tried to struggle to her feet and Momma’s hand, as strong and pitiless as an iron manacle, forced her back to her knees.
“-and Your sign that she must walk the straight and narrow from here on out if she is to avoid the flaming agonies of the Eternal Pit. Amen.”
She turned her glittering, magnified eyes upon her daughter. “Go to your closet now.
“No!” She felt her breath go thick with terror.
“Go to your closet. Pray in secret. Ask forgiveness for your sin.
“I didn’t sin, Momma. You sinned. You didn’t tell me and they laughed.”
Again she seemed to see a flash of fear in Momma’s eyes, gone as quickly and soundlessly as summer lightning. Momma began to force Carrie toward the blue glare of the closet.
“Pray to God and your sins may be washed away.”
“Momma, you let me go.
“I’ll make the stones come again, Momma.”
Even her breath seemed to stop in her throat for a moment. And then the hand tightened on her neck, tightened, until Carrie saw red, lurid dots in front of her eyes and felt her brain go fuzzy and far-off.
Momma’s magnified eyes swam in front of her.
“You spawn of the devil,” she whispered. “Why was I so cursed?”
Carrie’s whirling mind strove to find something huge enough to express her agony, shame. terror, hate, fear. It seemed her whole life had narrowed to this miserable, beaten point of rebellion. Her eyes bulged crazily, her mouth, filled with spit, opened wide
You SUCK!” she screamed.
Momma hissed like a burned cat. “Sin!” she cried. “0, Sin!” She began to beat Carrie’s back, her neck, her head. Carrie was driven, reeling, into the close blue glare of the closet.
“You FUCK!” Carrie screamed.
(there there 0 there it’s out how else do you think she got you o god o good)
She was whirled into the closet headfirst and she struck the far wall and fell on the floor in a semi daze. The door slammed and the key turned.
She was alone with Momma’s angry God.
The blue light glared on a picture of a huge and bearded Yahweh who was casting screaming multitudes of humans down through cloudy depths into an abyss of fire. Below them, black horrid figures struggled through the flames of perdition while the Black Man sat on a huge flame-colored throne with a trident in one hand. His body was that of a man, but he had a spiked tail and the head of a jackal.
She would not break this time.
But of course she did break. It took six hours but she broke, weeping and calling Momma to open the door and let her out. The need to urinate was terrible. The Black Man grinned at her with his jackal mouth, and his scarlet eyes knew all the secrets of woman-blood.
An hour after Carrie began to call, Momma let her out. Carrie scrabbled madly for the bathroom.
It was only now, three hours after that, sitting here with her head bowed over the sewing machine like a penitent, that she remembered the fear in Momma’s eyes and she thought she knew the reason why.
There had been other times when Momma had kept her in the closet for as long as a day at a stretch-when she stole that forty-nine-cent finger ring from Shuber’s Five and Ten, the time she had found that picture of Flash Bobby Pickett under Carrie’s pillow-and Carrie had once fainted from the lack of food and the smell of her own waste. And she had never, never spoken back as she had done today. Today she had even said the Eff Word. Yet Momma had let her out almost as soon as she broke.
There. The dress was done. She removed her feet from the treadle and held it up to look at it. It was long. And ugly. She hated it.
She knew why Momma had let her out.
“Momma, may I go to bed?”
“Yes.” Momma did not look up from her doily.
She folded the dress over her arm. She looked down at the sewing machine. All at once the treadle depressed itself. The needle began to dip up and down, catching the light in steely flashes. The bobbin whirred and jerked. The side wheel spun.
Momma’s head jerked up, her eyes wide. The looped matrix at the edge of her doily, wonderfully intricate yet at the same time as precise and even, suddenly fell in disarray.
“Only clearing the thread,” Carrie said softly.
“Go to bed,” Momma said curtly, and the fear was back in her eyes.
(she was afraid i’d knock the closet door right off its hinges) Momma.”
(and i think i could i think i could yes i think i could)
From The Shadow Exploded (p. 58):
Margaret White was born and raised in Motton, a small town which borders Chamberlain and sends its tuition students to Chamberlain’s junior and senior high schools. Her parents were fairly well-to-do; they owned a prosperous night spot just outside the Motton town limits called The Jolly Roadhouse. Margaret’s father, John Brigham, was killed in a barroom shooting incident in the summer of 1959.
Margaret Brigham, who was then almost thirty, began attending fundamentalist prayer meetings. Her mother had become involved with a new man (Harold Allison, whom she later married) and they both wanted Margaret out of the house-she believed her mother, Judith, and Harold Allison were living in sin and made her views known frequently. Judith Brigham expected her daughter to remain a spinster the rest of her life. In the more pungent phraseology of her soon-to-be stepfather, “Margaret had a face like the ass end of a gasoline truck and a body to match.” He also referred to her as “a little prayin’ Jesus.”
Margaret refused to leave until 1960, when she met Ralph White at a revival meeting. In September of that year she left the Brigham residence in Motton and moved to a small flat in Chamberlain Center.
The courtship of Margaret Brigham and Ralph White terminated in marriage on March 23,1962. On April 3,1962, Margaret White was admitted briefly to Westover Doctors Hospital.
“Nope, she wouldn’t tell us what was wrong,” Harold Allison said. “The one time we went to see her she told us we were living in adultery even though we were hitched, and we were going to hell. She said God had put an invisible mark on our foreheads, but she could see it. Acted crazy as a bat in a henhouse, she did. Her mom tried to be nice, tried to find out what the matter with her was. She got hysterical and started to rave about an angel with a sword who would walk through the parking lots of roadhouses and cut down the wicked. We left.”
Judith Allison, however, had at least an idea of what might have been wrong with her daughter; she thought that Margaret had gone through a miscarriage. If so, the baby was conceived out of wedlock. Confirmation of this would shed an interesting light on the character of Carrie’s mother.
In a long and rather hysterical letter to her mother dated August 19, 1962, Margaret said that she and Ralph were living sinlessly, without “the Curse of Intercourse.” She urged Harold and Judith Allison to close their “abode of wickedness” and do likewise. “It is,” Margaret declares near the end of her letter, “the oney [sic] way you amp; That Man can avoid the Rain of Blood yet to come. Ralph amp; I, like Mary amp; Joseph, will neither know or polute [sic] each other’s flesh. If there is issue, let it be Divine.”
Of course, the calendar tells us that Carrie was conceived later that same year
The girls dressed quietly for their Monday morning Period One gym class, with no horseplay or little screaming catcalls, and none of them were very surprised when Miss Desjardin slammed open the locker-room door and walked in. Her silver whistle dangled between her small breasts, and if her shorts were the ones she had been wearing on Friday, no trace of Carrie’s bloody handprint remained.
The girls continued to dress sullenly, not looking at her.
“Aren’t you the bunch to send out for graduation,” Miss Desjardin said softly. “When is it? A month? And the Spring Ball even less than that. Most of you have your dates and gowns already, I bet. Sue, you’ll be going with Tommy Ross. Helen, Roy Evarts. Chris, I imagine that you can take your pick. Who’s the lucky guy?”
“Billy Nolan,” Chris Hargensen said sullenly.
“Well, isn’t he the lucky one?” Desjardin remarked. “What are you going to give him for a party favor, Chris, a bloody Kotex? Or how about some used toilet paper? I understand these’ things seem to be your sack these days.”
Chris went red.” I’m leaving. I don’t have to listen to that.”
Desjardin had not been able to get the image of Carrie out of her mind all weekend, Carrie screaming, blubbering, a wet napkin plastered squarely in the middle of her pubic hair-and her own sick, angry reaction.
And now, as Chris tried to storm out past her, she reached out and slammed her against a row of dented, olive-colored lockers beside the inner door. Chris’s eyes widened with shocked disbelief. Then a kind of insane rage filled her face.
“You can’t hit us!” she screamed. “You’ll get canned for this! See if you don’t, you bitch!”
The other girls winced and sucked breath and stared at the floor. It was getting out of hand. Sue noticed out of the corner of her eye that Mary and Donna Thibodeau were holding hands.
“I don’t really care, Hargensen,” Desjardin said. “If you-or any of you girls-think I’m wearing my teacher hat right now, you’re making a bad mistake. I just want you all to know that you did a shitty thing on Friday. A really shitty thing.”
Chris Hargensen was sneering at the floor. The rest of the girls were looking miserably at anything but their gym instructor. Sue found herself looking into the shower stall-the scene of the crime-and jerked her glance elsewhere. None of them had ever heard a teacher call anything shitty before.
“Did any of you stop to think that Carrie White has feelings? Do any of you ever stop to think? Sue? Fern? Helen? Jessica? Any of you? You think she’s ugly. Well, you’re all ugly. I saw it on Friday morning.”
Chris Hargensen was mumbling about her father being a lawyer.
“Shut up!” Desjardin yelled in her face. Chris recoiled so suddenly that her head struck the lockers behind her. She began to whine and rub her head.
“One more remark out of you,” Desjardin said softly, “and I’ll throw you across the room. Want to find out if I’m telling the truth?”
Chris, who had apparently decided she was dealing with a madwoman, said nothing.
Desjardin put her hands on her hips. “The office has decided on punishment for you girls. Not my punishment, I’m sorry to say. My idea was three days’ suspension and refusal of your prom tickets.”
Several girls looked at each other and muttered unhappily.
“That would have hit you where you live,” Desjardin continued. “Unfortunately, Ewen is staffed completely by men in its administration wing. I don’t believe they have any real conception of how utterly nasty what you did was. So. One week’s detention.”
Spontaneous sighs of relief.
“But. It’s to be my detention. In the gym. And I’m going to run you ragged.”
“I won’t come,” Chris said. Her lips had thinned across her teeth.
“That’s up to you, Chris. That’s up to all of you. But punishment for skipping detention is going to be three days’ suspension and refusal of your prom tickets. Get the picture?”
No one said anything.
“Right. Change up. And think about what I said.”
Utter silence for a long and stricken moment. Then Chris Hargensen said with loud, hysterical stridency:
“She can’t get away with it!” She opened a door at random, pulled out a pair of sneakers and hurled them across the room. “I’m going to get her! Goddammit! Goddammit! See if I don’t! If we all stick together we can-”
“Shut up, Chris,” Sue said, and was shocked to hear a dead, adult lifelessness in her voice. ‘just shut up.”
“This isn’t over,” Chris Hargensen said, unzipping her skirt with a rough jab and reaching for her fashionably frayed green gym shorts. “This isn’t over by a long way.”
And she was right.
From The Shadow Exploded (pp. 6~6l):
In the opinion of this researcher, a great many of the people who have researched the Carrie White matter-either for the scientific journals or for the popular press-have placed a mistaken emphasis on a relatively fruitless search for incidents of telekinesis in the girl’s childhood. To strike a rough analogy, this is like spending years researching the early incidents of masturbation in a rapist’s childhood.
The spectacular incident of the stones serves as a kind of red herring in this respect. Many researchers have adopted the erroneous belief that where there has been one incident, there must be others. To offer another analogy, this is like dispatching a crew of meteor watchers to Crater National Park because a huge asteroid struck there two million years ago.
To the best of my knowledge, there are no other recorded instances of TK in Carrie’s childhood. If Carrie had not been an only child, we might have at least hearsay reports of dozens of other minor occurrences.
In the case of Andrea Kolintz (see Appendix II for a fuller history), we are told that, following a spanking for crawling out on the roof, “The medicine cabinet flew open, bottles fell to the floor or seemed to hurl themselves across the bathroom, doors flew open and slammed shut, and, at the climax of the manifestation, a 300-pound stereo cabinet tipped over and records flew all over the living room, dive-bombing the occupants and shattering against the walls.”
Significantly, this report is from one of Andrea’s brothers, as quoted in the September 4, 1955, issue of Life magazine. Lift is hardly the most scholarly or unimpeachable source, but there is a great deal of other documentation, and I think that the point of familiar witness-ship is served.
In the case of Carrie White, the only witness to any possible prologue to the final climactic events was Margaret White, and she, of course is dead
Henry Grayle, principal of Ewen High School, had been expecting him all week, but Chris Hargensen’s father didn’t show up until Friday-the day after Chris had skipped her detention period with the formidable Miss Desjardin.
“Yes, Miss Fish?” He spoke formally into the intercom, although he could see the man in the outer office through his window, and certainly knew his face from pictures in the local paper.
“John Hargensen to see you, Mr. Grayle.”
“Send him in, please.” Goddammit, Fish, do you have to sound so impressed?
Grayle was an irrepressible paper-clip-bender, napkin-ripper, corner-folder. For John Hargensen, the town’s leading legal light, he was bringing up the heavy ammunition-a whole box of heavy-duty clips in the middle of his desk blotter.
Hargensen was a tall, impressive man with a self-confident way of moving and the kind of sure, mobile features that said this was a man superior at the game of one-step-ahead social interaction.
He was wearing a brown Savile Row suit with subtle glints of green and gold running through the weave that put Grayle’s local off-the-rack job to shame. His briefcase was thin, real leather, and bound with glittering stainless steel. The smile was faultless and full of many capped teeth-a smile to make the hearts of lady jurors melt like butter in a warm skillet. His grip was major league all the way-firm, warm, long.
“Mr. Grayle. I’ve wanted to meet you for some time now.
“I’m always glad to see interested parents,” Grayle said with a dry smile. “That’s why we have Parents Open House every October.”
“Of course.” Hargensen smiled. “I imagine you’re a busy man, and I have to be in court forty-five minutes from now. Shall we get down to specifics?”
“Surely.” Grayle dipped into his box of clips and began to mangle the first one. “I suspect you are here concerning the disciplinary action taken against your daughter Christine. You should be informed that school policy on the matter has been set. As a man concerned with the workings of justice yourself, you should realize that bending the rules is hardly possible or-
Hargensen waved his hand impatiently. “Apparently you’re
laboring under a misconception, Mr. Grayle. I am here because my daughter was manhandled by your gym teacher, Miss Rita Desjardin. And verbally abused, I’m afraid. I believe the term your Miss Desjardin used in connection with my daughter was ‘shitty. ‘
Grayle sighed inwardly. “Miss Desjardin has been reprimanded.”
John Hargensen’s smile cooled thirty degrees. “I’m afraid a reprimand will not be sufficient. I believe this has been the young, ah, lady’s first year in a teaching capacity?”
“Yes. We have found her to be eminently satisfactory.”
“Apparently your definition of eminently satisfactory includes throwing students up against lockers and the ability to curse like a sailor?”
Grayle fenced: “As a lawyer, you must be aware that this state acknowledges the school’s title to in loco parentis-along with full responsibility, we succeed to full parental rights during school hours. If you’re not familiar, I’d advise you to check Monondock Consolidated School District vs. Cranepool or-”
“I’m familiar with the concept,” Hargensen said. “I’m also aware that neither the Cranepool case that you administrators are so fond of quoting or the Frick case cover anything remotely concerned with physical or verbal abuse. There is, however, the case of School District #4 vs. David. Are you familiar with it?”
Grayle was. George Kramer, the assistant principal of the consolidated high school in S. D. 14 was a poker buddy. George wasn’t playing much poker any more. He was working for an insurance company after taking it upon himself to cut a student’s hair. The school district had ultimately paid seven thousand dollars in damages, or about a thousand bucks a snip.
Grayle started on another paper clip.
“Let’s not quote cases at each other, Mr. Grayle. We’re busy men. I don’t want a lot of unpleasantness. I don’t want a mess. My daughter is at home, and she will stay there Monday and Tuesday. That will complete her three-day suspension. That’s all right.” Another dismissive wave of the hand.
(catch fido good boy here’s a nice bone)
“Here’s what I want,” Hargensen continued. “One, prom tickets for my daughter. A girl’s senior prom is important to her, and Chris is very distressed. Two, no contract renewal of the Desjardin woman. That’s for me. I believe that if I cared to take the School Department to court, I could walk out with both her dismissal and a hefty damage settlement in my pocket. But I don’t want to be vindictive.”
“So court is the alternative if I don’t agree to your demands?”
“I understand that a School Committee hearing would precede that, but only as a formality. But yes, court would be the final result. Nasty for you.
Another paper clip.
“For physical and verbal abuse, is that correct?”
“Mr. Hargensen, are you aware that your daughter and about ten of her peers threw sanitary napkins at a girl who was having her first menstrual period? A girl who was under the impression that she was bleeding to death?”
A faint frown creased Hargensen’s features, as if someone had spoken in a distant room. “I hardly think such an allegation is at issue. I am speaking of actions following-”
“Never mind,” Grayle said. “Never mind what you were speaking of. This girl, Carietta White, was called ‘a dumb puddings and was told to ‘plug it up’ and was subjected to various obscene gestures. She has not been in school this week at all. Does that sound like physical and verbal abuse to you? It does to me.
“I don’t intend,” Hargensen said, “to sit here and listen to a tissue of half-truths or your standard schoolmaster lecture, Mr. Grayle. I know my daughter well enough to-”
“Here.” Grayle reached into the wire IN basket beside the blotter and tossed a sheaf of pink cards across the desk. “I doubt very much if you know the daughter represented in these cards half so well as you think you do. If you did, you might realize that it was about time for a trip to the woodshed. It’s time you snubbed her close before she does someone a major damage.”
“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 Snerds. 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 door slam.
Grayle blew out breath. It wasn’t hard to see where Chris Hargensen came by her self-willed stubbornness.
- I). 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 cross-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 III):
Carietta 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 Center 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 center 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 gas 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 Murads, 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 Mechanics at the magazine rack. Sue didn’t know what a rich, Popular girl like Chris saw in Nolan, who was like some strange time traveler from the 1950s with his greased hair, zipper-bejeweled black 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 and 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 ticker 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, up thrust 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 hooked 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 an expression of fury, as abrupt and surprising as a tornado funnel. “That goddamned Carrie White! I wish she’d take 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 hell 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 colored; 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 marveled. “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 get-along 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 was 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. Tommv 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 Snerd, 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 Hargersen’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 exactly what 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 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 sense. Respiration had fallen to sixteen breaths per minute. Blood pressure up to 190/100. Heartbeat up to I40higher 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 familiars and witches
(am i a witch momma the devil’s whore)
riding through the night, souring milk, overturning butter churns, 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 amp; 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 overreacting, of 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 birdhouse.
Sue looked uncomfortable but determined. “It’s the way I want it, Tommy.”
“Well it’s not the way I want it. I think it’s 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 making the big speeches the other night. But when it comes to putting your money where your big fat mouth is-”
“Wait, whoa.” He was unoffended, grinning. “I didn’t say no, did I? Not yet, anyway.
“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 she’d 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 Carrie’s groups, 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.
“Yes. 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 skeptic 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 “”as 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 colorful 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 afterward 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 for-ever? 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 seven-thirty.”
“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. 7~76):
Probably no other aspect of the Carrie White affair has 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 a 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 offense 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 dispatched 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. 1-l8) were at the center 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 maneuvering an unstable girl into a situation of extreme stress.
This author doesn’t believe that likely in light 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-centered 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 included 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, good-natured 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 classmates’ recollections and the comments of relatives, neighbors, 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-worshiping, 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 there 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. Because, if she wanted to, she could send them all screaming into the streets. Mannequins toppling over, light fixtures falling, bolts of cloth shooting through the air in unwinding streamers. 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 down 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 tires all at once by unscrewing the valves in the tires 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 don’t i can’t breathe 0 my throat 0 momma i’m sorry i looked momma 0 my tongue blood in my mouth)
the poor little girl
(screaming: little slut 0 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, seeing 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 chin, 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.
She lay on her bed, looking at the ceiling, sweating.
“Thank you, (i am not afraid)
She got up and fixed her hair with a dark-blue headband. Then she went downstairs.
From The Shadow Exploded (p. 59):
How apparent was Carrie’s “wild talent” and what did Margaret White, with her extreme Christian ethic, think of it? We shall probably never know. But one is tempted to believe that Mrs. White’s reaction must have been extreme.
* * *
“You haven’t touched your pie, Carrie.” Momma looked up from the tract she had been perusing while she drank her Constant Comment. “It’s homemade.”
“It makes me have pimples, Momma.”
“Your pimples are the Lord’s way of chastising you. Now eat your pie.”
Carrie plunged. “I’ve been invited to the Spring Ball next Friday by Tommy Ross-”
The tract was forgotten. Momma was staring at her with wide my-ears-are-deceiving-me eyes. Her nostrils flared like those of a horse that has heard the dry rattle of a snake.
Carrie tried to swallow an obstruction and only
(i am not afraid 0 yes i am) got rid of part of it.
“-and he’s a very nice boy. He’s promised to stop in and meet you before and-”
“-to have me in by eleven. I’ve-”
“No, no, no!”
“-accepted. Momma, please see that I have to start to. to try and get along with the world. I’m not like you. I’m funny-I mean, the kids think I’m funny. I don’t want to be. I want to try and be a whole person before it’s too late to-”
Mrs. White threw her tea in Carrie’s face.
It was only lukewarm, but it could not have shut off Carrie’s words more suddenly if it had been scalding. She sat numbly, the amber fluid dripping from her chin and cheeks onto her white blouse, spreading. It was sticky and smelled like cinnamon.
Mrs. White sat trembling, her face frozen except for her nostrils, which continued to flare. Abruptly she threw back her head and screamed at the ceiling.
“God! God! God!” Her jaw snapped brutally over each syllable.
Carrie sat without moving.
Mrs. White got up and came around the table. Her hands were hooked into shaking claws. Her face bore a half-mad expression of compassion mixed with hate.
“The closet,” she said. “Go to your closet and pray.”
“Boys. Yes, boys come next. After the blood the boys come. Like sniffing dogs, grinning and slobbering, trying to find out where that smell is. That… smell!”
She swung her whole arm into the blow, and the sound of her palm against Carrie’s face
(o god i am so afraid now)
was like that flat sound of a leather belt being snapped in air. Carrie remained seated, although her upper body swayed. The mark on her cheek was first white, then blood red.
“The mark,” Mrs. White said. Her eyes were large but blank; she was breathing in rapid, snatching gulps of air. She seemed to be talking to herself as the claw hand descended onto Carrie’s shoulder and pulled her out of her chair.
“I’ve seen it, all right. Oh yes. But. I. Never. Did. But for him. He. Took. Me…” She paused, her eyes wandering vaguely toward the ceiling. Carrie was terrified. Momma seemed in the throes of some great revelation which might destroy her.
“In cars. Oh, I know where they take you in their cars. City limits. Roadhouses. Whiskey. Smelling… oh they smell it on you!” Her voice rose to a scream. Tendons stood out on her neck, and her head twisted in a questing upward rotation.
“Momma, you better stop.”
This seemed to snap her back to some kind of hazy reality. Her lips twitched in a kind of elementary surprise and she halted, as if groping for old bearings in a new world.
“The closet,” she muttered. “Go to your closet and pray.”
Momma raised her hand to strike.
The hand stopped in the dead air. Momma stared up at it, as if to confirm that it was still there, and whole.
The pie pan suddenly rose from the trivet on the table and hurled itself across the room to impact beside the living-room door in a splash of blueberry drool.
“I’m going, Momma!”
Momma’s overturned teacup rose and flew past her head to shatter above the stove. Momma shrieked and dropped to her knees with her hands over her head.
“Devil’s child,” she moaned. “Devil’s child, Satan spawn-”
“Momma, stand up.”
“Lust and licentiousness, the cravings of the flesh-”
Momma’s voice failed her but she did stand up, with her hands still on her head, like a prisoner of war. Her lips moved. To Carrie she seemed to be reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
“I don’t want to fight with you, Momma,” Carrie said, and her voice almost broke from her and dissolved. She struggled to control it. “I only want to be let to live my own life. I… I don’t like yours.” She stopped, horrified in spite of herself. The ultimate blasphemy had been spoken, and it was a thousand times worse than the Eff Word.
“Witch,” Momma whispered. “It says in the Lord’s Book:
‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. ‘ Your father did the Lord’s work-”
“I don’t want to talk about that,” Carrie said. It always disturbed her to hear Momma talk about her father. “I just want you to understand that things are going to change around here, Momma.” Her eyes gleamed. “They better understand it, too.”
But Momma was whispering to herself again.
Unsatisfied, with a feeling of anticlimax in her throat and the dismal roiling of emotional upset in her belly, she went to the cellar to get her dress material.
It was better than the closet. There was that. Anything was better than the closet with its blue light and the overpowering stench of sweat and her own sin. Anything. Everything.
She stood with the wrapped package hugged against her breast and closed her eyes, shutting out the weak glow of the cellar’s bare, cobweb-festooned bulb. Tommy Ross didn’t love her; she knew that. This was some strange kind of atonement, and she could understand that and respond to it. She had lain cheek and jowl with the concept of penance since she had been old enough to reason.
He had said it would be good-that they would see to it. Well, she would see to it. They better not start anything. They just better not. She did not know if her gift had come from the lord of light or of darkness, and now, finally finding that she did not care which, she was overcome with an almost indescribable relief, as if a huge weight, long carried, had slipped from her shoulders.
Upstairs, Momma continued to whisper. It was not the Lord’s Prayer. It was the Prayer of Exorcism from Deuteronomy.
From My Name Is Susan Snell (p. 23):
They finally even made a movie about it. I saw it last April. When I came out, I was sick. Whenever anything important happens in America, they have to gold-plate it, like baby shoes. That way you can forget it. And forgetting Carrie White may be a bigger mistake than anyone realizes.
Monday morning; Principal Grayle and his understudy, Pete Morton, were having coffee in Grayle’s office.
“No word from Hargensen yet?” Morty asked. His lips curled into a John Wayne leer that was a little frightened around the edges.
“Not a peep. And Christine has stopped upping off about how her father is going to send us down the road.” Grayle blew on his coffee with a long face.
“You don’t exactly seem to be turning cartwheels.”
“I’m not. Did you know Carrie White is going to the prom?”
Morty blinked. “With who? The Beak?” The Beak was Freddy Holt, another of Ewen’s misfits. He weighed perhaps one hundred pounds soaking wet, and the casual observer might be tempted to believe that sixty of it was nose.
“No,” Gravle said. “With Tommy Ross.”
Morty swallowed his coffee the wrong way and went into a coughing fit.
“That’s the way I felt,” Grayle said.
“What about his girl friend? The little Snell girl?”
“I think she put him up to it,” Grayle said. “She certainly seemed guilty enough about what happened to Carrie when I talked to her. Now she’s on the Decoration Committee, happy as a clam, just as if not going to her Senior prom was nothing at all.”
“Oh,” Morty said wisely.
“And Hargensen-I think he must have talked to some people and discovered we really could sue him on behalf of Carrie White if we wanted to. I think he’s cut his losses. It’s the daughter that’s worrying me.”
“Do you think there’s going to be an incident Friday night?”
“I don’t know. I do know Chris has got a lot of friends who are going to he there. And she’s going around with that Billy Nolan mess; he’s got a zoo full of friends, too. The kind that make a career out of scaring pregnant ladies. Chris Hargensen has him tied around her finger, from what I’ve heard.”
“Are you afraid of anything specific?”
Grayle made a restless gesture. “Specific? No. But I’ve been in the game long enough to know it’s a bad situation. Do you remember the Stadler game in seventy-six?”
Morty nodded. It would take more than the passage of three years to obscure the memory of the Ewen-Stadler game. Bruce Trevor had been a marginal student but a fantastic basketball player. Coach Gaines didn’t like him, but Trevor was going to put Ewen in the area tournament for the first time in ten years. He was cut from the team a week before Ewen’s last must-win game against the Stadler Boheats. A regular announced locker inspection had uncovered a kilo of marijuana behind Trevor’s civics book. Ewen lost the game-and their shot at the tourney-10~48. But no one remembered that; what they remembered was the riot that had interrupted the game in the fourth period. Led by Bruce Trevor, who righteously claimed he had been bum rapped, it resulted in four hospital admissions. One of them had been the Stadler coach, who had been hit over the head with a first-aid kit.
“I’ve got that kind of feeling,” Grayle said. “A hunch. Someone’s going to come with rotten apples or something.”
“Maybe you’re psychic,” Morty said.
From The Shadow Exploded (pp. 92-93):
It is now generally agreed that the TK phenomenon is a genetic-recessive occurrence-but the opposite of a disease like hemophilia, which becomes overt only in males. In that disease, once called “King’s Evil,” the gene is recessive in the female and is carried harmlessly. Male offspring, however, are “bleeders.” This disease is generated only if an afflicted male marries a woman carrying the recessive gene. If the offspring of such union is male, the result will be a hemophiliac son. If the offspring is female, the result will he a daughter who is a carrier. It should be emphasized that the hemophilia gene may be carried recessively in the male as a part of his genetic make-up. But if he marries a woman with the same outlaw gene, the result will be hemophilia if the offspring is male.
In the case of royal families, where intermarriage was common, the chance of the gene reproducing once it entered the family tree were high-thus the name King’s Evil. Hemophilia also showed up in significant quantities in Appalachia during the earlier part of this century, and is commonly noticed in those cultures where incest and the marriage of first cousins is common.
With the TK phenomenon, the male appears to be the carrier; the TK gene may be recessive in the female, but dominates only in the female. It appears that Ralph White carried the gene. Margaret Brigham, by purest chance, also carried the outlaw gene sign, but we may be fairly confident that it was recessive, as no information has ever been found to indicate that she had telekinetic powers resembling her daughter’s. Investigations are now being conducted into the life of Margaret Brigham’s grandmother, Sadie Cochran-for, if the dominant/recessive pattern obtains with TK as it does with hemophilia, Mrs. Cochran may have been TK dominant.
If the issue of the White marriage had been male, the result would have been another carrier. Chances that the mutation would have died with him would have been excellent, as neither side of the Ralph White-Margaret Brigham alliance had cousins of a comparable age for the theoretical male ottspring to marry. And the chances of meeting and marrying another woman with the TK gene at random would be small. None of the teams working on the problem have yet isolated the gene.
Surely no one can doubt, in light of the Maine holocaust, that isolating this gene must become one of medicine’s number-one priorities. The hemophiliac, or H gene, produces male issue with a lack of blood platelets. The telekinetic, or TK gene, produces female Typhoid Marys capable of destroying almost at will…
Susan and fourteen other students-The Spring Ball Decoration Committee, no less-were working on the huge mural that would hang behind the twin bandstands on Friday night. The theme was Springtime in Venice (who picked these hokey themes, Sue wondered. She had been a student at Ewen for four years, had attended two Balls, and she still didn’t know. Why did the goddam thing need a theme, anyway? Why not just have a sock hop and be done with it?); George Chizmar, Ewen’s most artistic student, had done a small chalk sketch of gondolas on a canal at sunset and a gondolier in a huge straw fedora leaning against the tiller as a gorgeous panoply of pinks and reds and oranges stained both sky and water. It was beautiful, no doubt about that. He had redrawn it in silhouette on a huge fourteen-by-twenty-foot canvas flat, numbering the various sections to go with the various chalk hues. Now the Committee was patiently coloring it in, like children crawling over a huge page in a giant’s coloring book. Still, Sue thought, looking at her hands and forearms, both heavily dusted with pink chalk, it was going to be the prettiest prom ever.
Next to her, Helen Shyres sat up on her haunches, stretched, and groaned as her back popped. She brushed a hank of hair from her forehead with the back of her hand, leaving a rose-colored smear.
“How in hell did you talk me into this?”
“You want it to be nice, don’t you?” Sue mimicked Miss Ceer, the spinster chairman (apt enough term for Miss Mustache) of the Decoration Committee.
“Yeah, but why not the Refreshment Committee or the Entertainment Committee? Less back, more mind. The mind, that’s my area. Besides, you’re not even-” She bit down on the words.
“Going?” Susan shrugged and picked up her chalk again. She had a monstrous writer’s cramp. “No, but I still want it to be nice.” She added shyly: “Tommy’s going.”
They worked in silence for a bit, and then Helen stopped again. No one was near them; the closest was Holly Marshall, on the other end of the mural, coloring the gondola’s keel.
“Can I ask you about it, Sue?” Helen asked finally. “God, everybody’s talking.”
“Sure.” Sue stopped coloring and flexed her hand. “Maybe I ought to tell someone, just so the story stays straight. I asked Tommy to take Carrie. I’m hoping it’ll bring her out of herself a little… knock down some of the barriers. I think I owe her that much.”
“Where does that put the rest of us?” Helen asked without rancor.
Sue shrugged. “You have to make up your own mind about what we did, Helen. I’m in no position to throw stones. But I don’t want people to think I’m, uh
“Something like that.”
“And Tommy went along with it?” This was the part that most fascinated her.
“Yes,” 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 cubbyhole office to the left of the gym entrance. She was wearing wine-colored 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, overinnocent.
“Oh,” Sue said noncommittally.
(you know you know something: accept something goddammit if it’s only yourself tell me)
They continued to color, 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 humor.
“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 favors, prom programs, 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
- amp; 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 riffled quickly through the rest of the papers on the pitted and initial-scarred desk. Invoices (mostly for crepe paper and ha’penny 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 slaving 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. 10~l):
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 favor the latter idea. I suspect that Christine Hargensen was the brains of the affair, 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 ain’t around,” Billy said. Even those few words seemed to slip out grudgingly, against his will. “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 green-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 Overlook. 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 intern picked tiny pellets out of 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 pulling the Biscayne through a juddering racing drift and onto the Henty Road. Red Trelawney was ole man Henty’s hired hand. He was a heavy drinker and just as handy with the birdshot 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 smoldering butt-end of a joint in it. This operation struck him as highly amusing, and he let out his high-pitched giggle again.
Now they were flashing past No Trespassing 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 barn, 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 hack 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 Over-lock, who was an asshole. It was for Chris Hargensen, just as every-thing was for Chris, and had been since the day she swept down from her lofty college-course 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 bosiness 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 pails. 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 Bill’s 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 slats, lifted the pig’s head toward the moon-the glazing eyes regarded the crescent with rapt blankness-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, capped them, 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, puffing and panting.
The car gained speed enough to slew a little as Billy whipped it out of the long driveway and onto 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 rumors.
“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.