Monday was a strange day.
Ryan had fly to Hilo for work. He was to take the first plane out, leaving at 5:30 in the morning. He would only be there for a few hours, just long enough to attend a meeting, and then fly home in time to celebrate our anniversary. I would drop him off, handle the usual daytime routine, pick him up at the airport, and head to the restaurant. We turned in early, careful to set the alarm for 4:30.
We both woke up at 5:00.
It might have been act of some minor god that got him onto the plane in time. It’s Merrie Monarch time here in the islands, so his flight, and presumably every other flight to Hilo, was packed solid and lines were long.
Katie came along with me on the frantic pre-dawn ride. Ryan texted her when we were on the road to let us know that he was on board, and, oh yeah, by the way, he had taken my phone by accident.
We went home and I picked up the book I’d been reading. I have been a Stephen King fan since I was a kid, but I had never made it through the Dark Tower series until recently. I managed to finish book five, “The Wolves of the Calla” yesterday.
Steve and I are tight. We go way back. My mom read his first novel, “Carrie” when I was in kindergarten. Steve’s second novel, “‘Salem’s Lot”, takes place in a town that appears to be not very far from Yarmouth, Maine, where my family lived at the time. I read “Carrie” when I was eleven, “Pet Sematary” a year after that, and I picked up various other books by Steve throughout my teens.
I came to find that I am comforted by his work. He writes about scary, disturbing things, but with love. Everything King writes shines with good humor. He may frighten you, but then he’ll give you a hug and make you laugh. Reading King is the literary equivalent to macaroni and cheese, to me.
It makes me weird. I know it’s weird. I guess it’s some kind of kinship borne of Maine and weirdness. See, our house in Yarmouth was haunted. Maybe.
Down the road from us lived Caroline. She was in her mid-teens, I think, and she babysat my brother and me. My parents went out a lot at that stage, so we saw Caroline maybe twice a month. She would come over after dinner and stay after our bedtimes.
One night, Caroline saw something. She wouldn’t tell my parents what she saw, but it must have been something awful, because she vowed that night to never come back. And she didn’t. This incident was only part of a weird history that involved my brother and an imaginary child named Charlie. My mom may have mentioned at one time or another that there was a death in the house but I might be confused about that. Anyway, the place was weird. It was down at the end of a dirt road at the edge of a forest.
In other words, it’s sort of the thing Stephen King might write about.
I’m enjoying the Dark Tower series. It’s his most complete work, thematically, and I love how he’s built an entire universe around it that flows through much of his other work. Plus, “Calla” is kind of silly, in the most entertaining way. I was delighted to find Harry Potter and Star Wars references within a page of each other. I love how the inhabitants of Calla Bryn Sturgis are clearly from some alterno-Maine. And with the emphasis on the number nineteen, one can feel a certain similarity to my all-time favorite TV show, “LOST”.
Nineteen. King talks about the significance of the number nineteen to his life in the introduction to the third book in the series, “The Waste Lands”. The number nineteen is symbolic of many things in the series. It comes to be a kind of shorthand for a couple of the characters, for things both good and bad. In the latter part of “Calla”, it carries ominous connotations.
As the book came to a close, I felt a bit wrung out. It’s not a fast read, and so much of the novel is build-up to an excruciating battle scene. I finished it, in fact, in just enough time to dash out the door to pick up Ryan, returning from Hilo the same day.
I’m still thinking about the novel as I’m driving back to the airport (at a much more reasonable speed). I’m thinking about how King is going to sort out a certain odd plot-twist at the end of the novel in the next book. I’m thinking about how there’s often this strange thing that happens where whatever I read at a certain time mirrors something else that I’m reading at the same time. When BAM!
I hit a pothole bigger than Texas. Then: clunkwobblewobblewobble. A flat tire.
I had no phone. I was stuck.
It was much too far to the airport to walk. I opened the hood, turned on my hazard lights, and tried to look helpless, in the hopes someone would pull over. No dice. I had one choice, and it would be very dangerous, but without a phone, all I could do was finish the drive to the airport.
I drove as slowly as I could manage, feeling the death rays of hate shooting from the eyes of my fellow drivers.
I limped into the post office parking lot, which is adjacent to the baggage claim where Ryan would be waiting. Then I headed over to meet him on foot. I dreaded telling him what had happened.
He took it in stride, and almost found it amusing. Almost. We just walked back to the parking lot and, after some “Christmas Story”-esque hijinks, replaced the shredded tire and fancy wheels with the ugly spare. And while we had to cancel our original fancy dinner reservation, we still had time on the slow, careful drive home for a nice sushi dinner.
No biggie. Until I remembered which anniversary it was for us.