Life in Hypertext
Steven King Through Rose-Colored Eyes
The stewardess has rose-shaded eyelids,
on a morning when I had to convince teary, six-year-old Nashira to scrub
off her rouged cheeks and blue-crayoned eyes in the bathroom of the motel
after she'd awakened and dressed on her own while I went across the street
in a skiff of fresh snow to buy milk for our granola. That was back in
Now, on the way to Baltimore, I sit across
from and behind a guy I am sure is Stephen King: the same rounded, full,
lipless upper lip, bulging cheeks, black hair, large-framed body, round
steel-rimmed glasses. He sits and writes on a yellow legal pad--page
after page in a fast script, churning out the prose--reminding me of
my dream of three weeks ago where I met him in Argenta and he said when
he gets inspired it's like leaning back behind a skidoo and just hanging
on for the ride.
I wonder what great new blockbuster novel
is forming under his fingers as I watch from over his shoulder. I hopefully
imagine that a few beams of inspiration might radiate above him to the
luggage rack, where my pack sits containing the notes for my own would-be
blockbuster. I sit with partial attention trying to concentrate on reading
his latest bestseller, The Dark Half, while the other half of me rehearses
what I could say to him by way of introduction: "Has anyone ever told you you look like
Stephen King?" That approach leaves me an out if I'm wrong: I was just
making an observation.
How about the innocuous, "Stephen?"
This tack worked like a charm when I met, walking down the street in
the middle of Toronto fifteen years before, the subject of my just completed master's thesis, Earle Birney. "Earle?" I'd said, and the
kindly, white-haired man had smiled, and in a sonorous voice said,
"Yeeesss . . ." and invited me to a nearby CBC studio previewing
films made on his poems.
I could play it safe and shorten
it to the even more casual "Steve?"
Or I could thrust my copy of The Dark Half at him and say, "Recognize this?" or "Does this mean
anything to you?"
That dream of three weeks ago, I reflect,
was probably significant. After all, before the Birney encounter I'd
dreamed about Robertson Davies; and even more to the point, two years
before that I'd walked beside Allen Ginsberg on the way to a poetry
reading in San Francisco, after dreaming about riding in a van with Ginsberg, Kerouac
and Gary Snyder. The difference there was that even after I'd dreamed
him, the real Ginsberg took me by surprise. It only dawned on me slowly
that the bearded guy in horn-rimmed glasses carrying sound equipment
beside me on the sidewalk was the actual poet. I didn't say anything;
just continued walking together, shoulder to shoulder with fame. Like
old buddies . . . as in a dream.
"Would you like something to drink,
sir?" The stewardess with the rose eye-shadow stands waiting by
"Uh--sure, I'll have a beer."
"And how about the little girl?"
Nashira does not like being called little,
but all is forgiven as she accepts an orange juice carton from the perfumed
live Barbie in the aisle.
My thoughts return to the book, to my own
dilemma. I could be more obscure and yet at the same time witty--if
my supposition that this man is indeed Stephen King is correct-by
alluding to the narrator's fictional double: "George Stark, I presume?"
Maybe this man one seat over and one seat down is not King but King's
double, with a murderous straight razor tucked away in his black briefcase...
Argyle socks in shiny cordovan loafers,
tacky greenish print shirt, drab pants. Two shots of vodka, I notice,
while he composes. Is he traveling between SciFi conferences? He pulls
out a magazine. On the back cover is an ad, a broken pencil. Aha--a
writer's mag. But then he flips it to the front cover: "Entrepreneur."
Now it looks bad... but maybe he's just researching business types
for his next book.
As we prepare to unboard, I make sure that
Nashira is behind me. The stewardess in the alcove ahead catches my
eye and smiles. I reach across the aisle to collect my pack and in the
process jostle my way forward to stand behind my subject. With a sudden
rush of adrenalin I pop question number one to him: "Has anyone
ever told you you look like Stephen King?"
"Yeah, all the time. I saw you readin'
that book, and thought, oh, no, now he's gonna ask me, too."
Stories - in rough
The Baby Boom
The Boys in the Park
Trumped in Peckerdom
Of Ducks, Trucks and Bucks
Stephen King through Rose-colored
The Meaning of Life
- a novel of the baby boom
and Introductions . . . without end
Visit author website: nowickgray.com
Follow Nowick Gray on Facebook