Stephen King’s “The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates” — Deal Me In 2017, Selection 22

The Card: ♠6♠ Six of Spades

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, the suit of Spades is the domain of Clotho, one of the Fates from Greek Mythology who, according to Plato’s sings of things that are (i.e. the “present” for Deal Me In purposes). This story is set in, more or less, the present time. Though “time is funny here” as the story tells us…

The Selection: “The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates” from my e-copy of The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2.

The Author: Stephen King – you may have read something by him before. If you haven’t read his memoir “On Writing” though, I heartily recommend it.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details maybe found here, but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for a list of the stories/essays I’ll be reading in 2017.

New-York-Times-Logo

The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates

“And don’t go to the bakery anymore on Sundays. Something’s going to happen there, and I know it’s going to be on a Sunday, but I don’t know which Sunday. Time really is funny here.”

***Spoilers Follow*** A mysterious title for a short story (you know how I enjoy puzzling over story titles) – and one whose meaning isn’t revealed until the very end.  It’s the story of Annie, and the aftermath of losing her husband, who died in a plane crash and is somehow able to call her two days after he has allegedly died.

Can we communicate with those who have passed out of this life? Though many, and I count myself among them, do not think so, there are legions of those who believe that we indeed can. This explains how cranks like John Edwards can become wealthy ‘fishing for information’ from credulous live audience members on talk shows, etc. “Does anyone in the room have a relative who’s recently died whose name began with an… “A”?”  What are the odds…

johnedwards

Author Stephen King does not make use of a ‘medium’ or any other facilitator in this story. The dead husband, James, makes contact himself, by calling his widow via a cell phone – a cell phone whose battery is almost dead. (I’m glad this happens on “the other side” too!)  Anyway, the story was great. It seems Annie is the only one who heard the phone ring when he called, and afterward, when she attempts to use *69 to call back, the last call it thinks she received was many hours before.

James doesn’t know where he is, and he isn’t afraid. He’s just “worried” that he doesn’t know where to go next, as he relates to Annie that he’s standing in someplace like “Grand Central Station” but there are no trains there, just doors. He tells her how some of his fellow passengers on the ill-fated plane are reacting to the situation. He tells her not to go to the bakery on Sundays anymore. It seems that, where he is now, he has some special foreknowledge of future events (“Time’s funny here.”) and also tells her not to employ a certain young man to clean the gutters next fall. Both of his warnings turn out to be valid.

The story actually follows Annie’s life a few years down the road – providing ample time for his warnings to make sense – and even after that much time has passed, she still remembers the phone call:

“She has dreamed of that call so many times it now almost seems like a dream itself. But she has never told anyone about it.”

When the story ends she is still ‘plagued’ by the memory and tormented by any unanswered call. Near the end she returns home and her sister, Sarah, is in the house with the music blaring, not hearing the phone ring. Annie can’t get to it in time to answer. When she *69’s it, a recorded voice “offers to sell her The New York Times at special bargain rates that will not be repeated.”

The funny thing for me about reading this story was that, apparently, I’ve read it before but have no memory of it. I know that I got Stephen King’s “Just After Sunset” story collection once for Christmas and read it, but I didn’t remember this story. I’ll have to find my copy of that and see if I underlined or made any notes in it at that time. It’s very strange that I don’t remember anything about a story – almost like I only dreamed that I read that book…

This was my 22nd story or essay that I’ve read for Deal Me In 2017 (I’m supposed to read one a week and am behind as usual.) I haven’t been able to blog as much in recent months as I used to, so rather than try to catch up and post about all the stories in order, I’ll just try to share one here or there as I’m catching up. Okay? 🙂

How about YOU? What is YOUR favorite Stephen King short story?  There are certainly a lot to choose from.

 

 

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Exciting/Challenging plans for next month’s #24in48 Readathon!

I’ve been away from blogging for a while but hope to come roaring back in June and July. First, I must catch up on posting about my Deal Me In 2017 stories. I’m about 9-10 behind, but have read four of those. I’ll probably do some “collective” posts dealing with several stories at a time. This is the worst I’ve fallen behind since 2011 – the very first year I attempted the Deal Me In challenge. 😦

What I’m starting to geek out about though, is an idea I have for my reading during next month’s #24in48 readathon. The last few times I’ve participated I’ve tweaked the format, reading 24 short stories in 48 hours, using my Deal Me In approach (what is the “Deal Me In” challenge?) of assigning each story to a playing card in a “euchre deck” and drawing them one at a time to randomize the order. I’ve always found that reading short stories during a readathon helps me avoid getting “stuck” in a longer work.

For next month, though, I’m going to up the ante. I’m making this one a “52in24in48” readathon, reading a full deck’s worth of stories with the catch being that they’ll all be stories by Ray Bradbury, the beloved science fiction/fantasy/however you want to label him writer. Reading 52 stories may take me the whole 24 hours too, making this the first time I’ve done the #24in48 in its pure form (of the “24” meaning HOURS, not 24 short stories). I’ll come up with some prize donations for the home site of #24in48, and maybe offer a few on my own site for commenters, or those who read & post about something by Bradbury during the challenge, or even just for logging into and “liking” The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies’ Facebook page. Heck, you should do that last thing regardless of the #24in48 readathon anyway, right?

I’ll firm up the details of this project in the next few weeks.  One thing I have already decided, though, is that one of my “suits” from my 52 cards will be Bradbury Stories recommended by my fellow bloggers, so give me some recommendations starting… NOW! 🙂

(Below: One of Bradbury’s stories later evolved into the iconic novel, Farenheit 451)

the fireman

I should note also that today (June 5th) marks 5 years since Bradbury passed away. It’s hard to believe it’s been so long already.

(below: one of my favorite Bradbury pics – taken with him posing in the driver’s seat of the Time Machine prop from George Pal’s film adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel.)

Ray-Bradbury-In-Time-Machine.jpg

What about YOU?  Are you doing the #24in48 Readathon next month (7/22-7/23)?  Do you plan to read anything by Bradbury? What are your reading plans for this fun challenge?