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.


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…


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.




Big Driver (story 2 from Stephen King’s Full Dark, No Stars)

I posted about the first story in King’s new book a week ago; this second one I wasn’t quite as taken with. “Big Driver” is the story of a female author – seems her specialty (as i imagined it anyway) is a series of “Jessica Fletcher-toned” mystery novels featuring a crime solving cooking club – who encounters misfortune returning from a bookstore appearance and book signing in a nearby town. Actually, misfortune is not the right word; she is violently assaulted and left for dead. Of course, she’s not dead, though. We wouldn’t have a story then now would we?

What I liked: I enjoyed King’s early descriptions of the nature of the book store event, and all of its associated routines and rituals clearly aggregated from years of his own personal experience. I enjoyed the device that King uses to share the protagonists internal deliberations. Her cat, the dog of one of her perpetrator’s accomplices, and even her own Tom-Tom GPS system (creepy!) all take turns serving as her foil as she decides what she is going to do in the wake of her attack. I liked her spunk after being a victim. She decides to take action, rather than the route so many victims of sexual assault apparently take – not reporting the attack. According to the statistics referenced in the story, two-thirds go unreported.

What I didn’t like: The violence. Not a big fan. (of course, there was also plenty of violence in the first story in this collection, which I really liked, so I guess violence is not a deal breaker) I also thought things worked out a little too easily for her towards the end of the story. I mean ***Spoiler Alert!*** are we really expected to believe she’s going to get away with her vengeful killing spree? And her one “loose end” too easily agrees to be complicit in her crime. (fortunately – not surprisingly, though – this particular loose end was also a victim of sexual assault earlier in her life. Overall, not a bad story and an easy read at just over one hundred pages. I suspect, though, that this story will be one I remember almost nothing about a few years from now. Although, now that I’ve started blogging about what I read, I find I’m remembering a LOT more than I used to, so we’ll see…

(above: a Peterbilt 389; the newest truck in the fleet of Red Hawk Trucking (“Big Driver’s” Company)

This is the first short story of my “Deal Me In!” Short Story Reading Project of 2011.