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A 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 Spokane.

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 her cart.

"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."


© Nowick Gray

Stories - in rough chronology

The Baby Boom
The Boys in the Park
First Love
Trumped in Peckerdom
Of Ducks, Trucks and Bucks
Stephen King through Rose-colored Eyes
Just Coyotes
The Meaning of Life
Deep Summer

Life - a novel of the baby boom

Prefaces and Introductions . . . without end

rendezvousstrange lovemy country

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Fiction and Creative Nonfiction by Nowick Gray

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Cougar WebWorks Publications