‘salem’s Lot - This book punches babies
I read ‘Salem’s Lot when I was in High School, I think. Maybe it was Middle School. Whenever it was I remember it scared the ever loving s**t out of me. I’ve always read in bed until I fall asleep and I clearly remember this book making me rethink that decision but no matter how much I wanted to, I physically could not stop reading it.
One of the biggest questions I had going into reading all these King books was, Why?. Why did my mom want to read such scary stuff all the time? I tried to picture her when Carrie came out or ‘Salem’s Lot the next year. I would have been a newborn and my brother would have been three-ish. For some reason I’m imagining her wandering the aisles of Publix where we used to shop when we were kids. It had a cornucopia painted on the tiled wall outside and a scale right inside the door. Next to the scale was a huge display of magazines and beside that a tall spinning rack of paperback novels. I could see my brother sprawled out on the floor looking through Mad Magazines while she scrolled though the novels with fat-baby me on her hip. I picture her stumbling on ‘Salem’s Lot and thinking, ‘Hmmm. I’ve got nothing but free time on my hands. Maybe I need a good book to fill my days’.
I don’t have to be a father of two similar age kids to know how impossible that situation was. I have heard stories enough to know that I was much too clingy and my brother was much too insane to allow my mom to ever have the chance to think about reading a book. Let alone would we have ever given her a free moment to pick one out. None of that made up story could have ever been true.
But that was the question two and three quarter books ago. Now things are different. I actually am a parent of similar age kids and even though I didn’t have all the time in the world to seek them out these books came into my life. Not long after, came the idea to read them all and now it’s a part of my daily routine. However it happened for my mom, whichever her gateway book was, now I get it. I get it because of this book. This book and it’s non-glittery vampires with mouths describes as maws. This book that punches babies, and puts families laying together in dirt crawl spaces with spiders and rats crawling across their faces. This book that can describe going upstairs to check on some strange noises as one of the most intense and frightening things I’ve ever experienced.
“The basis of all human fears. A closed door, slightly ajar.”
It’s not the horror. It’s something else. There is a pace and unexpectedness mixed with a little familiarity that is thrilling. I catch myself playing with my kids and anticipating getting back to it. I can’t believe it but I’m excited to read more detailed descriptions of how many strokes it takes to hammer a stake through someones heart. I’ve stayed up way to late reading in bed with a flashlight because my wife told me to turn my f**king light off hours ago. I’ve gone to bed early because of how late I stayed up with the flashlight the night before. Then I’ve done it again instead of going to sleep.
This book answers the ‘why’. Because when I was reading it I was immersed. I didn’t care that my porch was falling down. My youngest dropped out of ballet class and I couldn’t give a s**t. Because when I read this book everything got paused. No matter how intense my life felt before I cracked it open it was nothing once I did. With that perfect mix of other people’s inconceivable problems and just enough familiar context, I couldn’t put it down. After that it’s easy to imagine my mom putting my brother and me to bed, her and my dad cleaning up the dinner dishes, doing whatever they did to get ready for the next day. Eventually she climbed into bed with the same book I did, exhausted I’m sure. And thinking she would read just one chapter, two at the most, she’d get sucked in and whether she wanted to or not, I bet she couldn’t put it down.