King Stephen Edwin (EN) — Rainy Season

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Rainy Season
Из Серии: Nightmares and Dreamscapes
Количество страниц: 6
Язык книги: Русский
Язык оригинальной книги: Русский
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Stephen King

Rainy Season

(Сезон дождя)

It was half past five in the afternoon by the time John and Elise Graham finally found their way into the little village that lay at the center of Willow, Maine, like a fleck of grit at the center of some dubious pearl. The village was less than five miles from the Hempstead Place, but they took two wrong turns on the way. When they finally arrived on Main Street, both of them were hot and out of sorts. The Ford’s air-conditioner had dropped dead on the trip from St. Louis, and it felt about a hundred and ten outside. Of course it wasn’t anything at all like that, John Graham thought. As the old-timers said, it wasn’t the heat, it was the humidity. He felt that today it would be almost possible to reach out and wring warm dribbles of water from the air itself. The sky overhead was a clear and open blue, but that high humidity made it feel as if it were going to rain any minute. Fuck that – it felt as if it were raining already.

‘There’s the market Milly Cousins told us about,’ Elise said, and pointed.

John grunted. ‘Doesn’t exactly look like the supermarket of the future.’

‘No,’ Elise agreed carefully. They were both being careful. They had been married almost two years and they still loved each other very much, but it had been a long trip across country from St. Louis, especially in a car with a broken radio and air-conditioner. John had every hope they would enjoy the summer here in Willow (they ought to, with the University of Missouri picking up the tab), but he thought it might take as long as a week for them to settle in and settle down.

And when the weather turned yellow-dog hot like this, an argument could spin itself out of thin air. Neither of them wanted that kind of start to their summer.

John drove slowly down Main Street toward the Willow General Mercantile and Hardware.

There was a rusty sign with a blue eagle on it hanging from one corner of the porch, and he understood this was also the postal substation. The General Mercantile looked sleepy in the afternoon light, with one single car, a beat-to-shit Volvo, parked beside the sign advertising ITALIAN SANDWICHES PIZZA GROCS FISHING LICENCES, but compared with the rest of the town, it seemed to be all but bursting with life. There was a neon beer sign fizzing away in the window, although it would not be dark for almost three hours yet. Pretty radical, John thought.  Sure hope the owner cleared that sign with the Board of Selectmen before he put it in.

‘I thought Maine turned into Vacationland in the summer,’ Elise murmured.

‘Judging from what we’ve seen so far, I think Willow must be a little off the tourist track,’ he replied.

They got out of the car and mounted the porch steps. An elderly man in a straw hat sat in a rocker with a cane seat, looking at them from shrewd little blue eyes. He was fiddling a home-made cigarette together and dribbling little bits of tobacco on the dog which lay crashed out at his feet. It was a big yellow dog of no particular make or model. Its paws lay directly beneath one of the rocker’s curved runners. The old man took no notice of the dog, seemed not even to realize it was there, but the runner stopped a quarter of an inch from the vulnerable paws each time the old man rocked forward. Elise found this unaccountably fascinating.

‘Good day to ye, lady n man,’ the old gentleman said. ’Hello,’ Elise answered, and offered him a small, tentative smile.

‘Hi,’ John said. ‘I’m…’

‘Mr. Graham,’ the old man finished placidly. ‘Mr. and Missus Graham. Ones that took the Hempstead Place for the summer. Heard you was writin some kind of book.’

‘On the in-migration of the French during the seventeenth century,’ John agreed. ‘Word sure gets around, doesn’t it?’

‘It do travel,’ the old party agreed. ‘Small town, don’tcha know.’ He stuck the cigarette in his mouth, where it promptly fell apart, sprinkling tobacco all over his legs and the dog’s limp hide.  The dog didn’t stir. ‘Aw, flapdoodle,’ the old man said, and peeled the uncoiling paper from his lower lip. ‘Wife doesn’t want me to smoke nummore anyway. She says she read it’s givin her cancer as well as m’ownself.’

‘We came into town to get a few supplies,’ Elise said. ‘It’s a wonderful old house, but the cupboard is bare.’

‘Ayuh,’ the old man said. ‘Good to meet you folks. I’m Henry Eden.’ He hung one bunched hand out in their direction. John shook with him, and Elise followed suit. They both did so with care, and the old man nodded as if to say he appreciated it. ‘I expected you half an hour ago.  Must have taken a wrong turn or two, I guess. Got a lot of roads for such a small town, you know.’ He laughed. It was a hollow, bronchial sound that turned into a phlegmy smoker’s cough.  ‘Got a power of roads in Willow, oh, ayuh!’ And laughed some more.

John was frowning a little. ‘Why would you be expecting us?’

‘Lucy Doucette called, said she saw the new folks go by,’ Eden said. He took out his pouch of Top tobacco, opened it, reached inside, and fished out a packet of rolling papers. ‘You don’t know Lucy, but she says you know her grandniece, Missus.’

‘This is Milly Cousins’s great-aunt we’re talking about?’ Elise asked.

‘Yessum,’ Eden agreed. He began to sprinkle tobacco. Some of it landed on the cigarette paper, but most went onto the dog below. Just as John Graham was beginning to wonder if maybe the dog was dead, it lifted its tail and farted. So much for that idea, he thought. ‘In Willow, just about everybody’s related to everybody else. Lucy lives down at the foot of the hill. I was gonna call you m’self, but since she said you was comin in anyway… ‘ ‘How did you know we’d be coming here?’ John asked.

Henry Eden shrugged, as if to say Where else is there to go?

‘Did you want to talk to us?’ Elise asked.

‘Well, I kinda have to,’ Eden said. He sealed his cigarette and stuck it in his mouth. John waited to see if it would fall apart, as the other one had. He felt mildly disoriented by all this, as if he had walked unknowingly into some bucolic version of the CIA.

The cigarette somehow held together. There was a charred scrap of sandpaper tacked to one of the arms of the rocker. Eden struck the match on it and applied the flame to his cigarette, half of which incinerated on contact.

‘I think you and Missus might want to spend tonight out of town,’ he finally said.

John blinked at him. ‘Out of town? Why would we want to do that? We just got here.’

‘Good idea, though, mister,’ a voice said from behind Eden.

The Grahams looked around and saw a tall woman with slumped shoulders standing inside the Mercantile’s rusty screen door. Her face looked out at them from just above an old tin sign advertising Chesterfield cigarettes – TWENTY-ONE GREAT TOBACCOS MAKE TWENTY WONDERFUL SMOKES. She opened the door and came out on the porch. Her face looked sallow and tired but not stupid. She had a loaf of bread in one hand and a six-pack of Dawson’s Ale in the other. ’I’m Laura Stanton,’ she said. ‘It’s very nice to meet you. We don’t like to seem unsociable in Willow, but it’s the rainy season here tonight.’

John and Elise exchanged bewildered glances. Elise looked at the sky. Except for a few small fair-weather clouds, it was a lucid, unblemished blue.

‘I know how it looks,’ the Stanton woman said, ‘but that doesn’t mean anything, does it, Henry?’

‘No’m,’ Eden said. He took one giant drag on his eroded cigarette and then pitched it over the porch rail.

‘You can feel the humidity in the air,’ the Stanton woman said. ‘That’s the key, isn’t it, Henry?’

‘Well,’ Eden allowed, ‘ayuh. But it is seven years. To the day.’

‘The very day,’ Laura Stanton agreed.

They both looked expectantly at the Grahams.

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