8:27 am - Wednesday July 18, 2018

Premium Harmony – A short story – Novel And Ebooks

Novel Name: Premium Harmony

Written by: Stephen King

Category: Fiction, Short Stories, Mystery, Literature

Page 1

They’ve been married for ten years and for a l

ong time everything was O.K.—swell—but now they argue. Now they argue quite a lot. It’s really all the same argument. It has circularity. It is, Ray thinks, like a dog track. When they argue, they’re like greyhounds chasing the mechanical rabbit. You go past the same scenery time after time, but you don’t see it. You see the rabbit.

He thinks it might be different if they’d had kids, but she couldn’t. They finally got tested, and that’s what the doctor said. It was her problem. A year or so after that, he bought her a dog, a Jack Russell she named Biznezz. She’d spell it for people who asked. She loves that dog, but now they argue anyway.

They’re going to Wal-Mart for grass seed. They’ve decided to sell the house—they can’t afford to keep it—but Mary says they won’t get far until they do something about the plumbing and get the lawn fixed. She says those bald patches make it look shanty Irish. It’s because of the drought. It’s been a hot summer and there’s been no rain to speak of. Ray tells her grass seed won’t grow without rain no matter how good it is. He says they should wait.

“Then another year goes by and we’re still there,” she says. “We can’t wait another year, Ray. We’ll be bankrupts.”

When she talks, Biz looks at her from his place in the back seat. Sometimes he looks at Ray when Ray talks, but not always. Mostly he looks at Mary.

“What do you think?” he says. “It’s going to rain just so you don’t have to worry about going bankrupt?”

“We’re in it together, in case you forgot,” she says. They’re driving through Castle Rock now. It’s pretty dead. What Ray calls “the economy” has disappeared from this part of Maine. The Wal-Mart is on the other side of town, near the high school where Ray is a janitor. The Wal-Mart has its own stoplight. People joke about it.

“Penny wise and pound foolish,” he says. “You ever hear that one?”

“A million times, from you.”

He grunts. He can see the dog in the rearview mirror, watching her. He sort of hates the way Biz does that. It occurs to him that neither of them knows what they are talking about.

“And pull in at the Quik-Pik,” she says. “I want to get a kickball for Tallie’s birthday.” Tallie is her brother’s little girl. Ray supposes that makes her his niece, although he’s not sure that’s right, since all the blood is on Mary’s side.

“They have balls at Wal-Mart,” Ray says. “And everything’s cheaper at Wally World.”

“The ones at Quik-Pik are purple. Purple is her favorite color. I can’t be sure there’ll be purple at Wal-Mart.”

“If there aren’t, we’ll stop at the Quik-Pik on the way back.” He feels a great weight pressing down on his head. She’ll get her way. She always does on things like this. He sometimes thinks marriage is like a football game and he’s quarterbacking the underdog team. He has to pick his spots. Make short passes.

“It’ll be on the wrong side coming back,” she says—as if they are caught in a torrent of city traffic instead of rolling through an almost deserted little town where most of the stores are for sale. “I’ll just dash in and get the ball and dash right back out.”

At two hundred pounds, Ray thinks, your dashing days are over.

“They’re only ninety-nine cents,” she says. “Don’t be such a pinchpenny.”

Don’t be so pound foolish, he thinks, but what he says is “Buy me a pack of smokes while you’re in there. I’m out.”

“If you quit, we’d have an extra forty dollars a week. Maybe more.”

He saves up and pays a friend in South Carolina to ship him a dozen cartons at a time. They’re twenty dollars a carton cheaper in South Carolina. That’s a lot of money, even in this day and age. It’s not like he doesn’t try to economize. He has told her this before and will again, but what’s the point? In one ear, out the other.

“I used to smoke two packs a day,” he says. “Now I smoke less than half a pack.” Actually, most days he smokes more. She knows it, and Ray knows she knows it. That’s marriage after a while. The weight on his head gets a little heavier. Also, he can see Biz still looking at her. He feeds the damn dog, and he makes the money that pays for the food, but it’s her he’s looking at. And Jack Russells are supposed to be smart.

He turns into the Quik-Pik.

“You ought to buy them on Indian Island if you’ve got to have them,” she says.

“They haven’t sold tax-free smokes on the rez for ten years,” he says. “I’ve told you that, too. You don’t listen.” He pulls past the gas pumps and parks beside the store. There’s no shade. The sun is directly overhead. The car’s air-conditioner only works a little. They are both sweating. In the back seat, Biz is panting. It makes him look like he’s grinning.

“Well, you ought to quit,” Mary says.

“And you ought to quit those Little Debbies,” he says. He doesn’t want to say this—he knows how sensitive she is about her weight—but out it comes. He can’t hold it back. It’s a mystery.

“I don’t eat those no more,” she says. “Any, I mean. Anymore.”

“Mary, the box is on the top shelf. A twenty-four-pack. Behind the flour.”

“Were you snooping?” A flush rises in her cheeks, and he sees how she looked when she was still beautiful. Good-looking, anyway. Everybody said she was good-looking, even his mother, who didn’t like her otherwise.

“I was hunting for the bottle opener,” he says. “I had a bottle of cream soda. The kind with the old-fashioned cap.”

“Looking for it on the top shelf of the goddam cupboard!”

“Go in and get the ball,” he says. “And get me some smokes. Be a sport.”

“Can’t you wait until we get home? Can’t you even wait that long?”

“You can get the cheap ones,” he says. “That off-brand. Premium Harmony, they’re called.” They taste like homemade shit, but all right. If she’ll only shut up about it.

“Where are you going to smoke, anyway? In the car, I suppose, so I have to breathe it.”

“I’ll open the window. I always do.”

“I’ll get the ball. Then I’ll come back. If you still feel you have to spend four dollars and fifty cents to poison your lungs, you can go in. I’ll sit with the baby.”

Ray hates it when she calls Biz the baby. He’s a dog, and he may be as bright as Mary likes to boast when they have company, but he still shits outside and licks where his balls used to be.

“Buy a few Twinkies while you’re at it,” he tells her. “Or maybe they’re having a special on Ho Hos.”

“You’re so mean,” she says. She gets out of the car and slams the door. He’s parked too close to the concrete cube of a building and she has to sidle until she’s past the trunk of the car, and he knows she knows he’s looking at her, seeing how she’s now so big she has to sidle. He knows she thinks he parked close to the building on purpose, to make her sidle, and maybe he did.

Filed in: Fiction, Mystery, Short Novel, Short Stories, Stephen King

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