He had seen it and he had gone on with his life; he had integrated the memory into his view of the world. He was still young enough so that view was tremendously wide. But what had happened that day had nonetheless haunted his mind's darker corners, and sometimes in his dreams he ran from that grotesque bird as it printed its shadow on him from above. Some of these dreams he remembered and some he did not, but they were there, shadows which moved by themselves.
How little of it he had forgotten and how greatly it had troubled him (as he went about his daily round: helping his father, going to school, riding his bike, doing errands for his mother, waiting for the black groups to come on American Bandstand after school) was perhaps measurable in only one way-the relief he felt in sharing it with the others. As he did, he realized it was the first time he had even allowed himself to think of it fully since that early morning by the Canal, when he had seen those odd grooves... and the blood.
Mike told the story of the bird at the old Ironworks and how he had run into the pipe to escape it. Later on that afternoon, three of the Losers-Ben, Richie, Bill-walked toward the Derry Public Library. Ben and Richie were keeping a close watch for Bowers and Company, but Bill only looked at the sidewalk, frowning, lost in thought. About an hour after telling them his story Mike had left them, saying his father wanted him home by four to pick peas. Beverly had to do some marketing and fix dinner for her father, she said. Both Eddie and Stan had their own things to do. But before they broke up for the day they began digging what was to become-if Ben was right-their underground clubhouse. To Bill (and to all of them, he suspected), the groundbreaking had seemed an almost symbolic act. They had begun. Whatever it was they were supposed to do as a group, as a unit, they had begun.
Ben asked Bill if he believed like Hanlon's story. They were passing Derry Community House and the library was just ahead, a stone oblong comfortably shaded by elms a century old and as yet untouched by the Dutch Elm disease that would later plague and thin them.
"Yeah," Bill said. "I th-think it was the truh-hooth. C-C-Crazy, but true. What about you, Ruh-Ruh-Richie?"
Richie nodded. "Yeah. I hate to believe it, if you know what I mean, but I guess I do. You remember what he said about the bird's tongue?
Bill and Ben nodded. Orange fluffs on it.
"That's the kicker," Richie said. "It's like some comic-book villain. Lex Luthor or the Joker or someone like that. It always leaves a trademark."
Bill nodded thoughtfully. It was like some comic-book villain. Because they saw it that way? Thought of it that way? Yes, perhaps so. It was kid's stuff, but it seemed that was what this thing thrived on-kid's stuff.
They crossed the street to the library side.
"I a-a-asked Stuh-Stuh-Stan i-if he e-ever h-h-heard of a buh-bird l-like that," Bill said. "Nuh-nuh-not n-necessarily a b-b-big wuh-wuh-one, but j- just a-a-a-"
"A real one?" Richie suggested.
Bill nodded. "H-He suh-said there m-m-might be a buh-bird like that in Suh-houth America or A-A-A-Africa, but nuh-nuh-not a-around h-h-here."
"He didn't believe it, then?" Ben asked.
"H-H-He buh-believed i-i-it," Bill said. And then he told them something else Stan had suggested when Bill walked with him back to where Stan had left his bike. Stan's idea was that nobody else could have seen that bird before Mike told them that story. Something else, maybe, but not that bird, because the bird was Mike Hanlon's personal monster. But now... why, now that bird was the property of the whole Losers" Club, wasn't it? Any of them might see it. It might not look exactly the same; Bill might see it as a crow, Richie as a hawk, Beverly as a golden eagle, for all Stan knew-but It could be a bird to all of them now. Bill told Stan that if that was true, then any of them might see the leper, the mummy, or possibly the dead boys.
"Which means we ought to do something pretty soon if we're going to do anything at all," Stan had replied. "It knows..."
"Wuh-What?" Bill had asked sharply. "Eh-Everything we nuh-know?"
"Man, if It knows that, we're sunk," Stan had answered. "But you can bet It knows we know about It, I think It'll try to get us. Are you still thinking about what we talked about yesterday?"
"I wish I could go with you."
"Buh-Buh-Ben and Rih-Richie w-w-will. Ben's really s-s-smart, and Rih-Rih-Richie is, too, when he ih-isn't fucking o-off."
Now, standing outside the library, Richie asked Bill exactly what it was he had in mind. Bill told them, speaking slowly so he wouldn't stutter too badly. The idea had been circling in his mind for the last two weeks, but it had taken Mike's story of the bird to crystallize it.
What did you do if you wanted to get rid of a bird?
Well, shooting it was pretty goddam final.
What did you do if you wanted to get rid of a monster? Well, the movies suggested that shooting it with a silver bullet was pretty goddam final.
Ben and Richie listened to this respectfully enough. Then Richie asked, "How do you get a silver bullet, Big Bill? Send away for it?"
"Very fuh-fuh-funny. We'll have to m-m-make it."
"I guess that's what we're at the library to find out," Ben said. Richie nodded and pushed his glasses up on his nose. Behind them, his eyes were sharp and thoughtful... but doubtful, Bill thought. He felt doubtful himself. At least there was no foolishness in Richie's eyes, and that was a step in the right direction.
"You thinking about your dad's Walther?" Richie asked. The one we took to Neibolt Street?"
"Yes," Bill said.
"Even if we could really make silver bullets," Richie said, "where would we
get the silver?"
"Let me worry about that," Ben said quietly.
"Well... okay," Richie said. "We'll let Haystack worry about that. Then what? Neibolt Street again?"
Bill nodded. "Nee-Nee-Neibolt Street a-a-again. And then we buh-blow its fucking h-h-head o-off."
The three of them stood there a moment longer, looking at each other solemnly, and then they went into the library.
"Sure an begorrah, it's that black feller again!" Richie cried in his Irish Cop Voice.
A week had passed; it was nearly mid July and the underground clubhouse was almost finished.
"Top o the mornin to ye, Mr O'Hanlon, sor! And a foine, foine day it promises to be, foine as pertaters a-growin, as me old mither used to-"
"So far as I know, noon is the top of the morning, Richie," Ben said, popping up in the hole, "and noon was two hours ago." He and Richie had been putting in shoring around the sides of the hole. Ben had taken off his sweatshirt because the day was hot and the work was hard. His tee-shirt was gray with sweat and stuck to his chest and pouch of a stomach. He seemed remarkably unselfconscious of the way he looked, but Mike guessed that if Ben heard Beverly coming, he would be inside that baggy sweatshirt again before you could say puppy love.
"Don't be so picky-you sound like Stan the Man," Richie said. He had gotten out of the hole five minutes before because, he told Ben, it was time for a cigarette break.
"I thought you said you didn't have any cigarettes," Ben had said.
"I don't," Richie had replied, "but the principle remains the same."
Mike had his father's photograph album under his arm. "Where is everybody?" he asked. He knew Bill had to be somewhere around, because he had left his own bike parked under the bridge near Silver.
"Bill and Eddie went down to the dump about half an hour ago to liberate some more boards," Richie said. "stanny and Bev went down to Reynolds Hardware to get hinges. I don't know what the frock Haystack's up to down there-up to down there, ha-ha, you get it?-but it's probably no good. Boy needs someone to keep an eye on him, you know. By the way, you owe us twenty-three cents if you still want to be in this club. Your share of the hinges."
Mike switched the album from his right arm to his left and dug into his pocket. He counted out twenty-three cents (leaving a grand total of one dime in his own personal treasury) and handed it over to Richie. Then he walked over to the hole and looked in.
Except it really wasn't a hole anymore. The sides had been neatly squared off. Each side had been shored up. The boards were all mongrels, but Ben, Bill, and Stan had done a good job of sizing them with tools from Zack Denbrough's shop (and Bill had been at great pains to make sure every tool was returned every night, and in the same condition as when it was taken). Ben and Beverly had nailed cross-pieces between the supports. The hole still made Eddie a little nervous, but that was Eddie's nature. Piled carefully to one side were squares of sod which would later be glued to the top.
"I think you guys know what you're doing," Mike said.
"Sure," Ben said, and pointed to the album. "What you got?"
"My father's Derry album," Mike said. "He collects old pictures and clippings about the town. It's his hobby. I was looking through it a couple of days ago-I told you I thought I'd seen that clown before. And I did. In here. So I brought it down." He was too ashamed to add that he had not dared to ask his father's permission to do this. Afraid of the questions to which such a request might lead, he had taken it from the house like a thief while his father planted potatoes in the west field and his mother hung clothes in the back yard. "I thought you guys ought to take a look, too."
"Well, let's see," Richie said.
"I'd like to wait until everybody's here. It might be better."
"Okay." Richie was, in truth, not that anxious to look at more pictures of Derry, in this or any other album. Not after what had happened in Georgie's room. "You want to help me and Ben with the rest of the shoring?"
"You bet." Mike put his father's album down carefully, far enough from the hole so it wouldn't be pelted with flying dirt, and took Ben's shovel.
"Dig right here," Ben said, showing Mike the spot. "Go down about a foot. Then I'll set a board in and hold it flush against the side while you shovel the dirt back in."
"Good plan, man," Richie said sagely from where he sat on the edge of the excavation with his sneakers dangling down.
"What's wrong with you?" Mike asked.
"Got a bone in my leg," Richie said comfortably.
"How's your project with Bill going?" Mike stopped long enough to strip off his shirt and then began to dig. It was hot down here, even in the Barrens. Crickets hummed sleepily like summer clocks in the brush.
"Well... not too bad," Richie said, and Mike thought he flashed Ben a mildly warning look. "I guess."
"Why don't you play your radio, Richie?" Ben asked. He slipped a board into the hole Mike had dug and held it there. Richie's transistor was hung by the strap in its accustomed place, on the thick branch of a nearby shrub.
"Batteries are worn out," Richie said. "You had to have my last twenty-five cents for hinges, remember? Cruel, Haystack, very cruel. After all the things I've done for you. Besides, all I can only get down here is WABI and they only play pansy rock."
"Huh?" Mike asked.
"Haystack thinks Tommy Sands and Pat Boone sing rock and roll," Richie said, "but that's because he's ill. Elvis sings rock and roll. Ernie K. Doe sings rock and roll. Carl Perkins sings rock and roll. Bobby Darin. Buddy Holly. "Ah-ow Peggy... my Peggy Suh-uh-oo... ""
"Please, Richie," Ben said.
"Also," Mike said, leaning on his shovel, "there's Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Shep and the Limelights, La Verne Baker, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, the Coasters, the Isley Brothers, the Crests, the Chords, Stick McGhee-"
They were looking at him with such amazement that Mike laughed.
"You lost me after Little Richard," Richie said. He liked Little Richard, but if he had a secret rock-and-roll hero that summer it was Jerry Lee Lewis. His mom had happened to come into the living room while Jerry Lee was performing on American Bandstand. This was at the point in his act where Jerry Lee actually climbed onto his piano and played it upside down with his hair hanging in his face. He had been singing "High School Confidential." For a moment Richie believed his mom was going to faint. She didn't, but she was so traumatized by what she had seen that she talked at dinner that night about sending Richie to one of those military-type camps for the rest of the summer. Now Richie shook his hair down over his eyes and began to sing: "Come on over baby all the cats are at the high school rockin-"
Ben began to stagger around the hole, grasping his large belly and pretending to puke. Mike held his nose, but he was laughing so hard tears squirted out of his eyes.
"What's wrong?" Richie demanded. "I mean, what ails you guys? That was good! I mean, that was really good!"
"Oh man," Mike said, and now he was laughing so hard he could barely talk. "That was priceless. I mean, that was really priceless."
"Negroes have no taste," Richie said. "I think it even says so in the Bible."
"Yo mamma," Mike said, laughing harder than ever. When Richie asked, with honest bewilderment, what that meant, Mike sat down with a thump and rocked back and forth, howling and holding his stomach.
"You probably think I'm jealous," Richie said. "You probably think I want to be a Negro."
Now Ben also fell down, laughing wildly. His whole body rippled and quaked alarmingly. His eyes bulged. "No more, Richie," he managed. "I'm gonna shit my pants. I'm gonna d-d-die if you don't stub-stop-"
"I don't want to be a Negro," Richie said. "Who wants to wear pink pants and live in Boston and buy pizza by the slice? I want to be Jewish like Stan. I want to own a pawnshop and sell people switchblades and plastic dog-puke and used guitars."
Ben and Mike were now actually screaming with laughter. Their laughter echoed through the green and jungly ravine that was the misnamed Barrens, causing birds to take wing and squirrels to freeze momentarily on limbs. It was a young sound, penetrating, lively, vital, unsophisticated, free. Almost every living thing within range of that sound reacted to it in some way, but the thing which had tumbled out of a wide concrete drain and into the upper Kenduskeag was not living. The previous afternoon there had been a sudden driving thunderstorm (the clubhouse-to-be had not been much affected-since digging operations had begun, Ben had covered the hole carefully each evening with a ragged piece of tarpaulin Eddie had scrounged from behind Wally's Spa; it smelled painty but it did the job), and the stormdrains under Derry had run with violent water for two or three hours. It was that spate of water that had pushed this unpleasant baggage into the sun for the flies to find.