It

Page 161


He looked down at them, his heart beating faster, seeming to pump in his throat as much as in his chest. It was the first independent action Audra had taken all week, so far as he knew... the first independent action she had taken since It happened... whatever It had been.


"Audra?"


There was no answer. He tried to crane his neck around and see her but couldn't quite make it. There were only her hands around his waist, the nails showing the last chips of a red polish that had been put on by a bright, lively, talented young woman in a small English town.


"We're going for a ride," Bill said, and he began to roll Silver forward toward Palmer Lane, listening to the gravel crunch under the tires. "I want you to hold on, Audra. I think... I think I may go sort of f-f-fast."


If I don't lose my guts.


He thought of the kid he had met earlier during his stay in Derry, when It had still been happening. You can't be careful on a skateboard, the kid had said.


Truer words were never spoken, kid.


"Audra? You ready?"


No answer. Had her hands tightened the tiniest bit across his middle? Probably just wishful thinking.


He reached the end of the driveway and looked right. Palmer Lane ran straight to Upper Main Street, where a left turn would take him onto the hill running downtown. Downhill. Picking up speed. He felt a tremor of fear at the image, and a disquieting thought


(old bones break easy, Billy-boy)


ran through his mind almost too quickly to read and was gone. But...


But it wasn't all disquiet, was it? No. It was desire as well... the feeling he'd had when he saw the kid walking along with the skateboard under his arm. The desire to go fast, to feel the wind race past you without knowing if you were racing toward or running away from, to just go. To fly.


Disquiet and desire. All the difference between world and want-the difference between being an adult who counted the cost and a child who just got on it and went, for instance. All the world between. Yet not that much difference at all. Bedfellows, really. The way you felt when the roller-coaster car approached the top of the first steep grade, where the ride really begins.


Disquiet and desire. What you want and what you're scared to try for. Where you've been and where you want to go. Something in a rock-and-roll song about wanting the girl, the car, the place to stand and be. Oh please God can you dig it.


Bill closed his eyes for a moment, feeling the soft dead weight of his wife behind him, feeling the hill somewhere ahead of him, feeling his own heart inside him.


Be brave, be true, stand.


He began to push Silver forward again. "You want to rock and roll a little, Audra?"


No answer. But that was all right. He was ready.


"Hold on, then."


He began to pedal. It was hard going at first. Silver wobbled alarmingly back and forth, Audra's weight adding to the imbalance... yet she must be doing some balancing, even unconsciously, or they would have crashed right away. Bill stood on the pedals, hands squeezing the handlegrips with maniacal tightness, his head turned skyward, his eyes slits, the cords on his neck standing out.


Gonna fall splat right here in the street, split her skull and mine -


(no you ain't go for it Bill go for it go for the son of a bitch)


He stood on the pedals, revolving them, feeling every cigarette he'd smoked over the last twenty years in his elevated blood-pressure and the race of his heart. Fuck that, too! he thought, and the rush of crazy exhilaration made him grin.


The playing cards, which had been firing isolated shots, now began to click-clock faster. They were new, nice new Bikes, and they made a good loud sound. Bill felt the first touch of breeze on his bald pate, and his grin widened. I made that breeze, he thought. I made it by pumping these damn pedals.


The STOP sign at the end of the lane was coming up. Bill began to brake... and then (his grin still widening, showing more and more of his teeth) he began to pump again.


Ignoring the STOP sign, Bill Denbrough swept to the left, onto Upper Main Street above Bassey Park. Again Audra's weight fooled him and they almost overbalanced and crashed. The bike wavered, wobbled, then righted itself. That breeze was stronger now, cooling the sweat on his forehead, evaporating it, rushing past his ears with a low intoxicating sound that was a little like the sound of the ocean in a conch shell but was really like nothing else on earth. Bill supposed it was a sound the kid with the skateboard was familiar with. But it's a sound you'll fall out of touch with, kid, he thought. Things have a way of changing. It's a dirty trick, so be prepared for it.


Pedaling faster now, finding a surer balance in speed. The ruins of Paul Bunyan on the left, like a fallen colossus. Bill shouted: "Hi-yo Silver, AWAYYYYY!"


Audra's hands tightened around his middle; he felt her stir against his back. But there was no urge to turn and try to see her now... no urge, no need. He pedaled faster, laughing out loud, a tall skinny bald man on a bike crouched over the handlebars to lessen the wind-resistance. People turned to look as he raced alongside Bassey Park.


Now Upper Main Street began to incline toward the caved-in center of town at a steeper angle, and a voice inside whispered to him that if he didn't brake soon he would find himself unable; he would simply go sweeping into the sunken remains of the three-way intersection like a bat out of hell and kill both of them.


Instead of braking he began to pedal again, urging the bike to go even faster. Now he was flying down Main Street Hill and he could see the white-and-orange crash barriers, the smudgepots with their smoky Halloween flames marking the edge of the cave-in, he could see the tops of buildings which jutted out of the streets like the figments of a madman's imagination.


"Hi-yo Silver, AWAYYYYYYY!" Bill Denbrough cried deliriously, and rushed down the hill toward whatever there would be, aware for one last time of Derry as his place, aware most of all that he was alive under a real sky, and that all was desire, desire, desire.


He raced down the hill on Silver: he raced to beat the devil.


6


leaving.


So you leave, and there is an urge to look back, to look back just once as the sunset fades, to see that severe New England skyline one final time-the spires, the Standpipe, Paul with his axe slung over his shoulder. But it is perhaps not such a good idea to look back-all the stories say so. Look what happened to Lot's wife. Best not to look back. Best to believe there will be happily ever afters all the way around-and so there may be; who is to say there will not be such endings? Not all boats which sail away into darkness never find the sun again, or the hand of another child; if life teaches anything at all, it teaches that there are so many happy endings that the man who believes there is no God needs his rationality called into serious question.


You leave and you leave quick when the sun starts to go down, he thinks in this dream. That's what you do. And if you spare a last thought, maybe it's ghosts you wonder about... the ghosts of children standing in the water at sunset, standing in a circle, standing with their hands joined together, their faces young, sure, but tough... tough enough, anyway, to give birth to the people they will become, tough enough to understand, maybe, that the people they will become must necessarily birth the people they were before they can get on with trying to understand simple mortality. The circle closes, the wheel rolls, and that's all there is.


You don't have to look back to see those children; part of your mind will see them forever, live with them forever, love with them forever. They are not necessarily the best part of you, but they were once the repository of all you could become.


Children I love you. I love you so much.


So drive away quick, drive away while the last of the light slips away, drive away from Derry, from memory... but not from desire. That stays, the bright cameo of all we were and all we believed as children, all that shone in our eyes even when we were lost and the wind blew in the night.


Drive away and try to keep smiling. Get a little rock and roll on the radio and go toward all the life there is with all the courage you can find and all the belief you can muster. Be true, be brave, stand.


All the rest is darkness.


7


"Hey!"


"Hey mister, you-"


"-lookout!"


"Damn fool's gonna-"


Words whipped by in the slipstream, as meaningless as pennants in a breeze or untethered balloons. Here came the crash barriers; he could smell the sooty aroma of kerosene from the smudgepots. He saw the yawning darkness where the street had been, heard sullen water rushing down there in the tangled darkness, and laughed at the sound.


He dragged Silver hard left, so close to the crash barriers now that the leg of his jeans actually whispered along one of them. Silver's wheels were less than three inches from the place where the tar ended in empty space, and he was running out of maneuvering room. Up ahead the water had eroded all of the street and half the sidewalk in front of Cash's Jewelry Store. Barriers closed off what was left of the sidewalk; it had been severely undercut.


"Bill?" It was Audra's voice, dazed and a little thick. She sounded as if she had just awakened from a deep sleep. "Bill, where are we? What are we doing?"


"Hi yo, Silver!" Bill shouted, pointing the rushing gantry that was Silver directly at the crash barrier jutting out at right angles to the empty Cash show window. "HI YO SILVER AWAYYYYY!"


Silver struck the barrier at better than forty miles an hour and it went flying, the centerboard in one direction, the A-shaped supports in two others. Audra cried out and squeezed Bill so tightly that he lost his breath. Up and down Main Street, Canal Street, and Kansas Street, people stood in doorways and on sidewalks, watching.


Silver shot out onto the bridge of undercut sidewalk. Bill felt his left hip and knee chip the side of the jewelry store. He felt Silver's rear wheel sag suddenly and understood that the sidewalk was falling in behind them -


- and then Silver's forward motion carried them back onto solid roadway. Bill swerved to avoid an overturned trashcan and barrelled out into the street again. Brakes squealed. He saw the grille of a big truck approaching and still couldn't seem to stop laughing. He ran through the space the heavy truck wound up occupying a full second before it got there. Shit, time to spare!


Yelling, tears squirting from his eyes, Bill blew Silver's oogah-horn, listening to each hoarse bray embed itself in the day's bright light.


"Bill, you're going to kill us both!" Audra cried out, and although there was terror in her voice, she was also laughing.


Bill heeled Silver over, and this time he felt Audra leaning with him, making die bike easier to control, helping to make the two of them exist with it, at least for this small compact moment of time, as three living things.


"Do you think so?" he shouted back.


"I know so!" she cried, and then grabbed his crotch, where there was a huge and cheerful erection. "But don't stop!"


He had nothing to say about it, however. Silver's speed was bleeding away on Up-Mile Hill, the heavy roar of the playing cards becoming single gunshots again. Bill stopped and turned to her. She was pale, wide-eyed, obviously scared and confused... but awake, aware, and laughing.


"Audra," he said, laughing with her. He helped her off Silver, leaned the bike against a handy brick wall, and embraced her. He kissed her forehead, her eyes, her cheeks, her mouth, her neck, her breasts.


She hugged him while he did it.


"Bill, what's been happening? I remember getting off the plane at Bangor, and I can't remember a thing after that. Are you all right?"


"Yes."


"Am I?"


"Yes. Now."


She pushed him away so she could look at him. "Bill, are you still stuttering?"


"No," Bill said, and kissed her. "My stutter is gone."


"For good?"


"Yes," he said. "I think this time it's gone for good.'


'did you say something about rock and roll?"


"I don't know. Did I?"


"I love you," she said.


He nodded and smiled. When he smiled he looked very young, bald head or not. "I love you too," he said. "And what else counts?"


8


He awakens from this dream unable to remember exactly what it was, or much at all beyond the simple fact that he has dreamed about being a child again. He touches his wife's smooth back as she sleeps her warm sleep and dreams her own dreams; he thinks that it is good to be a child, but it is also good to be grownup and able to consider the mystery of childhood... its beliefs and desires. I will write about all of this one day, he thinks, and knows it's just a dawn thought, an after-dreaming thought. But it's nice to think so for awhile in the morning's clean silence, to think that childhood has its own sweet secrets and confirms mortality, and that mortality defines all courage and love. To think that what has looked forward must also look back, and that each life makes its own imitation of immortality: a wheel.


Or so Bill Denbrough sometimes thinks on those early mornings after dreaming, when he almost remembers his childhood, and the friends with whom he shared it.


The book was begun in Bangor, Maine,


on September 9th, 1981,


and completed in Bangor, Maine,


on December 28th, 1985.


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