What's All This Then?

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What's All This Then?

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The Shining
by Stephen King

Field-Tested by Dawn Caplan

in the basement in La Crosse, Wisconsin

It was the summer of ’82 in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and my older brother David and I were teamed up against the world. We’d moved that spring, and been transferred to a new school where we knew no one. David was two years older, considerably bigger, and moments from disaffected puberty. I thought he was god.

It wasn’t as though we’d moved to a new town, but we had moved from an insular coulee, full of other physicians’ families and kids we’d known since birth, to a yet-to-be-developed ridge line topping a bluff ten miles out of town.

During an exploration of the new neighborhood, on one of those deceptively warm March days, I got stuck in a snow-melt swollen stream. I slipped into it as David and I hiked back up the west face of the bluff, and my boots became one with the early-season mud. Water was up to my waist, my brother couldn’t pull me out, and he left me, scrambling home to get our father. I expect that now, 20+ years later, my moon boots have become the basis for a small island in that shallow stream. That day, I, sock-footed, followed my father and brother back home.

We were banned from the woods by parental order.

Summer came. We got to know the neighbor kids, what few there were. We stuck to the backyards. Played kick-the-can. Then it got hot. Really. Really. Hot.

Everyone disappeared into their homes, or to summer camp, or to the east coast. Our street was empty. We were banned from slipping into the cool shade of the woods, and our new house’s air conditioning wasn’t working very well. The upper floors were too hot, too bright. So David and I went underground.

Under the basement stairs, our parents had piled everything they planned on eventually getting rid of; carpet remnants, old furniture, and the books cleaned out from their (considerable) library. We created a room of our own in a corner of the blissfully cool, dark basement. We rolled out the carpet remnants, repositioned a 60s era coffee table, and hauled down the bean bag chairs from our bedrooms.

We had just finished listening to a serial radio version of Stephen King’s The Mist on NPR. We would sit in my room every Sunday, each with headphones on, backs against my bed, feet against the wall; horrified yet captivated for a half hour each weekend until the series finally concluded. We wanted more. Then, digging through a box of books intended for Goodwill, we found the mother lode, The Shining.

We spent two weeks reading to each other, passing the book back and forth in the dim light of the window wells. I don’t know about David, but I know there were times when that book scared the hell out of me. But we were together, in a cool, dark place, and if he didn’t run then I wasn't going to either.

Dawn Caplan started life as a writing major at Columbia College, Chicago but ended up becoming an IT professional in Michigan. She writes a lot of technical manuals and user guides, and when the mood strikes, an occasional article for the Lawton Free Reader.

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