Danny is only five years old, but he is a 'shiner', aglow with psychic voltage. When his father Jack becomes caretaker of an old hotel, his visions grow out of control. Cut off by blizzards, the ...(more)
Ullman said: "The Overlook was built in the years 1907 to 1909. The closest?town is Sidewinder, forty miles east of here over roads that are closed from?sometime in late October or November until sometime in April. A man named Robert Townley Watson built it, the grandfather of our present maintenance man. Vanderbilts have stayed here, and Rockefellers, and Astors, and Du Pouts. Four Presidents have stayed in the Presidential Suite. Wilson, Harding, Roosevelt,?and Nixon."
"I wouldn't be too proud of Harding and Nixon," Jack murmured.
Ullman frowned but went on regardless. "It proved too much for Mr. Watson, and he sold the hotel in 1915. It was sold again in 1922, in 1929, in 1936. It stood?vacant until the end of World War II, when it was purchased and completely renovated by Horace Derwent, millionaire inventor, pilot, film producer, and entrepreneur."
"I know the name," Jack said.
"Yes. Everything he touched seemed to turn to gold ... except the Overlook. He funneled over a million dollars into it before the first postwar guest ever stepped through its doors, turning a decrepit relic into a showplace. It was Derwent who added the roque court I saw you admiring when you arrived."
"A British forebear of our croquet, Mr. Torrance. Croquet is bastardized roque. According to legend, Derwent learned the game from his social secretary and fell completely in love with it. Ours may be the finest roque court in America."
"I wouldn't doubt it," Jack said gravely. A roque court, a topiary full of?hedge animals out front, what next? A life-sized Uncle Wiggly game behind the equipment shed? He was getting very tired of Mr. Stuart Ullman, but he could see that Ullman wasn't done. Ullman was going to have his say, every last word of?it.
"When he had lost three million, Derwent sold it to a group of California investors. Their experience with the Overlook was equally bad. Just not hotel people.
"In 1970, Mr. Shockley and a group of his associates bought the hotel and turned its management over to me. We have also run in the red for several years, but I'm happy to say that the trust of the present owners in me has never wavered. Last year we broke even. And this year the Overlook's accounts were written in black ink for the first time in almost seven decades."
Jack supposed that this fussy little man's pride was justified, and then his original dislike washed over him again in a wave.
He said: "I see no connection between the Overlook's admittedly colorful history and your feeling that I'm wrong for the post, Mr. Ullman."
"One reason that the Overlook has lost so much money lies in the depreciation that occurs each winter. It shortens the profit margin a great deal more than?you might believe, Mr. Torrance. The winters are fantastically cruel. In order?to cope with the problem, I've installed a full-time winter caretaker to run the boiler and to heat different parts of the hotel on a daily rotating basis. To
repair breakage as it occurs and to do repairs, so the elements can't get a
foothold. To be constantly alert to any and every contingency. During our first winter I hired a family instead of a single man. There was a tragedy. A horrible tragedy."
Ullman looked at Jack coolly and appraisingly.?"I made a mistake. I admit it freely. The man was a drunk."?Jack felt a slow, hot grin -- the total antithesis of the toothy PR grin --
stretch across his mouth. "Is that it? I'm surprised Al didn't tell you. I've retired."
"Yes, Mr. Shockley told me you no longer drink. He also told me about your?last job ... your last position of trust, shall we say? You were teaching?English in a Vermont prep school. You lost your temper, I don't believe I need?to be any more specific than that. But I do happen to believe that Grady's case?has a bearing, and that is why I have brought the matter of your ... uh,?previous history into the conversation. During the winter of 1970-71, after we?had refurbished the Overlook but before our first season, I hired this... this unfortunate named Delbert Grady. He moved into the quarters you and your wife and son will be sharing. He had a wife and two daughters. I had reservations,
the main ones being the harshness of the winter season and the fact that the Gradys would be cut off from the outside world for five to six months."
"But that's not really true, is it? There are telephones here, and probably a citizen's band radio as well. And the Rocky Mountain National Park is within helicopter range and surely a piece of ground that big must have a chopper or two."
"I wouldn't know about that," Ullman said. "The hotel does have a two-way radio that Mr. Watson will show you, along with a list of the correct frequencies to broadcast on if you need help. The telephone lines between here and Sidewinder are still aboveground, and they go down almost every winter at some point or other and are apt to stay down for three weeks to a month and a half. There is a snowmobile in the equipment shed also."
"Then the place really isn't cut off."
Mr. Ullman looked pained. "Suppose your son or your wife tripped on the stairs and fractured his or her skull, Mr. Torrance. Would you think the place was cut off then?"
Jack saw the point. A snowmobile running at top speed could get you down to Sidewinder in an hour and a half ... maybe. A helicopter from the Parks Rescue Service could get up here in three hours ... under optimum conditions. In a blizzard it would never even be able to lift off and you couldn't hope to run a snowmobile at top speed, even if you dared take a seriously injured person out into temperatures that might be twenty-five below-or forty-five below, if you added in the wind chill factor.
"In the case of Grady," Ullman said, "I reasoned much as Mr. Shockley seems to have done in your case. Solitude can be damaging in itself. Better for the man?to have his family with him. If there was trouble, I thought, the odds were very high that it would be something less urgent than a fractured skull or an
accident with one of the power tools or some sort of convulsion. A serious case of the flu, pneumonia, a broken arm, even appendicitis. Any of those things would have left enough time.
"I suspect that what happened came as a result of too much cheap whiskey, of
which Grady had laid in a generous supply, unbeknownst to me, and a curious condition which the old-timers call cabin fever. Do you know the term?" Ullman offered a patronizing little smile, ready to explain as soon as Jack admitted?his ignorance, and Jack was happy to respond quickly and crisply.
"It's a slang term for the claustrophobic reaction that can occur when people are shut in together over long periods of time. The feeling of claustrophobia is externalized as dislike for the people you happen to be shut in with. In extreme cases it can result in hallucinations and violence -- murder has been done over such minor things as a burned meal or an argument about whose turn it is to do the dishes."
Ullman looked rather nonplussed, which did Jack a world of good. He decided to press a little further, but silently promised Wendy he would stay cool.
"I suspect you did make a mistake at that. Did he hurt them?"
"He killed them, Mr. Torrance, and then committed suicide. He murdered the little girls with a hatchet, his wife with a shotgun, and himself the same way. His leg was broken. Undoubtedly so drunk he fell downstairs."
Ullman spread his hands and looked at Jack self-righteously.?"Was he a high school graduate?"?"As a matter of fact, he wasn't," Ullman said a little stiffly. "I thought a,
shall we say, less imaginative individual would be less susceptible to the rigors, the loneliness -- "
"That was your mistake," Jack said. "A stupid man is more prone to cabin fever just as he's more prone to shoot someone over a card game or commit a spur-of- the-moment robbery. He gets bored. When the snow comes, there's nothing to do but watch TV or play solitaire and cheat when he can't get all the aces out.?Nothing to do but bitch at his wife and nag at the kids and drink. It gets hard?to sleep because there's nothing to hear. So he drinks himself to sleep and?wakes up with a hangover. He gets edgy. And maybe the telephone goes out and the TV aerial blows down and there's nothing to do but think and cheat at solitaire?and get edgier and edgier. Finally... boom, boom, boom."
© Wiztrit 2016. All rights reserved.