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(or only hopeful)
that she wasn't that weak, not that liable to fall docilely into the complacent expectations of parents, friends, and even herself. But now there was this shower thing, where she had gone along and pitched in with high, savage glee. The word she was avoiding was expressed To Conform, in the infinitive, and it conjured up miserable images of hair in rollers, long afternoons in front of the ironing board in front of the soap operas while hubby was off busting heavies in an anonymous Office; of joining the P.T.A. and then the country club when their income moved into five figures; of pills in circular yellow cases without number to insure against having to move out of the misses' size before it became absolutely necessary and against the intrusion of repulsive little strangers who shat in their pants and screamed for help at two in the morning; of fighting with desperate decorum to keep the niggers out of Kleen Korners, standing shoulder to shoulder with Terri Smith (Miss Potato Blossom of 1975) and Vicki Jones (Vice President of The Women's League), armed with signs and petitions and sweet, slightly desperate smiles.
Carrie, it was the goddamned Carrie, this was her fault. Perhaps before today she had heard distant, circling footfalls around their lighted place, but tonight, hearing her own sordid, crummy story, she saw the actual silhouettes of all these things, and yellow eyes that glowed like flashlights in the dark.
She had already bought her prom gown. It was blue. It was beautiful.
'You're right,' he said when she was done. 'Bad news. Doesn't sound a bit like you.' His face was grave and she felt a cool slice of terror. Then he smiled-he had a very jolly smile-and the darknesss retreated a bit.
'I kicked a kid in the slats once when he was knocked out. Did I ever tell you about that?'
She shook her head.
'Yeah.' He rubbed his nose reminiscently and his cheek gave a small tic, the way it had when he made his confession about getting the rubber wrong the first time. 'The kid's name was Danny Patrick. He beat the living shit out of me once when we were in the sixth grade. I hated him, but I was scared, too. I was laying for him. You know how that is?'
She didn't, but nodded anyway.
'Anyway, he finally picked on the wrong kid a year or so later. Pete Taber. He was just a little guy, but he had lots of muscles. Danny got on him about something. I don't know, marbles or something, and finally Peter just rose up righteous and beat the shit out of him. That was on the playground of the old Kennedy Junior High. Danny fell down and hit his head and went out cold. Everybody ran. We thought he might be dead. I ran away too, but first I gave him a good kick in the ribs. Felt really bad about it afterwards. You going to apologize to her?'
It caught Sue flat-footed and all she could was clinch weakly: 'Did you?'
'Huh? Hell no! I had better things to do than spend my time in traction. But there's a big difference, Susie.'
'It's not seventh grade any more. And I had some kind of reason, even if it was a piss-poor reason. What did that sad, silly bitch ever do to you?'
She didn't answer because she couldn't. She had never passed more than a hundred words with Carrie in her whole life, and three dozen or so had come today. Phys. Ed. was the only class they'd had in common since they had graduated from Chamberlain Junior High. Carrie was taking the commercial/business course. Sue, of course, was in the college division.
She thought herself suddenly loathsome.
She found she could not bear that and so she twisted it at him. 'When did you start making all these big moral decisions? After you started fucking me?'
She saw the good humour fade from his face and was sorry.
'Guess I should have kept quiet,' he said, and pulled up his pants.
'It's not you, it's me.' She put a hand on his arm. 'I'm ashamed, see?'
'I know,' he said. 'But I shouldn't be giving advice. I'm not very good at it.'
'Tommy, do you ever hate being so ... well, popular?'
'Me?' The question wrote surprise on his face. 'Do you mean like football and class president and that stuff?'
'No. Ifs not very important. High school isn't a very important place. When you're going you think it's a big deal, but when it's over nobody really think. it was great unless they're beered up. That's how my brother and his buddies are, anyway.'
It did not soothe her; it made her fears worse. Little Susie mix 'n match from Ewen High School, Head Cupcake of the entire Cupcake Brigade. Prom gown kept forever in the closet, wrapped in protective plastic.
The night pressed dark against the slightly steamed car windows.
'I'll probably end up working at my dad's car lot,' he said. 'I'll spend my Friday and Saturday nights down at Uncle Billy's or out at The Cavalier drinking beer and talking about the Saturday afternoon I got that fat pitch from Saunders and we upset Dorchester. Get married to some nagging broad and always own last years model, vote Democrat-'
'Don't,' she said, her mouth suddenly full of a dark, sweet horror. She pulled him to her. 'Love me. My head is so bad tonight. Love me. Love me.'
So he loved her and this time it was different, this time there finally seemed to be room and there was no rubbing but a delicious friction that went up and up: Twice he had to stop, panting, and held himself back, and then he went
(he was a virgin before me and admitted it I would have believed a lie)
and went hard and her breath came in short, digging gasps and then she began to yell and hold at his back, helpless to stop, sweating, the bad taste washed away, every cell seeming to have its own climax, body filled with sunlight, musical notes in her mind, butterflies behind her skull in the cage of her mind.
Later, on the way home, he asked her formally if she would go to the Spring Ball with him. She said she would. He asked her if she had decided what to do about Carrie.
She said she hadn't. He said that it made no difference. but she thought that it did. It had begun to seem that it meant all the difference.
From Telekinesis: Analysis and Aftermath (Science Yearbook 1982), by Dean K. L. McGuffin:
There are, of course, still these scientists today - regretfully, the Duke University people are in their forefront - who reject the terrific underlying implications of the Carrie White affair. Like the Flatlands Society, the Rosicrucians, or the Corlies of Arizona, who are positive that the atomic bomb does not work, these unfortunates are flying in the face of logic with their heads in the sand, and beg your pardon for the mixed metaphor.
Of course one is able to understand the consternation, the raised voices, the angry letters and arguments at scientific convocations. The idea of telekinesis itself has been a bitter pill for the scientific community to swallow, with its horror-movie trappings of ouija boards and mediums and table rappings and floating coronets; but understanding will still not excuse scientific irresponsibility.
The outcome of the White affair raises grave and difficult questions. An earthquake has struck our order notions of the way the natural world is supposed to act and react. Can you blame even such a renowned physicist as Gerald Luponet for claiming the whole thing is a hoax and a fraud, even in the face of such overwhelming evidence as the White Commission presented? For if Carrie White is the truth, then what of Newton? ...
They sat in the living room, Carrie and Momma, listening to Tennessee Ernie Ford singing 'Let the Lower Lights Be Burning' on a Webcor phonograph (which Momma called the victrola, or, if in a particularly good mood, the vic). Carrie sat at the sewing machine, pumping with her feet as she sewed the sleeves on a new dress. Momma sat beneath the plaster crucifix, tatting doilies and bumping her feet in time to the song, which was one of her favourites. Mr P. P. Bliss, who had written this hymn and others seemingly without number, was one of Momma's shining examples of God at work upon the face of the earth. He had been a sailor and a sinner (two terms that were synonymous in Momma's lexicon), a great blasphemer, a laugher in the face of the Almighty. Then a great storm had come up at sea, the boat had threatened to capsize, and Mr P. P. Bliss had gotten down on his sinsickly knees with a vision of Hell yawning beneath the ocean floor to receive him, and he had prayed to God. Mr P. P. Bliss promised God that if He saved him, he would dedicate the rest of his life to Him. The storm, of course, had cleared immediately.
Brightly beams our Father's mercy
From his lighthouse evermore,
But to us he gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore ...
All of Mr P. P. Bliss's hymns had a seagoing flavour to them.
The dress she was sewing was actually quite pretty, a dark wine colour-the closest Momma would allow her to red-and the sleeves were puffed. She tried to keep her mind strictly on her sewing, but of course it wandered.
The overhead fight was strong and harsh and yellow, the small dusty plush sofa was of course deserted (Carrie had never had a boy in To Sit), and on the far wall was a twin shadow: the crucified Jesus, and beneath Him, Momma.
The school had called Momma at the laundry and she had come home at noon. Carrie had watched her come up the walk, and her belly trembled.
Momma was a very big woman, and she always wore a hat. Lately her legs had begun to swell, and her feet always seemed on the point of overflowing her shoes. She wore a black cloth coat with a black fur collar. Her eyes were blue and magnified behind rimless bifocals. She always carried a large black satchel purse and in it was her change purse, her billfold (both black), a large King James Bible (also black) with her name stamped on the front in gold, and a stack of tracts secured with a rubber band. The Tracts were usually orange, and smearily printed.
Carrie knew vaguely that Momma and Daddy Ralph had been Baptists once but had left the church when they became convinced that the Baptists were doing the work of the Antichrist. Since that time, all worship had taken place at home. Momma held worship on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. These were called Holy Days.
Momma was the minister, Carrie the congregation. Services lasted from two to three hours.
Momma had opened the door and walked stolidly in. She and Carrie had stared at each other down the short length of the front hall for a moment, like gunfighters before a shootout. It was one of those brief moments that seem
(fear could it really have been fear in momma's eyes)
much longer in retrospect.
Momma closed the door behind her. 'You're a woman,' she said softly.
Carrie felt her face twisting and crumpling and could not help it. 'Why didn't you tell me?' she cried. 'Oh Momma, I was so scared! And the girls all made fun and threw things and-'
Momma had been walking towards her, a now her hand flashed with sudden limber speed, a hard hand, laundry-calloused and muscled. It struck her backhand across the jaw and Carrie fell down in the doorway between the hall and the living room, weeping loudly.
'And God made Eve from the rib Of Adam,' Momma said. Her eyes were very large in the rimless glasses; they looked like poached eggs. She thumped Carrie with the side of her foot and Carrie screamed. 'Get up, woman. Let's get in and pray. Let's pray to Jesus for our womanweak, wicked, sinning souls.'
The sobs were too strong to allow more. The latent hysterics had come out grinning and gibbering. She could not stand up. She could only crawl into the living room with her hair hanging in her face, braying huge hoarse sobs. Every now and again Momma would swing her foot. So they progressed across the living room toward the place of the altar, which had once been a small bedroom.
'And Eve was weak and - say it, woman. Say it-'
'No, Momma, please help me-'
The foot swung. Carrie screamed.
'And Eve was weak and loosed the raven on the world,' Momma continued, 'and the raven was called Sin, and the first Sin was Intercourse. And the Lord visited Eve with a Curse, and the Curse was the Curse of Blood. And Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden and into the World and Eve found that her belly had grown big with child.'
The foot swung and connected with Carrie's rump. Her nose scraped the wood floor. They were entering the place of the altar. There was a cross on a table covered with an embroidered silk cloth. On either side of the cross there were white candles. Behind this were several paint-by-the-numbers of Jesus and His apostles. And to the right was the worst place of all, the home of terror, the cave where all hope, all resistance to God's will - and Momma's - was extinguished. The closet door leered open. Inside, below a hideous blue bulb that was always lit, was Derrault's conception of Jonathan Edwards' famous sermon. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
'And there was a second Curse, and this was the Curse of Childbearing, and Eve brought forth Cain in sweat and blood.'
Now Momma dragged her, half-standing and half-crawling, down to the altar, where they both fell on their knees. Momma gripped Carrie's wrist tightly.
'And following Cain, Eve gave birth to Abel, having not yet repented of the Sin of Intercourse. And so the Lord visited Eve with a third Curse, and this was the Curse of Murder. Cain rose up and slew Abel with a rock. And still Eve did not repent, nor all the daughters of Eve, and upon Eve did the Crafty Serpent found a kingdom of whoredom and pestilences.'
'Momma!' she shrieked. 'Momma, please listen! It wasn't my fault!'
'Bow your head,' Momma said. 'Let's us pray.'
'You should have told me!'
Momma brought her hand down on the back of Carrie's neck, and behind it was all the heavy muscle developed by eleven years of slinging heavy laundry bags and trucking piles of wet sheets. Carrie's eye-bulging face jerked forward and her forehead smacked the altar, leaving a mark and making the candles tremble.
'Let's us pray,' Momma said softly, implacably.
Weeping and snuffling, Carrie bowed her head. A runner of snot hung pendulously from her nose and she wiped it away.
(if i had a nickel for every time she made me cry here)
with the back of her hand.
Lord,' Momma declaimed hugely, her head thrown back, 'help this sinning woman beside me here see the sin of her days and ways. Show her that if she had remained sinless the Curse of Blood never would have come on her. She may have committed the Sin of Lustful Thoughts. She may have been listening to rock 'n roll music on the radio. She may have been tempted by the Antichrist. Show her that this is Your kind, vengeful hand at work and-'
'No! Let me go!'
She tried to struggle to her feet and Momma's hand, as strong and pitiless as an iron manacle, forced her back to her knees.
'-and Your sign that she must walk the straight and narrow from here on out if she is to avoid the flaming agonies of the Eternal Pit. Amen.'
She turned her glittering, magnified eyes upon her daughter. 'Go to your closet now.'
'No!' She felt her breath go thick with terror.
'Go to your closet. Pray in secret. Ask forgiveness for your sins.'
'I didn't sin, Momma. You sinned. You didn't tell me and they laughed.'
Again she seemed to see a flash of fear in Momma's eyes, gone as quickly and soundlessly as summer lightning. Momma began to force Carrie toward the blue glare of the closet.
'Pray to God and your sins may be washed away.'
'Momma, you let me go.'
'I'll make the stones come again, Momma.'
Even her breath seemed to stop in her throat for a moment. And then the hand tightened on her neck, tightened, until Carrie saw red, lurid dots in front of her eyes and felt her brain go fuzzy and far-off.
Momma's magnified eyes swam in front of her.
'You spawn of the devil,' she whispered. 'Why was I so cursed?'
Carrie's whirling mind strove to find something huge enough to express her agony, shame, terror, hate, fear. It seemed her whole life had narrowed to this miserable, beaten point of rebellion. Her eyes bulged crazily, her mouth, filled with spit, opened wide.
'YOU SUCK!' she screamed.
Momma hissed like a burned cat. 'Sin!' she cried. 'O, Sin! She began to beat Carrie's back, her neck, her head. Carrie was driven, reeling, into the close blue glare of the closet.
'YOU FUCK!' Carrie screamed.
(there there o there it's out how else do you think she got you o god o good)
She was whirled into the closet headfirst and she struck the far wall and fell on the floor in a semidaze. The door slammed and the key turned.
She was alone with Momma's angry God.
The blue light glared on a picture, of a huge and bearded Yahweh who was casting screaming multitudes of humans down through cloudy depths into an abyss of fire. Below them, black horrid figures struggled through the flames of perdition while The Black Man sat on a huge flame-coloured throne with a trident in one hand. His body was that of a man, but he had a spiked tail and the head of a jackal.