Misery


Page 23



"A good point," he said. "Now, going back to the subject of the paper - "
"I'll get you your cockadoodie paper," she said sullenly. "Just tell me what to get and I'll get it."
"As long as you understand I'm on your side - "
"Don't make me laugh. No one has been on my side since my mother died twenty years ago."
"Believe what you want, then," he said. "If you're so insecure you can't believe I'm grateful to you for saving my life, that's your problem." He was watching her shrewdly, and again saw a flicker of uncertainty, of wanting to believe, in her eyes. Good. Very good. He looked at her with all the sincerity he could muster, and again in his mind he imagined shoving a chunk of glass into her throat, once and forever letting out the blood that serviced her crazy brain.
"At least you should be able to believe that I am on the book's side. You spoke of binding it. I assume that you meant binding the manuscript? The typed pages?"
"Of course that's what I meant." Yes, you bet. Because if you took the manuscript to a printer, it might raise questions. You may be naive about the world of books and publishing, but not that naive. Paul Sheldon is missing, and your printer might remember receiving a book-length manuscript concerning itself with Paul Sheldon's most famous character right around the time the man himself disappeared, mightn't he? And he'd certainly remember the instructions - instructions so queer any printer would remember them. One printed copy of a novel-length manuscript.
Just one.
"What did she look like, officer? Well, she was a big woman. Looked sort of like a stone idol in a H. Rider Haggard story. Just a minute, I've got her name and address here in the files... Just let me look up the carbons of the invoices... "
"Nothing wrong with the idea, either," he said. "A bound manuscript can be damned handsome. Looks like a good folio edition. But a book should last a long time, Annie, and if I write this one on Corrasable, you're going to have nothing but a bunch of blank papers in ten years or so. Unless, of course, you just put it on the shelf." But she wouldn't want that, would she? Christ, no. She'd want to take it down every day, maybe every few hours. Take it down and gloat over it.
An odd stony look had come onto her face. He did not like this mulishness, this almost ostentatious look of obduracy. It made him nervous. He could calculate her rage, but there was something in this new expression which was as opaque as it was childish.
"You don't have to talk anymore," she said. "I already told you I'll get you your paper. What kind?"
"In this business-supply store you go to - "
"The Paper Patch."
"Yes, the Paper Patch. You tell them you'd like two reams - a ream is a package of five hundred sheets - "
"I know that. I'm not stupid, Paul."
"I know you're not," he said, becoming more nervous still. The pain had begun to mutter up and down his legs again, and it was speaking even more -loudly from the area of his pelvis - he had been sitting up for nearly an hour, and the dislocation down there was complaining about it.
Keep cool, for God's sake - don't lose everything you've gained!
But have I gained anything? Or is it only wishful thinking?
"Ask for two reams of white long-grain mimeo. Hammermill Bond is a good brand; so is Triad Modem. Two reams of mimeo will cost less than this one package of Corrasable, and it should be enough to do the whole job, write and rewrite."
"I'll go right now," she said, getting up suddenly.
He looked at her, alarmed, understanding that she meant to leave him without his medication again, and sitting up this time, as well. Sitting already hurt; the pain would be monstrous by the time she got back, even if she hurried.
"You don't have to do that," he said, speaking fast. "The Corrasable is good enough to start with - after all, I'll have to rewrite anyway - "
"Only a silly person would try to start a good work with a bad tool." She took the package of Corrasable Bond, then snatched the sheet with the two smudged lines and crumpled it into a ball. She tossed both into the wastebasket and turned back to him. That stony, obdurate look covered her face like a mask. Her eyes glittered like tarnished dimes.
"I'm going to town now," she said. "I know you want to get started as soon as you can, since you're on my side - " she spoke these last words with intense, smoking sarcasm (and, Paul believed, more self-hate than she would ever know) "and so I'm not even going to take time to put you back in your bed." She smiled, a pulling of the lips that was grotesquely puppet-like, and slipped to his side in her silent white nurse" shoes. Her fingers touched his hair. He flinched. He tried not to but couldn't help it. Her dead-alive smile widened.
"Although I suspect we may have to put off the actual start of Misery's Retum for a day... or two... perhaps even three. Yes, it may be as long as three days before you are able to sit up again. Because of the pain. Too bad. I had champagne chilling in the fridge. I'll have to put it back in the shed."
"Annie, really, I can start if you'll just - "
"No, Paul." She moved to the door and then turned, looking at him with that stony face. Only her eyes, those tarnished dimes, were fully alive under the shelf of her brow. "There is one thought I would like to leave you with. You may think you can fool me, or trick me; I know I look slow and stupid. But I am not stupid, Paul, and I am not slow." Suddenly her face broke apart. The stony obduracy shattered and what shone through was the countenance of an insanely angry child. For a moment Paul thought the extremity of his terror might kill him. Had he thought he had gained the upper hand? Had he? Could one possibly play Scheherazade when one's captor was insane?