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Just After Sunset: Stories

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Just After Sunset: Stories Cover

ISBN13: 9781416584087
ISBN10: 1416584080
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Excerpt

Not a very nice man.

One afternoon not long after July became August, Deke Hollis told her she had company on the island. He called it the island, never the key.

Deke was a weathered fifty, or maybe seventy. He was tall and rangy and wore a battered old straw hat that looked like an inverted soup bowl. From seven in the morning until seven at night, he ran the drawbridge between Vermillion and the mainland. This was Monday to Friday. On weekends, "the kid" took over (said kid being about thirty). Some days when Em ran up to the drawbridge and saw the kid instead of Deke in the old cane chair outside the gatehouse, reading Maxim or Popular Mechanics rather than The New York Times, she was startled to realize that Saturday had come around again.

This afternoon, though, it was Deke. The channel between Vermillion and the mainland — which Deke called the thrut (throat, she assumed) — was deserted and dark under a dark sky. A heron stood on the drawbridge's Gulf-side rail, either meditating or looking for fish.

"Company?" Em said. "I don't have any company."

"I didn't mean it that way. Pickering's back. At 366? Brought one of his 'nieces.'" The punctuation for nieces was provided by a roll of Deke's eyes, of a blue so faded they were nearly colorless.

"I didn't see anyone," Em said.

"No," he agreed. "Crossed over in that big red M'cedes of his about an hour ago, while you were probably still lacin' up your tennies." He leaned forward over his newspaper; it crackled against his flat belly. She saw he had the crossword about half completed. "Different niece every summer. Always young." He paused. "Sometimes two nieces, one in August and one in September."

"I don't know him," Em said. "And I didn't see any red Mercedes." Nor did she know which house belonged to 366. She noticed the houses themselves, but rarely paid attention to the mailboxes. Except, of course, for 219. That was the one with the little line of carved birds on top of it. (The house behind it was, of course, Birdland.)

"Just as well," Deke said. This time instead of rolling his eyes, he twitched down the corners of his mouth, as if he had something bad tasting in there. "He brings 'em down in the M'cedes, then takes 'em back to St. Petersburg in his boat. Big white yacht. The Playpen. Went through this morning." The corners of his mouth did that thing again. In the far distance, thunder mumbled. "So the nieces get a tour of the house, then a nice little cruise up the coast, and we don't see Pickering again until January, when it gets cold up in Chicagoland."

Em thought she might have seen a moored white pleasure craft on her morning beach run but wasn't sure.

"Day or two from now — maybe a week — he'll send out a couple of fellas, and one will drive the M'cedes back to wherever he keeps it stored away. Near the private airport in Naples, I imagine."

"He must be very rich," Em said. This was the longest conversation she'd ever had with Deke, and it was interesting, but she started jogging in place just the same. Partly because she didn't want to stiffen up, mostly because her body was calling on her to run.

"Rich as Scrooge McDuck, but I got an idea Pickering actually spends his. Probably in ways Uncle Scrooge never imagined. Made it off some kind of computer thing, I heard." The eye roll. "Don't they all?"

"I guess," she said, still jogging in place. The thunder cleared its throat with a little more authority this time.

"I know you're anxious to be off, but I'm talking to you for a reason," Deke said. He folded up his newspaper, put it beside the old cane chair, and stuck his coffee cup on top of it as a paperweight. "I don't ordinarily talk out of school about folks on the island — a lot of 'em's rich and I wouldn't last long if I did — but I like you, Emmy. You keep yourself to yourself, but you ain't a bit snooty. Also, I like your father. Him and me's lifted a beer, time to time."

"Thanks," she said. She was touched. And as a thought occurred to her, she smiled. "Did my dad ask you to keep an eye on me?"

Deke shook his head. "Never did. Never would. Not R. J.'s style. He'd tell you the same as I am, though — Jim Pickering's not a very nice man. I'd steer clear of him. If he invites you in for a drink or even just a cup of coffee with him and his new 'niece,' I'd say no. And if he were to ask you to go cruising with him, I would definitely say no."

"I have no interest in cruising anywhere," she said. What she was interested in was finishing her work on Vermillion Key. She felt it was almost done. "And I better get back before the rain starts."

"Don't think it's coming until five, at least," Deke said. "Although if I'm wrong, I think you'll still be okay."

She smiled again. "Me too. Contrary to popular opinion, women don't melt in the rain. I'll tell my dad you said hello."

"You do that." He bent down to get his paper, then paused, looking at her from beneath that ridiculous hat. "How're you doing, anyway?"

"Better," she said. "Better every day." She turned and began her road run back to the Little Grass Shack. She raised her hand as she went, and as she did, the heron that had been perched on the drawbridge rail flapped past her with a fish in its long bill.

Three sixty-six turned out to be the Pillbox, and for the first time since she'd come to Vermillion, the gate was standing ajar. Or had it been ajar when she ran past it toward the bridge? She couldn't remember — but of course she had taken up wearing a watch, a clunky thing with a big digital readout, so she could time herself. She had probably been looking at that when she went by.

She almost passed without slowing — the thunder was closer now — but she wasn't exactly wearing a thousand-dollar suede skirt from Jill Anderson, only an ensemble from the Athletic Attic: shorts and a T-shirt with the Nike swoosh on it. Besides, what had she said to Deke? Women don't melt in the rain. So she slowed, swerved, and had a peek. It was simple curiosity.

She thought the Mercedes parked in the courtyard was a 450 SL, because her father had one like it, although his was pretty old now and this one looked brand-new. It was candy-apple red, its body brilliant even under the darkening sky. The trunk was open. A sheaf of long blond hair hung from it. There was blood in the hair.

Had Deke said the girl with Pickering was a blond? That was her first question, and she was so shocked, so fucking amazed, that there was no surprise in it. It seemed like a perfectly reasonable question, and the answer was Deke hadn't said. Only that she was young. And a niece. With the eye roll.

Thunder rumbled. Almost directly overhead now. The courtyard was empty except for the car (and the blond in the trunk, there was her). The house looked deserted, too: buttoned up and more like a pillbox than ever. Even the palms swaying around it couldn't soften it. It was too big, too stark, too gray. It was an ugly house.

Em thought she heard a moan. She ran through the gate and across the yard to the open trunk without even thinking about it. She looked in. The girl in the trunk hadn't moaned. Her eyes were open, but she had been stabbed in what looked like dozens of places, and her throat was cut ear to ear.

Em stood looking in, too shocked to move, too shocked to even breathe. Then it occurred to her that this was a fake dead girl, a movie prop. Even as her rational mind was telling her that was bullshit, the part of her that specialized in rationalization was nodding frantically. Even making up a story to backstop the idea. Deke didn't like Pickering, and Pickering's choice of female companionship? Well guess what, Pickering didn't like Deke, either! This was nothing but an elaborate practical joke. Pickering would go back across the bridge with the trunk deliberately ajar, that fake blond hair fluttering, and —

But there were smells rising out of the trunk now. They were the smells of shit and blood. Em reached forward and touched the cheek below one of those staring eyes. It was cold, but it was skin. Oh God, it was human skin.

There was a sound behind her. A footstep. She started to turn, and something came down on her head. There was no pain, but brilliant white seemed to leap across the world. Then the world went dark.Copyright © 2008 by Stephen King

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

smilesndeed, February 3, 2013 (view all comments by smilesndeed)
Plenty of good short stories in this book to enjoy. The range of the material is pretty fascinating, how King continues to spin such tales in developing characters that the reader wants to follow allow is mesmerizing. Most of the short stories finish even as the reader desires more and more. Reading this gem quickly shows us why King is a pro at this sub-genre. Worth the money to get here online at powells.com, worth it for sure.
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Clark, November 24, 2008 (view all comments by Clark)
Just After Sunset hooked me right from the very first story and never let up on it's grip, even after I had finished the book. It was the first collection of short stories that I have read by King, so I cannot compare it to his other collections. But I can compare it to other short story collections, and Just After Sunset surpasses all of them. It would be hard if not impossible to find another author who can match the creativity of Stephen King. He really is a master at what he does, and this collection of short stories is more proof of his greatness. This is a must-have for any Stephen King fan or anyone who wants to get a book that is deserving of their hard earned money.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781416584087
Subtitle:
Stories
Author:
King, Stephen
Publisher:
Scribner
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Short Stories (single author)
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Horror - General
Subject:
Horror tales, American
Subject:
Horror fiction
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Scribner Hardcover
Publication Date:
November 11, 2008
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
384
Dimensions:
9.25 x 6.125 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Horror » General
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » A to Z

Just After Sunset: Stories Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.50 In Stock
Product details 384 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9781416584087 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In the introduction to his first collection of short fiction since Everything's Eventual (2002), King credits editing Best American Short Stories (2007) with reigniting his interest in the short form and inducing some of this volume's contents. Most of these 13 tales show him at the top of his game, molding the themes and set pieces of horror and suspense fiction into richly nuanced blends of fantasy and psychological realism. "The Things They Left Behind," a powerful study of survivor guilt, is one of several supernatural disaster stories that evoke the horrors of 9/11. Like the crime thrillers "The Gingerbread Girl" and "A Very Tight Place," both of which feature protagonists struggling with apparently insuperable threats to life, it is laced with moving ruminations on mortality that King attributes to his own well-publicized near-death experience. Even the smattering of genre-oriented works shows King trying out provocative new vehicles for his trademark thrills, notably "N.," a creepy character study of an obsessive-compulsive that subtly blossoms into a tale of cosmic terror in the tradition of Arthur Machen and H.P. Lovecraft. Culled almost entirely from leading mainstream periodicals, these stories are a testament to the literary merits of the well-told macabre tale." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "[S]uccinct, fast-moving.... This collection's most successful stories start unprepossessingly but then head for unknown territory, off in the far reaches of Mr. King's imagination."
"Review" by , "[A] marvelous addition to the library of King's more concise fictions.... Never, in fact, has King seemed more mature (well, he is 61) or more sure of himself as a writer."
"Review" by , "[T]he stories in this book are representative of King's current writing powers: those of a natural storyteller whose creative forces have actually strengthened and whose scope has most definitely broadened as he enters the third act of a long and fruitful career."
"Review" by , "Like any Halloween bag of swag, there are morsels here to savor and others to pass up. But King fans are sure to find enough to sate the appetite."
"Review" by , "Many of Sunset's stories have the aura of classic Twilight Zone episodes. And no matter your taste in frightful fantasies, there's something here for everybody.... All 13 stories are wonderfully wicked..."
"Review" by , "An uneven collection, but King has plainly had a ball writing these stories."
"Review" by , "As always, King is a master storyteller. No reader can help but identify with some of these characters.... Retirement has definitely not slowed this sexagenarian down. King hasn't lost his touch in his 'dotage.'"
"Synopsis" by , In his first collection in six years, Stephen King delivers his strongest, most broadly appealing stories ever.

"Gingerbread Girl," published in Esquire in July 2007 (unprecedented in number of magazine pages devoted to it), is set, like Duma Key, in Florida. It is a riveting, fabulously dramatic stalker tale featuring a young woman as vulnerable and resourceful as Audrey Hepburn's character in Wait Until Dark.

"Willa," published in Playboy, blurs the lines between living and the dead. "Ayana," one of the most beautifully written and haunting stories, was published in the Paris Review. From the subtle and disturbing to the outright terrifying, these tales will thrill every known King fan and win new ones.

"Synopsis" by , Following his two recent critically acclaimed bestsellers, Duma Key and Lisey's Story, celebrated author King delivers a stunning collection of short stories, his first in six years.
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