First Chapter, First Paragraph
by Stephen King
“When there’s no more room in hell, this artifact said, the dead will walk the earth.”
First Chapter, First Paragraph of Cycle of The Regulators
Poplar Street/3:45 P.M./July 15, 1996
Summer’s here. Not just summer, either, not this year, but the apotheosis of summer, the avatar of summer, high green perfect central Ohio summer dead-smash in the middle of July, white sun glaring out of that fabled faded Levi’s sky, the sound of kids hol- lering back and forth through the Bear Street Woods at the top of the hill, the tink! of Little League bats from the ballfield on the other side of the woods, the sound of power-mowers, the sound of muscle-cars out on Highway 19, the sound of Rollerblades on the cement sidewalks and smooth macadam of Poplar Street, the sound of radios—Cleveland Indians baseball (the rare day game) competing with Tina Turner belting out “Nutbush City Limits,” the one that goes “Twenty-five is the speed limit, motorcycles not allowed in it”—and surrounding everything like an auditory edging of lace, the soothing, silky hiss of lawn sprinklers.
Summer in Wentworth, Ohio, oh boy, can you dig it. Summer here on Poplar Street, which runs straight through the middle of that fabled faded American dream with the smell of hotdogs in the air and a few burst paper remains of Fourth of July firecrackers still lying here and there in the gutters. It’s been a hot July, a perfect good old by God blue-ribbon jeezer of a July, no doubt about it, but if you want to know the truth, it’s also been a dry July, with no water but the occasional flipped spray of a hose to stir those last shreds of Chinese paper from where they lie. That may change today; there’s an occasional rumble of thunder from the west, and those watching The Weather Channel (there’s plenty of cable TV on Poplar Street, you bet) know that thunderstorms are expected later on. Maybe even a tornado, al- though that’s unlikely.