Another Amazing Story Out of Castle Rock, Maine
by Stephen King
“She had grown up knowing you cared for the one who had fallen and couldn’t get up. She had also grown up knowing you ate no shit—not about your hosses, your size, your line of work, or your sexual preferences. Once you started eating shit, it had a way of becoming your regular diet.”―
Stephen King, Mile 81
At Mile 81 on the Maine Turnpike is a boarded up rest stop on a highway in Maine. It’s a place where high school kids drink and get into the kind of trouble high school kids have always gotten into. It’s the place where Pete Simmons goes when his older brother, who’s supposed to be looking out for him, heads off to the gravel pit to play “paratroopers over the side.” Pete, armed only with the magnifying glass he got for his tenth birthday, finds a discarded bottle of vodka in the boarded up burger shack and drinks enough to pass out.
Not much later, a mud-covered station wagon (which is strange because there hadn’t been any rain in New England for over a week) veers into the Mile 81 rest area, ignoring the sign that says “closed, no services.” The driver’s door opens but nobody gets out.
Doug Clayton, an insurance man from Bangor, is driving his Prius to a conference in Portland. On the backseat are his briefcase and suitcase and in the passenger bucket is a King James Bible, what Doug calls “the ultimate insurance manual,” but it isn’t going to save Doug when he decides to be the Good Samaritan and help the guy in the broken down wagon. He pulls up behind it, puts on his four-ways, and then notices that the wagon has no plates.
Ten minutes later, Julianne Vernon, pulling a horse trailer, spots the Prius and the wagon, and pulls over. Julianne finds Doug Clayton’s cracked cell phone near the wagon door—and gets too close herself. By the time Pete Simmons wakes up from his vodka nap, there are a half a dozen cars at the Mile 81 rest stop. Two kids—Rachel and Blake Lussier—and one horse named Deedee are the only living left. Unless you maybe count the wagon…
Curiosity kills the cat. In this case, curiosity kills human beings.
Mile 81, one of Stephen King’s short stories, is brutal. They are all brutal because he is King. Brutality and horror are his bread and butter, but dammit, this one was vicious. Setting the scene, we have an unassuming rest stop, one that could be on any major highway through the United States. It is a place where people in motor homes stop to stretch their legs, or young teenagers go to get into trouble, drink beer, and have sex. It is a place that has an eerie and almost sinister quality to it just from the number of souls that pass through it every day.
Pete Simmons, a typical younger brother, is out alone mucking around. His older brother wanted nothing to do with him today and sent Pete off to play and entertain himself. Pete, as younger brothers do, found himself at the old mile 81 rest stop. Walking around, he finds nude magazines, filth, and broken bottles. He also finds a bottle of vodka, Being the young and stupid kid he is. We have all been there; he drinks until he passes out.
While he is passed out, a mud-covered station wagon pulls into the parking lot. It ignores the posted signs of “Closed, no service,” and rests there. It squats in the parking lot like a mud-covered toad. What the characters of the story don’t know is that this squatting toad of a car is so much more than it looks. Much like an angler fish, the mud-covered station wagon juts both of its doors open and awaits its prey: the curious onlooker or the kind bystander.
The story progresses with a helpful person after a helpful person meeting an unlikely demise.
This is a short story, so there is not very much character development. What we do have is a crazy and unlikely story about a scary situation. I loved it. Mile 81 is a story that taps into a purely horror-filled moment written as only King can write it.
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Where to find it?
I read this on scribd.com
About the Author
Stephen Edwin King was born the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his father left them when Stephen was two, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father’s family was at the time, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother brought her children back to Durham, Maine, for good. Her parents, Guy and Nellie Pillsbury, had become incapacitated with old age, and Ruth King was persuaded by her sisters to take over the physical care of them. Other family members provided a small house in Durham and financial support. After Stephen’s grandparents passed away, Mrs. King found work in the kitchens of Pineland, a nearby residential facility for the mentally challenged.
Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, arriving at his stance from a conservative view that the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level. A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums.
He met Tabitha Spruce in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University, where they both worked as students; they married in January of 1971. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men’s magazines.
Stephen made his first professional short story sale (“The Glass Floor”) to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men’s magazines. Many were gathered into the Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies.
In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching English at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.