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Under the Dome(12)
Author: Stephen King

Duke braked and leaned out again. 'Take care of my what?'

'YourpacemakerV she practically screamed. Laughing. Exasperated. Still feeling his hand on her throat, stroking skin that had been smooth and firm - so it seemed to her - only yesterday. Or maybe it had been the day before, when they had listened to KC and the Sunshine Band instead of Jesus Radio.

'Oh, you bet!' he called back, and drove away. The next time she saw him, he was dead.


Billy and Wanda Debec never heard the double boom because they were on Route 117, and because they were arguing. The fight had started simply enough, with Wanda observing it was a beautiful day and Billy responding he had a headache and didn't know why they had to go to the Saturday flea market in Oxford Hills, anyway; it would just be the usual pawed-over crap.

Wanda said that he wouldn't have a headache if he hadn't sunk a dozen beers the night before.

Billy asked her if she had counted the cans in the recycling bin (no matter how loaded he got, Billy did his drinking at home and always put the cans in the recycling bin - these things, along with his work as an electrician, were his pride).

She said yes she had, you bet she had. Furthermore -

They got as far as Patel's Market in Castle Rock, having progressed through You drink too much, Billy and You nag too much, Wanda to My mother told me not to marry you and Why do you have to he su:h a hitch. This had become a fairly well-worn call-and-response durir g the last two years of their four-year marriage, but this morning Billy suddenly felt he had reached his limit. He swung into the market's wide hot-topped parking lot without signaling or slowing, and then back out onto 117 without a single glance into his rearview mirror, let alone over his shoulder. On the road behind him, Nora Robichaud honked. Her best friend, Elsa Andrews, rutted. The two women, both retired nurses, exchanged a glance but not a single word. They had been friends too long for words to be necessary in such situations.

Meanwhile, Wanda asked Billy where he thought he was going.

Billy said back home to take a nap. She could go to the shit-fair on her own.

Wanda observed that he had almost hit those two old lacies (said old ladies now dropping behind fast; Nora Robichaud felt that, lacking some damned good reason, speeds over forty miles an hour were the devil's work).

Billy observed that Wanda both looked and sounded like her mother.

Wanda asked him to elucidate just what he meant by that.

Billy said that both mother and daughter had fat asses and tongues that were hung in the middle and ran on both ends.

Wanda told Billy he was hungover.

Billy told Wanda she was ugly.

It was a full and fair exchange of feelings, and by the time they crossed from Castle Rock into Motton, headed for an invisible barrier that had come into being not long after Wanda had opened this spirited discussion by saying it was a beautiful day, Billy was doing better than sixty, which was almost top end for Wanda's little Chevy shitbox.

'What's that smoke?' Wanda asked suddenly, pointing northeast, toward 119.

'I don't know,' he said.'Did my mother-in-law fart?' This cracked him up and he started laughing.

Wanda Debec realized she had finally had enough. This clarified the world and her future in a way that was almost magical. She was turning to him, the words I want a divorce on the tip of her tongue, when they reached the Motton-Chester's Mill town line and struck the barrier. The Chevy shitbox was equipped with airbags, but Billy's did not deploy and Wanda's didn't pop out completely. The steering wheel collapsed Billy's chest; the steering column smashed his heart; he died almost instantly.

Wanda's head collided with the dashboard, and the sudden, catastrophic relocation of the Chevy's engine block broke or e of her legs (the left) and one of her arms (the right). She was not aware of any pain, only that the horn was blaring, the car was suddenly askew in the middle of the road with its front end smashed almost flat, and her vision had come over all red.

When Nora P^obichaud and Elsa Andrews rounded the bend just to the south (they had been animatedly discussing the smoke rising to the northeast for several minutes now, and congratulating themselves on having taken the lesser traveled highway this forenoon),

Wanda Debec was dragging herself up the white line on her elbows. Blood gushed down her face, almost obscuring it. She had been half scalped by a piece of the collapsing windshield and a huge flap of skin hung down over her left cheek like a misplaced jowl.

Nora and Elsa looked at each other grimly.

'Shit-my-pajamas,' Nora said, and that was all the talk between them there was. Elsa got out the instant the car stopped and ran to the staggering woman. For an elderly lady (Elsa had just turned seventy), she was remarkably fleet.

Nora left the car idling in park and joined her friend. Together they supportedWanda to Nora's old but perfectly maintained Mercedes. Wanda's jacket had gone from brown to a muddy roan color; her hands looked as if she had dipped them in red paint.

'Whe' Billy?' she asked, and Nora saw that most of the poor woman's teeth had been knocked out. Three of them were stuck to the front of her bloody jacket. 'Whe' Billy, he arri'? Wha' happen?'

'Billy's fine and so are you,' Nora said, then looked a question at Elsa. Elsa nodded and hurried toward the Chevy, now partly obscured by the steam escaping its ruptured radiator. One look through the gaping passenger door, which hung on one hinge, was enough to tell Elsa, who had been a nurse for almost forty years (final employer: Ron Haskell, MD - the MD standing for Medical Doofus), that Billy was not fine at all. The young woman with half her hair hanging upside down beside her head was now a widow.

Elsa returned to the Mercedes and got into the backseat next to the young woman, who had slipped into semiconsciousness. 'He's dead and she will be, too, if you don't get us to Cathy Russell hurry-up-chop-chop,' she told Nora.

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