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Under the Dome(2)
Author: Stephen King

The truck slowed, he started toward it... and then it sped up again. She gave him one more brief look as she went past. The smile was still on her face, but it had turned regretful. I had a brain-cramp there for a minute, the smile said, but now sanity has reasserted itself.

And Barbie thought he recognized her a little, although it was impossible to say with certainty; Sunday mornings in Sweetbriar were always a madhouse. But he thought he'd seen her with an older man, probably her dad, both of them with their faces mostly buried in sections of the Sunday Times. If he could have spoken to her as she rolled past, Barbie would have said: If you trusted me to cook your sausage and eggs, surely you can trust me for a few miles in the shotgun;eat.

But of course he didn't get the chance, so he simply raised his hand in a little no-offense-taken salute. The truck's taillights flickered, as if she were reconsidering. Then they went out and the truck sped up.

During the following days, as things in The Mill started going from bad to worse, he would replay this little moment in the warm October sun again and again. It was that second reconsidering flicker of the taillights he thought of... as if she had recognized him, after all. That's the cook from Sweetbriar Rose, I'm almost sure. Maybe I ought to -

But maybe was a gulf better men than him had fallen into. If she had reconsidered, everything in his life thereafter would have changed. Because she must have made it out; he never saw the fresh-faced blonde or the dirty old Ford F-150 again. She must have crossed over the Chester's Mill town line minutes (or even seconds) before the border slammed shut. If he'd been with her, he would have been out and safe.

Unless, oj course, he'd think later, when sleep wouldn't come, the stop to pick me up was just long enough to be too long. In that case, I probably still wouldn't be here. And neither would she. Because the speed limit out that way on 119 is fifty miles an hour. And at fifty miles an hour...

At this point he would always think of the plane.


The plane flew over him just after he passed Jim Rennie's Used Cars, a place for which Barbie had no love. Not: that he'd bought a lemon there (he hadn't owned a car in over a year, had sold the last one in Punta Gorda, Florida). It was just that Jim Rennie Jr. had been one of the fellows that night in Dipper's parking lot. A frat boy with something to prove, and what he could not prove alone he would prove as part of a group. That was the way the Jim Juniors of the world did business, in Barbie's experience.

But it was behind him now. Jim Rennie's, Jim Junior, Sweetbriar Rose (Fried Clams Our Specialty! Always 'Wliole' Never 'Strips'), Angie McCain, Andy Sanders. The whole deal, including Dipper's. (Beatings Administered in the Parking Lot Our Specialty!) All behind him. And ahead of him? Why, the gates of America. Goodbye smalltown Maine, hello Big Sky.

Or maybe, hell, he'd head down south again. No matter how beautiful this particular day, winter was lurking a page or two over on the calendar.The south might be good. He'd never been to Muscle Shoals, and he liked the sound of the name. That was goddam poetry, Muscle Shoals was, and the idea so cheered him that when he heard the little plane approaching, he looked up and gave a big old exuberant wave. He hoped for a wing-waggle in return, but didn't get one, although the plane was slowpoking at low altitude. Barbie's guess was sightseers - this was a day for them, with the trees in full flame - or maybe some young kid on his learner's permit, too worried about screwing up to bother with groundlings like Dale Barbara. But he wished them well. Sightseers or a kid still six weeks from his first solo cruise, Barbie wished them very well. It was a good day, and every step away from Chester's Mill made it better.Too many ass**les in The Mill, and besides: travel was good for the soul.

Maybe moving on in October should be a law, he thought. New national motto: EVERYBODY LEAVES IN OCTOBER. You get your Packing Permit in August, give your required week's notice in mid-September, then -

He stopped. Not too far ahead of him, on the other side of the blacktop highway, was a woodchuck. A damned fat one. Sleek and sassy, too. Instead of scurrying off into the high grass, it was coming on ahead. There was a fallen birch sticking its top half out onto the shoulder of the road, and Barbie was betting the woodchuck would scurry under there and wait for the big bad Two-Legs to go by. Il: not, they would pass each other like the ramblin guys they were, the one on four legs headed north, the one on two headed south. Barbie hoped that would happen. It would be cool.

These thoughts went through Barbie's mind in seconds; the shadow of the airplane was still between him and the chuck, a black cross racing along the highway. Then two things happened almost simultaneously.

The first was the woodchuck. It was whole, then it was in two pieces. Both were twitching and bleeding. Barbie stopped, mouth hanging open on die suddenly lax hinge of his lower jaw. It was as if an invisible guillotine blade had dropped. And that was when, directly above the severed woodchuck, the little airplane exploded.


Barbie looked up. Falling from the sky was a squashed Bizarro World version of the pretty little airplane that had passed over him seconds before. Twisting orange-red petals of fire hung above it in the air, a flower that was still opening, an American Disaster rose. Smoke billowed from the plummeting plane.

Something clanged to the road and sprayed up clods of asphalt before spinning drunkenly into the high grass to the left. A propeller.

If that had bounced my way -

Barbie had a brief image of being cut in two - like the unfortunate woodchuck - and turned to run. Something thudded down in front of him and he screamed. But it wasn't the other propeller; it was a man's leg dressed in denim. He could see no blood, but the side-seam had been blown wide open, revealing white flesh and - wiry black hair.

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