I am excited about this chapter. In the original edited edition, a large portion of it simply isn’t there. I wish it had been included, because the parts of the book showing the spread of the disease are my favorite part. That right there is another reason I like this chapter. We finally get at least a little more information about the disease.
Chapter 7 opens on Vic Palfrey waking up briefly from the delirium. He’s not really awake enough to be completely lucid, just awake enough to realize that he is dying. It’s horrifying, and we are right there horrified along with him.
Vic looks around, and discovers that not only has his bed been cranked up as high as it can go (to keep his lungs from drowning), he’s restrained with brass laundry pins. You’d think a hospital would have better restraint methods than this, especially with a delirious patient in a highly secured infectious diseases ward. You don’t exactly want to give the diseased and delirious person a sharp object with which he could penetrate your hazmat suit.
He knew he had been delirious, and would be again. He was sick and this was not a cure or the beginning of one, but only a brief respite.
How he knows this is anyone’s guess. Maybe he’s heard the doctors talking or something. It doesn’t really matter. Vic feels around, and discovers he’s hooked up to all kinds of tubes and wires. He tries to shout, but it comes out as more of a whisper.
As Vic thinks about his surroundings, he starts slipping back into delirium. It’s very well done, but it’s too long to quote.
The idea that he might die babbling inanities like a senile old man terrified him.
I like this line.
He was looking at the door, and thinking it was a damn funny door even for a hospital. It was round at the corners, outlined with pop-rivets, and the lower jamb was 6 inches or more up from the tile floor. Even a jackleg carpenter like Vic Palfrey could
(gimme the funnies Vic you had em long enough)
(Mamma he took my funnypages! Give em back!)
build better than that. It was (steel).
Part of the reason I highlighted this is to show exactly how King shows Palfrey slipping in and out of sanity. I do wonder why the door seems so shoddily designed. If this center is specifically for people who are sick, wouldn’t they have already had a room with a ready made steel door?
As the sun sets, Vic catches site of the doctors watching him from behind glass.
Then Vic remembers where he is: Atlanta, Georgia. He thinks about all the other people who were taken with him and wonders if they could all be sick with what Campion had.
….to get beyond the Arnette town limits they had had to pass a roadblock on US93, and men had been stringing bobwire…stringing bobwire right out into the desert….
(elipses are original to text)
A Man in a suit comes by and asks how Vic is feeling. But this was Vic’s last moment of lucidity. He’s already gone. The suited man turns to his colleague and says, “if this one doesn’t work, we’ll lose him by midnight.”
Later it is revealed that they are trying out different cures on the Arnette residents.
I wish they hadn’t cut this part out. But I can see why King did. It doesn’t advance character for a person we’re ever going to see again, and in general it has nothing to do with the rest of the novel. Even though *I* would like to see more about the spread of this disease, the disease itself is just a plot device used by King to kill off most of the world’s population so that the rest of the novel can take place.
There’s a section break, and we cut to Stu’s perspective. In the edited edition, this is where chapter 7 begins.
The chapter, er, section, opens with one of the nurses trying to take Stu’s blood pressure. He refuses, saying that he won’t cooperate until someone tells him what’s what around here. Good for him.
He had no objection to the tests themselves. What he objected to was being kept in the dark, kept scared. He wasn’t sick, at least not yet, but scared plenty….he wasn’t going to be a party to it anymore until somebody told him something about what had happened in Arnette and what that fellow Campion had to do with it. At least then he could base his fears on something solid.
I… think it’s pretty obvious that Campion had everything to do with it, and to his credit, Stu’s pretty much figured that out on his own.
They had come and got him on the afternoon of the 17th, 2 days ago. 4 army men and a doctor. Polite, but firm. There was no question of declining; all 4 of the army men had been wearing sidearms. That was when Stu Redman started being seriously scared.
Stu describes the ride to the hospital, which involves a car trip to the nearest airport and then they fly to Georgia. But hey, at least the army gives them good booze, probably to calm them down. One of the people, Lila Bruette, is crying hysterically. Can’t say I’d blame her, I’d probably be crying hysterically too.
One of the soldiers transporting the Arnette townsfolk suddenly started sneezing.
Wait a second…the higher ups in the army knew how contagious and deadly this disease was, and they didn’t tell their people to take precautions when they went to fetch the Arnettens? Do they want their soldiers to die, or are they just that goddamn incompetent?
Also, those poor townspeople. If they weren’t infected before, they definitely are after that plane ride. You just killed a bunch of people, thanks army. Granted they probably would have gotten the disease anyway, but still.
Hap makes the observation that the people transporting them are,
“A pretty funny bunch of ole boys…Ain’t one of ’em under 50, nor one with a weddin ring. Career boys, low rank.”
I’m not sure what the significance of that is. Does the army not care if the low rank people die from being exposed to these dangerously sick people? Knowing this, did they purposely pick older soldiers who weren’t married, under the mistaken assumption that unmarried soldiers have no family or anyone at home to care about? Because that does seem to be the assumption, at least from Stu’s perspective. No wives, no close relatives, etc.
This wasn’t incompetence, then. If the military purposely picked out a group of people they thought had nothing to lose, they had to have planned for their soldiers to come down with the Superflu.
Is that realistic? Because if it is, that’s horrifying.
Back in the present, Dr. Denninger comes in and asks Stu why he wouldn’t let the nurse, Patty, take his temperature. Stu tries not to let his fear show, but he tells the man he wants some answers, and then he’ll cooperate. Otherwise he’ll fight everyone every step of the way. Stu guesses, correctly, that the doctors are afraid of him, so he threatens to puncture one of their suits if they don’t give him some answers.
Denninger refuses to tell him anything.
“Your lack of cooperation may do your country a grave disservice. Do you understand me?”
Aaaaand you just lost the argument. This may have worked back in like, the 1940s when everyone was all patriotic and shit. Back then, they probably did tend to do things to help their country, no questions asked. But by the time this book was written, that was not the case. People were no longer content with blind patriotism. I’m certainly not.
And so when Stu responds that it is his country that is doing him the disservice, I nod along in agreement.
“Right now my country…has got me locked up in a hospital room…with a buttermouth little pissant doctor who doesn’t know shit from Shinola.”
Here’s how this reads in the edited version:
Right now my country…has got me locked up in a hospital room…with with a buttermouth little pissant doctor who doesn’t know enough to shit or go blind.
Speculation on why this got changed? Thoughts?
Deninger leaves, and Stu sits down to wait calmly. He tries not to let the fear and panic get ahold of him.
But it was 40 hours before they sent him a man who would talk.
Spoiler alert: And even when he does show up, he still doesn’t tell Stu much.