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The following are four short works of fiction written by Stephen King, Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, and Greg Iles, but they're all written in the style of Stephen King. The authors ran this contest in honor of the new book HARD LISTENING: The Greatest Rock Band Ever (of Authors) Tells All, (also available in Apple's iBookstore) which is their collective story of their two-decades-long friendship and their mutual love and appreciation for rock'n'roll. Can you tell which is actually written by King? Check back tomorrow morning to see if you were correct!
BLACK MAMBO by “Stephen King”:
He resented the name Black Mambo. It wasn’t a name he wanted to live with. For one thing, he was white as a preacher. Maybe he’d earned it because he was lethal to get in the way of. Maybe it was because he kept his head up, even when in the tall grass. Then again, maybe it was because he’d bitten a man in the neck, right there in front of Jimmy Devine’s Baptist Church, an old faded circus tent on State Highway 50 that ran along the Penobscot River out Millinocket way. He’d had his Mike Tyson moment. So what? Who among us doesn’t skid off the rails now and then? Who hasn’t imagined crossing that line that separates the civilized from the uncouth? Maybe they should have called him Uncle Cooth, so they could have abbreviated it to something more accurate.
“When we gonna do it?” he asked.
The bar was a five-dollar-a-pitcher rathole that bikers would have frequented if any bikers had lived out here. Instead, its patrons were out-of-work itinerants who worked the lobster wharfs in the late summer, cracking shells and pulling meat for minimum wage. The place carried a smell like that: shellfish and beer piss. Better off lying in wait in the car.
“Soon as he shows hisself,” she said. Lizzie Tramwunkle. Queen of the Dairy Queen. The zit-faced sister of one of the babes of Millinocket. She’d gotten married at seventeen to a guy who’d knocked her up, then ditched him when he took to backhanding her and making her go moo-moo on the wife rack in ways she wanted no part of.
Now she was going to get a part of him. The important part. The part he’d given her little sister a week ago Thursday, probably their dog, KillJoy, too, at some point.
Black Mambo fiddled with the X-Acto knife he’d lifted from his mama’s art table where she made her holiday cards she sold around Christmastime. The handle was aluminum and warmed in his hand.
“You sure ’bout this?” he said, not for the first time…
IN THE WOODS by “Stephen King”:
I could feel them on me, out in the woods, in the dark, burning the skin on the back of my neck like two pinpoints of fire. I could feel them, and I knew what they were.
You live in Maine as long as I have, you sense things. Things that are there, but at the same time they’re not there. Like in that song from 1973, by that singer, where things are there and then not there.
What’s the name of that fucking song?
Can’t remember. Can’t remember much of anything. Where are my car keys? What are the last four digits of my social security? Do I have on my pants? What about my underpants?
I have no idea. It’s all gone now, gone from my brain like water down a drain. But my skull’s not empty, not by a country mile. There’s something new in there, something I can feel scuttling around, especially at night, when I can hear the wind moaning in the tall pines deep in the woods, in the dark, where I felt them the first time, the fiery pinpoints on my neck, and I knew what it was, up there in the tree behind me, but I didn’t want to turn to look, didn’t dare turn to look, because that’s when it gets you, the old Maine people say. Don’t turn around, they say. Keep walking, and maybe you’ll be lucky. Maybe it will let you go. Maybe it will wait for some other damn fool to be walking alone in those woods at night, in the dark.
Or maybe it will decide it wants you.
If it does, you’ll know, the sound behind you getting louder in the trees, and you’ll do what I did, you’ll start running. You can’t outrun it, the old Maine people say. But you’ll try; my God how you’ll try, running and stumbling through the dark woods with the pine branches clawing at your clothing as if the trees themselves were trying to stop you, and you’ll realize that they are, the trees are trying to stop you, and you’ll stumble on a root—the tree made you stumble—and you’ll fall, and you’ll try to get up but you can’t get up…
THE ROCK AND ROLL DEAD ZONE by “Stephen King”:
I get home from my latest book tour dog-tired and wanting nothing but a couple of Pop-Tarts in front of the TV and maybe twelve hours of sleep, but as I roll up my drive, I see it’s not going to work that way. Sitting on my steps and waiting for me is Edward Gooch, aka Goochie, also aka the Gooch. I’ve known him since grade school, and I love him like a brother. At two hundred and eighty pounds, there’s a lot of him to love, and what the Gooch loves most is rock and roll. God, does he love rock and roll. He loves big ideas, too. The biggest, he brings to me, every one a guaranteed moneymaker. All I have to do is invest a small sum (say, twelve million) or a slightly bigger one (say, seventeen or maybe twenty).
Today the Gooch is wearing red Keds held together with masking tape, huge gray sweatpants (only a bit pee stained at the crotch), and a Metallica shirt that shrank in the wash, allowing me a good view of his lint-encrusted belly button. He looks like a stoned roadie in the middle of a nine-week tour. Except, that is, for what he’s got in his hands: a very large imitation-alligator-skin presentation folder.
Oh-oh, I think. The Gooch has had a big idea. God help a poor boy from Maine.
“Steve!” he yells, and spreads his arms. Before I can flee, I’m enfolded in a bear hug that smells of beer, chili, and armpit sweat.
“Gooch,” I say. “Great to see you, buddy, but I’m really tired and—”
“Sure, sure, you must be. I saw you on The View, saw you on GMA, saw you on Jimmy Fallon, saw you on Oprah—”
“I didn’t do Oprah,” I say. “I’ve never done Oprah.”
“Maybe it was Rachael Ray. You helped her make a skillet fry, right? Anyway, I won’t keep you long. Ten minutes and you’re gonna see the beauty of this thing I’ve got in mind. I could have taken it to Dave Barry, you know—the man’s got vision, but he’s a small-timer compared to you, Stevie. When it comes to large concepts, Dave’s vision is 20/20. Yours is 15/15. Maybe even 10/10.” He takes a look at my thick specs. “I’m speaking metaphorically. You know that, right?”
“Sure. I’m totally hip to metaphor. How much would I have to invest in this beautiful thing, Gooch? Twelve million or seventeen?” …
ROBERT JOHNSON’S FLAT-TOP by “Stephen King”:
Hip-deep in cotton bolls and sweating like a sharecropper, Branch Davis stared at the Mississippi Delta mansion with a moon as bright as a National resonator hanging over it and waited for the owner’s guard dog to die. Branch had a pistol in his ankle holster, six melted tuning pegs in his pocket, and a Molotov cocktail in his left hand, but he still felt naked and vulnerable. Every few minutes he’d heard something slither or scuttle beneath the plants, and the mosquitoes were eating him alive. If this was what Southerners called “tall cotton,” Branch wanted none of it. He’d flown his two-million-dollar King Air all the way from Bangor to this nameless Dixie hell to steal something most men wouldn’t look twice at, but that proved only one thing beyond doubt: He was a true collector.
There were two kinds of collectors in the world, and Branch was the second kind. Both varieties had patience; both knew obsession; but the true line of demarcation was that some collectors had the ability (or weakness of character) to accept that certain prizes would remain forever beyond their reach, and could live with that aching emptiness. Others—the accursed few, if you listened to Branch’s ex-wife—refused to let anything stand between them and the objects of their desire.
So it was for Branch Davis.
He cocked his head and listened for the guard dog. Its whimpering had ceased ten minutes before, thanks to the poisoned meat Branch had tossed from his car back where the long driveway met Highway 61. But even in its weakened state, the dog had somehow staggered down the drive, climbed the steps, and taken up station before the front door.
The mansion glowed in the moonlight, like a tall ship moored in a white sea of cotton. With its tall white Doric columns, it looked more like a fraternity house than a residence, but, oh, what treasure it held inside…