"'No, I won't," she said. "Momma says good girls don't." She looked strange for a little girl, half sad and half self-righteous.
'I could hardly believe it, and the first thing that popped into my mind also popped right out of my mouth. I said: "Well, I'm a good girl. And doesn't your mother have breasts?"
'She lowered her head and said something so softly I couldn't hear it. When I asked her to repeat it, she looked at me defiantly and said that her momma had been bad when she made her and that was why she had them. She called them dirtypillows, as if it was all one word.
'I couldn't believe it. I was just dumbfounded. There was nothing at all I could think to say. We just stared at each other, and what I wanted to do was grab that sad little scrap of a girl and run away with her.
'And that was when Margaret White came out of her back door and saw us.'
'For a minute she just goggled as if she couldn't believe it. Then she opened her mouth and whooped. That's the ugliest sound I've ever beard in my life. It was like the noise of a bull alligator would make in a swamp. She just whooped. Rage. Complete, insane rage. Her face went just as red as the side of a fire truck and she curled her hands into fists and whooped at the sky. She was shaking all over. I thought she was having a stroke. Her face was all scrunched up, and it was a gargoyle's face.
'I thought Carrie was going to faint - or die on the spot. She sucked in all her breath and that little face went a cottage-cheesy colour.
'Her mother yelled: "CAAAARRIEEEEEE!"
'I jumped up and yelled back: "Don't you yell at her that way! You ought to be ashamed!" Something stupid like that. I don't remember. Carrie started to go back and then she stopped and then she started again, and just before she crossed over from our lawn to theirs she looked back at me and there was a look ... oh, dreadful. I can't say it. Wanting and hating and fearing ... and misery. As if life itself had fallen on her like stones, all at the age of three.
'My mother came out on the back stoop and her face just crumpled when she saw the child. And Margaret ... oh, she was screaming things about sluts and strumpets and the sins of the fathers being visited even into the seventh generation. My tongue felt like a little dried-up plant.
'For just a second Carrie stood swaying back and forth between the two yards, and then Margaret White looked upward and I swear sweet Jesus that woman bayed at the sky. And then she started to ... to hurt herself, scourge herself. She was clawing at her neck and cheeks, making red marks and scratches. She tore her dress.
'Carrie screamed out "Momma!" and ran to her.
'Mrs White kind of ... squatted, like a frog, and her arms swooped wide open. I thought she was going to crush her and I screamed. The woman was grinning. Grinning and drooling right down her chin. Oh, I was sick. Jesus, I was so sick.
'She gathered her up and they went in. I turned off my radio and I could hear her. Some of the words, but not all. You didn't have to hear all the words to know what was going on. Praying and sobbing and screeching. Crazy sounds. And Margaret telling the little girl to get herself into her closet and pray. The little girl crying and screaming that she was sorry, she forgot. Then nothing. And my mother and I just looked at each other. I never saw Mom look so bad, not even when Dad died. She said: "The child-!' and that was all. We went inside.'
She gets up and goes to the window, a pretty woman in a yellow no-back sundress. 'It's almost like living it all over again, you know,' she says, not turning around 'I'm all riled up inside again.' She laughs a little and cradles her elbows in her palms.
'Oh, she was so pretty. You'd never know from those pictures.'
Cars go by outside, back and forth, and I sit and wait for her to go on. She reminds me of a pole-vaulter eyeing the bar and wondering if it's set too high.
'My mother brewed us scotch tea. strong, with milk, the way she used to when I was tomboying around and someone would push me in the nettle patch or I'd fall off my bicycle. It was awful but we drank it anyway, sitting across from each other in the kitchen nook. She was in some old housedress with the hem falling down in back, and I was in my Whore of Babylon, two-piece swimsuit. I wanted to cry but it was too real to cry about, not like the movies. Once when I was in New York I saw an old drunk leading a little girl in a blue dress by the hand. The girl had cried herself into a bloody nose. The drunk had goitre and his neck looked like an inner tube. There was a red bump in the middle of his forehead and a long white string on the blue serge jacket he was wearing. Everyone kept going and coming because, if you did, then pretty soon you wouldn't see them any more. That was real, too.
'I wanted to tell my mother that, and I was just opening my mouth to say it when the other thing happened ... the thing you want to hear about, I guess. There was a big thump outside that made the glasses rattle in the china cabinet. It was a feeling as well as a sound, thick and solid, as if someone had just pushed an iron safe off the roof.'
She lights a new cigarette and begins to puff rapidly.
'I went to the window and looked out, but I couldn't see anything. Then, when I was getting ready to turn around, something else fell. The sun glittered on it. I thought it was a big glass globe for a second. Then it hit the edge of the
Whites' roof and shattered, and it wasn't glass at all. It was a big chunk of ice. I was going to turn around and tell Mom, and that's when they started to fall all at once, in a shower.
'They were falling on the Whites' roof, on the back and front lawn, on the outside door to their cellar. That was a sheet-tin bulkhead, and when the first one hit it made a huge bong noise, like a church bell. My mother and I both screamed. We were clutching each other like a couple of girls in a thunderstorm.
'Then it stopped. There was no sound at all from their house. You could see the water from the melting ice trickling down their slate shingles in the sunshine. A great big hunk of ice was stuck in the angle of the roof and their little chimney. The light on it was so bright that my eyes hurt to look at it.
'My mother started to ask me if it was over, and then Margaret screamed. The sound came to us very clearly. In a way it was worse than before, because there was terror in this one. Then there were clanging, banging sounds, as if she were throwing every pot and pan in the house at the girl.
The back door slammed open and slammed closed. No one came out. More screams. Mom said for me to call the police but I couldn't move. I was stuck to the spot. Mr Kirk and his wife Virginia came out on their lawn to look. The Smiths, too. Pretty soon everyone on the street that was home had come out, even old Mrs Warwick from up the block, and she was deaf in one ear.
'Things started to crash and tinkle and break. Bottles, glasses, I don't know what all. And then the side window broke open and the kitchen table fell halfway through. With God as my witness. It was a big mahogany thing and it took the screen with it and it must have weighed three hundred pounds. How could a woman - even a big woman - throw that?'
I ask her if she is implying something.
'I'm only telling you,' she insists, suddenly distraught. 'I'm not asking you to believe-'
She seems to catch her breath and then goes on flatly:
'There was nothing for maybe five minutes. Water was dripping out of the gutters over there. And there was ice all over the Whites' lawn. It was melting fast.'
She gives a short, chopping laugh and butts her cigarette.
'Why not? It was August.'
She wanders aimlessly back towards the sofa, then veers away. 'Then the stones. Right out of the blue sky. Whistling and screaming like bombs. My mother cried out, 'What in the name of !' and put her hands over her head. But I couldn't move. I watched it all and I couldn't move. It didn't matter anyway. They only fell on the Whites' property.
'One of them hit a downspout and knocked it on to the lawn. Others punched holes right through the roof and into the attic. The roof made a big cracking sound each time one hit, and puffs of dust would squirt up. The ones that hit the ground made everything vibrate. You could feel them hitting in your feet.
'Our china was tinkling and the fancy Welsh dresser was shaking and Mom's teacup fell on the floor and broke.
'They made big pits in the Whites' back lawn when they struck. Craters. Mrs White hired a junkman from across town to cart them away, and Jerry Smith from up the street paid him a buck to let him chip a piece of one. He took it to B.U. and they looked at it and said it was ordinary granite.
'One of the last ones hit a little table they had in their back yard and smashed it to pieces.'
'But nothing, nothing that wasn't on their property was hit.'
She stops and turns from the window to look at me, and her face is haggard from remembering all that. One hand plays forgetfully with her casually stylish shag haircut. 'Not much of it got into the local paper. By the time Billy Harris came around - he reported the Chamberlain news - she had already gotten the roof fixed, and when people told him the stones had gone right through it, I think he thought we were pulling his leg.
'Nobody wants to believe it, not even now. You and all the people who'll read what you write will wish they could laugh it of and call me just another nut who's been out here in the sun too long. But it happened. There were lots of people on the block who saw it happen, and it was just as real as that drunk leading the little girl with the bloody nose. And now there's this other thing. No one can laugh that of, either. Too many people are dead.
'And it's not just on the Whites' property any more.'
She smiles, but there's not a drop of humour in it. She says: 'Ralph White was insured, and Margaret got a lot of money when he died ... double indemnity. He left the house insured, too, but she never got a penny of that. The damage was caused by an act of God. Poetic justice, huh?'
She laughs a little, but there's no humour in that, either ...
Found written repeatedly on one page of a Ewen Consolidated High School notebook owned by Carrie White:
Everybody's guessed/that baby can't be blessed/'til she finally sees that she's like all the rest ...
Carrie went into the house and closed the door behind her. Bright daylight disappeared and was replaced by brown shadows, coolness, and the oppressive smell of talcum powder. The only sound was the ticking of the Black Forest cuckoo clock in the living room. Momma had gotten the cuckoo clock with Green Stamps. Once, in the sixth grade, Carrie had set out to ask Momma if Green Stamps weren't sinful, but her nerve had failed her.
She walked up the hall and put her coat in the closet. A luminous picture above the coathooks limned a ghostly Jesus hovering grimly over a family seated at the kitchen table. Beneath was the caption (also luminous): The Unseen Guest.
She went into the living room and stood in the middle of the faded, starting-to-be-threadbare rug. She closed her eyes and watched the little dots flash by in the darkness. Her headache thumped queasily behind her temples.
Momma worked on the speed ironer and folder down at the Blue Ribbon Laundry in Chamberlain Centre. She had worked there since Carrie was five, when the compensation and insurance that had resulted from her father's accident had begun to run out. Her hours were from seven-thirty in the morning until four in the afternoon. The laundry was Godless. Momma had told her so many times. The foreman, Mr Elton Mott, was especially Godless. Momma said that Satan had reserved a special blue corner of Hell for Elt, as he was called at the Blue Ribbon.
She opened her eyes. The living room contained two chairs with straight backs. There was a sewing table with a light where Carrie sometimes made dresses in the evening while Momma tatted doilies and talked about The Coming. The Black Forest cuckoo clock was on the far wall.
There were many religious pictures, but the one Carrie liked best was on the wall above her chair. It was Jesus leading lambs on a hill that was as green and smooth as the Riverside golf course. The others were not as tranquil: Jesus turning the money-changers from the temple, Moses throwing the Tablets down upon the worshippers of the golden calf, Thomas the Doubter putting his hand on Christ's wounded side (oh, the horrified fascination of that one and the nightmares it had given her as a girl!), Noah's ark floating above the agonized, drowning sinners, Lot and his family fleeing the great burning of Sodom and Gomorrah.
On a small deal table there were a lamp and a stack of tracts. The top pamphlet showed a sinner (his spiritual status was obvious from the agonized expression on his face) trying to crawl beneath a large boulder. The title blared: Neither shall the rock hide him ON THAT DAY!
But the room was actually dominated by a huge plaster crucifix on the far wall, fully four feet high. Momma had mail-ordered it special from St Louis. The Jesus impaled upon it was frozen in a grotesque, muscle-straining rictus of pain, mouth drawn down in a groaning curve. His crown of thorns bled scarlet streams down temples and forehead. The eyes were turned up in a medieval expression of slanted agony. Both hands were also drenched with blood and the feet were nailed to a small plaster platform. This corpus had also given Carrie endless nightmares in which the mutilated Christ chased her through dream corridors, holding a mallet and nails, begging her to take up her cross and follow Him. Just lately these dreams had evolved into something less understandable but more sinister. The object did not seem to be murder but something even more awful.
The pain in her legs and belly and privates had drained away a little. She no longer thought she was bleeding to death. The word was menstruation, and all at once it seemed logical and inevitable. It was her Time of the Month. She giggled a strange, affrighted giggle in the solemn stillness of the flying room. It sounded like a quiz show. You too can win an all-expenses-paid trip to Bermuda on Time of the Month. Like the memory of the stones, the knowledge of menstruation seemed always to have been there, blocked but waiting.
She turned and walked heavily upstairs. The bathroom had a wooden floor that had been scrubbed nearly white (Cleanliness is next to Godliness) and a tub on claw feet. Rust stains dripped down the porcelain below the chrome spout, and there was no shower attachment. Momma said showers were sinful.
Carrie went in, opened the towel cabinet, and began to hunt purposefully but carefully, not leaving anything out of place. Momma's eyes were sharp.
The blue box was in the very back, behind the old towels they didn't use any more. There was a fuzzily silhouetted woman in a long, filmy gown on the side.
She took one of the napkins out and looked at it curiously. She had blotted the lipstick she stuck into her purse quite openly with these - once on a street corner. Now she remembered (or imagined she did) quizzical, shocked looks. Her face flamed. They had told her. The flush faded to a milky anger.
She went into her tiny bedroom. There were many more religious pictures here, but there were more lambs and fewer scenes of righteous wrath. A Ewen pennant was tacked over the dresser. On the dresser itself was a Bible and a plastic Jesus that glowed in the dark.
She undressed - first her blouse, then her hateful kneelength skirt, her slip, her girdle, her pettipants, her garter belt, her stockings, She looked at the pile of heavy clothes, their buttons and rubber, with an expression of fierce wretchedness. In the school library there was a stack of back issues of Seventeen and often she leafed through them, pasting an expression of idiotic casualness on her face. The models looked so easy and smooth in their short, kicky skirts, pantyhose, and frilly underwear with patterns on them. Of course easy was one of Momma's pet words (she knew what Momma would say to a question) to describe them. And it would make her dreadfully self-conscious, she knew that. Naked, evil, blackened with the sin of exhibitionism, the breeze blowing lewdly up the backs of her legs, inciting lust. And she knew that they would know how she felt. They always did. They would embarrass her somehow, push her savagely back into clowndom. It was their way.
She could, she knew she could be
in another place. She was thick through the waist only because sometimes she felt so miserable, empty, bored, that the only way to fill that gaping, whistling hole was to eat and eat and eat-but she was not that thick through the middle. Her body chemistry would not allow her to go beyond a certain point. And she thought her legs were actually pretty, almost as pretty as Sue Snell's or Vicky Hanscom's. She could be
(what o what o what)
could stop the chocolates and her pimples would go down. They always did. She could fix her hair. Buy pantyhose and blue and green tights. Make little skirts and dresses from Butterick and Simplicity patterns. The price of a bus ticket, a train ticket. She could be, could be, could be
She unsnapped her heavy cotton bra and let it fall. Her breasts were milk-white, upright and smooth. The nipples were a light coffee colour. She ran her hands over them and a little shiver went through her. Evil, bad, oh it was. Momma had told her there was Something. The Something was dangerous, ancient, unutterably evil. It could make you Feeble. Watch, Momma said. It comes at night. It will make you think of the evil that goes on in parking lots and roadhouses.
But, though this was only nine-twenty in the morning, Carrie thought that the Something had come to her. She ran her hands over her breasts
again, and the skin was cool but the nipples were hot and hard, and when she tweaked one it made her feel weak and dissolving. Yes, this was the Something.
Her underpants were spotted with blood.
Suddenly she felt that she must burst into tears, scream, or rip the Something out of her body whole and, beating, crush it, kill it.
The napkin Miss Desjardin had fixed was already wilting and she changed it carefully, knowing how bad she was, how bad they were, how she hated them and herself. Only Momma was good. Momma had battled the Black Man and had vanquished him. Carrie had seen it happen in a dream. Momma had driven him out of the front door with a broom, and the Black Man had fled up Carlin Street into the night, his cloven feet striking red sparks from the cement.
Her momma had torn the Something out of herself and was pure.
Carrie hated her.
She caught a glimpse of her own face in the tiny mirror she had hung on the back of the door, a mirror with a cheap green plastic rim, good only for combing hair by.
She hated her face, her dull, stupid, bovine face, the vapid eyes, the red, shiny pimples, the nests of black heads. She hated her face most of all.
The reflection was suddenly split by a jagged, silvery crack. The mirror fell on the floor and shattered at her feet, leaving only the plastic ring to stare at her like a blinded eye.
From Ogilvie's Dictionary of Physic Phenomena:
Telekinesis is the ability to move objects or to cause changes in objects by force of the mind. The phenomenon has most reliably been reported in times of crisis or in stress situations, when automobiles have been levitated from pinned bodies or debris from collapsed buildings, etc.
The phenomenon is often confused with the work of poltergeists, which are playful spirits. It should be noted that poltergeists are astral beings of questionable reality, while telekinesis is thought to be an empiric function of the mind, possibly electrochemical in nature ...
When they had finished making love, as she slowly put her clothes in order in the back seat of Tommy Ross's 1963 Ford, Sue Snell found her thoughts turning back to Carrie White.
It was Friday night and Tommy (who was still looking pensively out the back window with his pants still down around his ankles; the effect was comic but oddly endearing) had taken her bowling. That, of course, was a mutually accepted excuse. Fornication had been on their minds from the word go.
She had been going out more or less steadily with Tommy ever since October (it was now May) and they had been lovers for only two weeks. Seven times, she amended. Tonight had been the seventh. There had been no fireworks yet, no bands playing 'Stars and Stripes Forever,' but it had gotten a little better.
The first time had hurt like hell. Her girl friends, Helen Shyres and Jeanne Gault, had both done It, and they both assured her that it only hurt for a minute - like getting a shot of penicillin - and then it was roses. But for Sue, the first time had been like being reamed out with a hoe handle. Tommy had confessed to her since, with a grin, that he had gotten the rubber on wrong, too.
Tonight was only the second time she had begun to feel something like pleasure, and then it was over. Tommy had held out for as long as he could, but then it was just... over. It seemed like an awful lot of rubbing for a little warmth.
In the aftermath she felt low and melancholy, and her thoughts turned to Carrie in this light. A wave of remorse caught her with all emotional guards down, and when Tommy turned back from the view of Brickyard Rill, she was crying.
'Hey,' he said, alarmed. 'Oh, hey.' He held her clumsily.
'It's all right,' she said still weeping. 'It's not you. I did a not-so-good thing today. I was just thinking of it.'
'What?' He patted the back of her neck gently.
So she found herself launching into the story of that morning's incident, hardly believing it was herself she was listening to. Facing the thing frankly, she realized the main reason she had allowed Tommy to have her was because she was in
(love? infatuation? didn't matter results were the same)
with him, and now to put herself in this position-cohort in a nasty shower-room joke-was hardly the approved method to hook a fellow. And Tommy was, of course, Popular. As someone who had been Popular herself all her life, it had almost seemed written that she would meet and fall in love with someone as Popular as she. They were almost certain to be voted King and Queen of the highschool Spring Ball, and the senior class had already voted them class couple for the yearbook. They had become a fixed star in the shifting firmament of the high school's relationships, the acknowledged Romeo and Juliet. And she knew with sudden hatefulness that there was one couple like them in every white suburban high school in America.
And having something she had always longed for - a sense of place, of security, of status - she found that it carried uneasiness with it like a darker sister. It was not the way she had conceived it. There were dark things lumbering around their warm circle of light. The idea that she had let him fuck her
(do you have to say it that way yes this time I do)
simply because he was Popular, for instance. The fact that they fit together walking, or that she could look at their reflection in a store window and think. There goes a handsome couple. She was quite sure
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