So, the reader asks me in the elevator…
“S.T., lay it on me, should I read The Trap, by Tabitha King, yay or nay?”
And I’d been clutching the book in my hand. I looked it over and remembered the charming little boy in the book, Travis, playing war games with his little army men.
“Yes,” I said. It was an obvious answer for me.
“What’s so good about it?”
“It’s everything I think that works best for horror, is one.” My stop had come and passed, but I humored the reader a bit longer. It’s a tall building and Freddie Mercury was making me tap my toes. I smiled, “What’d happen if you choked on a chicken bone?”
“Christ, man, what’s this to do with the goddamn book?”
I nudge his shoulder and grin. “You’d be fine, I tell you that: one hundred ten beats per minute on another one bites the dust, one hundred ten compressions per minute for CPR. You’re welcome,” I said. Then I fumbled with my attaché case, “Care for a Mississippi Mud cake-brownie?”
He took the gooey thing and laughed and I could hear him chewing between snorts. I dropped my case again to get him a napkin and re-straighten my papers. By the time I’d stood back up his skin had turned so blue and pale I’d thought he’d been wearing a mask. And he squats over making gasping and retching noises.
Too many marshmallows, I suppose.
I threw him on the floor, then. Freddie Mercury had gotten to the rift in song where he puts on that funny Viking hat with the yellow foam horns. He must have borrowed that from Flavor Flav, and that’s what I’m piecing together in my mind as push down on the reader. And the elevator car’s making squeaking, rumbling noises. And since I was rocking so well as we approached the tenth floor of the office I used my freed attention to tell him just why he should read Tabitha King’s work, a chilling tale about a woman and her son trapped in a winter cottage with three sex and booze driven strangers who never knocked on the door to get in.
“The Story-telling,” I said, as he clutched at his throat and groaned against me. “Oh, stop, you’re acting like a flippin baby in this elevator. It’s entrenching is what I’m trying to say. King involves you heavily in the lives of Liv, Pat, and their children – and the other gossipy saps sharing property in Nodd’s Ridge. She does this to great effect, too.”
I took a breath and loosened my tie. He was reaching for me and clawing for my lapels with both hands. I slapped at them and pointed at him and said “No.”
“And, see? You almost made me forget, because you’re here acting like an old liberal fuddy-duddy – Tabitha writes that tale with a dreadfully giddy pen, you see. It’s like you can almost hear the music as she cooks: putting in dashes of thises and that’s over a simmering stew of the bitter-sweet joy of raising kids in the midst of a failing marriage.
“And,” I went on, slapping the reader on his cheeks, “Stay with me buddy. No sleeping on the job, eh?
“Anyway — it speaks to the coldness of chance and the little care it gives to how much we often want things to work out: that myth of good intentions, you know? And the coldness of nature too. It all sets a terribly vile backdrop for the major events of the story. It’s a much overlooked gem in our horror literature.”
The doors rumbled open on the fifteenth floor and the reader was still all blue-faced and still. “I say, you must be a corpse on the job, aren’t you?”
The secretary was staring at me all wide-eyed and crazy like she must have drank her coffee without cream, or water and mug for that matter.
“What’s wrong?” she said.
“Oh, were you listening to me, darling? About The Trap?
“By Tabitha King?”
Then she stared at me for a good while and was barking orders across the office to call 911. They were a strangely curious bunch on this floor, indeed.
“There’s nothing wrong as far as I’m concerned.” Then she scuttles in the car and pushes me away, slapping the reader on the cheeks like I did — granted she was a bit gentler. I kept on so I could stay close. I have a thing for the bossy, sneaker-skirt types and she smelled good – Lovespell, I presume.
“Now, some might say the pacing in the story was a bit slow. That’s one way to look at it. But substantial time is spent on character development. To me, the ink is never wasted in giving the reader a greater perspective. How are you to care about the characters if they don’t seem like real wives, daughters, sons, and kooky, paranoid neighbors?
“And just wait till you meet Mrs. Alden!”
The reader was carried into the one of the offices and the secretary scrambled in after him. She slammed the door behind herself and I feel a warm, wet pressure squeezing my nose. The coppery smell of blood where I’d kissed the oak instead of Patsy’s soft, rosy cheeks. Patsy is what was written on her placard, at least, on her desk. Aside it was a partially eaten plastic tray of Caesar salad and a tall bag of Texas Toast croutons with garlic and parmesan cheese.
I left old Patsy a gift though. I set The Trap right there for her in her mailbox. I left it with my hunk of Mississippi mud cake-brownie that I’d forgotten I had left over. I left my business card and a note asking her to pass my wishes to the reader.
And I’ll be god dammed if I hadn’t seen Patsy ever since.
Final Rating: 4.5/5
About The Author: S.T. King is an aspiring novelist with a ravenous appetite for the dark, and an insatiable thirst for the ink of the fantastique. Currently, he’s a mental health counselor, helping people purge the skeletons from their closets – though admittedly, he thinks it’s more fun putting them back in.