July 8, 2009

"Needful Things"

In the fall of 1992, I was new to West Virginia. I had been there a few months, and I had yet to make friends that would accept me on my own terms. Prior friends were just happy that my father drove a nice truck or the fact that I was a football player. It seems inevitable now that the group I fell in with was the one group with the lowest admission standards, but that was not my ambition.
I had moved in the early summer of that year. I had not met anyone in the area except for my new football teammates. That relationship was very superficial, however, as the only thing that we had in common was our own playing of football. This was in an area in which there was much stagnation. Not many people had ever moved out, nor had many people ever moved into the area. Friendship groups had already been determined years before in elementary school. I spent much of that summer watching television and mowing the yard.
As the new school year approached, I was giddy with anticipation. I went shopping with my mother, buying all the things that were on the list given out by my school. I even had a backpack that was made of see-through vinyl because the powers that be were afraid of thirteen-year-olds with handguns. (It seemed absurd at the time, but in retrospect, it may have been an ideal set-up.) I hadn’t been the most popular child in my previous school, and so I was eager to use my newfound social capital as a starter on the football team.
The night before the first school day I packed up my new clear vinyl pack with all the necessities for the first day. I had the lock for my new locker, the new pencil case with the pencils sharpened to uniform points with the built in sharpener. Along with all that, I slipped in a new book that my sister had read and recommended to me, Steven King’s Needful Things.
That very first day was a whirlwind, and there are not any concrete details that I could say about what happened, or what kind of work we did. What I can still remember, however, is a scene that took place in Mr. Dawson’s Health class. There was some sort of down time, perhaps an assignment I had completed ahead of time, but I had taken out the novel that I had stashed away. This was an old habit: dating to sometime from elementary school where I was always ahead of the game. I often was scolded for it, but I was off limits due to my consistent high marks. Continuing this habit, it was not very long before a pretty, young girl named Erica approached me. She looked at me, and saw that I was reading for pleasure. At that, she turned up her nose at me and said, “Why are you reading? Only nerds read.”
For the first time I felt shame for doing something I had always enjoyed so much. I am not proud to say that I have still to this day never finished Needful Things. It shames me to admit I readily didn’t in public for years after that. Finally, it is with dishonor that I relate the fact that I have never looked the same at King’s works since that hot day 12 years ago.