Word count – 5,100
Big Wheels: A Tale of the Laundry Game (Milkman #2), which is this story’s full title, follows on from the previous story in this collection, Morning Deliveries, but centres around a couple of laundry workers who go out in the middle of the night trying to find a place to inspect their vehicle and deem it roadworthy… all while they are both knocking back the beers.
As with Morning Deliveries, this story has been cobbled together from chapters of an abandoned novel that King was writing called The Milkman, but unlike that first story, Big Wheels meanders and ultimately doesn’t stand on its own. It also includes references which I am sure are intended to allude to other parts of the novel that he hasn’t included here.
So I will have to pass on this one. It may very well work as part of a larger narrative, but snipped out as a story in its own right, it falls a little flat.
Not Recommended ⇓
Word count – 1,600
Morning Deliveries (Milkman #1), to give it its full title, is exactly what you think it is – a very short tale about a milkman who is going about his daily deliveries. Except, of course, he is not just leaving milk on the doorstep. Where would be the horror in that?
We follow Spike as he does his rounds, but it quickly becomes evident that he is not a model employee, or anyone you would want to accept a milkshake from. At random doors, he leaves a surprise in with the breakfast accompaniment – be it a spider, liquid poison, or maybe even a deadly gas, and then he just continues on with his work.
Morning Deliveries is one of the shortest stories in Skeleton Crew, but it’s also one of the better offerings. Another storytelling example of simplicity sometimes being more important than complexity.
Word count – 6,900
Uncle Otto’s Truck is about a old beat-up pick-up that has a bit of an evil streak. After being used as a weapon itself, the vehicle sets out to get his revenge on the murderer. Uncle Otto tries to tell his nephew this, but he is waved off as being crazy.
Stephen King certainly likes writing stories about vehicles that come to life (most famously in Christine)… actually, any kind of inanimate object. In that respect Uncle Otto’s Truck treads familiar territory. I’m sure he would be the first to admit that it’s basic horror, but when it’s done right it can be very effective, and here he is mostly successful.
Although this story starts off quite slowly, once it finds its footing it picks up nicely and is a good read through to the end. Another fine addition to this collection.
Word count – 7,800
Survivor Type is about a medical student called Richard who is smuggling heroin on a cruise ship. When the vessel sinks he is stranded on a tiny island and has to figure out the best way to stay alive. Turns out, eating himself is the way to go.
The story is written in a loose diary form, which serves to convey the passage of time without resorting to awkward and sometimes tedious narrative shifts as day turns to night and back again. Richard also has a shit-ton of the hard stuff to get him through the pain.
Survivor Type is suitably gory in its depiction, and King has stretched a little medical knowledge a long way. It’s the kind of tale that appeals to a more primal level of reader… fortunately, I can dig that.
I didn’t do any fresh writing this month, which – although a little disconcerting – is not altogether unexpected. Covid-19 has knocked everything into a spin, which is certainly no excuse, because I have absolutely had more time to write, but it has tweaked the way I go about my days. One good thing about the pandemic is that I am no longer having to wake up at 4am. That’s something I won’t miss.
I am slowly making my way through my exhaustive filing of stories, and I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Starting with all the stuff I did far too many years ago to mention, I have filed and dated everything (in colourful lever-arch folders) up to and including 2012. By the time I write next month’s update I am confident I will have it all squared away and be able to dedicate some time to coming up with new stuff.
Over the last few days I have submitted a lot of stories to various markets, primarily to get back in the habit of doing it. There was a time when I’d get a response from a pubisher every day. Now, I go many weeks between replies, and that is mainly because I just don’t throw my stuff out there the way I used to. Well that is going to change. 2020 has not been a good year, but I’m determined to salvage something positive from it.
In other news, I was officialy made redundant this afternoon, so – with the thought that such an endpoint was coming sooner rather than later – I’ve been looking for other work as well. I don’t have anything yet, but I have a few irons in the fire, and I’m sure it won’t be long until I’m back out there earning a wage rather than taking the furlough payment for granted.
Take care folks!
Word count – 13,800
Nona is about a man behind bars who retells the story of how he met an enigmatic woman when he was in college, who subsequently led him down a dark path and co-erced him into committing evil deeds during their brief time together.
Throughout the course of the story it becomes increasingly clear that all is not what it seems with the tale being relayed to the reader. Nona doesn’t do anything new, and although it is quite long, it’s written confidently and King crafts a good relationship between the protagonist and the mysterious woman that may very well not have been there at all.
After a run of three stories that I couldn’t vibe with, it’s nice to have something that is much more satisfying. One of the better entries in this collection.
Word count – 6,300
Beachworld is a science fiction story about two men in the far future who land on another planet, only to find it is completely covered in sand. One of them is hypnotised by the allure of the landscape, while the other spends his time trying to get them out of there.
The best thing about this story is the references to The Beach Boys, scattered throughout, but beyond that I have no connection to the tale.
Of course, it’s no secret that sci-fi and I don’t get along very well. As such, I’m probably guilty of losing focus and concentration while reading this. There’s an element of horror to this story, but regardless, Beachworld doesn’t sit well with me. It’s not something I’ll be going back to.
Not Recommended ⇓
Word count – 5,900
The Wedding Gig is set in the years after the First World War, and is told from the point of view of a local ragtime band leader. He is hired by a small-time gangster to play at his sister’s wedding, at which he, (the gangster), is killed by some goons he has rubbed up the wrong way.
Sometimes, The Wedding Gig seems to just be an opportunity for King to poke fun at fat women – which is fine, I guess – but there needs to be more of a story than that, and ultimately, there really isn’t.
As such, this short story is the first one in the collection that I have to stop short of giving the green light to. There’s just not enough here to make it worth your time, and penty of other stuff that is better in the pages before you get to it.
Not Recommended ⇓
Word count – 11,400
Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut hangs on the familiar King format of using a minor character to narrate the tale. King is particularly good at this, and he often manages to add a little spice into the story that otherwise would not be possible. This attempt is no different.
Mrs. Todd likes to drive, but more than that she likes to find the quickest route to wherever she is going. It’s fun listening to how she manages to shave miles off each of her journeys by taking different roads, and the fact that it doesn’t really go the way I had expected doesn’t matter.
Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut is a good tale, but unfortunately it’s not as well done as I had hoped. The premise is fun and interesting, but the execution is a little long-winded for my liking, and it nearly outstays its welcome. If some of the detail here was trimmed I think King may have had a story that stays with you more.
It took a long time, but I finally finished printing out all my stories in May. There are a few stragglers – a couple of drafts that for whatever reason I don’t have saved on my laptop, and anything I wrote before I was thirteen or so. But everything is there that should be…
…including all the mistakes I have made over the years. The poor grammar, the missing apostrophes, and my god the flowery language. If there was an opportunity for me to say something in three words you can be assured that I chose to say it in thirty.
The funny thing is that I distinctly remember thinking the more convoluted I could make a sentence, the better a writer I was. The density of the prose is what makes a story sing, right?
It took me a while to get out of that habit – years, probably. Sometimes I catch myself circling that literary drain again and I’m reminded of that teenage writer who thought there was nothing better than the flourish of his own pen.
I was going to take a few examples and slot them in here so you could see what I’m talking about, but once it’s out there online, I can’t take that shit back. So you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Now I just have to organise what I’ve written, and I can concentrate on the new stuff.