Gwendy’s Button Box
Stephen King & Richard Chizmar
The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told… until now.
There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.
At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.
One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”
On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…
I’m a sucker for anything Stephen King, so I picked this up the second I saw it at the library. Like most King novellas it’s not quite a horror story, but one that involves children dealing with Big Issues that involve fantastical elements. Thankfully I wasn’t expecting much in terms of horror for this, because it read like a breeze, with little to no suspense. I wanted to know what the Button Box was, but at the same time I didn’t much care.
I haven’t read anything about how this story was written, so I have no idea what the distribution of work was between King and Chizmar, but this reads like someone wrote King fanfic and King himself polished it up a little bit. There are no stakes at all, even when we get a glimpse at what the Button Box does.
Overall this was nice, but ultimately forgettable.