Copyright 2010 by Gary L. Pullman
Much of the next section of King’s novel is dedicated to moving his chess pieces into place in preparation for the coming showdown between the forces of good and the forces of evil. In a series of usually brief scenes, he sets up the action to come.
The friends of Barbie gather at the Congo Church for their planned meeting. As they pray, the pastor, Piper Libby, who is “no longer sure just who” (or even whom) she is “talking to when” she herself prays, surveys the faithful, who make up the village that King so often finds it takes to thwart the threat that has raised its ugly head in his novel; all are present but Colonel Barbara and physician’s assistant Rusty Everett:
. . . two recently fired lady cops, a retired supermarket manager, a newspaperwoman who no longer had a newspaper, a librarian, the owner of the local restaurant, a Dome-widow who couldn’t stop spinning the wedding ring on her finger, the local department store tycoon, and three uncharacteristically solemn-faced kids sitting scrunched together on the sofa (807).Twelve are present and to others are absent, making those who will spearhead the attack on evil, represented by Big Jim Rennie, Chief Randolph, and their cronies in one camp and Phil (“The Chef”) Bushey and Andy Sanders in another (and possibly the extraterrestrials or whoever created the dome in a third). The small party recalls such traditional storylines as Moses against Pharaoh, David against Goliath, or Samson against the Philistines. Except for the combat skills and military knowledge of Barbie and the police experience of the two former police officers, the underdogs don’t seem to have much going for them except their love of their community, a love of freedom, a belief and trust in God, and a willingness to fight for their values and faith. They seem hopelessly outmatched by the resourceful, efficient, and determined criminal Big Jim Rennie and who- or whatever invented the dome. The reader is interested in seeing how (not so much whether) the small band of citizens will succeed.
The fellowship fills one another in on the situation as they are able to piece it together, and former deputy Jackie Wettington offers a possible cause for the aberrant behavior of Big Jim and Junior, suggesting that they share “the same wild strain of behavior--something genetic--coming out under pressure” (808). As they discuss their plans, an intimacy develops among the conspirators, and they ask one another to call them by their first names. A feeling of solidarity emerges among them that is as strong, if not stronger, the reader suspects, as the solidarity among Jim Rennie’s supporters. After springing Barbie and Rusty from jail, the conspirators decide to use the abandoned McCoy residence atop Black Ridge, where the dome generator is, as their safe house so they can protect the generator from Big Jim, should he try to gain access to the device. Joe McClatchey recommends that they find a way to return the Geiger counter to the town hall’s bomb shelter so that, should Big Jim and his men attempt to attack the McCoy place, they will be frightened away by the Geiger counter’s warning, ignorant of the fact that the radiation at the Black Ridge site is “just a belt” through which they “could drive right through. . . without any protection at all and not get hurt” (813)
Julia’s dog Horace, left with Andrea Grinnell, again hears the voice of the dead Brenda Perkins, urging the Corgi to take the incriminating file concerning Big Jim’s illegal activities to Andrea. The selectman recalls the newspaperwoman’s earlier visit and opens the envelope so that “most of Big Jim Rennie’s secrets” fall “out into her lap” (816).
King surprises the reader by Andrea’s choice not to reveal to Julia that Horace found the file of evidence that Brenda’s husband, Police Chief Howard (“Duke”) Perkins had been compiling against Big Jim. Instead, Andrea loads a pistol, intending to murder her fellow selectman as soon as she gets the chance to do so.
Junior, having awakened in his hospital room is so sick that even he is aware of it, despite the fact that he is not suffering from one of his many, frequent headaches:
There was a suspicious weakness all down the left side of his body, and sometimes spit slipped from that side of his mouth. If he wiped it away with his left hand, sometimes he felt skin against skin and sometimes he couldn’t. In addition to this, there was a dark keyhole shape, quite large, floating in the left side of his vision. As if something had torn inside that eyeball. He supposed it had (824).Junior hallucinates, and he is not always able to recognize these breaks with reality, As a result, he comes to believe that his father, Big Jim, has conspired with Thurston Marshall to poison him. Paranoid, Junior thinks only Alice and Aidan Appleton are trustworthy; everyone else is out to get him. He plans to kill Barbie and his father before kidnapping and becoming the caretaker for the Appleton children. Once he becomes their surrogate father, Junior believes, God will extend his lifetime, preventing his death from “thallium poisoning” (826). Better yet, he decides, he will take the children to the McCain pantry, in which he’d stored the bodies of Angie McCain, Dodee Sanders, and Lester Coggins.
Awakened by pain caused by the injuries she’d sustained during the food fight at the Food Town supermarket, Henrietta Clavard, released from the hospital to finish recuperating at home, hears the lamentations of her neighbor’s dog, Buddy. She is joined in her investigation of the incident by Douglas Twitchell, who is passing by, and they discover Henrietta’s neighbors (Buddy’s owners) dead; like an increasing number of other Chester’s Mill residents, the elderly couple has committed suicide.
Big Jim, having checked out of the hospital, meets with several of his lieutenants at Sweetbriar Rose: Police Chief Peter Randolph, Deputy Freddy Denton, and Special Deputies Melvin Searles and Carter Thibodeau, his bodyguard. Once again, for a character who is modeled upon Dick Chaney and George W. Bush, Big Jim seems a great deal like Barack Hussein Obama: “he had already started drafting a list of executive orders, which he would begin putting into effect as soon as he was granted full executive powers” (832). During their luncheon, Big Jim sets up the raid on the methamphetamine lab. Colonel C ox calls to deliver the news that there is radiation atop Black Ridge.
Claire McClatchey wants to accompany the others to break Barnie and Rusty out of jail. Her son and Jackie Wettington dissuade her.
As Rose, Ernie, and Norrie, drive to Jim Rennie’s Used Cars, King’s omniscient narrator reminds the reader that the environment under the dome is continuing to deteriorate:
“The air smells so bad,” Norrie said.After Ernie steals a van from Jim Rennie’s Used Cars, he, Norrie, and Romeo load it and Romeo’s Escalante with supplies: rifles, lead rolls, food, masking tape, and other items.
“It’s the Prestile, honey,” Rose said. “It’s turned into a big old stinky marsh where it used to run into Motton.” She knew it was more than just the smell of the dying river, but didn’t say so. They had to breathe, so there was no point in worrying about what they might be breathing in. . . (836).
Ollie Dinsmore, tossing rocks at the dome, laments his mother’s suicidal death.
Junior Rennie leaves the hospital. Instead of killing his father first, Junior, thinking more clearly and feeling better (his limp has vanished and the keyhole shape in his left eye is smaller), decides to kill Barbie first instead, since Big Jim’s speech will provide “good cover” (849). He is still hallucinating, though: he sees a wolf in the house he shares with his father and imagines that he is now the wolf, having become a werewolf. His limp returns, too. He leaves the house, laughing at a joke he never understood and the punch line to which he’s forgotten.
Carolyn Sturges packs sandwiches for her charges, Alice and Aidan Appleton, who want to attend Big Jim’s speech.
Andrea’s appearance is much better, although she hasn’t finished undergoing her withdrawal from pain pill addiction. She stows her .38 and the file of incriminating evidence against Big Jim in her purse, intent upon killing the villain “in front of this whole town” (852).
The townspeople begin to arrive for Big Jim’s speech. Linda, with her police radio in a pocket of her dress, sits with Andrea. The Appleton children introduce themselves to the women and vice versa.
Big Kim gives Chief Randolph and Special Deputy Thibodeau instructions as to how to enter the stage and what to expect concerning the agenda: prayer, National Anthem, speech, and vote, concluding “This is going to be fine.” King’s omniscient narrator overrules Big Jim, though, announcing “He was certainly wrong about that” (856), providing foreshadowing that maintains--indeed, to a degree, increases--suspense.
As the Star-Spangled Banner begins to play inside the Town Hall, Barbie’s rescue team swings into operation, Rose Twitchell, Claire McClatchey, Joe McClatchey, Norrie Calvert, Benny Drake, Lissa Jamieson, and Joanie Calvert taking Rose’s car and the Sweetbriar van to the McCoy cabin atop Black Ridge while Ernie Calvert serves as the “wheelman” (857) for Jackie Wettington and Romeo Burpee, who use the van that Ernie stole from Big Jim’s used car lot as the getaway vehicle after the former deputy and the department store owner have liberated Colonel Barbara and physician’s assistant Rusty Everett from the Chester’s Mill police station.
During his speech, after reminding his audience that Barbie has been arrested “for the murders of Brenda Perkins, Lester Coggins, and . . . Angie McCain and Dodee Sanders,” Big Jim explains the origin of the dome (not, of course, that his explanation is likely to be trustworthy):
“What you do not know,” Big Jim continued, “is that the Dome is the result of a conspiracy perpetuated by an elite group of rogue scientists and covertly funded by a government splinter group. We are guinea pigs in an experiment, my fellow townspeople, and Dale Barbara was the man designated to chart and guide that experiment’s course from the inside!” (860)Big Jim also informs pins his own methamphetamine operation and identifies Colonel Cox as an impersonator who is really a part of the conspiracy of “rogue scientists” and “government splinter group” members. His speech has the desired effect; it enrages his audience. Then, Big Jim tells them that, should they want Barbie shot, it will be by “police firing squad,” not by lynching (861).
Junior starts for the police station, to kill Barbie.
Big Jim warns his listeners not to believe whatever Colonel Cox says during the Dome Visitors’ Day tomorrow, cautioning them that the supposed military man may even say that Big Jim himself headed the methamphetamine operation, to which Andrea Grinnell declares, “You did” (862). She presents Big Jim’s audience with a challenge of sorts, arguing:
“You people need to put your fears aside for a moment. . . . When you do, you’ll see that the story he’s telling is ludicrous. Jim Rennie thinks you can be stampeded like cattle in a thunderstorm. I’ve lived with you all my life, and I think he’s wrong” (862).When Big Jim orders her evicted from the town meeting and escorted home or to the hospital, the people surprise him by insisting that she be allowed to speak, too, since “she’s a town official, too” (863). Andrea holds the file of incriminating evidence against Big Jim aloft, so the audience can see it, but as she starts to explain the envelope’s contents, she gets the “shakes” (864), her revolver falls from her purse, and she is shot to death by Special Deputy Thibodeau, who also steals her envelope, hiding it under his shirt. Carolyn Sturges is shot and killed by Deputy Freddy Denton.
At the police station, Junior shoots his way past the deputies on duty, killing all three--Rupert Libby (Piper’s cousin), Stacey Moggin, and Mickey Wardlaw, reloads using Stacey’s ammunition, and goes downstairs, to the cells, to kill Barbie.
On his way to Barbie’s cell, Junior notices Rusty Everett. Before he can kill the physician’s assistant, however, Barbie calls to Junior, taunting him by saying, “I got you, didn’t I? I got you good!” and flipping him off with both middle fingers. As Junior shoos round after round of ammunition at Barbie, the colonel manages to dodge the terminally ill assassin’s aim, taunting him all the while. As Junior closes in for the kill and Barbie remembers the knife he’s hidden inside his mattress, Barbie hears Rusty cry, “Get him!” (877) and the soldier wonders which side the physician’s assistant is on.
Although Rusty came across as brave in the earlier scene in which he relocated his own dislocated fingers, he is terrified of the mad, monstrous Junior. Shamefully, “Rusty stepped backward, thinking that perhaps Junior would miss him on his way by. And perhaps kill himself after finishing with Barbie.” Rusty is ashamed of himself for thinking these thoughts: “He knew these were craven thoughts, but he also knew they were practical thoughts. He could do nothing for Barbie, but he might be able to survive himself” (871). Certainly, the reader loses some respect for Rusty, because of his display of cowardice, but the reader also realizes that the physician’s assistant, unlike Barbie, is a civilian, not a military man trained in survival tactics and close combat skills. Unlike Barbie, Rusty has never served in the military, much less in combat. Therefore, his fear is understandable, whereas Barbie’s own fear (he sweat and shook when Deputy Ollie Ortega had threatened to shoot him) is less forgivable, as is his “forgetting” about the knife he’d hidden inside his bunk’s mattress. It seems most unlikely that a man with blacks ops training, hand-to-hand fighting training, and combat experience would forget such a vitally important fact. King’s soldier does, however, and this forgetfulness could easily have cost him both his life and Rusty’s.
Fortunately, during Junior’s attack, Jackie Wettington and Romeo Burpee entered the police station and, seeing the dead deputies, hastened down to the cells, where the former deputy shoots and kills Junior before the selectman’s son can assassinate Barbie. It was to them, unseen by Barbie, that Rusty had been shouting “Get him!,” meaning Junior, not Barbie, of course.
Deputy Freddy Denton and Special Deputy Melvin Searles enter the police station just as Romeo Burpee comes upstairs. Holding the bogus lawmen at gunpoint, Rommie orders them into a cell downstairs.
Barbie, Rusty, Jackie, and Ernie wave to police officers outside the Town Hall as they drive their stolen van out of town, “headed toward Black Ridge” (881).
King’s omniscient narrator keeps the reader reading by concluding many of these brief scenes with a sentence or two that foreshadows imminent violence, conflict, or catastrophe:
. . . at least if she’s with the rest of the town, she’s safe.
That was what he thought before the gunfire started (859).
Later she would wonder how many lives might have been saved if she had told Rommie okay, let’s roll (862).
In the pandemonium, no one heard the shots from next door (867).
By the way, and for the record, Barbie, who was jailed on page 533 of the novel, finally gets out of his cell (thanks to his rescuers) on page 877 or thereabout, making him Jim Rennie’s prisoner for an approximate count of 344 pages, or 32 percent of the entire story! During this large portion of the novel, Rusty Everett has filled in as the protagonist, apparently, because King’s omniscient narrator (or maybe it’s the voice of the extraterrestrial invaders who may be the inventors of the dome and the cause of all the mischief) declare, when they state as much when they observe that “for the time being, these two men--our heroes, I suppose--are sitting on their bunks and playing Twenty Questions. It’s Rusty’s turn to guess” (802). The existence of two “heroes,” alternating as the story’s central and most important characters makes them both, in effect, protagonists, a feat that seems impossible, even for Stephen King, since, according to the very concept of the protagonist’s being the story’s main character suggests that he or she must also be the only such type of character in the story, for “main” means “chief,” and there is only one chief in any enterprise, a work of fiction included. King’s wanting his reader to believe that there are two “main” characters in his novel betrays another of the narrative’s problematic and confusing elements.
“Ah, Jesus,” Rusty said. “We’re in trouble.”
“I know,” Barbie said (867).
“Hello, Baaarbie,” he called down the stairs. “I know what you did to me, and I’m coming for you. If you’ve got a prayer to say, better make it a quick one” (870).
“Close your eyes, Fusty,” Junior said. “It’ll be better that way” (871).
Before the next gunshot came, Barbie had just time to think, Jesus Christ, Everett, whose side are you on? (877)
What his collapsing body revealed was Dale Barbara himself, crouching on his bunk with the carefully secreted knife in his hand. He never had a chance to open it (877).
“Let’s get out of here while we still can,” Everett said (880).