Copyright 2010 by Gary L. Pullman
Romeo (“Rommie”) Burpie visits his department store, telling his clerks that he is conducting inventory. Instead, he loads up shopping carts with the radiation-protection items that Rusty Everett has requested for use in his pending visit to Black Ridge, where Joe McClatchey and his friends, Norrie Calvert and Benny Drake, believe the dome generator is located. His clerks wear blue armbands, which makes Rommie believe that they have been sworn in as special deputies. They assure him that they have not; the armbands are merely intended to show “solidarity” with the local firefighting and police departments. Rommie decides that he and Rusty should wear these bands, too, as “camouflage,” so Big Jim and his supporters will falsely assume that Rommie and Rusty, too, support him. After gathering the equipment that Rusty has requested, Rommie also hides several rifles in his store’s safe, in case Big Jim rounds up all the citizens’ weapons.
Meanwhile, Big Jim Rennie refuses to surrender his authority to Andrea Grinell, as Colonel Cox suggests when the Army officer makes contact with the selectman via telephone, even after Cox lets Big Jim know that the Army knows about his manufacture and dsitribuion of illegal drugs and promises not to prosecute the politician if he agrees to do so. Big Jim adopts Carter Thibodeau as his personal bodyguard, dispatching him with a message to Chief Randolph: fire Deputy Wettington. Big Jim also orders Thibodeau to instruct Deputy Stacey Moggin to assemble “every officer we’ve got on our roster” at Food Town supermarket, where Big Jim plans to deliver “another speech” in which he will “wind them up like Granddad’s pocketwatch [sic]”(707).
Fired, Jackie commiserates with the Reverend Piper Libby, and the two women compare notes, Jackie telling Piper about Rusty’s visit to the funeral home and his determination that a baseball was used to kill the Reverend Lester Coggins and that someone broke Brenda Perkins’ neck. (In an earlier scene, Rommie, who is quite the womanizer, vowed to avenge himself upon whoever killed Brenda, who was former girlfriend of his.) Jackie also notifies Piper of her plan to break Barbie out of jail. Jackie asks Piper to allow a meeting between eight trusted citizens who oppose Big Jim and Chief Police Pete Randolph at her parsonage that night. Among the invited are librarian Lssa Jamieson and retired Food Town manager Ernie Calvert. They complete their discussion as Helen Roux, Georgia’s mother, arrives at Piper's house for counseling concerning her daughter Georgia’s death at the hands of Georgia’s victim, Samantha Bushey.
Just as Big Jim’s enemies are choosing followers, Deputy Henry Morrison believes that Big Jim likewise plans to assemble a cadre of trusted lieutenants, eliminating Jackie and other officers whom the selectman thinks may be loyal to the former chief of police rather than to Police Chief Randolph and himself. Henry believes that he will be the next to be fired and that others who will be terminated will likely include Linda Everett and Stacey Moggin. As Linda Everett told her husband, Rusty, earlier, “There are sides, and you need to think about which one you’re on” (527). Both Big Jim and his enemies are clearly doing just this, preparing for war.
Except for an occasional mention of the depletion of gasoline and propane reserves, Stephen King does not devote much attention to the need to conserve natural resources, and, apart from a few brief mentions of pollution and environmental destruction, King does not belabor this theme of his novel. Plants and trees, his characters learn, are dying. The atmosphere inside the dome seems to be affected adversely by the presence of the barrier, to the outer side of which particulates of pollution cling. The air inside the dome is stale. Children (and a few adults) have seizures and hallucinate, perhaps as a result of the dome’s influence upon them. Animals seem to kill themselves for no discernable cause. A few of the residents of Chester’s Mill (Junior and his father, Big Jim Rennie, included), seem to be losing their minds. Additionally, King’s omniscient narrator clearly associates the dome with pollution and its effects as Rusty, Rommie, Joe McClatchey, Norrie Calvert, and Benny Drake approach the site at which the children believe the dome’s generator is positioned:
But even away from the [dead, maggot-ridden] bear, the world smelled bad: smoky and heavy, as if the entire town of Chester’s Mill had become a large closed room. In addition to the odors of smoke and decaying animal, he [Rusty] could smell rotting plant life and a swampy stench that no doubt arose from the drying bed of the Prestile [Stream]. If only there was a wind, he thought, but there was just an occasional pallid puff of breeze that brought more bad smells. To the far west there were clouds--it was probably raining. . . over in New Hampshire--but when they reached the Dome, the clouds parted like a river dividing at a large outcropping of rock. Rusty had become increasingly doubtful about the possibility of rain under the Dome. . . (720).This paragraph helps to reinforce the novel’s concern about the Earth’s pollution.
In investigating the site, Rusty and the others determine that the dome’s effect upon children (and some adults) in causing seizures and hallucinations works “like chickenpox” in the sense that it resembles a “mild sickness mostly suffered by children, who only” catch “it once” (721). As Rusty drives further into the orchard, he feels faint, and a strange change in perception overtakes him as he feels “as if his head were a telescope and he could see anything he wanted to see, no matter how far”; he sees “the dirt road perfectly well. Divinely well. Every stone and chip of mica,” and then, in the middle of the road, he sees a “skinny” man. . . made taller by an absurd red, white and blue stovepipe hat, comically crooked,” who wears “jeans and a tee-shirt that read SWEET HOME ALABAMA PLAY THAT DEAD BAND SONG.” The thought occurs to Rusty that he is seeing “not a man,” but “a Halloween dummy” with “green garden trowels for hands and a burlap head” with “stitched white crosses for eyes,” and then the hallucination, or vision, vanishes and all that remains are “just the road, the ridge, and the purple light, flashing at fifteen-second intervals, seeming to say Come on, come on, come on” (722).
The oddity of the scene keeps the reader reading, as does the repeated connection of such bizarre events to Halloween.
Outfitted in his makeshift radiation suit, Rusty leaves the others behind as he makes his way toward the radiation source.
In one of the novel’s more chilling scenes, Deputy Morrison comes across Junior Rennie, who has wet his pants. Junior is sitting on the curb, “rocking and back and forth” and talking what seems to be gibberish. (Actually, he is lamenting the deaths of his “girlfriends,“ Angie McCain and Dodee Sanders, whom he has killed: “They were my goolfreds,“ he says, adding, “I shilled them so I could fill them”) (727). Deputy Morrison, “alarmed as well as disgusted,” tries to get Junior on his feet so that the special deputy can accompany him back to the police station and sober up. However, once he sees Junior up close, Deputy Morrison is certain that, whatever Junior’s problem may be, it’s much worse than intoxication and that “Junior didn’t need to go to the station for coffee,” but “to the hospital”:
This time Junior turned, and Henry saw he wasn’t drunk. His left eye was bright red. Its pupil was too big. The left side of his mouth was pulled down, exposing some of his teeth. That frozen glare made Henry think momentarily of Mr. Sardonicus, a movie that had scared him as a kid (727).Deputy Morrison seems to suspect that Junior may have confessed to having assaulted a woman, or worse, when Junior mutters “She just made me so franning mad!. . . I hit her with my knee to shed her ump, and she frew a tit!” However, rather than follow up on his suspicion, Deputy Morrison decides “he wouldn’t go there,” for “he had problems enough” (728). The deputy appears to lack the intestinal fortitude that, in Stephen King’s world, makes a character a hero. He is a moral coward whose failure to pursue his suspicions--suspicions concerning a police officer and not merely a civilian--are tantamount to criminal negligence since a possible crime is involved and its perpetrator, if perpetrator Junior had proved to be, is obviously a madman who may harm others yet again. Such dereliction of duty harms, not helps, others. Therefore, by King’s standards, Deputy Morrison, despite former chief of police Howard (“Duke”) Perkins’ high estimation of him, is one of the story’s villains.
As Rusty closes in on the suspected dome generator, the scene shifts to East Street Grammar School, where sisters Judy and Janelle Everett, snacking outdoors with their friend Deanna Carver, witness a bizarre sight--one similar to the sight that Rusty had seen during the momentary shift in perspective he’d experienced when he’d approached the site of the suspected dome generator, a dummy that librarian Lissa Jamieson put together as a Halloween lawn decoration:
The head was burlap with eyes that were white crosses made from thread. The hat was like the one the cat wore in the Dr. Seuss story. It had garden trowels forThe children, already frightened of Halloween because of the nightmares and hallucinations they’ve had in which they have seen and heard dire warnings that “something bad was going to happen, something with a fire in it,” and there would be “no treats, only tricks” which are “mean” and bad,” are afraid that “it’s Halloween already” (735).
hands (bad old clutchy-grabby hands, Janelle thought) and a shirt with something written on it. She didn’t understand what it meant, bust she could read the words: SWEET HOME ALABAMA PLAY THAT DEAD BAND SONG.
By tying the children’s nightmares and dreams of Halloween and the dummy that Lissa makes to the hallucinatory, possibly prophetic visions that Rusty has had (and to Phil [“The Chef’s”] claim that, on Halloween, he’s making an appearance as an angry Jesus), King creates a sense of imminent and widespread evil and suffering in which neither adult nor child will be safe. He closes out this scene with a bit of foreshadowing. To take her sister’s mind off the unsettling sight of the dummy and their memories of their dark visions concerning Halloween, Janelle suggests that she, Judy, and their friend go inside the schoolhouse and sing songs. “That’ll be nice,“ she declares. King’s omniscient narrator disagrees: “It usually was, but not that day. Even before the big bang in the sky, it wasn’t nice. Janelle kept thinking about the dummy with the white-cross eyes. And the somehow awful shirt: PLAY THE DEAD BAND SONG” (734).
There is definitely a sense of foreboding.