Part One: The Pet Sematary - Chapter 3
He had watched them arrive from across the street, and had come across to see if he could help when it seemed they were ‘in a bit of a tight', as he put it.
While Louis held the baby on his shoulder, Crandall stepped near, looked at the swelling on Gage's neck, and reached out with one blocky, twisted hand. Rachel opened her mouth to protest – his hand looked terribly clumsy and almost as big as Gage's head – but before she could say a word the old man's fingers had made a single decisive movement, as apt and deft as the fingers of a man walking cards across his knuckles or sending coins into conjurer's limbo. And the stinger lay in his palm.
‘Big ‘un,' he remarked. ‘No prize-winner, but it'd do for a ribbon, I guess.' Louis burst out laughing.
Crandall regarded him with that crooked smile and said, ‘Ayuh, she's a corker, ain't she?'
‘What did he say, Mommy?' Eileen asked wonderingly, and then Rachel burst out laughing, too. Of course it was terribly impolite, but somehow it was okay. Crandall pulled out a deck of Chesterfield Kings, poked one into the seamed corner of his mouth, nodded at them pleasantly as they laughed – even Gage was chortling now, in spite of the swelling of the bee-sting – and popped a wooden match alight with his thumbnail. The old have their tricks, Louis thought. Small ones, but some of them are good ones.
He stopped laughing and held out the hand that wasn't supporting Gage's bottom – Gage's decidedly damp bottom. ‘I'm pleased to meet you, Mr—'
‘Jud Crandall,' he said, and shook. ‘You're the doc, I guess.'
‘Yes. Louis Creed. This is my wife, Rachel, my daughter Ellie, and the kid with the bee-sting is Gage.'
‘Nice to know all of you.'
‘I didn't mean to laugh … that is, we didn't mean to laugh … it's just that we're … a little tired.'
That – the understatement of it – caused him to giggle again. He felt totally exhausted.
Crandall nodded. ‘Course you are,' he said, which came out: Coss you aaa. He glanced at Rachel. ‘Why don't you take your little boy and your daughter over to the house for a minute, Missus Creed? We can put some bakin' soda on a washrag and cool that off some. My wife would like to say hello, too. She don't get out too much. Arthritis got bad the last two or three years.'
Rachel glanced at Louis, who nodded.
‘That would be very kind of you, Mr Crandall.'
‘Oh, I just answer to Jud,' he said.
There was a sudden loud honk, a motor winding down, and then the big blue moving van was turning – lumbering – into the driveway.
‘Oh Christ, and I don't know where the keys are,' Louis said.
‘That's okay,' Crandall said. ‘I got a set. Mr and Mrs Cleveland – they that lived here before you – gave me a set, oh, must have been fourteen, fifteen years ago. They lived here a long time. Joan Cleveland was my wife's best friend. She died two years ago. Bill went to that old folks' apartment complex over in Orrington. I'll bring 'em back over. They belong to you now, anyway.'
‘You're very kind, Mr Crandall,' Rachel said gratefully.
‘Not at all,' he said. ‘Lookin' forward to having young 'uns around again.' Except that the sound of this, as exotic to their Midwestern ears as a foreign language, was yowwuns. ‘You just want to watch 'em around the road, Missus Creed. Lots of big trucks on that road.'
Now there was the sound of slamming doors as the moving men hopped out of the cab and came toward them.
Ellie had wandered away a little and now she said: ‘Daddy, what's this?'
Louis, who had started to meet the moving men, glanced back. At the edge of the field, where the lawn stopped and high summer grass took over, a path about four feet wide had been cut, smooth and close. It wound up the hill, curved through a low stand of bushes and a copse of birches, and out of sight.
‘Looks like a path of some kind,' Louis said.
‘Oh, ayuh,' Crandall said, smiling. ‘Tell you about it sometime, missy. You want to come over and we'll fix your baby brother up?'
‘Sure,' Ellie said, and then with a certain hopefulness: ‘Does baking soda sting?'