Wednesday, March 7, 2007

I Scared Stephen King

True story, swear to God:

Back in 1993 or '94, I had a glamorous, fast-paced career as a gas station assistant manager in Little America, Wyoming. One day, I read in USA Today that author Stephen King was going on a motorcycle book tour across the country. "Hm," I mumbled, the word fraught with foreshadowing.

One week later I'm behind the marble counter-top of the checkout (it was actually a really nice gas station. It was part of a whole complex including a diesel gas station for trucks, a restaurant and hotel. It was all run by Mormons who were amazingly polite and who put me in charge of the place from day one because I also was polite, as well as white and male). I look out of the large bay window, see a guy filling up his cycle and know right away it's him.

I start panicking. Should I ask for his autograph? Should I tell him how much I enjoyed The Stand? Now he's walking up to the door. Finally, without any idea what I'm going to do, I spread my hands on the counter-top and look down.

Stephen King steps up to the counter. I'm still keeping my eyes down, but facing him, not making eye contact. The moment stretches out... finally I lift my head very slowly, look deadly-serious and say in my deepest, most Lurch-like voice:

"We've been expecting you."

He shit. His eyes flew wide and he took a step back from the counter. "Whaaat??" I will remember that face as long as I live. I was actually worried about him for a second, wondering if I'd have to call the paramedics.

Then my entire demeanor changed, and I put the most nonchalant, bored, gas station-drone look on my face and gestured lazily back over my shoulder at his bike. "Yeah, you owe $5.95 for gas."

He took a hesitant step toward the counter and began pawing money out, laying it on the counter. I gave him his change and finished with a kind tone, "I really enjoy your work, by the way." King nodded absently, giving me a concerned sidelong glance as he walked away toward the restaurant. I later heard from the restaurant waitresses that he was nice enough, but a bit distracted for some reason. He didn't eat much and left quickly.

I want to apologize to Mr. King for scaring him. He didn't need some guy to just randomly freak him out like that, and I hope it didn't sour him on gas stations, motorcycle book tours or Mormons.

That being said... Stephen King has made a mammoth pile of cash frightening the hell out of us for thirty years. He's been the inspiration for more nightmares around the world than Joan Rivers' face. He's the king of horror, and I put The Fear into him, if only for a few seconds. Whatever else I do, I know I have not lived in vain. After I die, my tombstone shall read:

MICHAEL MCGOVERN

HUSBAND, FATHER, WAR CRIMINAL, EMPEROR OF THE MULTIVERSE

1970-3092

HE SCARED STEPHEN KING

1 comment:

Kyle said...

this was flipping brilliant - thanks for sharing!