“The Raft”

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

A short story from Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew (1985). Also the basis for the best segment in the otherwise subpar Creepshow 2 (1987).

4 out of 5 stars.

I love a good “What-if”.

What if four college kids were trapped on a lake raft by a carnivorous oil slick?

And this oil slick knows what’s up. It will squeeze between wooden planks to eat you if you stand on a crack. It guards the shore. You can try to wait it out but that means standing constantly, freezing as day turns to night and losing your mind because that thing in the water cannot possibly exist. No one knows where you are, no help is coming, no one is going to check on this closed lake road until spring.

Oh, it’s wicked. This one haunted and delighted me as a kid. This (along with classic Twilight Zone – I’m sure we’ll have some talks about that) made me realize it was possible to be haunted and delighted at the same time.

[1] Fantastic dialogue rhythm. Combination of stage directions and parenthetical statement works very well:

Rachel said that summers had seemed to last forever when she was a girl, but now that she was an adult (“a doddering, senile nineteen,” Deke joked, and she kicked his ankle), they got shorter every year. “It seemed like I spent my life out at Cascade Lake,” she said, crossing the decayed kitchen linoleum to the icebox.

(p.280)

[2] King likes to drop hints of future doom. I’ve heard complaints about this. I think it helps propel the reader forward, especially if it comes during an otherwise slow section. What do you think?

Randy suddenly thought she looked like someone famous or semi-famous. He couldn’t quite place the resemblance. It would come to him later, under less pleasant circumstances.

(p.280)

[3] All senses need to be involved when telling a story. It’s obvious to describe visuals but what about sounds? Smells? I tend not to include scents in my stories unless they’re unpleasant, but in real life, good/familiar smells are so important to people.

Good example of a noise description:

He remembered how the sound of the barrels under [the raft] – that buoyant clunk-clunk sound – had drifted up to them.

(p.281)

[4] Vocabulary:

Rachel was a short girl, pretty, but in a gamine, slightly insecure way.

(p.286)

noun – a girl with mischievous or boyish charm.

adjective – characteristic of or relating to a girl with mischievous or boyish charm.

[5] “Then” is a very good word. Do not be afraid of then.

He called out, “Get away from there, Rachel!”

Then everything happened very fast.

(p287)

Much better than: “Everything happened very quickly after that” or “Suddenly, everything happened very fast”.

[6] I like this (a lot of what I note in my reading journal are passages I simply like):

She stopped [crying] – not all at once, but winding down the way a record does when somebody turns off the juice without taking the needle off the disc. Her eyes were huge things.

(p.290)

[7] Unknown reference:

Maybe Arthur Godfrey had pissed atomic Bisquick all over it, who knew?

(p.290)

Arthur Godfrey (1903 – 1983) television broadcaster and entertainer. I can’t figure out the atomic Bisquick part of this. Godfrey promoted many products, though not specifically Bisquick. There is a legend/rumor that Godfrey recorded a doomsday PSA in the fifties that would be played for the United States in the event of a nuclear disaster. But the article I read says this was first reported by Time magazine in 1992, which is about a decade after The Raft was written. Any help on this?

[8] Vocabulary:

An ebony surface like limp plastic or dark, lithe Naugahyde.

(p.293)

noun (trademark) – an artificial material designed to resemble leather, made from fabric coated with rubber or vinyl resin.

[9] Not going to spoil the details, but there’s a three-page death scene that’s the bee’s knees for gore fans.

[10] Skeleton Crew begins with the words “Do you love?” The phrase is repeated in a few stories (I know The Raft and Nona use it; not sure about any others off the top of my head). It feels like something King added for this collection, to give a sense of connecting mythology to disparate stories. But it clunks. It feels like a different voice entering.

The feel of summer, the texture; Gary U.S. Bonds, school is out and I can root for the Yankees from the bleachers, girls in bikinis on the beach, the beach, the beach, oh do you love do you love

(love)

The beach do you love

(love I love)

(p.303)

He could almost feel them whispering up his legs, could feel himself buttoning the brass button above the fly –

(do you love yes I love)

(p.305)

[11] Unknown reference:

George Maharis in the Corvette Martin Milner in the Corvette

(p.305)

Maharis (b.1928) and Milner (1931 – 2015) starred in the show Route 66 (1960 – 64). They played friends traveling cross-country in a Corvette.

Next week, the title story from Robert A. Heinlein’s collection The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag.

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3 thoughts on ““The Raft”

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