Read an Excerpt
Table of Contents
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL
Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
SUMMER OF CORRUPTION
FALL FROM INNOCENCE
A WINTER’S TALE
The Breathing Method
From the Magical Penof Stephen King, Four Mesmerizing Novellas ...
“Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”
An unjustly imprisoned convict seeks a strange and startling revenge ... the basis for the Best Picture Academy Award® nominee The Shawshank Redemption.
Todd Bowden is one of the top students in his high school class and a typical American sixteen-year-old—until he becomes obsessed with the dark and deadly past of an older man in town. The inspiration for the film Apt Pupil from Phoenix Pictures.
Four rambunctious young boys plunge through the facade of a small town and come face-to-face with life, death, and intimations of their own mortality. The film Stand By Me is based on this novella.
“The Breathing Method”
A disgraced woman is determined to triumph over death.
“To find the secret of his success, you have to compare King to Twain and Poe—King’s stories tap the roots of myth buried in all our minds.”
—Los Angeles Times
THE BACHMAN BOOKS
—Newport News Daily Press
THE DARK HALF
THE DARK TOWER: THE GUNSLINGER
THE DARK TOWER II: THE DRAWING OF THE THREE “Superb.”
THE DARK TOWER III: THE WASTE LANDS
THE DEAD ZONE
—New York Times Book Review
—San Francisco Chronicle
THE EYES OF THE DRAGON
FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT
—Washington Post Book World
—New York Times Book Review
WORKS BY STEPHEN KING
The Dead Zone
THE DARK TOWER I:
Cycle of the Werewolf
(with Peter Straub)
The Eyes of the Dragon
THE DARK TOWER II:
of the Three
THE DARK TOWER III:
The Waste Lands
The Dark Half
The Green Mile
THE DARK TOWER IV:
Wizard and Glass
Bag of Bones
The Girl Who Loved Tom
(with Peter Straub)
From a Buick 8
AS RICHARD BACHMAN
The Long Walk
The Running Man
Four Past Midnight
Hearts in Atlantis
Storm of the Century
Published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Mairangi Bay, Albany, Auckland 1311, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Previously published in a Viking edition. First Signet Printing, August 1983 70
Copyright © Stephen King, 1982
All rights reserved
Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following for permission to reprint copyrighted material.
Beechwood Music Corporation and Castle Music Pty. Limited: Portions of lyrics from “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport,” by Rolf Harris. Copyright © Castle Music Pty. Limited, 1960. Assigned to and copyrighted © Beechwood Music Corp., 1961 for the United States and Canada. Copyright © Castle Music Pty. Limited for other territories. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Big Seven Music Corporation: Portions of lyrics from “Party Doll,” by Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen. Copyright © Big Seven Music Corp., 1956. Portions of lyrics from “Sorry (I Ran All the Way Home)” by Zwirn/Giosasi. Copyright © Big Seven Music Corp., 1959. All rights reserved.
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Publishers; Jonathan Cape Ltd.; and the Estate of Robert Frost: Two lines from “Mending Wall” from The Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright © Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1930, 1939, 1969. Copyright © Robert Frost, 1958. Copyright © Lesley Frost Ballantine, 1967.
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
These are works of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
It is the tale, not he who tells it.
“Dirty deeds done dirt cheap.”
“I heard it through the grapevine.”
Tout s‘en va, tout passe, l’eau coule, et le coeur oublie.
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL
For Russ and Florence Dorr
Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
There’s a guy like me in every state and federal prison in America, I guess—I’m the guy who can get it for you. Tailormade cigarettes, a bag of reefer if you’re partial to that, a bottle of brandy to celebrate your son or daughter’s high school graduation, or almost anything else ... within reason, that is. It wasn’t always that way.
I came to Shawshank when I was just twenty, and I am one of the few people in our happy little family willing to own up to what they did. I committed murder. I put a large insurance policy on my wife, who was three years older than I was, and then I fixed the brakes of the Chevrolet coupe her father had given us as a wedding present. It worked out exactly as I had planned, except I hadn’t planned on her stopping to pick up the neighbor woman and the neighbor woman’s infant son on their way down Castle Hill and into town. The brakes let go and the car crashed through the bushes at the edge of the town common, gathering speed. Bystanders said it must have been doing fifty or better when it hit the base of the Civil War statue and burst into flames.
I also hadn’t planned on getting caught, but caught I was. I got a season’s pass into this place. Maine has no death-penalty, but the District Attorney saw to it that I was tried for all three deaths and given three life sentences, to run one after the other. That fixed up any chance of parole I might have for a long, long time. The judge called what I had done “a hideous, heinous crime,” and it was, but it is also in the past now. You can look it up in the yellowing files of the Castle Rock Call, where the big headlines announcing my conviction look sort of funny and antique next to the news of Hitler and Mussolini and FDR’s alphabet soup agencies.
Have I rehabilitated myself, you ask? I don’t even know what that word means, at least as far as prisons and corrections go. I think it’s a politician’s word. It may have some other meaning, and it may be that I will have a chance to find out, but that is the future ... something cons teach themselves not to think about. I was young, good-looking, and from the poor side of town. I knocked up a pretty, sulky, headstrong girl who lived in one of the fine old houses on Carbine Street. Her father was agreeable to the marriage if I would take a job in the optical company he owned and “work my way up.” I found out that what he really had in mind was keeping me in his house and under his thumb, like a disagreeable pet that has not quite been housebroken and which may bite. Enough hate eventually piled up to cause me to do what I did. Given a second chance I would not do it again, but I’m not sure that means I am rehabilitated.
Anyway, it’s not me I want to tell you about; I want to tell you about a guy named Andy Dufresne. But before I can tell you about Andy, I have to explain a few other things about myself. It won’t take long.
As I said, I’ve been the guy who can get it for you here at Shawshank for damn near forty years. And that doesn’t just mean contraband items like extra cigarettes or booze, although those items always top the list. But I’ve gotten thousands of other items for men doing time here, some of them perfectly legal yet hard to come by in a place where you’ve supposedly been brought to be punished. There was one fellow who was in for raping a little girl and exposing himself to dozens of others; I got him three pieces of pink Vermont marble and he did three lovely sculptures out of them—a baby, a boy of about twelve, and a bearded young man. He called them The Three Ages of Jesus, and those pieces of sculpture are now in the parlor of a man who used to be governor of this state.
Or here’s a name you may remember if you grew up north of Massachusetts—Robert Alan Cote. In 1951 he tried to rob the First Mercantile Bank of Mechanic Falls, and the holdup turned into a bloodbath—six dead in the end, two of them members of the gang, three of them hostages, one of them a young state cop who put his head up at the wrong time and got a bullet in the eye. Cote had a penny collection. Naturally they weren’t going to let him have it in here, but with a little help from his mother and a middleman who used to drive a laundry truck, I was able to get it for him. I told him, Bobby, you must be crazy, wanting to have a coin collection in a stone hotel full of thieves. He looked at me and smiled and said, I know where to keep them. They’ll be safe enough. Don’t you worry. And he was right. Bobby Cote died of a brain tumor in 1967, but that coin collection has never turned up.
I’ve gotten men chocolates on Valentine’s Day; I got three of those green milkshakes they serve at McDonald’s around St. Paddy’s Day for a crazy Irishman named O’Malley; I even arranged for a midnight showing of Deep Throat and The Devil in Miss Jones for a party of twenty men who had pooled their resources to rent the films ... although I ended up doing a week in solitary for that little escapade. It’s the risk you run when you’re the guy who can get it.
I’ve gotten reference books and fuck-books, joke novelties like handbuzzers and itching powder, and on more than one occasion I’ve seen that a long-timer has gotten a pair of panties from his wife or his girlfriend... and I guess you’ll know what guys in here do with such items during the long nights when time draws out like a blade. I don’t get all those things gratis, and for some items the price comes high. But I don’t do it just for the money; what good is money to me? I’m never going to own a Cadillac car or fly off to Jamaica for two weeks in February. I do it for the same reason that a good butcher will only sell you fresh meat: I got a reputation and I want to keep it. The only two things I refuse to handle are guns and heavy drugs. I won’t help anyone kill himself or anyone else. I have enough killing on my mind to last me a lifetime.
Yeah, I’m a regular Neiman-Marcus. And so when Andy Dufresne came to me in 1949 and asked if I could smuggle Rita Hayworth into the prison for him, I said it would be no problem at all. And it wasn’t.
When Andy came to Shawshank in 1948, he was thirty years old. He was a short, neat little man with sandy hair and small, clever hands. He wore gold-rimmed spectacles. His fingernails were always clipped, and they were always clean. That’s a funny thing to remember about a man, I suppose, but it seems to sum Andy up for me. He always looked as if he should have been wearing a tie. On the outside he had been a vice-president in the trust department of a large Portland bank. Good work for a man as young as he was especially when you consider how conservative most banks are ... and you have to multiply that conservatism by ten when you get up into New England, where folks don’t like to trust a man with their money unless he’s bald, limping, and constantly plucking at his pants to get his truss around straight. Andy was in for murdering his wife and her lover.
As I believe I have said, everyone in prison is an innocent man. Oh, they read that scripture the way those holy rollers on TV read the Book of Revelation. They were the victims of judges with hearts of stone and balls to match, or incompetent lawyers, or police frame-ups, or bad luck. They read the scripture, but you can see a different scripture in their faces. Most cons are a low sort, no good to themselves or anyone else, and their worst luck was that their mothers carried them to term.
In all my years at Shawshank, there have been less than ten men whom I believed when they told me they were innocent. Andy Dufresne was one of them, although I only became convinced of his innocence over a period of years. If I had been on that jury that heard his case in Portland Superior Court over six stormy weeks in 1947-48, I would have voted to convict, too.
It was one hell of a case, all right; one of those juicy ones with all the right elements. There was a beautiful girl with society connections (dead), a local sports figure (also dead), and a prominent young businessman in the dock. There was this, plus all the scandal the newspapers could hint at. The prosecution had an open-and-shut case. The trial only lasted as long as it did because the DA was planning to run for the U.S. House of Representatives and he wanted John Q. Public to get a good long look at his phiz. It was a crackerjack legal circus, with spectators getting in line at four in the morning, despite the subzero temperatures, to assure themselves of a seat.
The facts of the prosecution’s case that Andy never contested were these: that he had a wife, Linda Collins Dufresne; that in June of 1947 she had expressed an interest in learning the game of golf at the Falmouth Hills Country Club; that she did indeed take lessons for four months; that her instructor was the Falmouth Hills golf pro, Glenn Quentin; that in late August of 1947 Andy learned that Quentin and his wife had become lovers; that Andy and Linda Dufresne argued bitterly on the afternoon of September 10th, 1947; that the subject of their argument was her infidelity.
He testified that Linda professed to be glad he knew; the sneaking around, she said, was distressing. She told Andy that she planned to obtain a Reno divorce. Andy told her he would see her in hell before he would see her in Reno. She went off to spend the night with Quentin in Quentin’s rented bungalow not far from the golf course. The next morning his cleaning woman found both of them dead in bed. Each had been shot four times.
It was that last fact that militated more against Andy than any of the others. The DA with the political aspirations made a great deal of it in his opening statement and his closing summation. Andrew Dufresne, he said, was not a wronged husband seeking a hot-blooded revenge against his cheating wife; that, the DA said, could be understood, if not condoned. But this revenge had been of a much colder type. Consider! the DA thundered at the jury. Four and four! Not six shots, but eight! He had fired the gun empty ... and then stopped to reload so he could shoot each of them again! FOUR FOR HIM AND FOUR FOR HER, the Portland Sun blared. The Boston Register dubbed him The Even-Steven Killer.
A clerk from the Wise Pawnshop in Lewiston testified that he had sold a six-shot .38 Police Special to Andrew Dufresne just two days before the double murder. A bartender from the country club bar testified that Andy had come in around seven o‘clock on the evening of September 10th, had tossed off three straight whiskeys in a twenty-minute period—when he got up from the bar-stool he told the bartender that he was going up to Glenn Quentin’s house and he, the bartender, could “read about the rest of it in the papers.” Another clerk, this one from the Handy-Pik store a mile or so from Quentin’s house, told the court that Dufresne had come in around quarter to nine on that same night. He purchased cigarettes, three quarts of beer, and some dishtowels. The county medical examiner testified that Quentin and the Dufresne woman had been killed between 11:00 P.M. and 2:00 A.M. on the night of September 10th-11th. The detective from the Attorney General’s office who had been in charge of the case testified that there was a turnout less than seventy yards from the bungalow, and that on the afternoon of September 11th, three pieces of evidence had been removed from that turnout: first item, two empty quart bottles of Narragansett Beer (with the defendant’s fingerprints on them); second item, twelve cigarette ends (all Kools, the defendant’s brand); third item, a plaster moulage of a set of tire tracks (exactly matching the tread-and-wear pattern of the tires on the defendant’s 1947 Plymouth).
In the living room of Quentin’s bungalow, four dishtowels had been found lying on the sofa. There were bullet-holes through them and powder-burns on them. The detective theorized (over the agonized objections of Andy’s lawyer) that the murderer had wrapped the towels around the muzzle of the murder-weapon to muffle the sound of the gunshots.
Andy Dufresne took the stand in his own defense and told his story calmly, coolly, and dispassionately. He said he had begun to hear distressing rumors about his wife and Glenn Quentin as early as the last week in July. In late August he had become distressed enough to investigate a bit. On an evening when Linda was supposed to have gone shopping in Portland after her golf lesson, Andy had followed her and Quentin to Quentin’s one-story rented house (inevitably dubbed “the love-nest” by the papers). He had parked in the turnout until Quentin drove her back to the country club where her car was parked, about three hours later.
“Do you mean to tell this court that you followed your wife in your brand-new Plymouth sedan?” the DA asked him on cross-examination.
“I swapped cars for the evening with a friend,” Andy said, and this cool admission of how well-planned his investigation had been did him no good at all in the eyes of the jury.
After returning the friend’s car and picking up his own, he had gone home. Linda had been in bed, reading a book. He asked her how her trip to Portland had been. She replied that it had been fun, but she hadn’t seen anything she liked well enough to buy. “That’s when I knew for sure,” Andy told the breathless spectators. He spoke in the same calm, remote voice in which he delivered almost all of his testimony.
“What was your frame of mind in the seventeen days between then and the night your wife was murdered?” Andy’s lawyer asked him.
“I was in great distress,” Andy said calmly, coldly. Like a man reciting a shopping list he said that he had considered suicide, and had even gone so far as to purchase a gun in Lewiston on September 8th.
His lawyer then invited him to tell the jury what had happened after his wife left to meet Glenn Quentin on the night of the murders. Andy told them ... and the impression he made was the worst possible.
I knew him for close to thirty years, and I can tell you he was the most self-possessed man I’ve ever known. What was right with him he’d only give you a little at a time. What was wrong with him he kept bottled up inside. If he ever had a dark night of the soul, as some writer or other has called it, you would never know. He was the type of man who, if he had decided to commit suicide, would do it without leaving a note but not until his affairs had been put neatly in order. If he had cried on the witness stand, or if his voice had thickened and grown hesitant, even if he had started yelling at that Washington-bound District Attorney, I don’t believe he would have gotten the life sentence he wound up with. Even if he had’ve, he would have been out on parole by 1954. But he told his story like a recording machine, seeming to say to the jury: This is it. Take it or leave it. They left it.
He said he was drunk that night, that he’d been more or less drunk since August 24th, and that he was a man who didn’t handle his liquor very well. Of course that by itself would have been hard for any jury to swallow. They just couldn’t see this coldly self-possessed young man in the neat double-breasted three-piece woollen suit ever getting falling-down drunk over his wife’s sleazy little affair with some small-town golf pro. I believed it because I had a chance to watch Andy that those six men and six women didn’t have.
Andy Dufresne took just four drinks a year all the time I knew him. He would meet me in the exercise yard every year about a week before his birthday and then again about two weeks before Christmas. On each occasion he would arrange for a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. He bought it the way most cons arrange to buy their stuff—the slave’s wages they pay in here, plus a little of his own. Up until 1965 what you got for your time was a dime an hour. In ’65 they raised it all the way up to a quarter. My commission on liquor was and is ten per cent, and when you add on that surcharge to the price of a fine sippin whiskey like the Black Jack, you get an idea of how many hours of Andy Dufresne’s sweat in the prison laundry was going to buy his four drinks a year.
On the morning of his birthday, September 20th, he would have himself a big knock, and then he’d have another that night after lights-out. The following day he’d give the rest of the bottle back to me, and I would share it around. As for the other bottle, he dealt himself one drink Christmas night and another on New Year’s Eve. Then that bottle would also come to me with instructions to pass it on. Four drinks a year—and that is the behavior of a man who has been bitten hard by the bottle. Hard enough to draw blood.
He told the jury that on the night of the tenth he had been so drunk he could only remember what had happened in little isolated snatches. He had gotten drunk that afternoon—“I took on a double helping of Dutch courage” is how he put it—before taking on Linda.
After she left to meet Quentin, he remembered deciding to confront them. On the way to Quentin’s bungalow, he swung into the country club for a couple of quick ones. He could not, he said, remember telling the bartender he could “read about the rest of it in the papers,” or saying anything to him at all. He remembered buying beer in the Handy-Pik, but not the dishtowels. “Why would I want dishtowels?” he asked, and one of the papers reported that three of the lady jurors shuddered.
Later, much later, he speculated to me about the clerk who had testified on the subject of those dishtowels, and I think it’s worth jotting down what he said. “Suppose that, during their canvass for witnesses,” Andy said one day in the exercise yard, “they stumble on this fellow who sold me the beer that night. By then three days have gone by. The facts of the case have been broadsided in all the papers. Maybe they ganged up on the guy, five or six cops, plus the dick from the Attorney General’s office, plus the DA’s assistant. Memory is a pretty subjective thing, Red. They could have started out with ‘Isn’t it possible that he purchased four or five dishtowels?’ and worked their way up from there. If enough people want you to remember something, that can be a pretty powerful persuader.”
I agreed that it could.
“But there’s one even more powerful,” Andy went on in that musing way of his. “I think it’s at least possible that he convinced himself. It was the limelight. Reporters asking him questions, his picture in the papers ... all topped, of course, by his star turn in court. I’m not saying that he deliberately falsified his story, or perjured himself. I think it’s possible that he could have passed a lie detector test with flying colors, or sworn on his mother’s sacred name that I bought those dishtowels. But still ... memory is such a goddam subjective thing.
“I know this much: even though my own lawyer thought I had to be lying about half my story, he never bought that business about the dishtowels. It’s crazy on the face of it. I was pig-drunk, too drunk to have been thinking about muffling the gunshots. If I’d done it, I just would have let them rip.”
He went up to the turnout and parked there. He drank beer and smoked cigarettes. He watched the lights downstairs in Quentin’s place go out. He watched a single light go on upstairs ... and fifteen minutes later he watched that one go out. He said he could guess the rest.
“Mr. Dufresne, did you then go up to Glenn Quentin’s house and kill the two of them?” his lawyer thundered.
“No, I did not,” Andy answered. By midnight, he said, he was sobering up. He was also feeling the first signs of a bad hangover. He decided to go home and sleep it off and think about the whole thing in a more adult fashion the next day. “At that time, as I drove home, I was beginning to think that the wisest course would be to simply let her go to Reno and get her divorce.”
“Thank you, Mr. Dufresne.”
The DA popped up.
“You divorced her in the quickest way you could think of, didn’t you? You divorced her with a .38 revolver wrapped in dishtowels, didn’t you?”
“No, sir, I did not,” Andy said calmly.
“And then you shot her lover.”
“You mean you shot Quentin first?”
“I mean I didn’t shoot either one of them. I drank two quarts of beer and smoked however many cigarettes the police found at the turnout. Then I drove home and went to bed.”
“You told the jury that between August twenty-fourth and September tenth you were feeling suicidal.”
“Suicidal enough to buy a revolver.”
“Would it bother you overmuch, Mr. Dufresne, if I told you that you do not seem to me to be the suicidal type?”
“No,” Andy said, “but you don’t impress me as being terribly sensitive, and I doubt very much that, if I were feeling suicidal, I would take my problem to you.”
There was a slight tense titter in the courtroom at this, but it won him no points with the jury.
“Did you take your thirty-eight with you on the night of September tenth?”
“No; as I’ve already testified—”
“Oh, yes!” The DA smiled sarcastically. “You threw it into the river, didn’t you? The Royal River. On the afternoon of September ninth.”
“One day before the murders.”
“That’s convenient, isn’t it?”
“It’s neither convenient nor inconvenient. Only the truth.”
“I believe you heard Lieutenant Mincher’s testimony?” Mincher had been in charge of the party which had dragged the stretch of the Royal near Pond Road Bridge, from which Andy had testified he had thrown the gun. The police had not found it.
“Yes, sir. You know I heard it.”
“Then you heard him tell the court that they found no gun, although they dragged for three days. That was rather convenient, too, wasn’t it?”
“Convenience aside, it’s a fact that they didn’t find the gun,” Andy responded calmly. “But I should like to point out to both you and the jury that the Pond Road Bridge is very close to where the Royal River empties into the Bay of Yarmouth. The current is strong. The gun may have been carried out into the bay itself.”
“And so no comparison can be made between the riflings on the bullets taken from the bloodstained corpses of your wife and Mr. Glenn Quentin and the riflings on the barrel of your gun. That’s correct, isn’t it, Mr. Dufresne?”
“That’s also rather convenient, isn’t it?”
At that, according to the papers, Andy displayed one of the few slight emotional reactions he allowed himself during the entire six-week period of the trial. A slight, bitter smile crossed his face.
“Since I am innocent of this crime, sir, and since I am telling the truth about throwing my gun into the river the day before the crime took place, then it seems to me decidedly inconvenient that the gun was never found.”
The DA hammered at him for two days. He re-read the Handy-Pik clerk’s testimony about the dishtowels to Andy. Andy repeated that he could not recall buying them, but admitted that he also couldn’t remember not buying them.
Was it true that Andy and Linda Dufresne had taken out a joint insurance policy in early 1947? Yes, that was true. And if acquitted, wasn’t it true that Andy stood to gain fifty thousand dollars in benefits? True. And wasn’t it true that he had gone up to Glenn Quentin’s house with murder in his heart, and wasn’t it also true that he had indeed committed murder twice over? No, it was not true. Then what did he think had happened, since there had been no signs of robbery?
“I have no way of knowing that, sir,” Andy said quietly.
The case went to the jury at 1:00 P.M. on a snowy Wednesday afternoon. The twelve jurymen and -women came back in at 3:30. The bailiff said they would have been back earlier, but they had held off in order to enjoy a nice chicken dinner from Bentley’s Restaurant at the county’s expense. They found him guilty, and brother, if Maine had the death-penalty, he would have done the airdance before that spring’s crocuses poked their heads out of the snow.
The DA had asked him what he thought had happened, and Andy slipped the question—but he did have an idea, and I got it out of him late one evening in 1955. It had taken those seven years for us to progress from nodding acquaintances to fairly close friends—but I never felt really close to Andy until 1960 or so, and I believe I was the only one who ever did get really close to him. Both being long-timers, we were in the same cellblock from beginning to end, although I was halfway down the corridor from him.
“What do I think?” He laughed—but there was no humor in the sound. “I think there was a lot of bad luck floating around that night. More than could ever get together in the same short span of time again. I think it must have been some stranger, just passing through. Maybe someone who had a flat tire on that road after I went home. Maybe a burglar. Maybe a psychopath. He killed them, that’s all. And I’m here.”
As simple as that. And he was condemned to spend the rest of his life in Shawshank—or the part of it that mattered. Five years later he began to have parole hearings, and he was turned down just as regular as clockwork in spite of being a model prisoner. Getting a pass out of Shawshank when you’ve got murder stamped on your admittance-slip is slow work, as slow as a river eroding a rock. Seven men sit on the board, two more than at most state prisons, and every one of those seven has an ass as hard as the water drawn up from a mineral-spring well. You can’t buy those guys, you can’t sweet-talk them, you can’t cry for them. As far as the board in here is concerned, money don’t talk, and nobody walks. There were other reasons in Andy’s case as well ... but that belongs a little further along in my story.
There was a trusty, name of Kendricks, who was into me for some pretty heavy money back in the fifties, and it was four years before he got it all paid off. Most of the interest he paid me was information—in my line of work, you’re dead if you can’t find ways of keeping your ear to the ground. This Kendricks, for instance, had access to records I was never going to see running a stamper down in the goddam plate-shop.
Kendricks told me that the parole board vote was 7—0 against Andy Dufresne through 1957, 6—1 in ‘58; 7—0 again in ’59, and 5—2 in ’60. After that I don’t know, but I do know that sixteen years later he was still in Cell 14 of Cellblock 5. By then, 1975, he was fifty-seven. They probably would have gotten big-hearted and let him out around 1983. They give you life, and that’s what they take—all of it that counts, anyway. Maybe they set you loose someday, but ... well, listen: I knew this guy, Sherwood Bolton, his name was, and he had this pigeon in his cell. From 1945 until 1953, when they let him out, he had that pigeon. He wasn’t any Birdman of Alcatraz; he just had this pigeon. Jake, he called him. He set Jake free a day before he, Sherwood, that is, was to walk, and Jake flew away just as pretty as you could want. But about a week after Sherwood Bolton left our happy little family, a friend of mine called me over to the west corner of the exercise yard, where Sherwood used to hang out. A bird was lying there like a very small pile of dirty bedlinen. It looked starved. My friend said: “Isn’t that Jake, Red?” It was. That pigeon was just as dead as a turd.
I remember the first time Andy Dufresne got in touch with me for something; I remember like it was yesterday. That wasn’t the time he wanted Rita Hayworth, though. That came later. In the summer of 1948 he came around for something else.
Most of my deals are done right there in the exercise yard, and that’s where this one went down. Our yard is big, much bigger than most. It’s a perfect square, ninety yards on a side. The north side is the outer wall, with a guard-tower at either end. The guards up there are armed with binoculars and riot guns. The main gate is in that north side. The truck loading-bays are on the south side of the yard. There are five of them. Shawshank is a busy place during the work-week—deliveries in, deliveries out. We have the license-plate factory, and a big industrial laundry that does all the prison wetwash, plus that of Kittery Receiving Hospital and the Eliot Nursing Home. There’s also a big automotive garage where mechanic inmates fix prison, state, and municipal vehicles—not to mention the private cars of the screws, the administration offices ... and, on more than one occasion, those of the parole board.
The east side is a thick stone wall full of tiny slit windows. Cellblock 5 is on the other side of that wall. The west side is Administration and the infirmary. Shawshank has never been as overcrowded as most prisons, and back in ’48 it was only filled to something like two-thirds capacity, but at any given time there might be eighty to a hundred and twenty cons on the yard—playing toss with a football or baseball, shooting craps, jawing at each other, making deals. On Sunday the place was even more crowded; on Sunday the place would have looked like a country holiday ... if there had been any women.
It was on a Sunday that Andy first came to me. I had just finished talking to Elmore Armitage, a fellow who often came in handy to me, about a radio when Andy walked up. I knew who he was, of course; he had a reputation for being a snob and a cold fish. People were saying he was marked for trouble already. One of the people saying so was Bogs Diamond, a bad man to have on your case. Andy had no cellmate, and I’d heard that was just the way he wanted it, although people were already saying he thought his shit smelled sweeter than the ordinary. But I don’t have to listen to rumors about a man when I can judge him for myself.
“Hello,” he said. “I’m Andy Dufresne.” He offered his hand and I shook it. He wasn’t a man to waste time being social; he got right to the point. “I understand that you’re a man who knows how to get things.”
I agreed that I was able to locate certain items from time to time.
“How do you do that?” Andy asked.
“Sometimes,” I said, “things just seem to come into my hand. I can’t explain it. Unless it’s because I’m Irish.”
He smiled a little at that. “I wonder if you could get me a rock-hammer.”
“What would that be, and why would you want it?”
Andy looked surprised. “Do you make motivations a part of your business?” With words like those I could understand how he had gotten a reputation for being the snobby sort, the kind of guy who likes to put on airs—but I sensed a tiny thread of humor in his question.
“I’ll tell you,” I said. “If you wanted a toothbrush, I wouldn’t ask questions. I’d just quote you a price. Because a toothbrush, you see, is a non-lethal sort of an object.”
“You have strong feelings about lethal objects?”
An old friction-taped baseball flew toward us and he turned, cat-quick, and picked it out of the air. It was a move Frank Malzone would have been proud of. Andy flicked the ball back to where it had come from—just a quick and easy-looking flick of the wrist, but that throw had some mustard on it, just the same. I could see a lot of people were watching us with one eye as they went about their business. Probably the guards in the tower were watching, too. I won’t gild the lily; there are cons that swing weight in any prison, maybe four or five in a small one, maybe two or three dozen in a big one. At Shawshank I was one of those with some weight, and what I thought of Andy Dufresne would have a lot to do with how his time went. He probably knew it, too, but he wasn’t kowtowing or sucking up to me, and I respected him for that.
“Fair enough. I’ll tell you what it is and why I want it. A rock-hammer looks like a miniature pickaxe—about so long.” He held his hands about a foot apart, and that was when I first noticed how neatly kept his nails were. “It’s got a small sharp pick on one end and a flat, blunt hammerhead on the other. I want it because I like rocks.”
“Rocks,” I said.
“Squat down here a minute,” he said.
I humored him. We hunkered down on our haunches like Indians.
Andy took a handful of exercise yard dirt and began to sift it between his neat hands, so it emerged in a fine cloud. Small pebbles were left over, one or two sparkly, the rest dull and plain. One of the dull ones was quartz, but it was only dull until you’d rubbed it clean. Then it had a nice milky glow. Andy did the cleaning and then tossed it to me. I caught it and named it.
“Quartz, sure,” he said. “And look. Mica. Shale. Silted granite. Here’s a piece of graded limestone, from when they cut this place out of the side of the hill.” He tossed them away and dusted his hands. “I’m a rockhound. At least ... I was a rockhound. In my old life. I’d like to be one again, on a limited scale.”
“Sunday expeditions in the exercise yard?” I asked, standing up. It was a silly idea, and yet ... seeing that little piece of quartz had given my heart a funny tweak. I don’t know exactly why; just an association with the outside world, I suppose. You didn’t think of such things in terms of the yard. Quartz was something you picked out of a small, quick-running stream.
“Better to have Sunday expeditions here than no Sunday expeditions at all,” he said.
“You could plant an item like that rock-hammer in somebody’s skull,” I remarked.
“I have no enemies here,” he said quietly.
“No?” I smiled. “Wait awhile.”
“If there’s trouble, I can handle it without using a rock-hammer.”
“Maybe you want to try an escape? Going under the wall? Because if you do—”
He laughed politely. When I saw the rock-hammer three weeks later, I understood why.
“You know,” I said, “if anyone sees you with it, they’ll take it away. If they saw you with a spoon, they’d take it away. What are you going to do, just sit down here in the yard and start bangin away?”
“Oh, I believe I can do a lot better than that.”
I nodded. That part of it really wasn’t my business, anyway. A man engages my services to get him something. Whether he can keep it or not after I get it is his business.
“How much would an item like that go for?” I asked. I was beginning to enjoy his quiet, low-key style. When you’ve spent ten years in stir, as I had then, you can get awfully tired of the bellowers and the braggarts and the loud-mouths. Yes, I think it would be fair to say I liked Andy from the first.
“Eight dollars in any rock-and-gem shop,” he said, “but I realize that in a business like yours you work on a cost-plus basis—”
“Cost plus ten per cent is my going rate, but I have to go up some on a dangerous item. For something like the gadget you’re talking about, it takes a little more goose-grease to get the wheels turning. Let’s say ten dollars.”
“Ten it is.”
I looked at him, smiling a little. “Have you got ten dollars?”
“I do,” he said quietly.
A long time after, I discovered that he had better than five hundred. He had brought it in with him. When they check you in at this hotel, one of the bellhops is obliged to bend you over and take a look up your works—but there are a lot of works, and, not to put too fine a point on it, a man who is really determined can get a fairly large item quite a ways up them—far enough to be out of sight, unless the bellhop you happen to draw is in the mood to pull on a rubber glove and go prospecting.
“That’s fine,” I said. “You ought to know what I expect if you get caught with what I get you.”
“I suppose I should,” he said, and I could tell by the slight change in his gray eyes that he knew exactly what I was going to say. It was a slight lightening, a gleam of his special ironic humor.
“If you get caught, you’ll say you found it. That’s about the long and short of it. They’ll put you in solitary for three or four weeks ... plus, of course, you’ll lose your toy and you’ll get a black mark on your record. If you give them my name, you and I will never do business again. Not for so much as a pair of shoelaces or a bag of Bugler. And I’ll send some fellows around to lump you up. I don’t like violence, but you’ll understand my position. I can’t allow it to get around that I can’t handle myself. That would surely finish me.”
“Yes. I suppose it would. I understand, and you don’t need to worry.”
“I never worry,” I said. “In a place like this there’s no percentage in it.”
He nodded and walked away. Three days later he walked up beside me in the exercise yard during the laundry’s morning break. He didn’t speak or even look my way, but pressed a picture of the Hon. Alexander Hamilton into my hand as neatly as a good magician does a card-trick. He was a man who adapted fast. I got him his rock-hammer. I had it in my cell for one night, and it was just as he described it. It was no tool for escape (it would have taken a man just about six hundred years to tunnel under the wall using that rock-hammer, I figured), but I still felt some misgivings. If you planted that pickaxe end in a man’s head, he would surely never listen to Fibber McGee and Molly on the radio again. And Andy had already begun having trouble with the sisters. I hoped it wasn’t them he was wanting the rock-hammer for.
In the end, I trusted my judgment. Early the next morning, twenty minutes before the wake-up horn went off, I slipped the rock-hammer and a package of Camels to Ernie, the old trusty who swept the Cellblock 5 corridors until he was let free in 1956. He slipped it into his tunic without a word, and I didn’t see the rock-hammer again for nineteen years, and by then it was damned near worn away to nothing.
The following Sunday Andy walked over to me in the exercise yard again. He was nothing to look at that day, I can tell you. His lower lip was swelled up so big it looked like a summer sausage, his right eye was swollen half-shut, and there was an ugly washboard scrape across one cheek. He was having his troubles with the sisters, all right, but he never mentioned them. “Thanks for the tool,” he said, and walked away.
I watched him curiously. He walked a few steps, saw something in the dirt, bent over, and picked it up. It was a small rock. Prison fatigues, except for those worn by mechanics when they’re on the job, have no pockets. But there are ways to get around that. The little pebble disappeared up Andy’s sleeve and didn’t come down. I admired that ... and I admired him. In spite of the problems he was having, he was going on with his life. There are thousands who don’t or won’t or can’t, and plenty of them aren’t in prison, either. And I noticed that, although his face looked as if a twister had happened to it, his hands were still neat and clean, the nails well-kept.
I didn’t see much of him over the next six months; Andy spent a lot of that time in solitary.
A few words about the sisters.
In a lot of pens they are known as bull queers or jailhouse susies—just lately the term in fashion is “killer queens.” But in Shawshank they were always the sisters. I don’t know why, but other than the name I guess there was no difference.
It comes as no surprise to most these days that there’s a lot of buggery going on inside the watts—except to some of the new fish, maybe, who have the misfortune to be young, slim, good-looking, and unwary—but homosexuality, like straight sex, comes in a hundred different shapes and forms. There are men who can’t stand to be without sex of some kind and turn to another man to keep from going crazy. Usually what follows is an arrangement between two fundamentally heterosexual men, although I’ve sometimes wondered if they are quite as heterosexual as they thought they were going to be when they get back to their wives or their girlfriends.
There are also men who get “turned” in prison. In the current parlance they “go gay,” or “come out of the closet.” Mostly (but not always) they play the female, and their favors are competed for fiercely.
And then there are the sisters.
They are to prison society what the rapist is to the society outside the walls. They’re usually long-timers, doing hard bullets for brutal crimes. Their prey is the young, the weak, and the inexperienced ... or, as in the case of Andy Dufresne, the weak-looking. Their hunting grounds are the showers, the cramped, tunnel-like areaway behind the industrial washers in the laundry, sometimes the infirmary. On more than one occasion rape has occurred in the closet-sized projection booth behind the auditorium. Most often what the sisters take by force they could have had for free, if they wanted it that way; those who have been turned always seem to have “crushes” on one sister or another, like teenage girls with their Sinatras, Presleys, or Redfords. But for the sisters, the joy has always been in taking it by force ... and I guess it always will be.
Because of his small size and fair good looks (and maybe also because of that very quality of self-possession I had admired), the sisters were after Andy from the day he walked in. If this was some kind of fairy story, I’d tell you that Andy fought the good fight until they left him alone. I wish I could say that, but I can’t. Prison is no fairy-tale world.
The first time for him was in the shower less than three days after he joined our happy Shawshank family. Just a lot of slap and tickle that time, I understand. They like to size you up before they make their real move, like jackals finding out if the prey is as weak and hamstrung as it looks.
Andy punched back and bloodied the lip of a big, hulking sister named Bogs Diamond—gone these many years since to who knows where. A guard broke it up before it could go any further, but Bogs promised to get him—and Bogs did.
The second time was behind the washers in the laundry. A lot has gone on in that long, dusty, and narrow space over the years; the guards know about it and just let it be. It’s dim and littered with bags of washing and bleaching compound, drums of Hexlite catalyst, as harmless as salt if your hands are dry, murderous as battery acid if they’re wet. The guards don’t like to go back there. There’s no room to maneuver, and one of the first things they teach them when they come to work in a place like this is to never let the cons get you in a place where you can’t back up.
Bogs wasn’t there that day, but Henley Backus, who had been washroom foreman down there since 1922, told me that four of his friends were. Andy held them at bay for awhile with a scoop of Hexlite, threatening to throw it in their eyes if they came any closer, but he tripped trying to back around one of the big Washex four-pockets. That was all it took. They were on him.
I guess the phrase gang-rape is one that doesn’t change much from one generation to the next. That’s what they did to him, those four sisters. They bent him over a gear-box and one of them held a Phillips screwdriver to his temple while they gave him the business. It rips you up some, but not bad—am I speaking from personal experience, you ask?—I only wish I weren’t. You bleed for awhile. If you don’t want some clown asking you if you just started your period, you wad up a bunch of toilet paper and keep it down the back of your underwear until it stops. The bleeding really is like a menstrual flow; it keeps up for two, maybe three days, a slow trickle. Then it stops. No harm done, unless they’ve done something even more unnatural to you. No physical harm done—but rape is rape, and eventually you have to look at your face in the mirror again and decide what to make of yourself.
Andy went through that alone, the way he went through everything alone in those days. He must have come to the conclusion that others before him had come to, namely, that there are only two ways to deal with the sisters: fight them and get taken, or just get taken.
He decided to fight. When Bogs and two of his buddies came after him a week or so after the laundry incident (“I heard ya got broke in,” Bogs said, according to Ernie, who was around at the time), Andy slugged it out with them. He broke the nose of a fellow named Rooster MacBride, a heavy-gutted farmer who was in for beating his stepdaughter to death. Rooster died in here, I’m happy to add.
They took him, all three of them. When it was done, Rooster and the other egg—it might have been Pete Verness, but I’m not completely sure—forced Andy down to his knees. Bogs Diamond stepped in front of him. He had a pearl-handled razor in those days with the words Diamond Pearl engraved on both sides of the grip. He opened it and said, “I’m gonna open my fly now, mister man, and you’re going to swallow what I give you to swallow. And when you done swallowed mine, you’re gonna swallow Rooster’s. I guess you done broke his nose and I think he ought to have something to pay for it.”
Andy said, “Anything of yours that you stick in my mouth, you’re going to lose it.”
Bogs looked at Andy like he was crazy, Ernie said.
“No,” he told Andy, talking to him slowly, like Andy was a stupid kid. “You didn’t understand what I said. You do anything like that and I’ll put all eight inches of this steel into your ear. Get it?”
“I understood what you said. I don’t think you understood me. I’m going to bite whatever you stick into my mouth. You can put that razor into my brain, I guess, but you should know that a sudden serious brain injury causes the victim to simultaneously urinate, defecate ... and bite down.”
He looked up at Bogs smiling that little smile of his, old Ernie said, as if the three of them had been discussing stocks and bonds with him instead of throwing it to him just as hard as they could. Just as if he was wearing one of his three-piece bankers’ suits instead of kneeling on a dirty broom-closet floor with his pants around his ankles and blood trickling down the insides of his thighs.
“In fact,” he went on, “I understand that the bite-reflex is sometimes so strong that the victim’s jaws have to be pried open with a crowbar or a jackhandle.”
Bogs didn’t put anything in Andy’s mouth that night in late February of 1948, and neither did Rooster MacBride, and so far as I know, no one else ever did, either. What the three of them did was to beat Andy within an inch of his life, and all four of them ended up doing a jolt in solitary. Andy and Rooster MacBride went by way of the infirmary.
How many times did that particular crew have at him? I don’t know. I think Rooster lost his taste fairly early on—being in nose-splints for a month can do that to a fellow—and Bogs Diamond left off that summer, all at once.
That was a strange thing. Bogs was found in his cell, badly beaten, one morning in early June, when he didn’t show up in the breakfast nose-count. He wouldn’t say who had done it, or how they had gotten to him, but being in my business, I know that a screw can be bribed to do almost anything except get a gun for an inmate. They didn’t make big salaries then, and they don’t now. And in those days there was no electronic locking system, no closed-circuit TV, no master-switches which controlled whole areas of the prison. Back in 1948, each cellblock had its own turnkey. A guard could have been bribed real easy to let someone—maybe two or three someones—into the block, and, yes, even into Diamond’s cell.
Of course a job like that would have cost a lot of money. Not by outside standards, no. Prison economics are on a smaller scale. When you’ve been in here awhile, a dollar bill in your hand looks like a twenty did outside. My guess is that, if Bogs was done, it cost someone a serious piece of change—fifteen bucks, we’ll say, for the turnkey, and two or three apiece for each of the lump-up guys.
I’m not saying it was Andy Dufresne, but I do know that he brought in five hundred dollars when he came, and he was a banker in the straight world—a man who understands better than the rest of us the ways in which money can become power.
And I know this: after the beating—the three broken ribs, the hemorrhaged eye, the sprained back, and the dislocated hip—Bogs Diamond left Andy alone. In fact, after that he left everyone pretty much alone. He got to be like a high wind in the summertime, all bluster and no bite. You could say, in fact, that he turned into a “weak sister.”
That was the end of Bogs Diamond, a man who might eventually have killed Andy if Andy hadn’t taken steps to prevent it (if it was him who took the steps). But it wasn’t the end of Andy’s troubles with the sisters. There was a little hiatus, and then it began again, although not so hard or so often. Jackals like easy prey, and there were easier pickings around than Andy Dufresne.
He always fought them, that’s what I remember. He knew, I guess, that if you let them have at you even once without fighting, it got that much easier to let them have their way without fighting next time. So Andy would turn up with bruises on his face every once in awhile, and there was the matter of the two broken fingers six or eight months after Diamond’s beating. Oh yes—and sometime in late 1949, the man landed in the infirmary with a broken cheekbone that was probably the result of someone swinging a nice chunk of pipe with the business-end wrapped in flannel. He always fought back, and as a result, he did his time in solitary. But I don’t think solitary was the hardship for Andy that it was for some men. He got along with himself.
The sisters was something he adjusted himself to—and then, in 1950, it stopped almost completely. That is a part of my story that I’ll get to in due time.
In the fall of 1948, Andy met me one morning in the exercise yard and asked me if I could get him half a dozen rock-blankets.
“What the hell are those?” I asked.
He told me that was just what rockhounds called them; they were polishing cloths about the size of dishtowels. They were heavily padded, with a smooth side and a rough side—the smooth side like fine-grained sandpaper, the rough side almost as abrasive as industrial steel wool (Andy also kept a box of that in his cell, although he didn’t get it from me—I imagine he kited it from the prison laundry).
I told him I thought we could do business on those, and I ended up getting them from the very same rock-and-gem shop where I’d arranged to get the rock-hammer. This time I charged Andy my usual ten per cent and not a penny more. I didn’t see anything lethal or even dangerous in a dozen 7” x 7” squares of padded cloth. Rock-blankets, indeed.
It was about five months later that Andy asked if I could get him Rita Hayworth. That conversation took place in the auditorium, during a movie-show. Nowadays we get the movie-shows once or twice a week, but back then the shows were a monthly event. Usually the movies we got had a morally uplifting message to them, and this one, The Lost Weekend, was no different. The moral was that it’s dangerous to drink. It was a moral we could take some comfort in.
Andy maneuvered to get next to me, and about halfway through the show he leaned a little closer and asked if I could get him Rita Hayworth. I’ll tell you the truth, it kind of tickled me. He was usually cool, calm, and collected, but that night he was jumpy as hell, almost embarrassed, as if he was asking me to get him a load of Trojans or one of those sheepskin-lined gadgets that are supposed to “enhance your solitary pleasure,” as the magazines put it. He seemed overcharged, a man on the verge of blowing his radiator.
“I can get her,” I said. “No sweat, calm down. You want the big one or the little one?” At that time Rita was my best girl (a few years before it had been Betty Grable) and she came in two sizes. For a buck you could get the little Rita. For two-fifty you could have the big Rita, four feet high and all woman.
“The big one,” he said, not looking at me. I tell you, he was a hot sketch that night. He was blushing just like a kid trying to get into a kootch show with his big brother’s draftcard. “Can you do it?”
“Take it easy, sure I can. Does a bear shit in the woods?” The audience was applauding and catcalling as the bugs came out of the walls to get Ray Milland, who was having a bad case of the DT’s.
“A week. Maybe less.”
“Okay.” But he sounded disappointed, as if he had been hoping I had one stuffed down my pants right then. “How much?”
I quoted him the wholesale price. I could afford to give him this one at cost; he’d been a good customer, what with his rock-hammer and his rock-blankets. Furthermore, he’d been a good boy—on more than one night when he was having his problems with Bogs, Rooster, and the rest, I wondered how long it would be before he used the rock-hammer to crack someone’s head open.
Posters are a big part of my business, just behind the booze and cigarettes, usually half a step ahead of the reefer. In the sixties the business exploded in every direction, with a lot of people wanting funky hang-ups like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, that Easy Rider poster. But mostly it’s girls; one pin-up queen after another.
A few days after Andy spoke to me, a laundry driver I did business with back then brought in better than sixty posters, most of them Rita Hayworths. You may even remember the picture; I sure do. Rita is dressed—sort of—in a bathing suit, one hand behind her head, her eyes half-closed, those full, sulky red lips parted. They called it Rita Hayworth, but they might as well have called it Woman in Heat.
The prison administration knows about the black market, in case you were wondering. Sure they do. They probably know almost as much about my business as I do myself. They live with it because they know that a prison is like a big pressure-cooker, and there have to be vents somewhere to let off some steam. They make the occasional bust, and I’ve done time in solitary a time or three over the years, but when it’s something like posters, they wink. Live and let live. And when a big Rita Hayworth went up in some fishie’s cell, the assumption was that it came in the mail from a friend or a relative. Of course all the care-packages from friends and relatives are opened and the contents inventoried, but who goes back and re-checks the inventory sheets for something as harmless as a Rita Hayworth or an Ava Gardner pin-up? When you’re in a pressure-cooker you learn to live and let live or somebody will carve you a brand-new mouth just above the Adam’s apple. You learn to make allowances.
It was Ernie again who took the poster up to Andy’s cell, 14, from my own, 6. And it was Ernie who brought back the note, written in Andy’s careful hand, just one word: “Thanks.”
A little while later, as they filed us out for morning chow, I glanced into his cell and saw Rita over his bunk in all her swimsuited glory, one hand behind her head, her eyes half-closed, those soft, satiny lips parted. It was over his bunk where he could look at her nights, after lights-out, in the glow of the arc sodiums in the exercise yard.
But in the bright morning sunlight, there were dark slashes across her face—the shadow of the bars on his single slit window.
Now I’m going to tell you what happened in mid-May of 1950 that finally ended Andy’s three-year series of skirmishes with the sisters. It was also the incident which eventually got him out of the laundry and into the library, where he filled out his work-time until he left our happy little family earlier this year.
You may have noticed how much of what I’ve told you already is hearsay—someone saw something and told me and I told you. Well, in some cases I’ve simplified it even more than it really was, and have repeated (or will repeat) fourth-or fifth-hand information. That’s the way it is here. The grapevine is very real, and you have to use it if you’re going to stay ahead. Also, of course, you have to know how to pick out the grains of truth from the chaff of lies, rumors, and wish-it-had-beens.
You may also have gotten the idea that I’m describing someone who’s more legend than man, and I would have to agree that there’s some truth to that. To us long-timers who knew Andy over a space of years, there was an element of fantasy to him, a sense, almost, of myth-magic, if you get what I mean. That story I passed on about Andy refusing to give Bogs Diamond a head-job is part of that myth, and how he kept on fighting the sisters is part of it, and how he got the library job is part of it, too ... but with one important difference: I was there and I saw what happened, and I swear on my mother’s name that it’s all true. The oath of a convicted murderer may not be worth much, but believe this: I don’t lie.
Andy and I were on fair speaking terms by then. The guy fascinated me. Looking back to the poster episode, I see there’s one thing I neglected to tell you, and maybe I should. Five weeks after he hung Rita up (I’d forgotten all about it by then, and had gone on to other deals), Ernie passed a small white box through the bars of my cell.
“From Dufresne,” he said, low, and never missed a stroke with his push-broom.
“Thanks, Ernie,” I said, and slipped him half a pack of Camels.
Now what the hell was this, I was wondering as I slipped the cover from the box. There was a lot of white cotton inside, and below that ...
I looked for a long time. For a few minutes it was like I didn’t even dare touch them, they were so pretty. There’s a crying shortage of pretty things in the slam, and the real pity of it is that a lot of men don’t even seem to miss them.
There were two pieces of quartz in that box, both of them carefully polished. They had been chipped into driftwood shapes. There were little sparkles of iron pyrites in them like flecks of gold. If they hadn’t been so heavy, they would have served as a fine pair of men’s cufflinks—they were that close to being a matched set.
How much work went into creating those two pieces? Hours and hours after lights-out, I knew that. First the chipping and shaping, and then the almost endless polishing and finishing with those rock-blankets. Looking at them, I felt the warmth that any man or woman feels when he or she is looking at something pretty, something that has been worked and made—that’s the thing that really separates us from the animals, I think—and I felt something else, too. A sense of awe for the man’s brute persistence. But I never knew just how persistent Andy Dufresne could be until much later.
In May of 1950, the powers that be decided that the roof of the license-plate factory ought to be re-surfaced with roofing tar. They wanted it done before it got too hot up there, and they asked for volunteers for the work, which was planned to take about a week. More than seventy men spoke up, because it was outside work and May is one damn fine month for outside work. Nine or ten names were drawn out of a hat, and two of them happened to be Andy’s and my own.
For the next week we’d be marched out to the exercise yard after breakfast, with two guards up front and two more behind ... plus all the guards in the towers keeping a weather eye on the proceedings through their field-glasses for good measure.
Four of us would be carrying a big extension ladder on those morning marches—I always got a kick out of the way Dickie Betts, who was on that job, called that sort of ladder an extensible—and we’d put it up against the side of that low, flat building. Then we’d start bucket-brigading hot buckets of tar up to the roof. Spill that shit on you and you’d jitterbug all the way to the infirmary.
There were six guards on the project, all of them picked on the basis of seniority. It was almost as good as a week’s vacation, because instead of sweating it out in the laundry or the plate-shop or standing over a bunch of cons cutting pulp or brush somewhere out in the willywags, they were having a regular May holiday in the sun, just sitting there with their backs up against the low parapet, shooting the bull back and forth.
They didn’t even have to keep more than half an eye on us, because the south wall sentry post was close enough so that the fellows up there could have spit their chews on us, if they’d wanted to. If anyone on the roof-sealing party had made one funny move, it would take four seconds to cut him smack in two with .45-caliber machine-gun bullets. So those screws just sat there and took their ease. All they needed was a couple of six-packs buried in crushed ice, and they would have been the lords of all creation.
One of them was a fellow named Byron Hadley, and in that year of 1950, he’d been at Shawshank longer than I had. Longer than the last two wardens put together, as a matter of fact. The fellow running the show in 1950 was a prissy-looking downeast Yankee named George Dunahy. He had a degree in penal administration. No one liked him, as far as I could tell, except the people who had gotten him his appointment. I heard that he was only interested in three things: compiling statistics for a book (which was later published by a small New England outfit called Light Side Press, where he probably had to pay to have it done), which team won the intramural baseball championship each September, and getting a death-penalty law passed in Maine. A regular bear for the death-penalty was George Dunahy. He was fired off the job in 1953, when it came out he was running a discount auto-repair service down in the prison garage and splitting the profits with Byron Hadley and Greg Stammas. Hadley and Stammas came out of that one okay—they were old hands at keeping their asses covered—but Dunahy took a walk. No one was sorry to see him go, but nobody was exactly pleased to see Greg Stammas step into his shoes, either. He was a short man with a tight, hard gut and the coldest brown eyes you ever saw. He always had a painful, pursed little grin on his face, as if he had to go to the bathroom and couldn’t quite manage it. During Stammas’s tenure as warden there was a lot of brutality at Shawshank, and although I have no proof, I believe there were maybe half a dozen moonlight burials in the stand of scrub forest that lies east of the prison. Dunahy was bad, but Greg Stammas was a cruel, wretched, cold-hearted man.
He and Byron Hadley were good friends. As warden, George Dunahy was nothing but a posturing figurehead; it was Stammas, and through him, Hadley, who actually administered the prison.
Hadley was a tall, shambling man with thinning red hair. He sunburned easily and he talked loud and if you didn’t move fast enough to suit him, he’d clout you with his stick. On that day, our third on the roof, he was talking to another guard named Mert Entwhistle.
Hadley had gotten some amazingly good news, so he was griping about it. That was his style—he was a thankless man with not a good word for anyone, a man who was convinced that the whole world was against him. The world had cheated him out of the best years of his life, and the world would be more than happy to cheat him out of the rest. I have seen some screws that I thought were almost saintly, and I think I know why that happens—they are able to see the difference between their own lives, poor and struggling as they might be, and the lives of the men they are paid by the State to watch over. These guards are able to formulate a comparison concerning pain. Others can’t, or won’t.
For Byron Hadley there was no basis of comparison. He could sit there, cool and at his ease under the warm May sun, and find the gall to mourn his own good luck while less than ten feet away a bunch of men were working and sweating and burning their hands on great big buckets filled with bubbling tar, men who had to work so hard in their ordinary round of days that this looked like a respite. You may remember the old question, the one that’s supposed to define your outlook on life when you answer it. For Byron Hadley the answer would always be half empty, the glass is half empty. Forever and ever, amen. If you gave him a cool drink of apple cider, he’d think about vinegar. If you told him his wife had always been faithful to him, he’d tell you it was because she was so damn ugly.
So there he sat, talking to Mert Entwhistle loud enough for all of us to hear, his broad white forehead already starting to redden with the sun. He had one hand thrown back over the low parapet surrounding the roof. The other was on the butt of his .38.
We all got the story along with Mert. It seemed that Hadley’s older brother had gone off to Texas some fourteen years ago and the rest of the family hadn’t heard from the son of a bitch since. They had all assumed he was dead, and good riddance. Then, a week and a half ago, a lawyer had called them long-distance from Austin. It seemed that Hadley’s brother had died four months ago, and a rich man at that (“It’s frigging incredible how lucky some assholes can get,” this paragon of gratitude on the plate-shop roof said). The money had come as a result of oil and oil-leases, and there was close to a million dollars.
No, Hadley wasn’t a millionaire—that might have made even him happy, at least for awhile—but the brother had left a pretty damned decent bequest of thirty-five thousand dollars to each surviving member of his family back in Maine, if they could be found. Not bad. Like getting lucky and winning a sweepstakes.
But to Byron Hadley the glass was always half empty. He spent most of the morning bitching to Mert about the bite that the goddam government was going to take out of his windfall. “They’ll leave me about enough to buy a new car with,” he allowed, “and then what happens? You have to pay the damn taxes on the car, and the repairs and maintenance, you got your goddam kids pestering you to take ’em for a ride with the top down—”
“And to drive it, if they’re old enough,” Mert said. Old Mert Entwhistle knew which side his bread was buttered on, and he didn’t say what must have been as obvious to him as to the rest of us: If that money’s worrying you so bad, Byron old kid old sock, I’ll just take it off your hands. After all, what are friends for?
“That’s right, wanting to drive it, wanting to learn to drive on it, for Chrissake,” Byron said with a shudder. “Then what happens at the end of the year? If you figured the tax wrong and you don’t have enough left over to pay the overdraft, you got to pay out of your own pocket, or maybe even borrow it from one of those kikey loan agencies. And they audit you anyway, you know. It don’t matter. And when the government audits you, they always take more. Who can fight Uncle Sam? He puts his hand inside your shirt and squeezes your tit until it’s purple, and you end up getting the short end. Christ.”
He lapsed into a morose silence, thinking of what terrible bad luck he’d had to inherit that thirty-five thousand dollars. Andy Dufresne had been spreading tar with a big Padd brush less than fifteen feet away and now he tossed it into his pail and walked over to where Mert and Hadley were sitting.
We all tightened up, and I saw one of the other screws, Tim Youngblood, drag his hand down to where his pistol was holstered. One of the fellows in the sentry tower struck his partner on the arm and they both turned, too. For one moment I thought Andy was going to get shot, or clubbed, or both.
Then he said, very softly, to Hadley: “Do you trust your wife?”
Hadley just stared at him. He was starting to get red in the face, and I knew that was a bad sign. In about three seconds he was going to pull his billy and give Andy the butt end of it right in the solar plexus, where that big bundle of nerves is. A hard enough hit there can kill you, but they always go for it. If it doesn’t kill you it will paralyze you long enough to forget whatever cute move it was that you had planned.
“Boy,” Hadley said, “I’ll give you just one chance to pick up that Padd. And then you’re goin off this roof on your head.”
Andy just looked at him, very calm and still. His eyes were like ice. It was as if he hadn’t heard. And I found myself wanting to tell him how it was, to give him the crash course. The crash course is you never let on that you hear the guards talking, you never try to horn in on their conversation unless you’re asked (and then you always tell them just what they want to hear and shut up again). Black man, white man, red man, yellow man, in prison it doesn’t matter because we’ve got our own brand of equality. In prison every con’s a nigger and you have to get used to the idea if you intend to survive men like Hadley and Greg Stammas, who really would kill you just as soon as look at you. When you’re in stir you belong to the State and if you forget it, woe is you. I’ve known men who’ve lost eyes, men who’ve lost toes and fingers; I knew one man who lost the tip of his penis and counted himself lucky that was all he lost. I wanted to tell Andy that it was already too late. He could go back and pick up his brush and there would still be some big lug waiting for him in the showers that night, ready to charley-horse both of his legs and leave him writhing on the cement. You could buy a lug like that for a pack of cigarettes or three Baby Ruths. Most of all, I wanted to tell him not to make it any worse than it already was.
What I did was to keep on running tar out onto the roof as if nothing at all was happening. Like everyone else, I look after my own ass first. I have to. It’s cracked already, and in Shawshank there have always been Hadleys willing to finish the job of breaking it.
Andy said, “Maybe I put it wrong. Whether you trust her or not is immaterial. The problem is whether or not you believe she would ever go behind your back, try to hamstring you.”
Hadley got up. Mert got up. Tim Youngblood got up. Hadley’s face was as red as the side of a firebarn. “Your only problem,” he said, “is going to be how many bones you still got unbroken. You can count them in the infirmary. Come on, Mert. We’re throwing this sucker over the side.”
Tim Youngblood drew his gun. The rest of us kept tarring like mad. The sun beat down. They were going to do it; Hadley and Mert were simply going to pitch him over the side. Terrible accident. Dufresne, prisoner 81433-SHNK, was taking a couple of empties down and slipped on the ladder. Too bad.
They laid hold of him, Mert on the right arm, Hadley on the left. Andy didn’t resist. His eyes never left Hadley’s red, horsey face.
“If you’ve got your thumb on her, Mr. Hadley,” he said in that same calm, composed voice, “there’s not a reason why you shouldn’t have every cent of that money. Final score, Mr. Byron Hadley thirty-five thousand, Uncle Sam zip.”
Mert started to drag him toward the edge. Hadley just stood there. For a moment Andy was like a rope between them in a tug-of-war game. Then Hadley said, “Hold on one second, Mert. What do you mean, boy?”
“I mean, if you’ve got your thumb on your wife, you can give it to her,” Andy said.
“You better start making sense, boy, or you’re going over.”
“The IRS allows you a one-time-only gift to your spouse,” Andy said. “It’s good up to sixty thousand dollars.”
Hadley was now looking at Andy as if he had been poleaxed. “Naw, that ain’t right,” he said. “Tax free?”
“Tax free,” Andy said. “IRS can’t touch one cent.”
“How would you know a thing like that?”
Tim Youngblood said: “He used to be a banker, Byron. I s’pose he might—”
“Shut ya head, Trout,” Hadley said without looking at him. Tim Youngblood flushed and shut up. Some of the guards called him Trout because of his thick lips and buggy eyes. Hadley kept looking at Andy. “You’re the smart banker who shot his wife. Why should I believe a smart banker like you? So I can wind up in here breaking rocks right alongside you? You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
Andy said quietly: “If you went to jail for tax evasion, you’d go to a federal penitentiary, not Shawshank. But you won’t. The tax-free gift to the spouse is a perfectly legal loophole. I’ve done dozens ... no, hundreds of them. It’s meant primarily for people with small businesses to pass on, for people who come into one-time-only windfalls. Like yourself.”
“I think you’re lying,” Hadley said, but he didn’t—you could see he didn’t. There was an emotion dawning on his face, something that was grotesque overlying that long, ugly countenance and that receding, sunburned brow. An almost obscene emotion when seen on the features of Byron Hadley. It was hope.
“No, I’m not lying. There’s no reason why you should take my word for it, either. Engage a lawyer—”
“Ambulance-chasing highway-robbing cocksuckers!” Hadley cried.
Andy shrugged. “Then go to the IRS. They’ll tell you the same thing for free. Actually, you don’t need me to tell you at all. You would have investigated the matter for yourself.”
“You’re fucking-A. I don’t need any smart wife-killing banker to show me where the bear shit in the buckwheat.”
“You’ll need a tax lawyer or a banker to set up the gift for you and that will cost you something,” Andy said. “Or ... if you were interested, I’d be glad to set it up for you nearly free of charge. The price would be three beers apiece for my co-workers—”
“Co-workers,” Mert said, and let out a rusty guffaw. He slapped his knee. A real knee-slapper was old Mert, and I hope he died of intestinal cancer in a part of the world where morphine is as of yet undiscovered. “Co-workers, ain’t that cute? Co-workers? You ain’t got any—”
“Shut your friggin trap,” Hadley growled, and Mert shut. Hadley looked at Andy again. “What was you sayin?”
“I was saying that I’d only ask three beers apiece for my co-workers, if that seems fair,” Andy said. “I think a man feels more like a man when he’s working out of doors in the springtime if he can have a bottle of suds. That’s only my opinion. It would go down smooth, and I’m sure you’d have their gratitude.”
I have talked to some of the other men who were up there that day—Rennie Martin, Logan St. Pierre, and Paul Bonsaint were three of them—and we all saw the same thing then ... felt the same thing. Suddenly it was Andy who had the upper hand. It was Hadley who had the gun on his hip and the billy in his hand, Hadley who had his friend Greg Stammas behind him and the whole prison administration behind Stammas, the whole power of the State behind that, but all at once in that golden sunshine it didn’t matter, and I felt my heart leap up in my chest as it never had since the truck drove me and four others through the gate back in 1938 and I stepped out into the exercise yard.
Andy was looking at Hadley with those cold, clear, calm eyes, and it wasn’t just the thirty-five thousand then, we all agreed on that. I’ve played it over and over in my mind and I know. It was man against man, and Andy simply forced him, the way a strong man can force a weaker man’s wrist to the table in a game of Indian rasseling. There was no reason, you see, why Hadley couldn’t’ve given Mert the nod at that very minute, pitched Andy overside onto his head, and still taken Andy’s advice.
No reason. But he didn’t.
“I could get you all a couple of beers if I wanted to,” Hadley said. “A beer does taste good while you’re workin.” The colossal prick even managed to sound magnanimous.
“I’d just give you one piece of advice the IRS wouldn’t bother with,” Andy said. His eyes were fixed unwinkingly on Hadley’s. “Make this gift to your wife if you’re sure. If you think there’s even a chance she might double-cross you or backshoot you, we could work out something else—”
“Double-cross me?” Hadley asked harshly. “Double-cross me? Mr. Hotshot Banker, if she ate her way through a boxcar of Ex-Lax, she wouldn’t dare fart unless I gave her the nod.”
Mert, Youngblood, and the other screws yucked it up dutifully. Andy never cracked a smile.
“I’ll write down the forms you need,” he said. “You can get them at the post office, and I’ll fill them out for your signature.”
That sounded suitably important, and Hadley’s chest swelled. Then he glared around at the rest of us and hollered,
“What are you jimmies starin at? Move your asses, goddammit!” He looked back at Andy. “You come over here with me, hotshot. And listen to me well: if you’re jewing me somehow, you’re gonna find yourself chasing your own head around Shower C before the week’s out.”
“Yes, I understand that,” Andy said softly.
And he did understand it. The way it turned out, he understood a lot more than I did—more than any of us did.
That’s how, on the second-to-last day of the job, the convict crew that tarred the plate-factory roof in 1950 ended up sitting in a row at ten o’clock on a spring morning, drinking Black Label beer supplied by the hardest screw that ever walked a turn at Shawshank State Prison. That beer was pisswarm, but it was still the best I ever had in my life. We sat and drank it and felt the sun on our shoulders, and not even the expression of half-amusement, half-contempt on Hadley’s face—as if he were watching apes drink beer instead of men—could spoil it. It lasted twenty minutes, that beer-break, and for those twenty minutes we felt like free men. We could have been drinking beer and tarring the roof of one of our own houses.
Only Andy didn’t drink. I already told you about his drinking habit. He sat hunkered down in the shade, hands dangling between his knees, watching us and smiling a little. It’s amazing how many men remember him that way, and amazing how many men were on that work-crew when Andy Dufresne faced down Byron Hadley. I thought there were nine or ten of us, but by 1955 there must have been two hundred of us, maybe more ... if you believed what you heard.