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On Writing: A memoir of the craft, by Stephen King: excerpt.
My earliest memory is of imagining I was someone else— imagining that I was, in fact, the
Ringling Brothers Circus Strongboy. This was at my Aunt Ethelyn and Uncle Oren’s house in
Durham, Maine. My aunt remembers this quite clearly, and says I was two and a half or maybe
three years old. I had found a cement cinderblock in a corner of the garage and had managed to
pick it up. I carried it slowly across the garage’s smooth cement floor, except in my mind I was
dressed in an animal skin singlet (probably a leopard skin) and carrying the cinderblock across
the center ring. The vast crowd was silent. A brilliant blue-white spotlight marked my
remarkable progress. Their wondering faces told the story: never had they seen such an
incredibly strong kid. “And he’s only two!” someone muttered in disbelief. 18 Stephen King
Unknown to me, wasps had constructed a small nest in the lower half of the cinderblock. One of
them, perhaps pissed off at being relocated, flew out and stung me on the ear. The pain was
brilliant, like a poisonous inspiration. It was the worst pain I had ever suffered in my short life,
but it only held the top spot for a few seconds. When I dropped the cinderblock on one bare foot,
mashing all five toes, I forgot all about the wasp. I can’t remember if I was taken to the doctor,
and neither can my Aunt Ethelyn (Uncle Oren, to whom the Evil Cinderblock surely belonged, is
almost twenty years dead), but she remembers the sting, the mashed toes, and my reaction. “How
you howled, Stephen!” she said. “You were certainly in fine voice that day.” – 2 – A year or so
later, my mother, my brother, and I were in West De Pere, Wisconsin. I don’t know why.
Another of my mother’s sisters, Cal (a WAAC beauty queen during World War II), lived in
Wisconsin with her convivial beer-drinking husband, and maybe Mom had moved to be near
them. If so, I don’t remember seeing much of the Weimers. Any of them, actually. My mother
was working, but I can’t remember what her job was, either. I want to say it was a bakery she
worked in, but I think that came later, when we moved to Connecticut to live near her sister Lois
and her husband (no beer for Fred, and not much in the way of conviviality, either; he was a
crewcut daddy who was proud of driving his convertible with the top up, God knows why).
There was a stream of babysitters during our Wisconsin period. I don’t know if they left because
David and I were a 19 On Writing handful, or because they found better-paying jobs, or because
my mother insisted on higher standards than they were willing to rise to; all I know is that there
were a lot of them. The only one I remember with any clarity is Eula, or maybe she was Beulah.
She was a teenager, she was as big as a house, and she laughed a lot. Eula-Beulah had a
wonderful sense of humor, even at four I could recognize that, but it was a dangerous sense of
humor—there seemed to be a potential thunderclap hidden inside each hand-patting, buttrocking, head-tossing outburst of glee. When I see those hiddencamera sequences where real-life
babysitters and nannies just all of a sudden wind up and clout the kids, it’s my days with EulaBeulah I always think of. Was she as hard on my brother David as she was on me? I don’t know.
He’s not in any of these pictures. Besides, he would have been less at risk from Hurricane EulaBeulah’s dangerous winds; at six, he would have been in the first grade and off the gunnery
range for most of the day. Eula-Beulah would be on the phone, laughing with someone, and
beckon me over. She would hug me, tickle me, get me laughing, and then, still laughing, go
upside my head hard enough to knock me down. Then she would tickle me with her bare feet
until we were both laughing again. Eula-Beulah was prone to farts—the kind that are both loud
and smelly. Sometimes when she was so afflicted, she would throw me on the couch, drop her
wool-skirted butt on my face, and let loose. “Pow!” she’d cry in high glee. It was like being
buried in marshgas fireworks. I remember the dark, the sense that I was suffocating, and I
remember laughing. Because, while what was happening was sort of horrible, it was also sort of
funny. In many ways, Eula-Beulah prepared me for literary criticism. After having a twohundred-pound 20 Stephen King babysitter fart on your face and yell Pow!, The Village Voice
holds few terrors. I don’t know what happened to the other sitters, but EulaBeulah was fired. It
was because of the eggs. One morning Eula-Beulah fried me an egg for breakfast. I ate it and
asked for another one. Eula-Beulah fried me a second egg, then asked if I wanted another one.
She had a look in her eye that said, “You don’t dare eat another one, Stevie.” So I asked for
another one. And another one. And so on. I stopped after seven, I think—seven is the number
that sticks in my mind, and quite clearly. Maybe we ran out of eggs. Maybe I cried off. Or maybe
Eula-Beulah got scared. I don’t know, but probably it was good that the game ended at seven.
Seven eggs is quite a few for a four-year-old. I felt all right for awhile, and then I yarked all over
the floor. Eula-Beulah laughed, then went upside my head, then shoved me into the closet and
locked the door. Pow. If she’d locked me in the bathroom, she might have saved her job, but she
didn’t. As for me, I didn’t really mind being in the closet. It was dark, but it smelled of my
mother’s Coty perfume, and there was a comforting line of light under the door. I crawled to the
back of the closet, Mom’s coats and dresses brushing along my back. I began to belch—long
loud belches that burned like fire. I don’t remember being sick to my stomach but I must have
been, because when I opened my mouth to let out another burning belch, I yarked again instead.
All over my mother’s shoes. That was the end for Eula-Beulah. When my mother came home
from work that day, the babysitter was fast asleep on the couch and little Stevie was locked in the
closet, fast asleep with half-digested fried eggs drying in his hair
*** Question regarding on Writing:
A Memoir of the Craft
1. This reading has many tricky vocabulary word.Some students may
be able to list 20 or more difficult words used in this piece. Please
list and then define five words taken from this reading that are
difficult to you.
2. In paragraph three the author states,’’ The pain was brilliant, like a
poisonous inspiration”. What does this mean and why do you think he
chooses a word such as brilliant to describe something so painful?
3.Stephen King is well known for his stories of horror and suspense, and
often his childhood experiences guide him in his writing. As you can
see, he has a great ability to tell a funny story as well as creepy,
strange, scary, and suspenseful.
Using Stephen King as your inspiration, tell a funny story about you
during your childhood.( one to two paragraphs)
1.READ: The Real-Life Benefits of Reading Fiction, Holly
2. Write around about 12 entries
(Here are some actual Write Around entries from former student:
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