Scene I: The Third Floor of a Resort Hotel
Fallen Upon Hard Times
IT WAS OCTOBER 7, 1922, and the Overlook Hotel had closed its
doors on the end of another season. When it re-opened in mid-May
of 1923, it would be under new management. Two brothers named
Clyde and Cecil Brandywine had bought it, good old boys from Texas
with more old cattle money and new oil money than they knew
what to do with.
Bob T. Watson stood at the huge picture window of the
Presidential Suite and stared out at the climbing heights of the
Rockies, where the aspens had now shaken most of their leaves, and
hoped the Brandywine brothers would fail. Since 1915 the hotel had
been owned by a man named James Parris. Parris had begun his
professional life as a common shyster in 1880. One of his close
friends rose to the presidency of a great western railroad, a robber
baron among robber barons. Parris grew rich on his fiend’s spoils,
but had none of his friends colorful flamboyancy. Parris was a gray
little man with an eye always turned to an inward set of accounting
books. He would have sold the Overlook anyway, Bob T. Watson
thought as he continued to stare out the window. The little shyster
bastard just happened to drop dead before he got a chance.
The man who had sold the Overlook to James Parris had been Bob
T. Watson himself. One of the last of the Western giants that arose
in the years 1870-1905, Bob T. came from a family that had made a
staggering fortune in silver around Placer, Colorado. They lost the
fortune, rebuilt it in land speculation to the railroads, and lost most
of it again in the depression of ‘93-‘94, when Bob T.’s father was
gunned down in Denver by a man suspected of organizing.
Bob T. had rebuilt the fortune himself, single-handedly, in the
years 1895 to 1905, and had begun searching then for something,
some perfect thing, to cap his achievement. After two years of
careful thought (during the interim he had bought himself a
governor and a representative to the US. Congress), he had
decided, in modest Watson fashion, to build the grandest resort
hotel in America. It would stand at the roof of America, with
nothing in the country at a higher altitude except the sky. It would
be a playground of the national and international rich - the people
that would be known three generations later as the super-rich.
Construction began in 1907, forty miles west of Sidewinder,
Colorado, and supervised by Bob T. himself.
"And do you know what?" Bob T. said aloud in the third-floor suite,
which was the grandest set of apartments in the grandest resort
hotel in America. “Nothing ever went right after that. Nothing.”
The Overlook had made him old. He had been forty-three when
ground was broken in 1907, and when construction was completed
two years later (but too late for them to be able to open the hotel’s
doors until 1910), he was bald. He had developed an ulcer. One of
his two sons, the one he had loved best, the one that had been
destined to carry the Watson banner forward into the future, had
died in a stupid riding accident. Boyd had tried to jump his pony
over a pile of lumber where the topiary now was, and the pony had
caught its back feet and broken its leg. Boyd had broken his neck.
There had been financial reverses on other fronts. The Watson
fortune, which had looked so secure in 1905, had begun to look
decidedly shaky in that autumn of 1909. There had been a huge
investment in munitions in anticipation of a foreign War that did not
happen, and had not happened until 1914. There had been a
dishonest accountant in the timbering end of the Watson operation,
and although he had been sent to jail for twenty long years, he had
done half a million dollars worth of damage first.
Perhaps disheartened by the death of his oldest son, Bob T. had
become unwisely convinced that the way to recoup was the way
that his father had couped in the first place: silver. There were
advisers who contended against this, but after the calumny of the
head accountant, who was the son of one of his father’s best
friends, Bob T. trusted his advisers less and less. He had refused to
believe that Colorado’s mining days were over. A million dollars in
dry investments hadn’t convinced him. Two million had. And by the
time the Overlook opened its doors in the late spring of 1910, Bob
T. realized that he was precariously close to being in shirt-sleeves
again … and building on the ruins at the age of forty-five might be
The Overlook was his hope.
The Overlook Hotel, built against the roof of the sky, with its
topiary of hedge animals to enchant the children, its playground, its
long and lovely croquet course, its putting green for the gentlemen,
its tennis courts outside and shuffleboard courts inside, its dining
room with the western exposure looking out over the last rising
jagged peaks of the Rockies, its ballroom facing east, where the
land dropped into green valleys of spruce and pine. The Overlook
with its one hundred and ten rooms, its staff of specially trained
domestics, and not one but two French chefs. The Overlook with its
lobby as wide and grand as three Pullman cars, the grand staircase
rising to the second floor, and its ponderous neo-Victorian
furniture, all capped by the huge crystal chandelier which hung
over the stairwell like a monster diamond.
Bob T. had fallen in love with the hotel as an idea, and his love
had deepened as the hotel took shape, no longer a mental thing but
an actual edifice with strong, clean lines and infinite possibility. His
wife had grown to hate it - at one point in 1908 she told him that
she would have preferred competing with another woman, that at
least she would have known how to cope with - but he had
dismissed her hate as a hysterical female reaction to Boyd’s death
on the grounds.
"You’re not natural on the subject," Sarah had told him. "When you
look at that there, it’s like there was no sense left in you. No one
can talk to you about what it’s costing, or how people are going to
get here when the last sixty miles of road aren’t even paved-.”
"They’ll be paved," he said quiet "I’ll pave them."
"And how much will that cost?’ Sarah asked hysterically. "Another
"Nowhere near," Bob T. said. "But if it did, I’d pay it."
"You see? Can’t you see? You’re just not natural on the subject. It’s
taken your wits, Bob T.!”
Perhaps it had at that.
The Overlook’s premier season had been a nightmare. Spring came
late, and the roads were not passable until the first of June, and
even then they were a nightmare of washboards and axle-smashing
chuckholes and hastily-laid corduroy over stretches of jellied mud.
There was more rain that year than Bob T. had ever seen before or
since, climaxed by a day of snow flurries in August … black snow,
the old women called it, a terrible omen for the winter ahead. In
September he had hired a contractor to pave the last twenty miles
of the road that led west from Estes Park to Sidewinder, and the
forty miles from Sidewinder to the hotel itself, and it had turned
into an expensive, round-the-clock operation to finish the two roads
before the snow covered them for the long, long winter. The winter
his wife had died.
But the roads and the abbreviated season had not been the worst
of the Overlook’s first year. No. The hotel had been officially
opened on June 1, 1910 at a ribbon-cutting ceremony presided over
by Bob T’s pet congressman. That day had been hot and clear and
bright, the kind of day the Denver Post must have had in mind when
they took “Tis a privilege to live in Colorado” as their motto. And
when the pet congressman cut the ribbon, the wife of one of the
first guests fainted dead away. The applause that had begun at the
cutting of the ribbon dried up in little exclamations of alarm and
concern. Smelling salts had brought her around, of course, but she
had come back to the world with such an expression of dazed terror
on her vapid little face that Bob T. could cheerfully have strangled
"I thought I saw something in the lobby," she said. "It didn’t look
like a man.”
Later she admitted that it must have been the unexpected heat
after all the chilly weather, but of course by then the damage had
Nor was the tale of that days reverses all told.
One of the two chefs had scalded his arm while preparing lunch
and had to be taken to the hospital closest by, far away in Boulder.
Mrs. Arkinbauer, the wife of the meat-packing king had slipped
while towelling herself dry after her bath and had broken her wrist.
And finally, the crowning touch, at dinner that night. Bob T.’s pet
congressman swallowed a piece of heavy Western sirloin strip steak
the wrong way and choked to death in the full and horrified view of
two hundred guests, nearly all of them there at Bob T. Watson’s
The pet congressman had clawed and clutched at his throat, he
had turned first red and then purple, he had actually begun to
stagger among the assembled company in his death-throes,
bouncing from table to table, his wildly swinging arms knocking over
wine-glasses and vases full of freshly cut flowers, eyes bulging
hideously at the assembled revellers. It was as if, one Bob T.’s
friends told him much later in private, Poe’s story about the Red
Death had come to life in front of all of them. And perhaps Bob T.’s
chance to make his beloved hotel a success had died on that very
first night, had died a jittering, twitching, miserable death right
alongside the pet congressman and in full view of those assembled.
The son of one of the guests who had been invited for the gratis
opening week was a second-year med student, and he had
performed an emergency tracheotomy in the kitchen. Either he was
too late to begin with or his hand shook at a critical moment; in
either case the results were the same. The man was dead, and
before the end of the week, half the guests had departed.
Bob T. mourned to his wife that he had never seen or heard a
spectacular run of bad luck.
"Are you so sure that bad luck is all it is?" She responded, only six
months away from her own death now.
"What else, Sarah? What else?"
"You’ve put that hotel up in the tabernacle of your heart!" She
assured him in a shrill voice. “Built it on the bones of your first-born
Mention of Boyd still made his throat roughen, even a year later.
"Sarah, Boyd is buried in Denver, next to your own mother."
"But he died here! He died here! And how much is it costing you,
Bob T.? How much have you sunk into the wretched place that we’ll
never get back?”
"I’ll get it back."
Then his unlettered wife, who had once kept house for him in a
one-room log cabin, had spoken prophecy to him:
"You’ll die a poor an sorry man, Bob T. Watson, before you see the
first pennyworth of profit from that place.”
She had died of influenza, and took her place between her son and
The season of 1911 had begun just as badly. Spring and then
summer had come at more normal times, but Bob T.’s younger son,
a fourteen-year-old boy named Richard, had brought him the bad
news in mid-April, still a full month before the hotel was due to
"Daddy," Richard said, "that bastard Grondin has diddled you."
Grondin was the contractor who had paved the sixty miles of road,
at a total cost of seventy thousand dollars. He had cut corners and
had used substandard material. After an autumn of frost, a winter
of freeze, and a spring of thaw, the paving was breaking up in
great, rotted chunks. The last sixty miles of the trip to the Overlook
would be impassable by buggy, let alone by one of the new flivvers.
The worst thing about it to Bob T.’s mind, the most frightening
thing, was that he had spent at least two days of every week
supervising Grondin’s work. How could Grondin have slipped the
substandard materials past him? How could he have been so blind?
Grondin, of course, was nowhere to be found.
Repaving the roads was more expensive than the original paving
had been, because the original paving had to be taken up. It would
not serve even as a foundation for the new road. Once again work
had to proceed around the clock, entailing overtime wages. There
were holdups and snags and confusions. Wagons drawing the
materials up from the railhead in Estes Park lost their wheels.
Horses burst their hearts trying to draw overloaded wagons up the
steep grades. There was a week of rain at the beginning of May. The
road was not re-completed until the first week of July, and by then
most of the people Bob T. had hoped to draw had made their
summer plans and less then half of the Overlook’s one hundred and
ten rooms were occupied.
In spite of the panicked clamorings of his accountants - and even
his son Richard - Bob T. had refused to lay off any of the hotel’s
staff. He would not even let one of the two expensive chefs go (two
new chefs; neither of the two from the previous year had come
back), although there was barely enough work for one. He was
stubbornly convinced that in late July … or August … or
even in September when the aspens had begun to turn … that the
guests would come, the rich would come with their retainers and
their hangers-on and their careless money. The statesmen would
come, the machine politicians, the actors and actresses who aced
the Broadway stage, the foreign nobility who were always in search
of a new and diverting place. They would hear about the gorgeous
hotel that had been built for their pleasure at the roof of America,
and they would come. But they never came. And when
winter put finishes to the Overlook’s second season, only one
hundred and six guests had signed the register in three months.
Bob T. sighed and continued to stare out the wide window of the
Presidental Suite, where in 1922, only one President had actually
stayed - Woodrow Wilson. And he had come he had already been a
man broken in all the ways a man could be broken - in body, in
spirit, in his believability with the people. When Wilson had come
here he had been a sorry joke. There had been talk in the country
that his wife was actually the President of the United States.
If Sarah hadn’t died, Bob T. thought, tracing aimlessly on the
window with the tip of his finger, I might have laid them off, some
of them at least. she might have badgered me into it. She might
have … but I don’t believe it.
You’ve put that hotel up in the tabernacle of your heart.
The 1912 season had been better. In a manner of speaking, at
least, the Overlook had only run eighty thousand dollars in the red.
The two previous seasons had cost him over a quarter of a million,
not counting the paving of that double … no, triple-damned road.
When the 1912 season ended he had been hopefully convinced that
the pump had finally been primed, that his whining accountants
could finally put away their pots of red ink and begin writing with
The 1913 season had been better still - only fifty thousand dollars
in losses. He became convinced that they would turn the corner in
1914. That the Overlook was gradually coming into its own.
His head accountant had come to him in September of 1914, while
the season still had three weeks to run, and advised he filed for
"What in the name of God are you talking about?" Bob T. asked.
"I’m talking about nearly two hundred thousand dollars in debts
which you cannot hope to repay.” The accountant’s name was
Rutherford and he was a fussy little man, an Easterner.
"That’s ridiculous," Bob T. said. "Get out of here." His head cook
Geroux, would be in soon. They were going to plan the menu for the
closing three nights, what Bob T. had conceived of as the Overlook
The accountant put a thin sheaf of papers down on Bob T.’s desk
Three hours later, after the cook had left, Bob T. found himself
looking at the papers. Never mind them, he told himself. Into the
wastebasket with them. I’ll pink the little bastard, him with his
Boston accent and his three piece suits. He was nothing but an
incompetent tenderfoot. And did you keep folks on our payroll after
they advised you to go into bankruptcy? It was laughable.
He had picked up the papers Rutherford had left, to file them in
the circular file, and found himself looking at them. What he saw
was enough to make his blood stop in his veins.
On top was a bill from the Keystone Paving Works of Golden.
Principal plus interest in the sum of seventy thousand dollars.
Account due on receipt of bill. Below that, a bill from the Denver
Electrical Outfitters, Inc., who had wired the Overlook for
electricity and had installed not one but two gigantic power
generators in the cavernous basement. All of this had happened in
late fall of 1913 when his son Richard had assured him that
electricity was not going to go away, and that soon his guests would
come to expect it, not as a luxury but a necessity. That bill was in
the sum of eighteen thousand dollars.
Bob T. flicked through the remainder of the papers with growing
horror. A building maintenance bill, a landscaping bill, the second
well he had sunk, the contractors who were even now putting in a
health room, the contractors who had just finished the two
greenhouses, and last … last, an itemization in Rutherford’s neat
and ruthless hand of salaries outstanding.
Fifteen minutes later, Rutherford was standing before him again.
"It can’t be this bad," Bob T. whispered hoarsely.
"It is worse," Rutherford said. "If my estimates are correct, you will
finish this season twenty thousand dollars or better in the red.”
"Only twenty? If we can hold out until next year, we can turn the
"There is no way we can do that," Rutherford said patiently. "The
Overlook’s accounts are not depleted, Mr. Watson, they are empty. I
even closed out the petty cash account last Thursday afternoon so I
could finish making up the staff’s pay envelopes. The checking
accounts are likewise empty. Your mining interest in Haggle Notch
is closed out, as per your order this July. That is everything …
Rutherford’s eyes gleamed with brief hope. “That is, everything I
"It’s everything!" Bob T. agreed dully, and the hope in Rutherford’s
eyes was extinguished. Bob T. sat up a little straighter. “I’ll go to
Denver tomorrow. I’ll see about a second mortgage on the hotel.”
"Mr. Watson," Rutherford said with a curious gentleness. "You took
the second mortgage last winter.”
And so he had. How could he have forgotten a thing like that? Bob
T. wondered with real fright. The same way he had forgotten two
hundred thousand dollars worth of payment due? Just forgotten it?
When a man started “just forgetting” things like that, it was time for
that man to get out of business before he was pushed out.
But he would not let the Overlook go.
"I’ll get a third," he said. "Bill Steeves will give me a third."
"No, I don’t believe he will," Rutherford said.
"What do you mean, you don’t believe he will, you little Boston
bean?” Bob T. had roared. “Billy Steeves and me go back to 1890
together! I got him his start in business … helped to capitalize his
bank … kept my money in with him in ‘94 when everybody west of
the Mississippi was shitting in their drawers! Hell give me a tenth
mortgage, or I’ll know the reason why!”
Rutherford looked at Bob T. and wondered what he should say,
what he could say that the old man didn’t already know. Could he
tell him that William Steeves had put his position as President of
the First Mercantile Bank of Denver in severe Jeopardy by granting
the second mortgage when the situation at the Overlook was clearly
hopeless? That Steeves had done it anyway under the ridiculous
conviction that he owed Bob T. Watson a debt (to Rutherford’s
precision-balanced mind the only real debt was a debt that had
been contracted for in triplicate)? Could he tell Watson that even if
Steeves cut his own throat and agreed to try and get him a third
mortgage that he would succeed in doing nothing but putting
himself on the severely depressed executive job market? That even
if the unthinkable happened and the mortgage were issued, it
would not be even enough to clear the outstanding debts?
Surely the old man must know those things.
Old man, Rutherford mused. Surely he can’t be more than fifty,
but right at this minute he looks more like seventy-five. What is
there to tell him? That his wife was right, maybe, that the creditors
were right. The hotel had sucked him dry. It had stolen his business
acumen, his savvy, even his common sense. You needed a special
kind of sense to survive in American business, a special kind of
sight. And now Bob T. Watson was blind. It was the hotel that had
blinded him and made him old.
Rutherford said, “I believe the time has come for me to thank you
for my two years of employment and give my notice, Mr. Watson. I’ll
waive any further emolument.” That was a bitter joke.
"Go on, then," Bob T. said. His face was gray and drawn. "You don’t
belong in the west anyway. You don’t understand what the west is
all about. You are just a cheap tin Eastern chamberpot with a timeclock
for a mind. Get out of here.”
Bob T. took the stack of accounts due, tipped them in half, in
fourths, and with a clench that went all the way up his arms to his
shoulders, in eighths. He threw the pieces in Rutherford’s face.
"Get out!" He yelled. "Go on back to Baaston! I’ll still be running
this hotel in 1940! Me and my son Richard! Get out! Get out!”
Bob T. turned away from the window and looked thoughtfully at
the large double bed where President Wilson and his wife had slept
… if they had slept. It seemed to Bob T. that a great many people
who came to the Overlook slept very poorly.
I’ll still be running this hotel in 1940!
Well, in a way that might be true. I just might. He went into the
living room, a tall, stooped man, mostly bald now, wearing
carpenter’s overalls and heavy workshoes instead of the expensive
Western boots he had once worn. There was a hammer in one
pocket and a keychain in the other, and on the ring attached to the
chain were all the keys to the hotel. Better than fifty in all,
including a different passkey for each wing of each floor, but none
of them were labelled. He knew them all by sight and by touch.
The Overlook had not wanted for a buyer, and Bob T. supposed it
never would. There was something about the place that reminded
him of that old Greek story about Homer and the sirens on the rock.
Businessmen (the Homers of the 20th century) who were otherwise
sane and hardheaded, became irrationally convinced that they
could take the place over and over beyond their wildest dreams.
This pleased Bob T. to no end. It was finding out that he wasn’t
alone in his craziness, it seemed. Or maybe it was just knowing that
the Overlook would never stand empty and deserted. He didn’t think
he could have borne that.
Despite Rutherford’s protests that he could only salvage something
declaring bankruptcy and letting the bank sell the Overlook, Bob T.
had it himself. He had grown more and more fond of his son
Richard - perhaps he would never be able to fill Boyd’s shoes but he
was a good, hardworking boy and now that his mother was dead
they only had each other - and he was not going to let the boy grow
up with the stigma of a bankruptcy case hanging over his head.
There had been three interested parties and Bob T. had held on
grimly until he got his price, always staying just one jump ahead of
the baying creditors who wanted to bring him down and divide the
spoils up among themselves. He had called a hundred old debts,
some of them going back to his father’s time. To keep the Overlook
out of the bank’s hands and in his own he had browbeaten a widow
into hysteria, he had threatened an Albuquerque newspaper
publisher with exposure (the news publisher had a penchant for
young, pre-pubescent, actually - girls), he had gotten down on his
knees and once begged a man who had been so revolted that he had
given Bob T. a check for ten thousand dollars just to get him off
his knees and out of his office.
None of it was enough to blot away the rising tide of red ink -
nothing could do that, he recognized - but he mustered enough in
that winter of 1914-15 to keep his hotel out of receivership.
In the spring he had dealt with James Parris, the man who had
begun life as a common shyster. Bob T.’s price - a ridiculously low
one - had been one hundred and eighty thousand dollars plus
lifetime jobs for himself and his son … as the Overlook’s
"You’re insane, man," Parris had said. "Is that what you want to
avoid bankruptcy for? So the Denver papers can report you’re
working as a janitor in the hotel you once owned?” And he
reiterated: “You’re insane.”
Bob T. was adamant. He would not leave the hotel. And for all his
cold businessman’s talk, he knew that Parris would give in. The cold
talk did not hide the funny, eager look in Parris’s eyes. Didn’t Bob T.
know that look well enough? Hadn’t he seen it in his own mirror
every day for the last six years?
:I don’t have to dicker with you over it,” Parris had replied,
affecting indifference. “If I wait another two months, perhaps only
three weeks, you’ll crash. And then I can deal with the First
"And they’ll charge you a quarter of a million if they charge you a
penny,” Bob T. replied.
For that Parris had no answer. He could pay the two Watsons’
salaries for the rest of their lives out of the money he would save by
dealing with this lunatic instead of the bank.
So the deal was made. The one hundred and eighty thousand
dollars at last mopped up the red ink. The road was paid for, and
the electricity, and the landscaping, and all the rest. Bankruptcy
was avoided. James Parris took over in the manager’s office
upstairs. Bob T. and Dick Watson moved downstairs from their suite
in the west wing of the third floor to an apartment in the huge
cellar. Their domain was behind a door that said Maintenance Only -
If James Parris had ever thought that Bob T.’s insanity would
extend to his work, he was wrong. He was the ideal maintenance
man, and his son, who was more fitted for this life than one of
affluence and college and business things that made his head hurt
to think of them, was his eager apprentice. “If we’re janitors,” Bob
T. had once told his son, “then that thing going on over in France is
nothing but a barroom squabble.”
They kept the place clean, yes, Bob T. was something of a fanatic
about that. But they did more. They kept the generators in perfect
running condition. From June of 1915 to this day, October 7th,
1922, there had never been a power outage. When the telephones
had been installed, Bob T. and his son Richard had put in the
switchboard themselves, working from manuals they had pored over
night after late night in preparation. They kept the roof in perfect
condition, replaced broken panes of glass, turned the rug in the
dining room once a month, painted, plastered, and oversaw the
Installation of the elevator in 1917.
And they lived there in the winter.
"Not too exciting up there in the winter, is it?" The bell-captain
had asked them once while they were on coffee break. “What do
you do, hibernate?”
"We keep busy," Bob T. had answered shortly. And Richard had
only offered an uneasy grin, uneasy, yes, because every Hotel had a
skeleton or two in the closet, and sometimes the skeletons rattled
One late January afternoon when Bob T. had been putting a piece
of glass over the top of the reception desk, a terrible noise had
come from the dining room, a horrible choking noise that had
encased him in horror and had taken him back over the years to
that first night, when his pet congressman had choked to death on a
piece of steak.
He stood stock-still, willing the noise to stop, but the terrible
strangling noises went on and on and he thought, if I went in there
now I’d see him, staggering around from table to table like some
awful beggar at a king’s feast, his eyes bulging, begging someone to
His entire body broke out in gooseflesh - even the thin skin on his
back knobbed up into bumps. And as suddenly as it had begun, the
choking sound sank to a breathless, gargling moan, and then to
Bob T. broke the paralysis that had gripped him and lunged for the
big double doors that gave on the dining room. Surely time had
taken some sort of twist, and when he got inside he would see the
congressman stretched out on the floor with the guests gathered
helplessly around him. Bob T. would call out as he had on that longago
day, “Is there a doctor in the house?” and the second-year med
student would brush through the crowd and say, “Let’s take him into
But when he pushed through the double doors, the dining room
was empty, all the tables in one corner with their chairs upturned
on them, and there was no sound but the wind singing high around
the eaves. Outside It was snowing, obscuring the mountains for a
moment and then revealing them for another moment, like the flap
of ragged curtains.
There had been other things. Dick reported hearing knocking
noises from inside the elevator, as if somebody had been caught in
there and was rapping to be let out. Only when he opened the door
with the special key and slid back the brass gate, the elevator was
empty. One night they had both awakened thinking they heard a
woman sobbing somewhere above them, in the lobby it sounded
like, and went up to find nothing.
These things had all happened in the off-season, and Bob T. didn’t
have to tell Dick not to talk about them. There were enough folks,
Mr.-High-and-Mighty-Parris among them, who thought they were
But sometimes Bob T. wondered if things didn’t sometimes happen
in season. If some of the staff and some of the guests hadn’t heard
things themselves … or seen things. Parris had maintained the
quality of the service, and had even added a feature to it that Bob
T. had never thought of - a limousine which made a run from The
Longhorn House in downtown Denver right up to the Overlook once
every three days. He had kept prices low in spite of the inflation
the Kaiser’s war had brought on, hoping to build the trade. Hoping
to build a name. He had added a swimming pool to the hotel’s other
formidable recreation features.
The people who came to the Overlook to enjoy these features
rarely re-booked for a second season, though. Nor did they give the
Overlook benefit of that best and cheapest advertising, word-ofmouth,
by recommending it to their friends. Some of them would
book for a month and then leave in two weeks, shaking their heads
in an almost embarrassed way and brushing aside Parris’s earnest
questions: Was something wrong with the food? You were treated
poorly? The service was slow? The housekeeping was sloppy ? It
seemed it was none of those things. The people left and rarely
Bob T. had been pleased to see the Overlook become something of
an obsession with Parris. The man was going gray over it, trying to
figure out what was wrong and having no luck.
Had the Overlook ever had a season in the black between 1915 and
1922? Bob T. wondered now, as he sat in the Presidential Suite
living room and looked at his reflection. That was between Parris
and his accountant, of course, and they had been a couple of close
ones. But it was Bob T.’s guess that it never had. Maybe Parris had
never let his obsession get out of hand as the Overlook’s owner and
builder had done (Bob T. sometimes thought these days that he had
tried to ride and break whatever jinx had been built into his hotel
the way his grandfather would have ridden and broken a wild
mustang pony), but he was quite sure that Parris had pumped large
amounts of money into the hotel every season without getting
anything back, as Bob T. himself had done.
You’ll die a poor and sorry man before you see the first
pennyworth of profit from that place.
Sarah had told him that. Sarah had been right. She had been right
for Parris, too. The shyster might not have been stony broke, but he
surely must have been sorry he had ever hooked up to this
combination when he died of an apparent heart attack while
strolling the grounds this August past.
Bob T.’s boy (although Dick wasn’t such a boy now, old enough to
drink and smoke and vote, old enough to plan on getting married
this December) had himself found Parris early in the morning. Dick
had been down in the topiary by the playground with his hedgetrimmers
at seven AM and there Parris had been, stretched out
stone dead between two of the hedge lions.
It was funny about that topiary; it had become the Overlook’s
trademark in a way, and it had come into being in a very offhand
fashion. It had been the landscaper’s idea to fringe the playground
with hedge animals. He had submitted a sketch to Bob T. showing
the playground area surrounded by lions, buffalo, a rabbit, a cow,
and so on. Bob T. had scratched a go-ahead on the memo
accompanying the sketch without a pause. He couldn’t remember
that he had even thought twice about it, one way or another. But it
had often been the playground topiary that that the guests went
away talking about instead of the meals or the spare-no-expense
decor of the rooms 29 suites. Bob T. supposed it was just another
example of how nothing at the Overlook had gone as he had
Parris, they figured, must have gone out for a late evening stroll
across the front lawn and the putting green and through the
playground to the road. On the way back the heart attack had
struck him down. There had been no one to miss him, because his
wife had left him in 1920.
In a way, that had been the Overlook’s fault, too. In the years
1915-1917, Parris had spent no more than two weeks of the season
here. His wife, a sulky, pretty thing who had been something on
Broadway, didn’t like the place - or so it was rumored. In 1918 they
had spent a month and according to the gossip there had been
several bitter fights over it. She saying that she wanted to go to the
Bahamas or to Cuba. He asking sarcastically if she wanted to catch
some kind of jungle rot. She saying that if he didn’t take her she
would go on her own. He saying that if she did that she could find
someone else to support her expensive tastes. She stayed. That
In 1919, Parris and his wife stayed for six weeks, occupying a suite
on the third floor. The hotel was getting hold of him, Bob T.
thought with some satisfaction. After awhile it got so you felt like a
gambler who couldn’t leave the table.
Anyway, Parris had been planning on a longer stay, and then, at
the end of their sixth week, the woman had gone into hysterics.
Two of the upstairs maids had heard her, weeping and screaming
and begging for him to take her away, to take her anyplace. They
had left that same afternoon, Parris’s brow like thunder, his wife’s
pretty face pale and devoid of make-up, her eyes resting like dark
raisins in the hollows of her eyesockets, as if she had been sleeping
badly or not at all. Parris had not even stopped to confer with his
manager or with Bob T. And when he had shown up in June of 1921,
it had been sans wife. The head housekeeper’s sister lived in New
Jersey, and she sent out one of those gossip papers saying that
Parris’s wife had asked for a divorce on the grounds of “mental
cruelty,” whatever that meant.
"What I guess it means," Harry Durker, the groundskeeper told Bob
T. over bourbon, “is that she couldn’t pan out the gold as fast as she
thought she could.”
Or was it the Overlook? Bob T. wondered. Anyway, didn’t matter.
Parris had been up here on opening day of the season just past, the
Overlook’s thirteenth, and he hadn’t left until they carried him off
in the Sidewinder funeral hack. The little shyster’s will was still in
probate, but that matter was going to be quite straightforward.
Parris’s hotel manager had gotten a letter from the firm of New
York lawyers acting as executors, and the letter had mentioned the
Brandywine brothers from Texas, who were expected to buy. They
wanted to keep Parris’s manager on if he wanted to stay, and at a
substantially higher salary. But the manager had already told Bob T.
(also over bourbon) that he was going to turn the offer down.
"This place is never going to make a go," he told Bob T. "I don’t
care if Jesus Christ Himself bought the place and got John the
Baptist to manage it. I feel more like a cemetery caretaker than a
hotel manager. It’s like something died up in the walls and
everybody who comes here can smell it from time to time.”
Yes, Bob T. thought, that’s exactly what it’s like. Only ain’t it funny
how something like that can sometimes get a hold on a man?
He stood up and stretched. Sitting here and thinking over old
times was all very well and good, but it wasn’t getting the work
done. And there was a lot of it this winter. New elevator cables to
be put in. A new service shed to be built out back, and that had to
be done before the snow flew and cut them off. The shutters had to
be put up, of course, and-
Bob T., on his way to the door, stopped dead still.
He heard, or thought he heard, Boyd s voice, high and young and
full of joy. It was faint with distance, but unmistakably Boyd’s.
Coming from the direction of what was now the topiary.
"Come on. Rascal! Come on! Come on! Go it!"
Rascal? The name of Boyd’s pony.
Like a man in a dream, like a man caught in some slow and slushy
delirium, Bob T. turned to the wide window. Again that curious
feeling of time doubling back on itself. When he reached the
window and looked out he would not see the hedge animals because
the year was 1908 and the topiary had not yet been set in. Instead
he would see a buddy stretch of hill clumped and clotted with
building materials, he would see a pile of new lumber where the
entrance to the playground would later be, he would see Boyd
racing toward that pile of lumber on board Rascal, he would see
them go up together, he would see Rascal’s rear feet catch the top
of the pile, and he would see them tumble down, together with all
grace gone, and hope of life with it.
Bob T. staggered toward the window where he would see these
things, his face dough-pale, his mouth a slack wound. He could
hear- surely it was not only in his mind? - hoofbeats drumming on
"Go it, Rascal! Get up, boy! Get-"
A thudding, flat crack. And then the screaming began, the high,
unhuman scream of the pony, the rattle of boards, the final thud.
"Boyd!" Bob T. screamed. "Oh my God, Boyd! BOYD!"
He struck the window forcibly, shattering three of the six panes of
glass. Drawing a jagged though shallow cut across the back of his
right hand. The glass fell outward, turning over and over, twinkling
in the sun, to strike and shatter on the outsloping second floor roof
He saw the lawn, green and manicured, sloping smoothly down to
the putting green and beyond it to the topiary. The three hedge
lions that guarded the gravelled path were crouched in their usual
half-threatening, half-playful postures. The hedge rabbit stood on
its hind legs with its ears perked up cockily. The hedge cow stood as
was its wont, cropping at the grass, now with a few autumn-yellow
aspen leaves caught on its head and stuck to its sides.
No pile of lumber. No Boyd. No Rascal.
Running footsteps up the hall. Bob T. turned to the door just as it
opened and Dick hurried in with his tool box in one hand.
"Dad , are you all right?"
"Cut my hand," Bob T. said. "Tripped over my own stupid feet and
hit that window. Guess I made us some work.”
"But you’re all right?"
"Fine, I told you," he said testily.
"I was down at the end of the hall, looking at those elevator
cables. I thought I heard someone outside.”
Bob T. looked at his son sharply.
"You didn’t hear anyone, did you, daddy""
"No," Bob T. said. He took his handkerchief out of his back pocket
and wrapped it around his bleeding hand. “Who’d be up here this
time of year?”
"That’s right," Dick said. And his eyes and his father’s eyes met
with kind of electric shock, and in that second they both saw more
than they might perhaps have wished. They dropped their eyes
"Come on," Bob T. said gruffly. "Let’s see if we’ve got the glass to
fix this bastard.”
They went out together and Bob T. spared a single backward
glance at the living room of the Presidential Suite with its silk
wallpaper and its heavy furnishings dreaming in the late afternoon
Guess they’ll have to carry me out in the meatwagon, the same as
they did Parris, he thought. Only way they’ll get me to leave. He
looked with love at his son, who had drawn ahead of him.
Dick, too. This place has got us, I guess.
It was a thought that made him feel loathing and love at the same