Big Stephen King was on his way home. Last leg of a whirlwind book tour. Seven cities in six days. All for his latest 426-page blockbuster Dead Zone. Now it was back to his wife Tabitha and the kids. Big Stephen King. Six-foot-three. Blue-eyed. Gangly-limbed with his thick square glasses and that goofy smile that can leave you uncertain whether he’s gonna laugh or bite. King sitting in first class on a Delta airline’s plane, just a hop and skip back to his hometown of Bangor, Maine. The tour had been a blast. Signing books (“Hope you enjoy this book as much as I did writing it!”), palm-pressing (“I’m your number one fan”), and talking about where he got his ideas (“Everywhere”).
King was tired (disconnected) like he’d been bludgeoned with pillows filled with some kind of low-grade knockout gas. Flump! Headful of cotton. King buckled up. The stewardess mimed her safety routine, smiled, counted heads, checked seatbelts and made sure tray tables were upright and folded away. The plane was on the runway. Taxiing for take-off. And that’s were it started to go wrong. The plane slowed down. Came to rest. Instead of taking off this big metal behemoth nosed around and headed back to the apron.
(“Oh, geez, we’ve got some kind of motor problem; this is just what I need.”)
But it wasn’t the engines, it was just a late boarder. Must be someone mighty important if they’re going to all this trouble. It was Ronald McDonald.
Ronald McDonald with his ghost white face, blood red lips, big red nose, goofy orange hair, giant flapping boots, and those Day-Glo clothes with buttons down the front. Ronald-Mc-fucking-Donald. King knew exactly where this sonofabitch was gonna sit. (Beep, beep!) “Because I’m a weirdness magnet.”
Ronald slumped down into the aisle seat next to King. (“Knew it.”) Ronald looked shabby. Smelled like day-old sweat, cigarettes, and cheap aftershave. He called the stewardess over and ordered a gin-and-tonic. It’s ten o’clock in the morning. The drink arrives with its little paper coaster. Ronald knocked it back. Then turned to King and said:
“I hate these whistle-stop tours. I just hate this. I almost missed this plane.”
The plane takes off. King’s going “Uh-huh, uh-huh, yeah, right” to whatever the hell Ronald is saying. The no-smoking light blinks off and Ronald, swilling his G & T with its ice cubes chinking, popped opened a pack of cancer sticks. He lights up and started breathing in a Kent. King was getting antsy. “What the fuck do you say to a clown?” Eventually, he asked:
“So, where did you come from?”
Ronald looked the great writer up-and-down considering if this was a question worthy of a full sentence or just a one-word answer.
“McDonaldland,” he said.
Continues after the jump…