Today, when I woke up this morning, I saw something that scared me quite badly.
I haven't been scared in quite some time … not even when Bobby McFadden and his redneck football buddies got liquored up and wrote DEATH TO NIGGERS across the windshield of my Honda. They'd been leaving hateful, threatening notes in my mailbox for quite some time. Usually they were short and sweet, done in a scrawling handwriting reminiscent of a small child's. Some of the colorful phrases were YOUR MOTHER SUCKS COCK ON FORTY-SECOND STREET and DERRY HATES NIGGERS, YES IT'S TRUE, WE'RE GONNA BEAT YOUR BLACK ASS TILL IT'S BLACK AND BLUE!
Why Bobby (Henry) chooses to pick on an eighty-five year-old man who hasn't done jack shit to him is beyond me. I've spent many a sleepless night wondering this. He and his shitkicking friends Marc and Percy (Belch and Victor) are walking, talking, snuff-chewing proof that racism is alive and well. Funny, considering as a youngster I'd always believed it would just 'go away' when I grew up. Schools and restaurants can be unsegregated, but you can't force a man to change the way he feels.
Like how I can't force myself to stop being so goddamn afraid.
There were a bunch of balloons tied around the post of my mailbox; big, shiny balloons, all colors, bobbing listlessly against the early morning breeze. My eyes are nothing like they used to be; to be blunt I'm blinder than a bat stuck in a mineshaft at midnight, but I could see and read the words written on the sides of the balloons quite clearly.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MIKEY! WHEN ARE YOU GONNA KEEL OVER, YOU OLD FART?
At first I told myself it was just another, had to be another message from the McFadden crew, until I read the other part of it.
HUGS, KISSES, BEST OF WISHES, YOUR CHUM PENNYWISE THE CLOWN.
That couldn't be what it said.
All at once, a wave of memories came flooding back, none of them good. I remembered hiding in a smokestack at the remains of the Kitchener Ironworks, throwing moldy bits of tile at (Rodan) some sort of bird. I remembered being chased down by the thuggish Bowers brigade and humiliated. I felt sick, and out of nowhere, I started to cry. Through tears I glanced at a pudgy figure clad in a stained wife-beater and dirty slacks standing on the edge of the road. Big red pompom buttons ran down the front of his shirt, all the way down to the pee-stained crotch of his pants. The man, whom I did not recognize at first as the late Butch Bowers, grinned at me through a pair of clenched and steadily-eroding teeth. He waggled his sausage-like fingers at me, almost like we were old lovers, and threw his head back in a fit of laughter.
He came to a sputtering, breathless stop, looked back over at me, and winked, slyly.
"How ya doing, Mikey?" the apparition inquired, half-croaking and half-slurring. "I ain't seen you in a coon's age! You know, you're pretty old. Might drop dead any day now, hell, maybe any minute! So why don't you just come with me, so you can get it over with and float! You can finally float, Mikey. Your friends are still down there. They're waiting for you … for you to come float with them."
"I wouldn't come with you, ya ole bugger, not even for a looksee of yer momma's twat!" I burst out, in a near-flawless imitation of Richie's Irish Cop voice. As the word twat escaped my mouth, my next-door neighbor, Rosie Drakerson, glanced over at me. Rosie was a kind soul; about forty year younger than I. She would check on me from time to time to make sure I was okay, that my ticker was still ticking, bake and bring me pies even though I was a Type 2 diabetic. She was out tending her azaleas, and she had been watering them when I yelled out an obscenity straight from the mind of Richie 'Trashmouth' Tozier.
Butch seemed a bit unfazed. He lowered his face, and mumbled something under his breath. I heard him say, "If you don't get out of town, you will float, I promise you that. I dropped by to wish you a happy birthday, and to give you a warning … Get out of Derry, Mikey."
Butch glared at me. Only it wasn't the frenzied mug of that nut Bowers. It was George Denbrough. George Denbrough, Stuttering Bill's little brother, who had been found lying near a storm drain, choking on murky brown rainwater, with a stub of bone poking out of the stump where his right arm had once been.
His face, horribly pale and out of place on Butch's body, dripped with mud. Bits of leaves and mud clung wetly in his hair. His eyes were nothing more than ragged black sockets.
George smiled at me. I went inside and locked my door. I haven't been out since.
There's a storm coming, and I can't stop it. The Losers, they've all passed on. And me, well, I'm too goddamn old to be out hunting for monsters. I pray to God that there's somebody out there who can stop It … some other gang of Losers? I hope.
Only time will tell. And if my hunches are right, Derry doesn't have much time left at all.