They All Float

“Pennywise Office Supply, they all float down here.”

That’s how I was tempted to answer the phone the entire three months I worked as a telephone customer service representative at Pennywise Office Supply when I was twenty. It was a depressing job — think along the lines of The Office, but with less lighting, more mildew, and a lot sketchier neighborhood. Even better were the Saturdays I was required to work ten-to-six, fielding maybe three phone calls the entire day while the warehouse below me loomed vast and dark (they didn’t turn those lights on, despite the fact that it was a solo shift, and no other workers were ever in the labyrinth-like building the long hours I sat there). The only breaks in the monotony were bouts of violence from the packs of junior thugs outside who’d, on occasion, beat the snot out of someone passing by — which only reminded me that I would have to take my chances with them in another few hours, as well.

Like I said, it was a great gig.

All this comes up because on the way back from Hershey Park on Saturday, my brother-in-law played It on the DVD player in his spaceship/car for his three kids — none of whom were impressed. I’d forgotten how bad that movie was. The only redeeming factor was Tim Curry playing Pennywise, but even my favorite line, “They all float down here,” was beaten to death by the end. And the big space turtle, well, we won’t even go there.

There’s something about Stephen King’s stories that just don’t translate well to celluloid. I think it has to do with his style, how he can make the most ridiculous things seem terrifying. But, when someone attempts to translate that imagery to film, it all falls apart. I think his exact words, his exact descriptions are necessary — which, of course, can’t happen when turning a manuscript into a film script. Even my favorite, The Shining wouldn’t have been very good if not for Jack Nicholson’s plastic face and rasping voice. The special effects were marginal, at best, and the essence of the story was mostly lost. This is especially true of Danny’s gift, and his relationship with the caretaker. There was just enough of his Shining mentioned in the movie to enable them to wrap up the ending. The real feel for what his gift was and what it meant to Danny was gone. By the time Hollywood was done with it, there wasn’t much Shine left to it at all.

Still, this reunion with Pennywise left me nostalgic for my teenage years when I plowed through every one of King’s books with a zealot’s fervor. I think I might have to find my old copy of It once more. After all, that’s the book that confirmed my long-held belief that clowns are seriously messed up.

As for Pennywise the office supply store, I don’t know of its fate. Maybe the entire building finally succumbed to dampness and gravity. Maybe Staples ran them out of business. Or, maybe there’s an unfortunate twenty year-old sitting in my former desk right now, suppressing with every shrill ring of the phone the urge to pick up and say, “Pennywise Office Supply, they all float down here.”

About Avery

I am a roller derbying, dark fantasy author. This blog chronicles my adventures in life, writing and skating. View all posts by Avery

13 responses to “They All Float

  • avery

    Stewart, I couldn’t even begin to tell you what it is about Pennywise, but I still steer clear of storm drains.Karen, it always happens when you’re doomed to answer the phone in a repetitive fashion. In another of my wondrous jobs, my supervisor was told, “Thank you,” by a customer and she replied, “Your problem,” instead of “No problem,” or “You’re welcome.”Sqt — Any sane kid knows clowns are creepy, anyway. That was just proof!Christina — Tagged, huh? I’ll see what I can do to accommodate

  • Christina

    I’m playing a tag game and I tagged you. I think we played this before and one or two of my answers might still be the same.

  • SQT

    Stu, I can’t say. Something about the image of a clown that preys on children is just chilling. I think it brings a lot of us back to childhood and our fear of monsters.

  • Karen

    It’s the way he weaves the horror in with the normal the same as the the worst nightmares do. You’ve reminded me of a freudian slip I made on a temp job I had I said Can you help me? instead of Can I help you!

  • Stewart Sternberg

    I’ve never understood the fascination that people under the age of forty have with Pennywise. I never read the novel, I had grown disenchanted with King by the time it was published, and the made for TV show didn’t do anything for me. But is astonishing how many people I know who will tell me how much it affected them.

  • avery

    Steve — Tim Curry is the only reason I watch the damn thing. I’ve even watched “The Worst Witch” several times just to see him sing about Halloween. Someone must have dropped me at some point during my infancy (or sneaked me into a midnight Rocky Horror screening).

  • avery

    Jay — Aw, let it go and come play in the muck. Filth is fun.Spy — I veered away from him for a while, too. I don’t know if I’d just reached my saturation point, or what, but I have all of his newer works sitting on my shelf, staring at me, waiting to be read. I can’t seem to not buy them.

  • spyscribbler

    I loved horror in high school, too. I have no idea why I stopped reading it as much. I think it was the realization of my mortality or something.

  • Jay

    I’ve never read any of them, it’s part of my whole snob persona.

  • Steve Malley

    IT is totally one of my comfort movies when I’m sidelined. Everyone but Tim Curry is godawful. The ‘special effects’ are, well, cheap. And you can just about hear John Ritter and the rest die a little bit inside as they’re forced to say some of the worst lines ever.And yet I love it so…

  • avery

    “Needful Things,” that’s the book I took with me to college as a security blanket. I think it sat on the little shelf/headboard of my bed for the entirety of the first semester. I’m also partial to “Insomnia,” and “The Stand.” Shamefully enough, I’ve never read any of The Dark Tower, yet.You know, Sqt, I really wanted to answer the phone like that, I was in my first apartment and terrified I’d have to move back home, so I played by the book so I could keep my crappy seven dollar an hour job. At the time I didn’t comprehend the fact that crappy, minimum wage, trained monkey jobs were a dime a dozen.

  • SQT

    OMG! That is so funny! You should’ve answered the phone like that, just once, to see how the caller would react. I agree with Charles on Stephen King’s endings. That’s always been my main complaint with King. I tore through books like “The Tommyknockers” and “IT” only to feel a little let down at the end. I remember liking “Needful Things” so that ending must’ve been better.

  • Charles Gramlich

    I just started reading King’s “Cell” and am finding it pretty good so far. His problem is finding endings, it seems to me. We’ll see.

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