CALLING STEPHEN KING
(yes, I really did!)
The year was 1983.
I was almost 13 years old and already a die-hard Stephen King fan.
That summer, I had just finished reading, "Salem's Lot" and I was hooked. The book was so good and the writing had moved me in such a way that I wanted to talk to the author. I had to tell him that he had inspired me to become a writer as well. I wanted to pour out my young heart and soul to this man whom I felt understood the dark passionate things that lived inside me too. I felt connected to Mr. King in a way I hadn't felt about another writer. It wasn't a crush, it was sheer love and admiration of a man who wrote about the demons and the dark side that were beginning to emerge and blossom in my adolescent soul.
So, I picked up the phone and called him.
Let me tell you how THAT went ...Remember, we are dealing with early 1980's "technology".
I go to the kitchen and get the phone, take it into my room, pulling the cord under my door. I shut my door and lock it.
I get my copy of "Salem's Lot" (hardback of course) and flip to the back of the dust jacket. I know that he lives in Bangor, Maine.
I got my handy-dandy phone book and looked in the front section for area codes by state and region.
Finding the area code for Bangor, Maine (207), I picked up the phone and dialed (literally, rotary dialed) the following number. If you are over 40, you'll recognize it immediately.
Back in the 80's, you could dial any area code plus the "555-1212" and be connected with a live, local operator and ask for a specific phone number. This real person would then look it up and read it back to you. Live. (Really, I'm not making this up.)
I dial Bangor information and wait. The operator answers in her thick New England drawl.
Operator: "Bang-ah infahmation, what listing please?"
Nervously, I say, "Stephen King, please."
Operator: "One moment please.(clicking and whirring noises in background) That numbah is two ah seven...(and oh how I wish I still had the rest of this information...)."
Me: "Thank you."
Operator: "Thank you for calling New England Bell." (Click. Dial tone.)
I place my finger over the handset cradle, resetting the call, and proceed to dial Mr. King's house just like a kid calling her uncle on his birthday. I have no idea what I'm going to say or if I'll even get to speak with him. I'm not nervous, just giddy with excitement.
A man answers on the third ring.
Me: "May I speak with Mister Stephen King please?"
(my parents raised me to have impeccable phone manners)
Me: <shocked silence> "Oh...HI! Um, hi, um, my name is Tammy and I just wanted to call you and tell you I love your books and I want to be a writer just like you."
Stephen King: "Oh, (chuckle) well thank you very much. I'm glad you like my books. (pause) Which one did you like?"
Me: "Salem's Lot. It's soooooooo good! It's really scary and I'm gonna read it again."
Stephen King: "Glad you liked it. So, you want to be a writer?"
(At this point I am THRILLED to be talking with my literary hero and the *famed writer* Stephen King. I am ecstatic. My heart is pounding in my chest, my tongue is doing knots and twists, but I manage to eek out a somewhat cohesive thought in the English language.)
Me: "Oh yes, I love to write and I write all the time and I keep a diary and I do really well in English class at school."
(Floating on air and feeling like I've died and gone to Heaven, I think to myself, "I am ACTUALLY having a conversation with Stephen-Freaking-King"--when I am rudely knocked back down into reality by...)
*POUNDING ON DOOR*
My mom (gawd love her): "Tammy SUE! Is that LONG DISTANCE?"
Stephen King: (background laughter) Um, ya know I should probably let you go now. Ah don't want to get you in trouble. Thanks for calling me though, I appreciate hearing from my fans. Keep writing."
Me: "Okay, um, sorry, it's my mom. It was really awesome talking to you Sir. I will keep writing, I promise. I gotta go. Bye."
Stephen King: "Bye." (Click. Dial tone.)
Me: "Maahhhh aaaamom! That was Stephen King! I'm totally embarrassed."
Mom: "A boy? You called a boy? Who is Stephen King? Was it long-distance?"
Whatever the 1983 version of the *facepalm* was, I did it. It was probably something akin to an eyeball roll combined with an angst-y sigh.
I still couldn't help but smile, even though our talk was brief and cut short by my mom's knocking. From that day forward, I read every Stephen King book that I could get my hands on. I never did call him back and I never told anyone his phone number. I know I wrote about that call many times in my diary but I didn't brag about to my friends. To me, it was something sacred that I wanted to keep to myself and treasure. I cherish that memory but I thought it was time to take it out, dust it off, and share it with the world. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Well. There you have it.
My one claim to literary fame.
I'll never forget that phone call for as long as I live.
And Mister King, if you ever read this, THANK YOU.
I never did stop writing.
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