Dedication * Stephen King * The story of the sheet taster

There are some stories from Stephen King which have the importance of the marital bed in the middle. Like Rose (from Rose Madder) who stares at the single droplet of blood on the white sheet of her bed and decides to leave her abusive husband, this story is centered around a maid who does something unthinkable so that her unborn child does not belong to her abusive husband.

It tells the story of a black house maid working in a hotel and an eccentric alcoholic and racist writer who is a frequent guest there. The maid consumes some of the writer’s semen which was left on his sheets as part of a possible black magic spell, in the hope that it will pass talent and ability along to her unborn son. The story is told, in part, in the past tense.

King states in the introduction to this story that it was the inspiration for his novel Dolores Claiborne and that it was partly written to explore the idea of why such famous and talented people can sometimes be horrible in real life.

I know some of the Stephen King books are pretty out there (I mean Popsy is about a freaking vampire!) – but this one disturbed my logical senses as I know – like most people – that tasting a man’s sperm does not get you pregnant with his child.

This question has been asked by teenagers on Yahoo! Answers for a very long time!

So her visiting the bruja  who gave her the wilted mushroom to eat might have been just the reason why a very strong belief was planted in her. That her boy is destined for great things, like his “natural” father, not like his “biological” father. We see the two fathers at opposite sides of the spectrum. One is intelligent (albeit racist) and his writing is good enough that even the maid, who has read little in her life, feels transported in a new world and keeps reading into the depths of the night. The biological father – shown here as one of those scummy men who look through a woman’s purse to find some more money, who lies when asked about it and likes responding with his fists if the questions multiply, who likes his booze but does not like his work – is shot dead when a pistol blows into his face during a robbery gone wrong.

The maid thinks she has hexed the gun that she found in his pockets by squeezing the bruja’s mushroom on it (and the mushroom bled onto the gun).

I started thinking at this point that maybe Mr. King had tried some mushrooms himself when writing this little story. If you look at it from an objective point – you have a woman who dreams of bettering herself, stuck with a good-for-nothing man and aspiring to carry the child of the well-to-do novelist staying in the hotel where she’s working. She imagines that a bruja  told her that her boy’s natural father is the writer and that the boy will grow up like him, in hopes that he won’t turn out like his biological father. Her fantasy world is expanding and she is probably delusional even as she speaks with her friend, many many years after the event has gone. That her son had become a writer could have had something to do with her dropping hints throughout the boy’s growth and pushing him slightly to take the same path (helicopter parents anyone?) and that his writing was the same as his father can easily be explained by the boy seeing the book when growing up and molding his writing to please his mom. There it is! No-nonse approach to the book.

The superstitious approach would be that indeed the bruja had magical powers and by her eating the sperm it went into the boy she was carrying and magically transformed him into the child she would have had with the author.

“Sometimes you could get rid of the ghosts that were haunting your life if you could only work up enough courage to face them.”


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