Richie and Ben end up in the same cab that Bill took to town. The cabbie, Dave, is silent with them, whereas he was chatty with Bill. Ben walks up Kansas Street, but to nowhere in particular. He vaguely recalls his silver dollar and how Beverly saved their lives with it. He looks down and thinks that he sees a turtle, but it is only a hopscotch grid, half-erased by the rain. He recalls the word Chüd but cannot remember what it means. Ben then goes to stand in front of the Derry Public Library, which has not changed. Nothing much has changed in general on Costello Avenue. The market where he bought candy as a boy is still there.
Ben remembers the silver dollar, but he cannot yet remember how Beverly was able to save them on Neibolt Street with it. The image of the turtle appears to him as a reminder that he possesses the tools to his own salvation; he merely needs to access them. Ben returns to the library, which is the place where he was happiest in Derry and where he learned about Chüd.
Ben walks into the library and feels momentarily disoriented, as though he no longer knows how old he is. He passes the Children’s Library and overhears a young woman—much younger than Mrs. Davies was the last time he heard it—reading “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” and he marvels at the coincidence. He looks at the checkout desk and sees a notice for the 7:00 PM curfew, which is also familiar to him from childhood. It becomes clear to him that there is no turning back and there never was.
When Ben steps back into the library, he realizes that nothing has really changed. The same fears and dangers that existed for him in 1958 continue to exist in 1985. The only difference is the reversal of numbers in the years. King may have done this to indicate two sides of the same coin—the childhood fears mirror those of the adults.
A young woman approaches Ben from behind the circulation desk and asks if she can help him. He recognizes her as a library assistant, like the ones he had seen in 1958. The fact that the girl is braless under a Western-style shirt is more of a relief than a turn-on, for it reminds him that he is, indeed, in 1985 and not 1958. Ben then asks if she has seen his son, whose name is Ben Hanscom. She says that he has not but will give him Ben’s message to let him know that his “dad popped by on his way home.” The library assistant looks at him with some suspicion. Indeed, nine children have been killed over the course of eight months, and it’s suspicious to see an adult in the Children’s library unless they are dropping off or picking up children. Ben then turns and goes to the adults’ library.
Ben uses the visual cues around him to try to remind himself that he is still an adult and that he has not reverted back in time. To convince himself that he is no longer the obese eleven-year-old boy who once stepped into this library, he pretends that he is not Ben Hanscom, but that Ben is his son instead. The young woman seems unconvinced and, with the air of suspicion that pervades the town, she wonders if Ben might be the one who is killing Derry’s children.
The name on the plate at the circulation desk is Carole Danner. On a door behind her is Mike Hanlon’s name on a door with a frosted-glass panel. She comes over and asks Ben if he needs any help. He says that he would like to get a library card. He gives his address in Nebraska. Ben explains that he wants the card for sentimental reasons. Carole thinks this is “sweet” and says that, if he would like to browse around, the card will be ready in about fifteen minutes. She asks if he had a card when he was a boy. He notes that the library card was the most important thing to him other than his friends. In mid-sentence, however, he is interrupted by the sound of a voice, calling to him.
Other than hanging around in the Barrens with the Losers’ Club, the Derry Public Library was the only other space in which Ben felt safe and welcome. As though to spoil that memory, a voice appears—almost on cue—to disrupt Ben’s sentimental moment. Without Mike present, Ben will be forced to confront the voice on his own. Carole does not hear what Ben hears, just as Rose did not see the blood on the tablecloth in the restaurant.
The voice asks Ben to come up the stairs. Carole Danner looks at him and asks if anything is wrong. The voice again calls to him to come up the stairs. It is Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Ben thinks that he is not going to go upstairs. When he goes to Pennywise, it will be to kill him. The clown reads his thoughts and says that Ben is too old and that he and the others should just leave town. The clown then disappears and Dracula, with teeth like razors, has taken his place. Ben holds in his breath, sure that he will scream.
Ben insists on resisting the call from the voice, which belongs to the clown. He tries his best to ignore the clown, but thinking about It still allows It into the imagination. The clown tries to convince Ben that adulthood has rendered him too weak to defeat It, because he will be more cautious and less likely to believe in his ability to defeat a monster.
An old man in a driving cap is looking at a book of sketches and suddenly calls out, “Nonsense!” He repeats it and Ms. Danner prompts the old man, whose name is Mr. Brockhill, to be quiet. Ben, for a moment, thinks that he was the one who screamed out. Ms. Danner then goes to Ben and asks if he is all right; he looks ill. She invites him to lie down on a cot in Mike Hanlon’s office, but he declines.
The man exclaims as though he were able to read Ben’s mind. Indeed, the sights of an evil clown and Dracula are non-sensical, as is the fact that Ben has returned to town to try to defeat a monster that has haunted him from the age of eleven.
Mr. Brockhill exclaims again, in relation to the book that he is reading, something about how a “bullet would tumble.” Suddenly, Ben recalls how he and his friends made slugs—that is, crude metal projectiles—not bullets, since they knew that they would not be able to make bullets. At the desk, Carole Danner hands him a small orange card. Ben realizes that it is the first adult library-card that he has ever owned. When Ms. Danner again asks if he would like to lie down, Ben assures her that he feels better. He then asks if she knows what happened to Mrs. Starrett. Ms. Danner says that Mrs. Starrett died of a stroke three years ago, at the age of fifty-eight or fifty-nine. Mike closed the library for a day in recognition. Ben is surprised to feel that he would like to cry. He then looks up at the landing and sees a balloon. On its side, a message is printed: “I KILLED BARBARA STARRETT! –PENNYWISE THE CLOWN.”
Recalling the memory of how the Losers’ Club sent It away the first time makes Ben feel better—or more at ease than he was when Pennywise first appeared. However, the knowledge of Mrs. Starrett’s death gives It a new tool that It uses to taunt Ben. Ben feels that he would like to cry when Ms. Danner tells him the news because Mrs. Starrett, like his teacher Mrs. Douglas, appreciated Ben for who he was and made him feel welcome in the library. These women served as surrogate mothers for Ben, for Arlene’s anxieties meant that Ben could only please her if he ate to the point of putting himself in poor health.
Ben then sees the book that he withdrew from the library on the day of his fight with Henry Bowers: Bulldozer by Stephen W. Meader. He sees his name amidst the list of boys who have borrowed the book. Stamped across the card is the message: “CANCEL.” It is written in “smeary red ink” that looks like blood. Ben recoils and wonders what is happening to the others.
“Cancel” in this instance is a sign that Ben’s life will soon end. The other names on the card are not mentioned, but one can deduce that they, too, were killed. Only boys have borrowed the book, suggesting that a taste for gory entertainment may be gendered, at least in King’s view.
Eddie gets off the bus at the corner of Kansas Street and Kossuth Lane. Beverly has already climbed off the bus near Lower Main Street, and Mike drives his car back to the library. Eddie wonders in which direction he should go. As a boy, he liked to walk past Sally Mueller and Greta Bowie’s houses on West Broadway. Once, while on his strolls back then, he sees Greta drinking lemonade and playing croquet and thinks of how pretty she is. He notices her shining blond hair and falls a little bit in love with her that day. Eddie timidly raises his hand to wave “hello,” but she doesn’t return the gesture. Eddie is not bothered. He sees no reason why a beautiful, rich girl like Greta would want to be around a “thin-chested, asthmatic” boy with “the face of a drowned water-rat.”
Eddie has learned some of his snobbery from his mother. Sonia looks down on some people, as she will later look down on Mike and Beverly, and up to others, such as rich people who eat lobster regularly for dinner. Eddie does not look down on others, but he thinks that Greta is better than he is because she lives on an exclusive street and comes from one of Derry’s best-known families. Like Ben, he has a growing sense of his inadequate masculinity, knowing that he is not handsome or athletic enough to get Greta’s attention.
While Eddie is walking, he thinks that he should have gone to the Tracker Brothers’ place on West Broadway, and is surprised to find himself standing in front of their truck depot, which is still there. The depot is nothing like the beautifully neat house which the brothers maintained on West Broadway, so neat that Sonia Kaspbrak was sure that they were gay, for “two men who [bothered] keeping a house so nice must be queers." Now, the windows of the low brick building are almost all dirty except for a small circular place on one of the lower panes. This place was once kept clean, so that boys could spy the Playboy calendar over the desk. The brothers kept their trucks at the back of the building, away from the lot, because they liked that the local kids used the space to play baseball. Eddie never played; his mother would have killed him if he tried.
The Tracker Brothers—lifelong bachelors whose tastes and lifestyle choice convinced Sonia that they were gay—seemed to inhabit two worlds. Their home was neat and decorous and suggested a refinement that would have been regarded as “feminine” in the context of the 1950s. Meanwhile, their depot was a very masculine space in which the men not only ran their business but also encouraged local boys to use the back lot for sports. It is never clear if Sonia was right about them or not, but certainly, the brothers did not conform to the decade’s expectations for how men of their age should live.
Getting closer, Eddie sees a “For Sale” sign in the window of the truck depot. For Eddie, it suddenly feels as though someone has died. He wonders if Tony Tracker, the brother who managed the accounts and who was overweight, had a heart attack. The lot has not changed much, however. The boys back then had no actual bases, just pieces of canvas. Weeds have grown through the gravel and broken bottles are littered about. During his time watching games in the lot as a boy, he only twice saw a ball go over the fence at the back of the lot. Both of them were hit by the same kid: “Belch” Huggins.
The “For Sale” sign reminds Eddie that this memory from his childhood is just that, and the depot no longer exists. Its owners, if they are still alive, would probably be too old now to manage the business. Despite the litter and weeds, the lot looks as it did in his memory, which gives Eddie enough sensory material to recall the games that he saw the other boys play back in 1958.
Eddie remembers that “Belch” Huggins was big—abnormally so for his age—but not really fat. At twelve, he is clumsy, mean, and rather slow. One day, when a ball hits him on the head, a kid named Owen Phillips laughs at the bonking sound it makes. “Belch” walks over to Phillips and kicks his ass so hard that the kid runs home with a hole in the seat of his pants. Eddie thinks that if Richie were there, he would not have been able to keep himself from saying something and “Belch” probably would have put him in the hospital.
Like Ben, Belch is large for his age, and like Henry Bowers, he uses his size, which is clearly a point of insecurity, to frighten and dominate other children. When Owen pokes fun at Belch, he reminds Belch of his physical awkwardness, a point of sensitivity, which is why Belch beats the smaller boy up.
Eddie, lost in his memories, walks from the place where home base had been and walks “into shortstop country.” He goes to the chain-link fence, which sweeps toward the Barrens. The Barrens look “more jungle-like than ever.” He thinks of how he spent the happiest moments of his childhood down there. As he turns away, he sees “a cement cylinder with a heavy steel cap on the top.” Ben used to call them Morlock holes. He suddenly remembers that this is where they went one August—down into the sewers, which were not sewers after a while. He struggles to remember what they became. He remembers seeing Patrick Hocksetter down there. Beverly said that Patrick had done something bad and It took him. Eddie can only remember that it was something to do with Henry Bowers. Eddie then turns away, not wanting to look at the Barrens anymore.
The chain-link fence separates the back lot, which is where the athletes and other kids who fit in hung out and played together, from the Barrens, which is where the Losers’ Club played together. The fence is a metaphorical barrier between the social outcasts and the children who did not accept them. The Barrens is also the entry point into the sewers, which lead to It. Eddie cannot remember how he led the others through the sewers’ circuitous system and toward Its lair, but he knows that the Barrens is both the place where he played as a child and the gateway to his pain.
Suddenly, Eddie hears a voice: “Catch, kid!” He turns toward the voice and a ball comes over the fence toward him. Eddie surprises himself by catching the spherical object, which is not a baseball but something that had once been a baseball and is now a round thing wrapped in string. The string trails away and goes into the Barrens. Eddie thinks, in panic, that It is here with him now. There is a voice on the other side of the fence, which Eddie recognizes as that of “Belch” Huggins. He remembers how Huggins was murdered in the tunnels under Derry in August 1958.
Ironically, this is the first instance in which anyone has ever offered to include Eddie in a game. It uses Eddie’s wistful memory of watching games in the back lot, as well as his memory of being terrorized by “Belch” Huggins, to frighten Eddie out of his purpose of defeating It. The sight of It in the form of Belch, however, helps Eddie remember what happened to the boy.
“Belch” Huggins struggles up over the bank. He is wearing a pinstriped New York Yankees baseball uniform. He says that the ball that he just pitched to Eddie “would have been out of Yankee Stadium.” He then offers to perform oral sex on Eddie. Belch’s face then changes. His “jellylike bulb” of a nose caves in and reveals “two red channels,” like those that Eddie has seen in his dreams. His hair coarsens, draws back from his temples, and turns white. Also, the rotting skin on his forehead pulls open to release a “mucusy [sic] substance.” Belch is gone and Eddie is reunited with the leprous bum from under the porch on 29 Neibolt Street.
The presence of Belch is disarming; he is friendly to Eddie, which was not the case when Eddie knew the real Belch back in 1958. Belch’s offer of oral sex before turning into the hobo is suggestive of latent homosexuality or bisexuality in Eddie. He was afraid of Belch growing up, but he also wanted Belch to notice him. This detail, along with Eddie’s sacrificial love for Bill, his unromantic marriage to Myra, and Bill’s comparison of Eddie to Anthony Perkins, is perhaps suggestive.
Eddie tries to scream and throws down the object that used to be a baseball. He steps back while the leper reaches the top of the fence. Suddenly, the leper’s tongue unfurls to four feet long. Then, the leper pops out of view. Eddie turns and begins to run, but then he sees four stiff shapes come from the shadows “under the loading bay of the abandoned brick depot.” They whirl and twirl in the still air. He ducks to avoid them. He runs past home plate then hears the phantom whack of a bat hitting a ball.
The phantom shapes mirror those that Stan once saw while walking alone in the Standpipe. The four shapes are probably those of Belch, Victor Criss, Patrick Hocksetter, and perhaps Greta Bowie—the girl he could not get to notice him. Eddie has recently been thinking of all of them, and they are all dead.
Eddie stops and feels the earth begin to shift. Second base goes flying into the air. Home plate goes flying as well. Then, he hears the voice of Tony Tracker, promising to get Eddie and his friends. Eddie shrieks and shrinks away. When he turns, he sees Greta Bowie. She is dead and half of her face has been eaten away by maggots. She holds a green balloon in one hand. She says that she died in a car crash at eighteen due to being “drunk and done up on reds.” Eddie backs away and sees, just beyond her, Patrick Hocksetter. Patrick, too, is wearing the Yankees uniform. Now, Eddie is completely horrified and runs. Greta clutches at him, tearing his shirt and spilling awful liquid down his collar. He sees the message on the side of the balloon: “ASTHMA MEDICINE CAUSES LUNG CANCER! COMPLIMENTS OF CENTER STREET DRUG.”
Eddie is revisited by all of the voices that were familiar to him in childhood. Tony’s voice becomes hostile, which is another of Its tricks to get Eddie to think that the forces of evil and hostility in the town outweigh his resolve. King uses the anecdote about Greta, as he will later use one about Lars Theramenius, to explore how teenagers from Eddie’s generation frequently died in accidents resulting from drug and/or alcohol abuse. Eddie’s source of dependency is his aspirator. The balloon’s message reminds Eddie of his unhealthy emotional attachment to the aspirator, and alludes to his conversation about it with Mr. Keene.
Eddie runs and ends up in McCarron Park, where he collapses “in a dead faint.” The kids nearby steer clear of him because he looks like an alcoholic or someone with a strange disease. It is also possible that he is the killer everyone has been talking about. The kids think about reporting him to the police, but ultimately decide not to.
Ironically, the local children mistake Eddie for the very thing that he fears—the leprous hobo. In their imagination, Eddie becomes the thing that he finds most repulsive.
Beverly walks down Main Street from the Derry Town House, where she is staying. She thinks that her father may still be living in Derry. She last heard from him ten years ago, long before she married Tom Rogan. He sent her a postcard with the town’s hideous plastic statue of Paul Bunyan. In the card, he writes to ask her for money. Beverly feels that her father did love her and that he was the reason why she had fallen in love with Bill in the summer of 1958—he had projected the same sense of authority as her father. She was, indeed, madly in love with Bill “by the end of their first meeting as a complete group in July of that year, that meeting of which Bill had taken such complete and effortless charge.” She wanted to believe that Bill sent her the love poem, though she knew it was Ben Hanscom.
Beverly desires a strong, authoritative male figure in her life. She chooses the abusive form of that figure when she marries Tom in an effort to use him as a substitute for obtaining her father’s approval. Bill represents the kinder and more loving form of male authority that Beverly craves. She wanted to believe that Bill loved her as much as she loved him because she wanted Bill to take care of her. Knowing Bill, however, has at least helped Beverly understand that masculine strength and abusive behavior do not have to be tied together.
Beverly thinks that she remembers Ben saying that he wrote the poem. She also thinks that she remembers telling Bill that she loved him. She realizes, with sudden shock, that she is standing in front of the Kleen-Kloze Washateria, where she, Stanley, Ben, and Eddie took the blood-stained rags that day in June. She walks around her neighborhood and realizes that it has not changed much. When she stands in front of her former home, she thinks about going up and ringing the bell. She thinks that her father might still be there, that she might hear the familiar sound of the shuffle of his slippers. She walks slowly up the path, which has weeds growing up between the concrete sections. She looks closely at the first-floor windows, which are curtained. Then, she looks at the mailboxes. The name “Marsh” is, indeed, still there.
Beverly recalls the love triangle from her childhood. However, there is no conflict between Ben and Bill over Beverly, for the love among the group overrides petty jealousies. Like Eddie, Beverly walks to significant places from the summer of 1958 as though she were sleepwalking. Like Ben, she sees that her own neighborhood on Lower Main Street has not changed much. The sounds from her childhood, such as the shuffling her father’s slippers, come back to her.
Beverly rings the bell twice. She hears someone approaching and the sound is just as she imagined: the whisper of old slippers coming across the floor. When the door opens, she is surprised not to see her father but “a tall woman in her late seventies.” Her hair is mostly white, but long and gorgeous with flecks of gold. Her eyes are blue. Her wrinkled purple dress, made from watered silk, is shabby “but still dignified.” Her wrinkled face seems kind. The woman tells her that Al Marsh has been dead for five years. Beverly looks again at the mailboxes and sees the name “Kersh” instead of “Marsh.” Mrs. Kersh mentions that she knew Al Marsh, who later moved down to Roward Lane. She used to see him at the Washateria, before it closed, or at the Costello Avenue Market. Mrs. Kersh worries about Beverly’s pale appearance, so she insists on getting her a cup of tea.
Beverly feels disoriented because the mailbox carries her own name, not that of Mrs. Kersh. She begins to doubt her own senses. However, the sight of the gentle-looking old woman puts Beverly at ease. The blue of the old woman’s eyes is reminiscent of the blue eyes that George Denbrough saw in the face of the creature under the sewer. For him, Its eyes put him at ease because they reminded him of his mother. Mrs. Kersh’s memories of Beverly’s father indicate that Mrs. Kersh is someone who shares something in common with Beverly, which tricks Beverly into thinking that the old woman is safe.
Mrs. Kersh says that she came to the U.S. in 1920 from Sweden at the age of fourteen. She worked in a hospital for many years before becoming the head housekeeper. Her husband invested their money well, allowing her to live in modest comfort in her later years. She invites Beverly to look around her old apartment while the tea boils. When Beverly is in the bathroom, leaning over the sink and waiting for the voices to come, Mrs. Kersh calls her in to have her tea. Mrs. Kersh passes Beverly a cup of tea, which appears muddy. She compliments how Mrs. Kersh has decorated the apartment, particularly the cedar chest. Mrs. Kersh declares it an antique and smiles, revealing yellow teeth with canines that look “almost like tusks.” Beverly thinks that the teeth were white when she met Mrs. Kersh at her door.
Beverly remembers the voices from the drain of the bathroom sink, but does not hear them now because It knows that she would expect to hear them. The expectation would no longer make the voices as scary as they once were to her. Instead, It uses Beverly’s sense of disorientation—her anticipation and dread at the prospect of seeing her father—to find a new way of frightening her. The gentle old woman, for instance, turns into a predatory-looking creature, indicating that Beverly is not as safe with her as she thought.
Suddenly, Beverly is frightened and wants to leave Mrs. Kersh’s apartment. Mrs. Kersh goes on talking, sounding very much like Yoda in Star Wars. She asks if Beverly notices the R.G. carved into the chest. As she talks about her father, Robert Gray, also known as Bob Gray and better known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, her dress changes and becomes “a scabrous, peeling black.” She talks about her father, which she pronounces fadder, then offers Beverly something to eat. Mrs. Kersh’s voice has risen an octave, and some of her teeth turn as black as her dress. Her claws scrape the plates where she has put out cookies and cake. Her breath is the smell of dead things burst wide-open.
Mrs. Kersh is turning into a witch. This is indicated by her change in dress and her higher voices, which we are to imagine as a cackle. Her origin story, too, changes from that of a thrifty Swedish immigrant to that of the daughter of the terrorizing clown, whose origins are unknown. Her breath smells like the sewer where It dwells, and with her claws, the old woman turns into a creature that seems only partly human.
Mrs. Kersh goes on to say that she loved her father, who gave birth to her by defecating her out. Beverly looks down into her tea cup and realizes that there is no tea in her cup, but instead liquid feces. The old woman shrinks before her eyes to become “a crone with an apple-doll’s face.” Suddenly, the furniture in the room turns to treats. The dining room table is not dark oak but fudge. The tea cups are “carefully looped with blue-dyed frosting.” Mrs. Kersh, who has transformed into a witch, tells Beverly that “[they] are all waiting for her.” Beverly thinks that the old woman is the witch from “Hansel and Gretel”—the story that scared her so much when she was little.
Fairy tales play an important role in the novel in contributing to the children’s memory of terror. Details from the stories, which both frighten and entertain, are excellent fodder for It, who uses them to terrorize Beverly’s imagination and to disrupt her sense of domestic comfort. The “they” who are waiting for Beverly are all of the dead children whose voices Beverly heard in the bathroom sink drain when she was little.
Suddenly, the witch transforms into Beverly’s father, Al Marsh. Her father staggers toward her and his face hangs “with doughy, running flesh,” his eyes “as black as obsidian.” The image of her father tells her that he beat her because he wanted to rape her. She looks away and back again to see that her father is now wearing a clown suit and a coonskin cap, like the one worn by Davy Crockett. He is doing a mad “shuck-and-jive.” Beverly runs into the street and the clown claws at her. She realizes then that it is real, and can kill her as it has killed all of the children.
It can kill Beverly because she still believes in It, and this gives It power over her imagination. Beverly has also failed to deal with her childhood anxieties, particularly her awareness of her father’s incestuous desire for her. It taps into the awareness that she has repressed.
The clown disappears. The house, Beverly notices, is crumbling and deserted. She wonders if she was really in there. She looks down to see that her jeans are dirty and her yellow blouse is smeared with dust. Something brushes against her calf, like a cat’s paw. It is a balloon, as yellow as her blouse, with a message written in electric blue: THAT'S WIGHT, WABBIT. She watches it bounce lightly in “the pleasant late-spring breeze.”
The message on the balloon is a play on the voice of Elmer Fudd. It also uses the television shows that the children once watched to mock and terrorize them. These forms of entertainment allowed Beverly and others, such as Eddie Corcoran, a temporary reprieve from a violent household.
Richie is walking along Outer Canal Street, past Bassey Park. He has been walking aimlessly since the end of lunch. He thinks that maybe the group had a hallucination about the fortune cookies—the waitress’s obliviousness to what they saw seems like proof of this. His eyes begin to burn, and Richie remembers the smoke that he and Mike once endured. He takes a step closer to the Paul Bunyan statue. He remembers how the school art teacher had written a letter, saying that, if the “monstrosity” went up, she would blow it up herself. Richie Tozier was one of the kids to attend the ceremony when the statue made its debut. He had been delighted by it.
Richie’s sense of humor and fondness for schlock films means he has what his art teacher considered poor taste. Richie’s fear, which It will exploit, is an inability to rely on his sight. He convinces himself that the incident with the fortune cookie was a hallucination, though all of his friends had the same experience. He thinks, however, that only the waitress can be objective, because she is not haunted by the fear and memory of It.
Richie remembers, too, an instance in which he raised the ire of Henry Bowers by laughing at him after the hulking bully slipped in a puddle and landed on his behind. For making fun of him and drawing the laughter of his classmates, Henry vows to get Richie later and does. In case Richie wants to leave by the kindergarten entrance, Henry has planted “Belch” Huggins there as a lookout. Richie sees “Belch” Huggins first and walks quickly off the playground and down Charter Street. He goes into a department store where Henry Bowers, “Belch” Huggins, and Victor Criss find him. A store clerk yells at them as the bullies rush to catch Richie at the emergency exit. Richie escapes and finishes up nearly a mile from Freese’s.
Richie remembers an instance in which he got the best of his bullies. The chase scene is somewhat comedic and resembles something out of a cartoon, in which the smaller and more vulnerable underdog gets the best of his much larger and more physically capable enemies. Richie’s wit and his inability to take Henry and the others too seriously save him from the serious abuse that Ben and Eddie endure from the three bullies.
As Richie Tozier continues walking, he sees the City Center marquee. He remembers how, in March 1958, the marquee advertised an upcoming rock-and-roll show that Richie wanted to attend. His mother hates rock-and-roll and believes it is a passing fad, while his father is neutral on the subject. Richie’s eyes drift from the marquee and he thinks that he has fallen asleep. When he awakes, or is dreaming, he sees a new rock show being advertised on the City Center’s marquee. When he looks up at the statue of Paul Bunyan, the statue is grinning at him but the smell of rotting animals drifts between its yellow teeth.
Rock-and-roll caused yet another divide between Richie and his mother, who also disliked Richie’s crude sense of humor. Ironically, Richie builds a successful career out of the things that his mother most disliked about him. Richie is so disoriented about what is real and what isn’t that he isn’t certain if he is dreaming when he sees the statue grinning at him. The smell of rotting animals resembles the smell of dead things from Mrs. Kersh’s house.
The statue of Paul Bunyan speaks to Richie, saying it is going to eat him up. It says that when Richie wakes up, he will wake up in hell. Richie realizes that he is not dreaming at all. He tries to scream but no sound comes out. The blade of the ax strikes the bench where Richie was only a few moments before. Richie ends up on his back but pushes himself up with his heels. He rolls over onto his stomach and staggers to his feet. Paul Bunyan comes to life and comes off of his pedestal. The statue then buries its axe “haft-deep in the sidewalk inches behind his feet.” Suddenly, Richie begins to laugh and, when he does, he sees the statue back on its usual on the pedestal—"axe on its shoulder, head cocked toward the sky, lips parted in the eternal optimistic grin of the myth-hero.”
As long as Richie believes that the statue can cause him harm, it is able to chase Richie around with its axe. However, when Richie laughs, as though acknowledging the absurdity of a statue attacking him, Paul Bunyan goes back to being a statue. The scenario is even more absurd because Paul Bunyan is a folk hero with no basis in reality. The image of Bunyan, which is supposed to represent the ideals of self-reliance and rewards through hard work, is too far removed from Richie’s memory of the sewer-dwelling monster to be compatible with real evil.
Richie lingers for a while longer, wondering if the statue will move again. Richie figures that he can believe in monsters. After all, he has read plenty of news copy about Idi Amin and Jim Jones. But, the thought of a thirty-foot statue with an axe coming after him is too much. His eyes are beginning to burn again, and this triggers the memory of seeing a movie called The Crawling Eye. Though other kids laughed themselves into hysterics over the movie, it is the only horror film that has ever scared Richie. He remembers a dream of looking at himself in a mirror, taking a pin and sticking it into the black of his iris, “and feeling a numb, watery springiness as the bottom of his eye filled up with blood.” He remembers waking from the dream and discovering that he had wet the bed.
The image of Paul Bunyan coming to life is too absurd to frighten Richie, but not the repugnant image of the crawling eye from the movie of the same name. The other children who viewed the movie with Richie found it absurd because an eye cannot animate itself, just as Richie knows that Paul Bunyan cannot come to life. However, Richie’s fear of going blind overrides his good sense. He is so scared of the possibility, which he thinks he could also somehow cause himself, that he wets the bed, despite being too old for such an incident.
Richie starts to get up and decides that he will go back to the Derry Town House and take a nap. As he rises, his eyes go back to the marquee at City Center. He sees his name as part of an advertisement for the “All-Dead” Rock Show. Richie, too, is one of the dead. He feels as though someone has taken all of the breath out of him. He looks up again at the Paul Bunyan statue to find that it is not the folk hero but a clown. The clown’s eyes widen, and, in those black pupils, Richie sees a darkness like “the mad darkness that must exist over the rim of the universe.” Richie runs and the clown’s voice thunders after him. A father and his toddler son are nearby. The father does not hear the clown’s booming voice but the toddler does and begins to cry.
The toddler hears the voice of the clown because only children have the ability to dispense with reality and imagine the terrors that adults find absurd. In this instance, Richie and the toddler have identical sensibilities. The statue of Paul Bunyan does not scare Richie, but the clown does, due to his awareness of Pennywise and what he did to George Denbrough and so many others. The blackness in Its pupils hints at its ancient supernatural origins.
Reaching the sidewalk, Richie dares to look back again. Both Paul Bunyan and the clown are gone. Now, there is a twenty-foot high statue of Buddy Holly. Its spectacles are taped in the middle, just as Richie’s were when he was a boy. Richie thinks about how badly he wants a drink—the Scotch he is going to have before taking a nap. A pretty young girl is walking ahead of him and turns around to ask if he is all right. He blames his contact lenses for causing him pain and nearly jabs himself in the eyes with his forefingers. In the back of his head, he thinks he can hear the clown laughing.
The clown then transforms into the image of one of Richie’s childhood rock heroes, with whom Richie probably identified due to both of them wearing thick spectacles. The pretty young girl sets off Richie’s social anxiety about wearing glasses, and his fear that they make him less attractive. In response to that fear, he nearly succumbs to his greater fear of blinding himself.
Bill does not see Pennywise, but he does see a ghost. He walks up Witcham Street, where George died, and hears a voice. Bill tells the voice to come out or they—he and the Losers’ Club—will get It. He is about to stand up from his position over the sewer opening when a shadow comes over him. It belongs to a boy with a fluorescent green skateboard. The boy asks if Bill regularly talks to sewers. He says that he only does it in Derry. He then asks the boy if he has ever heard anything from within the sewers. The boy reluctantly admits that he has. The boy recalls that the voice spoke some foreign language. He heard the voice come out of one of the pumping stations by the Barrens. At first, the voice sounded like a kid, but then it sounded like a man.
The sewers are the openings through which the dead speak to the living. They are also the gateways to the evil that lurks under Derry. Though the boy admits to hearing the same voices as Bill, when he approaches he acts as though the prospect is absurd. Like everyone else in town, he knows that something is awry, but he prefers to act like nothing is abnormal in Derry. The voice that the boy heard near the pumping station was probably that of one of the children Pennywise killed.
Bill asks the boy if he ever heard the voices again. He says that he heard a girl’s voice once while he was taking a bath. The boy recalls being scared to pull the plug, out of a strange fear of drowning her. The boy then asks if Bill knows about the voices. Indeed, Bill says, he does. Bill asks if the boy knew any of the children who were murdered. Suddenly, the boy becomes wary of Bill and mentions that he is not supposed to talk to strangers. Bill tries to assure him that he is not the killer.
The voice of the girl that the boy recalls hearing is reminiscent of the voice of Veronica Grogan, which Beverly heard in her bathroom sink drain. Bill’s persistence in asking questions about the strange, supernatural occurrences is unusual in Derry, where everyone assumes that it is a human who is committing the murders.
The boy relaxes and mentions that a friend thinks that a shark lives in the Canal. The friend was in the park by himself and saw a fin come out of the water. He also says that the animal tried to bite him. The boy did not believe the story, but Bill warns him to stay away from the Canal. The boy sometimes thinks that he might be as crazy as he said his friend was. Bill understands. Bill rides a little on the boy’s skateboard and warns the boy to stay away from drains and sewers and near his home. The boy assures him that he is very close to home. Bill remembers that George was close to home, too. The kid pushes off on his skateboard and leaves.
Typical of children’s flights of imagination, the boy’s friend thinks that Jaws lives in the Canal. Jaws was a popular film franchise at the time, and thus in the forefront of children’s minds. Indeed, if Jaws is what the children wish to see, that is how It could appear. Knowing this, Bill warns the boy to stay away from the Canal, probably fearing that a shark-like monster will emerge and swallow the boy on the skateboard.
Bill walks up to his old house, and slows down when he sees people on the lawn. The house is the same dark-green color, but his mother’s flower-beds are gone. He thinks about stopping and asking questions about the house but becomes afraid of how badly he would stutter. He rethinks wanting to know the answers to these questions. The house became so cold after Georgie died. He goes to the corner and turns right. Soon, he is on Kansas Street, heading back downtown. Like the others, he notices how similar everything looks from when he was a boy.
The lack of change in Derry is not a source of comfort but of concern, for it reveals that people have tolerated the existence of It—which has allowed them to keep their town and its landmarks in exchange for some of their children. Bill remembers how his parents maintained the memory of George by shutting Bill out of their lives, as though they thought they could bring one son back by withholding love from the other.
Bill keeps going downtown when he sees a little girl. He asks her what the best store is in Derry. She mentions the store Secondhand Rose, Secondhand Clothes. Her mother calls it a junk shop but she likes it because it has old things. Bill then asks her where the store is. He goes toward downtown and sees the store. Inside are items such as guitars, old records, and bunches of plastic flowers in dirty vases. Suddenly, he sees Silver in the righthand window.
Silver has been relegated to a place where people store old memories and things that they no longer need, with the hope that those items can be of use to someone else. The little girl’s mother does not see the value in such things, but the girl does, perhaps due to people’s former attachment to them.
The sight of Silver causes tears to run down Bill’s cheeks. Bill notices that the shop smells musty with age. It has an “attic smell,” as the little girl mentioned, but not a good one. The radio is sitting on a high shelf amidst nineteenth-century portraits. The proprietor is sitting under them. His hair is slicked back and he is thin to the point of emaciation. The proprietor asks if Bill is looking for anything in particular. Bill gestures at the bike but starts to stutter, confusing the proprietor into thinking that he wants the barber pole. Bill screams, unintentionally, that it is not the pole that he wants. The proprietor asks if Bill is okay and Bill thinks that he is reaching under his counter toward a gun. The man warns Bill that if he is going to have a fit, he can take it outside. Bill asks the man if he can try again. He asks for the bike in the window.
Bill’s memories of Silver remind him of a time in his life when he felt stronger and more fearless than he does now. The “attic smell” of the shop parallels the name of the movie Bill is working on—Attic Room. If his memory has failed him, his fiction serves as a guide. However, he can articulate himself in writing in a way that he cannot in speech. He nearly loses his opportunity to purchase Silver back when he reverts back to his stutter, which is becoming increasingly worse as Bill gets closer to remembering how to destroy It. It is using the stutter to keep Bill at bay.
The proprietor offers to sell Bill the bike for twenty dollars. He then asks if Bill has a son. Bill lies and says that he has a child who is eleven. The proprietor thinks that the bike is rather big for an eleven-year-old. Bill then asks if he can make a phone call. After assuring the proprietor that the call is local, he goes to the telephone and dials the Derry Public Library. Mike Hanlon answers. Bill tells him that he is buying a bike and asks if he can store it at Mike’s house. Mike asks if it is Silver; Bill tells him it is.
Bill lies about taking the bike for himself, though he is probably finally the right size to ride Silver. Like Ben, to convince himself that his actions are credible, he imagines that he has a son in the form of his boyhood self. Mike, the gatekeeper of the Losers’ Club’s memories, knows instantly what bike Bill has purchased back.
Bill walks the bike out of the store and marvels at how well his adult hands grip the handlebars. He stops for a moment to wonder what happened to Silver. Did he sell it? Did he lose it? All he can remember is part of the idiotic sentence he learned in speech school: his fists against the posts and still insists… He pushes Silver on to Mike’s place.
Silver disappears from Bill’s life with no explanation, just like the school picture of George disappears from the album. However, Bill is able to connect Silver’s disappearance with part of a memory from his last encounter with It.
Mike makes burgers after he and Bill finish working on Silver. Mike’s house is a neat little, white Cape Cod with green trim. Mike has recently bought a tire-repair kit, and Bill asks if Mike has a bike of his own. Mike says that he does not; he just had the urge to buy the kit. Bill gets to work on Silver—oiling the chain, sprocket, and axles. They then eat the burgers and sit back smoking. Bill then asks Mike about the phrase he cannot forget. Mike says that it is an old tongue twister and that Bill learned it in speech school. In the summer of 1958, he went around mumbling it to himself. Bill tries to remember how he learned the expression and thinks he has said it at least once, though he cannot remember when.
Mike and Bill work to revive Silver. Mike intuited that Bill would purchase the bike, which is how he knew that Mike was buying back Silver from the secondhand store. Bill has forgotten the phrase that he learned to help him overcome his stutter, and may have even forgotten that he once attended speech school in Bangor. The tongue twister, which helped him master his weakness, also helped him overcome his fear of It.