Skip to main content



Full Dark, No Stars

The one thing nobody asked in casual conversation, Darcy thought
in the days after she found what she found in the garage, was this:
How's your marriage? They asked how was your weekend and how was
your trip to Florida and how's your health and how are the kids;
they even asked how's life been treatin you, hon? But nobody asked
how's your marriage?

Good, she would have answered the question before that night.
Everything's fine.

She had been born Darcellen Madsen (Darcellen, a name only
parents besotted with a freshly purchased book of baby names could
love), in the year John F. Kennedy was elected President. She was
raised in Freeport, Maine, back when it was a town instead of an
adjunct to L.L.Bean, America's first superstore, and half a dozen
other oversized retail operations of the sort that are called
"outlets" (as if they were sewer drains rather than shopping
locations). She went to Freeport High School, and then to Addison
Business School, where she learned secretarial skills. She was
hired by Joe Ransome Chevrolet, which by 1984, when she left the
company, was the largest car dealership in Portland. She was plain,
but with the help of two marginally more sophisticated girlfriends,
learned enough makeup skills to make herself pretty on workdays and
downright eye-catching on Friday and Saturday nights, when a bunch
of them liked to go out for margaritas at The Lighthouse or Mexican
Mike's (where there was live music).

In 1982, Joe Ransome hired a Portland accounting firm to help
him figure out his tax situation, which had become complicated
("The kind of problem you want to have," Darcy overheard him tell
one of the senior salesmen). A pair of briefcase-toting men came
out, one old and one young. Both wore glasses and conservative
suits; both combed their short hair neatly away from their
foreheads in a way that made Darcy think of the photographs in her
mother's MEMORIES OF '54 senior yearbook, the one with the image of
a boy cheerleader holding a megaphone to his mouth stamped on its
faux-leather cover. The younger accountant was Bob Anderson. She
got talking with him on their second day at the dealership, and in
the course of their conversation, asked him if he had any hobbies.
Yes, he said, he was a numismatist.

He started to tell her what that was and she said, "I know. My
father collects Lady Liberty dimes and buffalo-head nickels. He
says they're his numismatical hobby-horse. Do you have a
hobby-horse, Mr. Anderson?"

He did: wheat pennies. His greatest hope was to some day come
across a 1955 double-date, which was ---

But she knew that, too. The '55 double-date was a mistake. A
valuable mistake.

Young Mr. Anderson, he of the thick and carefully combed brown
hair, was delighted with this answer. He asked her to call him Bob.
Later, during their lunch --- which they took on a bench in the
sunshine behind the body shop, a tuna on rye for him and a Greek
salad in a Tupperware bowl for her --- he asked if she would like
to go with him on Saturday to a street sale in Castle Rock. He had
just rented a new apartment, he said, and was looking for an
armchair. Also a TV, if someone was selling a good one at a fair
price. A good one at a fair price was a phrase with which she would
grow comfortably familiar in the years to come.

He was as plain as she was, just another guy you'd pass on the
street without noticing, and would never have makeup to make him
prettier . . . except that day on the bench, he did. His cheeks
flushed when he asked her out, just enough to light him up a little
and give him a glow.

"No coin collections?" she teased.

He smiled, revealing even teeth. Small teeth, nicely cared for,
and white. It never occurred to her that the thought of those teeth
could make her shudder --- why would it?

"If I saw a nice set of coins, of course I'd look," he said.

"Especially wheat pennies?" Teasing, but just a little.

"Especially those. Would you like to come, Darcy?"

She came. And she came on their wedding night, too. Not terribly
often after that, but now and then. Often enough to consider
herself normal and fulfilled.

In 1986, Bob got a promotion. He also (with Darcy's
encouragement and help) started up a small mail-order business in
collectible American coins. It was successful from the start, and
in 1990, he added baseball trading cards and old movie memorabilia.
He kept no stock of posters, one-sheets, or window cards, but when
people queried him on such items, he could almost always find them.
Actually it was Darcy who found them, using her overstuffed Rolodex
in those pre-computer days to call collectors all over the country.
The business never got big enough to become full-time, and that was
all right. Neither of them wanted such a thing. They agreed on that
as they did on the house they eventually bought in Pownal, and on
the children when it came time to have them. They agreed. When they
didn't agree, they compromised. But mostly they agreed. They saw

How's your marriage?

It was good. A good marriage. Donnie was born in 1986 --- she
quit her job to have him, and except for helping with Anderson
Coins & Collectibles never held another one --- and Petra was
born in 1988. By then, Bob Anderson's thick brown hair was thinning
at the crown, and by 2002, the year Darcy's Macintosh computer
finally swallowed her Rolodex whole, he had a large shiny bald spot
back there. He experimented with different ways of combing what was
left, which only made the bald spot more conspicuous, in her
opinion. And he irritated her by trying two of the magical
grow-it-all-back formulas, the kind of stuff sold by shifty-looking
hucksters on high cable late at night (Bob Anderson became
something of a night owl as he slipped into middle age). He didn't
tell her he'd done it, but they shared a bedroom and although she
wasn't tall enough to see the top shelf of the closet unaided, she
sometimes used a stool to put away his "Saturday shirts," the tees
he wore for puttering in the garden. And there they were: a bottle
of liquid in the fall of 2004, a bottle of little green gel
capsules a year later. She looked the names up on the Internet, and
they weren't cheap. Of course magic never is, she remembered

But, irritated or not, she had held her peace about the magic
potions, and also about the used Chevy Suburban he for some reason
just had to buy in the same year that gas prices really started to
climb. As he had held his, she supposed (as she knew, actually),
when she had insisted on good summer camps for the kids, an
electric guitar for Donnie (he had played for two years, long
enough to get surprisingly good, and then had simply stopped),
horse rentals for Petra. A successful marriage was a balancing act
--- that was a thing everyone knew. A successful marriage was also
dependent on a high tolerance for irritation --- this was a thing
Darcy knew. As the Stevie Winwood song said, you had to roll
widdit, baby.

She rolled with it. So did he.

In 2004, Donnie went off to college in Pennsylvania. In 2006,
Petra went to Colby, just up the road in Waterville. By then, Darcy
Madsen Anderson was forty-six years old. Bob was forty-nine, and
still doing Cub Scouts with Stan Morin, a construction contractor
who lived half a mile down the road. She thought her balding
husband looked rather amusing in the khaki shorts and long brown
socks he wore for the monthly Wildlife Hikes, but never said so.
His bald spot had become well entrenched; his glasses had become
bifocals; his weight had spun up from one-eighty into the
two-twenty range. He had become a partner in the accounting firm
--- Benson and Bacon was now Benson, Bacon & Anderson. They had
traded the starter home in Pownal for a more expensive one in
Yarmouth. Her breasts, formerly small and firm and high (her best
feature, she'd always thought; she'd never wanted to look like a
Hooters waitress) were now larger, not so firm, and of course they
dropped down when she took off her bra at night --- what else could
you expect when you were closing in on the half-century mark? ---
but every so often Bob would still come up behind her and cup them.
Every so often there was the pleasant interlude in the upstairs
bedroom overlooking their peaceful two-acre patch of land, and if
he was a little quick on the draw and often left her unsatisfied,
often was not always, and the satisfaction of holding him
afterward, feeling his warm man's body as he drowsed away next to
her . . . that satisfaction never failed. It was, she supposed, the
satisfaction of knowing they were still together when so many
others were not; the satisfaction of knowing that as they
approached their Silver Anniversary, the course was still steady as
she goes.

In 2009, twenty-five years down the road from their I-do's in a
small Baptist church that no longer existed (there was now a
parking lot where it had stood), Donnie and Petra threw them a
surprise party at The Birches on Castle View. There were over fifty
guests, champagne (the good stuff), steak tips, a four-tier cake.
The honorees danced to Kenny Loggins's "Footloose," just as they
had at their wedding. The guests applauded Bob's breakaway move,
one she had forgotten until she saw it again, and its still-airy
execution gave her a pang. Well it should have; he had grown a
paunch to go with the embarrassing bald spot (embarrassing to him,
at least), but he was still extremely light on his feet for an

But all of that was just history, the stuff of obituaries, and
they were still too young to be thinking of those. It ignored the
minutiae of marriage, and such ordinary mysteries, she believed (
firmly believed), were the stuff that validated the partnership.
The time she had eaten bad shrimp and vomited all night long,
sitting on the edge of the bed with her sweaty hair clinging to the
nape of her neck and tears rolling down her flushed cheeks and Bob
sitting beside her, patiently holding the basin and then taking it
to the bathroom, where he emptied and rinsed it after each ejection
--- so the smell of it wouldn't make her even sicker, he said. He
had been warming up the car to take her to the Emergency Room at
six the next morning when the horrible nausea had finally begun to
abate. He had called in sick at B, B & A; he'd also canceled a
trip to White River so he could sit with her in case the sickness
came back.

That kind of thing worked both ways; one year's sauce for the
goose was next year's sauce for the gander. She had sat with him in
the waiting room at St. Stephen's --- back in '94 or '95, this had
been --- waiting for the biopsy results after he had discovered (in
the shower) a suspicious lump in his left armpit. The biopsy had
been negative, the diagnosis an infected lymph node. The lump had
lingered for another month or so, then went away on its own.

The sight of a crossword book on his knees glimpsed through the
half-open bathroom door as he sat on the commode. The smell of
cologne on his cheeks, which meant that the Suburban would be gone
from the driveway for a day or two and his side of the bed would be
empty for a night or two because he had to straighten out someone's
accounting in New Hampshire or Vermont (B, B & A now had
clients in all the northern New England states). Sometimes the
smell meant a trip to look at someone's coin collection at an
estate sale, because not all the numismatic buying and selling that
went with their sidebusiness could be accomplished by computer,
they both understood that. The sight of his old black suitcase, the
one he would never give up no matter how much she nagged, in the
front hall. His slippers at the end of the bed, one always tucked
into the other. The glass of water on his endtable, with the orange
vitamin pill next to it, on that month's issue of Coin &
Currency Collecting. How he always said, "More room out than there
is in" after belching and "Look out, gas attack!" after he farted.
His coat on the first hook in the hall. The reflection of his
toothbrush in the mirror (he would still be using the same one he'd
had when they got married, Darcy believed, if she didn't regularly
replace it). The way he dabbed his lips with his napkin after every
second or third bite of food. The careful arrangement of camping
gear (always including an extra compass) before he and Stan set out
with yet another bunch of nine-year-olds on the hike up Dead Man's
Trail --- a dangerous and terrifying trek that took them through
the woods behind the Golden Grove Mall and came out at Weinberg's
Used Car City. The look of his nails, always short and clean. The
taste of Dentyne on his breath when they kissed. These things and
ten thousand others comprised the secret history of the

She knew he must have his own history of her, everything from
the cinnamon-flavored ChapStick she used on her lips in the winter
to the smell of her shampoo when he nuzzled the back of her neck
(that nuzzle didn't come so often now, but it still came) to the
click of her computer at two in the morning on those two or three
nights a month when sleep for some reason jilted her.

Now it was twenty-seven years, or --- she had amused herself
figuring this one day using the calculator function on her computer
--- nine thousand eight hundred and fifty-five days. Almost a
quarter of a million hours and over fourteen million minutes. Of
course some of that time he'd been gone on business, and she'd
taken a few trips herself (the saddest to be with her parents in
Minneapolis after her kid sister Brandolyn had died in a freak
accident), but mostly they had been together.

Did she know everything about him? Of course not. No more than
he knew everything about her --- how she sometimes (mostly on rainy
days or on those nights when the insomnia was on her) gobbled
Butterfingers or Baby Ruths, for instance, eating the candybars
even after she no longer wanted them, even after she felt sick to
her stomach. Or how she thought the new mailman was sort of cute.
There was no knowing everything, but she felt that after
twenty-seven years, they knew all the important things. It was a
good marriage, one of the fifty percent or so that kept working
over the long haul. She believed that in the same unquestioning way
she believed that gravity would hold her to the earth when she
walked down the sidewalk.

Until that night in the garage.

Excerpted from FULL DARK, NO STARS © Copyright 2011 by
Stephen King. Reprinted with permission by Scribner. All rights

Full Dark, No Stars
by by Stephen King