“Dedication”, the seventh story in Stephen King’s “Nightmares and Dreamscapes” collection, is the most original and most thought-provoking in the collection that I’ve read so far. Once again I’m impressed by Stephen King’s ability to surprise and to pack so much into such a short tale.
Martha Rosewall, a black woman from one the poorest parts of Alabama, has worked her way up over many years from Chambermaid to Chief Housekeeper of floors ten through twelve of the upmarket hotel, Le Palais. She comes to work one Monday morning with a rare smile on her face because she is carrying a just arrived copy of her son’s first novel. Arriving at work, she shows the book and its dedication to her friend and colleague, Darcy Sagamore.
The printed dedication reads:
“This book is dedicated to my mother, Martha Rosewall. Mom, I couldn’t have done it without you.”
Below it is a handwritten note saying:
“…and that’s no lie. L,ove you mom. Pete.”
When Darcy says:
“Why isn’t that just the sweetest thing?”
“It’s more than sweet, It’s true.”
Then Martha smiles and
“in that smile her old friend, Darcy Sagamore saw something more than love, she saw triumph.”
At the end of their shift, when Martha and Darcy meet in the hotel coffee shop for celebratory drinks, Darcy probes the source of that look of triumph and releases the confession of a long-dammed-up secret that washes over the two women, changing everything Darcy thought she knew about Martha and her son.
The story is a dark one, involving a violent husband, a rich, well-educated, Southern Quality gentleman who is a gifted writer and an execrable, hate-filled, racist man, and a brouhaha woman who uses black magic to bring about the outcomes she has foreseen with “The Sight”.
The way the black magic works is original, convincing and repulsive. Using it, or allowing it to use her, requires Martha’s total dedication.
I loved the way Stephen King created a specific “listening” in the reader by having the tale told as the confession to an old friend of something of which Martha is both ashamed and proud. Understanding how those two emotions can be wrapped around one another is one of the things that sets this story apart.
I was also fascinated by King’s portrait of the writer as a man who is repellant in person and yet produces prose that touches the emotions of everyone who reads it.
Stephen King has said that “Dedication” was part of the inspiration that led to his later novel “Dolores Claiborne”.
“Dedication” was made into a short film by Tyna Ezema which is where the graphic at the top of this post comes from.