Today we present to you brush-with-fame memories from Writers Forum member Dave Smith
Stephen King was born in 1947. I was born in 1947.
He arrived in Portland Maine, and I was off just a few miles, landing at eleven minutes past eleven in Brattleboro, Vermont. I’m not sure what his arrival time was but if you ask him he could most likely tell you; he’s good at those details.
We both grew up in New England. To those of you who didn’t, you wouldn’t understand what that means to a person’s mental awareness. Let’s just say it has something to do with Puritanical tendencies. Being a down-easter (that’s someone from Maine) he had a larger dose than I.
The main campus of the University of Maine is in Orono, a town not far from Bangor, and it sets on the bank of the Stillwater River. Even though we were born the same year, Steve graduated from high school in 1966, a year after me. He blamed it on having to repeat first grade. Really Steve? Who repeats first grade? He said it was because he was sick. I think it may have been the mental awareness thing, a down-east problem.
I was accepted at the University of Maine in the fall of 1965. They made a big mistake because I was not ready for college life. At least the study part. Beer was more to my liking. Steve was a better student. Probably because he spent an extra year in first grade.
In the fall of 1966 (my third semester) Steve began his studies at Orono. Here’s the important part: Our paths most likely crossed at some point, maybe two or seven points. I spent time in the library; so did Steve. I spent time in the Memorial Union; he most likely did too. I walked across the quad; can’t imagine he didn’t. Maybe he went to a football game and we sat next to each other in the stands. And for sure he knew about Pat’s Pizza, the local downtown joint for pizza, of course…and beer. We would both have been underage but that didn’t usually matter in New England: Everybody drank beer—Schlitz usually.
I wish I had recognized him because we might have been friends, although he majored in English or something like that, and I was in Wildlife Management. And he was a better student. The extra year thing.
The beer didn’t help my grades, and at the end of the fall semester, the University asked me to take some time off to mature. Steve never said goodby when I left Orono. Maybe he didn’t care.
Maturing was too hard, so I joined the Navy, and for the next four years I visited foreign ports. And drank a lot of foreign beer.
Fast forward four years. Mature or not I got married while I was in the Navy. Not wanting to be a lifer (military talk) I wrote a letter and begged the University of Maine to take me back and promised I would be good. For some fool reason they accepted my offer, and Chris and I left sunny California and set out for Orono, arriving in the fall of 1971. Steve, the good student, graduated just before I returned, but he didn’t go far. He was living nearby with his wife, a girl he had met a few years earlier in the stacks of the University library. Wonder if I knew her. Probably.
Steve wrote about a mobile home he lived in during the early 70s. I think it was the same one we looked at to live in before deciding to rent an apartment in Orono. His description was the same as mine but he got paid to write his.
The Kenduskeag Stream canoe race was a popular spring attraction back then and maybe Steve waved to me and my paddling partner and we glided by, or laughed as we tipped over in the rapids. And for sure he and I rubbed shoulders at Pat’s. Everybody went there. Even saw a streaker there once, who, as I think about it, looked a lot like … no, couldn’t be.
Steve published his first book, Carrie, in 1974. I didn’t read it. I was busy studying. This time I did better, and graduated in the fall of ‘74.
We decided to move west, back to California. Steve moved west, too, to Colorado, but then he moved back, and lived in western Maine, near a town called Rangeley, which, by happenstance, I spent a summer at when I was a teenager. What a coincidence.
Steve went on to fame and fortune; I went on.
Probably that damn extra year.
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