31 Days Of King – Day 20: Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut

Image courtesy of Simon and Schuster

If you’ve been following along in our little series, you’ll know by now that Stephen King is capable of writing much, much more than just a great, gruesome horror story. King’s bread and butter may be the supernatural, but it’s sometimes used as mere pavement, a road on which to travel as he takes the focus off the frightening, and zeroes in on his complex characters.

‘Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut’ (collected in Skeleton Crew) is all about those roads. More specifically, it’s about shortcuts, shortcuts that seem to travel through thin spaces that aren’t of this world.

Ophelia Todd is obsessed with shortcuts, always in search of the quickest way to travel between her home in Bangor and her summer house on Castle Lake. To Homer Buckland, our narrator, it seems as though she finds a new shortcut every week, each one more unbelievable than the last.

Homer finds himself tagging along one day as Mrs. Todd speeds through woods that Homer has never seen before. Strange creatures are running along the road, and trees seem to be trying to reach down and yank him out of the car.

Image courtesy of StephenKing.com

Homer is terrified, but he’s also fascinated. The shortcut changes Mrs. Todd. She’s invigorated. She laughs, she jokes, her hair flies wildly in the wind, and she begins to look younger.

What stick with you after reading ‘Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut’ are the giddy, confused, conflicted feelings of Homer Buckland as he discovers the truth behind Ophelia Todd’s journeys. The story is less about the strange world through which she travels, and more about the very real, very human emotions that world stirs up in Homer.

Nostalgia and desire can be very powerful, and King hooks into these emotions and examines how they can change a person, how they can upset a seemingly contented life and influence very drastic decisions. It’s an odd thing to consider while reading a Stephen King story, but a pleasant surprise in a canon typically filled with otherworldly terror.

Trey Wydysh is The Geekiverse’s resident Stephen King superfan. You can find all of our 31 Days Of Stephen King posts here. Got a King question? Looking for a recommendation? Feel free to ask Trey on Twitter.

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