"Under the Weather"

In another, less successful story, the revelation at the heart of “Under the Weather” would have been the point. Our narrator, Brad Nathan, dances around this revelation throughout the story, all the way to the last sentence. As the reader begins piecing the clues together and starts to come up with the shape of Brad’s big secret, he expects King to conclude the story with faux-shocking confirmation, something that underlines the unnerving thing Brad can’t quite bring himself to talk about. King, understanding that that sort of structure would compromise a story like this, instead focuses on the “Under the Weather”’s inherent strengths: tone, a sense of doomed inevitability, and a thoroughly – yet subtly – unreliable narrator.

We understand what the story’s about halfway through; Brad’s evasions – to himself, to the other characters in the story, and most of all to himself – grow transparent quickly. It’s how the story unspools. Plot and situation almost beside the point, character comes to the fore. Brad Nathan is a fascinating person with which to identify Ö and be somewhat repulsed by. He believes his own lies enough to be surprised, and scared, by the truth when it creeps up on him. His justifications for doing what he’s done (or hasn’t done), while a little obvious, underline his quiet desperation. While neither Brad nor the story ever feels panicked, the bits of reality sneaking into Brad’s adamant fantasy give “Under the Weather” an inescapably ominous feel, unsettling the reader more and more as it draws to its shuddery close.

Like recent short stories “Morality” and “Herman Wouk Is Still Alive,” (not to mention the Full Dark, No Stars selection, “Fair Extension”) “Under the Weather” is about someone committing to a decision they believe is for the best. What’s most interesting about all these stories is that “for the best” is relative, as are the reasons behind these decisions. Brad Nathan indulges – and suffers – in an increasingly putrid delusion because of love. Whether this makes him noble, crazy, or both is ultimately left up for the reader to decide.

“Under the Weather” appears as a “bonus story” at the end of the paperback edition of Full Dark, No Stars. It’s presented following King’s Afterword, indicating that it isn’t intended as part of Full Dark proper. Still, the choice to include it here is a good one. “Under the Weather” is indeed “harsh,” a tonal and thematic cousin to the preceding novellas, and a fitting conclusion to this bleak, compelling collection.