"Premium Harmony"

“Premium Harmony” is an odd little Stephen King story, a slice of life tale in the vein of “Harvey’s Dream” and “All That You Love Will Be Carried Away.” It’s the story of a couple – Ray and Mary Burkett – whose marriage is failing in stops and starts. When we first see them, they are arguing aimlessly: about birthday presents, about each other’s vices, about the correct way to drive to certain stores. Their arguing has a tired quality about it, as if it’s being done by rote, not with any real passion or anger behind it. That passivity defines “Premium Harmony”: in the wake of their dull argument, a pair of tragedies slam into Ray Burkett’s life, tragedies that should rock him out of his stupor. That they fail to do so - indeed, that they only seem to enhance his life, however trivially – would be heartbreaking, if breaking hearts is what King had intended.

King’s short fiction work lately has been eclectic and rarely boring. Since proving he was back on his short story game with Just After Sunset , he’s dabbled with epic narrative poetry (“The Bone Church”), science fiction (“Ur”), and quiet, shocking stories like “Morality”. This could be a companion piece to the latter work, with the shocks muted and the dark turns of that plot exchanged for a single, horrible vignette. Since Bag of Bones, and through Lisey’s Story and Duma Key, King has been fascinated at the dark hearts of marriages. “Premium Harmony” continues that trend with a murmuring voice that speaks directly about disaster without being affected by it at all.