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Uncle Otto's Truck

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"Uncle Otto's Truck" is a short story written by Stephen King. It was original published in the October 1983 issue of Yankee, and later included in King's own 1985 collection Skeleton Crew.

Summary

The story is narrated by Quentin Schenck, the nephew of the titular Otto Schenck.

He begins by telling of Otto's steady rise to affluence, primarily through real estate speculation, and his eventual business partnership with George McCutcheon. Together, these men build a successful lumber enterprise, eventually branching out into ventures such as hardware stores (which the narrator notes "are still ... in forty New England cities").

McCutcheon was the proud owner of a Cresswell truck with a 20-foot bed and a bright red snout. After many years of service, the truck eventually overheated in spectacular fashion, spouting oil and throwing pistons as it careened off the gravel road the two men had been travelling down. After the breakdown, as McCutcheon was examining the damages, he had an opportunity to admire the view of the fields and mountains in the distance and decided that not only would the truck remain in the field where it was, he would eventually build a home and retire there.

After some time, Otto and McCutcheon were approached about selling the company. While Otto did not want to sell, McCutcheon did, and this led to tension between the partners. The narrator describes his emphatic belief that this tension led to Otto's murder of McCutcheon (with some assistance from the truck). The tires had previously been sold, and the truck was up on blocks, which allowed Otto to push it onto his partner as he was standing in front of it. The truck landed on McCutcheon's chest, "squotting him like a pumpkin."

Otto eventually built a structure near the truck, and initially offered it to the town as a one-room schoolhouse. As such a structure was woefully obsolete, the town declined this gift, leading Otto to convert it into a home where he secluded himself.

The narrator's father and, after his father's death from kidney disease, the narrator himself take it upon themselves to visit Uncle Otto regularly and supply him with groceries (which Otto never paid for). After several years of these visits, Otto begins to confide to the narrator that the truck has been moving closer to the house, claiming that "it almost got {him}." The narrator initially dismisses these claims.

Several weeks later, while approaching the house with his supply of groceries, the narrator has a momentary sight of the truck in the dooryard, and instantly he knows that his Uncle Otto is dead. A quick investigation reveals that Otto is, indeed, dead in his bed. The narrator stands over him and notices a swelling in his face; however, as he goes to see what the swelling is, he glances out the window and is greeted by the sight of the truck. This causes him to squeeze Otto's face, which leads to a flow of oil from his nose and mouth, as well as something he cannot immediately identify. This frightens the narrator enough that he flees the house before returning to remove his fingerprints that had been left in the oil on Otto's face. He opened Otto's mouth and discovered the item he'd noticed earlier was a 1920's-vintage Champion spark plug, which he took with him as a talisman of the occurrence.

Notes

This story was inspired by a truck (and house) of the kind described in the story that actually does (or did) exist in rural Maine. The storyline was formulated during a long road trip.

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