Odd Thomas Read online
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ALSO BY DEAN KOONTZ
To the Old Girls:
Mary Crowe, Gerda Koontz,
Vicky Page, and Jana Prais.
We’ll get together. We’ll nosh.
We’ll tipple. We’ll dish, dish, dish.
Hope requires the contender
Who sees no virtue in surrender.
From the cradle to the bier,
The heart must persevere.
—The Book of Counted Joys
MY NAME IS ODD THOMAS, THOUGH IN THIS AGE when fame is the altar at which most people worship, I am not sure why you should care who I am or that I exist.
I am not a celebrity. I am not the child of a celebrity. I have never been married to, never been abused by, and never provided a kidney for transplantation into any celebrity. Furthermore, I have no desire to be a celebrity.
In fact I am such a nonentity by the standards of our culture that People magazine not only will never feature a piece about me but might also reject my attempts to subscribe to their publication on the grounds that the black-hole gravity of my noncelebrity is powerful enough to suck their entire enterprise into oblivion.
I am twenty years old. To a world-wise adult, I am little more than a child. To any child, however, I’m old enough to be distrusted, to be excluded forever from the magical community of the short and beardless.
Consequently, a demographics expert might conclude that my sole audience is other young men and women currently adrift between their twentieth and twenty-first birthdays.
In truth, I have nothing to say to that narrow audience. In my experience, I don’t care about most of the things that other twenty-year-old Americans care about. Except survival, of course.
I lead an unusual life.
By this I do not mean that my life is better than yours. I’m sure that your life is filled with as much happiness, charm, wonder, and abiding fear as anyone could wish. Like me, you are human, after all, and we know what a joy and terror that is.
I mean only that my life is not typical. Peculiar things happen to me that don’t happen to other people with regularity, if ever.
For example, I would never have written this memoir if I had not been commanded to do so by a four-hundred-pound man with six fingers on his left hand.
His name is P. Oswald Boone. Everyone calls him Little Ozzie because his father, Big Ozzie, is still alive.
Little Ozzie has a cat named Terrible Chester. He loves that cat. In fact, if Terrible Chester were to use up his ninth life under the wheels of a Peterbilt, I am afraid that Little Ozzie’s big heart would not survive the loss.
Personally, I do not have great affection for Terrible Chester because, for one thing, he has on several occasions peed on my shoes.
His reason for doing so, as explained by Ozzie, seems credible, but I am not convinced of his truthfulness. I mean to say that I am suspicious of Terrible Chester’s veracity, not Ozzie’s.
Besides, I simply cannot fully trust a cat who claims to be fifty-eight years old. Although photographic evidence exists to support this claim, I persist in believing that it’s bogus.
For reasons that will become obvious, this manuscript cannot be published during my lifetime, and my effort will not be repaid with royalties while I’m alive. Little Ozzie suggests that I should leave my literary estate to the loving maintenance of Terrible Chester, who, according to him, will outlive all of us.
I will choose another charity. One that has not peed on me.
Anyway, I’m not writing this for money. I am writing it to save my sanity and to discover if I can convince myself that my life has purpose and meaning enough to justify continued existence.
Don’t worry: These ramblings will not be insufferably gloomy. P. Oswald Boone has sternly instructed me to keep the tone light.
“If you don’t keep it light,” Ozzie said, “I’ll sit my four-hundred-pound ass on you, and that’s not the way you want to die.”
Ozzie is bragging. His ass, while grand enough, probably weighs no more than a hundred and fifty pounds. The other two hundred fifty are distributed across the rest of his suffering skeleton.
When at first I proved unable to keep the tone light, Ozzie suggested that I be an unreliable narrator. “It worked for Agatha Christie in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd,” he said.
In that first-person mystery novel, the nice-guy narrator turns out to be the murderer of Roger Ackroyd, a fact he conceals from the reader until the end.
Understand, I am not a murderer. I have done nothing evil that I am concealing from you. My unreliability as a narrator has to do largely with the tense of certain verbs.
Don’t worry about it. You’ll know the truth soon enough.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of my story. Little Ozzie and Terrible Chester do not enter the picture until after the cow explodes.
This story began on a Tuesday.
For you, that is the day after Monday. For me, it is a day that, like the other six, brims with the potential for mystery, adventure, and terror.
You should not take this to mean that my life is romantic and magical. Too much mystery is merely an annoyance. Too much adventure is exhausting. And a little terror goes a long way.
Without the help of an alarm clock, I woke that Tuesday morning at five, from a dream about dead bowling-alley employees.
I never set the alarm because my internal clock is so r