The Road Virus Heads North
In the introduction to this short story in Everything’s Eventual, King says this story was based on a painting that he received as a gift from his wife Tabitha. His son Owen was particularly bothered by it, claiming the guy in the painting was always following him with his eyes. From there, it’s easy to see how King came up with this story, where the painting contains an actual demonic punk and comes after the man who purchases it. King does a good job of building up the suspense throughout the story and I like that he leaves it at a point where you know what’s going to happen but you don’t actually hear about the end in detail.
The short is a fairly accurate adaptation with a few details thrown in for padding. They add in the angle that he may possibly have colon cancer. This gives him an extra worry plaguing his mind, and a stronger desire to survive. He also adds one more stop to his journey, visiting his ex-wife rather than just talking about her. These are not bad additions but I do feel like the short would be stronger if it was a little bit shorter. The additions don't truly pay off either, as his cancer is irrelevant and he sends his ex-wife to stay at a hotel so she's safe from the killer.
They tried to end of the short the same way as the story but it doesn't work as well the way it is presented. Up to that point in the short he wasn't seeing things in the painting before they happened, only after. To have him gaze over at the painting now and suddenly accept his fate doesn't truly make sense. Didn't he desperately want to survive just a little while ago when he thought the cancer was killing him? Why would he give in to this killer?
The Fifth Quarter
A fairly simple but action packed story about a man whose friend is murdered in a double cross after robbing an armored car, and he sets out to get revenge and also steal the pieces of the map that will lead him to the money they all stole. King keeps the suspense up and since this is a King story, you don’t really know if our narrator will succeed or not. What may make it the most unique is that there is nothing horror or science fiction about the story. It's certainly not the only King story to be firmly grounded in the real world, but it is a rarity, and does seem like a strange choice for something in a collection called Nightmares and Dreamscapes.
For the short they decided to add a little motivation for the protagonist by giving him a wife and child in poverty while he's been in prison for the last 7 years. But then they take it a little too far, adding that his buddy slept with his wife, and even hint that the two of them may have had a sexual relationship while they were doing time together. It's all just there to stretch things out a little, and it doesn't really work. The direction on the action scenes is fairly lifeless, adding little of the suspense that King gives it in the story. It makes the whole thing a little boring to watch. The money ends up going to his wife and kid at the end, I guess to give it a little more of a happy ending, but I found myself overall unimpressed with the whole short.