Hearts in Atlantis

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Hearts in Atlantis (1999) is a collection of two novellas and three short stories by Stephen King, all connected to one another by recurring characters and taking place in roughly chronological order.

The stories are about the baby boomer generation, specifically King's view that this generation (to which he belongs) failed to live up to its promise and ideals. Significantly, the opening epigraph of the collection is the Peter Fonda line from the end of Easy Rider: "We blew it." All of the stories are about baby boomers, and in all of them the members of that generation fail profoundly, or are paying the costs of some profound failure on their part.



Low Men in Yellow Coats

The first, and longest, part, "Low Men in Yellow Coats", takes place in 1960 and revolves around a young boy, Bobby Garfield. He lives in Harwich, Connecticut with his self-centered mother, Liz, a widow, and he really wants a bicycle. Liz claims they do not have the money for a bike, despite her constant purchases of new clothing. For his eleventh birthday, Bobby's mother gives him a birthday card containing an adult library card. During this time, Bobby doesn't realize that his mother is being forced into having an affair with her boss, Don Biderman. Bobby spends his time with his two best friends, John "Sully" Sullivan and Carol Gerber.

An older gentleman named Ted Brautigan moves into the apartment on the 3rd floor, two floors above Bobby and his mother. It is obvious from the start that she doesn't like Ted, but Bobby does. Ted spends a lot of time discussing books with Bobby and gives him Lord of the Flies, which makes a huge impression on the boy. Liz claims to be worried that Ted might be sexually abusing Bobby, though in fact she feels guilty about neglecting her son. Bobby, understanding the situation but unable to articulate it, solves the problem by keeping the two apart.

Ted speaks to Bobby as one would speak to another adult, which makes a great impression on Bobby. Ted offers Bobby a small amount of money to read him the paper daily, claiming his eyes are not what they used to be. Bobby witnesses Ted "blanking out" several times, and realizes that he possesses psychic abilities, which he is able to pass on to others by coming into physical contact with them. Ted places his hands on Bobby's shoulders one morning and later on that day, Bobby wins a three card monte game at the beach because he could read the card dealer's mind. As the two grow closer, Ted confesses to Bobby that he is being stalked by "low men"—the can-toi, evil servants of King's recurring villain, The Crimson King. The signs of these men include "lost pet" signs and chalk drawings of stars and moons. Ted asks Bobby to keep an eye out for their signs and to let him know when they are near. It is revealed (although it is only understandable to readers of King's other works) that Ted is in some way connected to the Dark Tower. He is hiding in Bobby's town as a means of escaping the struggle revolving around it. Ted makes occasional references to both the tower and its beams, including the field of roses in which it is situated.

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