- Gary Sosniecki

Gary Sosniecki

I’ve been insulted by Stephen King.

As a former nine-year Diggins resident and former owner of the newspaper that covers Diggins, I’m insulted that the esteemed author took a swipe at Diggins in his current novel, “Billy Summers.”

Or, considering the language he used, maybe it’s more accurate to say King took a “wipe” at Diggins.

With toilet paper.

The insult is on Page 150 of the 514-page novel. King’s titular character, Billy, is on the telephone with his upstairs neighbor, Don Jensen, who called because his mother-in-law had just died. Jensen and wife Bev needed to leave town for the funeral and to handle whatever else needed to be handled. Bev wanted Billy to water her plants.

“We’re flyin’ to St. Louis tomorrow, then gotta rent a car at the airport and drive to this little (expletive) splat town called Diggins,” Jensen explains.

I deleted the expletive half of the word because I doubt even PhoToad could use that word in the Citizen. I looked it up in the online Urban Dictionary, which explained: “This is mostly a male sighting since a woman does not normally see the underside of a toilet seat unless she’s cleaning it or her man doesn’t have the brains to put it down.”

Get the picture? It doesn’t look pretty. Or smell pretty. And that’s how this character created by Stephen King described Diggins.

That’s disgusting.

Perhaps King was describing another Diggins within driving distance of Lambert International Airport. But I can’t find a second Diggins anywhere, although Auburn, Calif., once was named “Dry Diggins.”

So how did Stephen King even know about Diggins? I’m an author now, too (shameless plug), but that doesn’t mean I can phone the famed writer of 60-plus books and ask, “Hey, Steve ol’ buddy, why did you mention ‘Diggins’ in this book? And why did you describe it so deplorably?”

I’d ask him for more detail. Where was the funeral of Bev Jensen’s mother — the Seymour funeral home or a Diggins church? Was she buried in Seymour Masonic Cemetery? Was the obituary in the Citizen? Who was the “some lawyer of hers” who was “gonna read the will on Tuesday”?

I’d ask which bank held the $200,000 that the Jensens inherited.

Stephen and I aren’t Facebook friends, either, so I couldn’t contact him that way. The best I could do was fill out a form with my question on StephenKing.com. I sent my message on Sept. 26 and immediately received an automated acknowledgment that included this line: “If you do not receive a response, it may be because the question you’ve asked already has been answered in the FAQ at https://stephenking.com/faq.”

I’m still waiting for a response, and, no, Diggins isn’t mentioned in the FAQ.

But Diggins is mentioned in the biographies of Walmart founder Sam Walton. It’s a source of pride to Diggins residents that Sam’s father, Thomas, was born in Diggins, and that his grandfather, also named Samuel, was the town’s first storekeeper and postmaster. It was a big deal when Sam and Bud Walton attended the Diggins Centennial celebration in 1987 and donated money toward the bandstand on the lawn of the Diggins Community Building. The folding chairs they sat in that day were marked later with their initials.

King mentions Walmart several times in “Billy Summers.” Billy, who by profession is a sniper who kills “bad men” for a fee, even picks up a murder weapon from a sadsack accomplice one evening in a Walmart Garden Center parking lot.

Was King taking a jab at Sam Walton by mentioning Diggins? Just as he takes a gratuitous jab at “that news station that loves Trump” later in the book? If I were Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch, I wouldn’t be happy about how King portrays character Roger Klerke, who owns the fictional WWE network.

If I were the mayor of Diggins — I’m not sure who that is nowadays — I’d invite Stephen King to visit the town. Maybe for an event at the Diggins Community Building.

And I’d make sure King noticed that the toilet seats in the men’s restroom were spotless, top and bottom.

Gary Sosniecki and wife Helen owned the Webster County Citizen from 1988 to 1999. (They claim the credit or blame for hiring Dan.) The Sosnieckis are retired in Lebanon. Gary may be reached at sozsez@aol.com.

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