When Jim Gardener comes to on the rocks of the Arcadia resort, he meets young Jack who mentions that his mother was crazy and died in a car crash.
“Where am I?” Gardener asked, and his mind harked back with an eerie totality to the jail cell and the nose-picking deputy. For a moment he was sure the kid would say, Where do you think you are?
“Arcadia Beach.” The kid looked half-amused, half-contemptuous. “You must have really hung one on last night, mister.”
“Last night, and the night before,” Gardener chanted, his voice a little rusty, a little eerie. “Tommyknockers, Tommyknockers, knocking at the door.”
The boy blinked at Gardener in surprise . . . and then delighted him by unexpectedly adding a couplet Gardener had never heard: “Wanna go out, dunno if I can, cause I’m so afraid of the Tommyknocker man.”
Gardener grinned ... but the grin turned into a wince of fresh pain. “Where’d you hear that, kid?”
“My mom. When I was a baby.”
“I heard about the Tommyknockers from my mother too,” Gardener said, “but never that part.”
The kid shrugged as if the topic had lost whatever marginal interest it might have had for him. “She used to make all kinds of stuff up.” He appraised Gardener.
“Don’t you ache?”
“Kid,” Gardener said, leaning forward solemnly, “in the immortal words of Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg, I feel like homemade shit.”
“You look like you been drunk a long time.”
“Yeah? How would you know?”
“My mom. With her it was always funny stuff like the Tommyknockers or too hung-over to talk.”
“She give it up?”
“Yeah. Car crash,” the kid said.
- Book I / Chapter 6 / Section 2