This was a really good short story. The Gray Matter didn't seem like it really intended on killing people. As it never seemed to go after Timmy at all when he lived there. I think it just wanted to live in peace and drink it's beer. However what happens when it does multiply ? And who's going to keep bringing it some beer ?
I have to say, I didn't necesarily see an IT connection here, nor do I think it is necessarily required (it is fun to think about, though).
However, the paragraph about the spider, to me, is almost a perfect example of pre-flash flash fiction (I am assuming here that the term "flash fiction" was not widely known before the popularization of the Internet, although I do think paragraph-length stories have been with us for a long while). That brief paragraph, almost a story in its own right, is one of the best examples of yarn-spinning I've ever read. Go and read it again...see how it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and how it exists in a sharp, precise structure of storytelling symmetry. Sure, King probably didn't realize, or go out of his way, to produce such an awesome little burst of self-contained fiction, but he did nevertheless. You could literally pluck it from the tale it resides in and watch in amazement as it would continue to thrive, like a weird heart that could go on beating after being extracted from a creature's circulatory system. I really like that little gem.
Quote: you got to take him his beer and come. I can't stand to go back there. I'm scared. Unquote. This has to be one of Stephen King's best short stories ever. It has the simple story line of friends gathered in the store who go and check on Timmy's dad only to find the big bad monster! And that line about removing a board in the wall and taking out a cat...classic!! It has no bearing on this story, but the characters in this story remind me of the old men sitting around in the store chewing the fat in the Twilight Zone episode Hocus Pocus and Frisby!
There's more than 1 giant spider in the works of SK. At least 3, and 4 if you count this fleeting reference.
I just re-read most of night shift and agree it's a great collection. From the lovecraftian "Jerusalem's lot", to the sentimental "last rung on the ladder". Gray matter was never a favourite of mine but it's one I still remember vividly from first reading it 20 years ago.