Mrs. Todd's Shortcut

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"Mrs. Todd's Shortcut"
AuthorStephen King
CountryUnited States
Genre(s) Fantasy short story
Published inRedbook (1st release),
Skeleton Crew
Publication typeMagazine (1st release)
Media typePrint (Paperback)
Publication date1984

"Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" is a short story by Stephen King, first published in the May 1984 issue of Redbook magazine, and collected in King's 1985 collection Skeleton Crew.

Plot summary[edit]

David, friend of a caretaker named Homer, is an elderly man who is spending his later years hanging out at the local gas station in a small town. Homer narrates a tale about Mrs. Todd, who is obsessed with finding shortcuts. Homer admires her persistence but begins to have doubts, as there are only so many shortcuts someone can find. Mrs. Todd's habit of resetting her odometer shows remarkable evidence that something strange is going on. He also discovers evidence that her shortcuts are taking fewer miles than are in a straight line between the trip origin and its destination, something that would be impossible in reality. Mrs. Todd compares the shortcuts to folding a map to bring two points closer together, suggesting she has discovered a warped version of reality, akin to a wormhole.

Mrs. Todd finally convinces Homer to take one of the special 'shortcuts'. Homer loses his hat to the grasping arms of a living tree. Soon, he encounters road signs and bizarre animals which he cannot explain. Frightened, Homer doesn't wish to take any more rides. Nonetheless, Mrs. Todd is changing and growing younger with each trip she takes, and the appeal of this overwhelms Homer, despite him discovering a horrifying rodent-like creature on the grill of her car. She brushes this off, seeing the creature as an unfortunate yet normal animal. In the end, Homer, who is looking younger himself, gets into Mrs. Todd's car in front of his friend. It's implied that Mrs. Todd (who by this time is considered to be a missing person together with her car) will now take him into whatever new world which she has found a shortcut to.

References to other works[edit]

A reference to Cujo is made when the story mentions Joe Camber getting killed by his own dog.

The roads that Mrs. Todd discovers bear a strong resemblance to the "highways in hiding" in The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla. Father Callahan, introduced in 'Salem's Lot, travels these roads through todash space, discovering parallel versions of the United States.

After Mrs Todd returns from one of her travels, hanging from the front grill of the car is a " horrifying rodent-like creature" described in the book as "something that came from a mating of a woodchuck and a weasel... there was claws sprung from the pads of its feet like a cat's claws only longer. It had big yellowy eyes....and long thin teeth looking like needles sticking out of its mouth." "it had hung its own self on by the jumped at the Go-Devil when it saw it was about to be run down, trying to bite it to death." This description bears a striking similarity to the billy-bumbler of The Dark Tower series, which is also described with yellow or gold ringed eyes, with sharp teeth and similar to a woodchuck and a raccoon. In The Waste Lands, Jake dreams of running after Oy the billy-bumbler. who heads to the train tracks ready to leap up and fight Blaine the Mono head on as it barrels down the track.[1]

The method of travelling quickly using a parallel world is also used to good effect in The Talisman, a novel by Stephen King and Peter Straub, where the characters 'flip' between worlds and can reduce their journey times in the 'real world' by travelling for part of the time in the 'parallel world'.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands