A small town in Maine again serves as King's (Nightmares and Dreamscapes, 1993, etc.) setting in this deft, steady tale, in which two lovable geezers travel through hyper-reality to balance the books of human existence, or something to that effect. Since his wife's recent death, Ralph Roberts, age 70, has been beset by insomnia and hallucinations. These hallucinations appear as auras, terminating in fine lines of light resembling balloon strings. In these strings, Ralph believes he can see other people's states of mind and being (e.g., disease, anger, calm). Ah, but 68-year-old gal pal Lois Chasse shares these visions, which by now include three little bald entities in doctors' smocks. These three, naturally, are not really of this earth. They are brokers for what we mortals call death. The first two, whom Ralph and Lois name Clotho and Lachesis -- from a Greek myth about three yam-spinning sisters -- are benevolent and serve "The Purpose," or natural, timely demise. The third, a malevolent sprite named Atropos, represents "The Random" and takes great pleasure in prematurely cutting folks' balloon strings with his rusty scalpel. Atropos takes advantage of a pro-life rally currently polarizing the hamlet and enlists a local crazy to help him make a literal killing in the afterlife futures market. In the climax, our oldsters serve as earthly agents to thwart a potentially calamitous disruption in the order of the universe. King throws in a tender romance, sensitive and often funny portrayals of the ravages of age, and the somewhat loopy presence of Rite-Aid drugstores, Cup-A-Soup, and Port-O-Sans smack-dab in the middle of hyper-reality. This commingling of the supernatural and the commonplace is what makes this hefty read so enjoyable. Still, at 800 pages, it ain't no coffee-table book -- it's a coffee table.