In early 1979, Stephen was serving as a writer-in-residence at the University of Maine at Orono and living in a rented house in nearby Orrington that bordered a major truck route which frequently claimed the lives of dogs and cats. In the woods behind his house, local children had created an informal pet cemetery. One day, his daughter's cat was killed by a passing truck. Stephen was faced with the task of burying the cat in the pet cemetery and then explaining to his daughter what had happened. It was on the third day after the burial that the idea for a novel came to him. He wondered what would happen if a young family were to lose their daughter's cat to a passing truck, and the father rather than tell his daughter, were to bury the cat in a pet cemetery. And what would happen if the cat were to return the next day, alive but fundamentally different. "I can remember crossing the road, and thinking that the cat had been killed in the road--and (I thought) what if a kid died in that road? And we had had this experience with Owen running toward the road, where I had just grabbed him and pulled him back. And the two things just came together--on one side of this two-lane highway was the idea of what if the cat came back, and on the other side of the highway was what if the kid came back--so that when I reached the other side, I had been galvanized by the idea, but not in any melodramatic way. I knew immediately that it was a novel." After dreaming that night of a reanimated corpse walking up and down the road outside of the house, he began to think about funerals, and the modern customs surrounding death and burial.