Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers
Format of the story
The Body is told in a somewhat complicated manner. It is told in first person by the novelist Gordon Lachance. He's around thirty, and describing an event that took place when he was twelve. Most of the story is a straight retelling of what happened then, but now and then are comments or entire chapters that relate to the present time.
Already when he's twelve, Gordon writes and tells stories. A few times during the story, he tells stories to his friends, and they are presented in the text as short stories by Gordon Lachance, complete with attribution to what magazines they were published in. More about them later.
The real story of The Body takes place in 1960 when Gordon is twelve. He and three friends in Castle Rock (Chris Chambers, Teddy Duchamp, and Vern Tessio) find out where the corpse of Ray Bowers, a boy their own age is and go out to take a look at it. Ray had gone out to pick berries and never got back. Apparently he got hit by a train.
As usual, the gang spends their time hanging around in their treehouse playing cards and generally goofing off. Vern comes running, having overheard his older brother Billy speak about the corpse of Ray Bowers that they had found at a place called Back Harlow Road but didn't dare tell anyone about. The gang decides that they will go there to look at the corpse. Since it's longer than they can walk on one day, they tell their parents that they are going to camp in Vern's back yard, and then rig a flashlight in the tent to make it look as if they're there. Gordon's parents as usual react almost absentmindedly when he tells them that he's sleeping over. Gordon used to have an older brother (Dennis) who died some years ago, and who was his parents' favorite. They are still mourning, and don't pay much attention to Gordon. This is echoed in the story Stud City, interleaved in the text here.
After this interlude, the gang of friends start walking toward the dead Ray Bowers along the railroad tracks. They get to the town dump, where they scale the fence and drink from the water pump, even though the caretaker is rumored to have a vicious dog that he sics on trespassers. Gordon goes off to buy some food while the others wait. On the way back, he gets discovered by the caretaker and chased by the dog. It turns out that the dog isn't that fearsome, and they start taunting it (and the caretaker) through the fence. Teddy uses the epithets "fat-ass" and "lard-bucket" which will return later.
On the way from the dump, they have to cross a railroad bridge or make a big detour. They opt for the bridge, but before Gordon and Vern have gotten over, a train comes so they have to run for their lives the last bit. After this episode, Gordon starts telling his friends a story. The beginning of it is presented in dialogue, with frequent interruptions by his friends.
In the morning they find that there's still some way to walk. Once at the spot they find the body. They also soon find Vern's older brother, Chris' older brother and a number of their friends who are not happy to see a number of kids at the site of the body that they had planned to discover. After some name-calling, Chris picks up the gun he has taken from his drunken father's things and fires in front of one of them and then threatens Ace Merril, the leader of the older boys, with it. After a brief standoff Ace realizes that he's serious and they all leave after promising to get them later.
When the boys get back after walking all night, they find that they haven't really been missed. The older boys hold their mouths about the corpse, but they also hold their promises and beat the boys up.
After this, the story goes into fast-forward. It describes the next year or so briefly. Teddy and Vern drift off from the others, becoming leaders of a few younger boys. Just as Chris said, Gordon starts taking college courses. Unexpectedly, so does Chris. In spite of threats from his father, taunts from his classmates and distrust from teachers and counselors, he manages to pull through with a lot of help from Gordon. Since he had paid no attention to school for a few years there was much catching up to do.
The story ends be describing the fate of Gordon's three friends. In the present, none of them survive. Vern is killed in a house fire after a party. Teddy crashes his car and kills a number of others after having both drunk and taken drugs. Chris is stabbed after trying to stop a fight in a restaurant. Gordon is the only one that survives. And the story.
On the whole, Gordon Lachance comes across pretty much as a thinly-disguised copy of Stephen King. He is the same age and born in Maine. He begins to write stories early on, and progresses to become a writer after publishing stories in small literary journals and men's magazines. He has the great luck of having his first novel become a smash hit, and a successful film as well. At the time of writing this story he has written seven novels about psychic people, and he has a wife and three children.