Home > Revival(11)

Stephen King

He went to the worktable and brought back what looked like either a fat cloth belt or the world’s skinniest electric blanket. A cord dangled from it, going to a little white plastic box with a slide-switch on top. Jacobs stood with the belt in his hands, looking at Con gravely. “This is a project I’ve been tinkering with on and off for the last year. I call it the Electrical Nerve Stimulator.”

“One of your inventions,” I said.

“Not exactly. The idea of using electricity to limit pain and stimulate muscles is very, very old. Sixty years before the birth of Christ, a Roman doctor named Scribonius Largus discovered that foot and leg pain could be alleviated if the sufferer stepped firmly on an electric eel.”

“You made that up!” Claire accused, laughing. Con wasn’t laughing; he was staring at the cloth belt with fascination.

“Not at all,” Jacobs said, “but mine uses small batteries—which are of my invention—for power. Electric eels are hard to come by in central Maine, and even harder to put around a boy’s neck. Which is what I intend to do with this homemade ENS gadget of mine. Because Dr. Renault might have been right about your vocal cords not being ruptured, Con. Maybe they only need a jump-start. I’m willing to make the experiment, but it’s up to you. What do you say?”

Con nodded. In his eyes I saw an expression that hadn’t been there in quite awhile: hope.

“How come you never showed us this in MYF?” Claire asked. She sounded almost accusing.

Jacobs looked surprised and a tiny bit uneasy. “I suppose I couldn’t think how it connected to a Christian lesson. Until Jamie came to see me today, I was thinking of trying it out on Al Knowles. His unfortunate accident?”

We all nodded. The fingers lost in the potato grader.

“He still feels the fingers that aren’t there, and says they hurt. Also, he’s lost a good deal of his ability to move that hand because of nerve damage. As I said, I’ve known for years that electricity can help in matters like those. Now it looks like you’ll be my guinea pig, Con.”

“So having that handy was just a lucky break?” Claire asked. I couldn’t see why it mattered, but it seemed to. To her, at least.

Jacobs looked at her reproachfully and said, “Coincidence and lucky break are words people with little faith use to describe the will of God, Claire.”

She flushed at that, and looked down at her sneakers. Con, meanwhile, was scribbling on his pad. He held it up. WILL IT HURT?

“I don’t think so,” Jacobs said. “The current is very low. Minuscule, really. I’ve tried it on my arm—like a blood-pressure cuff—and felt no more than the tingle you get when your arm or leg has been asleep and is just beginning to wake up. If there is pain, raise your hands and I’ll kill the current right away. I’m going to put this thing on now. It will be snug, but not tight. You’ll be able to breathe just fine. The buckles are nylon. Can’t use metal on a thing like this.”

He put the belt around Con’s neck. It looked like a bulky winter scarf. Con’s eyes were wide and scared, but when Jacobs asked if he was ready, he nodded. I felt Claire’s fingers close over mine. They were cold. I thought Jacobs might get to the prayer then, asking for success. In a way, I suppose he did. He bent down so he could look Con directly in the eyes and said, “Expect a miracle.”

Con nodded. I saw the cloth around his throat rise and fall as he swallowed hard.

“All right. Here we go.”

When Reverend Jacobs slid the switch on top of the control box, I heard a faint humming sound. Con’s head jerked. His mouth twitched first at one corner, then at the other. His fingers began to flutter rapidly and his arms jerked.

“Does it hurt?” Jacobs asked. His index finger was hovering over the switch, ready to turn it off. “If it hurts, hold out your hands.”

Con shook his head. Then, in a voice that sounded as if it were coming through a mouthful of gravel, he said: “Doesn’t . . . hurt. Warm.”

Claire and I exchanged a wild glance, a thought as strong as telepathy flowing between us: Did I hear that? She was now squeezing my hand hard enough to hurt, but I didn’t care. When we looked back at Jacobs, he was smiling.

“Don’t try to talk. Not yet. I’m going to run the belt for two minutes by my watch. Unless it starts to hurt. If that happens, hold out your hands and I’ll turn it off at once.”

Con didn’t hold out his hands, although his fingers continued to move up and down, as if he were playing an invisible piano. His upper lip lifted a few times in an involuntary snarl, and his eyes went through spasms of fluttering. Once, still in that grating, gravelly voice, he said, “I . . . can . . . talk again!”

“Hush!” Jacobs said sternly. His index finger hovered over the switch, ready to kill the current, his eyes on the moving second hand of his watch. After what seemed like an eternity, he pushed the switch and that faint hum died. He unloosed the buckles and pulled the belt over my brother’s head. Con’s hands went immediately to his neck. The skin there was a little flushed, but I don’t think that was from the electric current. It was from the pressure of the belt.

“Now, Con—I want you to say, ‘My dog has fleas, they bite his knees.’ But if your throat starts to hurt, stop at once.”

“My dog has fleas,” Con said in his strange grating voice. “They bite his knees.” Then: “I have to spit.”

“Does your throat hurt?”

“No, just have to spit.”

Claire opened the shed door. Con leaned out, cleared his throat (which produced an unpleasantly metallic sound like rusty hinges), and hocked a loogie that to me looked almost as big as a doorknob. He turned back to us, massaging his throat with one hand.

“My dog has fleas.” He still didn’t sound like the Con I remembered, but the words were clearer now, and more human. Tears rose in his eyes and began to spill down his cheeks. “They bite his knees.”

“That’s enough for now,” Jacobs said. “We’ll go in the house, and you’ll drink a glass of water. A big one. You must drink a lot of water. Tonight and tomorrow. Until your voice sounds normal again. Will you do that?”


“When you get home, you may tell your mother and father hello. Then I want you to go into your room and get down on your knees and thank God for bringing your voice back. Will you do that?”

Con nodded vehemently. He was crying harder than ever, and he wasn’t alone. Claire and I were crying, too. Only Reverend Jacobs was dry-eyed. I think he was too amazed to cry.

Patsy was the only one not surprised. When we went into the house, she squeezed Con’s arm and said in a matter-of-fact voice, “That’s a good boy.”

Morrie hugged my brother and my brother hugged him back hard enough to make the little boy’s eyes bug out. Patsy drew a glass of water from the kitchen tap and Con drank all of it. When he thanked her, it was almost in his own voice.

“You’re very welcome, Con. Now it’s well past Morrie’s bedtime, and time for you kids to go home.” Leading Morrie to the stairs by the hand, but not turning around, she added: “I think your parents are going to be very happy.”

That was the understatement of the century.

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