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Revival(3)
Stephen King

“A direct attack on the high ground sounds risky, General. If I were you I’d split your troops . . . like so . . .” He moved half of the Americans to the left and half to the right. “That creates a pincers movement, see?” He brought his thumb and forefinger together. “Drive on the objective from both sides.”

“Maybe,” I said. I liked the idea of a head-on attack—lots of bloody action—but Mr. Jacobs’s idea appealed to me, just the same. It was sneaky. Sneaky could be satisfying. “I tried to make some caves, but the dirt’s too dry.”

“So I see.” He poked a finger into Skull Mountain and watched the dirt crumble and bury the hole. He stood up and brushed the knees of his jeans. “I’ve got a little boy who’d probably get a kick out of your soldiers in another year or two.”

“He can play right now, if he wants to.” I was trying not to be selfish. “Where is he?”

“Still in Boston, with his mother. There’s lots of stuff to pack up. They’ll be here Wednesday, I think. Thursday at the latest. But Morrie’s still a little young for soldiers. He’d only pick them up and throw them around.”

“How old is he?”

“Just two.”

“I bet he still pees his pants!” I yelled, and started laughing. It probably wasn’t polite, but I couldn’t help it. Kids peeing their pants was just so funny.

“He does, at that,” Jacobs said, smiling, “but I’m sure he’ll grow out of it. Your father’s in the garage, you say?”

“Yeah.” Now I remembered where I had heard the man’s name before—Mom and Dad at the supper table, talking about the new minister that was coming from Boston. Isn’t he awfully young? my mother had asked. Yes, and his salary will reflect that, my dad replied, and grinned. They talked about him some more, I think, but I didn’t pay any attention. Andy was hogging the mashed potatoes. He always did.

“You try that enfilading maneuver,” he said, starting away.

“Huh?”

“Pincers,” he said, tweezing his thumb and finger together again.

“Oh. Yeah. Great.”

I tried it. It worked pretty good. The Krauts all died. The battle wasn’t what I’d call spectacular, though, so I tried the frontal assault, with trucks and jeeps tumbling off the steep slope of Skull Mountain, plus Krauts tumbling off the back with deathcries of despair: “Yaaaahhh!”

Mom, Dad, and Mr. Jacobs sat on the front porch while the battle raged, drinking iced tea and talking about churchy things—in addition to my dad being a deacon, my mom was in the Ladies Auxiliary. Not the boss of it, but the next-to-boss. You should have seen all the fancy hats she had in those days. There must have been a dozen. We were happy then.

Mom called my brothers and sister, along with their friends, to meet the new minister. I started to come, too, but Mr. Jacobs waved me back, telling Mom we’d already met. “Battle on, General!” he called.

I battled on. Con, Andy, and their friends went out back again and played on. Claire and her friends went back upstairs and danced on (although my mother told her to turn the music down, please and thank you). Mr. and Mrs. Morton and the Reverend Jacobs talked on, and for quite awhile. I remember often being surprised at how much adults could yak. It was tiring.

I lost track of them because I was fighting the Battle of Skull Mountain over again in several different ways. In the most satisfying scenario—adapted from Mr. Jacobs’s pincers movement—one part of the American army kept the Germans pinned down from the front while the rest looped around and ambushed the Germans from behind. “Vat is zis?” one of them cried, just before getting shot in the head.

I was starting to get tired of it and was thinking of going in for a slice of cake (if Con and Andy’s friends had left any), when that shadow fell over me and my battlefield again. I looked up and saw Mr. Jacobs, holding a glass of water.

“I borrowed this from your mother. Can I show you something?”

“Sure.”

He knelt down again and poured the water all over the top of Skull Mountain.

“It’s a thunderstorm!” I shouted, and made thunder noises.

“Uh-huh, if you like. With lightning. Now look.” He poked out two of his fingers like devil horns and pushed them into the wet dirt. This time the holes stayed. “Presto,” he said. “Caves.” He took two of the German soldiers and put them inside. “They’ll be tough to root out, General, but I’m sure the Americans will be up to the job.”

“Hey! Thanks!”

“Add more water if it gets crumbly again.”

“I will.”

“And remember to take the glass back to the kitchen when you finish the battle. I don’t want to get in trouble with your mother on my first day in Harlow.”

I promised, and stuck out my hand. “Put er there, Mr. Jacobs.”

He laughed and did so, then walked off down Methodist Road, toward the parsonage where he and his family would live for the next three years, until he got fired. I watched him go, then turned back to Skull Mountain.

Before I could really get going, another shadow fell over the battlefield. This time it was my dad. He took a knee, being careful not to squash any American soldiers. “Well, Jamie, what did you think of our new minister?”

“I like him.”

“So do I. Your mother does, too. He’s very young for the job, and if he’s good, we’ll only be his starter congregation, but I think he’ll do fine. Especially with MYF. Youth calls to youth.”

“Look, Daddy, he showed me how to make caves. You only have to get the dirt wet so it makes kinda almost mud.”

“I see.” He ruffled my hair. “You want to wash up good before supper.” He picked up the glass. “Want me to take this in for you?”

“Yes, please and thank you.”

He took the glass and headed back to the house. I returned to Skull Mountain, only to see that the dirt had dried out again and the caves had collapsed. The soldiers inside had been buried alive. That was okay with me; they were the bad guys, after all.

• • •

These days we’ve become gruesomely sensitized to sex, and no parent in his or her right mind would send a six-year-old off in the company of a new male acquaintance who was living by himself (if only for a few days), but that is exactly what my mother did the following Monday afternoon, and without a qualm.

Reverend Jacobs—Mom told me I was supposed to call him that, not Mister—came walking up Methodist Hill around quarter to three and knocked on the screen door. I was in the living room, coloring on the floor, while Mom watched Dialing for Prizes. She had sent her name in to WCSH, and was hoping to win that month’s grand prize, an Electrolux vacuum cleaner. She knew the chances weren’t good, but, she said, hope springs infernal. That was a joke.

“Can you loan me your youngest for half an hour?” Reverend Jacobs asked. “I’ve got something in my garage that he might like to see.”

“What is it?” I asked, already getting up.

“A surprise. You can tell your mother all about it later.”

“Mom?”

“Of course,” she said, “but change out of your school clothes first, Jamie. While he does that, would you like a glass of iced tea, Reverend Jacobs?”

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