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Revival(6)
Stephen King

“You’re not quite in the right place,” Reverend Jacobs said. “Go a little bit to your right. Do you know your right from your left?”

I did. Mom had taught me: Right is the hand you write with. Of course that wouldn’t have worked with Claire and Con, who were what my dad called southpaws.

I moved my hand and felt something in the water. It was metal, with a groove in it. “I think I found it,” I told Reverend Jacobs.

“I think so, too. You’re touching the track Jesus walks on.”

“It’s a magic trick!” I said. I had seen magicians on The Ed Sullivan Show, and Con had a box of magic tricks he got for his birthday, although everything but the Floating Balls and the Disappearing Egg had been lost.

“That’s right.”

“Like Jesus walking on the water to that ship!”

“Sometimes,” he said, “that’s what I’m afraid of.”

He looked so sad and distant that I felt a little scared again, but I also felt sorry for him. Not that I had any idea what he had to feel sad about when he had such a neat pretend world as Peaceable Lake in his garage.

“It’s a really good trick,” I said, and patted his hand.

He came back from wherever he’d gone and grinned at me. “You’re right,” he said. “I’m just missing my wife and little boy, I guess. I think that’s why I borrowed you, Jamie. But I ought to return you to your mom now.”

When we got to Route 9, he took my hand again even though there were no cars coming either way, and we walked like that all the way up Methodist Road. I didn’t mind. I liked holding his hand. I knew he was looking out for me.

• • •

Mrs. Jacobs and Morris arrived a few days later. He was just a little squirt in didies, but she was pretty. On Saturday, the day before Reverend Jacobs first stood in the pulpit of our church, Terry, Con, and I helped him move Peaceable Lake to the church basement, where Methodist Youth Fellowship would meet every Thursday night. With the water drained, the shallowness of the lake and the grooved track running across it were very clear.

Reverend Jacobs swore Terry and Con to secrecy—because, he said, he didn’t want the illusion spoiled for the little ones (which made me feel like a big one, a sensation I enjoyed). They agreed, and I don’t think either of them peached, but the lights in the church basement were much brighter than those in the parsonage garage, and if you stood close to the landscape and peered at it, you could see that Peaceable Lake was really just a wide puddle. You could see the grooved track, too. By Christmas, everyone knew.

“It’s a big old fakearoonie,” Billy Paquette said to me one Thursday afternoon. He and his brother Ronnie hated Thursday Night School, but their mother made them go. “If he shows it off one more time and tells that walking-on-water story, I’m gonna puke.”

I thought of fighting him over that, but he was bigger. Also my friend. Besides, he was right.

II

Three Years. Conrad’s Voice. A Miracle.

Reverend Jacobs got fired because of the sermon he gave from his pulpit on November 21, 1965. That was easy to look up on the Internet, because I had a landmark to go by: it was the Sunday before Thanksgiving. He was gone from our lives a week later, and he went alone. Patsy and Morris—dubbed Tag-Along-Morrie by the kids in MYF—were already gone by then. So was the Plymouth Belvedere with the push-button drive.

My memory of the three years between the day when I first saw Peaceable Lake and the day of the Terrible Sermon are surprisingly clear, although before beginning this account, I would have told you I remembered little. After all, I would have said, how many of us remember the years between six and nine in any detail? But writing is a wonderful and terrible thing. It opens deep wells of memory that were previously capped.

I feel I could push aside the account I set out to write and instead fill a book—and not a small one—about those years and that world, which is so different from the one I live in now. I remember my mother, standing at the ironing board in her slip, impossibly beautiful in the morning sunshine. I remember my saggy-seated bathing suit, an unattractive loden green, and swimming in Harry’s Pond with my brothers. We used to tell each other the slimy bottom was cowshit, but it was just mud (probably just mud). I remember drowsy afternoons in the one-room West Harlow school, sitting on winter coats in Spelling Corner and trying to get poor stupid Dicky Osgood to get giraffe right. I even remember him saying, “W-W-Why sh-should I have to suh-suh-spell one when I’ll never suh-suh-see one?”

I remember the webwork of dirt roads that crisscrossed our town, and playing marbles in the schoolyard during frigid April recesses, and the sound the wind made in the pines as I lay in my bed, prayers said and waiting for sleep. I remember my father coming out of the garage with a wrench in his hand and his MORTON FUEL OIL cap pulled low on his forehead, blood oozing through the grease on his knuckles. I remember watching Ken MacKenzie introducing Popeye cartoons on The Mighty 90 Show, and how I was forced to give up the TV on the afternoons when Claire and her friends arrived, because they wanted to watch American Bandstand and see what the girls were wearing. I remember sunsets as red as the blood on my father’s knuckles, and how that makes me shiver now.

I remember a thousand other things, mostly good ones, but I didn’t sit down at my computer to put on rose-colored glasses and wax nostalgic. Selective memory is one of the chief sins of the old, and I don’t have time for it. They were not all good things. We lived in the country, and back then, country life was hard. I suppose it still is.

My friend Al Knowles got his left hand caught in his father’s potato grader and lost three fingers before Mr. Knowles could get the balky, dangerous thing turned off. I was there that day, and remember how the belts turned red. I remember how Al screamed.

My father (along with Terry, his faithful if clueless acolyte) got the Road Rocket running—God, what a gorgeous, blasting clatter it made when he revved the engine!—and turned it over to Duane Robichaud, newly painted and with the number 19 emblazoned on its side, to race at the Speedway in Castle Rock. In the first lap of the first heat, the idiot rolled it and totaled it. Duane walked away without a scratch. “Accelerator pedal must have stuck,” he said, grinning his foolish grin, only he said it ass-celerator, and my father said the only ass was the one behind the wheel.

“That will teach you to ever trust anything valuable to a Robichaud,” my mother said, and my father stuffed his hands so deep into his pockets that the top of his underwear showed, perhaps to ensure they would not escape and go someplace they weren’t supposed to.

Lenny Macintosh, the postman’s son, lost an eye when he bent down to see why the cherry bomb he’d put in an empty pineapple tin didn’t go off.

My brother Conrad lost his voice.

So, no—they weren’t all good things.

• • •

On the first Sunday that Reverend Jacobs took the pulpit, there were more people present than had been there in all the years fat, white-haired, good-natured Mr. Latoure had kept the church open, preaching his well-meant but obscure sermons and reliably welling up at the eyes on Mother’s Day, which he called Mother’s Sunday (these details came courtesy of my own mother, years later—I barely remembered Mr. Latoure at all). Instead of twenty congregants there were easily four times that number, and I remember how their voices soared during the Doxology: Praise God from Whom all blessings flow, Praise Him ye creatures here below. It gave me goosebumps. Mrs. Jacobs was no slouch on the pedal organ, either, and her blond hair—held back with a plain black ribbon—glowed many colors in the light falling through our only stained glass window.

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