Home > Revival(8)

Stephen King

She knew more than hymns, too. On one never-to-be-forgotten night she played a trio of Beatles songs, and we sang along with “From Me to You,” “She Loves You,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” My mother claimed that Patsy Jacobs was seventy times better on the piano than Mr. Latoure, and when the minister’s young wife asked to spend some of the church collection money on a piano tuner from Portland, the deacons approved the request unanimously.

“But perhaps no more Beatles songs,” Mr. Kelton said. He was the deacon who had served Harlow Methodist the longest. “The children can get that stuff on the radio. We’d prefer you to stick to more . . . uh . . . Christian melodies.”

Mrs. Jacobs murmured her agreement, eyes demurely cast down.

• • •

There was something else, as well: Charles and Patsy Jacobs had sex appeal. I have mentioned that Claire and her friends were gaga for him; it wasn’t long before most of the boys had crushes on her, as well, because Patsy Jacobs was beautiful. Her hair was blond, her complexion creamy, her lips full. Her slightly uptilted eyes were green, and Connie claimed she had witchly powers, because every time she happened to shift those green eyes his way, his knees turned to water. With those kind of looks, there would have been talk if she had worn more makeup than a decorous blush of lipstick, but at twenty-three, that was all she needed. Youth was her makeup.

She wore perfectly proper knee- or shin-length dresses on Sundays, even though those were the years when ladies’ hemlines started their climb. On MYF Thursday nights, she wore perfectly proper slacks and blouses (Ship ’n Shore, according to my mother). But the moms and grandmoms in the congregation watched her closely just the same, because the figure those perfectly proper clothes set off was the kind that made my brothers’ friends sometimes roll their eyes or shake a hand the way you do after touching a stove burner someone forgot to turn off. She played softball on Girls’ Nights, and I once overheard my brother Andy—who would have been going on fourteen at the time, I think—say that watching her run the bases was a religious experience in itself.

She was able to play the piano on Thursday nights and participate in most of the other MYF activities because she could bring their little boy along. He was a biddable, easy child. Everyone liked Morrie. To the best of my recollection even Billy Paquette, that young atheist in the making, liked Morrie, who hardly ever cried. Even when he fell down and skinned his knees, the worst he was liable to do was sniffle, and even that would stop if one of the bigger girls picked him up and cuddled him. When we went outside to play games, he followed the boys everywhere he could, and when he was unable to keep up with them, he followed the girls, who also minded him during Bible Study or swung him around to the beat during Sing Time—hence the nickname Tag-Along-Morrie.

Claire was particularly fond of him, and I have a clear memory—which I know must be made up of many overlaid memories—of them in the corner where the toys were, Morrie in his little chair, Claire on her knees beside him, helping him to color or to construct a domino snake. “I want four just like him when I get married,” Claire told my mother once. She would have been going on seventeen by then, I suppose, and ready to graduate from MYF.

“Good luck on that,” my mother replied. “In any case, I hope yours will be better looking than Morrie, Claire-Bear.”

That was a tad unkind, but not untrue. Although Charles Jacobs was a good-looking man and Patsy Jacobs was a downright beautiful young woman, Tag-Along-Morrie was as plain as mashed potatoes. He had a perfectly round face that reminded me of Charlie Brown’s. His hair was a nondescript shade of brunet. Although his father’s eyes were blue and his mother’s that entrancing green, Morrie’s were plain old brown. Yet the girls all loved him, as if he were a starter-child for the ones they would have in the following decade, and the boys treated him like a kid brother. He was our mascot. He was Tag-Along-Morrie.

One February Thursday night, my four siblings and I came back from the parsonage with our cheeks red from sledding behind the church (Reverend Jacobs had set up electric lights along our run), singing “I’m Henry the Eighth” at the top of our lungs. I remember that Andy and Con were in a particularly hilarious mood, because they’d brought our toboggan and put Morrie on a cushion at the front, where he rode fearlessly and looked like the figurehead on the prow of a ship.

“You guys like those meetings, don’t you?” my father asked. I think there was mild wonder in his voice.

“Yeah!” I said. “We did about a thousand Bible drills tonight, then went out back on our sleds! Mrs. Jacobs, she sledded, too, only she kept falling off!”

I laughed and he laughed with me. “That’s great, but are you learning anything, Jamie?”

“Man’s will should be an extension of God’s will,” I said, parroting that night’s lesson. “Also, if you connect the positive and negative terminals of a battery with a wire, it makes a short circuit.”

“True,” he said, “which is why you always have to be careful when you’re jump-starting a car. But I don’t see any Christian lesson in that.”

“It was about how doing something wrong because you thought it might make something else better doesn’t work.”

“Oh.” He picked up the latest issue of Car and Driver, which had a cool Jaguar XK-E on the cover. “Well, you know what they say, Jamie: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” He thought for a moment, then added: “And lit with electric lights.”

That made him laugh, and I laughed with him, even though I didn’t get the joke. If it was a joke.

• • •

Andy and Con were friends with the Ferguson brothers, Norm and Hal. They were what we called flatlanders, or folks from away. The Fergusons lived in Boston, so the friendship was ordinarily restricted to summer vacations. The family had a cottage on Lookout Lake, only a mile or so from our house, and the two sets of brothers met at another church-related event, in this case Vacation Bible School.

The Fergusons had a family membership at Goat Mountain Resort, and sometimes Con and Andy would go with them in the Fergusons’ station wagon to swim and have lunch in “the club.” The pool, they said, was about a thousand times better than Harry’s Pond. Neither Terry nor I cared much about this—the local swimming hole was fine by us, and we had our own friends—but it drove Claire wild with envy. She wanted to see “how the other half lived.”

“They live just like us, dear,” Mom said. “Whoever said the rich are different was wrong.”

Claire, who was running clothes through our old washing machine’s wringer, scrunched her face into a pout. “I doubt that,” she said.

“Andy says the girls who swim in the pool wear bikinis,” I said.

My mother snorted. “They might as well go swimming in their bras and underpants.”

“I’d like to have a bikini,” Claire remarked. It was, I suppose, the sort of provocation girls of seventeen specialize in.

My mother pointed a finger at her, soap dripping from one short-clipped nail. “That’s how girls get pregnant, missy.”

Claire returned that serve smartly. “Then you ought to keep Con and Andy from going. They might get a girl pregnant.”

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