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Книга The Dead Zone. Содержание - CHAPTER EIGHT

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He went into the living room. Vera was sitting on the couch. Her feet, encased in elastic pink mules, were up on a hassock. She was wearing her old gray robe. She was eating popcorn straight from the popper. Since Johnny's accident she had put on nearly forty pounds and her blood pressure had skyrocketed. The doctor wanted to put her on medication, but Vera wouldn't have it-if it was the will of the Lord for her to have the high blood, she said, then she would have it. Herb had once pointed out that the will of the Lord had never stopped her from taking Bufferin when she had a headache. She had answered with her sweetest long-suffering smile and her most potent weapon: silence.

“Who was on the phone?” she asked him, not looking away from the TV. Oral had his arm round the well-known quarterback of an NFC team. He was talking to a hushed multitude. The quarterback was smiling modestly.

…and you have all heard this fine athlete tell you tonight how he abused his body, his Temple of God. And you have heard…

Herb snapped it off.

“Herbert Smith! “She nearly spilled her popcorn sitting up. “I was watching! That was…”

“Johnny woke up.”

…Oral Roberts and

The words snapped off in her mouth. She seemed to crouch back in her chair, as if he had taken a swing at her.

He looked back, unable to say more, wanting to feel joy but afraid. So afraid.

“Johnny's… “She stopped, swallowed, then tried again. “Johnny… our Johnny?”

“Yes. He spoke with Dr. Brown for nearly fifteen minutes. Apparently it wasn't that thing they thought… false-waking… after all. He's coherent. He can move.”

“Johnny's awake?”

Her hands came up to her mouth. The popcorn popper, half full, did a slow dipsy-doodle off her lap and thumped to the rug, spilling popcorn everywhere. Her hands covered the lower half of her face. Above them her eyes got wider and wider still until for a dreadful second, Herb was afraid that they might fall out and dangle by their stalks. Then they dosed. A tiny mewing sound came from behind her hands.

“Vera? Are you all right?”

“O my God I thank You for Your will be done my Johnny You brought me my I knew You would, my Johnny, 0 dear God I will bring You my thanksgiving every day of my life for my Johnny Johnny JOHNNY -, Her voice was rising to an hysterical, triumphant scream. He stepped forward, grabbed the lapels of her robe, and shook her. Suddenly time seemed to have reversed, doubled back on itself like strange cloth-they might have been back on the night when the news of the accident came to them, delivered through that same telephone in that same nook.

By nook or by crook, Herb Smith thought crazily.

“O my precious God my Jesus oh my Johnny the miracle like I said the miracle…”

“Stop it, Vera!”

Her eyes were dark and hazy and hysterical. “Are you sorry he's awake again? After all these years of making fun of me? Of telling people I was crazy?”

“Vera, I never told anyone you were crazy.”

“You told them with your eyes!” she shouted at him. “But my God wasn't mocked. Was he, Herbert? Was he?”

“No,” he said. “I guess not.”

“I told you I told you God had a plan for my Johnny. Now you see his hand beginning to work. “She got up. “I've got to go to him. I've got to tell him. “She walked toward the closet where her coat hung, seemingly unaware that she was in her robe and nightgown. Her face was stunned with rapture. In some bizarre and almost blasphemous way she reminded him of the way she had looked on the day they were married. Her pink mules crunched popcorn into the rug.


“I've got to tell him that God's plan…


She turned to him, but her eyes were far away, with her Johnny.

He went to her and put his hands on her shoulders.

“You tell him that you love him… that you prayed… waited… watched. Who has a better right? You're his mother. You bled for him. Haven't I watched you bleed for him over the last five years? I'm not sorry he's back with us, you were wrong to say that. I don't think I can make of it what you do, but I'm not sorry. I bled for him, too.”

“Did you?” Her eyes were flinty, proud, and unbelieving.

“Yes. And I'm going to tell you something else, Vera. You're going to keep your trap shut about God and miracles and Great Plans until Johnny's up on his feet and able to…”

“I'll say what I have to say!”

…and able to think what he's doing. What I'm saying is that you're going to give him a chance to make something of it for himself before you start in on him.”

“You have no right to talk to me that way! No right at all!”

“I'm exercising my right as Johnny's dad,” he said grimly. “Maybe for the last time in my life. And you better not get in my way, Vera. You understand? Not you, not God. not the bleeding holy Jesus. You follow?”

She glared at him sullenly and said nothing.

“He's going to have enough to do just coping with the idea that he's been out like a light for four-and-a-half years. We don't know if he'll be able to walk again, in spite of the therapist that came in. We do know there'll have to be an operation on his ligaments, if he even wants to try; Weizak told us that. Probably more than one. And more therapy, and a lot of it's going to hurt him like hell. So tomorrow you're just going to be his mother.”

“Don't you dare talk to me that way! Don't you dare!”

“If you start sermonizing, Vera, I'll drag you out of his room by the hair of your head.”

She stared at him, white-faced and trembling. Joy and fury were at war in her eyes.

“You better get dressed,” Herb said. “We ought to get going.”

It was a long, silent ride up to Bangor. The happiness they should have felt between them was not there; only Vera's hot and militant joy. She sat bolt upright in the passenger seat, her Bible in her lap, open to the twenty-third Psalm.


At quarter of nine the next morning, Marie came into Johnny's room and said, “Your mom and dad are here, if you're up to seeing them.”

“Yes, I'd like that. “He felt much better this morning, stronger and less disoriented. But the thought of seeing them scared him a little. In terms of his conscious recollection, he had seen them about five months ago. His father had been working on the foundation of a house that had now probably been standing for three years or more. His mom had fixed him home-baked beans and apple pie for dessert and had clucked over how thin he was getting.

He caught Marie's hand weakly as she turned to go.

“Do they look all right? I mean…”

“They look fine.”

“Oh. Good.”

“You can only have half an hour with them now. Some more time this evening if the neurology series doesn't prove too tiring.”

“Dr. Brown's orders?”

“And Dr. Weizak's.”

“All right. For a while. I'm not sure how long I want to be poked and prodded.”

Marie hesitated.

“Something?” Johnny asked.

“No… not now. You must be anxious to see your folks. I'll send them in.”

He waited, nervous. The other bed was empty; the cancer patient had been moved out while Johnny slept off his Valium pop.

The door opened. His mother and father came in. Johnny felt simultaneous shock and relief: shock because they had aged, it was all true; relief because the changes in them did not yet seem mortal. And if that could be said of them, perhaps it could be said of him as well.

But something in him had changed, changed drastically-and it might be mortal.

That was all he had time to think before his mother's arms were around him, her violet sachet strong in his nostrils, and she was whispering: “Thank God, Johnny thank God, thank God you're awake.”

He hugged her back as best he could his arms still had no power to grip and fell away quickly and suddenly, in six seconds, he knew how it was with her, what she thought, and what was going to happen to her. Then it was gone, fading like that dream of the dark corridor. But when she broke the embrace to look at him, the look of zealous joy in her eyes had been replaced with one of thoughtful consideration.

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