Saturday, January 28, 2017

DMI2017, Week 1: "The Little Green God of Agony" by Stephen King

This story, chosen for me by the Jack of spades, appears in the recent collection of Stephen King's stories entitled The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. And let me tell you, it is classic Stephen King. It's a testament to the fact that, no matter what his literary ups and downs may have been over the years, he very much still has "it." In fact, while I was reading this story I noticed that my heart had started racing and my breathing had sped up -- it was that suspenseful and so effortlessly had sucked me in.

The story opens as Katherine MacDonald, a private nurse, is tending to her patient, Andrew Newsome, who just happens to be the sixth-richest man in the world. He also happens to be a bed-ridden invalid recovering from a plane crash and who is never going to get any better despite the daily physical therapy Katherine ("Kat" for short) tries to give him. I say "tries" because Newsome is, in Kat's eyes, a big baby who can't tolerate the slightest bit of pain, and certainly not the monumental amounts of pain that such physical therapy requires to make any kind of progress back to normal functioning of muscles and legs and such. (In the introduction to this story, King notes that he was inspired by his own painful recuperation after the 1999 accident in which he was almost killed by a motorist.)

Even though Kat thinks Newsome is the ultimate wimp, she dares not say anything along these lines to her rich and powerful employer, because she's sure he would fire her on the spot. So she keeps her mouth shut as Newsome relates the details of his accident and then worldwide (yet fruitless) search for someone to help him relieve the pain he is in, and finally get better. He's telling all this to a visitor, a faith healer by the name of Rideout. Kat has seen his kind before, she thinks, and he's just another con artist to her. As the story turns out, of course, she is very much mistaken.

Rideout patiently and silently listens to Newsome's tale, and then pronounces his diagnosis and remedy. In his expert opinion, Newsome is possessed by a demon, a "little green god of agony" who has infested his body and is happily feeding on, and amplifying, his pain. He offers to expel the demon in return for just enough money to rebuild his church, which has recently been destroyed in a fire. This surprises Newsome, who is rich (and desperate) enough to give Rideout any amount of money he asks for if he succeeds, but he happily agrees to the request and consents to the exorcism.

NOT the "little green god of agony"

And this is where Kat completely loses it. She gets in Newsome's face and finally tells him off, in no uncertain terms. She tells him exactly what she thinks about this situation, and tells him he is never going to get any better unless he starts biting the bullet in terms of his therapy. Newsome fires her immediately, of course, but Rideout intervenes, saying that if Kat goes, then he goes as well. He welcomes her unbelief, as it turns out, and is eager to show her how wrong she is. He confronts her as a burned-out caregiver who no longer has the empathy necessary to care for her patients and appreciate their pain, and he's ready to give her a lesson in "humility," as he puts it.

Without giving away any more of the story, suffice it to say that, since this is a Stephen King story, Rideout is  right -- there IS a "little green god of agony" inside Newsome and Kat does get her lesson in humility, as well as a lesson in terror. The story has a nice, Stephen King-like ending as well, if you know what I mean.

I would give this story 5 stars (I think I'll try a rating system this time around) and I recommend it highly as a fast, fun read. It was a great start to my Deal Me In journey this year.

Deal Me In 2017 is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading about King's experience with his 1999 accident in his "On Writing" book. It's amazing he survived, but I'm so glad he did.

    Regarding your pictured green monster: He's an ugly little spud, isn't he? :-)