Epiphany, fiction by Larry Thacker


That’s exact­ly what it was like. An epiphany.

It was 2:46 in the morn­ing. I know this because I’d start­ed play­ing a lit­tle game with myself try­ing to guess the time at night as I woke up off and on, whether it was the nurs­es check­ing on me or just wak­ing up from the bed being so uncom­fort­able. After a week in, I need­ed some­thing to pass the time. I’d awak­en, look at the room, the lev­el of dark or light out­side the win­dow, lis­ten for the traf­fic, to con­ver­sa­tions down the hall, then try to tell the time before look­ing at the clock to my left on the wall. I was get­ting pret­ty good.

When I woke up to the rev­e­la­tion that I’d sue Rev­erend Alamo, I guessed it was near­er morn­ing that it actu­al­ly was. I thought I could see the slight­est hint of morn­ing twi­light grow­ing from the moun­tains in the east. It must have been the moon or some­thing. It wasn’t even three. I had hours to go before it was time to stir. Before things woke up along that hos­pi­tal wing. No one was awake who I could have called and explained my real­iza­tion, talked out my ideas. I’d have to wait for daylight.


I don’t recall most of the acci­dent. I was already out cold before my car hit the tree head-on. I didn’t feel my face impact­ing the steer­ing wheel, nose first. Or my legs get­ting pinned and bro­ken. My hand burn­ing. Who’d have want­ed to be con­scious while all that was hap­pen­ing? Lucky me.

I’ve attend­ed the Rev­erend Jack­ie Alamo’s ser­vices at least ten times. He stops through Labor Coun­ty once or twice a year. He uses the local uni­ver­si­ty bas­ket­ball are­na, that place where they hold the mon­ster truck ral­lies and Shriner Cir­cus. It packs in 15,000. He can almost fill it. Like it’s a Tim McGraw concert.

I used to take dates from church to go see Alamo. They loved it. I’d get tick­ets for as close to the front as I could afford, up near the action, which got pret­ty expen­sive. Alamo had a way about his preach­ing. It’s like he could lull the whole place into a spir­i­tu­al trance, get you feel­ing like any­thing was pos­si­ble. Wasn’t that the goal, I sup­pose? To believe in mir­a­cles. Real mir­a­cles. After all, to believe in Jesus is to believe in mir­a­cles, not just way back then, but up to today as well. He’d say, “If you want a mir­a­cle, be the mir­a­cle!” Alamo preached and healed in a way that made it feel okay to believe, as if he wasn’t the usu­al snake oil slinger.

We’d be so worked up after watch­ing all that scream­ing and heal­ing we’d end up skin­ny dip­ping out on the riv­er. I’m sur­prised we didn’t evap­o­rate it up we were so hot. Any preach­er who’d assist me like that in get­ting lucky was alright in my book.

So, yes, I was a believ­er, I guess, what­ev­er that means. That can be some­thing dif­fer­ent for who­ev­er you ask. Mamaw swears he healed her sco­l­io­sis. My third cousin Ronald claims Alamo cured his chron­ic hem­or­rhoids, right there in the mid­dle of a ser­vice. Said he could hard­ly sit on those hard are­na chairs one moment, the next moment the pain was gone and Ronald was toss­ing his blow-up donut into the aisle and doing a lit­tle hap­py dance. Ronald said it’d been worth every pen­ny he’d giv­en over the years dur­ing the offertory.

Every­where Alamo goes peo­ple claim they’re get­ting healed by this man. Some when he lays hands on them, some just sit­ting in their wheel­chair across the are­na floor. He gives the invi­ta­tion after an hour of singing and anoth­er hour of holler preach­ing and they line up by the hun­dreds. He claps the palm of his hand right to their fore­heads as fast as his dea­cons can walk, limp, or roll the afflict­ed across the stage. Once he begins there are twitch­ing bod­ies all over. He’ll aim is hand out into the first few rows and zap a few and the aisles fill with half-con­scious mum­blers. The band and choir grow loud­er the cra­zier it gets. Some are even healed from great dis­tances. That’s how I end­ed up here in this hos­pi­tal bed. Here with noth­ing to do but watch a clock in the mid­dle of the night.


Rev­erend Alamo runs a pub­lic access show on Chan­nel 6 on Tues­day evenings. Prayin’ at the End Times, it’s called. It simul­casts on the radio as well. He’s got singers on the show, guest preach­ers, he inter­views peo­ple. There’s usu­al­ly a small crowd in the stu­dio made up of guests and fam­i­ly. Enough to say plen­ty of Amens and Bless their hearts through the hour.

He says since it’s impos­si­ble for him to pray for every­one indi­vid­u­al­ly, and since God responds bet­ter to specifics when it comes to prayer, he takes the week’s prayer requests and puts them all in a round fish­bowl and pulls the “Lucky 7” at the end of each show.

Lord, Ms. Greene wants her son to quit the pills!”

Jesus, Lord, help the Mayes Fam­i­ly get through Papaw John’s colonoscopy alright.”

Help Mr. Jenk­ins with his ‘spe­cial prob­lem’ with the ladies, Lord!”

Stuff like that.

He has a spe­cial guest every show. Some­one who needs relief from some ail­ment by some “good old-fash­ioned healing.”


He was talk­ing direct­ly to me that evening. I knew it just as plain as day.

I’m not a reg­u­lar lis­ten­er to Rev­erend Alamo’s show, but we don’t have that many radio sta­tions around here, so I just hap­pened to land on his show and stay dur­ing my fif­teen-minute dri­ve home from work.

The top­ic of migraines caught my atten­tion. He was inter­view­ing a lit­tle kid named Frankie who suf­fered awful migraines. So bad he had to be home­schooled. He’d have them every day, his moth­er said. He’d have to take a nap in a dark room for an hour or two once they hit. It was debil­i­tat­ing, espe­cial­ly for a lit­tle kid in third grade. He shouldn’t have to be deal­ing with that. It was wor­ry­ing his poor moth­er Joann to death over the boy.

My prob­lems with migraines wait­ed until my mid-thir­ties. Fine one day, lit­er­al blind­ing migraines the next. I was at a music store in town, talk­ing gui­tars. A tiny blind spot popped up to the right of my sight, but I thought noth­ing of it. Until it start­ed grow­ing. Then light­ning streaks began puls­ing down along the blind spot. The blind spot got even big­ger. I had to sit down. I was half blind. My head start­ed hurt­ing. I thought I was hav­ing a stroke. It set off a pan­ic attack.

It was a “migraine with aura,” the doc­tor said. At first, they’d come and go. A few times a week then noth­ing for a month, then days in a row. No sense to it what­so­ev­er. But they’d got­ten worse, min­i­mum, one or two, a week. They’d make me late for work or I’d have to go home ear­ly. Call in a sick day. Ruin plans. A con­stant anxiety.


Alamo was talk­ing up a big game on the radio with Frankie, the migraine boy.

This afflic­tion, broth­ers and sisters…this neu­ro­log­i­cal ailment…back in the old­en days, when Jesus walked with us in the flesh…I’m sure a migraine episode would have been inter­pret­ed as some form of demon­ic attack…and per­haps the Lord him­self would have thought it was some kind of dev­il­ish pos­ses­sion – and I ain’t say­ing the Lord would have been wrong, but who are we to say we know all the work­ings of the brain? Who’s to say the Great Liar doesn’t have a hand in caus­ing such a chron­ic pain and dis­com­fort in a boy’s life, caus­ing his poor moth­er to wor­ry like she does?”

He was actu­al­ly open­ing the door to Satan hav­ing some hand in migraines.

We’re gonna do what we can to help you, son, okay?” he said soft­ly to the boy. “Let’s pray for Frankie,” he began, but before he start­ed, he added, “and y’all keep in mind that next month – June – is coun­ty­wide Migraine Aware­ness Month as declared recent­ly by our Coun­ty Judge Exec­u­tive and coun­ty board. Remem­ber to wear your spark­ly sil­ver rib­bons, y’all.”

I was pay­ing atten­tion, but half-heart­ed­ly up to that point. Sure, the lit­tle kid had migraines. Him and me and a mil­lion oth­ers. But then he homed in on me, or at least it felt like it.

But Frankie here ain’t alone in his suf­fer­ing, broth­ers and sis­ters in Christ! Some­body out there’s got the same prob­lem as lit­tle Frankie here! The same bad headaches, these awful migraines,” he said, sound­ing like he was only a breath away from hav­ing a fit of tongues. “I feel they’re on the road tonight – lis­ten­ing right now to the show. Lord, you know who they are. Where they’re at out in the big world tonight.”

I laughed. This would real­ly hit home with the few that have migraines who just hap­pen to be lis­ten­ing in on this sta­tion at this very moment. For all I knew that might have been only me at that moment. The more he talked, the more it felt just like that. Alamo call­ing out to me across the radio waves on a Wednes­day evening. I’d just had one ear­li­er that morn­ing, out of nowhere. I was almost late to work over it.


You know who you are. You and Jesus. Frankie and me are gonna pray for a heal­ing. For him. For you. Who­ev­er you are!”

Alamo got loud­er and more excit­ed. I was pay­ing very close atten­tion by now.

Lord, you are the Great Physician!”

But why just poor lit­tle Frankie? Why just me lis­ten­ing right now?

You know what’s caus­ing these headaches, these ter­ri­ble migraines!”

What’s up with all this pick­ing and choos­ing, why not cure it all in one swoop of the mirac­u­lous heal­ing hand?

Reach down your heal­ing hands and take this burden…”

I might have start­ed out intrigued by Alamo, but I have to say, I was get­ting angry by then. Alamo was like this – con­vinc­ing one minute, ridicu­lous the next.

I felt like my ail­ment, my bur­den, was just a prop for his show, for that moment of atten­tion he craved. I’ve been on the fence about the guy. I’d get some­thing use­ful from one of his ser­mons, have a good date from the expe­ri­ence, doubt most of his heal­ing the­atrics but walk away thor­ough­ly enter­tained. Even inspired. It was some­thing to do.

But now? Now the whole obvi­ous­ly staged rou­tine was just piss­ing me off. Alamo was just using Frankie and his moth­er. Hell, he was using me and didn’t even know me, some blank face out there with a con­ve­nient headache problem.

Screw you, Alamo,” I remem­ber say­ing, reach­ing for the radio dial to find anoth­er station.


Peo­ple say, the next thing I knew, this and that, etc., and it can be an exag­ger­a­tion. It’s true, though, I reached for the radio knob, there was a spark like a shock, and the next thing I knew I was com­ing to in the hos­pi­tal. I’d gone off the road straight into a tree. My hand was scorched, which con­fused every­one since there was no fire in the car. I’d bashed my face into the steer­ing wheel (the airbag had been deployed before and not replaced when I bought it). The dash had dropped and pinned my legs at the knees, caus­ing fractures.

The doc­tors and nurs­es inquired about my hand.

At first, I couldn’t remem­ber what I’d been doing at all, but after a day things focused back. I explained what I’d been lis­ten­ing to and the explo­sive spark when I’d reached for the radio. They fig­ured I was con­fused and checked me again for a con­cus­sion. No, I insist­ed, I remem­bered clear­ly now. It was com­ing back to me. I reached to turned the sta­tion and the radio explod­ed and every­thing went black. Next thing I was in the hospital.

Elec­tri­cal mal­func­tion, obvi­ous­ly, the doc­tor fig­ured dis­mis­sive­ly. The nurs­es nod­ded. Why argue? I hard­ly knew myself. But with my injuries I had days to lay around think­ing on it. Bet­ter details came to me what had hap­pened. Alamo’s show. The kid and his moth­er. Migraines. The more I remem­bered, the angri­er I got.


After my “epiphany,” I called up an old friend of mine. Ram­sey Mid­dle­ton and I went to school togeth­er. He attend­ed law school and came back home and set up a solo prac­tice down­town. I called him up from the hos­pi­tal. He came to vis­it, and we talked. He didn’t doubt me. Didn’t doubt my sto­ry. He didn’t need to, he said. His job, he said, as an attor­ney, was to lis­ten and tell me whether he thought I had a case. I did, he said. A good one.

But, I won­dered, how could a preach­er, miles away, who didn’t know me, didn’t know where I was at the time of inci­dent in ques­tion, be held respon­si­ble for my accident?

Answer me this,” Ram­sey asked, “Did he cause your accident?”

Yes,” I said. I tru­ly believed he had.

What caused you to have the acci­dent?” Ram­sey asked. I felt like I was in a deposition.

Get­ting shocked and knocked the fuck out by the radio in my car,” I said.

Right. And what caused that? A malfunction?”

Not as such,” I said.

At this point I had to make a deci­sion, didn’t I? Had the good rev­erend sent his heal­ing vibes out over the mys­tic air­waves and zapped me? Or, had I touched the dial of my radio at just the pre­cise moment it mal­func­tioned with a long-over­due short and knocked myself out from the electrocution?

I’d been in the hos­pi­tal for a week and a half. I’d thought hard on it. Had I expe­ri­enced a migraine in that long. Not that I remem­bered. How long had it been that I’d gone a week or more with­out a bad headache? Had some­thing the doc­tors giv­en me helped? Was it the sim­ple relax­ation? Change of envi­ron­ment? Diet?

Or was I healed?

Com­mit to some­thing,” Ram­say encour­aged. “It’ll dic­tate where we go with this. If you’re serious.”

Oh, I was seri­ous. This guy was going to pay for this.

I’m seri­ous.”


By the next day: no migraine. I was ready to com­mit to the idea of being both mirac­u­lous­ly healed and the vic­tim. Healed through a mir­a­cle man. The vic­tim of that same man of God’s abil­i­ty to reach out willy-nil­ly and zap peo­ple with­out their per­mis­sion, healed or not.

I called Ram­sey up and told him where I’d set­tled on my com­mit­ment. Def­i­nite­ly healed. Def­i­nite­ly a victim.

Our plan? Invite Alamo to come see me, a fan and fre­quenter of his ser­vices, explain­ing my recent and seri­ous injuries. Maybe he’d vis­it. We’d spring our accu­sa­tions on him.

He’d deny any involve­ment, of course. Ram­sey saw it like this: Alamo would claim he’s not respon­si­ble for injuries, which means he’d have claim one of at least two things — one, that I wasn’t “touched” by the Spir­it through him through the radio, basi­cal­ly that it didn’t hap­pen, though it could have, since he’s tal­ent­ed like that, but I was lying, or two, that because he’s a fraud, the whole thing’s impos­si­ble to begin with. One makes me look like ambu­lance-chas­ing fool. Two makes him a crook. Which do you think he’ll claim?

We’d find out.


Half a week lat­er the Rev­erend Jack­ie Alamo said he was com­ing to vis­it. Ram­sey and I were ready.

Lord, son, bless your poor heart,” he start­ed as I rat­tled off my injuries. “Two frac­tured legs just above the knees. A bust­ed nose.” My eyes were just then start­ing to clear up from the awful bruis­ing. “My hand’s still heal­ing from the burns,” I said, shak­ing my head.

Was there a fire, son?” he asked.

More of a big spark that burnt me, when I touched the radio…” I began.

He nod­ded, tak­ing it all in.

…at just about the time you were pray­ing with that kid with the migraines, and his moth­er, on your show…remember?”

Alamo blinked once, looked around, at Ram­sey and back to me.

You were lis­ten­ing to the show, were you?”

Yes, sir, I was. And I’m one of those peo­ple I guess you were reach­ing out to with that migraine prayer you were doing.”

Well, I hope you’ve had some relief, maybe, from them…since?” he asked, a lit­tle sheep­ish suddenly.

I nod­ded, “Yes, sir…I think maybe…I’ve been cure. It’s been almost two weeks. No headaches.”

His eyes widened and he gave a lit­tle gasp.

Glo­ry to God!” he sort of yelled, but not loud enough to dis­turb out in the hall. “That’s won­der­ful news, young man!” He was excit­ed. “When you’re bet­ter we should have you on the show. Peo­ple will love hear­ing about your story…”

I con­tin­ued, “The shock came from touch­ing the radio, preacher…that you were send­ing the heal­ing through.”

He smiled, proud­ly. “I have no doubt, young man! This wouldn’t be first time we’ve had heal­ings from a dis­tance through faith, yes, sir!”

Ram­say inter­rupt­ed about that time. He’d shoved his hand into his coat pock­et and pro­duced a mani­la enve­lope. He hand­ed it to Alamo, who looked up at Ram­sey and at the enve­lope as he took it with is hand.

Ram­sey smiled his “gotcha” smile and said, “Mr. Alamo – you’ve been served.”

Alamo’s eyes got even big­ger. “What the hell’s this, buddy?”

My, how his atti­tude sud­den­ly changed.

I con­tin­ued, “Right as I got shocked and burnt with what­ev­er you were serv­ing up over the air­waves, I blacked out, you see, and didn’t stop until I’d wrapped my Toy­ota Corol­la around a big sycamore. All this is from that car wreck, you see?” I nod­ded at my injuries.

Ala­ma looked up from scan­ning the letter.

And you’re suing me? Why would you do such a thing?”

Ram­sey chimed in. “Now let’s not play dumb, Mr. Alamo.” I noticed how Ram­sey was refus­ing to call him rev­erend or preach­er. “It is our con­tention that your spe­cial and mirac­u­lous pow­ers are what caused these injuries. What caused him to wreck. My client’s lucky to be alive.”

You can’t blame this one me!” he whis­pered, point­ing at all of my injuries.

You heal peo­ple, don’t you? In per­son and from a distance?”

God does, son, not me,” he countered.

That’s not how you sound­ed just now. A lit­tle while ago you sound­ed very much will­ing to accept that you’d been par­ty to a mir­a­cle. Even respon­si­ble. Want­ed him to come on your pro­gram to show him off,” Ram­sey remind­ed Alamo.

I can’t help what God caus­es!” Alamo hissed.

You’d blame this on God,” I asked, hold­ing up my charred appendage.

Yes! I mean, no!”

Alamo was get­ting real­ly frus­trat­ed. He tried calm­ing down.

But if you are cured,” he tried again, “why ques­tion it? Some­times God trades us one thing for anoth­er. Maybe this unfor­tu­nate acci­dent had to hap­pen, along with your healing?”

Ram­sey jumped in. “You’re going to make that argu­ment in front of a jury of your peers, sir?”

Are you shak­ing me down, young man?” he asked Ram­sey. “It wouldn’t be the first time some­one tried cost­ing me some mon­ey over a heal­ing sup­pos­ed­ly gone wrong.”

Oh, is that right?” Ram­sey said. “Good to know. Look, preach­er man,” Ram­sey tried again, “You either did or didn’t heal him? He says he’s healed. Is he healed?”

I won’t call any­one a liar who says their healed by the grace of God, no sir.”

Is it pos­si­ble you helped heal him by means of his lis­ten­ing to your program?”

That’s pos­si­ble, yes.”

Is it pos­si­ble your heal­ing caused him to wreck when it happened?”

Alamo gave that some thought, prob­a­bly real­iz­ing he’d talked too much already, mum­bled some­thing about call­ing his lawyer.

Ram­sey said, “The way I see it, either my client is lying about being healed, lying about his inci­dent, or you didn’t or can’t heal in the way we’ve described. That’s a lot of choic­es for a jury to dig through, if you ask me.”

Alamo didn’t like so many choic­es. He got up in a huff and pulled on his coat and walked for the room door and turned.

I’ll see y’all in court, damn you!” he yelled, this time loud enough for the whole wing to hear him.


A few months lat­er and we were in the thick of it. We’d learned just how tough Alamo’s pri­vate attor­ney, Jes­si­ca Hicks, could be. She’d first tried to get the whole thing dis­missed on the grounds of friv­o­li­ty, at one point call­ing us “sim­ple idiots” for claim­ing such a thing as “dam­ages by way of neg­li­gent spir­i­tu­al heal­ing.” Still, no migraines. A miracle.

Dur­ing fur­ther dis­cov­ery, Hicks said about me, “It doesn’t mat­ter if he was healed or not. That’s beside the point. Only the plain­tiff was in the vehi­cle at the time before and dur­ing the acci­dent. All we have to do is show doubt as to whether he’s being truth­ful. We don’t know if he, in fact, suf­fered from migraines. We don’t know if he, in fact, was lis­ten­ing to the Rev­erend Alamo’s show that evening. We don’t know if he, in fact, was burnt by the radio. There are no wit­ness­es. We just have to paint the plain­tiff as a liar and a kook.”

Still, no migraine.

Ram­sey told me he wasn’t feel­ing 100% on our chances. He said Hicks was used to fight­ing for Ala­ma, that was obvi­ous. “I’d rather not go to tri­al if we can help it, bud­dy,” he told me.

But I’d col­lect­ed up my pre­scrip­tions from the doc­tor. I had copies of my doctor’s exams. Was I a migraine suf­fer­er in the past? Indeed, I was. We could prove that. And I hadn’t tak­en my med­i­cine in a while, so I had more than I should have. Every lit­tle bit of evi­dence would count, even if it there were objections.

No migraine.

My insur­ance wasn’t cov­er­ing $23,560 worth of my treat­ment (so far) and we were claim­ing anoth­er $100,000 worth of pain and suf­fer­ing. I was deter­mined to press it, even though I’d got­ten past the point of free advice from Ram­sey and his bill, though dis­count­ed, was accumulating.


By now I’d gone two-and-a-half months with­out a sin­gle migraine. I was all in, con­vinced I’d been cured by a mir­a­cle. I wasn’t exag­ger­at­ing. I thanked Rev­erend Alamo dur­ing a set­tle­ment meet­ing. He seemed stunned, at first, as if I was act­ing the part, but I think he saw through all the strange­ness going on around us, past the law­suit, past the attempts at prov­ing this or that, and final­ly believed in his own miracle.

The more I agreed that, yes, this was a mir­a­cle, and that, yes, he’d helped heal me, the more he want­ed peo­ple to know the fact. The more he want­ed me on his show. Maybe it was due to so many of his pri­or heal­ings being bogus. Hicks could tell Alamo wasn’t depend­able when it came to stick­ing to his plead of “not guilty” of neg­li­gence. He might say it out loud, but his demeanor would be pride in the court­room. Hicks sensed this.

Maybe Alamo just need­ed a win. For him­self. And God.


I agreed to be a guest on Prayin’ at the End Times. To say how I’d been healed, once a poor suf­fer­er of the Devil’s headaches. How I didn’t miss work any­more because of those awful migraines. I’d prayed with Rev­erend Alamo along with his oth­er guest, an old man suf­fer­ing from life­long GERD, or acid reflux. His poor wife Sheila was with him. We prayed for his heal­ing, and told any­one out there suf­fer­ing with GERD and lis­ten­ing on the radio and plead with them to reach out and touch the radio dial for a great bless­ing. Amen.

I got a check in the mail a week lat­er for $123,560.


Lar­ry D. Thacker’s poet­ry and fic­tion is in over 200 pub­li­ca­tions includ­ing Spill­way, Still: The Jour­nal, Val­paraiso Poet­ry Review, Poet­ry South, The South­ern Poet­ry Anthol­o­gy, The Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Poet­ry, and Illu­mi­na­tions Lit­er­ary Mag­a­zine. His books include four full poet­ry col­lec­tions, two chap­books, as well as the folk his­to­ry, Moun­tain Mys­ter­ies: The Mys­tic Tra­di­tions of Appalachia. His two col­lec­tions of short fic­tion include Work­ing it Off in Labor Coun­ty and Labor Days, Labor Nights. His MFA in poet­ry and fic­tion is earned from Wet Vir­ginia Wes­leyan Col­lege. Vis­it his web­site at: www​.lar​ry​dthack​er​.com


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