The Shack Chapter 12

In The Belly of the Beasts

 

When we last left our intrepid hero, he had just had a conversation with Sophia, who is God’s wisdom personified. She allowed Mack to peak in at Missy in heaven, though Missy was not allowed to see him, she knew he was watching her.

As Mack made his way down the trail toward the lake, he suddenly realized that something was missing. His constant companion, The Great Sadness, was gone.

So, God shows Mack how happy his daughter is now that she’s in heaven playing with a bunch of small children her own age…. and now Mack is happy too.

Mack’s rationale is that Missy wouldn’t want her father to constantly be suffering like this, and that’s probably true. But what’s also true is that Missy in in heaven and her entire family isn’t. How happy is a kid actually going to be in that situation? Unless her entire family really sucked, I don’t see how that would help anything.

When Mack comes back to the shore of the lake, Jesus is still skipping stones. Jesus then tells Mack that he has been talking to Sophia.

“Ah, so that’s who she is!” Exclaimed Mack. “But doesn’t that make 4 of you? Is she God too?”

“No, Mack. There are only 3 of us. Sophia is a personification of Papa’s Wisdom.”

“Oh, like in Proverbs, where wisdom is pictured as a woman calling out in the streets, trying to find anyone who’ll listen to her?”

“That’s her.”

I take it the author has no idea of the definition of the word metaphor? I’m pretty sure that verse wasn’t supposed to be taken as literally as it is being taken here. I feel like the author just needed another character and is twisting bible verses to make one.

Jesus then tells Mack that he’s only been gone for 15 minutes, and that this is possible because time with Sophia isn’t normal. Um, you couldn’t have just told Mack it only seemed to take longer than 15 minutes? because all of last chapter sounded like something that very well could have happened in roughly 15-25 minutes.

Mack says that sounds complicated, and Jesus says that it’s actually very simple.

“Because you are so lost and independent you bring to her many complications, and as a result you find even her simplicity profound.”

Strangely, Mack just accepts this rather than arguing with it. Set that aside. The main point to notice here is that this has been a running theme throughout: human independence=bad. Think through the ramifications of that and cringe in horror. I’ve already talked at length about it, so we will move on.

Mack tells Jesus that there’s one last thing still bothering him about Missy, and it’s not “why was she allowed to be murdered” or “how can you be good if you allow suffering like this to happen?” or “why was the free will of Missy’s killer more important than Missy’s free will not to be killed?

Yanno, at this point, I wonder why Mack isn’t remembering that Jesus’ miracles involved raising people from the dead. Why isn’t he begging her to please, for the love of, er, himself, resurrect my little girl?!

“I keep thinking about her, alone in that truck, so terrified….” [said Mack]

Yeah, you read that right. Mack is finally at peace with the fact that God allowed Missy to be brutally murdered. Now he’s worried about the actual trauma that she experienced. Which, now that I think about it, has kind of been on the back burner this whole book. Mack has been so focused on how Missy’s death affected him that he hasn’t given a thought for how Missy’s murder affected her. We never see Mack ask himself thinks like, “did she suffer? Did the piece of garbage rape her first?”

In any case, Jesus reassures Mack. When I first read this book, at the ripe old age of 19, this made me so angry I threw the book across the room. Horrible God, horrible book.

“Mack, she was never alone. I never left her. We never left her, not for one instant….she knew I was there. At first the fear was overwhelming and she was in shock. It took hours to get up here from the campsite. but as Sarayu wrapped herself around her, Missy settled down. The long ride actually gave us a chance to talk.”

I wouldn’t prevent your daughter from being murdered. All I did was make her feel calm about it. In fact, being kidnapped and on her way to be brutally abused and murdered even gave us a chance to talk.

If a human did something like that, we would never think of them as good. Yet somehow God gets a pass? Even if one does believe that God couldn’t have prevented this atrocity from happening, the way this is coming across still struck me as rather creepy.

“Missy may have been only 6 years old, but we are friends. We talk. She had no idea what was going to happen. She was actually more worried about you and the other kids, knowing you couldn’t find her. She prayed for you, for your peace.”

Um yeah I’m calling bullshit on those last 2 sentences. As an adult, *I* would have a very hard time even giving my father a second thought if I was being kidnapped. It would be highly irregular for a 6 year old to think nothing about what was going to happen to her and actually be more worried about what her father was going to think. (Though I believe it is possible it would have crossed her mind briefly for 5 seconds.)

Here, again, we see that Mack cares more about how all of this affected him than how it affected Missy. And Missy, for some strange reason, goes along with all of this.

“Mack, I don’t think you want to know all the details. I’ms rue they won’t help you.”

Mind you, Mack hasn’t asked for any details. Jesus just says this. Now, I could believe that Mack might not want to know the exact details of what happened to Missy. That’s fine. But it should be Mack telling Jesus this. Jesus should ask Mack if he wants the details, if he thinks they would bring him some closure. Mack should be the one to decide if it would help or not. Now he’s going to spend the rest of his life wondering. But then, Mack is so self absorbed that maybe he’s never even thought to wonder about this.

Mack cries for a while longer, and then he and Jesus head back across the water. Jesus sees a fish and tries to catch it, but fails. Mack asks why Jesus can’t catch it if he’s the Lord of creation. Jesus says that he could, of course, but what would be the fun in that? I agree, and it’s a bit of a nice characterization: oh sure I could just magic things to happen, but then life would be boring. That’s valid, well done.

Mack tells Jesus that Missy’s death no longer holds the same power over him that it once did. Jesus tells Mack that these things often seem bigger in the dark than they are in reality.

Yes. The reason Mack was sad about his daughter being murdered at the ripe old age of 6 years old is because he made it seem so much bigger to himself inside his own mind. Look, I could admit that there are some things that we do make out to be worse than maybe they really are. Like not getting into Harvard. But that’s worlds different from one’s own child actually being BRUTALLY MURDERED.

They talk for a while about unhealthy coping mechanisms, and how Mack needs to learn to live loved. There’s more important things to cover, we’re skipping it.

Mack asks why Jesus didn’t tell him all of this stuff about Missy before, and it’s a good question. Why didn’t Jesus try and meet up with him earlier?

“Don’t think we didn’t try. Have you noticed that in your pain you assume the worst of me?”

Gee, ya think? I too would assume the worst of someone who allowed my child to be brutally murdered even though they could have prevented it. 

Jesus keeps talking.

“I’ve been talking to you for a long time, but today was the first time you could hear it, and all those other times weren’t a waste either.”

Jesus has  never tried talking to Mack in person like this before. Christians will probably think that Jesus was trying to talk to Mack in the privacy of his own skull. The problem with that, though, is that, at least for me, I could never sort out “god’s voice” from my own thoughts. Was I talking to God, or to myself? It was so confusing, and I imagine it would have been confusing for Mack, too.

They sit in silence for a while, and then Mack asks if, when he saw her, Missy was in heaven.

Instead of giving him a direct answer, Jesus says something that is more in line with what Seventh Day Advenitsts believe about heaven. Which is kind of shocking.

“Well, Mack, our final destiny is not the picture of heaven that you have stuck in your head–you know, the image of pearly gates and streets of gold. Instead, it’s a new cleansing of this universe, so it will indeed look a lot like here.”

Adventists believe in heaven, of course, and they believe that we are going there for a few thousand years or so while Jesus creates a new earth. But then they believe that Jesus will take us back to the new earth and the new universe, drop us off, and tell us to have fun living forever on a planet where no one dies. It is unclear if Adventists believe we’ll be able to have children after the second coming, so overpopulation may or may not become a problem eventually….

In any case, this is not too out of line with what I was raised to believe, but it is slightly outside mainstream Christianity as far as I know.

“Then what’s with the pearly gates and stuff?” [asked Mack].

“That stuff, my brother, is a picture of me and the woman I’m in love with.”

The Bible does compare the church to a bride adorned for her husband. But the “pearly gates and stuff,” as we read about it in the book of Revelation, is clearly not a reference to us.

I…. don’t know why Mack isn’t making a bigger deal of this and how it literally makes no sense. 

Instead, Mack starts talking about how the church isn’t exactly his favorite place in the world.

“Mack, that’s because you’re seeing only the institution, a man made system. That’s not what I came to build. What I see are people and their lives, a living, breathing community of all those who love me, not buildings and programs.”

This blows Mack’s tiny little mind. He can’t believe Jesus is saying this. I think that if Jesus didn’t come to build a man made system he should tell his followers that directly, but set that aside.

Yes, the church is also an institution and a building and a program. However, when most of us refer to the church, we do refer to the community of the church. And many of us find that particular community pretty terrible, because even people who love Jesus (and in some cases I would argue that this is true especially of people who love Jesus) aren’t exactly all that loving to their fellow human, and seem to have a twisted concept of what exactly love is. Some Christians truly believe that they are being loving Christians when they deny gay people the right to have rights. They love gays too much to allow them to continue living their “homosexual lifestyle.”

So this “mind blowing” revelation isn’t exactly all that mind blowing. It’s just more of the same crap I’ve heard most of my life.

“As well intentioned as it might be, you know that religious machinery can chew up people!” Jesus said. “An awful lot of what is done in my name has nothing to do with me and is often contrary to my purposes.”

“You’re not too fond of religion and institutions?” Mack said.

Of course not. Haven’t you ever heard a Christian say “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship?” Yeah, some Christians absolutely don’t believe they’re religious. Apparently Jesus is one of them.

Jesus then says that he never creates institutions, ever. When Mack asks about marriage, Jesus says that marriage isn’t an institution, it’s a relationship.

Ok, it’s a relationship, but it’s still an institution. In fact, historically speaking, this is likely a chicken and egg question: did the institution of marriage come first and then love evolved out of that, or was it the other way around? Many historians think that the institution of marriage came first, and then it kind of changed over time into something one did for love.

I mean, shoot, the very first marriage in the garden of eden was an arranged marriage. Jesus didn’t exactly ask Eve if she wanted to be married to Adam–or even if she wanted to be married!

In any case, Jesus goes on to say that he doesn’t like religion, politics, or economics.

“They are the  man created trinity of terrors that ravages the earth and deceives those I care about. What mental turmoil and anxiety does any human face that is not related to one of those three?”

I don’t even know what to say to this. In an ideal utopia, we wouldn’t need politics and economics. But at this point, if humans are going to have society, economics is kind of unavoidable, unless I want to go live in the woods naked and never use money, ever. Which wouldn’t be very feasible and, in some states, illegal.

Jesus–or should I say, the author, because that’s really who is talking here–goes on to talk about how bad these things are.

“These terrors are tools that many use to prop up their illusions of security and control…. It’s all false! Systems cannot provide you security, only I can.”

I don’t know, I feel very secure knowing that we have laws, police, and government. Whether or not those 3 things are effective or not is something that is up for debate. However, I would not want to live in a place without these things. If I couldn’t call the police when someone breaks into my house, I wouldn’t feel very secure. Is this book seriously trying to tell me that all I need is a relationship with Jesus?

These systems are in place because we need them. Yes it would be wonderful if I didn’t need these resources, but I do not live in a fake ass utopia.

Jesus then talks to Mack about being in the institutions and systems, but not of them. This reminds me of the Bible verse to be in the world but not of it, which is…um….

Look. There’s nothing wrong with someone not wanting to get into politics or religion. But economics? How does one avoid that? You participate in an economic society every time you go to the grocery store. Every time you go to work. It’s kind of how our society functions….

Mack asks if that is what being a Christian is about, and Jesus replies

 “Who said anything about being a Christian? I’m not a Christian.”

The text doesn’t explicitly say why Jesus doesn’t identify as a Christian. The earthly Jesus who actually existed was Jewish, but my guess is that the text is going for something closer to “Of course Jesus isn’t a christian: christian means “follower of Christ.” Jesus is Christ. Get it? heh. Heh.”

It’s just a guess, though. The author doesn’t bother to actually explain any of this to us.

Jesus then goes on to say that there are people who love him in every system, be in it political groups, religions, etc. And this idea is pervasive in Christianity. The idea that, in ever religion, there are people who love Jesus. They just don’t always realize they’re doing it. That Muslim who lives a good life and does good things and is generally kind to everyone he meets? He’s doing that because of God working in his life. The Muslim in the example loves Jesus, he just doesn’t know it.

“I have no desire to make them Christian,” [said Jesus] “but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved.”

So, you don’t want to make them “Christian,” you just want them all to be “sons and daughters of God.”

Mack asks if that means that all religions lead to Jesus, and Jesus says no, they don’t.

So, Jesus doesn’t want a large family full of Muslims, Jews, and Atheists. He does want them all to be Christians, just not in name. And frankly, I don’ t know what to make of that. It’s confusing and frankly, if I was a Christian reading this, I would find it very heretical.

Again, do conservative Christians just accept this because it is coming from one of their own? Because if I was to say something like this, all hell would break loose.

In any case, I’ll try and start posting more often. It’s hard for me to get into writing these days, but once I start I really do enjoy it. I may not be able to do 2 books at once, unfortunately. That may be beyond me at this time. Once I finish this book we’ll do more of The Stand. At least everyone voted for that one. I just did this because I wanted to but God is it worse than I remembered.

 

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The New Year’s Post 2017

This Christmas, I spent with my grandma and family. I ended up talking with my aunt… let’s call her “Aunt Charlotte.” In any case, I talked with Aunt Charlotte about the things I wished I could have talked with dear departed Aunt B about more: Adventism.

“Yeah,” said Charlotte. “You got more exposure than all of us did.”

“I did?”

Charlotte nodded. “My sisters and I, we all went to the Adventist school for all 12 grades, but none of us went to boarding school. And of course none of your cousins did either, so, out of all the members of this family, you probably got it the worst.”

Well. That was….news. At least on my mother’s side of the family, I was the most brainwashed. Fun. I really was alone in all of this.

“I mean, your freshman year of high school, you really scared us.”

I smiled. “I was happier, then.”

“Really? You were happier when you were in it?”

“Oh yes. I was a brainwashed Adventist automaton and I was happy.”

“Were you?”

Was I? Well, yes. And no. And yes.

Originally, this post was 8 paragraphs long. I have deleted them. I will not be posting them. Because after all this time, here is the conclusion that I have come to:

It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter whether or not I was happier as a brainwashed Adventist who believed everything wholeheartedly and threw herself into her religion. It doesn’t matter because I can never go back to being a brainwashed Adventist who believes everything wholeheartedly and throws herself into her religion. I have read too much. I have seen too much. I know too much. And because of that knowledge, the door to Adventism is closed to me forever.

And Adventists know that. I’m sure a lot of Adventists have good intentions and really do think they would welcome me back with open arms. However, most of those Adventists would know. They would know that I have read too much, that I have seen too much, that I know too much.

And really, it is this knowing on their part that would be my undoing. They would never fully accept me as one of their own, because they know that I know.

Happy new year everyone. It doesn’t matter.

 

The Thanksgiving Post 2017

A little late this year, but oh well.

 

November 22, 2017

The Thanksgiving Post

It’s been a rough year. 2017 has brought us a lot to be afraid of. Will I lose the right to not have babies I don’t want? Will those under a certain income bracket lose our health care? Will the supreme court decision over gay marriage be overturned? Will Trump provoke North Korea into nuking us into oblivion?

There’s a lot to be afraid of just now, but there is also a lot to be thankful for.

1. My readers. Even though I haven’t been posting much anymore, thank you. I swear to god I will write more posts this year.

2. My sweet kitty, Karla.

3. I am even thankful for B’s new kitten, even though she is tap dancing on they keyboard and trying to bite off my fingers as I write this. Excuse minor errors, I am more concerned with editing out the major ones. She’s lucky she’s cute.

4. My new car. I haven’t had one in 5 years, and I’m still nervous about driving it, especially given what happened that one time I drove the car. Which which brings me to my next point

5. My 2 best friends, D and S. They have put up with so much bullshit from me, I don’t even know why they’re still my friends. There’s not a whole lot of people who would forgive that, and I am grateful.

6. Right now I am thankful that the kitten has stopped biting my toes. Jeez those are some sharp teeth.

7. My new room mate, A. Sure she drives me up the wall sometimes, but she’s also got my back when I need it.

8. Full spectrum light bulbs. Because regular light bulbs drive me crazy.

9. That I know how to read.

10. Fountain pens.

11. The Kingdom of Loathing. Without which, I would not have some of my best friends. Next year, I am totally going to KOLumbus.

12. That I got to go to the health food store and buy lots and lots of fri-chic.

 

The Shack Chapter 11–Here Come Da Judge

It’s been hard to write anything lately. I know that not a lot of people read me, and it’s very hard to continue to do something that I now I kinda suck at. I’m mostly going to try and finish up the books I started. See where I end up going after that.

 

Chapter 11 of this waste of trees is actually called “Here Come Da Judge,” which I can only imagine is a lame attempt to sound much cooler than you really are.

I’ll be honest, this chapter was a hard one to get through. Well they’re all hard, but this one had me particularly ragey. Or maybe that’s just the way I feel because I had a particularly brutal day at work and I have no faith left in humanity and I kind of want to send EVERY SINGLE PERSON to hell.

Don’t worry, the feeling usually passes after I relax a bit.

We last left off with Jesus telling Mack to go into a cave. Mack does so, and freaks out for a few moments about how dark it is, and for some reason the intense darkness makes him feel The Great Sadness (yes, it’s italicized like that in the text) even more. I get that this is probably supposed to be symbolic; Mack feels sadness in the dark because his soul is dark or something. Honestly, it just comes across as him being overly whiny….unless being in a dark cave somehow reminds you of your child being murdered in a well lit shack?

Mack’s eyes slowly adjust to what little light there is. he follows the cave in for a little while, and this all takes up like 4 large paragraphs.

Mack stumbles into a chair, and decides to sit in it. Which feels like a very random decision but whatever.

A light moves in front of Mack, and he sees a woman sitting behind a desk.

A tall, beautiful olive skinned woman with chiseled Hispanic features, clothed in a dark flowing robe. She sat as straight and regal as a high court judge. She was stunning.

So, let’s talk about the characters in this book for a moment. We won’t be told this until chapter 12, but I’m going to spoil this for you now: This woman is Sophia, and she is God’s wisdom personified. Yet she is somehow not part of the trinity. Please give up trying to make sense of that right now and this will all go much smoother.

 

Mack asks Sophia who she is. Sophia does not answer, instead asking Mack if he knows why he is here. When Mack responds that no one has told him, Sophia does a bit more beating around the bush.

“Today is a very serious day with very serious consequences…. Mackenzie, you are here, in part, because of your children, but you are also here for–”

“My children?” Mack interrupted. “What do you mean, “I’m here because of my children?”

Well, she was probably just about to tell you that, asshole.  But you interrupted, so instead we’re going to go on a tangent.

Sophia tells Mack that he loves his children more than Mack’s father loved him and his siblings.

Nope, not buying it. Seriously, this needs to die. This idea that abusive parents don’t love their children. Because this parents that beat their children to within an inch of their lives? They do love their children. Yes, that’s confusing. But imagine how frustrating it is to be a child trying to tell an adult about abuse, only to be told, “your father wouldn’t do that honey, your father loves you.”

Yes, my father loved me. He was also verbally and emotionally abusive and needed (needs) some serious mental help.

So this idea that Mack’s father didn’t love him? Yeah, I’m gonna go with “fuck that.”

Mind you that doesn’t make what Mack’s father did ok. Mack’s father still deserved to go to jail for what he did. And I’m not exactly sorry he’s dead. I believe Mack’s father, in his own way, did love his children. But love does not cover a multitude of sins.

Sophia also tells Mack that it is only through God– “Papa” that Mack loves his children the way he does. This is another idea you run into in conservative Christianity–the idea that every single good thing you do is because of God in your life. This is true even if you are an atheist. In fact, the only reason atheists aren’t giant walking rape and murder machines is because of the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives as he tries to win us over to God.

That love you feel for your child? Doesn’t come from you. Without God, you would be a cold murderous sociopath who would happily throw your child under the bus.

Conservative Christianity does not have a very high view of human nature.

Sophia asks which of Mack’s children he love most. Mack replies that he doesn’t love either one of them more than the others, but he does love them differently. Each child triggers a unique response from him.

“When I think of each child, I find that I am especially fond of him/her.”

I’m not a parent, so I can’t comment. If any parent out there wants to comment on how realistic this is, feel free. For now I am going to move on.

Sophia asks Mack if he still loves his children even when they behave in ways he doesn’t like. Upon being informed that of course he fucking loves his children no matter what, Sophia tells Mack that he is “wise in the ways of love,” a phrase that actually made me barf a little in my mouth.

But sure, whatever.

Sophia tells Mack that the way God loves his children is the same way Mack loves his. At which point Mack asks angrily if Missy was God’s child? It’s a fair question. No human would allow their child to be brutally murdered and (possibly raped), so therefore Mack is a better father than God.

That last sentence isn’t in the book, of course.

Sophia tells Mack to sit down. “Mackenzie….Earlier I began to tell you why you are here today. Not only are you here because of your children, but you are here for judgment.”

Well of course, Mack freaks the fuck out. He k nows that he’s a lost person, because of all the many sins he’s committed. Normally I would say that this was a case of a conservative Christian always thinking they are bad, but I need to remind everyone that Mack’s sins include actual murder. Premeditated murder when he already was planning to run away from the abuse. We’re not even talking accidental murder, or murder that was the only way to get the abuse to stop. Those are at least understandable, even if they’re still morally wrong.

So yeah, I’d say Mack has good reason to be afraid of judgment.

After freaking out for a bit about how he must be dead, Sophia tells Mack that he is not the one being judged, that he is the one doing the judging.

Sophia tells Mack to judge the person who hurt Missy. Mack tells Sophia that the guy can go to hell. Sophia asks about the father of the man who murdered Missy, who abused him and in turn made him like this. Mack says that that person can also go to hell.

“How far back do we go, Mackenzie? this legacy of brokenness goes all the way back to Adam–What about him? But why stop there? What about god? God started this whole thing. Is God to blame?”

So, this idea that abusers are that way because they themselves were abused is a very popular one. But lately I’m not sure how true it is. And even so, just because Missy’s murderer had an abusive father doesn’t make it right for him to murder Missy. Both the abusive father and the murderer should be punished. We don’t let people out of prison because they had crappy childhoods.

Besides, you’re telling me that every single ancestor Missy’s murderer had was abusive, all the way back to Adam? Gimme a fuckin break.

In any case, I will argue that yes God is to blame. He’s the asshole who decided that Adam and Eve’s children and their children’s children would get punished for the sin that they committed. I could go on, but we need to move on before I write a whole fucking essay about how yes, God is absolutely to blame.

And then things get weird. And this is where I think that the God of this story gets downright emotionally abusive.  Because Sophia has decided that Mack is going to judge his children.

“You must choose 2 of your children to spend eternity in God’s new heavens and new earth, but only two.”

This is absolutely emotional abuse. Yes Mack’s children have committed sins. And in the evangelical Christian mind, no one sin is worse than any other. So the rebellious teenager and the murdering rapist are both equally deserving of eternal damnation.

And remember, this is brand of Christianity that believes in eternal torment. At least Adventists believe that people who go to hell will die again, eventually.

Now, at the end of the chapter Sophia will say she was just kidding, of course Mack doesn’t actually have to sacrifice 3 of his children. Nevertheless, she is making Mack believe that he must. And that is emotional manipulation and abuse.

“Mackenzie, I am only asking you to do something that you believe God does….You believe he will condemn most to an eternity of torment, away from his presence and apart from his love. Is this not true?”

Ok, but any God I would respect doesn’t do this arbitrarily. He would of course send rapists and murderers to hell because they are rapists and murderers. I mean, would you want to live next door to a child molester? Neither would I. This is not some arbitrary thing that the God of the Bible does.

Finally, Mack tells Sophia that he will go in his children’s place, at which point Sophia tells him he’s passed the test. He loves his children just like Jesus loves all of us.

Mack realizes he understands Jesus’ love, but doesn’t think he and God are at all alike. He’s also still upset that God allowed bad shit to happen to Missy.

“Did God use her to punish me for what I did to my father? That isn’t fair. She didn’t deserve this. I  might have, but they didn’t.”

Finally, jeez. This is the question a non sociopath would have been asking himself since the day Missy was murdered. Even if it’s not true, it’s a natural human reaction. It’s quite normal for Mack to wonder about this.

“Return from your independence, Mackenzie. Give up being her judge and know Papa for who she is. Then you will be able to embrace her love in the midst of your pain, instead of pushing her away with your self centered perception of how you think the universe should be.”

Yes. Clearly Mack’s problem is that he’s too darn independent. And his self centered view of how the universe should be. May I remind you that so far Mack’s “self centered view of the universe” involves children not being murdered.

How did I miss this the first time I read it?

And then things get even weirder, especially for an Adventist reader. Because Adventist readers do not believe that people go to heaven/hell right away when they die, it seems a little weird for Sophia to just magically pull back a veil or whatever to reveal his daughter Missy playing by a stream.

Mack calls out to his daughter, but is told she cannot hear him.

“She knows that you are here, but she cannot see you. Form her side, she is looking at the waterfall and nothing more. But she knows that you are behind it.”

You can see your daughter running around heaven, but she won’t be able to see you and you won’t be able to talk to each other. I am going to argue that this is also a form of torture, not just for Mack but for Missy. Do children age in heaven? Missy would be 8, right? What 8 year old child wants to be in heaven without any of her family members? I mean, maybe she has a grandparent or something who can take care of her, but still. It wouldn’t be heaven if I was there all alone and my family as on the other side. Especially if I knew how miserable they were without me.

Mack asks if he can go to her, but Sophia says that this is the way Missy wanted it, because she is a very wise child.

That makes no sense. First off, what 8 year old child is that “wise.” Second off, why is this wise? We do not get told. Instead we get told that Mack thinks it’s his fault Missy got murdered. Sophia reassures Mack on that score–Mack was trying to save his son from drowning. No one had any idea that  a fucking serial killer would be lurking around.

Heck, statistically speaking, a serial killer is extremely unlikely, and when I first read this book at age 18 when it first came out, I kind of thought that it stretched the suspension of disbelief and made the novel somewhat unrealistic. Far more realistic for it to have been a close friend or family member.

But I digress.

In any case, after this, Mack says he doesn’t feel stuck anymore. He is happy that Missy is in heaven playing with Jesus, and at the end of the chapter we are told that he suddenly misses Nan very much.

 

The Stand Chapter 16

I apologize for the lack of Shack posts. I have just moved to a new apartment and have temporarily misplaced my copy. I’ll look for it later today, and try to get a post up by the middle of the week at the latest. But I’m also busy with a contest in my online game that I play, so we’ll see what happens.

But The Stand is a better book anyway, so I’m not too worried about missing The Shack.

This chapter introduces us to Lloyd Henreid, who we’re not supposed to like, but I think I end up sympathizing with him a little, when he almost dies. No matter what a person has done, I am absolutely not a fan of the death penalty.

 Poke and Lloyd had killed 6 people in the last 6 days.

Which, in some states, would get Poke and Lloyd the death penalty.

But Poke Lloyd aren’t nervous that the police will peg them for the murders. What they are nervous about is the ridiculously large amount of drugs and guns they are carrying.

Murder was a trifle beyond their intellectual reach, but they both understood the trouble they were going to be in if the Arizona State Police picked them up in a stolen car full of blow and shooting irons.

Which, yes, the police will care about. However, even if you didn’t have ridiculous amounts of drugs and guns, you’re still screwed because you just killed 6 people in 6 days. I mean, do they think they’ll get a shorter prison sentence if they didn’t have guns and drugs? Is it actually true that they will get a longer sentence for drugs than they will for the murders because if so that is truly fucked up.

I’m not sure what to think about King’s telling us “murder was a trifle beyond their intellectual reach.” Lloyd is later shown to be fairly intelligent, so how does he not know that the drugs are going to be the least of their worries if they get pulled over? Or does he somehow think the police don’t know he and Poke committed the murders?

And if they are carrying ridiculous amounts of drugs (King lists out exactly how much, and it is truly ridiculous), why are they driving 90-100 on the interstate? You have drugs, you set your cruise control* to 75** and you don’t make any stupid moves.

Interstate fugitives. Lloyd Henreid liked the sound of that. Gangbusters. Take that, you dirty rat. Have a lead sandwich, ya lousy copper.

Maybe Lloyd’s intelligence is supposed to improve over time.

There’s a short description of everyone they killed, which isn’t pretty but honestly, some of the deaths they gave those people were probably quicker and kinder than the ones they would’ve had anyway had they lived long enough to catch the plague. I’m not saying that’s an excuse for killing them, mind you. Just something to think about.

Poke begins to drive erratically, lurching forward and backward. Because that’s not going to get you noticed by the cops at all.

Poke complains about the gas tank, and Lloyd says, “god will provide.” Christian me would have rolled my eyes at murderers believing God would give them anything, but cynical atheist me says that, if God exists, he sure does protect a lot of pedophiles, so nothing would really surprise me anymore.

The narrative then goes back in time a bit, describing how Poke and Lloyd first met (in prison, of course. Lloyd was in for attempted rape, which doesn’t exactly raise my sympathy for him.) Poke and Lloyd get out of prison, and Poke tells Lloyd he has a great idea. He knows this guy, “Gorgeous George,” who deals in drugs and guns and stuff. Apparently George is going to help Poke and Lloyd steal from himself in exchange for a cut of the profit.

So Poke and Lloyd go in, tie George up, black his eyes, steal the stuff….and then, instead of leaving when they are supposed to, they kill him. George was helping them steal shit, and they killed him slowly and painfully.

The rest of their kills are at least clean shots with a gun. Those people were probably just going to die a horrible death of the plague anyway, so I’m not as sad as I would be upon reading these deaths.

Still, Lloyd and Poke are terrible people. And yet they get way more development than Frannie’s terrible mother, who is a bitch, but at least she’s never killed anyone.

Deciding that they have thrown off enough pursuit for a while, Poke and Lloyd decide to stop for gas and food. Poke grabs his gun, and they go into the store.

King then tells us that the police had been looking for Poke and Lloyd for about 4 days, because their fingerprints were all over Gorgeous George’s house. Poke and Lloyd would have known this if they’d been listening to the car’s radio instead of the tape player.

The Arizona and New Mexico police were coordinating the largest manhunt in all of 40 years, all for a couple of small time grifters who could not quite comprehend what they might have done to start such a fuss.

We only murdered 6 people, why are you trying to arrest us?

I get that Lloyd and Poke aren’t meant to seem that intelligent, but come on. No one thinks like this.

Anyway, Poke and Lloyd go into the store.

“Just hold still and nobody’ll get hurt!” Lloyd shouted, and Poke immediately made him a liar by blowing a hole through the woman looking at the sauces. She flew out of her shoes.

“Holy Jee, Poke. You didn’t have to–“

So, let’s talk about this. Later on, Lloyd will insist that he never would have gotten into such trouble if not for Poke. Because apparently attempted rape is “small town trouble.”

And I personally think this is just a form of Lloyd denying how bad he has gotten, wanting to blame someone else and not take responsibility for his own actions. I think King wants us to see it this way too, but perhaps we are also being shown that Lloyd is more hesitant than Poke because King still wants the audience to have at least a crumb of sympathy for Lloyd. Yes, Lloyd goes along with the 6 murders, but he’s never the first one to suggest it, and he’s never the one pulling the trigger.

Speaking of pulling triggers, it turns out that Lloyd and Poke aren’t the only people in that particular store with guns. One of the men who was in the store pulls out a gun and shoots Poke in the face.

And this is why I am a fan of people being allowed to conceal carry. We have to protect ourselves from the gun wielding maniacs, who, contrary to popular belief, are not going to simply stop carrying guns if it becomes illegal to do so.

It’s a shame Poke died, but honestly, it was self defense at that point. Poke has just proven himself unstable and willing to kill. This isn’t a situation where the good townspeople can just talk the gunman down and wait for the police and no one will get hurt. Someone is already dead.

Poke doesn’t die right away, but slowly and painfully, screaming. We don’t have much sympathy for him, because he’s done the same thing to a lot of other people.

(Would being shot in the face and surviving for a while be more or less painful than the deaths from Captain Tripp’s? Did Mr. Storeman accidentally do Poke a favor? Discuss.)

There’s more gunfighting, and by the time Lloyd is done dousing the place in bullets, the guy who shot Poke is dead. Because guns are not the be all end all of protection, and sometimes hiding behind cover is the smartest thing to do. The cashier pulls out a shotgun and finishes killing Poke.

Lloyd decided it was time to leave. Fuck the money. There was money everywhere. The time to throw off a little more pursuit had clearly come.

But it is already too late. As he is leaving, The Arizona State Police come and arrest him. The police don’t catch on that he’s responsible at first, and they ask him what happened.

“Three people dead!” Lloyd cried. “Guy that did it went out the back! I’m getting the fuck out!” He ran to the Connie, had actually slipped behind the wheel, and was just remembering that the keys were in Poke’s pocket when the trooper yelled: “Halt! Halt or I’ll shoot!”

Really, his mistake was running to the Connie. And not having listened to the radio to know that the police were looking for it.

Lloyd gets arrested. In the miniseries as this is happening, he sees Randall Flagg on a telephone pole, watching him. When he asks the police who’s there, the police turn and see a black crow.

None of that is in the book, and I’d be interested to know why it was added for the miniseries. I like it, though. It gives the impression that Flagg had more of a plan than we first concluded. It also gives the impression that maybe Flagg manipulated things a bit, pulled the strings.

Was Flagg somehow responsible for what Lloyd and Poke did? Did he take their natural tendency to do stupid evil shit and enhance it somehow? It’s interesting to think about, at least.

 

 

 

*Wait, was cruise control a thing when this was first written? It absolutely was by the time this unabridged edition came out. But in 1979 when King first drafted this? Anyone older than me know the answer?

**Most freeways in my area have speed limits of 75MPH. I know in some states this is different. Those states need to rewrite their speed laws.

The Stand Chapters 13, 14, and 15

The Stand Chapter 13 and 14

 

We now return to Stu Redman, who has been locked up in the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. He has just informed the doctor that he will not cooperate until someone talks to him about what’s really going on.

Finally a man enters who is wearing a nose filter. He introduces himself as Dick Deitz. He asks Stu what he wants to know.

“First, I want to know why ou’re not wearing one of those space suits.”

“Because Geraldo there says your’e not catching.” Deitz pointed to a guinea pig behind the double-paned window. “Geraldo’s been breathing your air for the last 3 days, via connector. This disease that your friends have passes easily from humans to guinea pigs and vice versa. If you were catching, we figure Geraldo would be dead by now.”

I would really be interested in knowing if the CDC figured this out before or after the Captain Trips got out to the general public. That seems like something the military would do, create a ridiculously strong disease to use as a weapon against humans and then experiment on poor innocent guinea pigs.

Stu notes the nose filter, and Deitz points out that taking chances is not in his contract. Stu asks what disease he has.

“As to what disease you’ve got, well, so far as Denninger and his colleagues have been able to ascertain, you don’t have any at all.”

When Stu asks what the others have, Deitz says that that’s “classified.”

“My guess was that he was in the army. And there was an accident someplace.”

In the original novel, the prologue showing Campion running away from said accident didn’t exist. In the original novel, we are almost as much in the dark as Stu is.

Deitz refuses to confirm or deny any of this, saying he could go to jail just for telling Stu he doesn’t have the virus.

Then why is he in there? If he still won’t tell Stu anything, why bother sending him at all? You need permission from higher up, then go GET permission from higher up.

“You should be glad we’re not telling you more than we are,” Deitz said. “You know that, don’t you?”

Stu needs it spelled out for him, so Deitz obliges.

“You’re classified too, you know. You’ve disappeared from the face of the earth. If you knew enough, the big guys might decide that the safest thing would be for you to disappear forever.”

Stu is exactly as horrified by this as I am.

Deitz said he didn’t come here to threaten Stu, but to obtain his cooperation. He tells Stu that most of the people who came here with him are dead, except a 4 year old girl named Eva.

“Well, how is she?” Asks Stu.

“I’m sorry, that’s classified.”

Stu gets angry, then. He gets up and shakes Deitz. Some people in “space suits” come to stop him, but Deitz waves them off. I’m not sure if it’s because Deitz knows, somehow, that he deserves this, or if it’s because he doesn’t want to risk making the situation worse.

And then we get to the part that should really make Stu angry.

“Listen to me,” Deitz said. “I’m not responsible for you being here….if there was a responsible party it was Campion, but you can’t lay it all on him, either. He ran. But under the circumstances, you or I might have run, too.”

When I read the original novel, the prologue had ben taken out. It seemed to me like Campion knew that he was infected, but he left anyway because he was an asshole coward who didn’t care about anyone but himself. Because we have the prologue, we know that Campion had reason to think he wasn’t infected, and so we can sympathize a little bit (though I still do not cut him much slack. On some level, he had to know it was possible he was infected.)

“The situation exists. We are all trying to cope with it, all of us. But that doesn’t make us responsible.”

“Then who is?”

“Nobody,” Deitz said, and smiled.

Fuck you, Deitz. And fuck you Stephen King if you expect me to accept this. Because somebody is responsible. Like the people who developed this fucking virus in the first place. But of course the US military would never take responsibility for its actions. At least, not in this universe.

“On this, the responsibility spreads in so many directions that it’s invisible.”

Well, let’s see, there were the people that made the virus (the US military), the people who allowed the people who made the virus to make the virus (the president?), there’s “that imbecile Campion,” who had to have known on some level that he was infected….

Actually, let’s talk for a minute about this. In the movie, it is heavily implied that Randall Flag, aka the Dark Man, is responsible for the spread of the plague. In The Dark Tower book…. 5 or 6 I believe, the protagonists actually go to this universe and meet up with Randal Flagg, who outright states that he caused the plague.

So as he is writing this, on some level, conscious or unconscious, Stephen King has to know that the Dark Man is ultimately responsible for the spread of the plague, if not the disease itself.

But regardless of whether the dark man caused the spread of it, the military is absolutely to blame for creating it in the first place, and maybe if we all spent as much effort helping people as we did trying to kill each other we wouldn’t even need a military in the first place.

Stu either accepts that nobody is to blame, or he doesn’t feel like arguing, because he asks about some of the other people who he came in with. Deitz says that they are classified, and asks if he is going to shake him some more. Deitz tells Stu to go ahead and shake him if it will make him feel better, and despite not liking Deitz, I like Deitz. He understands that Stu is frustrated, and even though he’s a little shit who sides with the “it’s totally not our fault” creators of he virus, he’s trying to give Stu what little information he feels he can give him without putting Stu in even more danger than he’s already in.

Finally, Deitz tells Stu that some of the other people from Arnette are alive, and that eventually, Stu may see them.

Hang onto that though. I’ll be discussing it again in a few weeks.

“What about Arnette?”

“Quarantined”

“Who’s dead there?”

“Nobody.”

“You’re lying.”

“Sorry you think so.”

Deitz, you just told him that nearly all the people that came from Arnette with him are dead. Of course he knows you’re lying through your teeth.

Stu asks when he can leave, and Deitz says he doesn’t know. When Stu bitterly asks if it’s too “classified,” Deitz tells him it’s not, it’s just that he really truly honest to God doesn’t know.

“You don’t seem to have this disease. We want to know why you don’t have it. Then you’re home free.”

My guess is that they are planning to let Stu go when they find a cure for the disease, which they hope to do by studying him.

Stu and Deitz start arguing about whether or not Stu will be allowed to shave himself, when Stu starts coughing violently. Deitz scrambles to leave the room. But Stu laughs at Deitz, saying he was faking it the entire time.

“But why? Why would you want to do something like that?”

“Sorry, that’s classified.”

“You shit son of a bitch.”

Well, can you blame him? Because I can’t.

Next we are shown Stu’s dream. I get that these dreams are important to the plot but Christ on a cracker I hate reading about them. Not just these dreams, any dreams. And I generally hate reading books where dreams are a huge part of the story.

Stu dreams of a black woman in a house near a cornfield strumming a hymn on a guitar. Then Stu feels the presence of the Dark Man and gets scared.

And that’s it, for now. The end. Boring. At least the other dreams people will later have have actual content.

Chapter 14

Chapter 14 wasn’t included in the original edited version of the novel, and I like having it in here because it humanizes Deitz. I can kinda see why it got cut, because for the most part it just develops character for a person we will never see again. It’s also basically a recap of the previous chapter from the other person’s point of view. Valuable in the writing process, not necessarily something the audience wants to read. And so I can see why this got the ax.

However, I feel like some of the information in here was needed in the original novel because—we’ll get there.

The chapter is basically Deitz sitting by a tape recorder making records. He refers to Stu, for some reason, as “Prince.”

Deitz is talking about the incident where Stu fake coughed and scared him.

“I was almost pissed enough to hit him, because he scared the living Jesus out of me. I am not pissed anymore, however. The man put me into his shoes, and for just a second there I knew exactly how it feels to shake in them.”

See, Deitz is capable of empathizing.

But then he goes on to say that Stu could find all sorts of ways to mess with their tests, and that it’s a pity he has no close family they can use to “put a hammerlock on him,” and sweet satan Deitz, that’s horrible. Bad Deitz, bad. I don’t care how dire the situation is, you shouldn’t threaten an innocent party.

We are then told that Denninger wants to use physical force, but Deitz wants to hold off, partly because he thinks it will take more force than Denninger realizes, and partly because he believes that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Anecdotal: I once was trying to trap fruit flies. I set out two honey traps and 2 vinegar traps. The honey traps caught zero flies, the vinegar traps caught about 2 each. Make of that what you will.

Dietz goes on to state that more people have died, including Joe Bob Brentwood, which is unfortunate because Brentwood did seem to be responding to the vaccine they were trying out on him. But the vaccine didn’t work for very long before the disease took over again.

Hang on, is “vaccine” the right word here? Aren’t vaccines preventative? I don’t think you can use a vaccine as a cure. What they are testing out on Brentwood are cures, not vaccines. Vaccines innoculate. They prevent you from ever getting the disease in the first place. But from my understanding, by the time you’ve caught the disease, it’s already too late.

In any case, the medical team believes that it was the vaccine that killed Joe Bob Brentwood rather than the actual disease. Which might be, but I mean, the disease was going to kill him anyway, so meh.

Deitz says he saved the worst for last.

“We can declassify Princess back to plain old Eva Hodges, female, aged 4, caucasian. She’s downhearted of course, but other than that seems perfectly normal…”

Huh. I have no idea why Stephen King thinks a 4 year old is going to be more cooperative than the grown-ass man. See, a scared child who’s just lost everyone she’s ever known and is taken to a scary place where nobody will tell her anything isn’t likely to be very compliant for very long. Stu’s refusal to accept treatment is nothing compared to a 4 year old’s tantrums.

In any case, Eva Hodges is sick. She has the virus, and I wonder why she was negative for so long, because literally everyone else we’ve seen has shown symptoms right away. So, was she actually negative and one of the nurses somehow infected her? Tthey tried to say that Campion was negative for a while too, but we all know that’s bullocks because he definitely showed symptoms as soon as he was infected. We know this because we read the prologue. In the original novel where the prologue didn’t exist, this was a lot more believable.

So this thing about Eva Hodges not showing any signs of being infected for days and days would’ve made more sense if the prologue wasn’t there. But we also just plain didn’t have this chapter in the original version, so it wouldn’t have been an issue.

“Denninger showed me her sputum slides, and they’re lousy with those wagon wheel germs he says aren’t really germs at all, but incubators.”

Unfortunately, Deitz says that Denninger just spews jargon at him when he asks him to clarify what that means. –I– want to know what that means because this part of the book is the msot fascinating to me.

But at least we get to know what happens to her. In the original novel we just don’t get to know.

“We’ve got a disease that’s got several well defined stages…but some people may skip a stage. Some people may backtrack a stage. Some people may do both. Some people stay in one stage for a relatively long time and others zoom through all four as if they were on a rocket sled.”

Ellipses are original to text. I did not leave anything out.

I wish this chapter had been kept in the original, just for this paragraph. I spent the entire first half of the original novel wondering if Stephen King was aware that the speed at which the virus kills is flexible depending on the needs of the plot. Apparently King is very aware and this was intentional, which got lost somewhere in the edits. Good to know.

Deitz goes on to talk about Stu. The CDC is desperately trying to find out what’s different about Stu, but can only come up with about 4 things:

1. He has more moles than usual

2. A slight hypertensive condition, too slight to bother medicating

3. Mild tic under his left eye when he’s under stress

4. Stu dreams more than average, almost all night.

 

That last one may be more significant than Deitz thinks. It has been speculated in discussion groups that the plague survivors survived because they’re the type who can receive the dreams. It is even speculated that no atheists survived for this very reason; their brains don’t allow them to believe in the supernatural.

Deitz then goes on about how this disease scares him because nobody will go to the doctor over what they think is a slight cold. Deitz says that this is because it’s too hard to get a doctor to look at you unless you’re dying, so people don’t bother. Deitz ignores the fact that it is just as likely a cost issue—no one can afford to go to the doctor unless they think they’re dying, and he also ignores the fact that educating the public would help with this.

I get that you want to avoid panic, but still, if you tell people the facts, you’re more likely to get a handle on stopping this thing. Or at least save some lives. But no, Deitz would rather sit there and piss and moan about it on his tape recorder than actually suggest that someone educate at least the doctors.

“So far, no one who’s coming down with it has gotten better. Those sons of bitches out in California did this job a little too well for my taste.”

Yes. Those sons of bitches out in California who are totally not responsible for the plague that they created. Wankers.

That’s the end of that chapter. I may go ahead and do chapter 15, here, because it’s the last chapter before we actually change gears and move on from the CDC.

 

Chapter 15

The chapter opens with Patty Greer, one of the nurses, sitting at the nurses station thinking about her patients. Hap, who will still be awake, watching TV, and joking about how hard it is to pinch her ass through the hazmat suit Patty has to wear.

I thought we were supposed to like Hap.

Patty then compares Hap, who is a “good sport” with Stu, who is an “old poop.” To Patty, all patients are either good sports of old poops. Patty has very little patience with the latter category.

It sounds like Patty is terrible at her job. I’m currently in a CNA course, and the instructors are heavily emphasizing compassion and empathy. People like Patty Greer would not last long in my class. But this was the 1980s when this was originally written and maybe attitudes were different then.

The clock strikes midnight, and Patty starts to make her rounds. On her way to be helped into her suit, she starts to sneeze. Patty thinks nothing of this whatsoever, even though there’s a sign on the nurse’s station that says in big bold letters that any and all cold symptoms are to be reported to the supervisor at once.

They were worried that whatever those poor people from Texas had might spread outside the sealed rooms, but she also knew that it was impossible for even a tiny viurs to get inside the self contained environment of the white suits.

I’m not sure if Patty believes this because Patty has been told this and is gullible enough to believe it, or if she believes this because she is just not the sharpest crayon in the box. 

In any case, the chapter ends with Patty infecting at least 3 different people, and thus the CDC has been breached.

 

 

 

The Stand Chapter 12

Well, shit. I had this entire post already written and was just coming on here today to edit it. Unfortunately, WordPress has decided to eat it.

This chapter is going to take me longer than usual to grind out. Apologies.

I have been looking forward to this chapter for some time.  This chapter does not exist in the original edition of The Stand, and was something Stephen King really didn’t want to take out.

Is it a good thing for him to have put back in? Well, that depends. Normally I’m the type of person who loves more content and hates edited editions.

However, I’m going to have to go with King’s original edition on this. The scene where Fran tells her mother that she’s pregnant isn’t really necessary to the overall plot of the book. It advances character development for people who we’re never going to see again, and it just drags out the story.

With that out of the way, let us begin.

The chapter starts with Frannie Goldsmith comparing her mother’s favorite room, the parlor, to her father’s favorite room, his workshop. This goes on for like, 10 pages.

You know, even if King did want to include Fran’s argument with her mother, he still could’ve taken out a lot of this and we would have lost nothing.

We get another few pages of description of the grandfather clock, which sounds like a really cool clock but Fran hates it, mostly because it’s in the parlor and her mom really likes it. Get over it Frannie, that’s an awesome clock. Jeez.

Then we get a list of Fran’s memories of her mother, and things start getting a little more relevant.

Someone built a gas station that was visible from the parlor window, and Fran’s mom, Carla, begged her husband to do something about it, so he planted a hedge. Carla then nagged him to do something to make the hedge grow faster.

More descriptions of the parlor. I don’t care.

It was in the parlor that her mother had talked to her after she caught Frannie and Normal examining each other in the barn. How would she like it, Carla asked as the grandfather clock solemnly ticked off segments of time in a dry age, if she took Frannie out for a walk up and down US Route 1 without any clothes on? Frannie, then 6, had cried.

This is a sadly realistic reaction to a very normal childhood development. It is also comparable to Alice’s reaction to her son Larry writing a naughty word. In that case, she actually did write the word on his forehead and take him down a busy street where lots of people saw him.

Both these punishments are horrible, but you could argue that at least Carla didn’t actually follow through with it. It’s a weak argument, though.

When Fran was 10 she had ridden her bike into the mailbox post while looking back over her shoulder to yell something to Georgette. She cut her head, bloodied her nose, lacerated both knees, and had actually grayed out for a few moments with shock.

What were mailbox posts like in the 1960s? I don’t remember even being able to ride my bike into mine.

Fran’s father was at work, so Fran went to her mother after this incident. Her mother was in the parlor serving tea to Mrs. V and Mrs. P.

“Get out!” Her mother had screamed, and the next moment she was running to Frannie, embracing her, crying “Oh Frannie, oh dear, what happened, oh your poor nose!” But she was leading Frannie back into the kitchen, where the floor could safely be bled upon. And even as she was comforting her, and Frannie never forgot that her first two words that day hadn’t been “oh Frannie” but “Get out!”

Her first concern had been for the parlor. Perhaps Mrs. P never forgot either, because even through her tears Frannie had seen a shocked, slapped expression cross the woman’s face. Mrs. P had become something of a seldom visitor after that.

House guests do pick up on these things more than people would hope. When someone cares more about the carpet than the fact that their child is badly injured, that says a lot about a person’s character.

In fact, let’s talk for a little bit about Carla Goldsmith’s character. Yes, she’s a terrible mother. Yes, she’s a terrible person. There is not one redeeming thing I can think of to say about Carla Goldsmith.

And that’s a problem. It’s a problem because people aren’t like this. People are a mixture of good and bad. Yes, my father was verbally and emotionally abusive to me all my life. Normally, if you interrupted my father while he was working, there was hell to pay. However, if I had walked in with an injury like this, he would’ve dropped everything and gotten me to a doctor. He absolutely was  more concerned with me and my well being than he was with his precious work, and his boss could suck his dick if he had a problem with that.

My father is an asshole, but he also loves me. I think a lot of us could say the same thing about our parents.

Look at Larry’s mother, Alice. Yes, she’s emotionally manipulative and abusive. But she also loves her son. She may have different ways of showing it (buying Larry’s favorite foods vs saying “I love you”), but she clearly does love her child even though she also kind of hates him.

Frankly, I’m a little surprised to see such a non nuanced character in a Stephen King novel. Most of his characters are well rounded individuals. Even the people who wind up becoming the villains of the book get more character development than this.

Which, in my opinion, is another reason this confrontation should have been kept out. Carla Goldsmith isn’t a person, she’s a cardboard cutout character of the mean mother stereotype.

And it only gets worse from here.

When Fran tells Carla she’s pregnant, Carla asks “How did this happen?”

Which, as a first reaction, isn’t terribly out of line.

It was Jesse’s question. That was what really pissed her off. It was the same question he had asked.

Yes. How dare your boyfriend and your mother ask how you got pregnant. You especially shouldn’t be mad at Jesse about this, because, he knew you were on birth control. Unfortunately, most men assume that birth control has a 100% success rate. I suspect what Jesse and Carla actually mean is “how did your birth control not work?” Actually, that may be what Jesse was thinking. Given what Carla later says, she may be thinking something like, “how did you go against your Christian training?”

Fran snarkily replies that Carla, having had 2 kids already, knows damn well how Fran got pregnant. Naturally, Carla finds this upsetting, but her reaction is, frankly, over the top.

“How could you do something like this to your father and me? Was it that boy Jesse?….How could you do it? We did our best to bring you up in the right way. This is just…just…” She put her hands to her face and began to weep…..”How could you do it? After all we’ve done for you, this is the thanks we get? For you to go out and…and…rut with a boy like a bitch in heat? You bad girl! You bad girl!”

She dissolved into sobs.

Fran’s father, a few chapters ago, told us that Carla was the way she was because Freddie’s death made her stop growing as a person. That Carla’s values were….locked in an older time. However, I’m not seeing this. What I am seeing is probably not altogether different from how this still happens in Christian families.

Carla goes on like this for a while, until Fran has had enough and gets up to leave. Alas, she is so upset she trips over her own foot, lands on the coffee table, and accidentally knocks over a vase, which spills water onto the carpet.

Carla then proceeds to get upset about the carpet. Fran opens her mouth to tell her mother that it’s just water, but, having just hit her head, she is confused and disoriented.

Carla then tells Fran that she is kicking her out. She doesn’t want a pregnant daughter, because what will the neighbors think?

Fran tells her mother that she doesn’t want to stay here, to which Carla responds “where are you going to go?”

So wait, does Carla want Fran to leave, or doesn’t she? She seems rather contradictory, here. She wants Fran to leave, but she also wants Fran to beg to stay. When Frannie doesn’t do this, Carla throws a fit.

I’ve never been pregnant. Any of my ex SDA friends want to chime in and tell me if this is how their parents reacted when they got pregnant? I have a feeling a lot of this confrontation is realistic, but there are some parts that make me scratch my head.

Fran tells her mother she might go live with some friends, and that where she ends up going is none of her business.

“No business of mine? no business of mine? What you do when you’re under my roof is no business of mine? You ungrateful little bitch!”

Technically, Fran and Jesse did it on the beach. Also, if she moves out, she’s not under your roof anymore, so yeah, what business is it of yours?

She slapped Frannie, and slapped her hard.

Carla rants for a while about how Fran will have to quit school and marry Jesse. When Fran says that she isn’t going to do any of those things, Carla thinks Fran means she is having an abortion, and gets even more upset.

So, to recap:

  1. Carla doesn’t want Fran to have an abortion, because ZOMG you want to be a murderer too?!?!?!?!?
  2. Carla doesn’t want Fran to be pregnant

Has Carla realized that she can’t have both these things at the same time? I mean yes, ideally Fran wouldn’t be pregnant. But the pregnancy is here now, so it’s a little too late for that. Carla is still stuck on “ideal situation” mode even though the time for that is long past, and frankly, there’s no way Fran can win, here. She can’t make herself unpregnant without an abortion, even if that was what she wanted.

Though Clara is being contradictory, I do not find this an unrealistic reaction. That’s sad, but that’s how it is in a lot of Christian families.

“I’m going to have the child. I’ll have to take the spring semester off, but I can finish next summer.”

That’s a big assumption. I think you’ll find babies are too much work for that, unless you have a helluva lot of money and support.

Carla informs Frannie that she is not going to pay for her to finish school, and that she will not get any of her money. Carla goes on for a bit about how heartbroken Fran’s father will be, which of course is Fran’s father’s cue to finally show up. Apparently he has some kind of 6th sense, because he switched shifts with someone just so he could be here for this.

“Fran’s already told me, Carla. We are going to be grandparents.”

“Grandparents!” She shrieked. “You leave this to me. She told you first and you kept it from me. All right. It’s what I’ve come to expect of you. But now I’m going to close the door and the two of us are going to thrash this out.”

I don’t blame Carla for being upset that Fran told Pete first and then waited a few days. However, if I were Carla, my upsetness would have more to do with the fact that my child didn’t trust me enough to come to me first, and then I would sit there and try to figure out why. Because at that point, clearly I have done something to shatter my child’s trust.

But Carla isn’t me, and doesn’t react that way at all. Carla tries to shut Peter Goldsmith out of the parlor. Peter tries to prevent Carla from shutting the door on him.  Carla tries to ram into him with her head, Peter just tries to ignore her and keep her from shutting him out of the room. When Peter Goldsmith is unable to budge Carla, he slaps her.

All the fight goes out of Carla. Peter immediately apologizes–sort of.

“You have had that coming for 10 years or better. I always told myself I didn’t do it because I don’t hold with hitting women. I still don’t. But when a person–man or woman–turns into a dog and begins to bite, someone has to shy it off. I only wish, Carla, I’d had the guts to do it sooner. ‘Twould have hurt both of us less.”

I don’t actually have much of a problem with Peter slapping Carla. At this point, it was in self defense. However, to say that she’s had that coming, that she deserved it… yes Peter should have stood up to Carla before. Yes Carla probably did deserve to be hit. However, hitting her isn’t necessary in order for Peter to stand up to his wife.

Violence should be the last resort, not the answer. And so, while I have a hard time faulting him for slapping her in this situation, I also have a hard time with allowing the character to justify it to himself.

Peter then gives Carla a lecture on how selfish she’s being, about how she stopped caring about Fran after Fred died because not caring was safer. Yet Carla does care– about what other people will think of her.

“It’s my fault for letting you go on. For not wanting any unpleasantness. For not wanting to rock the boat. I was selfish, too, you see. And when Fran went off to school I thought, well, now Carla can have what she wants and it wont’ hurt nobody but herself, and if a person doesn’t know they’re hurting, why, maybe they’re not. I was wrong. I’ve been wrong before, but never as bad as this.”

Peter gets points for admitting this. Yes, he was wrong not to stand up for Fran before. Yes, he should have said or done something a longass time ago. But at least he’s able to admit that, and I think that speaks to his character.

“Now, I am telling you this as your husband. If Frannie needs a place to stay, this can be the place–same as it always was. If she needs money, she can have it from my purse–same as she always could. And if she decides to keep her baby, you will see that she has a proper baby shower….. I’ll tell you one more thing, too. If she wants it christened, it will be done right here. Right here in this goddamned parlor.”

It almost sounds like Pete thinks he can do this because he is Carla’s husband. It would have come across better if he’d said something like, “Fran is my daughter, too, and this is my house, too.” And in any case, he can’t make Carla plan the baby shower.

Carla protests that the baby can’t be christened in the parlor, because that’s where Fred’s casket lay. Peter responds that he can’t think of a better reason to celebrate new life there.

He tells Carla that it’s way too late for Fred, but it’s not too late for Frannie and her child. He tells Carla she can drive them off if she wants to, but he won’t let her, and even if he did let her succeed, Carla would have nothing but the house, the parlor, and a husband who hated her.

Peter then helps Carla up the stairs to the bedroom, with Carla ranting the whole time about how Fran may as well just destroy everything in the parlor.

Peter comes back down and reassures Fran that her mother will come around. Fran disagrees, and says she should leave. Peter says she should stay, because he wants her to stay, and he’s pretty sure her mother will too–eventually.

The chapter ends with Frannie crying on her father’s shoulder about how sorry she is, and her father telling her to hush.

I know that Stephen King did not take this confrontation out of the original edition because he wanted to. I know he took it out because of printing costs. However, I think that, if he really wanted readers to be able to enjoy them, it would have been all too easy to just make the deleted scenes available on the internet for free and not redo the entire book. Or perhaps I am just salty because it is difficult to get a copy of the original edition, as it is now out of print, and I absolutely cannot get a kindle copy of it.

I’ll try to get another post up sometime next week, whether it be The Shack or The Stand. Writing has gotten difficult lately, partly because of depression and partly because…. well, that’s another post entirely. I’ll get there, though, eventually.