We last left off with Mrs. Cooper having rushed in from outside, telling Merikay the death decree has gone out. This is every Adventist’s nightmare: the time of trouble.
“We’ll pick you up in 2 hours,” [Mrs. Cooper] whispered.
Here, again, my Bible teacher, who was reading this to our 11th grade Bible class, stopped and explained to us his issue with this paragraph. “The Bible says not to go back for anything,” Chaplain Buttbone said. “When the time comes, don’t pack, just run.”
I disagreed with this earlier, but I am not sure I disagree with this now. The death decree has changed everything. At first they were only hiding out from the big bad religious government for an indefinite period of time. Provisions were a necessity. Now, however, they are running for their very lives. The stakes are different now. Before, it wouldn’t have mattered if they took a day or 2 to plan and pack. Now, every minute matters.
It’s one thing to delay your departure so you can rescue people. I would have serious issues if they didn’t! However, we are not told exactly what Mrs. Cooper needs to do that is going to take 2 hours. Unless Mr. Cooper is somewhere else and they need to go get him, the proper thing to do is to grab as many people as can fit into her car and GO.
“I love you so much for showing me the light before it was too late. God sent you to us.”
Your mileage may vary on this one, but this bothers me. Mrs. Cooper, here, loves Merikay for something she did. She does not just plain say, “I love you.” Even if she had said, “I love you and I am so glad you showed me the light before it was too late,” that would be acceptable. The way it’s written, Mrs. Cooper comes across as… not as positively as I’m sure was intended.
I also want to pause a moment to talk about how bad this makes God sound. It makes it sound like God would have condemned Mrs. Cooper to the fires of hell if she hadn’t known the truth. This idea isn’t just horrible, it’s unbiblical.
If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?
The Lord judges based on what people know. At least, according to parts of the bible, at any rate.
I should probably give Merikay a bit of a pass here. She was a teenager in an Adventist boarding academy, being heavily brainwashed by Ellen White writings. Here is an example of what Ellen White has to say on the subject:
Early writings, p. 276
I saw that the slave master will have to answer for the soul of his slave whom he has kept in ignorance; and the sins of the slave will be visited upon the master. God cannot take to heaven the slave who has been kept in ignorance and degradation, knowing nothing of God or the Bible, fearing nothing but his master’s lash, and holding a lower position than the brutes. But He does the best thing for him that a compassionate God can do. He permits him to be as if he had not been, while the master must endure the seven last plagues and then come up in the second resurrection and suffer the second, most awful death. Then the justice of God will be satisfied. EW 276.1 (Emphasis mine).
Merikay probably read that, shuddered, and hoped like hell she had a chance to reach everyone before probation closed. I have a lot of sympathy for teenage!Merikay, because I remember what that was like.
To get back to our story, Merikay thinks to herself about Mrs. Cooper.
God didn’t send us to you. He sent you to us. Who else would have taken us away when this time came? The words of Matthew 28:20, “Lo, I am with you always….” came into my mind. Surely the Lord was guiding.
I like this. Sort of. I like the fact that Merikay is meditating on God, and a bible verse pops into her head. In fact, I am kind of surprised this doesn’t happen more often. Merikay and Pat have been earnestly praying and reading the Bible, probably trying to memorize the damn thing, for the last few weeks. Has the Holy Spirit not been bringing to mind scripture, reassuring them that it will all be ok? I like this paragraph because it’s personal, and it feels real. Even if I totally disagree with the sentiment.
Merikay tells Pat about the death decree, and they start packing. Insert obligatory note from my bible teacher her about packing being totes a bad thing, ok.
We took only the bare necessities:
- Canned food
- transistor radio
- camping equipment
- rollers and pins
- Merikay’s driver’s license.
I find it hilarious that “Rollers and pins” make the list of “only the bare necessities.” I could almost see this as a running gag: “We’re running for our lives!” Pat said, rolling his eyes. “But we still have to take Merikay’s goddamn rollers and pins! Because God forbid she be executed without the perfect hairstyle.”
I can kinda see why Merikay would have wanted to take her driver’s license… but no. If you’re running for your lives from the police, shouldn’t you go out of your way not to have any form of ID on you?
Adventists don’t believe in lying even when their lives are at stake. I read a book once, called Under the Blood Red Banner, where an Adventist woman is hiding Jews, and she still refuses to outright lie to the Nazis.
So, maybe it is pretty realistic Merikay and the Coopers would take their Ids with them. To make sure they’re not lying to the cops, or something.
As to those of you wondering why books would make the list of “bare necessities,” well, those are for spreading truth to other people, even though probation is closed. Or maybe it’s because they don’t want to be bored up there in their smokey mountains hideaway, I’m not really sure.
Merikay and Pat tell the people living with them in the cabin that they are going to leave, but that the people living with them can stay if they like.
Which really isn’t a good idea. See, property ownership is a matter of public record. The Sunday Police are going to take one look at all the property Merikay’s parents own, deduce that the teenagers have gone to the cabin, and when they show up, all the believers who remain there are dead.
I don’t expect teenagers without the internet to know that property records are public, so I am merely noting it here for future reference, and we can move on.
Before driving away, The Coopers and Merikay and Pat have a prayer session, then a discussion.
Finally we all agreed to try to make it to the Smokey Mountains. Mrs. White had said she saw the believers going to the mountains, so I thought we’d be reasonably safe there.
I had a talk with real life non SDA friend recently about this. Her exact words were, “They do know that verse is a metaphor, right? It doesn’t actually mean ‘you need to find some mountains.'”
I feel like, at this point, what Merikay writes is almost more indicative of what the people around her believe than what she actually believes. Remember, she was writing this story as an assignment for Bible class to demonstrate what she learned. Even if she believed differently, expressing it was not an option. Elder Brown may indeed have believed finding actual mountains was necessary, I don’t know.
Now, let’s talk logistics. Again, this is something else I would mention if Merikay had handed this to me to critique. I’m not saying all this to try and be mean or snarky, I honestly think the text would be improved if more thought had maybe been given to this plan.
I don’t know exactly where Merikay and Pat’s cabin is. We are told it is “up north” of Kalamazoo. I’ve decide that means they’re actually in the Upper Peninsula* The Smokey Mountains run from Tennessee to North Carolina, so I googled for “Smokey Mountains National Park,” which is located in Tennessee.
It is a 12-13 hour drive from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the Smokey Mountains National Park. If I’m being generous and deciding they’re only 2 hours or so north of Kalamazoo, it is still 9 hours from Kalamazoo to the Smokey Mountains. Now, when Google maps is figuring these things out, it’s not accounting for the time you’ll need to stop for bathroom breaks, gas breaks and, oh yeah, being stopped by the police who are probably looking for you.
9-13 hours minimum of driving on google maps probably translates to a lot longer than that in reality. The drive probably also involves going through major cities, which would be sketchy at best with the transportation issues discussed a few pages ago, and what are you going to do about that whole not being able to buy or sell thing? You’ve got food, ok. What about water? Gas? Yes, God performs a miracle and takes care of the gas for you. But you didn’t know that ahead of time.
If the Coopers and Merikay and Pat were in the Upper Peninsula, they have options. The Upper Peninsula may be a bit short on mountains, but they do have lots and lots of uncharted woods you can get lost in. If you feel you need something resembling a mountain, there are even hills full of woods you can get lost in.
Wherever they are in Michigan, trying to make it to the UP is actually probably the best bet. Partly because it’s easier to go the long way around and avoid major cities, and partly because less time on the roads means less time to potentially get caught.
Yes there will likely be soldiers guarding the bridge, but they could always try and bribe someone to take them across by boat.
At the very least, there needs to be an in text reason why going to the UP isn’t possible. Throw in some explanation, any explanation, and I’ll accept it.
As we drove down the freeway, past the green and white sign that read, “Kalamazoo, next exit,” I felt strangely empty.
Where are they that they are able to drive past Kalamazoo on their way out of Michigan? Looking at a map, you might need to go past Kalamazoo if you came from Holland or Grand Rapids. But not if you were on your way to the Smokey Mountains. It wouldn’t be completely in the wrong direction, but it’s not really on the way.
I’m probably overthinking this. Most people aren’t going to be reading this with a map of Michigan in one hand trying to sort out their weird book decisions. They pass the exit for Kalamazoo simply so Merikay can have an emotional scene where she’s thinking about everything she knows and loves being gone. I’m actually ok with that. And in some cases, it can be ok to play a little loose with the geography if it advances characterization or the plot.
The main thing I like about this segment is the scene with Merikay and Mrs. Cooper. Despite my issues, that all felt very real to me. When Merikay writes about 2 people having a conversation, often the emotions that pass between the characters are very realistic. Mrs. Cooper loves Merikay like a daughter, and Merikay clearly loves Mrs. Cooper, and I can see that actually happening in a real life scenario.
*Dumb trolls don’t know that the meaning of “up north” is the UP, not the top of the mitten.