I meant to start this post earlier….but I got a little side tracked. I want to finish this book soon so we can get to the next one. Even though I’m enjoying Now!, I’m tired of being nice. So, we’re gonna play through the last few pages all in one post.
We left off with Book!Merikay in jail, being questioned by the Sunday Police. Book!Merikay is stubbornly holding onto her beliefs, but we don’t get to see why. We don’t even get to hear what questions they are asking her. I’ll chalk that one up to not wanting the story to get bogged down in theologies and move on.
They kept talking and asking questions and answering them and talking. It is terribly frustrating to be asked a question and not be allowed to answer.
I can see where that would be frustrating… honestly, I would treat this situation like I treated any other situation where a pastor started asking me questions: kept my head down and waited to see if he would answer himself. Usually he did quite often, and I figured if I didn’t have to talk, maybe they’d hurry up and pray with me in time to go to bed at a decent hour.
I kind of think Book!Merikay’s best defense in this situation would be just zoning out and refusing to answer. After all, if probation is closed, why bother answering? These people are already lost.
Book!Merikay says that what bothered her more than the questions were the fact that Elders Brown, Jenkins, and her mother aren’t trying to defend her.
Finally, Elder Jenkins comes up to Book!Merikay and tells her he thinks he knows where she made her mistake. Now, when I was a Christian, if someone told me they thought I was wrong about how I’d interpreted the Bible, I thought it was my Christian duty to hear them out with an open mind rather than stubbornly cling to things. But when I was a teenager, I’m pretty sure I’d have written the scene exactly as it is here, so, let’s move on.
“It’s hard to believe, I know… but when we have been shown new light…, and we have. We have had visions. I, myself, have had some. In these visions Jesus Himself has told me that the plan has been changed. He is going to perfect everyone here by means of the Sunday Law. And then no one, not one person, will be lost.”
Huh. Yanno, this actually makes God sound almost like the good guy. At least Jenkins’ God is trying to save everybody instead of sending a lot of them to hell.
Set that aside. It’s not important. What is important is that Teenage!Merikay, like all other End Times writers, is working from an end times prophecy check list. One of the things Adventists believe is on that check list is that lots of people will start having visions.
Here’s the relevent Bible Verse.
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.
Most believe Ellen White is the fulfillment of this particular end time check list item, and in Ellen White’s day it probably made a certain amount of sense for this to be on the end times checklist. In Ellen White’s day, date setting for the 2nd coming was pretty rampant. And what they don’t tell you in SDA history class is there were a lot of people having visions in Ellen White’s time period.
So that is why Elder Jenkins is having visions wherein God speaks to him.
Wow, typing all that out really makes me realize how crazy it all sounds. This sounds like one of those shitty stories I write at work and then leave lying around for people to laugh at.
Book!Merikay hears that Jenkins is having visions, and her heart breaks.
He believed it. He actually believed what he was saying.
I think this, here, is an important realization for teenagers everywhere. I think most of us, especially those raised Adventist, seem to think that all non Adventists don’t actually believe what they say. Everyone else knows in their hearts they’re wrong, after all.
I don’t want to speculate too heavily on Teenage!Merikay’s thought process, but I like to think that here, she showed that she understood that other people believe their non SDA beliefs with the same sincerity she believes in hers.
Anyway, Mr. Jenkins tells Book!Merikay that she is the one holding up the process.
“You are stopping Jesus from saving us all.”
Jenkins’ logic is that Sabbath Keepers are preventing Jesus from saving everyone because… I’m confused. If Sabbath Keepers don’t go to church on Sunday, then God has to send people to hell? I don’t think I was meant to read into this too closely. We’re not supposed to try to understand the other side’s logic…
I’m gonna chalk it up to the fact that this story was written in 2 days, and the last part probably didn’t get thought about nearly as well as the first. My own writing certainly suffers the same, so we will move on.
Next, Elder Brown gets up to speak. Book!Merikay wishes she were back at the other jail, where she could at least wonder if these 3 people were saved. Poor Book!Merikay. This is every SDA child’s worst nightmare.
His cold, empty stare was not kind. It was full of hate and meanness.
I included this here just so you could understand how black and white SDA teenagers tend to be. Adventists are kind and loving. Non Adventists, especially in the last days, are/will be mean and full of hate.
Elder Brown tells Book!Merikay that, while he can’t say for sure whether or not book!Merikay is saved, he knows she can’t be saved if she doesn’t change.
My God. He sounds like an Adventist!
This next paragraph is something only Academy students will understand. So, at Merikay and my Academy (we sort of went to the same school but not really.), there were designated days where you could walk to the nearby town. For us, I think it was that Girls could go to town on odd numbered days, and boys had the even numbers. Or something, I don’t really remember because there was nothing ever interesting in town, so I never really wanted to go.
(Also I found out a registered sex offender was living near the school along the route I took, and that pretty much ended my off campus excursions.)
Elder Brown tries to reason with Book!Merikay, saying that Book!Merikay probably believes she’s right about the whole Sabbath thing, but is actually wrong.
“Do you remember in school, the many times you got into trouble? Remember the time you went to town on boy’s day? You thought it was girl’s town day. You were positive you were right, remember? But when you were taken back to the dorm, you found out that you were all wrong. And you were punished. That’s the same way it is now. You think you are right, but really you are all wrong, and you will be punished someday very soon, if you don’t straighten up.”
I don’t know for sure if this incident actually happened. I could see it happening, but I could also see Teenage!Merikay making it.
(If you are wondering why boys and girls couldn’t go to town on the same day, ummm I honestly don’t have an answer to this one. Because sex could happen? I guess? At like, the taco bell?)
Elder Brown goes on to tell Book!Merikay that, in fact, Jesus has already made an appearance on our little planet. We know it wasn’t a fake Jesus because, instead of coming to a big city where lots of people would see him, he came to Grand Ledge Academy.
Wait a second…. seriously? How long has this Sunday Law been in effect? Months, right? In a country where Sunday Worship is mandatory, Saturday Worship punishable by death, and Seventh Day Adventism in and of itself illegal WHY WOULD GRAND LEDGE ACADEMY STILL BE OPEN? Why would anyone be there? If Jesus did show up, the place would be abandoned, because Adventism is illegal now, so the boarding schools would likely be shut down.
But wait just another second…. it’s summer. Early fall at the absolute latest. Was Grand Ledge Academy even open in the summer? Because, um, my Academy was only open for like, 2 or 3 events during the summer.
I’m just saying, Jesus picked a poor time and place to show up. There might be some year round staff for him to talk to…. but in a world where Adventism is illegal, the smartest of these will have gone underground.
But, you know, this isn’t necessarily Teenage!Merikay’s fault. A lot of end times writers struggle with keeping a consistent timeline. See also: Left Behind. And ok, my book wasn’t really much better.
Also, with the whole “every eye shall see him” requirement, wouldn’t it make more sense for a real Jesus to come to a large city?
In any case, “Jesus” came to GLA to congratulate all the teachers for having taught students the truth. Fake Jesus said GLA was a holy spot on planet earth….
Even Book!Merikay thinks this sounds crazy. She wonders how “Jenkins” could be so senseless.
We get a few more paragraphs of Book!Merikay being disappointed in her 2 mentors, before this happens.
It is debatable how well Teenage!Merikay handled what comes next. I give her a lot of points for even bringing it up.
Mother walked over to me…. with a mean, hate filled look, she hurled the words at me. “They killed your father last week. They killed him because of you and your crazy ideas…You’re a crazy fanatic. You killed your father. You are the one, just as surely as those men who shot him.” For a moment she just stood there, quivering with rage.
Wow. I mean, how do you even react to something like that?
We can forgive Book!Merikay because this has happened off screen and she didn’t know about it. No one has told Book!Merikay, “convert or we’ll shoot your father.” She didn’t have a chance to think about it, which, when writing a story, is probably the best choice you could have made if you had to bring it up at all.
So, points to Teenage!Merikay, that part is handled well.
This does bring up the question: What do you do if you the Sunday Police point the gun at someone else? Maybe teenage!Merikay really didn’t know how to answer that question, so she took the safest route by having it already happen. By avoiding having her main character not have to make that choice, by having it already made for her, teenage!Merikay dodged having to answer.
Which, when you consider the audience, was probably for the best.
Now, do I think Book!Merikay’s Book!Mom’s anger is justified? No. The ridiculous Sunday Police are responsible for her husband’s death.
However, if someone pointed a gun at my child and said, “deny Jesus or I’ll shoot?” It is my moral obligation to say whatever it takes to make him point that thing somewhere else. Jesus, if he exists, would understand. (I am aware that Gun Toting Idiot would probably shoot anyway, but at least you could say you tried.)
Book!Merikay cries for a bit about all the people who are going to be lost. I feel some sympathy here. It’s hard to find out your loved ones are doomed to perish in a lake of fire. Even if it’s not true, you’re likely to believe it is if you were raised in this environment.
The judge glares at Book!Merikay. He tells her they’ve given her way more time to de-convert than necessary. He says he has evidence that Book!Merikay has spoken out against the government.
He read off several of the charges as well as statements I had made against the government. I was surprised at all the things I had said, but even more surprised at the way people could remember what I had said.
It’s not clear here if Book!Merikay actually ever said the things the judge says she said, or if her book!friends just made shit up.
The judge says he is willing to let Book!Merikay go if she confesses and promises “to go straight after this.”
Which makes me snicker.
“Elder Brown” offers book!Merikay a scholarship to a Bible college, the exact courses she wants, a position on the church’s officer club (whatever that is) and the opportunity to go on various mission trips.
Book!Merikay responds thusly:
“I am happy to say that I cannot agree to abide by any law which is not sanctioned or upheld by the truths of the Bible.” I looked at him unafraid.
Fun fact: Real!Merikay did actually go on to challenge laws. Some even believed the laws she challenged are upheld by the Bible. I may choose to discuss that book on here, but frankly I just get really stabby every time I read about the case.*
“But I told you the Bible is no longer in effect!” Elder Jenkins yelled. “Can’t you see what you’re doing, you little fool? You’re stopping Jesus from saving us all.”
Book!Merikay goes on to say that Jesus never changes, and is sentenced to death by electric chair. I actually looked up popular execution methods in the 1960s. It seems that the electric chair was just as popular as the gas chamber. Lethal injections weren’t legalized for at least another decade.
As they leave the room, Elders Jenkins and Brown say something nasty, and Book!Merikay’s Book!Mom “flashed hate” as she tells her daughter she deserves the death penalty.
Book!Merikay is taken to a holding cell, and she frets more over whether or not she has some sin she forgot to confess to. I’ve already talked about how some debate how biblical this is (or isn’t), and how we all experienced this anxiety at some point.
Was it my fault that Father had been killed? Was I responsible?
Book!Merikay brings this up, then never answers the question. I can forgive her, because teenage!Merikay probably didn’t want to think about it too much. Remember, Teenage!Merikay knew she was writing fiction, but she also thought she was writing historical fiction. Future fiction? We need a new word for “people who write about future events as though they were history.”
Death wouldn’t be half so terrifying if I could be sure that I was prepared to meet my Lord.
I am an atheist, and I still feel like this. Does the fear of hell ever really go away?
Book!Merikay is taken to the execution chamber, fastened into the chair, and has electrodes placed on her head. The man puts his hand on the kill switch.
Wait, they let the dying see who’s pulling the switch?
Book!Merikay understandably freaks out. Then the person pulling the switch does something I’m pretty sure was never allowed: He speaks to Book!Merikay. He tells her he will give her one final chance to convert to the Sunday Religion.
And then Jesus comes.
Seriously S, what did you think was going to happen in the end?
A low rumble–and suddenly there was a terrific shaking. The lights went out. Everyone was screaming. the building reeled back and forth. The floor raised and lowered. the straps holding me broke. I ran from the chair. Windows were breaking. Thunder, terrible thunder, was cracking all around us.
I’m afraid of thunder too. It’s a thing, even though it’s an irrational thing.
“The End of the world! The end of the world!” People screamed. “We are all going to be killed! We’re lost! Lost! Lost!”
Suddenly, Book!Merikay’s anxiety about being saved is gone.
Everywhere people were running, trampling one another, killing each other–anything to escape the light. The beautiful light!
End times prophecy checklist item: check.
In any case, people are killing themselves, there’s earthquakes, fire and chaos, bla bla bla. The main point is, Jesus is here, and Book!Merikay is ecstatic, to the point where she can’t remember all her previous hardships. She is going home. To her real home, that is.
And then Jesus raises the dead, and there’s a bunch of angels, and it’s revealed that Tom is Book!Merikay’s guardian angel (no shit). And there’s Book!Pat and the Coopers and Book!Merikay and Teenage!Merikay’s excitement are one and the same.
Jesus looked at us as we came to Him. He looked at me with the most wonderful, love filled look I had ever received. And then He smiled. His smile was so beautiful, so glorious. He had come, and I was happy–happy everything had happened…. NOW!
When I was 17, I thought this book was terrible, horrible, and had absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. But hey, as long as chaplain Buttbone was reading it to us, it meant we didn’t have to do any actual work, so, thanks Merikay!
As an adult who has read a lot of other terrible books over the years, this one’s actually not so bad.
For what it was originally: a story written for Merikay’s bible teacher to demonstrate what she had learned, this is fantastic. Merikay shows some real talent here.
Does that mean I think this book should have been published? No. It’s a great piece of teenage writing, but it’s still not great writing. At the very least, this book should have gone through an extremely rigorous editing process. I know it was edited before publication, and I know that the edition I have now is not the edited one. However, it really does sound like all the editors ever did to this book was shorten it. And that alone wouldn’t make this book a better story.
There is an afterward in the kindle edition, where Adult!Merikay talks about how she came to write this book and why. I know I touched on it briefly when I compared backstories, but I’d like to go over it a bit again now. Or at least, I’d like to pull out some things I found interesting:
My lifelong best friend, Name, was a Roman Catholic. It always hurt me deeply when Adventists bad mouthed Catholics (Which was almost all the time). Because I knew and loved Name and her family, I knew that the cruel, judgmental statements made about Catholics were wrong.
Adventists bad mouth Catholics for a lot of reasons. The short version is that the Catholics are going to be responsible, somehow, for Sunday Laws. It is interesting to me that, even as Teenage!Merikay was writing this story, she knew that most Catholics aren’t bad guys.
Adult!Merikay talks about how it felt to go to Academy, how she had a sense of belonging there that I barely experienced. In Bible class her 2nd year of Academy, The Great Controversy was apparently the only book that class discussed throughout the entire semester.
Yikes. I don’t think I ever had anything that intense. Maybe if I had, I would have been able to accept it.
Adult!Merikay breaks from the description of bible class to tell us that she learned about writing by reading the normal books her family had. In particular she mentions the Little House Books, Lucy M Montgomery, and some other authors I don’t recognize. Basically, teenage!Merikay could only write as well as she did because she was allowed to read real books growing up.
Teenage!Merikay and I have something in common.
Adult!Merikay then goes on to describe the hype she got caught up in as her Bible Class studied the GC. Adult!Merikay tells us that this was on her teenage mind a lot. Another thing she and I had in common.
One Bible class period near the end of the semester, our teacher said, “we’re nearing the end of the events leading up to Christ’s Second Advent.”
It is unclear whether the teacher was talking about what they were reading in The Great Controversy, or whether he actually thought that, in 1964, the end time events were happening right now. The wording isn’t clear, and it could be taken either way.
“Now I want you to take what you know and write a story about the end of time. It must be realistic, based on our class studies, and I want you to put yourself in it.”
I have a non SDA friend who reads these posts, on occasion. You should hear her opinion on just how realistic the plots of Now! and Parable of the Sower are.
Teenage!Merikay and I have in common that we are the protagonists of our own stories. Though in her case that was at least required. My excuse was that I honestly didn’t (and still don’t) know how to write characters who aren’t me.
Adult!Merikay tells us that Now! was 40 pages typed. Mine ended up being 50, and not double spaced.
Adult Merikay tells us that her bible teacher liked her story so much, he read it to the school, and the kids loved it.
I have to confess to a small point of jealousy here. No one at academy noticed anything *I* wrote. Of course looking back that’s arguably a good thing.
Adult!Merikay tells us that her teenage self was thrilled with the attention–and who wouldn’t be? And let’s be honest. Imperfect as Now! was, it’s loads better than a lot of Adventist books I’ve read by grown ass women.
I was thrilled that people liked my story…. And, like all good stories, when all was lost and the girl was about to be killed, the hero of the tale–Jesus Christ–saved the day, giving “NOW!” its happy ending.
This is how Adventists think a good story ends. The rest of the world, at least at this time, tends to like stories about characters who can problem solve on their own, rather than wait and rely on some God to do it for them. Adult!Merikay’s note here is indicative of the way she and the other adults of her time period thought. It’s possible they all still think this way, I don’t know.
Adult!Merikay goes on to talk about how an evangelist who’s name I don’t recognize noticed it, and asked her to edit it for publication.
He asked me to condense “Now!” due to budget constraints. So I spent a couple of weeks condensing the story and changing the names of the characters.
I am nearly positive that the pamphlet Chaplain Buttbone read to us in Bible class had the original names. I don’t think we were read the condensed version, but I could be wrong.
Either way, a couple of weeks isn’t really enough editing to make that story publishable, and I think it’s actually kind of odd that they would ask her to shorten it when most novels are much longer than 40 typed pages.
That first draft….fresh and complete (no editing at all), is the same story that is published here.
I hope you find it both entertaining and inspiring.
Well, it certainly has been a good book to blog about. Yes, I mainly read it for the snark factor, but except for certain parts that fortunately were few and far between, I didn’t hate this book. It also brought up the opportunity to have some discussions, not just with my secret underground group of X SDAs (Hi guys!) but with my secular friend (Hi, S.) I think it’s helped my secular friend understand a little more about how totally fucked up my childhood was. (I tried to explain it to her, but I was very very drunk at the time and she probably thought I was just telling weird stories.)
In conclusion, I found Now!…. readable.
That’s the closest thing you’re gonna get to a compliment from me, Merikay, if you’re reading this. You’re welcome.
Let me know if you’d be interested in reading about it.