Monthly Archives: July 2010

Babylon Rising, Chapter 53

This chapter is pretty short, as it only serves to establish that Isis will be going with Murphy to Saudi Arabia to try to retrieve the second piece of the Brazen Serpent.  As is usual for chapters involving Dr. Isis McDonald, this chapter, like the last, is Actually Not That Bad.  Isis argues her case quite well, and ends up winning the argument, though with reservations from Murphy.

But let’s just let that sink in, shall we?  Isis wins the argument with Michael Murphy.  And she wins it not through womanly wiles, or because she cries, or because he lets her win because she’s a gi-irl.  She wins because she’s right in everything she says.

Damn, this woman kicks ass and takes names. 

The name this week being Michael Murphy.

Mad props to Greg Dinallo.  He is, as I have pointed out in the past, the one uncommon factor that must be the reason we actually have a strong, intelligent, reasonable, brave woman, who does not automatically defer to any man in the room before making a decision or taking an action.  Quick–name any female character who can be so described in any other LaHaye book, including the entirety of the Left Behind series.   LaHaye and Jenkins had sixteen books to do it, and didn’t manage even one, and now Greg creates this awesome chick in one book.

Yes, Isis is turned into a simpering, wussy moron in the next three books, when Greg leaves and Bob Phillips takes over.  We can all cry about that later, but the important point right now is that we clearly have Greg to thank for Isis.

So, thank you, Greg.  No sarcasm, no snark, just honest thanks for creating a cool, strong female character that actually makes this book bearable.  If you’re ever in my neck of the woods, I’d love to buy you a beer.

Now, on to why this chapter is good:

Murphy tells Isis, “there’s no way you’re coming to Tar-Qasir.”  And Isis is fucking pissed.  And, wonder of wonders, this is not presented as a strike against her.  Of course she’s pissed.  If it wasn’t for her, Murphy wouldn’t have the piece of the Serpent he already has, let alone know where to go to find the next one.  This project is at least as much her baby as his.    

And Isis goes for the logic, not for girly whining or tears.  She points out (and she’s damned right, too!) that Murphy will need her to do any further translating if he just so happens to find the next piece of the Serpent.

Murphy is his usual asshattish self:

“You’ve walked me through the inscription on the tail.  I think I’ve got a feel for it now.  I’ll call you if I get stuck.”

Isis is a better woman than I am, because she doesn’t smack him here.

She snorted in derision.  “Hah!  You wouldn’t know where to start.  I don’t think you’d know this kind of cuneiform from a hole in the ground–which, considering that you’re an archeologist and I’m a philologist, makes a certain amount of sense, don’t you think?”

Murphy has no answer for this obvious logic, so he attacks her motives–gee, Isis, why are you making such a big thing of this?  It’s not like you should really care, right?  Hell, it’s not like this is one of the trickiest professional puzzles you’ve ever encountered, right?

ASSHAT!!!!

Isis, though her emotions are “swirling,” stays on point because she rocks:

“I’m sure you’re trying to be chivalrous and all that nonsense, but I wish you would just admit that if you’re serious about finding all the pieces, you’re going to need me.”

Murphy stayed tight-lipped.

*SMACK*

Then, something weird happens:

“Maybe I’ve decided to show the world my father wasn’t the only Dr. McDonald who was willing to take a few risks to get what he wanted.”

Murphy stopped himself from saying And look what happened to him.

Huh?  Okay, did I miss something?  I don’t think I did, but I’m going to have to go back and check.  Because I cannot recall any reference to the senior Dr. McDonald being killed in the line of duty, as it were.  Yes, he’s dead, but the only reference to the end of his life is when Isis remembers some of the affectionate, but rather nonsensical things he said “toward the end,” which seems to imply pretty clearly that he died of natural causes, perhaps hinting at some mild mental problems associated with aging.

I shall investigate this further.

In the meantime, Isis plays the trump card to beat all trump cards, ever: she has gotten the PFF to arrange funding and transportation for the expedition, provided that the Foundation gets to exhibit the entire Serpent once it’s found.

Bottom line: Murphy doesn’t have to let Levi Abrams beat him up!  HA, suck on that, Levi!

Murphy actually thanks Isis, though he calls her “out of line going for the funding before I agreed you were going.”

So, he’s still an asshat, but I think we all know who won this battle of wills.

Team Isis is triumphant once again!  And I think it’s time for the entire galaxy to celebrate!

Babylon Rising, Chapter 52

Okay, so I was originally going to do a breakdown of the King Neb and Daniel chapters (and I was going to do it Wednesday), but real life got in the way (and mostly in a good way).  But I had some time to think about it, and it occured to me that I should wait until the last In The Past chapter (which will be Chapter 69), to do a complete treatment on all of them, and whether or not it is right and Biblically sound of LaHaye and Dinallo to reword Bible stories in their fiction.

So we are just going to jump right into Chapter 52 instead.  As you may recall, Michael Murphy was berated by his “friend”, Levi Abrams, because Murph didn’t have the strength and fortitude to get over his wife’s death after nearly a whole week.  Then, Murph made an impassioned (if narcissistic) speech to his fellow church members, as though no one but he had suffered a loss in the recent bombing.

So, Murphy has traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet up with Isis McDonald (Wooooo!!!), who has deciphered the incription on the Serpent’s tail.

I am going to assume (though it is certainly never stated outright, and not even implied as far as I can see), that Murph is traveling to Washington so he can have a change of scenery and some time away from the home he shared with Laura.  Because there is no other reason I can think of that Isis couldn’t just convey this information over the phone or by e-mail.

Isis shows Murphy the safe at the Parchments of Freedom Foundation where the tail of the Brazen Serpent is being stored.  (I wonder if the PFF would be so eager to store it if they knew the highly questionable circumstances under which Murphy obtained it.)

Isis tells a story involving death.  (The vault makes her nervous, and she has nightmares about being accidentally locked up inside for years, and “when they finally opened the door, they’d just find a dried-up old mummy.”)  She immediately apologizes, and Murphy says it’s okay if she accidentally mentions death, and that it is even okay if Isis wants to talk about Laura.  And Isis says she does want to talk about Laura, which, not to be insensitive or anything, but why?  Isis never even met her, and saw her but once, on her deathbed.  Again, I’m not trying to be a jerk, but what’s to talk about?  Heck, her relationship with Murphy is (at this point, at least) strictly professional. 

But, since Isis never actually does talk about Laura, I’m going to assume that she is just being nice. 

Go, Isis.

After that little debacle, Murphy and Isis go grab some dinner, and Isis takes him to an Indian restaurant, because she is awesome. 

Over tea and popadums, they scanned the menu while the latest Hindi show tunes played in the background, Isis settling for a shrimp vindaloo while Murphy acknowledged defeat before the contest had even begun by ordering a chicken bhuna.

Okay, huh?  For what is Murphy acknowledging defeat?  The only thing I can think of is that vindaloo is a spicier curry than bhuna, according to the Wiki curry article.  (I like Indian food, but haven’t had enough of it to think of any other possibility.  Alternative suggestions are welcome.)

I am so amused by the idea of Murphy being emasculated because some chick ordered a spicier curry than he did, that I can’t stop smiling.  Really, at this point, how does Murphy even get out of bed every day?  How can he, imagining the millions upon millions of people in the world who will challenge (and defeat) his manhood every single day by enjoying spicier foods than he does?  Did Laura curtail all cravings for spice in her food because of Murphy’s precious macho issues?  I’m imagining exchanges like this:

Murphy (on the phone, natch): Hi, Thai Palace?  I’d like to place a carry-out order.  One red curry chicken, to start.

Thai Palace: And would you like that mild, medium, or hot, sir?

Murph: Um, medium, I guess.  *lowers voice* Like, light medium.  *To Laura*  Hon, what do you want?

Laura: Red curry sounds great.  With beef for me.  And haa– *sees Murphy’s face fall*  er–mild spice.  *Turns away, rolls eyes*

As Murphy nibbles at his bhuna, his manhood scarred forever, Isis tells him all about the incription on the Serpent’s tail, “quite the trickiest bit of Chaldean I’ve come across.”  Evil High Priest Dakkuri wrote the message both to lead followers to the second piece of the Serpent, and confound any enemies, so the message cites very minor Babylonian gods.  Isis turned to some of her father’s research, and has figured out that the second piece of the Serpent is hidden in the (fictional) Saudi Arabian town of Tar-Qasir, an “oasis” twenty days south of Babylon.

Looks like it’s time for Murphy to let Levi Abrams beat him up again, so our intrepid Indiana Jones can do some more free traveling and consequence-free illegal excavation!

*If anyone wants to play the Babylon Rising Home Game, here are some links to the dishes Murphy and Isis had at their dinner: Isis’s shrimp vindaloo, and Murph’s wimpy chicken bhuna.

Babylon Rising, Chapter 51

Another Nebuchadnezzar chapter, written all in italics, and it’s starting to piss me off just a tad.  I mean, these chapters are so freaking rare (6 chapters out of 70!), that they really yank you out of the real story.  Plus, the first two King Neb chapters are Chapters Two and Six, which makes you think that this is actually going to be something important to the plot, but it really isn’t.  Like, at all.  Plus, then there are twenty-four chapters until the next one, so you forget it’s even part of the story at all.

Why not just make more of the damn things and have them mean something?  The entire focus is on King Neb, with David as a side character (even though he is Teh Most Important Prophet Evar ZOMG), but why not follow the “life” of the Brazen Serpent in its entirety?  Then we could actually see it all the way from Moses getting it, to evil high priest Dakkuri breaking it apart and hiding the pieces with little puzzles and clues, and then we could see how Murphy and Isis break those same codes in modern times.  That might actually mean something.

Instead, we get King Neb watching as his totally bitchin’ statue of himself is yanked into standing position by thousands of slaves.  Neb revels at the thought of “thousands of men crying out either from the pain of torn muscles and snapped tendons (oh shit, ouch!) or simply relief that their torment was over.”

I’m no architect or engineer, but really?  They built this gigungo statue so that it was lying down on the ground, then they lifted it so it was standing upright?  Really?  Am I just totally off-base in thinking that is waaay less efficient than just building it already standing up?

Anyway, ooooo, the statue is everything Daniel said it would be, legs of iron, chest and arms of silver, head of gold, 90 cubits high.  Now, cubit has meant different lengths in different periods of history, so I’m just going to ballpark the statue as being between 90 and 177 feet tall.  Which, again, cool.  And Neb is all excited because the face of the statue actually looks like his own face, and he is happy because he is the bestest king ever.

Blah, blah, blah, it’ll be another eighteen chapters until we’re back in ancient times again, so why should I care?

Babylon Rising, Chapter 50

Now that we know that Murphy has survived his Dark Night of the Soul (whew!  I was worried, there), we can return to the plight of poor Shari.

And poor Shari, indeed.  Since the bombing, Shari has been keeping a bedside vigil beside the comatose Paul, only taking a break to attend Laura’s funeral and comfort Laura’s grieving parents.

So, as you can imagine, she is a bit worn down.

But today, Paul finally wakes up.  (At this point, given that it’s been maybe a day or two since Laura’s funeral, I’m thinking it’s been about 7-10 days since the actual bombing, but no one’s giving me any real timeline details.)

And just when Shari is shooed out into the hallway so the doctors can examine the now-conscious Paul, just at that moment, Agent Baines (Nice FBI Guy) is waiting to deliver the devastating news that DNA testing has confirmed that Shari’s brother, Chuck, was the unidentified person directly on top of the blast.  In fact, the bomb was in his very own backpack.  Oddly, the FBI decides immediately that Chuck “was likely more victim than evil mastermind,” based on the fact that he did not have the brains to construct the bomb himself. 

Wait, so if Chuck wasn’t the mastermind, he was a victim?  Surely there must be some middle ground between Bond Villain and Patsy.  And, as we saw earlier, that was exactly the case with Chuck–sure, he couldn’t make the bomb himself, but he sure had no problem with using it, or watching Talon murder people right in front of him.  So this passage reads as though either 1) LaHaye and Dinallo actually don’t think that conspirators are guilty unless they personally construct the bomb with their own two hands, or 2) the FBI doesn’t think so.  Either way, it sure makes somebody look bad.

Shari, meanwhile, seems pretty sanguine about the whole Chuck situation.  She had been hoping that he had just skipped town with his new scary friend, though she had her suspicions that he had been involved in the bombing, given that she hadn’t seen him since that day and all.  She cries, but it seems more from fear of “Agent Baines’ likely barrage of questions” than sorrow that her brother is dead.

Not to mention that, according to Shari’s faith, Chuck is now roasting in Hell because he wasn’t saved, just like her unsaved alcoholic father and long-suffering-but-still-unsaved mother.  Does she spare a thought for that?  Hell, no!  She’s far more concerned about “this disturbing spotlight someone is shining on our faith, seemingly to hurt innocent people and embarrass us.”

After such a brutal interrogation by Baines, Shari busts back into Paul’s room only to find him deep in conversation with…Shane Barrington!  Shari is immediately suspicious of Shane coming to pokey ole Preston, NC, to talk to some college student he’s never met before, but Shane talks a good game about hearing about the bombing and learning Paul’s Poor Little Rich But Now Poor Boy story, and feeling bad because his own son was just taken from him, and offers Paul a brand-new, full scholarship from Barrington Communications, right there in the hospital room.  Of course, this is all part of Barrington’s assignment from The Seven to worm his way closer to Michael Murphy, but Paul, unsaved wretch that he is, is tearfully grateful for his sudden good fortune.  Knowing as she does that the unsaved are never generous without having some ulterior motive, Shari’s suspicions grow.

Babylon Rising, Chapter 49

Sadly, just as Michael Murphy was starting to seem real and human, just as we were beginning to empathize with his grief and pain and loss, just as we might even have been starting to…like him…he’s back to his old self.

Laura would have been mortified but not surprised to see the unshaven, dirt-smeared, exhausted Michael Murphy walk slowly but purposefully up to the church pulpit.

Reverend Wagoner reached out a hand of welcome.

“Pastor, may I say a few words to the church?”

“Of course, Michael.”

Of course, Michael.  And how kind of you to show such respect for the church and myself and everyone else here by taking a bit of care with your appearance, and not walking up here all stinky and repulsive…

I just love that Michael Murphy is so special that he can just walk up and take over the service, and everyone is just pleased as punch: “Hey, it’s Murphy!  He must have something important to tell us!”

Murph begins with a lie:

“Friends–many of you are my friends…”

Liar.  The only people Murph has spent any time with at all are his wife, his research assistant (she of the 2 a.m. e-mails), and Levi Abrams, a “friend” whose favorite pasttime is hitting his “friend” where it will hurt the most, both literally and figuratively.

Murphy isn’t friends with anyone at his church.  He hasn’t thought about them, hasn’t talked to them, hasn’t made reference to any times he has spent enjoying their company.  Neither before nor since the bombing has he given any thought to what they might be thinking or feeling or doing.

Liar.

Murphy explains to his “friends” the only reason that anyone could ever possibly question God’s judgment or wisdom or plan:

“…I haven’t felt much like being around God, because I’ve been angry and I’ve been blaming Him…”

Then he outlines how the Brazen Serpent is part of God’s plan, and Laura’s death was just a “painful…portion” of that plan:

“I realized this morning that the Serpent is a sign to me not to give up my faith but to renew it. … I was helped to focus on it by, of all people, my Isreali friend, Levi Abrams, which I guess shows us that guidance and inspiration come from all sorts of places if we open ourselves.”

I know, right?  How weird, that guidance and inspiration might come from a Jew

Wow, good luck unpacking all the condescension in that little section.

But don’t worry about Murphy…

“…just like Moses with the Serpent, my faith is being tested, but I will not turn away…”

Nothing says Christian Humility like comparing yourself to Moses.

“So today, I wish to announce to you, my Christian friends, that I am going to trust our Lord for the future and believe that He still has a plan for my life…”

Whoopee.  I bet the congregation is just thrilled to hear that Moses Murphy is gonna be okay.

Let’s not forget something that LaHaye and Dinallo seem to have forgotten: five other people died in the church bombing.  Two young people in the basement, “Jenny,” the middle-aged woman upstairs, plus one other parishioner who has not even been granted the dignity of a name, plus Chuck Nelson, who has yet to be identified.  As well, visitor to the church, Paul Wallach, is still in a coma, the pastor broke his arm, and many other people must have other, though less severe, injuries.

Two “college-aged” young people died in the basement.  Have their families wandered up to the podium in the middle of services to expound on their crises of faith and their similarity to Moses?  Have Jenny’s husband or children talked about how Jenny’s death is only one painful part of the wondrous plan God has for their lives?  If so, we sure haven’t heard about it.  Nor, indeed, does Michael Murphy seem to care.  In fact, he is not going to be helping with the rebuilding effort, nor sticking around to be a source of empathy and support for other grieving families–he is heading right off to hunt up the other pieces of the Serpent, “confident that is what both God and Laura would want me to do.”

Babylon Rising, Chapter 48

Chapter 48 is a case of callbacks-to-people-you-might-have-forgotten-are-part-of-this-story.

First is John Barthlomew of The Seven, they who will Stop At Nothing to get the pieces of the Brazen Serpent.  As you may recall, The Seven instructed Talon not to harm Murphy.  As you may also recall, I pointed out that killing a guy’s wife is a pretty good way to harm him, but I also said I would wait on this point, because The Seven happen to agree with me.

Bartholomew chews Talon out for killing Laura, due to the possible “distraction” it gives Murphy from digging up Biblical artifacts.

Talon protests that Laura was “in the way and could have exposed me.”  He neglects to mention to Bartholomew that Laura would not have been in the way had Talon not Left Behind his keys at the bombing site.

Anyway, Bartholomew basically decides to let bygones be bygones, with warnings not to harm Murphy, and this time I also literally mean not killing people he cares about, Talon!

Scene change, as Murphy works through the anger stage of his grieving process.  He has taken his archery equipment out to the woods and is shooting arrows at trees while he has a good cry.  And yanno what?  This seems to me like a pretty healthy thing to do–he’s releasing his anger by releasing some arrows, but in a safe location where no one will be hurt.

So clearly, we can’t have any of that!

Remember Levi Abrams?  Murphy’s “friend,” whose idea of a fun time is exacerbating other people’s injuries?  Well, like The Seven, he’s back, just when we were starting to forget he existed.

“I’ve been sent by your Smokey the Bear to protect the trees.  With all your anger shooting all these arrows into the trees, you could kill more trees than a forest fire.”

Yeah, LaHaye and Dinallo have the speech patterns of a recent Isreali immigrant down pat, I’d say.

Levi spent a lot of time punching Murphy where it already hurt.  Now, he gets to do the same thing, but this time on an emotional level.  Fun!

Despite Murphy asking him twice to go away, Levi sticks around.  While admitting that what happened to Laura sucked, he wastes no time getting to the grief-off:  “When my first wife and daughter were killed in a bus bombing in Tel Aviv five years ago, I didn’t think I could go on.  For me it wasn’t a bow and arrow.  It was two hundred and ten rounds of ammunition on the firing range while I put away a quart of whiskey in record time.  That was just the first night.  It took me six months to get a grip.”

Levi’s point is that the six months were wasted time.  And, I dunno, six months seems pretty realistic when your wife and daughter were killed.  In any event, this conversation is taking place a couple of days after Laura died, so I really don’t think Levi is in any position to lecture the new widower about wasting time.

Levi has sought out help from two sources to “help you get going again, as you must.”

Yeah, it’s been five whole days since the death of your soulmate!  Suck it up, dude!

Levi looked up Pastor Bob and asked for help with Murphy.  Bob was kind enough to tell Levi that although he (Levi) is destined to be tortured forever after death, like all Jews and other non-RTCs, Laura got to go to Heaven, and Michael will get to go to Heaven too.

Okay, okay, maybe Bob didn’t use those exact words.  Still, we all know that’s what he was thinking.  😉

So Levi instructs Murphy to “Look forward by faith to that event, and in the meantime, get back to work!”

Then, Levi says he called up Isis McDonald (go, Isis!).  She has the translation of the Serpent piece ready for Murphy.  Meanwhile, I ponder the creepy implications of Levi having any idea who Isis is.  Remember, Isis and Murphy only met once, briefly, a few days ago.  Before that, they only knew each other through a few phone conversations.

Murphy thanks Levi for coming and interrupting his healthy grieving process, telling him: “You would make a good Christian if you ever decide to come on over.  You know I’m praying that you will.”

Sigh.  Good old Murphy’s back…

Babylon Rising, Chapter 47

It is after the funeral, and this portrayal of Murphy’s grief is officially Actually Not That Bad.

Laura’s parents are standing over the grave, but Murphy can’t think of anything to say to them.  Once again, this hints at the authors thinking of Murphy’s grief as somehow bigger and more important than theirs, even though they have just lost their (only, it seems) child.

Poor Shari (as if she didn’t have enough to worry about) volunteers to take them back to their hotel and sit with them.  That is incredibly sweet of her, but don’t worry–it won’t last.

Murph gets in his car and there is a nice page or so of him driving aimlessly so he won’t have to go home and see Laura’s things.  At one point, he so loses track of where he is and what he is doing that he nearly gets himself killed.

At which point, he turns around and heads back to the cemetery, where Pastor Bob is waiting for him. 

Murphy experiences something of a crisis of faith here.  He doesn’t question the existence or the love of God, but he does question the existence and wisdom of God’s plan, as he laments the loss of his Good Christian Wife to Bob:

“She was such a woman of faith.  She didn’t have a bad thought in her head.  She was…like an angel.”

Bob reassures Murphy that “God understands your grief, Michael.  He’s not offended by your questioning either.”

At which point, it would have been cool if Murphy had interjected with something like, “God’s not offended?  God isn’t offended??  Gee, Bob, I sure am glad to hear that.  I would feel just awful if God was offended because I’m upset that my wife is dead.”

Sadly, Murphy says nothing like this, and lets Bob go on and on about Jesus asking why God had forsaken him.

Murphy isn’t done questioning God’s plan, and also questions whether God was listening when the church was bombed or when whoever-it-was killed Laura.  He has Laura’s broken root cross, which he calls “The final outrage.”

Pastor Bob claims to have coined a term: Coping Grace, which is when God gives you the strength to go on through heartbreak.  I find it hard to believe that this guy was the first to put a special name to the process of surviving horrible grief.

In a moment of awesome (yes, even he has them), Murph says that even if God does have a plan, “I’m not too sure I care.”

Pastor Bob decides to make an appeal to politics:

“Somebody tried to destroy this church.  Literally and metaphorically.  I’m sure you haven’t turned on the TV or read a newspaper since Laura died, but if you had, you would have seen headlines about ‘evangelical terrorists’ and ‘Christian bomb comspiracies.’  Someone is trying to discredit us–and so far they’re doing a pretty good job, judging by the way the media are jumping on the bandwagon.”

This once again makes Bob seem far more concerned about Christians being “discredited” than he is about the fact that five people just died.

Murphy basically tells Bob that he’s way too pissed off about Laura being dead to give a crap about the presentation of evangelicals in the media, or God’s plan for him, or hell, much of anything.

Realizing defeat when he sees it, Bob advises Murphy to pray, then heads on out.  Murphy hangs around in the cemetery until a white dive lands on Laura’s tombstone.  I’m no ornithologist, but do white doves generally frequent rural North Carolina?

Ah well.  Murph wanders off, too, and his final thought in the chapter is that if God does have a plan for him, he’d better get on the stick and speak up.

Cool.

Babylon Rising, Chapter 46

Time for Laura’s funeral. 

I’ll admit right up front that although I have been to funerals, I have never been to the funeral for someone killed in an accident that also claimed other lives.  As such, I do not know the protocol for how much the service talks about the tragedy, or the larger implications of such tragedy.  Where is the line in discussing the accident, and politicizing a funeral?

But first, another note: Laura’s clothes for the funeral are described, but we still have no idea what she looks like.  There are flowers threaded through her hair…and we don’t know what color the hair is, if it’s long or short, nothing.

The funeral takes place in the blown-out church, with plastic sheeting covering the shattered stained glass windows.  Which, again, I can’t decide if it’s inappropriate or not.  What if the structure is not secure?

Once again, Dinallo does a decent job conveying some of the strange thoughts that fly through a person’s head in a crisis (Murphy wonders why Pastor Bob doesn’t stop the birds outside from singing during the funeral).

Pastor Bob starts in on the service:

“How could such a terrible thing have happened?  And now, adding insult to injury, the very people who have suffered the most in this tragedy are being accused of terrible crimes.  On the TV and the newspapers we are being talked of as murderers and terrorists.  How can this be?”

Again, I just don’t know what to think of this—I have no basis for comparison.  On one hand, maybe it would be strange not to mention the reason behind Laura’s death.  On the other, it’s her funeral.  Is it crass to mention politics at all?

In any event, after doing a quick, boilerplate “God has a great mysterious plan” bit, Pastor Bob gets down to actually, yanno, talking about Laura:

“Anyone who saw her smile, heard her laugh, the way she would make others laugh”—he smiled—“sometimes with a joke at their own expense—and I speak from experience here—will know what a joyful and joy-giving woman she was.”

Okay, I see what he’s trying to say here, but it comes out as though he is celebrating the fact that Laura took pleasure in mocking other people.

Bob then goes on to praise the way Laura gave up archeology to “devote herself to helping others.”  As has been discussed previously, it’s too bad she did so without any training in helping others, but hey, it was her duty as a Good Christian Wife.

“Only those who have lost a loved one know what Michael is feeling today.  Our hearts truly go out to him.”

Sounds nice, until you realize that a few people are conspicuously absent from “hearts going out”—like Laura’s parents, sitting in the front row.  A child predeceasing the parents, and Pastor Bob doesn’t even mention them?  What a dick.

This touches on a bigger issue, as well, which I will discuss in detail in a later chapter.  Lest we forget, four other people died in the bombing—the girl in the basement, the boy in the basement, Chuck Nelson (though he has not yet been identified), and Jenny, the middle-aged woman at the actual meeting.  Yet, from this point on, Michael Murphy’s pain will be treated as more acute, a greater loss, than the families who lost Jenny and the young people in the basement.

Pastor Bob, having blithely ignored parents who just lost their daughter, goes on to give the standard closing about how Jesus will “come back to get them before they die,” as Irene Steele would say, and “you will see Laura again.”

And on that note, the service concludes, and as Murphy passes the coffin, he sees the Spooky Portent of Doom—someone snapped the little cross Murphy gave Laura, and it is now in pieces around her neck.

And I gotta admit, it is a tad spooky.