Soon: Chapter 10: Poor Tick, Poor Jae
Although the beginning of chapter 10 is meant to elicit sympathy for poor, blinded Paul, I have much more for Tick and Jae.
Paul has been blinded by the blast of the second Miracle Well, which is not surprising since the idiot removed his goggles. What is surprising to me is that Paul’s head has been shaved, despite the fact that he was wearing a hat. Does anyone know if baldness has anything to do with the Biblical Paul, or is this Jenkins just not knowing his medicine? I mean, hell, I once had a Grade III concussion and a scalp laceration, and my head wasn’t shaved.
Anyway, Paul is airlifted back to Chicago, where he wakes from a drug-induced haze to find his vision gone, maybe forever. His first visitor is Bob Koontz, who fills Paul in on the fates of Donny Johnson (found dead of smoke inhalation; presently roasting in Hell (well, we know this part, even if Bob and Paul don’t)), and Tick:
Koontz hesitated. “Tell you the truth, Tick is catching major heat on this one. The word leaked about the second well. It was all over the news even before Johnson’s body was found. And of course, a death like that couldn’t be kept quiet. Half the country seems to think this is some kind of miracle, and the other half wants to fire the entire NPO for failing to foresee and prevent terrorism. People upstairs believe Tick botched this. He’s been encouraged to take a leave of absence.”
“What a mess.” [said Paul]
Boy, no good deeds go unpunished, do they? Poor Tick wanted to avoid a rush to judgment, tried to break up the fight between Donny and St. Stephen, and suddenly this whole God-created mess is his fault? What a crock.
Of course, our hero Paul, instead of feeling bad for Tick for being made the fall guy and all, manages to bring the subject right back to The Most Important Subject in the Universe: Paul’s feelings.
“He’s [Tick] got a daughter to visit in Australia. But he’s really torn up about Johnson’s death and about you. Your injuries, I mean.”
“I don’t want his pity. Yours either.” [said Paul]
“Easy. All I’m saying is that people care.”
“Caring won’t bring my sight back.”
Now, I am not for a moment saying that it is not natural and understandable for a person painfully injured to lash out and/or be self-absorbed. Many people do. But Paul was already a hostile and utterly selfish jerk when we met him. So these hospital scenes read less like a flawed man dealing with a horrific situation than a cruel asshat finally being given “license” to be just as awful as he wants to be without fear of social restraint. First, we have Tick, but then we have poor Jae:
…Dr. Bihari was forthright with Jae and Ranold about Paul’s prospects. Paul heard Jae crying.
“Turn off the waterworks,” Paul said, “and stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
“Oh, Paul, this just makes me so sad. I know you’re strong enough to cope with this, but it will be hard–”
“Hard for whom? I’m the one who’s blind. You’re only making me feel worse.”
“Paul, I’m not up to fighting. I’m just overwhelmed and sorry–”
Paul heard her leave the room, sobbing.
(Please note–this is the first time the couple has even been in the same room since the accident.)
Again, I would be much more sympathetic if Paul wasn’t already an asshat who delights in emotionally abusing his wife. (More on this in the next chapter, because it only gets worse.) And for now, Jae is so upset that she can’t even go back to Paul’s room, and has to write a note for Ranold to read to Paul. Poor Jae.
And finally, speaking of reading, Paul requests Ranold to get him the New Testament “on disc.” Ooo, time for the conversion process to begin! Because as we all know, reading the Bible is Magic.