Soon: Chapter 16: Salty
Straight has taken a day off from Paul. Surely this will be a true test of their relationship. Remember, Paul was injured in March, and it’s now around the end of May. So for about two months, Paul and Straight have been together every day, for hours a day. This is literally the first day they haven’t seen each other since they met. I don’t think I’ve ever had a boyfriend this clingy.
Straight has gone to a pretty interesting location: the salt mines of southeastern Michigan. Check out this article from The Detroit News and its awesome pictures and you’ll see where he is.
The zealots have transformed the underground salt mines into their headquarters–not only a mission central and book depository, but also a sort of Underground Railroad station for believers on the run.
Simple but genius.
Or complicated but dumb, when you think about it. Check this out:
“How many people live here?” [Straight asked]
“About a hundred and fifty permanent and fifty to a hundred passing through at any given time.” [his host, Simeon, said]
“It’s amazing you can feed and house so many.”
Straight’s host shrugged. “We’ve got fourteen hundred acres down here, fifty miles of tunnels. The water and ventilation systems are huge–had to be, to accomodate the mining machinery. Even back then they could pump in a hundred thousand cubic feet of air a day. These mines were worked successfully for almost two hundred years.”
That’s nice, Simeon, but you didn’t answer the question: HOW DO THEY EAT???
I really hope the zealots have a Costco membership, because it’s giving me a headache just thinking about getting enough food and water and soap and toilet paper 1100 feet underground to sustain 200-250 people every single day.
Forget about shuttling the refugees up and down and in and out–the mere task of getting the most basic supplies to the “underground city” would draw huge amounts of attention to the site. And what about the use of water and energy? That won’t draw suspicion? What do they do with their trash and human waste? Can you imagine how much trash a community of two hundred produces in a mere week? It’s not like they’re high up in the mountains and living off the land–they’re in an underground cave in Michigan! They can’t exactly sustain themselves.
And just to make sure that things are as complicated as it’s possible for them to be, everyone uses Biblical code names for themselves. (Except for Straight, who is called “The Professor,” and Paul, who will later be called “The Doctor.”)
To be clear, plenty of people already know each other. Simeon’s real name is Clarence, and he grew up with Straight and they both became professors at the University of Chicago. Quelle coincidence! Now, strangely enough, only
Stuart Straight goes by “The Professor,” even though they both are. Kinda like how Paul is always “Dr. Stepola” to everyone he meets, but Straight is never “Dr. Rathe” or “Professor Rathe,” except underground, where “The Professor” is just a codename.
This emphasis on codenames reaches ridiculous heights when the following takes place:
A couple in their late fifties entered [the library], accompanied by a younger sturdy blonde man. “I was boring the professor with tales of our city,” the host said. “It’s been a while since he’s been here. Stuart, you know Abraham and Sarah–” they embraced him–“and this is Isaac.”
“I’m not their son,” the younger man said, shaking Straight’s hand.
“I didn’t think so.”
[LITERALLY THE NEXT WORDS OUT OF SIMEON’S MOUTH]
“Let me introduce three more recent arrivals,” Simeon said. “Silas, Barnabas, and Damaris, who may have some insight on your proposal. Folks, meet the professor.”
Straight greeted the two men but paused when he got to the woman called Damaris. “No names,” Straight said, “but I believe we recently met over lunch in Washington, D.C.”
“We did,” Angela said.
So, Stuart and Clarence know each other. And now Abraham and Sarah know Stuart. And Angela and Stuart know each other, but they’re going to play a game that they don’t, so they can keep using stupid codenames???
Basically, you all freaking know each other. SO USE YOUR OWN DAMN NAMES, WHY DON’T YOU???
To paraphrase Dave Barry, the underground zealots are about as clandestine as the NFL.