Soon: Chapter 17: Accolades and Hatred
Damn, almost three weeks without a new post? I suck.
I’ve had a bunch of things happen to me, one after the other, these past couple of weeks, so that’s my only excuse. Also, as you can see from the title up there, this is not the result of my Epic Quest. I want that to be deep and scholarly, and tonight I just feel like talking about how much I hate Straight.
So it’s now the middle of June, and Paul is back at work. Remember, he’s a secret believer at this point, but still on the fence about whether or not he wants to be a double agent for the (sigh) Watchmen.
(Picture from Watchmen Wiki)
A big Welcome Back banner hung over his desk, and his coworkers high-fived and backslapped him as if he were a conquering hero. Paul was warmed by the reception, despite the stab in his gut.
Paul pasted on a smile and held up both hands to stem his coworkers’ applause. How he might have enjoyed this just a few weeks before.
This is just weird. Nobody but Koontz visited Paul, called him, or even sent him a get-well card, for the months he was out. And now they’re applauding his presence? I’m not buying it. I’m thinking Koontz told them how it was going to be, and they’re just doing it to please the boss.
Also, this is a leitmotif of Jerry Jenkins’–the hero being applauded for merely showing up to work. Buck Williams got a round of applause for showing up at the offices of Global Weekly following the Rapture in Left Behind. Now, granted, the world was coming to an end, but no one else from the office got a standing ovation just for getting to work. I wonder how many times Jerry Jenkins was applauded for going to work, that he uses the scene so often?
But Koontz, despite having breakfast catered for Paul and the whole office (WTF?), seems eager to be rid of him. (And who can blame him?) He’s sending Paul off to New York, to check out a big financial firm complaining of being cursed. This will prove to be even stupider than it sounds, and easily the most boring portion of Soon.
When Paul gets home from
his party work, he calls Straight and tells him all about his sensitive government assignment. Straight rushes right over, bringing Paul a little gift: leaves from an ailanthus tree.
Check out this Wikipedia article on the ailanthus altissima. Despite being know as the “tree of heaven,” it is actually characterized as a “noxious weed,” difficult and time-consuming to eradicate.
So, pretty much the perfect plant to represent your common or garden variety RTC.
Interestingly, Paul describes the scent of the leaves as “peanut butter,” while the Wiki article says that the plant smells like rotting peanuts.
Straight explains the significance of the plant:
“The Christians in Atlantica [where New York now is] use [the leaves] as an identification symbol. There are a lot of references in the Bible to the tree of heaven. ‘Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gate into the city.’ That’s heaven. ‘In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.'”
Paul vaguely remembered that from his discs. “A tree in heaven,” he said.
“And just for us. Listen up now: ‘To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God. You can’t beat that, Paul.”
The scene ends on that line. “You can’t beat that, Paul.”
First of all, how frakking insecure do you have to be in you faith to derive joy from the fact that while billions of souls are being TORTURED FOREVER for not believing like you do, you are enjoying the sweet, savory goodness of peanut butter leaves. That is simultaneously really sad and kinda infuriating.
“And just for us.” Ha-HA, nonbelievers, you just try getting your hands on our ailanthus leaves. We’ll be nomming them while you’re roasting in hell!
No leaves for you!
Oh, and I just have a minor pet peeve: people telling me to “listen up” when we’re already having a one-on-one conversation. What, did Straight not think Paul was paying close enough attention to his little Bible lesson, even though Paul just responded?
You know, our introduction to Straight wasn’t exactly promising, what with the disrespectful touching and all, but it’s only gone downhill from there.