TSoA: Chapter 17: Old Friends (Sorta)
In preparation for his magical, mystical trip to Mount Ararat, Murphy heads to Virginia, to talk to his old pal, Vern Peterson. Vern is a helicopter pilot, and lives with his wife, Julie, and their three-year-old son, Kevin, in Norfolk.
(btw, I’m a bit surprised that a guy in his (probably) late thirties is named VERN. That’s a name that hasn’t broken the top thousand most popular boy names in over forty years. I knew a Verna growing up, but she was an elderly lady.)
Despite the unusual name, Murphy is buddies with Vern: Vern and Julie were the best man and maid of honor at Murphy and Laura’s wedding. Guess that makes them all pretty good and longstanding friends, though there is no mention of Vern and Julie in Babylon Rising, attending Laura’s funeral and giving their support to Michael.
In greeting the family, Murphy is a charmer who knows the best way to a woman’s heart:
“Julie, you seem to be the only person round here who hasn’t gotten any bigger since I saw you.”
Julie, you are, like, SO THIN. Good thing, too, as a woman’s worth can be measured by how well she conforms to conventional beauty standards. Too bad your husband got so FAT. But, hey, it’s not like that matters. Vern’s worth is only measured by his ability to bring home the bacon.
But first, a shout-out to RTCs never drinking: Julie serves homemade apple cider with dinner, not wine or beer, since she’s a good little RTC homemaker.
Also, probably, because she just found out that she’s pregnant again.
So it has become extra-important that Vern bring home even more bacon:
“The baby coming means we need every cent I can lay my hands on. I could even build that extension Julie’s always talking about. Anyway, Ararat’s a pretty rough place to fly a chopper, but it’s not like Kuwait. I mean, there won’t be anyone shooting at us, right?”
“I hope not,” Murphy said. “I hope not.”
One would hope that, as a fellow RTC, Vern w0uld see this as the weaselly not-an-answer-but-not-a-lie that it is, and run like hell from this whole plan. Murphy knows damn well that this trip could be deadly, yet he’s inviting his buddy, a married man with one small child and another on the way, without fully apprising him of the (very large) potential risks.
What a great guy, our RTC hero.