Silenced: Chapter 6, Part 1: Fish for Dinner

Unsurprisingly, we get more description of the dinner Jae serves for Straight than of Jae herself:

Jae found a banquet of frozen fish in the bottom of her freezer—everything from scallops and shrimp to lobster and mahimahi.  This she thawed, stir-fried in garlic sauce, folded with generous amounts of three different cheeses, and baked as a casserole.

That sounds…kinda gross.  WAY too much cheese.  And I like both fish and cheese.  That’s just…so much.  I think Jenkins was writing right before lunchtime again.

The kids loved it, she supposed because it was close enough to macaroni and cheese.

Or maybe because Jae keeps a variety of ingredients on hand and her kids are used to things other than hot dogs and mac ‘n cheese?

Straight had two large helpings and was effusive in his praise.

Problem was, the fish was old.  Had Jae sampled it during the stir-fry stage she might have noticed the rubbery quality of especially the scallops and shrimp.  But good cheese, not overcooked, apparently overcame the texture malfunction, and unless Straight was a better actor than Jae knew, she had scored.

Straight is a better actor than you know, Jae.  He poses as a mild-mannered, incredibly rude and pushy atheist hospital volunteer.  But he is actually an incredibly rude and pushy Christian volunteer.

After dinner, Straight orders the kids to put their dishes in the sink, since I guess atheist parents don’t teach their children to take responsibility by doing minor chores.  That’s two strikes against atheism, since atheist women don’t know enough to check food for freshness before serving it.

Jae has a lot to learn before assuming her rightful place as RTC Stepford Wife.

Later that evening, Jae and Straight bond as they nurse themselves and the kids through a disgusting bout of food poisoning.

Just kidding.

She wanted insight on Paul, though, and she couldn’t think of anyone better to get it from.

Well, Jae has known Paul for over twelve years, and Straight has known him for about ten months, so you’d think she might know someone better.  But it is rather telling of Paul’s narcissistic personality disorder that he has no friends who have any better insight than someone who has known him less than one year.

“…Paul captured me.  He’s a very special person.  ‘Course, you know that better than I.” [said Straight]

Jae leaned forward, elbows on her knees, peering at this magnificent man.

Well.  This is becoming awkward in several different ways.

And things become even more awkward as Straight opens up to Jae…about the fact that he and Paul discuss the private details of the Stepola marriage, including Paul’s countless affairs.  The closest Straight comes to giving Jae an “insight” on Paul is his assertion that Paul’s new man-ness is the result of “an inner change, ma’am.”

And with this not-at-all-a-hint-that-Paul-got-religion, Straight prepares to escape this weird house and get back to his own weird life, when Jae brings up the plan to move to Washington, D.C. until Paul comes back.

“What do you think?” [Jae asked]

“I don’t know.  You want an honest answer, I just can’t say.  At first blush, I’m not sure it’s wise.  Can’t tell you why.  Just makes me uneasy.  But let me think on it.  I shouldn’t be the one to help you decide anyway.  Paul should.  But you asked.”

“I feel led of God to tell you that the Baby Jesus would cry if you left your wifely duties to your absent husband to spend quality time with your godless heathen hellbound fam—NO!  Darn it!  Stupid, stupid!”

After the evening of awkwardness is over, Jae thinks herself in circles: she wants to go to Washington but doesn’t want to disappoint Straight (WHY, Jae?).  Then she lapses into alone-in-the-house-at-night paranoia, obsessing about the number of cars passing the house, and if anyone is watching the house.  (Who that would be is something Jae doesn’t reveal to us, or doesn’t know.)

Finally, thinking about how much she misses Paul (again, Jae, WHY?), she determines to listen to some of his New Testament discs.

Might listening to these give her some insight into him or at least something they could discuss?

And thus Jae admits something that Jerry Jenkins will not: that Paul and Jae have exactly nothing to talk about, and that their supposedly “better than ever” marriage is nothing more than two virtual strangers exchanging a few daily pleasantries.  I don’t care if they’re both atheists, both RTCs, or “unequally yoked”—this marriage is devoid of even the rudiments of friendship.  It cannot be saved.

And now Jae is on her way to RTC-ianity.  Bye, Jae.

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Posted on September 15, 2013, in Books, Silenced. Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. Is that really all they have for dinner – a seafood-cheese pie? No vegetables, no drinks, no second course?
    I suppose that fits into the RTC view of heathen women – they just throw some stuff they find in the bottom of their freezer into a casserole dish and shove it in the oven, instead of spending the entire afternoon in the kitchen whipping up six courses from scratch. And it must be a pretty big casserole dish to provide seconds for Straight as well as helpings for everyone else.
    And Jae is now coming across as just plain weird. Unlike any adult woman anywhere in the world, she has no friends at all. Nobody that she can confide in or talk to; not even a woman neighbour that she can just have a gossip with. (Though of course she’s a heathen atheist and they’re all miserable and friendless, don’t you know.) It’s pretty obvious that Jenkins has no inkling of what his wife has told her women friends about him and their marriage over the years.

    And now Jae is listening to the New Testament. Why? Genesis is the logical place to start with the Bible, especially for somebody who is supposed to know nothing at all about it. And why the Bible anyway? Why not the Koran, the Book of Mormon, the Upanishads or any of the dozens of other religious texts that Paul-the-PhD-in-Theology should be familiar with?

    Oh, why am I bothering to ask, when I already know the answer? Goodbye Jae, we really never knew you….

    • Jenkins insists at least twice that Jae has friends. We just never see or hear from even one…we don’t even get one name. I just can’t see this as anything but evidence that emotional abuser Paul has isolated Jae, and destroyed her self-esteem, to such an extent that she has no friends at all.

      And now he doesn’t want her to go to her one remaining not-Paul-or-Paul’s-friend resource: her family.

      The New Testament part actually does make sense within the story: in Soon, Paul asked for the New Testament on disc after being blinded in Texas, because the underground Christians kept referencing the End Times. So as far as Jae knows, this is his most recent reading material for work.

      https://heathencritique.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/soon-chapter-10-poor-tick-poor-jae/

    • It’s funny how Jae suspects that the New Testament tapes might have something to do with Paul’s new outlook on life, but has no idea that this might mean he’s a Christian. Jae can’t be so young that she’d have no idea what the New Testament is.

    • Not just no veggies. No major source of carbohydrates like potatoes or rice. I would think Jenkins would love him some carbs. Most picky eaters do. For that matter if this is supposed to be a callback to a biblical miracle, bread would be an appropriate carb.

      Between the lunch in Switzerland and this I do get the impression that Jenkins loves him some cheese .

      • Well, Jenkins may have breaded himself out the last time he described food, what with the sammich so thick you couldn’t even get it in your mouth. And he finds it comforting that seafood could essentially be turned into macaroni and cheese.

        Man does love his cheese–first a slice of Swiss as big as a piece of pie, now all these bazillion cheeses to disguise the fact that you’re eating fish.

        I love cheese myself, but when the portion of cheese is bigger than my own head, that is a bridge too far.

        • I’m guessing Jenkins walked in on his wife making hamburger macaroni one time so he’s riffing off of that, but has to work fish in somehow. I can’t imagine anyone with even a passing knowledge of seafood or fish stir-frying it before putting it in the oven. Fish cooks hella fast. The bit about the food being rubbery is just weird. Are these parts with Jae really supposed to be a wink and a nod at RTC women? Do they really sit around thinking about how superior their cooking skills are? Which, would be kind of funny actually, given the number of atheists I know who are also major foodies.

  2. What is with all the opposition to Jae going to Washington? Are the RTC characters channeling foreknowledge of the author again, so they know her father will plot something?

    Normally, wouldn’t RTCs be all for a daughter being with her father while her husband is away? Since Paul won’t be at their home for months, I don’t see the “atheist homebreaker”-angle here. Or does that “respect your elders” stuff only apply to RTC parents?

    • Are the RTC characters channeling foreknowledge of the author again, so they know her father will plot something?

      Yes.

      Or does that “respect your elders” stuff only apply to RTC parents?

      And yes.

  3. What a waste of interesting fish. I’d be more inclined to make a fish pie — fish and white floury sauce below, pûréed potato on top, stick it in the oven, maybe a little cheese on top. If you’re stir-frying, the last thing you want to do is process it further afterwards — the whole point of stir-fry is that it’s quick and gives you something ready to eat.

    And of course Jae is a Bad Household Manager for daring to have thoughts of her own.

    In Atheistopia, the ABI/ASA doesn’t need to park a car outside to watch your house. The flying pizza delivery robots do it for them.

    …what, of course> they have flying pizza delivery robots!

    • I have a suspicion: much as Jenkins dislikes vegetables unless they are steamed and drenched in butter, he dislikes seafood unless it has the shit cooked out of it, to the point that it is indistinguishable from macaroni.

      • That is because Jenkins is a Manly Man and all them green vege-tals are for weak little ladies. (Prior to Jesus’s second coming with the exploding blood and sexless brainwashing, anyway.)

        • So that leaves what for Manly Men? Meat, poultry, dairy, and fruits, I guess? It better not be just animal products–that’s going to get boring fast.

  4. I’m alarmed by the idea that Jae “found” the fish – did it appear there without her knowledge, or had it just been there long enough for her to forget it was there?

    Also, seafood in a mac-and-cheese-like dish is an abomination. Hasn’t Jae ever heard of paella?

    • I donno, I’m probably just reading too much into it, but I got this weird “loaves and fishes” vibe off that bit. It just seems like the kind of thing Jenkins would ham-fistedly insert into the plot, where a soon-to-be-RTC woman preparing a bounteous meal for a RTC man conveniently discovers she has an abundance of fish (and other seafood). A pretty weak little miracle for just a few people (seriously, would it have been that big a deal for her to just go buy some? though maybe we should be glad to have been spared the page or so about picking out just the right kind of fish, given Jenkins’s logistics fetish) but this is Jenkins’s God, who deals primarily in weak little miracles when He isn’t dealing in atrocity.

      • If Jerry Jenkins had written the Bible, the miracle of loaves and fishes would have been one sentence about the actual miracle, followed by three pages about the type of fish served, and precisely how thick the was, and what each individual member of the multitude thought about their meal, and Jesus fretting about whether everyone really enjoyed themselves or whether he should have gone with a artisanal rosemary crust instead, and by the time it’s done half the readership has forgotten that a miracle took place.

  5. I don’t know – “paella” sounds foreign and therefore untrustworthy. Clearly a good ole American fish-pie-with-cheese is the way to go here.

    • And how, exactly, did the foreign become untrustworthy? What aggregate crime did they commit to deserve default suspicion, in the RTCs’ eyes?

      • Essentially, it’s that foreigners are highly likely to not be RTCs – paella comes from a predominantly Catholic country, while stir-frying comes from a region of the world where Buddhism and other pagan religions dominate – and the more customs an RTC adopts from outsiders, the more likely they are to start thinking those outsiders are decent folk who shouldn’t go to hell just for picking a different faith, and that way lies the horror of cultural relativism.

  6. Yes, once again Jenkins has proven he has no idea how to cook (see also the “romantic” dinner from Twas the Night Before.) And sorry, but unless the cheese is exceptionally rubbery, nothing is going to hide the texture of overcooked scallops and shrimp. . . . sorry, I have to go on a seafood rant: WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU TREAT SCALLOPS AND LOBSTER AND MAHI MAHI LIKE THAT?!?!?!?! 1) this is the future and seafood should be in short supply and thus even more expensive than it is now, unless Athiestopia has allowed the struggling ocean populations to rebound (yay, Athiestopia!) so seafood prices are reasonable but even so 2) seafood is delicate and needs to be cooked with some care.

    Jae leaned forward, elbows on her knees, peering at this magnificent man.

    WHUT.

    No, really. WHUT. “Magnificent man.” Seriously, I can’t even. What in all of the wide world of sweet Athiestopia makes Jae think Straight is magnificent? This is, for me, one of the worst instances of Jenkins’s “believe what I tell you, not what you see” writing.

  7. A fish and cheese casserole? Urgh. That makes a McDonald’s fish sandwich sound like gourmet cuisine. If you’re going to serve a guest seafood you dug out of the bottom of the freezer, at least take the time to make a decent chowder. With some bread from the bakery, you’ve got your loaves and fishes; and with a salad, you’ve got an actual meal. Either atheists can’t cook, or Jenkins can’t.

  8. Stir-fry seafood in garlic sauce sounds great — I don’t know why Jae didn’t throw some fresh vegetables in there, wok ’em all up and call it a day. Who could argue with that?

    (Maybe the kids could, because it’s not mac ‘n’ cheese, but the kids can suck it; there’s a guest in the house.)

    Actually, I’d be surprised if the kids didn’t like it. I’ve always figured Atheistopia as an organic foodie paradise; that would be the obvious state of affairs for a Secular Liberal paradise ungodly dystopia of the future. Jae probably puts quinoa in everything.

    I’m also bringing personal anecdotes to the table. *I*, a Gen X’er, love mac ‘n’ cheese and all that processed junk, but my friends have kids who are old enough to have their own food tastes, and as far as I can tell, kids today love fruits and veggies. They’re raised in a different food environment than their fast-food-munching, crappy-blocks-of-frozen-congealed-spinach-thawing parents were. Now this is by no means universal, but 30 years from now, maybe it will be. The Atheistopians *I* imagine would be just as horrified by Jae’s crime against seafood as we are.

    tl;dr – The problem isn’t with Jae, it’s with Jerry Jenkins misunderstanding what an appetizing meal looks like.

  9. NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THOSE INGREDIENTS IS FISH. WHAT.

    Since everybody is taking it in stride I have to assume this is some weird English/US thing. I know “fish” is an extremely general word but I didn’t realize it could mean “seafood” in a modern context.

    I was annoyed in the previous chapter that Straight wouldn’t specify even what his favorite fish was, given that there are enough differences between, say, cod, salmon, tuna and shark that you could easily prefer some over the others. Now that I know this included ALL MARINE INVERTEBRATES as well… Gods this book.

    • Oh, definitely lobster, shrimp, and scallops are shellfish, but how is mahi-mahi not a fish?

      And yes, Straight not being more specific was dickish in the way he did it, and because it leaves Jae up a creek if she manages to pick the one type of seafood he dislikes. I could eat salmon every day of my life and be happy, but I really dislike scallops. Still, typical Straight: never be straightforward when you could be vague or deliberately obtuse.

  10. “Straight is a better actor than you know, Jae. He poses as a mild-mannered, incredibly rude and pushy atheist hospital volunteer. But he is actually an incredibly rude and pushy Christian volunteer.”

    …and that, I’m afraid, is what makes all the difference in the RTC mindset. Being a reprehensible dirtbag is bad–except when I do it because I’M SPESHUL.

    Ugh.

  11. What I can’t get over is that Jenkins actually gives his characters food poisoning, and that after describing the delish fish meal. Geez, dude, give your characters a break! 😦

  12. Jae is the most depressing thing in this book for me. She’s locked in an abusive relationship that’s so bad that not actively hating her counts as the honeymoon period before the cycle starts again, and she’s so taken by this idea that she’s about to throw away any last vestige of identity to stay with her abuser.

    Because of course she’s not going to do the sensible thing and, upon learning the RTC-ian god is real, recoil in abject horror.

    I know the youngest generations in this society are supposed to be ignorant of the religions that came before, but those in power are by and large old enough to remember. Why do we not see acknowledgment from them that this god is real, and is the ultimate adversary of their peaceful society? Why is no one attempting to kill god? It would even fit Jenkins’ belief that atheists all really do believe in his god on some way.

    Oh, right. Because that might make an actually interesting plot, and he’d actually have to think about character motivation for once. Feh.

    • I think that the Atheistopian government has had no reason to suspect the reality of God until It slaughtered the population of Los Angeles. The anti-religious nature of the society is explained as religious people having started the Last Big War, so religion was stamped out as a response to that.

      • That’s what I meant, rather. There was also the reflecting pool turning to blood and all the cherry trees dying suddenly, which would have been explicable at the time, but looking back with LA’s dessication in mind, might be tied to it.

        Even if it remains a secret initiative, I’d hope it would be happening. You find out there’s a god out there, and it wants to kill you if you do not surrender the core of your being to it. It’s violent and brings delight to its followers by destroying cities. Refer to it in public as the work of the zealots, but in private, start researching how to save the human race, because there is no bloody way this is a god of mercy.

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Round Up, September 15th, 2013 | The Slacktiverse

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