Chapter 20, Part 1: Terribly Sorry
Back at Felicia’s house, she and Cletus head to bed. And despite waking every hour to make sure Cletus hasn’t committed suicide or something else inconvenient like that, Felicia feels “rested” the next morning. As you do when you’re a Christian and your kid is roasting in Hell forever:
“My heart aches. I’m scared. And yet I have a deep peace. I can’t explain it.”
Nor can I, other than to simply conclude that Felicia is a monster who doesn’t give a fig about her own kid.
Cletus is still alive the next morning, which is apparently all she expects. Oh, and he thinks she’s crazy for feeling peaceful at a time like this, so we can see that Cletus is definitely the rational person in this marriage. For the time being, at least, since I can only assume Cletus will turn, too. (I honestly don’t remember and haven’t peeked ahead to see.)
Bizarrely, Felicia heads right back into work in the morning. Even more bizarrely…
She had talked Cletus into calling in sick, trying to get some rest, and planning to get back to his teaching and coaching within a week. Felicia had sensed in him a flicker of life. All she wanted was that he somehow distract himself from his loss.
Huh? Okay, logistics out of the way first: we are told that it is Thursday morning now, and that the slaughter took place Tuesday evening. So either Jenkins counted one too many nights, or I counted one too many, because I was convinced that it was Friday at least.
Also, why haven’t all the schools been closed, at least for the remainder of the week? You’d think with so many students, parents, teachers, and staff dead, and almost everyone else in mourning for probably multiple people, it would only make sense to close.
But if the schools are open, why would Felicia think the most productive thing would be for Cletus to stay home? Cletus teaches middle school students. Vulnerable, sensitive, right-on-the-cusp-of-puberty students who are in the throes of massive grief. If anything could help “distract him from his loss,” you’d think it would be helping out kids.
When Felicia gets to work, she finds that Harriet Johns has been appointed to replace the murdered Bob Koontz. Harriet left L.A. and went to San Francisco after the dessication, and just now got posted to Chicago.
Harriet came off alright back in Soon, notwithstanding that she’s a hellbound atheist. Here, though, Jenkins just can’t help himself: the female of the species in a position of power is inevitably a heartless shrew.
“I might have thought you would be on time every day,” Ms. Johns began, “this soon after The Incident.”
Felicia had just hung up her coat and was fewer than twenty minutes behind schedule.
“Forgive me,” she said. “My husband and I lost a son.”
“You have my sympathies, but of course you know that we in positions of trust must separate our personal and professional lives, and that you are hardly alone in your grief.”
Well, what else can you expect from a professional atheist lady, amirite?
(Although it’s kinda funny that Jenkins wants us to dislike Harriet for wanting people to be at work, when Felicia has been voluntarily working late the past two days since her son died.)
Anyway, Harriet goes on to question Felicia about how much she knows about Paul and his whereabouts. Good little insta-RTC that she is, Felicia is now an expert in the Jenkinsian art of fudging answers to direct questions:
“You remain loyal to Agent Stepola?” [Harriet asked]
“I remain an employee of the National Peace Organization.” [Felicia “answered”]
“And if you hear from Agent Stepola?”
“I will do the right thing.”
“Very good. And have you heard from him?”
“If I had, I would have done the right thing.”
Of course, with decades of service in the NPO, Harriet isn’t suspicious of such evasive answers at all.
Meanwhile, in another stupid conversation not far away, Ball Dangler has contacted Ranold. Ranold assumes he is in line for a promotion, and I have to say, it’s not an unnatural assumption, given the thinning of the atheist ranks around the world, but Dangler, of course, is only interested in the most important person in the entire whole world: Paul Stepola.
Ranold offers to just give Dangler Paul’s skull phone number, but far be it from a Jenkins character to take the simple and efficient route to anything:
“General, please. I think we both know he is not likely to accept a call originating from Bern.”
Well, maybe. Except for Jenkins forgetting that in previous scenes, he established skull phones don’t have any kind of caller ID…
Ranold tells Dangler this, and though I’m sure Jenkins means it to be a lie, it has enough of the truth in it for me to think it simply how Ranold is rationalizing things in his own mind:
“You know he brainwashed my daughter into murdering my wife.”
“Terribly sorry to hear that.”
That just sounds like the lamest response ever, I’m sorry. Especially since Ranold jumps right in with condolences for Dangler’s own son.
Changing the subject back from dead family members to much more important matters (Paul), Dangler has the balls (or the idiocy, whichever) to say that Paul tried to warn him about the coming slaughter.
Speaking of balls, it takes a lot of them to retcon your own story like that, since Paul did the crappiest “warning” job in the history of mankind.
Needless to say, Ranold is pissed. And who can blame him? He is still trying to fight against this horrific mass murderer, and everyone around him is throwing in the towel. Has to be upsetting.
Still, it is terribly important to remember that Ranold is the bad guy. Because he’s an atheist who doesn’t like Paul and stuff.
Next time, back to Straight and “the operating room man.”