TEC: Chapter 33: I Want Money So I Can Buy Things

Hey, guys, remember Paul and Shari?  With all this conspiracy talk and moar Arabs, I bet you forgot they were part of this story.

And yanno, they aren’t really part of this story.  But they’re very minor characters that are still around, and it’s time for them to break up.

Which leads to my main question on this topic: WHY ARE THEY STILL TOGETHER IN THE FIRST PLACE????

Paul and Shari have been together for about two years.  That’s about one year and ten months longer than they should have been together, considering how little Shari thinks of or cares about Paul, and how much Paul has gone through for this “relationship.”

To review: Shari and Paul had a Meet Cute way back in Babylon Rising.  And even at that first meeting, Shari had a snide comment to make about Paul’s lack of faith.  But being a Good Christian Girl, Shari immediately invited him to church so that she could get Conversion Points.  And there, Paul was seriously injured, through no fault of his own, by two villains: Talon…and Shari’s own brother.

Despite all this, Shari and Paul stayed together, Shari punching him in his injuries that were caused by her brother.  And throughout the next book, Paul continued to stay with Shari, because he apparently has so little self-esteem that he thinks it’s normal to be with someone who doesn’t care about you at all, and is only interested in your conversion.

But Shari always has to have things her way, and now she has decided it’s time for them to break up.  After all, two years is a long enough time to devote to any conversion prospect, and it’s clear that Paul enjoys the writings of Richard Dawkins far too much to ever become a really real RTC.

Now, I’ve talked before about how these books really want us to see Shari as innocent and sweet and kind, but she once again proves herself in this scene to be anything but.  Instead of letting Paul (who, let’s remember, has done exactly nothing wrong) down easy, she basically recites him a Reasons You Suck Speech.  One that goes on, and on, and on.

Poor Paul.

But we’re certainly not supposed to be thinking “Poor Paul.”  In fact, Phillips does a very strange thing here: he starts referring to Paul as “Wallach,” even though he has always been Paul.  And Shari is still “Shari,” not “Nelson.”  Just one more way to distance the reader from Paul as Shari dumps his sorry ass in the most painful way possible.

Shari does a nice little bit of misdirection to begin the breakup–she questions him about religion for one second, then switches gears to the fact that he has a scholarship from Barrington, and wants to work for him after he graduates (which I assume is this year).

Shari brings up her same old concerns about Barrington, principally that “Barrington’s company produces a lot of sleazy programs on television and radio.  They go against the moral fabric of society.  How can you be a part of that?

(Phillips apparently forgot that Shari doesn’t watch TV at all, so Paul isn’t allowed to point out that Shari has no firsthand knowledge of any of this.)

Phillips makes sure that no matter what Shari says, Paul is the one in the wrong.  For example:

“Paul, you know that I’ve always been honest with you and with my feelings.  I think that you’re being used.”

Wallach bristled and began to get defensive.  “No one is using me!” he exclaimed.

Geez, I can’t imagine why Paul is getting defensive…just because Shari invited him to coffee for the sole purpose of attacking and then dumping him.

“You’re just angry because I sometimes challenge your precious Dr. Murphy in class.  Not everyone believes in creation, you know,” Wallach said angrily.

“It’s not that at all, Paul.”

Liar, liar, Shari.  Stop bearing false witness.

Caught in a truth that probably hits just a bit too close to home, Shari shifts into sanctimonious lecture mode:

“I’m concerned with your values in life.  God doesn’t seem to be high on your list.  Money, power, and pride seem to be your focus.  Those things can be very attractive at first, but in the long run they destroy a person.”

Right, Shari.  That’s why God has never once rewarded his favorite followers with worldly possessions.

“I just want to get out of school and start earning some money.”

“Why, Paul?”


Paul, who has way more patience than I do, actually responds seriously to this asinine question:

“I want money so I can buy things.”



“Yeah.  Like a car, a house, a boat, or a plasma television…things!”

Yeah, so this is supposed to be the trap so that Shari can catch Paul in his own materialism, yet I find no fault with his goal of home or car ownership.  I mean, can you imagine Shari’s response if Paul had said he had no plans to ever get a job or buy a house?  Basically, there’s just no way Paul can win here.


“Well, after you buy all the things…”


Sorry.  I’m pretty sure this is a mistake, and Shari was meant to say “buy all these things,” but this way is way funnier, so it all worked out.

“…then what are you going to do?”

“Have fun!”

Sounds like a plan.  I’m there, dude.

“Let me see if I understand,” Shari said slowly.

…in order to make him feel as small as possible.

“A job earns you money, so you can buy things, so you can have some fun.  Right?”


It is just so bizarre that Shari is treating Paul’s very normal goal of getting a job and earning some money as though he just told her his life goal was to kick as many puppies as possible.

“Paul, things don’t bring lasting happiness.  A car can wear out.  A house can burn down.  A boat can sink.  And a plasma television can break.  When that happens, where will your fun be?”

I guess it’ll be in the new car you get when you trade in the “worn out” one, and in the new house, boat, or TV you buy after the insurance payout.

“Everyone has to earn money to live!”

Ah, but Paul’s sensible response has no place in Shari’s little world.  (And damn, this is a long, annoying dumping.  And I was once dumped in a heartless way myself, so my bar is set pretty high.)

“I don’t disagree with working to provide for one’s family.”

Really?  Cause…it kinda sounds like you do.  At least when it’s Paul who’s doing the providing.

“But in all of our conversations, you haven’t talked about family, or service to the community, or contributing to the nation, or raising children with values that you can pass on.”

Yeah, he’s just been working his ass off to keep his scholarship and planning to find a job as soon as he graduates.  What a monster.

“Most of your conversations have been self-centered and me-focused.”

Remember, everyone, Shari is supposed to be the nice, sweet, sensitive person here.  As she dumps this poor, hapless guy with the world’s longest Reasons You Suck Speech.

She then quotes the Bible at the atheist, because that always works:

“Do not try to work together as equals with unbelievers, for it cannot be done.  How can right and wrong be partners?  How can light and darkness live together?”

Paul takes understandable offense at being told he is unequal to Shari and living in darkness.  Shari, bless her sensitive little heart, doesn’t deny for a second that she meant what she said, but goes on to “explain” the quote as meaning that they are “walking down separate roads.”  Which is a much nicer way of breaking up with someone and what she should have said in the first place, instead of telling Paul that he is a shallow, materialistic, selfish, evil idiot.

Who wants to get a job and was once knocked into a coma when he went to church at her behest.

Yanno, sometimes the way you are dumped says more about the character of the dumper than months of dating can.  There are nice ways to break things off with another person, and mean ways of doing so.  And even though I’m sure Paul is hurting right now, hopefully he’ll quickly realize that someone who would be so nasty is not someone he needs by his side as he performs the evil deeds of graduating college and beginning a career.

I’m just sorry for him that he wasted two years of his life on this Mean Girl.

But Phillips sure wants us to dislike Paul (oops, I mean “Wallach”) and side with Shari.  Because we are told that Shari starts crying as she finishes stomping on Paul’s heart.  Aww.  Poor widdle Mean Girl.

We aren’t told what Paul’s reaction to all this is.  What a surprise.  He’s just an atheist in darkness, after all.

Posted on July 17, 2016, in The Europa Conspiracy. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I’m surprised they let a girl do that. I would have expected Shari to, I don’t know, ask Michael Murphy to explain to Paul why she can’t be with him. Followed by pretty much the same scene, only either without Shari present or with her doing nothing but watch Murphy verbally beat Wallach up.

  2. I’m sure the readers are supposed to view Paul as being wrong in this argument/ break-up with Shari here, but so far everything he’s said is pretty reasonable. I believe TV Tropes calls this the Strawman Has a Point.

    • Used to be “The Strawman Strikes Back,” but at some point they started replacing most of the funny titles with serious/functional ones, alas.

  3. So, here the author has taken a somewhat reasonable viewpoint (many people find pure materialism to be unsatisfying) and unwittingly reduced it ad absurdum. Shari wants Paul to not care so much about money and success in his job – even though she assuredly would criticize him for idling and NOT caring whether he found a stable job. And why wouldn’t she? Murphy, the character around whom the narrative revolves, is blessed by being able to piss off coworkers, teach lame and easy-to-pass classes, and gallivant off to pursue artifact clues apparently invented by the Riddler, all while still keeping his comfortable salary. Those dumb atheists just don’t understand that God blesses His people with the ability to break the rules.

    Also, first post here, hi!

  4. “You know I work all day to get you money to buy you things…”

    Even if she were leading him on with promises of mind-blowing sex, you’d think they’d either have got married or broken up well before now. (Obviously she can’t be keeping him interested with actual mind-blowing sex, because she’s a Good Girl.).

    Obviously she wouldn’t watch those sorts of programs. Christian channels only! And if it’s not broadcast on the Christian Family Jesus Channel for God and Apple Pie with Extra American Jesus, it must be “going against the fabric of society” (the sort of phrase that would be uttered in dialogue only by someone reading from a script).

    So she wants him to do jobs that don’t pay at all, but are working for the Right Sort of People? You know who else didn’t get paid for their work? Slaves. And they were happy – look at all those spirituals they sang!

    (Obviously the pastor doesn’t get paid for his work. That’s all voluntary donation not in any way coerced by the threat of hellfire.)

    • That was my thought – if he’s really an Ungodly Man TM who cares about Shari for nothing but her body, surely Paul would have moved on before they hit the two-year mark. And with the way Shari acts here, I feel sorry for Paul if he was staying for her personality.

  5. “I just want to get out of school and start earning some money.”

    “Why, Paul?”

  6. “Paul, things don’t bring lasting happiness. A car can wear out. A house can burn down. A boat can sink. And a plasma television can break. When that happens, where will your fun be?”
    “Well, I’ll get new ones.”
    “You’ll just replace them? With new, better versions?”
    “Do you not see how shallow and selfish that is? Do you not see how there’s more to life?”
    She sighed and shook her head. He wouldn’t, couldn’t understand.
    “What happens when you get old?”
    “What do you mean?”
    “Will those things help you keep death away?”
    “Obviously not…”
    “Exactly. You’ll still get old, and sick and die.”
    “…So will you.”
    “Yes, but then I’ll get born again, into a new body.”
    “A new better body to replace the old worn out one?”
    “Yes. I wish you could understand how important valuing the spirit over trinkets and adornments, like I do, is. But you never will, will you Paul?”

    He looked at her, undoubtedly stunned by his shame.

  7. Even after two years allegedly dating Paul, Shari still seems completely unaware that maybe he has different values and morals than she does. Or does anyone care to argue that she does realize that, and would be just fine if Paul wanted to promote a humanist moral fabric for society, or wanted to start a family with Shari so he could raise their children with atheist values?

    To say nothing of her “I’m concerned with your values in life. God doesn’t seem to be high on your list.”-line. What, you’re suggesting the nonreligious fan of atheist writers doesn’t consider god very important in his life. Why, whatever gave you that idea? That’s a very big accusation to just throw around like that Shari. I hope you have some evidence to back up your outlandish claim.

    • How certain are we that Paul and Shari have actually been dating? The way this conversation goes, it sounds more like they went on one date two years ago. It didn’t work out, but they decided to remain friends. Or at least that was Paul’s impression of the situation. I’m just waiting for his incredulous reaction when he realizes that Shari thinks they are in a relationship.

      Paul: “Wait just a minute! You think you’ve been my girlfriend for these past two years? But we never do anything together! We just argue about religion occasionally.”

      Shari: “Of course I’m your girlfriend. An unmarried man speaking to a woman he isn’t courting? That would go against the moral fabric of society!”

      “But in all of our conversations, you haven’t talked about family, or service to the community, or contributing to the nation, or raising children with values that you can pass on.”

      Okay, Paul hasn’t talked about those topics. Has Shari? You’d think if she had been talking about her desire for a family and raising children with religious values, this whole situation would have come to a head a lot sooner.

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Roundup for July 22nd, 2016 | The Slacktiverse

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