TEoD: Chapter 35: Danger: Date!
When Paul arrives at Shari’s that evening, she greets him at the door with a baseball bat, despite knowing exactly what time he’s coming.
Earlier in the day she had taken [the bat] out of the closet security.
The what now?
Did he mean out of the closet for security? Because that’s not what he wrote.
Actually, though, I find it more interesting that Shari would own a baseball bat at all. She doesn’t seem the sporty type. I would think that running and hitting a ball and working up a sweat is not sufficiently RTC-feminine.
As promised, Paul brought pizza and a movie, and gallantly does everything while Shari sits.
Dinner was pleasant and yet a little uncomfortable. Paul wanted to talk abut their relationship but held everything inside so as not to pressure Shari. She, on the other hand, was trying to determine if Paul really wanted to change or if this was some kind of passing phase.
What, a passing phase where Paul listens to Shari and is sensitive to her wishes and takes care of her? Because that’s pretty much how Paul has always been. In the best RTC tradition of projection, it’s Shari who has always had an ulterior motive for his actions, and Shari who doesn’t listen to Paul or care about his feelings.
I also interpret Shari’s attempt to determine if this is a “passing phase” as her meaning that Paul is only being nice because he’s trying to be open to RTC-ity.
Shari is actually frank enough to reveal to Paul that she’s been feeling like she’s been followed, and Paul asks, “Won’t God protect you?” Phillips doesn’t let us in on whether the question is asked facetiously or not, but Shari answers it seriously, basically yeah, God does protect her, but everybody dies, but she’s not ready to go just yet. Which latter part is certainly understandable, but does rather seem to fly in the face of a God-knows-best mentality. After all, shouldn’t Shari trust that it just might be her time, regardless of her limited human feelings on the subject?
Anyway, Paul immediately segues into the kind of thing that Evil Atheists are known for: trying to help someone. He posits that Shari is not Just Imagining Things, and that somebody actually might be trying to hurt her. So they start discussing whether Shari might have any enemies. For someone who works for a supposed action-adventure hero, Shari proves herself supreme unimaginative on this point.
Oh, and speaking of Shari and projection, I notice that this week’s chapter is showcasing some of the same themes of Fred Clark’s installment on LBCF: Shari is a character who absolutely cannot be trusted, not because she is an unreliable narrator in the literary sense, but because her author is so completely to of touch with the reality of the story and characters.
Shari noted that Paul was trying to get into her world and her concerns. In the past, his conversation seemed to focus more on himself.
This is new. Maybe he has changed.
Except in the previous novels, there has never been a sense that Paul’s conversation is self-involved. In fact, he’s been a far more attentive boyfriend than Shari has a girlfriend.
As a reminder, here’s the first conversation between Shari and Paul: he talks about class, she mocks his atheism.
Oh, and then Shari took Paul to her church, because Paul has always been a conversion prospect instead of a boyfriend and oh, by the way, he was knocked into a coma there. So his ability to have self-centered conversations were reduced for a time.
But maybe Phillips wants to forget about the Dinallo-crafted relationship. So here, in The Secret on Ararat, is Shari’s distillation of her debate with Paul about evolution. Again, not seeing a lot of Paul-centeredness.
Oh, and then there’s that time they broke up, and Shari decided to kick Paul repeatedly, and as painfully as possible. So yeah, the conversation definitely revolved around Paul, but that was because Shari started it, and continued it, and kept at it until Paul was crying in the corner.
In short, Shari is another RTC in the mold of Ray-gun or Bucky: utterly unreliable, cowardly, condescending, and self-serving, but whom we are supposed to see as the exact opposite of all those things.
Case in point: one paragraph after thinking that Paul is self-centered, Shari invites Paul back to church, “putting out a feeler to get Paul’s reaction to spiritual matters.”
Yeah, Shari, Paul’s the one who’s self-absorbed.
Paul actually says he wants to try church again (bizarrely citing the “honesty” of the people there), and that he is “keeping an open mind” about RTC-ianity.
Her usual humble and totally not self-centered self, Shari lectures Paul for a page about how he can give his life to Jesus “if you really mean it” (passive aggression is a key component of non-self-centeredness). Now, say what you will about Shari’s selfishness, lack of basic human consideration, and lousy taste in hairstyles, but the girl’s got sticktoitiveness. I mean, this is the exact same thing she’s harped on about since the moment she met Paul.
And after harping on about it for yet another page, Shari cuts herself off:
[She] realized that she should not put pressure on Paul. It had to be his decision.
Heh, oh yeah, I’m sure she’ll let this subject rest for ten minutes or so.
Paul offers to clean up and start the movie. Which is awfully sweet of him and all, but Shari just can’t resist her projecting thoughts:
This is a nice change, she thought.
It sure is, Shari. You’re injured and Paul is waiting on you hand and foot. Why, I remember when Paul was the one who was hurt, and you spent your time poking him and shoving him and telling him he shouldn’t have “too much sympathy.” Oh, and fawning all over Murphy right in front of Paul.
And Paul was knocked out by a bomb and fell into a coma. You only fell off your bike.
So yeah, Paul’s behavior is a bit of “a nice change,” though not in the sense you mean, Shari.
Anyway, the chapter ends with Shari hearing a noise coming from her bedroom. And of course, despite Paul’s sane yet atheistic advice, Shari chalks it up to Probably Nothing.