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Hey, forget about globetrotting and researching and adventuring and Christianing (oh, like we haven’t already). Let’s follow Michael Murphy to the exotic and thrilling location of…THE GYM!!!
He starts with stretching (which is actually not the best thing to do—stretching cold muscles is counterproductive), then does the step machine then weights.
Hey, remember two chapters ago when I observed that Murphy would not likely have dumped Isis had he not had Summer waiting in the wings? Well, hey, there’s Summer! At the gym in the early morning, at the same time as Michael Murphy.
At this point, it kinda feels like she’s stalking him. Probably Pastor Bob told her Murphy’s schedule.
Of course, Murphy immediately catalogues how hot she is:
Despite the perspiration, she looked quite attractive. He noticed that the other guys lifting weights around him had slowed down a little and he could see them trying to get a better glimpse of her. He thought they might want to change places with him.
Oh, and how much
more virile better he is than other guys because this hot woman is interested in him.
It sure is disrespectful of Summer, who is trying to have a conversation with him, when Murphy is looking at other guys, cataloguing their envy. Summer may be the Dark Mistress of Pastor Bob, sent to distract and beguile Murphy, but I still kinda feel for her—she’s not a person to Murphy, just something to make him look better.
Did she ever look bad? [Murphy thinks]
Um, yes, Murph, I’m sure sometimes Summer looks bad. I’m sure sometimes she ugly cries, or gets sick, or just has a bad hair day, has bad days like all of us. Murphy was married for years and is pushing forty, and he still has a thirteen-year-old boy’s view of women—they are just there to look sexy for me.
Summer explains that she’s been coming to this gym for awhile, but this is her first time working out in the early morning.
Oh yeah, she is for sure stalking him. Pastor Bob is behind this all, I tells ya!
She then mentions that she likes to jog, but doesn’t do it at night because she doesn’t like to be alone outside at night. This opens Murphy up for his usual condescending platitudes:
“Our world is not always safe. There are some real weirdos out there. You made the right decision.”
Yeah, Murph, and aren’t you lucky that you have never had to make a decision like that…cause women have to make about seventeen decisions like that every day.
So they jog together, and Murphy is “impressed how effortlessly Summer kept up with him,” even though it’s only a twenty-minute light jog, and I know lots of people who work out way harder than that.
When they slow to a walk, Summer, like Isis, proves herself far more empathetic than Murphy, and herself asks after Paul and Shari. Murphy understates that Paul is “not real well,” and that although the police aren’t sure who did it, he has a pretty good idea.
Yeah, it always works out well when you keep to yourself information about an attempted murderer…
And then he proceeds to tell Summer, a woman he has been acquainted with for all of three weeks, all about Talon, thus revealing far more information to her, a volleyball coach, than he did to his old friend and helicopter pilot, Vern, before Vern took on a job for Murphy which ended with his (Vern’s) hospitalization in Turkey.
Hmmm…I wonder why Vern hasn’t been talking with Murphy lately…
Anyway, Summer, like the good little Christian wife-to-be that she probably is, is suitably impressed:
She sat there dumbfounded at the tales of danger and adventure coming from Murphy’s lips. She had no idea how perilous a life the Preston University archaeologist led.
Yeah, remember that time in this book when Murphy…
Well, then there was that exciting scene where…
Man, it is seriously CHAPTER 44, and Murphy has done NOTHING.
And Murphy is so self-important about all this shit he hasn’t done, that he has the gall to tell Summer that he is on a mission from God, who has “allowed me to become involved in all this for some purpose.”
Yeah, that’s a pretty ballsy statement, considering how many other people (LAURA, Chuck, Señor SEAL, Token Turk, The Nerd, The Dick, Agent Hank Baines, Dr. Anderson, Stephanie Kovacs, at least one cop, and countless security guards at the Parchments of Freedom Foundation) got involved and ended up dead. But Murphy keeps going:
“The Bible suggests that in the last days, moral and spiritual darkness will increase.”
Yeah, like people not giving a damn if college students are in critical condition in the hospital for days on end after defending their abusive pseudo-girlfriend.
“We are only beginning to see the edge of this darkness.”
We have a title!
“Somehow I think He wants to use me in battling these evil forces.”
There’s that good ole Christian humility again!
For this, Summer immediately brings up Pastor Bob’s sermons…
Hmm…the same Pastor Bob who just convinced Murphy to break up with Isis and go out with her…
“When he talks about the danger of the occult, it disturbs me. I have to admit I’m really fearful of the occult.”
Quite a far cry from Isis and her fearless awesomeness. The woman who took down kidnappers by herself and stayed by herself on Mount Ararat overnight, and now there’s this chick, who is scared by talk of the occult.
I shudder to think what would happen if I snuck up behind her and went BOOGABOOGABOOGA.
So Murphy tells her all about J.B. Sonstad.
She sat there on the bench with her mouth slightly open and never took her eyes off of him.
Oh yeah, Murphy totally traded up. Real brain trust, this one.
Murphy then mentions that he and Livie might possibly be heading to Israel to look for stuff sometime in the future, maybe, if they can drag themselves off their couches, and we get our first peek into the complicated inner workings of Summer’s mind:
For some reason, Summer felt just a little sad that he wouldn’t be around.
She’s such a deep and nuanced character, I feel like I know her already!
After this conversation, Murphy once again runs down his list of pros of Summer: “athletic and very attractive…and she was easy to talk to.”
“Hmm…size 2, blonde, and lets me lecture endlessly without bothering me with what she’s thinking or feeling. Sounds like a winner to me!”
You know those RTCs, right? Paragons of independent thinking and not easily swayed by the opinions of others…
So the moment Murphy’s pastor hints that Isis might not be the best match for Murphy, he hops a plane to D.C. to kick Isis to the curb.
This is especially sad and amusing when you remember that Pastor Bob is one of the stupider characters in these books. And that’s saying something.
This chapter reads a bit like a few other chapters, like the one in Ararat where childless Murphy counseled another man on how to raise a teenage daughter. That is, Phillips is writing a how-to for any RTC in a similar situation. So this chapter is how to break up with a nonbeliever.
Now, most of this chapter is focused on Murphy’s feelings—how bad Murphy feels about dumping Isis. Because the man’s feelings, the dumper’s feelings, are way more important than the female dumpee’s feelings.
So they go out to dinner, and…
Isis could tell that Murphy was a little preoccupied. She thought that he must be tired from the trip or maybe that he was worried about Shari…or Paul Wallach in the hospital.
Yeah, these two clearly are not meant for each other. Isis just assumes that Murphy has some normal human empathy, when in fact Murphy could not give two shakes about Shari or especially Paul.
Then they head back to Isis’s apartment, so Murphy can do the dumping in private. Which I suppose is more decent of him than doing it in public.
Now, to be incredibly fair, at a few moments, Phillips does seem vaguely aware that there is another person in this scene. So in between Murphy’s paragraphs about God and his (Murphy’s) feelings, Phillips interjects a few generic observations from Isis:
Isis could feel that something was coming.
Isis could feel it coming and she didn’t want to hear what he was going to say. She knew that it wasn’t going to be good.
Isis felt like she was going to cry.
So, it’s not really a character here, a person with feelings. It’s Phillips reassuring RTC males that if they use the right phrasing, they can weasel out of a waning relationship with a minimum of fuss and ugly crying.
Then again, I might not ugly cry either, if someone broke up with me with the kind of impersonal platitudes that Murphy uses:
“If two people are to develop a strong and lasting relationship, they really need to be on the same wavelength when it comes to faith in God. Divided families often have great struggles. Both parties are not able to share the same experience or values. It can bring about great stress.”
Hell, I even mostly agree with Murphy’s point here. It’s just so dickishly Nice Guy the way he puts it here—just as he made a mental list of pros and cons of Isis versus Summer, he’s now putting their relationship into a series of theoretical contortions.
I mean, this is all just a how-to manual, but shouldn’t there be just a hint that when you dump that atheist chick, she might have something more to say than…nothing? Just staring at you with the sparkling eyes that very nearly tempted you?
And speaking of temptation, does anyone think Murphy would be so quick to kick Isis to the curb if he didn’t have Summer waiting in the wings? (Or rather, Pastor Bob in the wings, waiting with baited breath to throw Summer at Murphy?)
Isis has one moment where she tries to assert herself. Or at least, makes a play for the relationship to continue:
“I think that two people can still see one another and have a relationship grow, and still talk about faith. I don’t think it has to end.”
“But what if the relationship grows and the faith does not?”
“There’s risk in every relationship, Michael.”
And I can see Isis’s point, too. I mean, it’s all moot for several reasons: Murphy dumping Isis is the best thing that can happen to her, and it’s not like Murphy would listen to what a mere woman has to say about relationships, anyway.
So it’s all a done deal. That said, Murphy does try to weasel out of completely dumping her with one of the two oldest tricks in the book:
“It might be good for both of us if we began to see other people.”
(The other one, of course, is “Let’s just be good friends.”)
Isis is nobody’s fool, and immediately sees that that is bullshit. To put it in a nicer way:
She could tell that his mind was already made up and that nothing she could say would make a difference now.
Yep, this sure isn’t a relationship between two adults, where they can sit down and talk about their feelings together. At least it isn’t from Michael Murphy’s perspective.
Murphy makes his escape before the tears happen (Isis’s, not his, because we know he isn’t going to cry about this, not with Summer waiting).
And instead of sticking with Isis, we follow Murphy back onto his plane home, of course, where we can know more about how very badly he feels, even asking God why. Well, because you found another Like A Model, Murph, and because your pastor told you too.
Still, though, lucky Isis. Even if she doesn’t know it yet.
Hey, y’all, Happy April Fools Day and Happy Zombie Jesus Day!
The next chapter of The Edge of Darkness is coming very soon, but in the meantime, and in honor of the day, enjoy my quick critique of The Passion of the Christ.
So okay, I know I’m going through this book at the speed of mud, but in all fairness, the book is going even slower than that. Plus, these from-the-Bible chapters are the slowest and most pointless yet.
Picking up where we left off, in the book of Samuel, this chapter covers only I Samuel 4-11. Some guys go on a fetch quest to get the Ark and two priests to the battlefield. This fetch quest turns out to have a complete no-prize, since the Israelites lose anyway, and the two priests are killed. But I guess this is because the Israelites aren’t faithful enough, not because the Ark is, yanno, just a box that doesn’t magically grant armies the ability to automatically win all battles.
But don’t worry, college drama is coming right up—the reuniting of Shari and her horrible (atheist, but I repeat myself) ex-boyfriend, Paul!
The Teenage Wedding goes off without a hitch (har), with Lucas convincing Erin to attend the ceremony with him instead of presiding over the last-minute details of the buffet.
We actually get a preacher talking here, as Reverend West (he of the “Grandpa Asshat made his peace with God, so his manipulation of you all was for the best”) draws parallels between a wedding and Christmas, because both are about promises or somesuch.
“With God as the center of your marriage, you will be able to get through the ups and downs that every couple faces as they journey together.”
Shh. Don’t tell the teens that atheists have a lower divorce rate than born-again Christians.
Marriage is on Lucas’s mind in more ways than one, and he invites Erin over to watch Max open a Christmas Eve present.
[Max] raced over to Erin, grabbed her hand and tugged her toward the Christmas tree, his patience finally at an end. Lucas knew the feeling!
Max chooses to open the biggest of his gifts, which seems kinda like jumping the gun. I never got to open the Big Gift on Christmas Eve. It was a small gift, if not a stocking stuffer. Anyway, it’s cowboy boots, because Max has become obsessed with cowboys.
Lucas opens a gift that Arabella gave to Max to give to him, which is a brand new and newly-framed photo of the three of them snapped at the wedding reception that very day. Which is quite sweet.
And Erin’s present is from Lucas, and it’s the box that his mother (re)gave him. And inside that box is a little box that has an engagement ring.
Which part of me thinks is sweet (he’s making her a part of his family by giving her the heirloom), but at the same time feels just slightly off because of his fraught history with his own family.
Anyway, Max reacts in a pretty cute four-year-old way to seeing the littler box. He’s all, DAMN ERIN YOU GOT TWOOOOOO PRESENTS!!!
Lucas says that the whole Asshat will thing happened because God wanted them to be together, which Erin agrees with, and of course she says yes.
One year later, and GEE I WONDER IF ERIN IS PREGNANT???
Yeah, she totally is.
We catch up again with all the other characters, and again I feel kinda sorry for the author, who has to wind up everyone’s stories, not just her own characters’. In fact, I feel like this story has really suffered because of the need to give time to at least ten other characters she didn’t even create.
Okay, odd thing, though. The little girl, Macy, whose mom died? She’s barely name-checked in the epilogue, with only a mention that she helped decorate a cake. I suppose we’re to assume that she’s living happily ever after with her adoptive parents, but the “Questions for Discussion” at the end of the book describe her as someone who “[brought] the Clayton family together,” so I expected more. Especially since Christmas must be a hard time for this kid, seeing as how her mother died at Christmastime only a year ago.
Oh well, let’s talk weddings!
Lucas and Erin got married in April, the second couple to get hitched after the Teenage Wedding. Everyone else is hitched, too, except for Lucas’s sister, Mei, and her fiance, who are bizarrely waiting until Valentine’s Day to get married. Which means they have been engaged for well over a year, since their romance took place at Thanksgiving time. Why didn’t they get married on Valentine’s Day last year? I don’t get it.
Of course, despite the inheritances having been handed out and freedom restored, everyone has opted to stay in Clayton indefinitely, except for the Teenage Couple, who are living and attending college in Denver. Which makes them the sole escapees, so…go Teens!
And Erin reveals to Lucas that she is pregnant, and the end.
Happy Wintermas and Merry New Year, all!
Coming soon: a poll for which movie I shall critique next. Possible options:
I’ll be honest: the VeggieTales have always kinda freaked me out.
Too on the nose right now?
This has got to be the weirdest party ever. First Erin shows up and spirits away a little girl with a dying mother, so she can show the kid a horse that will still be there at a non-party time, and now Lucas and Max are whisked away from their own party by a call from Lucas’s mom, who mysteriously is not at the party, but wants to see them ASAP.
What is so important that it can’t wait?
Well, a pine box, for one. It’s a handcrafted family heirloom that is already Lucas’s, since his grandfather gave it to him many Christmases ago. But his mother wants to give it back to him (he left it behind when he skipped town) RIGHT FRIGGIN’ NOW, party be damned.
No, there is absolutely no better, non-party time when this could have taken place. Shut up.
Lucas’s mother (Lisette, if you care), even says that since the box is passed from Clayton to Clayton, Lucas could give it to Max someday. Which is actually really sweet and “the first time he’d seen any indication that his mother was willing to accept Max into the Clayton family.”
Our first vaguely Christian idea occurs in who knows how long, as Lucas sits there and reflects that, much like his overbearing asshole father…
…he was just as guilty of “going his own way.” And he’d refused to forgive his father for his harsh demands.
Dude, you were a teenager. It’s okay. Seriously.
Refused to forgive himself for not making things right before his father died.
Your father died in an accident and was an asshole and never gave you the chance to make things right. Jesus, this Christian guilt stuff just kills me, the way it makes people so sad about things that are in no way at all their fault!
Look, I get that Lucas might feel irrational guilt about not making things right before his father’s (completely unexpected) death. But it’s been well over seven years and you are an adult now, Lucas, and you can look back and see that your father was an asshole and it is totally okay not to forgive him.
Yeah, yeah, I’ve been over this before, but here we go again: I think forgiveness of this sort is highly overrated. I don’t mean the little forgivenesses that people do because they love others and have ongoing relationships and you learn to let the little things go because we all make mistakes. I mean this RTC idea of forgiveness where you are obligated to forgive a dead asshole for being a total asshole to you when he was alive. He’s dead, he won’t know. If it makes you feel better, then go for it, but you do not need to forgive dead assholes!
(Not that I speak from experience or anything. Heh.)
Sigh. Anyway, no time for more emotional RTC breakthroughs, because Tweed has arrived with a tale of a horse trailer that went into a ditch and the horse needs to get out.
GORAMMIT, NOBODY IN THIS TOWN HAS ANY RESPECT FOR A PARTY!!!
So Lisette actually volunteers to take Max back to Lucas’s new house and watch him until Lucas gets back. Which is too, too solid for this world, man.
Lucas actually gives her a hug, so we do have some emotional breakthrough here.
Cut to a few hours later, and Lisette makes a frantic call to Erin, because Max won’t stop crying and Lucas won’t answer his phone. Erin is understandably surprised that Lisette would call her and not, say, May or Arabella, but then again, she is right next door. So she heads over like a trooper.
Turns out Max is not having a night terror like before, but is instead convinced that Lucas is never coming back, just like his own daddy, because Lucas did not say the word “goodbye” when he left, just like his daddy had not said “goodbye.”
To give Lucas credit, he had no idea that this was a “thing” with Max, and did say goodbye to him, just without using the word “goodbye.” He said, “I’ll be home as soon as I can, buddy.”
Erin is, of course, reassuring and sweet and appropriate, telling Max how much his dad loved him, so much so that he asked Lucas to take care of him “forever.”
Once she is assured that Max is okay, Lisette asks to go home, because she has a migraine coming on, and Erin can take care of Max. Which seems like a heckuva an imposition, but whatevs.
When Lucas gets home, he finds Max asleep in Erin’s arms. After putting Max in his bed, Erin explains what happens, and Lucas once again runs down his abilities as a father.
This is what unleashes the floodgates for Erin, and unloads seven years worth of anger onto Lucas. Not that he doesn’t deserve it—it’s about time it was impressed upon him how hurtful he’s been.
Now, Lucas does immediately feel guilty about the fire, which he still assumes is because of him. But Erin is pissed because Lucas once again wants to “protect” her, just like he “protected” her in high school, which she sees as a rejection of her, so his Bad Boy reputation wouldn’t be hurt by his dating a sensible, responsible girl.
Lucas throws her rejection of him back at her by pointing out that he proposed. And Erin (again, understandably) takes issue with that, as well, since he didn’t technically ask, but rather “implied” it. And after a long and pointless flashback, Erin says what she’s really been thinking all these years, that because of “something wrong” with her that made it “easy” for him to never look back, never write or call.
Again, really hard to argue with this.
And to give Lucas credit, he barely tries. And he does realize how much of a stupid kid he was, and how much he hurt her. He declares himself guilty of “being an eighteen-year-old guy who wanted to keep the woman he loved all to himself.”
Probably true, too.
Gorrammit. (Adds Actually Not That Bad to tags.)
And they kiss.
“So why is it the action sequences slow this movie down?”
-Tom Servo, MST3K, Episode 516 – Alien from L.A.
Even Phillips, it seems can only take so much banal observations on international air travel (“Sitting up isn’t the most restful sleep position,” Murphy agreed.), so as soon as we touch down in Baghdad, we head off for an action scene.
Just to reassure you of Michael Murphy’s care and protective instincts towards the woman he loves: he is warned by their military escort immediately upon landing that leaving the Green Zone means they are no longer under U.S. military protection, and could be “extremely dangerous.” They’re also told that Jassim Amram isn’t allowed inside the Green Zone due to the fact that “security has tightened down” (what, and the word of Michael Murphy buys him nothing?). So they meet him just outside the checkpoint, and he takes them out to dinner. Despite Murphy’s lip service to “Isis with her red hair,” Jassim assures them they’ll be “very safe.”
SO THEY GO
Great job, Murph.
The men turn out, unsurprisingly, to be a set of insensitive brutes at dinner. Isis has covered up, but still feels uncomfortable the whole time, with men staring at her and women talking about her. And just as Jassim is matter-of-factly informing them that they should get back to the Green Zone, what with the “hair trigger on anyone who approaches the zone after ten p.m.,” Isis sees a guy with a Talon Tattoo in the restaurant. She tells Murphy, who seems to not care at all, since they just leave the restaurant as they had planned, companionably chatting about the Writing on the Wall.
And then a care drives slowly by and they are shot at. As you might expect. They all hit the deck and nobody is hit, so they run to the safest place they can see: a dark alley.
Nope, not making that up. Hey guys, this way, where we can be cornered!
But luck is on their side, as they see an opening into a courtyard in the alley. (???) They dodge and duck and dip and dive and dodge through streets until they dash into a restaurant, where “pairs of dark eyes followed them, focused on the three white faces.”
A random Moar Arab leads them out the back into yet another alley, where they decide to SPLIT THE PARTY and let Jassim go back for the car. Me, I’d head back on foot. And what’s with taking the party so far from the Green Zone, anyway?
After Jassim leaves, four Moar Arabs, all armed, come upon our heroes and start speaking Arabic. Of course, Isis can translate, and all they’re doing is debating on whether to kill them right now, or take them back to “their leader.”
In their first smart move, Murphy and Bingster take the opportunity of the Evil Debate to rush their would-be assailants. Of course, despite one of the Arabs being armed with a automatic weapon, the two brave American men make quick work of the silly Moar Arabs, and Murphy then threatens one of the Arabs still left standing, as Isis translates who-are-you-working-for questions, to which you’d think the answers would be obvious when the Arabs sport Talon Tattoos.
Finally the Arab spoke. “The man with the razor finger wants you dead,” Isis translated.
Well then, for the thousandth time, why doesn’t Talon just shoot him or falcon him to death some morning on Murphy’s apparently completely unsecured campus, or some night at Murphy’s apparently completely unsecured home??? GEEZ
“He says he people the works for need you eliminated.”
“What do you mean, the people he works for?” Murphy asked, pressing his knee into the Arab’s belly.
Again Isis translated what was said. “The Seven.”
“The who? Who are the Seven?” Murphy asked.
Of course, the Arab won’t (or can’t) say who exactly they are, which should come as a surprise to nobody, so Murphy just THROWS A REVERSE PUNCH.
So finally it all sorta comes together, even though it should have come together for Murphy like, last book.
And then Jassim shows up with the car. Because I guess you can’t trust the one non-white member of the party to fight the Evil Moar Arabs.
So Shari shows Michael some mail that he got: a mysterious box with a letter with some poetry in it!
We’re starting over!!!
THE ENTIRE BOOK IS STARTING OVER!!!
We have already done this bit! Meth already sent Murphy a poem, and Murphy already endangered himself to get the pointless clue. It was about the writing on the wall or some shit!
Can you just imagine Meth over these past few weeks? He went to all the trouble of meeting that kid in Colorado, giving him cigarettes and a complicated message in prison, then getting Murphy to him via a stupid poem, then suspending an envelope over a canyon for Murphy to shimmy to, and what thanks does he get? Murphy dashing about to Orlando to chat with old men, and then to New York to have decidedly non-sexy dates and punch Arabs, and then to punch more terrorists on bridges!
I’d be feeling pretty neglected right now, too, if I were Methuselah.
So Meth has gone to all the trouble of sending Murphy yet another bad poem and some river rocks in a box, and because I love you guys so much, I will now reproduce the poem in its glorious entirety:
A golden opportunity awaits
Those who appreciate Cabarrus Debates
And search for the Hessian who deserted his session…
And later planted a seed which led to the weed of greed.
Yup, clear as mud.
Murphy immediately zeroes in on Cabarrus, because as a man who lives and works in South Carolina, he has an encyclopedic (or rather, Wikipedic) knowledge of all the counties in North Carolina. Thus he knows that the county was named after Stephen Cabarrus.
Geez, you didn’t know that? Stephen Cabarrus was only Speaker of the House of Representatives of North Carolina from 1789-1793 and again from 1800-1805.
“That must be what the word ‘debates’ refers to.”
Continuing to put it all together, Murphy decides that Meth must mean a Hessian soldier named John Reed from Cabarrus County, whose son found a giant gold nugget in Little Meadow Creek, leading to North Carolina being the first “gold rush” state in the U.S.
That’s all terribly interesting and all, but bear in mind that Murphy knows all these details right off the top of his head (or out of his ass, either way).
Shari is as skeptical of this as I am:
“Where do you come up with all of this trivia?”
Murphy snidely responds:
“It’s called reading, Shari.”
Well, fine, asshat.
But I don’t buy that for a second. Sure, people cultivate odd and unique areas of knowledge. Those of us who love various obscure areas can all identify. But I don’t buy that Murphy just so happens to be an expert in every random area that Meth thinks up for his schemes (like spelunking and the history of Colorado prisons). Nor do I think that Meth would have any way of knowing about Murphy’s various weird-ass areas of interest. Cabarrus County certainly has nothing to do with biblical archaeology, after all.
Next up, Murphy heads back to a cave. At a defunct gold mine in North Carolina. Because that has everything to do with the Writing on the Wall.