The Overton Window: Chapters 33 & 34
As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Sassafras for not making me feel bad about myself the way that Ken's comment did:
"It is the book that never ends,
Yes it goes on and on, my friends!
Some people started reading it,
Not knowing what shit it was,
And they'll continue reading it forever,
JUST BECAUSE... [repeat mindlessly while completing final chapters]"
It's horrifying when a Lambchop song is more fun than a book.
Yeah, honestly, I've read cereal boxes that are more fun than this book. Hell, I think it's entirely possible that Left Behind was more fun than this book. Still, however, it does eventually end, and we're coming up on the end a lot faster than you might think. Like each individual chapter in this nightmare, eventually it just kinda seems like the authors get tired and then... stop. Blessedly. Thanks for the comments, folks, and keep it up! We're definitely getting there.
And, with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag. My footnotes use the traditional star system (e.g. *, **, etc) while references included in the Afterword to the book are noted with numbered parenthetical tags (e.g. (1), (2), etc.). Bazoombas!
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by a first order Markov process.
Eli Churchill: Former janitor at a volcano lair. Fan of remote telephone booths. Shot in the head by parties unknown.
Beverly Emerson: Mysterious correspondent of Eli Churchill's. Molly's Mom.
Noah Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high".
Molly "Hottie McPretty" Ross: Dresses like a hippie, but not really. Looks like a free spirit. Perfectly captures the essence of womanhood. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Pale skin. Has a tattoo on her chest. Wears a silver cross around her neck. Lost her father when she was young. Impressed by fancy cars. Cocktease. Possibly suffering from bipolar disorder. Looks just like Noah's mom.
Arthur Gardner Noah's father. Owner of Doyle & Merchant. Megalomaniac. Surprisingly vigorous for a 74 year old man.
Khaled: Lebanese cab driver. Sold out by Noah Gardener.
Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.
Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches. Sodomized by inmates following the rally. Once dressed up as Colonel Sanders to infiltrate the United Nations. May be afraid of cats.
Charlie Nelan: Gardner family lawyer. Silver hair. Impeccably dressed. Looks awesome. Has some sort of weird relationship with GQ. May have the ability to sense when Noah's in trouble using some sort of clairvoyance. Possible kleptomaniac.
Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly. Not particularly trusting. Lives in a double-wide trailer. Sixty-three years old.
Mr. Puddles: AKA Gray Death. AKA Ninja Cat. Stuart's cat. Large. Dangerous looking. Possibly plotting his demise.
Tiffany: A stripper at the Pussycat Ranch. Thinks Danny is awesome.
Chapter 33: In which a new character appears and we stray into romantic comedy territory.
Recommended Mood Music:
Page 218, Line 1-4:
In the cab on the way uptown Noah had made two phone calls, one to the hospital's automated system to find the patient's floor and room, and the other to an old and trusted acquaintence who was now on her way to meet up with him at Lenox Hill.
There's so much wrong with this opener. The main problem is that rather than give this narration in present tense, which would at least lend the sentence a bit of urgency, it renders it in past tense. *yawn* The second problem, however, is the weirdly removed reference to "the patient" rather than, you know, "Barbara Emerson" or even, "Molly's mom". Either of those would have made this feel more natural and made Noah seem (slightly) less like some sort of demented robot. But, alas, it doesn't and he is.
Page 218, Line 5-11:
Over a long-ago summer Ellen Davenport, of the East Hampton Davenports, had become his first real friend who was a girl. It was a new thing for him, because though they'd hit it off immediately, they both seemed to realize that dating each other was the last thing they should ever do. They'd actually tried it once just to be sure, and the discomfort of that terrible evening was matched only by its comic potential when the story was retold by the two of them in later years.
That would actually be cute if the writing weren't so goddamn dull. But, hey, regardless: hello there, new and pointless character! Welcome to the pointless party! Also, for the record, I have no idea, and couldn't care less, who the East Hampton Davenports are.
Page 218, Line 12-15:
Now Ellen was a second-year neurology resident at Mount Sinai Hospital across town. His call had caught her at the end of a twenty-six-hour shift, but, true to form, she'd told him that she'd be right over without even asking why.
Okay, so the random extra is supposed to be a really close friend of Noah's. Fair enough. I gotta say though, while I have some friends who are so close that if they asked for my help after I'd just worked a 26-hour shift I'd totally do it, I'd still ask why before heading over. This wouldn't so much be to judge whether or not I should come, as to mentally prepare myself for whatever it is that is so damned urgent. I mean, are we burying a body? Should I bring my shovel? Are we going to be producing a body? Should I bring a ski mask and firearm? I like to be prepared. Anyway, Noah gets to the hospital and notices three things. One is an overflow crowd from the hospital floor's small chapel. I've never seen a hospital with a chapel on every floor- or even more than one chapel- but whatever. It's freaking overflowing. Second, he sees a smaller crowd waiting outside one room. And third, he sees Ellen. We don't get to see Ellen, as she isn't really described, but Noah sees her, which I guess will just have to be enough. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe the fact that hardly anyone is described in this book is meant to suggest that hardly anyone is actually real? Maybe it's sort of a Sixth Sense thing and all the action is taking place in Molly's (i.e. the only well-described character's) head? TWIST!
Page 219, Line 11-13:
"I need for you [Ellen] to do me a favor," Noah said. There was a slight tremor in his hands as he retrieved the medicine from his pocket, shook out a pill into his palm, and swallowed it dry.
Now, read that passage again but in the voice of Raoul Duke and I promise you it'll seem much, much more interesting.
Page 219, Line 14-17:
Ellen took the vial from him, rattled it, and held it close to her eyes. She looked at him again with a little more concern than before. "If you're going to ask me to score you some methadone, I left my prescription pad in my other pants."
So, is that what he's taking, then? And what is she, the pharmacy whisperer? I fully believe that she might be able to tell what the drugs are from examining the pills, but from rattling an opaque, unmarked plastic container (Page 197, Line 15-16)? I'm thinking, no. Anyway, as it turns out, no, Noah is not trying to score some drugs.
Page 219, Line 18-20:
"That woman in the room down the hall there," he said. "I need for you to help me- I don't know, line up a specialist, make sure everything's being done. I just want her to be taken care of."
And my question at this point is, "why"? I mean, Noah was just rescued from aforementioned woman's daughter, who drugged the crap out of him and left him to be repeatedly violated by Hollis* over a 40 hour period, only to be discovered in a pool of his own filth.** Noah is not surprisingly on a quest to revenge himself upon that daughter. So why the hell are his undies suddenly in a bunch over Barbara? Does he want to use her as freaking bait, or something?
Page 219, Line 23-30:
Whatever Noah had been about to confess, he was interrupted by the approach of a stranger. It was an older woman, frail and thin as dry reeds, and from the corner of his eye he'd seen her come from the direction of that room ear the end of the hall. The woman nodded her respect to Ellen, turned to him, and then spoke with a gentle gravity in her voice that said more than the words themselves would convey.
"She's awake now. Somebody told her you were here, and she says she wants to talk to you."
What. The. Fuck? He's been here barely long enough for a handful of lines of dialogue with Ellen and yet, someone in the room with Barbara has already learned of Noah's arrival and mentioned it to her? What in hell is going on in this chapter?
Well, as it happens, what's going on is it's ending, which brings us to...
Chapter 34: In which Noah has a really tortured chat with Molly's mom, and Ellen serves her purpose.
Recommended Mood Music:
Page 220, Line 1-2:
He stood just inside the open doorway, watching the remaining visitors say their good-byes before they quietly walked past him, one by one.
Apparently Noah is f-ing important to these people. I guess we should all be glad he's important to someone, but that still leaves us with an incredibly bizarre scene.
Page 220, Line 12-16:
There were bruises on her face and arms, dark, uneven spots within yellowing patches, and a bandage on her neck with a soak of crusted brown near its center. She was withered, already a shadow of the person he'd last seen on Friday night. The only thing that remained undimmed was that unforgettable spark in her light green eyes.
Just... yeah. I don't know what to say here. Apparently Barbara caught the beating that Danny claimed he'd had (Page 181, Line 8-18) when he was talking to the would-be terrorists. Isn't she lucky? Regardless, Noah comes over and holds her hand.
Page 221, Line 5-10:
"I [Barbara] don't expect you to understand why Molly did what I asked her to do." The grip on his hand tightened, as though all the strength she had was centering there. "You should blame me, and not her. But I hold the privilege of a dying woman now, and I want you to put everything aside except what I'm about to say."
Presumably included in that everything that Noah is putting aside is his disgust at the hackneyed writing. Still, you'd think Noah would be a little pissed at the revelation that Barbara is the mastermind behind his recent mind-fuck. One can only imagine the hot-blooded answer Noah has ready for Barbara.
Page 221, Line 11:
Yep. That was it exactly.
Page 221, Line 12-13:
"My daughter is in danger. I need for you to promise me you'll see her to safety."
And that was not at all what anyone expected her to say. Just to be clear, she's asking the man her daughter recently seduced, drugged, and basically stole from to make sure that said daughter escapes from any and all consequences that might stem from seducing, drugging, and stealing from Noah Gardner. How the hell does that seem like a good idea?
Page 221, Line 14-18:
There were so many conflicting things hammering at his mind, but despite all that mental noise and everything that had happened, for once in his life he could see it all arranged in its true order of significance, and so he knew for certain there was only one thing to be said.
Exactly! How else will you trick her into telling you where Molly is so you can take your reve- hmmm? You're actually going to do the whole protecting Molly thing, then? Really? What is it with this girl? Does she have cake-flavored nipples, or something?
Page 221, Line 25-28:
"I sent Molly away, but she isn't safe yet," she said. "She's waiting now, near the airport. Look in the top drawer of the nightstand. She called and told one of the nurses where she'd be and they wrote it down for me."
She called and told- are you fucking kidding me? She's on the run from some ultra-powerful cabal of government bureaucrats and corporate leaders who are planning an imminent takeover of the U.S., she's in possession of sensitive information from same, and she leaves her location with her mother's nurse? Did these people learn their operational security from Facebook?
Page 221, Line 31-32:
"Do you know what we're fighting against, son?"
"Yeah, I think so. Some pretty evil people."
You mean like your dad?
Page 222, Line 2:
"Ephesians 6:12- look it up when you get a chance."
Oh, lovely. More bible passages. That really takes me back to Left Behind*** you know? For those who are curious, that passage reads: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." So... she's claiming that Noah's dad is in league with the devil, then? I am so bored with this shit. Really.
Page 222, Line 4-7:
"There's more to you, Noah. More than you might be ready to believe. I knew of your mother many years ago, and the good she wanted to do. That's what Molly saw in you: she told me. Not your father, but what your mother's given you. And I see it, too."
Oh, just gag me. She knew "of" Noah's mom? What the hell does that mean? Maybe she saw Noah's mom's performance in that movie he mentioned (Page 107, Line 8-14)? This bit is so over-the-top the author's can't even see the top anymore- that's how far over the top they are. Anyway, Barbara reminds Noah that his name derives from a biblical figure.
Page 222, Line 16-17:
"He wasn't chosen because he was the best man who ever lived," she said softly. "He was chosen because he was the best man available."
Okay, one, way to build the guy up: "You're not Mr. Right, but you are Mr. Right-Now." Two, can we all just remember how things worked out with the original Noah? Genocide of mankind, mass extinction, and all he managed to get to show for it was a promise from god to never try to kill us all off with water ever again. Hell, sounds like our Noah is the spitting image.
Page 222, Line 18-20:
Out in the hallway he hadn't made it five steps before Ellen Davenport caught up to him. She took him firmly by the sleeve, pulled him behind her into a nearby storeroom, and closed the door.
I'm sure Noah's flattered, Ellen, but is this really the right time to exercise the "with benefits" clause? Or do hospitals just turn you on? Sadly, no, Ellen just wants to talk. She asks Noah how he knows Barbara, he says she's the mother of a friend of his, and then Ellen tells him Barbara is going to die. Which would probably be shocking if Barbara hadn't just told us that a page ago. Noah asks how, Ellen answers "poison," and Noah- briefly forgetting that he's hardly an expert in this sort of thing- asks what kind of poison.
Page 223, Line 13-24:
"Paraquat," (1) she said. She seemed to watch his eyes for signs of recognition but there were none. "Do you see now, the point they were trying to make? The animals who got to this woman? Paraquat is a pesticide. A weed killer."
"A pesticide." He'd heard what she'd said but he repeated it aloud, just to make sure he understood.
"It starts an irreversible fibrosis in the lungs- a scarring that progresses until you finally can't breathe anymore. If that doesn't kill you first, all the other organ systems begin to shut down, and then it's over. There's nothing we can do about it; we can't even give her oxygen. That just makes it worse. She might have another day, or another week, but it's obvious they wanted her to suffer."
Well, hey, who can blame them? She was awfully annoying. More seriously, I think the authors are trying to imply that Arthur's goons made a statement as they killed Barbara but, really, one would think that just killing her would be statement enough. Then again, Barbara believes Arthur either is, or is in league with, the devil, so there's more than enough crazy to go around. Anyway, Ellen advises Noah to go easy on the pills that his father gave him, even going so far as to recommend he come down off of Molly's happy drugs cold turkey and then Noah says goodbye. Don't worry, though, because Ellen gets the last word.
Page 224, Line 6-9:
"I don't know how you're involved in all this," Ellen said, "but you'd better know something, Noah. There are a million kinds of murder, but anyone who would do to a person what they did to her? It only means there's nothing at all they wouldn't do." [emphasis original]
That's probably true but, the thing is, does it really matter? I mean, to some extent murder is murder, and if someone kills me in the process of a convenience store robbery I'm just as dead as if they kill me in some "artistic" way that makes a statement. So, yeah, once we know that murder is involved, we've largely maxed out the "these people are serious" message.
But, maxed or not, that's the end of the chapter. Come back next time when Noah finally reunites with Molly and we get to find out what he does when he meets the woman who tricked and drugged him. It'll be "exciting".
* I'm assuming that's what happened, based on Noah and Hollis' obvious "chemistry".
** Not really, but only because the writing is terrible.
*** I'm suddenly struck by the notion that there might be a porno version called "Left in the Behind".
Labels: The Overton Window