TPD pp 154-155: Meet the Strachans

Chapter sixteen is kind of short, so let’s do this all in one go but I have a lot to say about the first few pages, it seems. I checked to see how far we are in the book: there are 42 chapters, and this is number 16, so not even halfway. In pages, however, we’re on page 155 out of 376, which is closer to halfway.

In this chapter, Marshall is travelling out to the countryside to visit Strachen, the former dean of the university. Two angels – Nathan and Armoth- accompany him, as well as his reporter Bernice.

Things were definitely quiet out here, away from strife-torn Ashton.

You make it sound like there’s gang violence shooting up the streets. Calm down, it’s just interpersonal politics between religious groups. There’s not even guns involved.

[The angels] had a feeling that a covert plot on the part of Rafar and his guerrillas might be underway.

Jesus. You’re not even fighting them! Your entire plan is to sit back and let them do what they want until you have enough “prayer cover”. Why are we using war language for what is yet to be a war?

Marshall and his good-looking young reporter were too critical a combination for those devils to pass up.

Is it just me or does that read like Bernice is a target solely because she’s pretty?

Former college dean Eldon Strachen lived on a quaint and unpretentious ten-acre farm an hour away from Ashton. He was not farming the place, just living here, and as Marshall and Bernice drove up the long gravel driveway they could tell his interests extnded no further than the immediate yard of the white farmhouse. The lawn was small and manicured, the fruit trees pruned and bearing, the flower beds soft with freshly turned and weeded soul. Some chickesn meandered about, pecking and scratching. A collie greeted their approach with furious barking.

“Wow, a normal human being to interview for once,” said Marshall.

“That’s why he moved out of Ashton.”

Okay, can we talk about that observation? What the fuck? Marshall has not met this man. He has no idea if he’s under some demonic mind-control mojo or mentally ill or physically ill or handicapped or from Mars or a serial killer. All he knows is one phone conversation and the evidence that sparked his comment: that he lives on a farm, mows his lawn, keeps fruit trees and chickens, and has a dog. By insisting that that makes him a “normal human being”, he’s insisting that normal people do these things and abnormal people do not. Normal people live out in the countryside and work the land with their own two hands. Abnormal people live in small towns (not even a city!) in the suburbs on a small piece of land and don’t have dogs. I hate to break it to you, Peretti, but a huge chunk of Americans live in suburbs or even cities. And yes, you can have a dog in both places. You can even have fruit trees in some cities and most suburbs. Chickens don’t take to city life well, but in a place the size of Ashton I’d expect backyard chickens to not be entirely out of the question. Strachen might be “a normal human being” depending on what scale you’re using for normality, but the outside of his house is the weirdest scale to judge someone on that I’ve ever seen.

To give Bernice credit, maybe she thinks he moved out of town so he could have a collie. They like a lot of space.

“Quiet down now, Lady,” he added to the collie. Lady never obeyed such commands.

The comment I was going to make here has been said more eloquently over at Forever In Hell. Basically, the point is if your dog isn’t obedient you have nobody but yourself to blame for that.

Within minutes Doris, a sweet and rotund little grandma type,

This is the second time this description has come up. I’m beginning to think Peretti has never seen a skinny grandmother. Or a cranky, mean one. You don’t have to be fat to be pleasant and you don’t have to be pleasant to be fat and you don’t have to be either to be a “grandma type”.

had set the coffee table with tea, coffee, rolls, and goodies

For two guests plus themselves? I don’t usually have that much shit to lay out for unexpected guests. Or maybe they were expected, I’m not sure. Still, it surprises me that she has tea. Very few tea drinkers in the US; usually coffee is a safe assumption, or one can whip up tea from a bag if someone doesn’t drink it.

and they were having a pleasant conversation about the farm

which they don’t work

, the countryside, the weather

Cloudy with a chance of demon rage fits.

and the neighbor’s wandering cow.

Does that really happen? That sounds way too stereotypical to be a thing. Don’t people have fences?

They all knew it was obligatory and besides, the Strachens were very pleasant people to talk and visit with.

Finally Eldon Strachan

(Does it bother anyone else that Peretti doesn’t use many commas? I keep typing “Finally,” and then going back to correct myself.

Finally Eldon Strachan introduced the transitional sentence:

the transitional sentence. There is only one. It’s the highlander of sentences.

“Yes, I suppose things in Ashton aren’t quite this nice.”

Bernice got out her notepad

Right on cue! The reporter, whose job it is to write down everything the Editor-in-Chief says or asks and occasionally sneak in a question between the important words of the menfolk, is very attentive to the turns in the conversation!

Seriously, though. Looking ahead, Marshall and Eldon talk for the rest of this page and the top half of the next. Bernice asks a question near the top of page 156, and Marshall does the followup. She asks a question at the bottom of the page and Marshall follows up on that. On page 158 she makes an observation and hands over a piece of paper from their notes. She speaks several times on page 159, but doesn’t ask any questions, merely providing information since she has the paperwork in front of her. Then not a word through the rest of the scene which ends halfway down 161. All the information discussed next week will be gathered by Marshall.

Wow, that’s a lot of backstory to unpack. Oops. We’ll get to the information next week.

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2 Responses to TPD pp 154-155: Meet the Strachans

  1. jenl1625 says:

    This is the second time this description has come up. I’m beginning to think Peretti has never seen a skinny grandmother. Or a cranky, mean one. You don’t have to be fat to be pleasant and you don’t have to be pleasant to be fat and you don’t have to be either to be a “grandma type”.

    I suspect he divides the grandma world into “nice, plump” grandmas and “self-absorbed, skinny” grandmas modeled after Evelyn on Two and a Half Men…

    Still, it surprises me that she has tea. Very few tea drinkers in the US; usually coffee is a safe assumption, or one can whip up tea from a bag if someone doesn’t drink it.

    There are pretty broad swaths of the country where folks drink tea, but putting out both coffee and tea seems odd. And no other mentioned beverages? I guess these folks have never bumped into anyone that avoids caffeine?

    Does that really happen? That sounds way too stereotypical to be a thing. Don’t people have fences?

    Yes, but if the neighbors don’t maintain their fences very well… A cow getting out once isn’t that unusual, but for it to get out often enough to be described as wandering? That’s odd, because the neighbors that aren’t keeping it in are not only risking the loss of a valuable piece of property (the cow), but also risking liability for a crash if someone can’t stop in time to avoid hitting it. (At least around here….)

  2. Jarred H says:

    Loved the Highlander reference.

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