Hey, anyone remember Edith Duster? I almost wonder why she wasn’t the secondary protagonist instead of Hank — she clearly knows what’s what, has strong spiritual power… oh wait, she’s a woman, nevermind. Anyway, she pops back up again, as the angels physically appear to her once more (they’ve never appeared to Hank unless I forget something) and command her to pray for Hank and to call Mary.
She wanted to laugh, she wanted to cry, she wanted to sing; there was a burden and a power deep within her, and she clasped her shaking hands together there upon the bed, bowed her head, and began to pray. The words flowed forth from her deepest soul, an outcry on behalf of God’s people and God’s righteousness, a plea for power and victory in the name of Jesus, a binding of the evil forces that were trying to take the very life, the very heart of the community.
Contrast with the obviously evil demon communion:
“Release your true self… let it go… it is infinite… at unity with all existance… Yes! I can feel it! Can you read my energy returning to you?”
Really, it seems like in this cosmology, demons and angels both have massive power, so massive they’re basically equally matched. Except for lip service, God himself does not appear in this novel. So who is to say which is angel and which is demon? The only differential is Jesus’ name, and well… what if Jesus were secretly a con-man, a great deceiver, or Satan himself? Wouldn’t that be a twist!
Anyway, I guess we now have the required prayer cover:
From somewhere in the skies, beyond the pink-edged clouds, a solitary, rushing sound began. One angelic warrior, soaring like a gull, spiraled quickly and covertly downward, until his form was lost in the patterns and textures of the streets and buildings far below. Then another appeared and he too dropped quietly into the town [...] two appeared, their wings swept back, their heads sharply downward, diving like hawks into the town. Then came another, gliding along a more shallow path[...] then four, dropping in four different directions. Then two more, then seven…
Why couldn’t she have prayed before? This is so contrived! It’s just sloppy, this whole “it must be utterly hopeless before the heroes can bring in their big guns” style of writing. There’s no downside to Edith praying like this. There’s no tradeoff that they weren’t desperate enough to make before. If angels showed up earlier and said “You know, five people have died and it looks pretty hopeless,” I see no reason why she’d not have prayed earlier. It’s just… ugh.
Anyway, everyone can see/feel the angels and demons warring now, so more and more people are waking up to pray.
In his cell, Hank wakes up:
The big man slid his plate out under the door for the guard to pick up. He hadn’t touched the food. He stood there, looking out through the bars like a caged animal. He did not respond to Hank’s introduction, nor did he tell Hank his name. He was obviously hurting; his eyes seemed so longing, and so vacant All Hank could do was pray for him.
(Bernice walks through cornstalks, checks her watch — it’s 8:25 am — and falls asleep.)
We skip ahead then to lunchtime, when Hank asks for a bible yet again and is denied. The other man suddenly speaks up, telling the guard he knows he’s got a whole stack of Gideon bibles so stop screwing around with the guy. Then he’s…. miraculously friendly and okay! All it took was time.
“I guess I needed time to get used to the idea of being in jail.”
So there was no puzzle, no stakes, no threat, just needless drama, dragging out an already lagging conclusion. What’s even the point? It’s Marshall, of course. Tal seems pleased that they’re talking, but what can they possible exchange at this point to further any plot?
“My new secretary was a plant by Satan.”
“One of my parishioners was too!”
Actually that’s basically how the conversation goes. They discuss how Al Brummel is evil, and they discuss how Carmen is evil, and then they trade stories. But they’re both stuck in jail! Nobody needs more information, they need proof, dammit!
Bernice is woken by a stereotype:
It was a young girl about high school age, maybe older, with big brown eyes and black, curly hair, dressed in bib overalls, a perfect farmer’s daughter.
If I could stomach this book enough, I could probably write a paper on the use of pastoral and small-town imagery as a shorthand for “good person” and the use of education and city living as shorthand for “spiritually troubled”. Instead I’ll just point it out and move on. The girl feeds Bernice, who is now going by Marie, and gives her a lift. It is now 4pm.
(I don’t know why the book is keeping careful track of the time of day when it’s also doing massive timeskips, but it mentions it every time Bernice is on screen, like clockwork, so I’m noting it here)
“Marshall”, Hank said excitedly, unable to sit still, “this is of God! Our being here is no accident. Our enemies meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. He’s brought the two of us together just so we could meet, just so we could put the whole thing together.”
TO WHAT END?! Marshall has a sob story of being broken down by evil. Hank has a sob story of being broken down by evil. They’re both in jail. They both can tell who is evil and who isn’t, but they have no way of confronting them, no weapons, no plan. So what the hell is the point of all this?
Book, just… just shut up and end already, my god.
Bernice reaches the Evergreen cafe. The girl that saved her vanishes, like a ghost or an angel or something. I hope the food was real at least. That’d be a shitty twist.
Marshall eats dinner! We end the chapter on this cozy little line:
“Do you believe in God?”
“Yes, I believe there’s a God.”
“Do you believe in a devil?”
[...]“I. . . well, yeah, I guess I do.”
“Believing in angels and demons is simply the next step after that. It’s only logical.”
Do you believe in God? Well believing in the Goddess is simply the next step after that. It’s only logical.
Do you believe in God? Well, believing in the Eightfold Path is simply the next step after that. It’s only logical.