This Present Darkness: Chapter 2

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David feels that I should add a note before diving in this week. Essentially that there will definitely be some repetition in these recaps. The characters in these books are such astonishingly horrible people that I feel the need to repeat that. Sometimes it is the only way to get my emotions out. There are times when it might be worth marking paragraphs where I don’t repeat that. I try to keep it humorous when appropriate (there are times when pure rage is honestly more appropriate) but seriously. These are bad fucking people and it just needs to be said. Often and with gusto. It will definitely start in this chapter.

Okay. Disclaimer disclaimed. On to chapter two!

When last we left our heroes, some crazy female reporter was in jail and angels and demons were roaming the city. Or town. It’s not really a city, as is made painfully obvious like a million times. IT IS SUCH A SMALL PLACE. OVERFLOWING WITH DEMONS. I feel like this is one of those weird things where he’s probably trying to do several things. One is probably appeal to that whole thing about how small towns are the best and we love small towns, but evil can be everywhere, even in these havens of whatever. Cause Satan is tricksy. I don’t know, I just feel like a weird amount of Christian lit takes place around small towns vs city areas. Like those are already presumed to be lost or something, the suburbs and tiny places are the LAST BASTIONS OF FREEDOM.

Whatever. Anyway. So. Our beloved gruff head of newspaper person, Marshall, goes rushing into the jail to get Bernice out. These are his observations, as he “wishes he could disconnect his nose and ears.”

“Beyond the heavily barred gate to the cell block, the crammed jail cells didn’t small or sound much different from the carnival the night before. On his way here he had noticed how quiet the streets were this morning. No wonder – all the noise had moved inside to these half-dozen peeling-painted (is that a… correct phrase? cause it looks weird) cells set in cold, echoing concrete. Here were all the dopers, vandals, rowdies, drunks, and no-goods the police could scrape off the face of the town, collected in what amounted to an overcrowded zoo.”

I won’t bother quoting the rest, but apparently some of them are playing games and joking and making obscene comments to prostitutes, and some of them are just slumped in corners. No mention of anyone being hung over, which seems weird. I mean, I get that many of them could still be drunk but surely some of them would just be getting very sick? I feel like Mr. Peretti did not do a lot of hands on research for this. Also I just need to mention… dopers, vandals, rowdies and no-goods? Is he like 80 years old? Has anyone ever said those things? I don’t understand. However, seeing all of this chaos makes him “glad he left Kate upstairs.” We don’t know Kate yet but I’m already annoyed.

There is what I guess is supposed to be a comical scene of him showing down with the policeman who says he hasn’t heard any authorization for him to get Bernice out, before Marshall points out that his phone is off the hook and tells him to call him immediately. Marshall has a side series of thoughts while Jimmy nervously dials the phone, including that Jimmy goes well with the rest of the town, “cute, maybe a little dumb, kind-of like a bumbling kid who always gets himself into jams.” He then tries to remind himself that things weren’t really better in the big city.

He eventually makes his way to Bernice who is “a young, attractive woman in her mid-twenties, with unkempt brown hair and large, wire-rimmed glasses, now smudged.” She is in the company of a number of prostitutes and is outraged about everything in her life right now. She was trying to interview the prostitutes last night when one of them propositioned an undercover cop and got them all arrested. Despite the fact that obviously the officer should probably have listened to the fact that she was a reporter, or checked her press pass or something, he didn’t. Marshall feels she should just let it go and accept that this is Ashton. Which seems like dreadful advice but what do I know? I’m still wondering why the prostitute (all of them are in the background trying to be cute and clever while this conversation is happening, btw) was propositioning someone in the middle of being interviewed in the first place. Also there’s something about the chief of police ignoring her last night, but apparently they’ll talk about it later. INTRIGUE.

**********

Finally we meet Kate Hogan! She is described as “a slender, dignified redhead.” She is Marshall’s wife, I guess. She’s all mournful about watching people coming into jail and leaving and how sad it all is and how angry Bernice must be. Marshall comes and hugs her and tells her that “after I had to look at downstairs, I need some healing up.” Ew. Whatever. Bernice wrote an article on toilet paper while in jail all night, they’re all indignant about the state of things, it gets worse every year, etc, etc.

Before she leaves, Bernice pulls Marshall aside and tells him that last night she saw Brummel, the chief of police, meeting with Pastor Young at the carnival and when she tried to take their picture they were super upset. And then right after that the prostitutes approached her and then they were arrested. And Brummel saw it and didn’t stop it. Hilariously she needs to shoot up the rest of the roll of film on her camera so she can see if there’s anything she can use.

Kate would like Marshall to pick up someone who is perhaps his daughter from her class and he makes a clever quip about cockfights being illegal in the state and she says he should appear to be trying. Does he know his daughter doesn’t have a cock? I realize that’s not what a cockfight is but it’s a very masculine phrasing and it’s just… it’s dumb, okay?

The final line of this section is Marshall, just looking around and sensing things and saying out of nowhere. “Can you figure out this town, Kate?” he said finally. “It’s like some kind of disease. Everybody’s got the same weird disease around here.” PRESUMABLY A DEMON DISEASE.

********************

And oh my. Then we go to Hank. The young pastor. Hank is a dick. He’s not supposed to be, he’s supposed to be a hero, but I hate him already. He humblebrags in his head for a while about how meager their life is, thinks about how he’s looking forward to the distraction from his “trials and tribulations” of a “bowl of milk-sodden Wheaties” (ew) and then… well. And then this. Which is long but it seems important to talk about how awful he is. 😛

“He had known trouble before. His father had been a pastor while Hank was growing up, and the two of them had lived through a great many glories and hassles (did Hank not have a mother? Did she not also experience this?), the kind that come with pioneering churches, pastoring, itinerating. Hank knew from the time he was young that this was the life he wanted for himself, the way he wanted to serve the Lord. For him, the church had always been a very exciting place to work, exciting helping his father out in the earlier years, exciting going through Bible school and seminary and then two years of pastoral internship. (You know, it’s weird, I guess I feel like I have known a number of pastors and I don’t know any of them who described all that as EXCITING. Like parts of it sure but the whole thing? Often exhausting and difficult, it seems like) It was exciting now too, but it resembled the exhilaration the Texans must have felt at the Alamo. (Were the Texans… exhilarated at the Alamo? When they were about to be slaughtered and stuff? Is that the word we’d choose?) Hank was just twenty-six (okay, it feels really weird to me that he’s younger than me), and usually full of fire; but this pastorate, his very first, seemed a difficult place to get the fire spread around. (Christianity has so many weird fucking phrases) Somebody had wetted down all the kindling, and he didn’t know what to make of it yet. (Oh look, he’ll just keep going with it) For some reason he had been voted in as pastor, which meant somebody in the church wanted his kind of ministry, but then there were all the others, the ones who… made it exciting. They made it exciting whenever he preached on repentance; they made it exciting whenever he brought up the cross of Christ and the message of salvation. (Okay, seriously, what church is he at here? Because that last part is like… you know, it’s barely even a thing, honestly. You could talk about that in any Christian church and it’s not offensive, it doesn’t even register. Also, I just feel like when I read him talking about preaching about repentance, reading between then lines I was like ‘well, you are clearly a dick.’) At this point, it was more Hank’s faith and assurance that he was where God wanted him than any other factor that kept him by his guns, standing steadfast when he was getting shot at. (Um. Wtf is with the gun metaphors? Also. How do you know you’re right, Hank?)”

So. I hate him. He seems like the worst. But I feel like we’re supposed to love his servant’s heart or whatever. He turns around to go into the house and finds that his house has been spray painted with huge blank letters. YOU’RE DEAD MEAT, _______” I think it’s nice that the vandalizers punctuated. Also, he then expresses to us that the last word was an obscenity and I spent some time wondering which one. Which I feel like is why you should just put it there, honestly. I went through WAY more words in my head than I would have if you had just put it in the book. Like did you READ the message and blank out that word?

He comes in and does not tell his wife about it, and instead sits there and thinks about how bad he feels sometimes that she has to go through so much because she could totally have married someone with a better job but hey, she is an amazing support. And then in spite of his attempts to hide it, she sees right through him.

“What’s wrong?”
Rats! You do what you can to hide it, you try to act normal, but she still picks it up, Hank thought
“Ummmm…” he started to say.
“Still bothered about the board meeting?”
There’s your out, Busche. “Sure, a little.”

You piece of shit. Is she never going to walk out your front door again? Are you going to scrub huge black letters off your house without her noticing? Are you going to tie her to a chair? If she’s such a wonderful and amazing support for you, why don’t you treat her like a grown up human and tell her what’s going on? But no. Heaven forbid.

They talk about the board meeting. He mentions Brummel (Who I thought was the chief of police, is he on the church board? Are they talking about a town board? Why are all the pastors on the town board?) having to go to a meeting he wouldn’t talk about. He talks about how he told them all what the Bible tells them they must do so I’m sure that was super welcome. Also he really felt the lord comforting him last night. Actually it was two giant angels but whatever.

Apparently there’s an adultery thing happening. He says he did what the Bible says, he “went to John and he went to Lou and then he brought the rest of the church and removed him from fellowship.” But I guess the board is not on… board. So it must be the church board. So how did they remove him to begin with? Church politics are the worst. Then he rails about the Ten Commandments and adultery and how these wretched people acted like HE was the problem and kept saying “judge not lest he be judged.”

Now Mary was getting indignant. “Well, what on earth is wrong with Alf Brummel? Has he got something against the Bible or the truth or what? If it weren’t this, it would certainly be something else!”

“Jesus loves him, Mary,” Hank cautioned. “It’s just that he feels under heavy conviction, he’s guilty, he’s a sinner, he knows it, and guys like us will always bother guys like him.”

FUCK both you guys. Ugh. Whatever. They go on for a while. He eventually gets around to telling her about the house. She goes out and starts crying. Like women are want to do, I guess. She thinks maybe it was because of the Festival.

Hank had his own theory but said nothing (heaven forbid, Hank. Heaven forbid). It had to be someone in the church, he thought. He’d been called a lot of things: a bigot, a heel-dragger, an overly moral troublemaker. He had even been accused of being a homosexual and of beating his wife. Some angry church member could have done this, perhaps a friend of Lou Stanley the adulterer, perhaps Lou himself. He would probably never know, but that was all right. God knew. 

Um. Can I mention that he just basically made it sound like being a homosexual and beating his wife were the same level of thing? Also, a “bigot and a heel-dragger.” Those are a weird pairing. Who even calls someone a heel-dragger? What? What? And Hank. I hate to tell you think. But this is not just like… attacks of Satan or whatever. There are some deeply troubled and sick things in your community if you think “one of my congregation, practically any one of them, could totally have done this.” Also, last but not least, you know what is super not awesome? Thinking of people as their “sin” or whatever. Like Lou the adulterer. You are basically the worst human.

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