First of all, gotta warn you: this snark is going to have lots of quotes, because sometimes it's better to show you the wrongness rather than try to explain it.
First up, we get a rare description of scenery. It's quick, but it's rare that Ellanjay put any description into their work so I'm quoting.
As they drove closer to Josey’s home, Vicki studied the countryside west of Rockford. Some areas still showed the effects of the great earthquake. Trees and grass had been scorched by the plague of fire, and residents had done their best to try and bring back some of the beauty of the city.
This description might work if the Earth had just been hit by one earthquake, but there have been countless strikes by outer space objects and many earthquakes. The world should like the landscape of the book The Lorax by which I mean, the post-Truffala tree landscape. There should be no beauty whatsoever.
So we're finally meeting a character from the single-digit books. Ellanjay once again try to cover their asses by saying Vicki thought of Josey constantly, but this is the first time in a long time that she's been mentioned. But once again, we get some rare description as they describe Josey's appearance.
Vicki recalled first meeting the woman and being blown away by her simple beauty. Though Josey didn’t wear makeup, not even lipstick, her pale blue eyes, sandy blonde hair, trim figure, and huge, easy smile were striking. Now, only three years later, Josey appeared to have aged ten years. Her hair was tinged with gray, her face, cutely freckled before, was wrinkled. Her eyes were bloodshot and puffy. The woman was still trim, and Vicki couldn’t help thinking she looked gaunt.
Not bad description, save for the "cutely freckled" line. Though Vicki shouldn't be too surprised to see her looking gaunt and old; given the amount of disasters, everyone should look that way. [TANGENT] In fact since Wormwood has rendered all the water undrinkable, bathing and showering should be a thing of the past. Naturally Ellanjay never mention that because they never explore the aftereffects of the disasters they unleash on their characters. [/TANGENT]
Vicki and Josey start talking about Tom. Tom hasn't taken the mark and already I forsee the inevitable conversion, which is a shame: when we meet him later, he proves to be one of the most clear-headed characters in this story. I know that isn't saying much but still.
Tom still works for the GC but hasn't taken the Mark, even though all employees are being pressured to. According to Josey, Tom figured that this Jesus thing was just a phase his wife was going through, not an unreasonable assumption given that in her own words she had been into "crystals, channeling, astrology, and angels. You name it, I’d tried it. I’d hop from one to another as fast as some people switch channels on their TV."
According to Josey, Tom knows Nicky isn't what he claims to be (again, everyone else seems to naturally assume that there's no contradiction in being a warmongering pacifist) and that he'll keep Josey's secret. But as they're talking, Tom shows up.
Vicki lays out Cheryl's story--pregnant, wanting someone to take care of her child--in whole.
Finally, Josey spoke. “I didn’t tell you this, Vicki, but the doctors told me I would never have children again. A few weeks ago Tom and I were talking and I was trying to tell him how good God is, that he wants to help us. Tom brought up Ben and Brad—he always loved them even though they didn’t live with us—and said God was selfish and mean to take them.”
I've got to agree with Tom here. God slaughtered your sons--I'm fairly certain that's the definition of "selfish and mean."
Josey mentions that she had asked Tom repeatedly what it would take to get him to take home a shiny new Jesus today. Turns out his answer was give him a child.
Next chapter, Tom is being a bastion of sanity in this insane universe by continually refusing to take the bait both Vicki and his wife keep offering. Maybe "bastion" is a bit of an overstatement, but I take what precious few crumbs get thrown my way. As you probably guessed, since Ellanjay live in an echo chamber and have no idea what criticism sounds like, Tom's critique is pretty half-hearted.
Tom says he's not going to say what they want him to say just to get a baby out of the deal. Vicki's all "We'd know if you were doing that anyway." Then she says this headdesker of a statement.
Vicki stepped forward. “Mr. Fogarty, the Bible talks about people being blinded to the truth at this time of history. I don’t know how it works, but it’s clear there’s something supernatural going on that keeps people from believing what’s obvious.”
I haven't laughed this hard since Lionel blamed satanic forces for destroying their newspaper. I keep picturing little demons popping in and out of conversations, scrambling peoples' ears so that Jesus's name is never heard.
Tom's response is essentially mine.
“So I’ve been blinded by little demons running around? Or maybe by Satan himself? You expect me to buy that?”
Vicki's like "I'm not asking you to buy anything, just pray to God that he take the blinders off." And Tom decides to pray to God that he show him where he's wrong and what he needs to do about it.
Tom's partner shows up. After he leaves, Tom is all dejected because he lied to his partner and violated his trust. Yes, it really is as HO Yay rich as it sounds.
This bizarre "Lying is always wrong!" shtick makes me think of Buck trying to weasel his way out of Egypt because even though he's dealing with a Satanic NWO that's supposed to be a thousand times worse than Hitler or Pol Pot, apparently lying to them, even in order to save lives, is still wrong.
Tom told his partner that he was concerned about his wife and came home to check on her. His plan was to talk Josey into taking the Mark, but it's becoming clear to him that strategy isn't going to work.
So Vicki decides to pull up Token Jew's website and try to walk him through the old testament.
“I understand what you’re saying,” Tom said when Vicki was through. “I understood it when Josey explained it a long time ago. I’m just not sure I can believe in something just because it gets me to heaven. I don’t want to face any more of the judgments you talk about, but I don’t want you to scare me into a decision.”
Again, I commend Tom for refusing to give in. As 1 John 4:18 says
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Ellanjay's God is basically all about fear. In their eyes, the scriptures can be summed up as "Say the prayer or Daddy God will have no choice but to send you to burn forever."
“The point isn’t escaping judgments or not getting stung by some evil creature, it’s choosing to follow the true God. You have to decide whether you’re going to follow the one who gave his life to save you, or the one who threatens to cut off your head if you don’t follow him.”
Vicki neglects to mention that the "one who gave his life to save you" is also the "one who will torture you for all eternity unless you say The Prayer." I know y'all are sick and tired of the abusive father/spouse analogy but it's apt, dammit! Apt!
But in the midst of all this scripture reading, the GC come a knockin'. Apparently they're dragging every officer off to be marked. Tom tries to stall them by playing the "I have a sick wife and I want to take care of her" card but in a rare show of intelligence/cold-heartedness, the GC aren't buying this and the chapter ends with them saying "You've gotta go now!"
And that's it for this week. Thought about throwing in a third chapter in honor of Mother's Day but decided against it. In keeping with my recent trend of recommending entertainment, if you haven't seen The Wind Rises, go see it. The world will be a sadder place when Hayao Miyazaki is gone.