But anyway, when I heard about this subplot, I thought it would go one of two ways. Either Ellanjay would resolve it by having Cheryl die from some random Act of God, thus wrapping everything up neatly and rendering all the proceeding drama pointless. Obviously if they went that route, you just know that the Tribbles would just be like "eh" and the plot would continue on and Cheryl would never be mentioned again.
I thought the most likely resolution to the Cheryl subplot would be that there would be a nice, long chapter where Vicki or somebody patronizingly explains what a fool Cheryl is for thinking she has a right to her child, bringing God in on air support to go for her emotional wounds to drive the point home. And I'd dig around trying to come up with the right term to use to describe said explanation. I know people have coined the term "whitesplanning" where white people patronizing tell people of color that racism totally doesn't exist because no one they know of has been to a cross-burning. But I don't think I can use that in Cheryl's case because in the LB-verse, all ethnic characters are obviously ethnic. I should be grateful they didn't try to give Lionel a name off of this list.
I suppose "mansplanning" aka where men patronizingly explain to women that sexism doesn't exist, because every now and then, there's a form of entertainment with a female character front and center, might work. Unless Vicki's doing the bulk of the explaining, in which case, back to the drawing board.
In fact, the only appropriate term for all this might be "RTC-splanning" but maybe y'all can come up with a better term.
Anyway, like I said, whatever route they chose to resolve the Cheryl subplot, I thought they'd at least try. Yeah, the inevitable RTC lecture-fest would probably make me ragedump over how patronizing it is, but still, that would be better than what they give us, which is nothing. The entire conflict was settled off-screen and they only devote the opening paragraph to it. I was seriously wondering if the eBook was missing a few pages because this is crap.
VICKI was encouraged by the change in Cheryl. Something had happened to the girl as she listened to Mark talk with Clemson. But in a heated meeting with Tom and Marshall, the group agreed Cheryl shouldn’t return with them.
Like I said, I find this more rage-inducing than a whole chapter of RTC-splanning. At least with RTC-splanning, as infuriating as that would be, I would respect them for trying to defend their position, trying to polish a turd. This is the kind of slapdash effort that qualifies as Sloth, as in the deadly sin, not the animal. This is the kind of incompetence that Thomas Aquinas would declare a sin. Granted, if I made this point to any of the writers in the LB-verse, they'd probably look at me blankly. Given that since they tend to be virulently anti-Catholic*, they probably wouldn't appreciate me bringing up Thomas Aquinas.
I know, you guys are tired of me making the same point over and over again, but I believe in driving a point home, dammit! Plus, this level of sloth bothers me, both as an artist and as a Christian. Whatever complaints you may have about Catholicism, at least they created some damn good art! They didn't just slap a Jesus fish on it and send it out!
Now that I'm done with that rant, let's speculate on just what caused the change in Cheryl. Maybe she's been taken over by an RTC Yeerk. There's the obvious Borg reference. Me, I'll go with the Obvious Stepford Wives reference. Yeah, I know it's obvious, but you just know that the RTCs missed the memo on how that movie is supposed to be a horror movie.
We do see some inkling of Cheryl trying to assert herself, in this conversation she has with Vicki as they prepare to leave. I'm going to post the entire thing, because I believe in spreading pain around.
“I don’t think going back with us is a good idea,” Vicki said. “We’ll head to Wanda’s and see if you can stay there.”
“What if I don’t want to stay with her?” st
Vicki put an arm around Cheryl. “This isn’t easy for any of us. Make the most of this time away, and down the road—”
“What happens if I can’t get back down the road? Wanda could turn out to be—”
Tom passed, holding Ryan with one hand and holding the phone to his ear with the other. Ryan smiled and waved at Cheryl. She turned to Vicki. “I’ll do anything to see my little boy again.”
“Then use this time. Let God work on you.”
I did use the "Search this Book" feature to find out if Cheryl makes any further appearances in this book or if she's gotten rid of the way they got rid of Dr. Rose**. Good news is she does make further appearances. Bad news, well I think this quote sums it up best:
He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.
Seriously all you need to do is change out a few pronouns and whatnot in that paragraph and you have Cheryl's experience in a nutshell...yeah, in an attempt to soften the blow, I'm going to post how it should have gone aka that only part of V for Vendetta that I really liked. I'll even post a YouTube link for those too lazy to read. However the Wachowski Siblings may have muddled the message of V for Vendetta***, even they couldn't rob that speech of its emotional power.
After all this, they watch some news where they smirk at Leon Fortunado's speech. As you guessed, his speech gives me an opportunity to dust off my "Strawman Always Has a Point" tag.
Leon Fortunato spoke against Dr. Tsion Ben-Judah’s claims that the Bible predicted the plague. “The enemies of world peace will twist these ancient words to fit their own agenda,” he said. “His Excellency assures me that this change in weather is only temporary. And we reject reports that there is some god punishing innocent people for simply living their lives. That is not the kind of god I want to serve. I wish to serve the loving, generous god we have come to know, Nicolae Carpathia.”
Like I've said many times, Leon's really got the RTCs' number here. Because that is exactly what they believe: that if you haven't said The Prayer, you leave God with no choice but to burn the living shit out of you forever and ever. Yeah, Stepford Wives wasn't the only movie, they took the wrong moral from.
After all this, we cut to Judd. Judd listens to a message from St. Rayford, then calls and talks to Vicki, and then he and Lionel finally leave. With any luck, maybe Ellanjay will finally stop coming up with excuses to keep Judd from his Designated Love Interest, but I wouldn't be the farm on it.
Have to admit, though, the conversation where Lionel and Judd talk about stuff they miss, isn't that shabby. Yeah, it's workmanlike in its execution, but given how rarely the characters reflect on their lives before God decided to Exterminate the Brutes! It's actually kind of refreshing.
“What do you miss most about the way things used to be?” Lionel said as they neared a city.
“I miss my parents and my little brother and sister,” Judd said. “I think a lot about what they’d be doing if they were here. Marc and Marci would be in high school. But I also miss little things like going to Wrigley Field for a Cubs game or grabbing a burger at a local restaurant. I had dreamed of owning my own car and being my own boss. Going to movies—”
“Yeah, movies,” Lionel said as they passed a destroyed theater complex. “The last time I went to a theater was with my sister.”
Now I admit it would be nice if Lionel or Judd talked about the kind of movies they used to see. Like were Judd and Lionel into comedies or action-adventure films or what? It would add a certain poignancy if it turns out that Lionel saved the worn ticket stub from that movie he saw with his sister, but like I said, I've come to accept that these moments of introspection/good writing last about as long as a drop of rain in the desert, so I'll take what I can get.
Then Lionel asks Judd how he's going to court Vicki. Because that's the kind of language teenagers would use. Teenagers from the 19th century maybe. But in fairness, courting is the kind of archaic, sexist practice that RTCs eat up with a spoon. [tangent] Yeah, I long for the day one of the Duggar kids escapes the Compound and writes one hell of a tell-all memoir as well. [/tangent]
Judd does talk about how they've been apart for so long. And by apart, I mean it wasn't until recent books that they were even on the same continent together. And how the last time they were together, he and Vicki fought with each other. But Lionel reassures him that God has totally changed him and will continue to change him and that being with Vicki will change Judd even more. I, of course, am like "How has he changed?" because I can't point to any changes in Judd's thinking whatsoever. It's like how in the third Star Wars prequel, we're supposed to be shocked by how much Anakin has changed when he's behaving like the same whiny, child-murdering asshole he was in the previous film. Here's a hint, aspiring writers: SAYING A CHARACTER HAS CHANGED IS NOT FUCKING GOOD ENOUGH! YOU HAVE TO SHOW HOW THEY'VE CHANGED BY THEIR THOUGHTS AND ACTIONS!
Anyway, we cut back to Vicki and get this passage.
Vicki’s heart nearly broke when she watched Cheryl say good-bye to Ryan. Tom let her hold the boy before they left, and Cheryl sang a song she had made up for him. Through her tears she choked out the words and kissed him on the cheek. “I’m really sorry,” she said as she handed Ryan to Tom. “Will you tell Mrs. Fogarty that—”
“You should tell her yourself,” Tom said. “Write her or call her.”
“I will. And I want you to know I’m going to get better. I’ve never been through anything like this before.”
Don't worry, Cheryl. After your stay in Room 101, you'll be right as rain.
I know, you're getting tired of all the 1984 references, but they're just so damn apt. You can't expect me to avoid such an obvious analogy; I'm not made of stone, people!
Anyway, Clemson actually shows some compassion to Cheryl, saying that he wouldn't have become an RTC had she not done what she did. Vicki and the others leave and Vicki's section ends with her thinking about how she used to go out with guys because they were hot, but now she wants to go with someone who shares her faith. Or in other words, Vicki's desperate to get laid before God takes away sex for everyone. I know I keep making that joke, but like I said, it's just so obvious that I can't help myself.
The chapter for this week ends with Judd and Lionel doing Exciting!Driving!Action. And that's all I really have to say. Fear not, though. Maybe Ellanjay finally got that solid gold humvee they always wanted, because I read ahead and Judd and Vicki actually meet up in the next chapter.
*It never fails to amuse me, this newfound alliance between RTCs and Catholics. For centuries, both sides hated and mistrusted each other, but since Roe v. Wade came along, they've forged an uneasy alliance based on their mutual hatred of women/fetishization of fetuses. Trouble is, every now and then, their lips slip and their true beliefs come shining through.
**As a big believer in Discontinuity, I insist that Dr. Rose isn't dead. He faked it, firing the gun into the ceiling or something because he knew that Judd-turd wouldn't leave him alone until he thought he was safely dead. In my head canon, Dr. Rose has run off and joined up with Joel, Taylor, and Hasina. Together they'll mount one helluva War against Heaven.
***I have to admit that the movie adaptation of V for Vendetta didn't bother me much. Mostly because for me, Alan Moore's oeuvre, in general, falls into the category of "Good but gives me very little pleasure to read." As a writer and lover of comics, I can appreciate the skill and craft needed to construct the stories, but like I said, his works give me very little pleasure from a reader's perspective.