Edge of Apocalypse: pages 301-303 (Chapter Fifty-Two)
So, before we begin, to revisit some of my musical adventures, I was recently listening, once again, to Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy”, as well as Mr. Lee’s Get Busy (Chicago Mix), Heaven Scent by Bedrock, Robert Miles’s One and One and that hit single, Ice Ice Baby (you can tell I’m in a real 1990s dance/techno mood these days).
We’ll round it out with the last one I listened to while writing this up: Make a Move, by Los Charly’s Orchestra.
It is my sad duty to report that this chapter begins the inevitable alignment of Cal Jordan with the dogma put forth by Tim LaHaye and other fundamentalist fellow travellers, which insists on an uncompromising “father knows best” paradigm of family relations. Cal, as we know, has already been established as the “stray” of the family who wasn’t even cool enough to own an Allfone until he got a replacement.
This chapter is basically Parshall figuring out how to have the universe dump more crap on Cal after already having his mom love bomb him in that creepy way earlier in the book. But first, what about dear old Daddy Jordan?
In crowded Manhattan, up in his hotel suite, Joshua Jordan was caught up in his brain-storming session with Phil Rankowitz.
He’s going all-out to try and get his “controversial” news service ready to roll, by which we readers know it’s really going to be “All Joshua Jordan, most of the day” with some side slices of right-wing stuff probably partly provided by one Pack McHenry, or some of Josh’s Roundtable buddies who want to help him grind his personal axe.
But he’s thinking he’s forgetting something. What could it possibly be?
Oh, yes. Call his son.
Then he remembered his conversation with Abby. Before she left for Washington, she urged him to give a call to Cal to see how he was doing. He still remembered her words: “Josh, I think he needs to hear from his dad again. He always knows his mom’s in his corner. But you need to reach out. It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from him. Besides, you said your last call with him didn’t go anywhere.”
With a mother like that in Cal’s corner? Dear god, I actually cringed when I read that. OMFG I AM RUNNING AWAY SCREAMING IN FEAR NOW. DO NOT WANT!
In all seriousness, if I were Cal Jordan, I’d want to be well away from either parent – a mother who seems to be able to manipulate her children into anything, and a father who seems to be more interested in giving orders than in listening to his children. Thank whatever deities may exist or not, that Craig Parshall didn’t write Deborah as being some kind of total asshole sister to him, because I don’t think I could stand to find out the Jordans are like extra concentrated toxic instead of just slightly concentrated toxic as they stand now.
Let’s get down to brass tacks and follow along with the phone call:
Joshua dialed Cal’s number, confident in his signal-cloaking Allfone.
By which we mean the Allfone that does some bizarre as-yet-unknown-to-modern-science communication with cell towers. I think we need to, like, seriously hold an intervention with Tim LaHaye over this love of techno-gadgetry to the point of gee-whizzing about them without considering whether the devices (a) are realistic or (b) add to the plot.
It is now my sad duty to report the first giant bucket of crap Parshall just dumped all over Cal. And this, folks, was literally out of the fucking blue. I actually stared at this the first time I read it, my jaw dropped and I was like “WTF?! Where the… this wasn’t even foreshadowed at all!@!%@$#”
On the campus of Liberty University, Cal’s cell was ringing. He didn’t answer it at first. He was busy watching his ex-girlfriend, Karen, walking away from him.
You cannot fathom the lead weight that suddenly formed in my stomach reading that. The one halfway reasonable-seeming couple in this book just got sundered so Craig Parshall could make Tim LaHaye’s case that Christians that aren’t exactly 100% RTCs get the shaft and not the diamond mine.
The ringing continued. Without looking at the caller ID, Cal answered in an angry tone.
There was another pause. Joshua dug deeper. “How are things between you and Karen?”
Cal muttered, “Wow, two points.”
“Didn’t quite get that…”
“Never mind, Dad. Just about the Karen thing…”
Cal didn’t really want to. But he blurted it out anyway. “We broke up today.”
Aw, man. Poor Cal. *patpats*
It turns out that for reasons not fully explained, Karen Hester has just up and decided she likes that other dude, Jeff Hitchney, more than Cal. The swiftness of this change of romantic partners makes me wonder if LaHaye and Parshall are so out of touch with young adults (18-22) that they believe university students act like high-schoolers. If Cal and Karen were like, 15 or 16, I could believe this.
Not at Cal’s age.
Incidentally, is the “two points” thing some kind of weird basketball metaphor, ’cause I don’t get it.
We get a nice dab of gender-essentialism in Josh’s response:
“Gottcha. That hurts. Male ego’s a powerful thing. But I know you had some strong feelings for her. Sorry it didn’t work out.”
Cal, naturally, given past history, doesn’t believe it. And since Father Knows Best, instead of being sympathetic and lending a bit of an ear, Joshua Jordan promptly starts bullying Cal, using the fact that he pays for Cal’s university education as a weapon against him (bolding in the text is mine):
“Well, that’s not how it came across. Okay? The way I see it, it’s just one more way that Joshua Jordan is trying to control the world, including his son.”
“That’s a cheap shot, Cal. I pay your tuition. I think that gives me some say-so in your school life. Your choice of major. Relationships that might jeopardize your studies.” Joshua’s voice was firm but not angry. Cal, on the other hand, was having a hard time keeping it together, so he didn’t talk. His father filled in the blanks.
“Look, let’s keep this civil. Adult. You’re not a child, Cal; you’re a man. So I’m going to talk to you that way. You and I need to be able to converse about things with the drawbridge down. Okay? You have a problem with me, that’s fine. I can take it. Speak your mind. But I’m going to keep speaking mine. Don’t cop an attitude with me just because I let you know that your compass is going whacky and your trajectory is off. All right?”
Jesus Christ, what a controlling asshole. Parshall probably wrote Karen out of Cal’s life because as it was, there would probably be no way she’d take that kind of shit lying down, and she’d totally take up on Cal’s behalf if she heard that kind of crap. The commenter who once mused that Karen probably spotted this unattractive trait of Josh’s at a family gathering, and that Josh somehow reacted at an instinctive level, is very likely correct.
The fact that Parshall introduces unintentionally cult-like control behaviors in Cal’s parents is rather worrisome in light of how it dovetails with LaHaye’s version of Christianity: that the insular cloistering-in of the group, the insistence on unquestioned authority, and the repeated inisstences that the authority figure loves his subordinates and children (even when the authority figure’s actions are contrary to such statements), are all acceptable and valid expressions of religious faith, even if it leads to the final conclusion that whoever is in charge that claims to speak for God should be obeyed without discussion or debate.
Don’t forget the tendency of such groups to harshly socially ostracize people who try to leave, or who successfully leave. Such groups claim they’re teaching skills to their followers, but in my readings I’ve found that the personal statements of ex-cult members often reveal that they’re psychologically poorly equipped to deal with a world that generally expects a certain level of independent action from people.
Now, Josh’s love-bombing wrapped up in his bullying tactics isn’t as blatant as Abby’s, but here it is:
“Is that a yes?”
“One more thing.”
Cal was listening.
“You need to know something. More important than anything else.”
“Your father loves you. Get that down pat. Nothing’s ever going to change that.”
God, that’s creepy. “Your father”, in the third person. *shivers*
And now for the final paragraph:
Then the call ended. An instant later, as Cal was staring at his cell phone, he realized that he’d screwed up. For the second time recently, his dad told him he loved him. But Cal hadn’t reciprocated. He wondered, What is my problem anyway? Down deep Cal knew he should have said something. To let his dad know how he really felt. Of course Cal looked up to him. But more than that, he harbored a towering sense of awe for his father. But there was always so much other turmoil getting in the way between the two of them. Whenever his dad reached out, which wasn’t often, well, he didn’t know how to handle it. So he’d go silent. Maybe it was time for that to change. Next time I talk to him, I’ll let him know how I feel. And that I love him. Respect him. I’ll tell him that, no matter what.
Thus, the title of this writeup: “The Stepfordization of Cal”. He’s going to be made to be the smiling son whose main goal in life is to get even a smidgen of some kind of praise from his father.
I’ll take up the remainder of this chapter in another write-up later on. For now – ugh, this chapter! I feel like I need to douse myself in something to get all the ick off.