Edge of Apocalypse: pages 24-27 (Chapter Five)
So, as I mentioned previously, this young man is part of the Jordan family, though you wouldn’t assume it from reading only the chapter involving Abigail and her daughter. Also, being that his name is not immediately obviously Biblical, this also marks him out as the “odd one”, so to speak – last mentioned, nonbiblical name, is presented as though he doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life… I’m spotting a pattern, and that pattern screams “black sheep of the family”.
As anyone with siblings can attest, the family dynamics that can crop up when one sibling does way better than the other creates a very fertile breeding ground for jealousies, arguments, what-have-you. We’re going to find out later on actually that the dynamic between Cal and his parents isn’t always the best. But that’s verging into spoiler territory, so on we go with the chapter.
“Grand Central Station was warm, crowded, and noisy, a wonderful place to feel anonymous, to escape, to be alone. At least that’s what Cal Jordan was thinking as he slung his backpack onto a bench and flopped down beside it. He couldn’t wait to get out of the city and back to school, couldn’t wait to get away from his family, particularly his father, but he especially couldn’t wait to get back to Karen.”
Aside from the mechanics of “it” technically referring to the bench rather than his backpack, it’s not a bad way to segue into where Cal is and what he’s thinking.
The interesting thing is that being as I am 4-to-5 on the Kinsey scale myself, plus not getting along that well the rest of my family at Cal’s age, I can sympathize with the desire to just be away from family and find out for myself what I’m all about. Now, at an older age, things are different.
But I digress – the thing here to notice is that the family closeness portrayed among Abigail, Joshua and Deborah is clearly absent here: again, the theme of isolation, of doing self-ly things rather than family things, is coded for Christians.
When I used to be in my rabidly-devouring-Worldwide-Church-of-God phase (meaning I was a DIY Christian at the time 😛 ) one of the things the free literature hammered on a lot was the dangers of letting oneself be influenced away from Godly ideas and Godly pursuits by thinking of oneself, and having selfish ideas.
This is why I am convinced that the above paragraph is coding Cal as Someone To Watch Out For – the nominal Christian who isn’t an RTC because he isn’t sufficiently God-focussed, family-focussed, essentially other-than-himself-focussed. The funny thing is, people who usually think of others ahead of themselves tend to get mocked as socialists; ah, but we socialists, true and labelled, are thinking of the wrong kind of others! We think not of those who are already materially comforted and to whom we’re actually manifestly not qualified to be trying to dispense spiritual comfort (really, nobody is; spiritual aspects of a person’s life have to be decided by that person and who he or she wants to consult with), but we think of the poor and the powerless – people who Jesus talked a lot about and met a lot of the time. However, as commenters to Fred Clark’s blog have pointed out, the Jesus of RTCism is “TurboJesus”, someone who is bigger and badassier than the rest of those weakling little demons and even Satan himself.
Even the fact that Cal thinks a lot about his girlfriend (as any heterosexual or bisexual late-teens/early-twenties male has probably done) is possibly coding him as That Kind of Dangerous Nominal Christian Who May Backslide. After all, he might even (PEARL CLUTCH) be thinking about having sex with her before marriage.
So let’s find out more about Cal and Karen. I bet they make a cute couple, too.
“The two of them had just spent a day and a half together in New York, but he missed her already. She’d left ahead of him, taking a flight out that afternoon, heading home for a cousin’s wedding before returning to Liberty University. The thought of her made him smile. He’d met Karen Hester at Liberty last year when they were both freshmen, but it was a miracle they’d met at all.”
Incidentally, the timeline establishes Cal as a second-year student, or a sophomore in American usage.
“Cal was painfully shy when he’d arrived at school. He didn’t go to many campus events, except for hockey games. Cal loved hockey, ever since his father took him to an Avalanche game as a young boy in Colorado. He loved the speed and precision and grace, and envied the players their confidence and unchecked aggression, qualities he knew he lacked. At Liberty home games he would wear his Avalanche jersey and sit by himself high up in the stands to watch.”
The fact that the books produced under LaHaye’s aegis are known to appeal to heterosexual male vanity regarding acceptable “male” traits makes the above paragraph a revealing insight into how much of the book constraints are probably LaHaye-mandated rather than coauthor-constructed, since common themes running through all the book series would suggest a ‘template’ LaHaye insists his coauthors work from.
So Cal is coded not only as the potentially gay (or given his girlfriend, bisexual) artiste type, he’s also further coded as the sissy artist type by his lack of “unchecked aggression”, and other traits that, if Cal had them, would start making me worry about whether he was abusive toward Karen.
The “speed and grace”, I’ll give Cal (and thus some realism props to LaHaye and Parshall). I was pretty crappy in phys. ed. myself in high school so I know how it feels to envy those who act like sports are second nature. 🙂
“One night a cute girl wearing a Minnesota Wild shirt came up to Cal as he sat alone. She nudged his foot.
‘You’re in my seat.’
Cal looked around. There wasn’t anyone seated within a dozen rows of them.
She nudged him again, insisting, ‘You’re in my seat.'”
This obvious lack of clue that she likes him feels very familiar. I’ve kicked myself a dozen times over realizing that $GIRL liked me back in high school because she did such-and-so and I was just too dense to see it at the time. Cal feels pretty realistic. 🙂
“He probably fell in love with her that first instant, but it took him three months to admit it to himself and another three months to finally tell her how he felt. All she could do was smile and say, ‘What took you so long?’
He loved her unpretentious way and how she made him feel safe and confident. And of course, they both shared a faith in Christ. Beyond all that she supported his desire to be an artist. She wanted to be a performer herself, either an actress or a singer. But she said she wanted to do more with her talent than just get famous and rich.”
I’ve left out a bit, but it doesn’t matter; there’s no indication as to how they ran across each other in the intervening six months. Still, the patiently-waiting-girl is a trope that is sometimes used by writers who assume the validity of a male-centric view of the world, and unfortunately this has been projected into the Cal/Karen ship. But thank providence it sailed without a gazillion-page crappy romance-comedy subplot that fell flat on its face multiple times and then crashed through the floor.
Note the obligatory Christianity of Cal and Karen, of course. But again, she pushes the “BEWARE” button because she wants to do more than just be rich and famous. In American conservative culture, not wanting to be rich and famous might as well get you tarred and feathered as a Communist, and certainly there are strong interlinkages between this political philosophy and the religious philosophy of RTCism.
Now, if I stop here and just assume the relationship goes as it is, they’d graduate, Cal’d become a famous artist and Karen a hit singer, and together they’d make enough money to make ol’ Joshua Warbucks reach for the Maalox when he has to visit them or vice versa. (Yes, I’m being a bit cynical today; allow me my momentary weaknesses 😀 )
“Cal had only told his parents a little about Karen, but it had taken him all summer just to get up the courage to tell them he was changing majors. He didn’t want them to think she had had anything to do with his decision. And the truth was, she hadn’t. She’d just given him the confidence he needed to realize what he really wanted to do.”
If this was any other book I’d love watching the Cal-POV as he sticks to his guns and does what he wants to do.
Unfortunately, and perhaps my reading of Fred Clark’s blog has unfairly tinged this one, Cal doing the above will be shown as a Bad Thing. Or at least Something We’ll Let You Do, Son, But You’ll Be SORRY!
“Cal pulled his ticket from his shirt pocket to check the train time. Fifteen minutes. Fifteen more minutes, and then he could leave all this behind. All the harsh words, the long looks, the cold silences.”
The above offers an interesting, and tantalizing, amount of back story regarding Cal’s interactions with his family and perhaps with some other acquaintances.
The next couple of paragraphs bring us up in temporal sync with Deborah and Abigail’s discovery at Times Square.
“Then he heard the first scream.
He looked up to see a woman across the train station. She was white as a ghost, staring at a TV monitor on the opposite platform. Everyone around her was doing the same. Cal turned to the nearest monitor. He couldn’t hear the sound, but he could see on the screen a reporter in Times Square pointing up at the sky. The text below him read, ‘NY CITY IN PANIC, NUCLEAR ATTACK IMMINENT.'”
I’m going to put a “More” tag here becuase the following material may potentially be triggering for people who don’t like descriptions of what can happen in chaotic panicky crowds.
“As Cal’s senses slowly came back to him, the noise in the cavernous main concourse grew unbearable. He covered his ears, but the horrible din of a thousand people trying to flee certain death still filtered through.
He looked up and saw a woman shoved to the ground by the crush of people running to reach the train tunnels. Cal was standing only a few feet away, pressed up flat against the marble walls to avoid being swept away in the human flood. She reached out to him for help, out from the tangled mob of feet that were trampling her, but Cal was frozen, unable to move. Fear gripped him like a vise, squeezing his chest and turning his stomach to knots, his breath coming in short, panicked gulps. He stared at the woman, her hand outstretched, eyes pleading. What if this was Karen? But Cal couldn’t move, couldn’t reach out to help her. His legs were like rubber as he found himself slipping to the floor, shaking uncontrollably.”
I skipped some stuff to get to this salient point: a good-hearted person’s worst nightmare is unfolding. He’s in the middle of Ground Zero, and if he doesn’t die, he’s probably going to get blasted by a pretty hard gamma radiation dose if he stays underground in Grand Central* and get radiation sickness.
He’s also in a nightmare because he wants desperately to save someone and can’t. And that’s a very realistic fear that any reasonably emotionally normal human being will have. I like this portrayal of Cal’s feelings of impotence here. Poor kid.
Unfortunately, even amidst this bedlam and chaos, we must have hard-core telephone action! I’m also wondering if Cal isn’t even cool enough to have an Allfone.
“His cell phone rang. He didn’t hear it so much as he felt it vibrating in his pocket. Maybe it was Karen. He fumbled it from his jacket. The screen read ‘MOM CALLING.’ He tried to push the button to answer but couldn’t make his finger work. The cell slipped out of his hand to the marble floor and slid away into the mass of rushing humanity. Cal looked across at the lifeless body of the woman. The mob had crushed her underfoot.
Flooded with feelings of guilt and helplessness, Cal could feel the sobs starting to well up inside his throat.”
Again, wow. Poor kid. 😦
* YMMV; gamma-ray intensity from an effective point source falls off as the square of the distance and is to some extent affected by intervening high-density absorbing material, but there is an inverse dependence of the absorber effectiveness on gamma-ray energy, and so all else being equal, I would venture to guess that if the nukes go off Cal’s worry will be a whole-body dose with a high degree of uncertainty as to the actual value, and when he exits Grand Central, breathing in alpha and beta emitters settling down as fallout.
They teach you stuff like this in nuclear science.