Left Behind Chapter 18:
Left Behind accidentally sums up its recent events a little too well.
“Did you hear about those kooks at the Wailing Wall?” Steven said.
“Like I’m interested in that right now,” Buck said.
It’s like even Left Behind is having a hard time caring about the events of Left Behind.
Buck and Steve continue their argument about Buck taking his job once he leaves to work for Carpathia. Buck insists he doesn’t want the job, and Steven convinces him otherwise by telling him that if he doesn’t take the job, he might work for someone who hates him, which is the most believable thing that could happen in Left Behind.
“Tell me you haven’t thought you could run this editorial department better than I do at times.” […]
“Bailey would never stand for my assigning myself all the best stuff.”
“Make that a condition of your acceptance.”
I fucking hate these people. This is the one time Buck has ever made a decent, not self-centered point, and Left Behind just shot it down to reassure him, “No, Buck! You’re the BEST!”
Buck questions Steve’s choice to go work for Carpathia. Steve explains the way he sees the political climate…
“If you ask me, Romania is too small for him. Europe is too small for him. The U.N. is too small for him.”
“What’s he gonna be, Steve, king of the world?”
Steve laughed. “That won’t be the title”
…while these two characters who have spent their entire professional careers writing about politics act like they’ve never seen a single politician before.
“The best part is, he’s not even aware of his own presence. He doesn’t seek these roles.”
The story shifts over to the two men at the Wailing Wall proclaiming that Jesus is the Messiah and the disappearances were the Rapture, as the story develops on the news. After hours of preaching, two armed men at last approach them, but the gun jams and the attackers fall for no apparent reason. Later in the chapter, the news follows up and confirms that they’re dead. Which is all fascinating, because Left Behind can’t think of anything more interesting to push its plot forward than “what if they tripped… on nothing!“. And because it apparently took two separate news reports to figure out that the people who suddenly fell down and remained motionless died, as it turns out.
Over in Rayford-Is-Sad Land (notably the worst of the Walt Disney World theme parks), Rayford and his daughter are arguing about whether the female coworker that he thought about having an affair with will bother trying to be in his life anymore. Have fun with that, Ray’s daughter.
“I’m guessing she won’t show,” Chloe said.
“Because I wouldn’t if I were her.”
“You’re not her, thank God.”
I’m totally with Ariel on how weird Ray and Chloe’s dialogue is in this book. What the fuck does that mean? Is Ray pointing out that, phew, thank goodness the woman he wanted to sleep with isn’t a similar personality to his daughter? To his daughter?
“You’re going to tell her you no longer have feelings for her, but that now you care about her eternal soul. […] Why should it impress her that you care about her soul when she thinks you used to be interested in her as a person?”
“That’s just it, Chloe. I wasn’t ever interested in her as a person.”
Why is Left Behind so concerned with Ray establishing “Now, Chloe, don’t forget that your old man is a real horndog” with his daughter?
The book suddenly switches over to a scene where Buck fulfills his promise to introduce Hattie to Carpathia. Even Left Behind isn’t sure why this needed to be in the book.
When Buck had originally promised to try to introduce her to [Carpathia], he hadn’t thought it through. […]
“Well, a young woman. She’s a flight attendant.”
“You want him to meet a flight attendant?”
Buck didn’t know what to say. […] Why, oh, why, do I get myself into these things?
Wow, Buck has so many issues on this page that I just do not care about at all.
Buck worries that he’s about to lose all favor with Carpathia for trying to introduce a girl to him to impress her (very rightly so), but Carpathia doesn’t seem to care much, instead focusing on the Wailing Wall story unfolding on tv.
“Have you seen this business in Jerusalem?” he said. Buck said he had. “Strangest thing I have ever seen.”
“Not me,” Buck said.
“I was near Tel Aviv when Russia attacked.”
Carpathia kept his eyes on the screen […] “Yes,” he mumbled. “That would have been something akin to this. Something unexplainable.”
Ok, yes, but this is two men dropping dead of no accord, whereas Buck’s thing is the time the entire Russian airforce all missed their targets and crashed during a combined firestorm/hurricane/whatever the fuck that didn’t touch the city they were going to attack. These are kind of not at all the same thing. Saying that they’re both similar because they’re unexplainable would be like saying that milkshakes are something akin to fish because McDonald’s serves both of them.
Carpathia then jokes/not-jokes about how now that Steve is working for him and Buck will be taking his job at the head of the Weekly, then “the person I want [is] at the top”.
“This makes me feel just like Jonathan Stonagal, maneuvering people into positions.” He laughed, and Buck was pleased to see that he was kidding.
“Haha, this makes me feel just like the guy at the head of the international crime syndicate that I keep swearing I have no affiliation with hahahahaaaaa #jokes #seriouslywhydoyoupeoplebelieveimnotpowerhungryforreals”
Buck is interrupted with a call from the newly widowed wife of his mysteriously-deceased rival Eric Miller. You know, that character who was totally a person in Buck’s life before he was introduced and killed off in the span of a one or two chapters. No, not the detective. The other one. No, not the conspiracy theorist. The other one.
They talk about how mysterious Eric’s death was, realize they have nothing else to talk about, and go back to the incredibly boring “Hattie just met Carpathia” subplot. Hattie is pleased that Carpathia gave him his business card (“‘He gave me his number!’ she said, nearly squealing”, because Hattie seriously has nothing to do in this story aside from being desirable), but Buck notices that Carpathia’s written an extra number on it. He calls one of his phone company contacts to secretly run the number for him. Be careful, brand new character who is apparently someone that Buck has associated with this whole time. You guys don’t have a great shelf life.
“New York, U.N., administrative offices, secretary-general’s office, unlisted private line, bypasses switchboard, bypasses secretary.”
Buck calls Steve with this information.
“Steve,” he said quickly, “your boy just made his first mistake. […] Is your first job going to be announcing Carpathia as the new secretary-general?”
Once again, something that’s apparently a plot twist in this story is something that… I thought was already a given? Isn’t the entire story openly that everyone anticipates Carpathia is going to rise very high, very quickly in the political ranks? How is this “his first mistake”? This is basically what everyone agreed was the next step since he first showed up in the UN and wowed them all with his game-changing “name all of the countries in the UN” skills.
The only interesting thing that happens in this chapter is that apparently Steve’s already gone full Team Antichrist.
“I’ve decided to accept your old job.”
“Good for you! Now you’ll sit on this [information] til tomorrow, you got it?”
“Promise. But will you tell me one more thing?”
“If I can, Buck.”
“What did Eric Miller get too close to? What lead was he tracking?”
Steve’s voice became hollow, his tone flat. “All I know about Eric Miller,” he said, “is that he got too close to the railing on the Staten Island Ferry.”
It’s fascinating that this book about characters who didn’t get Raptured but we’re supposed to like, and would seemingly therefore be about morally grey characters, has basically no interest in actually exploring that. This could be an interesting exploration of a morally grey character slowly being seduced by the gains of increasingly immoral behavior, but given that we just saw the entirety of Steve’s heel turn in a single line of dialogue… probably not.