With friends like these...
Combat Snuggles Book Club - Volume 1, Number 3
Once, when I was a platoon sergeant in Korea, I led a mutiny.
I mean, kind of.
Our first sergeant was a very talented (and very tough) young NCO who I first met 7 years before I got to Korea when she was one of my drill sergeants. She had been an ass kicker as a DS, and she kept up that same spirit as a first sergeant. Her particular passion was physical training. She LOVED PT. She loved running and pushups and did a core workout that still makes my stomach sore 20 years later just thinking about it. She was in better shape than most professional athletes. In her mind, she WAS a professional athlete.
Most of the soldiers in our company, though, were not professional athletes. Not remotely. Most were quiet, indoor kids who loved working on their computers and who were a little nerdy. And that was by design. Our mission was based around exactly those skills. These soldiers were breaching cyber walls, not scaling real walls.
The other platoon sergeants and I agreed that we needed to talk to the first sergeant and ask her to perhaps back off the rigorous PT just a bit. The crazy workouts (sometimes twice a day) were killing morale and impacting our ability to do our real world mission. We agreed that during our next platoon sergeant meeting, we would all address the issue. I was elected spokesman of the group.
When the day of the meeting came, the first sergeant asked if we had any issues to bring up. I said “we all have one, top.” She said “go ahead” and I launched into our list of grievances, ending by asking her to back off the PT schedule. She looked at the other 3 platoon sergeants. “And you all agree with this?” she said, eyes steely. “Well…” said one.
At that moment, I knew I was screwed.
And sure enough, I was. One by one, the other platoon sergeants disavowed, disagreed, and backed off statements that just a couple of hours before they had pledged to defend to the ends of the earth. I was left all alone to incur the first sergeant’s wrath. And incur her wrath I did. All day, it was clear she was angry with me. We eventually made amends (and she changed the PT schedule too), but I never forgot that feeling.
It is a very lonely place to trust someone - or a whole group of someones - only to have them leave you high and dry when it really matters. And that is an experience that Patricia becomes all too familiar with as she is let down by her husband and her friends. And at the end of this section, that has dire consequences for Slick.
Some questions for this section:
1. At the back of my edition of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires there are some book club discussion questions written by author Grady Hendrix. I think the questions are an interesting look into what Hendrix was thinking as he crafted this story. One of Hendrix’s questions is “(d)espite the small-town charm and close-knit ties in Mt. Pleasant, Patricia finds her confidence broken again and again by people she trusts. How is her trust betrayed, both inside her social circle and beyond her community?” PS -> I would add one more category: her marriage. Her trust is also betrayed by Carter. Repeatedly.
2. James Harris has done a remarkable job of ingratiating himself into the social orbit of Mount Pleasant. And yet in one act (his attack on Slick) he threatens to undo all that work. Why? Why attack Slick now? And why Slick and not Patricia?
3. Do you think Patricia took the pills intending to kill herself?
4. As Mount Pleasant and its white residents thrive with the presence of James Harris, the community of Six Mile and its black residents is devastated - kids are sent away, properties are sold, and the community is literally bulldozed. What do you make of this? What larger statement (if any) is Hendrix trying to make?
5. James Harris lies. He does so constantly and tells different lies to the same people at different times. And everyone seems willing to look the other way. The bigger and more preposterous the lie, the more they are willing to believe. What does this say about human nature, if anything?
For next week, we will finish this book and make the announcement about our next read. I hope you enjoy the finale.
Q. 5 Lying
We believe what fits with our world construct. If you are looking to achieve success (e.g., George
Santos), you may do whatever it takes to get what you want (e.g., a seat in Congress). And everyone who was sucked in by him fell (just like with James) into projecting what they were looking for. In the case of James, the couples wanted to make lots of money and he seemed to be a successful business man who knew how to acquire it. In the case of George, people saw a Jewish man, a gay man, an intelligent man, whatever they were looking for.
This is a very common story of bulldozing down communities to make room for new
buildings--at the expense of the poor and the Black and brown communities. Mrs. Greene
was brave to start a fire as a diversion. Or maybe she acted on her rage.