Study Guide

Alas, Babylon Chapter 12

By Pat Frank

Chapter 12

  • In May, Admiral Hazzard's radio breaks. They'd have run out of fuel for it soon enough anyway.
  • In June, the Henrys' crops ripen, which really improves their dinners. Plus, Bill gets to work on their in-house brand of whiskey. How artisanal.
  • In July (yes, we're going month-by-month) Alice brings Dan some books on hypnotism so he can offer his patients some pain relief even though he's lost his supplies.
  • That's interesting and all, but the real interesting part is how much time Dan and Helen are spending together. Oh la la.
  • Among all this good news is some bad: they're almost out of salt. It isn't until now that Randy fully appreciates how much "everything required salt" (12.24).
  • Even worse, the fish have suddenly stopped biting. Fish are the group's main source of food, so this has the potential to be catastrophic.
  • One night, as Dan and Randy are discussing potential causes of this drought, Dan has an idea that could save all their lives. Do tell, buddy.
  • Dan has been reading the diary of Randy's ancestor Randolph Rowzee Peyton, and remembers a passage about a spot called "Blue Crab Pool," a small spring filled with salt and crab.
  • In other words, exactly what they're looking for.
  • The men of Fort Repose spend the next few weeks retrofitting their boats with sails so they can head off in search of their personal El Dorado. They head out on a sunny day in August.
  • While they're on their journey, young Peyton is stewing. She had just helped Ben Frankin catch a wild armadillo for food, but after the hunt he kept all the glory for himself. Not fair.
  • She wants to be the hero this time. But how can she do it? She decides to talk to Preacher Henry about the missing fish, knowing that he was a serious fisherman back in the day.
  • Preacher explains that the fish are huddled at the bottom of the river because the water is hot, so the only way to catch them is to fish deeper. That gives Peyton an idea. We're intrigued.
  • The men return that evening and "in every boat there were buckets and washtubs filled with live crabs" (12.87). What a dream.
  • To Randy's surprise, there are four giant bass sitting in the kitchen. Looks like Peyton's plan worked like a charm.
  • Peyton had floated out on a boat alone to catch the fish, which her mother sternly but understandably punished her for. Not exactly hero treatment.
  • In September, Fort Repose builds a makeshift school. It's no Harvard, but it'll do for now.
  • One night in October, Dan returns with glorious news: he's just delivered a baby. It's the first one he's delivered that was conceived after The Day. That's a good sign.
  • Later, in November, Randy is awoken by a strange and long-missed sound—music. He creeps through the house until he discovers it emanating from Peyton's room.
  • When he opens the door, he finds Peyton churning a hand-cranked record player, "illuminated by a lamp Randy had never seen before" (12.135). Where did she get this stuff?
  • Peyton reveals that she was poking around the attic and found a bunch of stuff, like this record player, a bunch of lamps, and even a hand-operated sewing machine.
  • You want to become a hero, Peyton? That's how you become a hero.

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