Study Guide

Alas, Babylon Chapter 3

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Chapter 3

  • Edgar Quisenberry runs the only bank in Fort Repose, and it has most definitely gone to his head. He considers himself "the sole accurate judge of Character" in the entire town (3.3).
  • Randy bursts into the bank just before three o'clock, and is promptly ignored by Quisenberry—Randy has been judged deficient in "Character."
  • Plus, Randy's dad, Judge Bragg, once thoroughly embarrassed Edgar at a poker game, so Edgar's not too fond of the Bragg family as a whole.
  • Edgar tries to play hardball with Randy, but he's quickly outmatched. Maybe next time. If there is a next time.
  • Randy hits up the grocery store next. He gets tons of fresh meat, which sure seems like a tactical error to us.
  • He also runs into Pete Hernandez, brother of his old boo Rita, who works at the grocery store. Awkward.
  • After an hour-plus grocery session (we're exhausted just reading about it) Randy heads home. He does, of course, pick up two cases of whisky on the ride back.
  • Malachai Henry, Missouri's brother-in-law, helps unpack the supplies. Randy has always felt close to him, so he decides to do the unthinkable—reveal the impending nuclear apocalypse.
  • To Randy's surprise, Malachai doesn't miss a beat. He's been keeping up with the news by reading old magazines from the houses where he works.
  • Malachai isn't freaked—he says "there's not a doggone thing" they can do but wait for it to happen (3.66). Can't argue with the logic.
  • Plus, he knows his family is in a good situation: they have a well of all-natural Artesian Water, which is underground well water that can be pumped using the natural buildup of pressure. It'll keep running even if the entire planet loses power
  • Tastes a bit like rotten eggs, sure, but that's small change in a legit Mad Max scenario.
  • Randy gives Malachai a few bucks and sends him on his way, but before he can take a second to chill, someone else arrives at the house.
  • It's Lib McGovern. Randy and Lib had once been, according to him "something more than friends, although less than lovers" (3.79). Juicy.
  • She gets right down to business: she wants him to move to a big city, get a good job, and then marry her, ASAP. That's one way to say hello.
  • That'd be great, thinks Randy, but those big cities probably won't exist soon.
  • Before he can pass on Mark's warning, however, he's greeted by another new arrival—Dan Gunn, local doctor and Randy's number one broseph.
  • When he was younger, Dan wanted to spend his life curing deadly diseases in far-flung locales, but after a nasty divorce left him with a monster alimony bill, he's now forced to do the rich-people-home-visit circuit without any hope of fulfilling his dream.
  • Dan and Lib chat about her mother, who has diabetes, for a bit, but Randy can't hold it back anymore. He tells them exactly what Mark told him.
  • Lib immediately believes him, but Dan is skeptical. Right then, the news comes on the radio. Tension is ratcheting up in the Mediterranean, just like Mark said. Dan gulps.
  • Dan tells Lib and Randy to stock up on medical supplies and hustles away—he has to deliver a baby. Oh, the irony.
  • Lib leaves soon after, so Randy sits outside to enjoy the "stillness and [...] peace" of a lovely Florida sunset (3.151). Might as well, right?
  • And then he spots it: the "damn bird" in Florence Wecheck's yard (3.153). We're not sure why he's so excited, but he slowly creeps towards her house with his binoculars locked and loaded.
  • Florence and Alice are watching from behind Florence's bedroom blinds. Who's the peeping tom now, ladies?
  • Randy gets closer and closer to one of Florence's caged birds, but it caws loudly when he gets too close. His cover blown, Randy notices the two women and says hello.
  • Randy thought that Anthony, one of Florence's birds, was a Carolina Parakeet, Florida's only native parrot, when Anthony is in fact an African Lovebird.
  • Well...can't say we saw that one coming.
  • Randy comes home exhausted and cooks himself some grub. He grabs a bag of canned food and hides it in a chest in his office—these will be the rations of last resorts.
  • And then he takes a well-deserved nap.
  • While Randy is sleeping, it's morning in the Mediterranean. Task Group 6.7—a major U.S. fleet complete with a nuclear-armed naval carrier—is cruising through the salty sea.
  • The group is worried because an unidentified enemy aircraft keeps appearing on the radar. It's like that one mosquito that won't keep bothering you no matter how hard you swat it away.
  • They decide to send out recon planes at daylight. This is sure to end well.

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