Study Guide

Alas, Babylon Chapter 8

By Pat Frank

Chapter 8

  • It's now April, "four months after The Day" (8.1).
  • Randy wakes up grumpy and hungry. The usual. He starts his day by sharpening his "six-inch hunting knife," which he uses for his daily shave (8.2). That'll leave a mark.
  • As he sharpens the knife, he reminisces about all the things he misses, like coffee and music. Oddly enough, he hasn't craved booze since The Day.
  • Peyton arrives with a pot of boiling water for Randy's shave, as per their daily ritual. Dan Gunn pops in soon after.
  • Unlike Randy, Dan has given up on shaving, and sports a beard. Call it post-apocalyptic chic.
  • The two men discuss their plan for the day: bartering for coffee in town. Randy needs his daily cup of warm, muddy goodness.
  • There's some bad news, though: several of the Henrys' hens, which the whole group relies on for their daily eggs, have gone missing. At best, it's a wild animal. At worst, it's a thief.
  • They decide to take turns guarding the Henrys' pen at night, with Bill McGovern taking the first watch. Ben Franklin demands that he gets a turn too, the little rapscallion.
  • Dan and Randy drive into the city. Dan's been trading his medical services for gas, so they still have transportation, but there's no telling how long it'll last.
  • As they drive, they discuss a mysterious rise in "radiation poisoning" among the survivors (8.49). Porky Logan, Pete Hernandez, and Bill Cullen have all been showing symptoms.
  • Dan explains that these people must be getting irradiated from a specific source. If Fort Repose had gotten slathered with radiation after the bombs hit, they would have all died long ago.
  • That's reassuring. We think.
  • They pass Alice as she rides her bike to work. She's actually loving life after the bomb: the library is now the hottest spot in the town. She can hardly keep the books on the shelves.
  • Dan checks in on Bill Cullen. Bill is in a bad way: "he was wasted, his eyes sunken, his eyeballs yellow" (8.71).
  • After that depressing house call, they head into Marines Parks, which "had become the barter center of Fort Repose" (8.73).
  • Randy has some good items to trade—several bottles of top quality whiskey, namely—but he doesn't find a single person holding coffee. This town must have rough mornings.
  • On the bright side, he sees a printed notice about an Easter Sunday service being hosted by several local parishes. Randy was never one to get excited about church, but after everything that's happened, it sounds like the greatest thing ever.
  • While scoping deals, Randy comes across Jim Hickey, an old friend of Mark's. Everyone used to make fun of Jim for dedicating his life to beekeeping, but now that the guy has a steady supply of honey coming in, he's pretty much the richest guy in Fort Repose.
  • But there's bad news, Jim explains. His bees have been getting sick lately. It could be radiation.
  • Even still, he gives Randy several honeycombs for Peyton and Ben Franklin. Randy is blown away by this small act of kindness.
  • His quest for coffee unfulfilled, Randy returns to the car. He and Dan will be heading to Pistolville to check on Pete Fernandez and, by proxy, Randy's old girlfriend Rita.
  • Oh, this will go well.
  • Rita's outfit can only be described as "extra." She's adorned in jewelry and fancy clothing, and is sporting a shotgun to boot
  • Her house is filled with fancy stuff. Rita explains that she's been trading for it, though we're not sure how a crystal chandelier will help you in the nuclear apocalypse.
  • To prove her trading skills, Rita shows Randy the fancy diamond ring she's wearing.
  • Randy stops cold—but not because of the ring. Instead, his eyes are locked on the "dark, almost black circle" that sits on the skin beneath it (8.185).
  • Frightened, Rita explains that she got the jewelry from Porky Logan, who also happens to be suffering from radiation sickness. Oh no…
  • Porky was driving up from Miami when the bombs hit. After the bombs fell, he had snagged a bunch of jewelry from an abandoned shop, including the ring that Rita is now wearing.
  • Porky also gave them, like, half a dozen watches, many of which are being worn by Pete as he lies in bed. And no, that's not a typo—the dude is wearing multiple watches.
  • After forcing Pete to take off his watches (and boy is it a fight) Randy and Dan head out. Randy decides to leave Rita a bottle of whiskey as consolation, knowing that things aren't looking good for her bro.
  • They drop by Porky's house and discover that that he's already dead. Moving along.
  • Finally, our duo returns to Bill Cullen's house and explain why he's getting sick.
  • Luckily for him, his wife up and left the previous night, taking all of their radioactive gold with her. Two birds with one stone, right?
  • Randy suspects that she won't last long. She'll probably get jumped by highwaymen, "ruthless and evil men" who've been increasingly attacking visitors on the roads between towns (8.265).

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