Study Guide

Alas, Babylon Chapter 9

By Pat Frank

Chapter 9

  • It takes a lot of effort to bury Porky Logan because they need to put him and his stolen jewelry in a lead-lined casket. That's the only way to stop the spread of radiation.
  • Bubba Offenhaus doesn't want to deal with it. Part of this is due to good old-fashioned laziness, but it's mostly because it'll take "eight men" to finish the job (9.16).
  • Randy struts into Marines Park and demands help from the assembled men. After all, it's for the common good.
  • They laugh. Randy calmly unholsters his pistol.
  • Before he even has the chance to point it, he's already got five volunteers. See? Non-violence works.
  • Randy and Dan return home around noon, and are surprised to find Lib standing on a ladder with her head in the palm trees. Alice and Florence are holding the ladder from below.
  • Malachai and Bill McGovern approach the two men with a proposition. They're growing sugar cane, and they're growing corn. You know what you can make with sugar and corn?
  • Pretty much any junk food? No. Well, yes, but no. They want to make whiskey.
  • None of them are drinkers, true, but whiskey is a hot trading commodity: a "negotiable money crop" (9.37). That would position them well in Fort Repose's economy.
  • They only need one thing to make this a reality: copper tubing. And the only place they can get copper tubing is from Randy's car.
  • That'll leave them with only Dan's car for transportation, but it's not like they take many road trips these days. Randy gives the okay.
  • That evening, Randy and Dan listen to the radio together, as is their nightly custom.
  • Tonight, President Vanbruuker-Brown orders "all Reserve officers [...] take independent action to preserve public safety" (9.56). Martial law, y'all.
  • You know who's a Reserve officer? Our boy Randy.
  • After the broadcast finishes, Helen arrives to give Randy a haircut. This is another regular occurrence, but something about Helen is...different.
  • All of the sudden, Helen tries to kiss Randy, telling him that he's Mark. Awkward.
  • Randy pushes her away. As he tries to calm her, he hears a voice through the door. It's Lib.
  • Helen rushes off as soon as Lib enters. Lib obviously heard the whole uncomfortable scene, but thankfully doesn't acknowledge it to Helen.
  • Although Lib is clearly into Randy, she's not ticked off. She knows that Helen doesn't have some secret love for Randy. She's just reeling from the trauma of losing her husband.
  • Their conversation is interrupted by the ringing of a bell.
  • The bell was placed here by Randy's ancestor, Lieutenant Randolph Rowzzee Peyton, and had sat unused for many years. Now they use it as a form of communication.
  • And what message is this bell bringing? Dinnertime. Score. Lib gives Randy a kiss and tells him to wait a second before coming down. They have a surprise.
  • When he descends to the dinner table, Randy is surprised to see a beautiful bowl of salad alongside their regular meal of fish and mushrooms. And it's delicious.
  • Turns out that Alice did some research on local edible herbs, hence the whole ladder-under-a-tree thing.
  • Randy can't enjoy his tasty vegetable side-dish, however. Dan hasn't shown up yet. He should definitely be home by now.
  • At eight, Randy decides to head by Admiral Hazzard's place to see if Dan's there.
  • Coincidentally, tonight is the night that young Ben Franklin will be standing guard at the Henrys' place. The dominoes sure are stacking up in line, huh?
  • Lib joins Randy on his trek to Admiral Hazzard's. Admiral Hazzard doesn't know Dan's whereabouts, but he has been listening to some pretty interesting chatter between American forces lately. If nothing else, this indicates that the war is still going down.
  • They tune in to an international broadcast. Europe and Russia seem to be in a really bad way, while China, Japan, and India have slipped into the role of dominant world powers.
  • Romance is in the air as Randy and Lib stroll home. Both of them wish aloud that circumstances were different and their love was able to flourish.
  • Their moment is interrupted by bells once again, but they're not announcing dinner this time—they're announcing an emergency. Randy and Lib run back.
  • Dan's car isn't here, but he is. And he's in bad shape: a "ruined hulk of a man," bloodied, disfigured, and missing at least one eye (9.224). This is bad.
  • Randy is afraid, angry, and confused. With their resident doctor down for the count, Helen takes the lead and cares for the patient.
  • Somehow conscious, Dan explains that highwaymen ambushed him, stealing his medical bag and car. It's bad enough that Dan is hurt, but those losses are borderline catastrophic.
  • After some time, Dan stabilizes, and dude's hungry. But there's a problem. Their meager rations aren't nutrient-rich enough to give Dan the juice he needs. What will they do?
  • All of a sudden, Randy jumps up. He's remembered something important—that bag of supplies he hid all those months back.
  • Randy tears open the chest and pulls out the bag. It's full of amazing stuff: beef broth, candy, the works. He asks Helen to prepare some hearty grub for Dan.
  • At some point, Randy falls asleep—but not for long. He's awoken by the sound of a "gunshot echoing in his ears" (9.256).
  • It's always something.
  • Randy hustles over to the Henrys' place. He finds Ben, Malachai, and Caleb, Missouri's son, standing around a "dark form on the ground" (9.259).
  • It's a German Shepard. He must've gone feral in the months since the bombs fell.
  • Yeesh. Us dog-lovers would not fare well during the apocalypse.

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