A Novel

Chapter 13: The Full Armor of God

The next morning » Wednesday, August 26, 1987 » Camden Brady awoke on a couch: Where am I?

Older than he was a year ago, but still young, as only those who have always enjoyed popularity can ever be young. And naïve, as only those who have always enjoyed popularity can ever be naïve. Too naïve to see this thing that now stalks him, this anger: released and roving, free to destroy: a completely impersonal anger, and especially dangerous therefore. There's nothing more dangerous than the impersonal, but nothing more breathtakingly beautiful either, like a beautiful body regarded impersonally. When the impersonal is coupled with anger, however: perilous, impersonal anger.

His muscles ached. His head ached so badly, so intensely, it was like something trying to be born inside his skull. It was like pain trying to be born into the world. Who am I? You are Camden Brady. You are about to become the shameful father of pain.

He sat up, and when the soles of his shoes touched the floor, he felt it rocking ever-so-gently, and he realized he was not on land. He realized he was on a boat. He did not understand why he was on a boat, or whose boat he was on. The word "salon" fluttered up into his consciousness. Like a butterfly: "salon" with thin, colorful wings. Salon? He somehow knew that he was inside the salon of a boat, though how he knew it was called a "salon" he did not know.

The bright morning sun from the salon's east windows increased the pain inside his head. On a glass coffee table near the sofa he saw a pair of sunglasses, black Ray-Ban Wayfarers. Beside the sunglasses were a bottle of Tylenol, a glass of water, and a note. He put on the Wayfarers, and it felt like putting on the full armor of God. Something so little could do so much.

Feeling steadier now, he turned his attention away from the bright sunlight pouring in from outside, and he focused instead on the darkness inside his mind, where consciousness struggled blindly to assert control over a mental wasteland of pure physical pain. Not even the full armor of God could defend against what was already inside of you.

He lifted the note off the table.


You partied too hard for the rest of us, and I think you're going to need these. Don't tell Todd I let you spend the night inside the boat. He didn't want you off the decks, and he'll kill me if he finds out.

Well, you really made me feel my age last night: I never saw anyone drink as much, smoke as much, and snort as much in one night. You're a rock star. Ellen says hi and that she thinks we should call you Turbo from now on.

Catch you later Turbo,


Evanescent memories shimmered and then disappeared. One of these memories could explain the meaning of the note, a memory of the preceding night, if only he could catch hold of one before it disappeared. But those memories were like minnows in the deep pool of a creek, barely visible, darting in-and-out of view. He caught brief glimpses of them from different angles, but if he dipped his hand into the water they immediately swam away.

He remembered now, driving to the Marina, speaking with Todd, and smoking weed with the strange guy in the yachting costume. Harry, the guy in the yachting costume, who had written the letter. Harry was pretty cool—confident, a little bit cocky, a little bit charming. And he remembered a beautiful girl. The Blonde Bombshell. Ellen West. He remembered wanting her.

He stood. He steadied himself. He left the salon. He jumped from the boat deck onto the dock. He walked up the dock, back to land, back to the parking lot, back to his truck. He felt a little better once he had returned to land, dry land. His pickup truck was the only vehicle in the parking lot; he drove it homeward as fast as possible, stopping only once, at a payphone, to call in sick from work. His boss was out; the secretary told him the crew had already left for the Anderson site.

"That's fine, I'm just calling in sick anyway."

The secretary asked, "Camden, are you all right?"

Drowsily, he said, "No, I'm just sick."

"I don't mean that. You sound more than just sick."

"Yeah, I'm okay. Just ate something bad last night, I think."

"You know that Jack isn't going to be happy about you calling in so late? He's been down on you lately anyway, ever since you had that fight, that fight with that guy from Lacon. Jared something. Everybody heard about it; everybody's been talking about it. It's not good Camden. I'm not trying to lecture you, but—"

"We were just monkeying around."

"Well, I'll do what I can for you."

"Thanks Stacy," he said with flat insincerity, which he regretted, because he appreciated her concern.

Back at his apartment, he found Trish watching The Price is Right. She held the remote control in her right hand, which lay limply across her left arm. She pretended to ignore him, but she clearly intended for him to see the scowl on her face and the snit she was in.

"Hi Trish."

Without looking away from the television screen, she said, "I suppose you had a good night?"

"Trish, I'm feeling real rotten. I'd rather not talk about it right now."

"No, I didn't think you would. Do you ever?"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Whatever you want it to mean, I guess, seeing as you'd rather not talk about it."

"Trish, it's not what you think—"

"Fine then. Go to bed. I know that's what you want to do. By the way, your boss called, and he didn't sound too happy with you, and somebody else—" For the first time since he entered the apartment she looked at him.

Conciliatory, he said, "Trish—"

"Where did you get those sunglasses?"

He didn't know what she meant. He took the sunglasses off his face, looked at them, and remembered. Stubbornly, he said, "Why do you care where I got them?"

She mocked, "A little preppy for you, aren't they?" Then, taunting, "Will you be applying to college next. That'll make your mother happy, at least." She stood up and took the sunglasses from him. "Ray-Bans? Where did you get the money for these? Where did you buy these? You didn't have them yesterday. Have you been to Peoria?"

His headache could withstand no more of her bullying; he grabbed the sunglasses from her, defiantly placed them back over his eyes, and said "None of your goddamned business." Put on the full armor of God. He then went to his bedroom, slammed the door shut behind him, and locked it for good measure. The full armor of God.

He could hear her trying the door handle; then she pounded on the door, "Camden! It's none of my business, you're right, but what about us? I thought it was our business. I was just so worried about you. What's wrong with you Camden?"

Something so little could do so much. She had changed her tone pretty quickly, now, hadn't she, from bitchy and demanding to sweet and pleading. Put on the whole armor of God. He lay on his bed, sunglasses still covering his eyes, and he wondered how Harry would handle a woman like Trish. Harry wouldn't tolerate much backtalk, much lip. Camden had been too solicitous with Trish, catering to her every whim; he had spoiled her, like a parent spoils a child.

Trish had been the prettiest girl in their high school class: the first to get big breasts; the first to tease her bangs and freeze them that way with hairspray. He thought of the giant purple can of Aqua-Net that she kept in his bathroom, alongside all her other stuff—all the stuff she needed to make herself pretty. And the funny thing was that she could have been just as pretty without all those cans and combs and jars and bottles and brushes. He remembered fondly the first time they had kissed, the first time she had let him touch her tits, after midnight on the fire-escape outside the high school gymnasium. She was the one; she was the most fun. But he had been too eager to please her; he should have taken a firmer hand from the beginning. Now she just annoyed him with her whining and complaining, and to be perfectly honest she was beginning to let herself go, getting a little plump in the thighs and midriff, and in other little ways he didn't even like to think about.

Ellen West, on the other hand. . .not only did she have a fantastic body, but he'd bet she wouldn't throw a temper tantrum if her boyfriend came home late. She wouldn't demand explanations. And he could've had Ellen too—from deep down inside his mind, another memory of the night before came swimming back to the surface, and he saw that she had just about said as much. Then he fell asleep.