The chapter opens with the following quote from The Book of the Living: “Drowning people sometimes die fighting their rescuers.” Lauren writes that Joanne told her mother about their conversation, and that the news got to Lauren’s father. Lauren is furious, but grateful that they at least didn’t discuss religion (though she had wanted to). Lauren’s father comes home and sternly asks her if she thinks the world is coming to an end, to which Lauren wants to reply: “No, I think your world is coming to an end.” However, instead she simply says “yes.” Lauren’s father warns her that speaking in this way “frightens people,” so it’s best to avoid the topic.
This passage emphasizes the differences and conflict between Lauren and her father, particularly when Lauren implies that they are living in different worlds. Lauren’s father scolds her for simply discussing what she believes to be the truth.
Lauren is angry, but decides to change the subject by asking if her father got back the book she lent to Joanne, about California plants and the way Native Americans used them. Lauren’s father smiles and explains the book is the reason why they eat acorn bread, which is not generally consumed in America.
It becomes clear that Lauren and her father actually do not hold such different worldviews after all. The books from which Lauren has derived her ideas about adaptation and survival belong to her father, and his explanation about the acorn bread shows that he, too, has chosen to learn from the past in order to help his family survive in the present.
Lauren’s father asks Lauren if she tried to persuade Joanne to run away, which is what Joanne’s father claims. Lauren tells her father everything she actually did say, and afterward he makes her promise not to talk about it anymore. Lauren refuses, instead suggesting that they make “earthquake packs” as a way of preparing for disaster without alarming the community. Her father remains stern, explaining: “It is better to teach people than to scare them.” However, he then suggests that she uses the book about plants to teach her kindergartners.
Both Lauren and her father are remarkably strong-willed, and both have powerful convictions about the best way in which to lead the community. Although they sometimes disagree about how to deal with danger and survival, both place a strong emphasis on preparedness and education.
Lauren’s father then admits that Lauren’s idea about the earthquake packs is good, and promises that he will raise it at the next neighborhood meeting. He suggests that Lauren try to find out if anyone in the community knows martial arts and would be willing to teach others. Lauren agrees and promises to try not to scare anyone else. Her father is pleased, and tells her it’s time she found out where the “important things” are buried in their back yard.
The fact that Lauren’s father has not yet told her about the “important things” in the back yard suggests that he has been waiting until Lauren is old enough to carry the responsibility of this knowledge. This is arguably not because he thought Lauren was too immature for this responsibility, but rather because he had been trying to preserve her innocence as his child for as long as possible.
The next day, Lauren’s father preaches from the part of Genesis that describes Noah and the ark. After church, Joanne apologizes, and Lauren halfheartedly accepts. As Joanne walks away, Lauren reflects sadly that she can never trust her again and that she has lost her best friend. A few nights later, thieves rob some of the neighborhood gardens, stealing fruit and ruining the plots. Lauren’s father decides to set up a regular night watch, in which two people patrol together in two-hour shifts. He suggests that the patrol begins before dusk, to get the neighbors used to the idea of the patrol and make sure no one mistakes the patrollers for thieves.
It’s clear that Lauren’s father is also waking up to the reality of the threats that the neighborhood faces, and is making sure to employ extra precautions as a result. Lauren, meanwhile, is isolated as a result of her commitment to the truth. Even though she is somewhat forgiving of Joanne, she knows that Joanne’s reaction to their conversation means that their friendship will never be the same. Lauren has been forced to choose the truth over comfort and appeasement.
That night, Lauren overhears her father and Cory discussing what they will do if they catch a thief. Lauren’s father says he would try to scare them off, and Cory asks if he would shoot them if that didn’t work. Lauren’s father replies that he would. They begin to fight, and Cory starts crying. Cory worries about her husband being sent to prison, and softly tells him: “Thou shallt not kill.” Lauren’s father replies: “Nehemiah four. Verse 14.” They are quiet after this, and Lauren immediately looks up Nehemiah 4:14 in the Bible. The verse instructs people to fight on behalf of their families and houses.
This passage raises the question of what people of faith should do when scripture contradicts itself—and what they must do when scripture contradicts reality. While Lauren’s father and Cory find comfort and guidance in the Bible, this is undermined by the fact that the Bible itself sometimes gives conflicting messages about how to live.
A few days later the night watch becomes official. Once a week, the watchers meet for shooting and martial arts practice. Lauren’s father takes all his books back from her, but she doesn’t mind as she has already made notes. A week later, thieves return to steal Richard Moss’s rabbits. The rabbits are housed in what was once a three-car garage built in the 1980s. The two thieves cram 13 rabbits into a bag, but at this point the watchers on duty see them and fire their guns into the air. The thieves run, dropping the rabbits along with a gun.
The fact that there have been multiple instances of theft suggests that the neighborhood will not be safe for much longer—things are getting worse.
This causes another argument between Lauren’s father and Cory, who points out that the thieves could have easily killed someone. Lauren’s father focuses on the fact that the watchers stuck to the plan and that it worked, but Cory dismisses this, focusing on the fact that the family wouldn’t survive if something happened to Lauren’s father. He insists that they would have to find a way to keep going. Lauren realizes that she, too, is in denial about the prospect of something happening to her father. Yet she also knows that things cannot go on like this, and that there must be a “better destiny.”
Lauren admits that she, too, has her blind spots regarding the future and the possible threats her family faces. While Lauren vehemently rejects the practice of investing false hope and assurance in God-like figures, to some extent she engages in this behavior when it comes to her father. She has never properly considered the possibility that her father may die, and what would become of her and her family if that were to happen. Despite Lauren’s commitment to embracing the truth in the face of widespread denial, she still finds herself slipping into willful ignorance when it comes to the person who matters most—her father.