Chapter 5

Did Josh really learn about long-distance running from the Rarámuri?

No—Josh was teaching the Rarámuri about running, not the other way around. But Chris’s pride in his heritage, as well as his prejudices about Josh (his belief that Josh is mortal and only a few decades old), prevent him from even considering this possibility. So he does what we all do when we try to comprehend the incomprehensible—he fits it into the mental constructs he has available and comes up with a distorted picture of reality.

However, notice that Josh doesn’t correct Chris’s misunderstanding, even though he knows exactly how Chris will interpret the information. In fact, his answers, both here and when he speaks of Tony’s lack of a grandmother, are truthful, but carefully worded so they don’t force Chris to explore areas that would cause his brain to explode. Why does Josh do this? Because of lashani; he’s doing what’s best for Chris, even if that means Chris doesn’t understand how great Josh is. In this case, Josh knows that the truth would be incomprehensible to Chris just now, and that it isn’t important for him to know all truth right now anyway. This isn’t a blanket absolution to Chris that he never needs to realize how great Josh is. This is Josh edging Chris along on that pathway slowly, taking his limitations into account.

 

Can Josh read minds? Is this what he’s doing when he seems to be questioning Chris’s thoughts?

These are really two different questions. The answer to the first—Can Josh read minds?—is a simple Yes. Josh is Deón, and the Deón are able to read minds. But that’s not what he is doing here. In fact, he only truly reads Chris’s mind once in the first book.

Chris is a particularly transparent individual—a trait that Josh appreciates and that Stan considers a weakness. So Josh is usually merely reading Chris’s body language. Between his knowledge of Chris’s history and of how humans think, this is enough for him to accurately deduce what Chris is thinking.

Throughout the books, Josh seems reluctant to invade thoughts uninvited. On other occasions, Debora and Doug also confine their knowledge to what the individual tells them. There are at least two reasons why they do this. One is their respect for the person’s power of choice; if she won’t give the information up voluntarily, they don’t “steal” it, so to speak. Another is that they know the person must be willing to confess something before she can make changes.

What’s that—you want to know where the one place is that Josh does read Chris’s mind? That’s in Chapter 32 (“Promises”), during the interview between Stan and Chris. Here, Chris is doing his best to make contact with Josh, but is physically unable to do so. Josh senses Chris’s call for help, reads his mind, and suggests the answers he needs directly into his mind. Throughout the books, this is the one circumstance in which the Deón do freely read minds—when the individual needs help, but is physically unable to call for it.

 

What’s going on with Benny—why does he seem so hostile?

Benny - worried man - iStock.com - lisathephotographer

©iStock.com/lisathephotographer

Here’s what’s happened to Benny today. He’s at the office of the family’s gardening business, whistling a tune as he fixes a malfunctioning leaf blower (he loves fixing things), when he gets a call on his cell phone.  A man (who is really Tony) identifies himself as a nurse at a hospital and asks, “Are you the next of kin for Christian Strider?”

The evocative words send a jolt of panic through Benny, who tends to be easily shaken anyway. With a glance at Dad, who hasn’t been feeling so good today, he quickly steps outside. “Yes,” he answers hoarsely. “He’s my kid brother. What’s wrong?”

“Well, I’m sorry to have to tell you this—” The man breaks off with an urgent, “Just a minute.”

Benny waits breathlessly for the nurse to return to the phone. Over the open line, he can hear a commotion in the background. He can’t make out much, but he can hear urgent voices and gets the idea that something bad is happening. After what seems like an eternity, the breathless nurse comes back on the line. “Okay. It’s okay. He’s still alive.”

Somehow the assurance doesn’t do much for Benny’s nerves. “What’s wrong?” he demands. “What’s going on?”

“I’m afraid it’s bad. They found your brother in the desert with heat stroke. He’s still unconscious, and his heart just stopped. They got it going again, but the doctors say it doesn’t look good. You should probably get down here right away.” (This is a very loose interpretation of the truth; the heart-stopping part is a blatant lie.)

“I’m leaving right now,” Benny croaks. After a brief argument with himself over how much to tell Dad, he tells him that Chris has a “little” heat stroke, but he should be fine. “Don’t worry, Dad,” he says as he gets in his car. He heads out on the 3½-hour trip to Death Valley, bearing the whole weight of Chris’s condition himself, in order to protect his dad.

But Dad’s no dummy, and Benny’s afraid he might see through the act. So, as he pulls onto the freeway, he decides to call Rosie and ask her to return to the office to keep an eye on their father. Afraid she’ll tell Dad of Chris’s condition, Benny doesn’t even tell Rosie, Chris’s own twin, how serious his situation is.

Two hours later, Benny gets a call from Rosie. “I thought you should know—I had to take Dad to the hospital. It looks like he may be having another heart attack.”

It was exactly the reaction Benny had most feared, and he’s torn about which direction to go. But he’s now closer to Death Valley, and he can’t let his brother die alone. So he presses on, violating all speed limits, with his nerves fraying at twice their previous rate of discombobulation. His visions of himself as a pallbearer now include two caskets.

Perhaps, from this perspective, it’s easier to see that Benny’s not a bad guy, and he certainly doesn’t intend to be mean. And, in his defense, he has just been on the worst sort of roller coaster, one specifically designed by an expert manipulator of human emotions to create the maximum reaction from the most volatile member of the family. So, although Benny’s relieved to find that Chris is okay when he arrives at the hospital, he is still worried about Dad. That worry, in an impulsive, emotional man who’s never been good at expressing himself, comes out as angry words. Compounding the problem is the fact that he finds Chris in the care of that troublemaker, Josh, whom Benny already hates (Josh has a habit of exposing Benny’s brothers to dangerous situations). And, if that’s not bad enough, the troublemaker has the gall to tell Benny he didn’t get a call from the hospital when Benny knows he did—after all, he talked to the nurse himself!

But there’s still more behind Benny’s behavior. Even before today’s mess, he’s had some fears about Chris’s future. Benny has been supporting (pushing) him toward a pathway that would give him more financial security than Benny will ever have, and Chris was well on the way to that secure future. But then he tossed it all in the trash to enter this crazy race. This only adds to the concerns Benny has over his brother’s self-centered, maybe even a little egotistical, attitude. He knows it will cause him heartache—which, in fact, it does—and he’s been trying to get him to change before he gets hurt. But, although Benny’s motives may be good, he possesses none of the tact or insight of their father, and his attempts to enlighten his younger brother generally only offend and alienate him. (Part of the trouble, too, is that Benny loses sight of the fact that he is 12 years older than Chris. He often expects Chris to act with the maturity of the 34-year-old husband/father that Benny is, rather than of the 22-year-old single college student that Chris is.)

Benny is the sort of man people often misunderstand. But, although he’s not a verbal guy—in fact, he gets particularly clumsy when trying to express emotion—he loves his family fiercely, including Chris. He truly would do anything for those he loves, even risk his own safety to break Chris out of jail, as in Chapter 33; but please don’t ask him to express his feelings with words. Similarly, don’t assume that he’s stupid because he’s not hung up on proper grammar. Benny is actually somewhat of a genius when it comes to fixing things; if the problem is mechanical or electrical, he’s the first one others go to for help. But he’d rather not diagram a sentence, thank you; he just doesn’t see the point of it. (But then, you may not either.)

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