Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1359
Emery has always known that something big is going to happen to him, though he never knew what it would be. Now he knows it has begun, and if he were a thinking person, he might have thought that now is the time to “justify his daddy’s blood.” As it is, his mind is not equipped to do much planning, so he simply wonders what he will do next. Whatever is going to happen to him began when he showed Motes the horrifying thing in the glass case. It is "a mystery beyond his understanding,” but he knows whatever is going to be expected of him will be something terrible. His blood is still the most sensitive part of him, and it pulsates doom throughout his entire body, except perhaps for his brain. As a consequence, his tongue often knows more than he does.
The first out-of-the-ordinary experience he remembers is saving his pay. He started by saving everything but what he needed for rent and food; soon, however, he discovered he was not eating much and was saving that money, too. Emery is quite fond of supermarkets and goes to the stores often; lately he has been compelled to pick up small items that are not too bulky to hide in his pockets--which explains why he is saving so much money on food. He suspects his unusual behavior is all part of something bigger, since he has always had a tendency to steal but has never before had the urge to save.
Another odd behavior for him now is cleaning up his old attic room in a local boarding house, a house with “a mummified look and feel." Never before had he thought of brightening up his place, but now he works on it regularly. First he hangs his rug out the window, but it is nothing but a few long strings when he brings it back in. Next he washes two layers of dirt from the bed frame and discovers it is gold. In his fervor to discover more treasure, he scrubs the chair until he finds the gold, but he keeps washing it until all the gold is rubbed off. He wants to kick the chair to pieces but restrains himself; at present, he is not “a foolhardy boy who took chances on the meanings of things."
The only other piece of furniture in his room is a three-tiered mirrored washstand, designed with a marble slab and ornate wooden trellises of hearts, scrolls, and flowers. In the middle is a mirror; above it is a kind of crowned, horned headpiece. Sometimes in his dreams, he imagines himself inside the washstand, where a slop jar would be kept, performing “certain rites and mysteries” which he only vaguely understands. The washstand is the most important piece of furniture, but he leaves it and works on the pictures.
The first is a picture of a moose. Emery has always believed the animal stares at him with mocking superiority. He removes the picture from its heavy, ornate frame, and his act diminishes the animal, allowing Emery to snicker at it as if the moose were naked. The other two are pictures taken from calendars, one of a sleeping boy and one of a lady wearing a rubber tire. He leaves these alone. With the money he has saved, Emery buys some chintz curtains, a bottle of gilt paint, and a brush.
Emery is not sure what he is supposed to do with these supplies until he gets home and paints the slop jar cabinet with the gold paint. Now he realizes the cabinet is going to be used for something. He does not bother his blood by asking it to tell him anything before it is ready; he is perfectly willing to wait until it talks to him. For days, Emery's blood acts “in secret conference” with itself, occasionally stopping to shout an order at him.
The next Monday Emery wakes up knowing this is the day when his blood will tell him what he is supposed to do, but he wants to stay in bed. He does not want to justify his father’s blood, forced to do something he does not know, something out of his control and always dangerous. The blood, naturally, will not let him remain in control; Emery is at the zoo by 9:30, only a half-hour late. After his shift, he goes immediately to town, a place he does not like because anything can happen there.
Emery is exhausted by the time he reaches the entrance to Walgreens where he encounters a boy selling popcorn. He pulls out his coin purse that had once belonged to his father; it is the only keepsake he has left to remind him of his father. As Emery roots out two nickels, the popcorn boy does not take his eyes off the gray leather pouch with a drawstring. When Emery tucks it away, the boy enviously remarks that the purse looks like a hog bladder. Emery makes his way inside to the counter and very carefully considers which drink to order; finally, he tells the waitress something is going to happen to him today and hurries out of the store.
As he heads home, Emery tells himself he does not want to do it, whatever the blood is going to tell him to do. It is always dangerous and against the law. He walks past a movie theater with a poster of a monster stuffing a young woman into an incinerator. As he tells himself he does not want to go to the movie, he counts out his money at the ticket window and then makes his way to the balcony. He watches three movies--one about a mad scientist who performs operations on people by remote control, another about Devil’s Island, and a third about a baboon who rescues children from a burning orphanage. They are all too much for Emery, and he practically throws himself out of the theater. He collapses as soon as he reaches fresh air outside.
It is night now. Emery sits for a bit before walking to whatever his blood impels him to do; he knows it is inevitable. As he walks, he sees a rat-colored car with Motes standing on the hood, gesticulating at the people on the sidewalk below. Unaware of Motes’ Church Without Christ, Emery does not know he has been preaching on the street every night. Emery has not seen him since the day he showed Motes the shriveled man in the glass case.
Motes preaches to his listeners that they have not been redeemed, for redemption would mean more to them and their lives would be different; instead, he says, the middle cross [Christ's cross at the scene of his crucifixion] means nothing more to them than the other two [the crosses of those crucified beside Jesus]. What they all need, Motes says, is someone to take the place of Jesus, someone that does not look like any other man so that they all will be compelled to look at him. All but two of his listeners leave, but Emery is transfixed by the scene. Motes says for someone to show him where this “new jesus[sic]” is. Motes will set him up in the Church Without Christ, and everyone will see the truth. He wants this new jesus so all will be saved by the sight of him.
Emery shouts without making a sound as he hears Motes tell people to “take counsel from their blood”; maybe someone will bring them a new jesus, and they all will be saved by the sight of him. Spluttering something unintelligible, Emery hears his blood remind him that the last time he saw Hazel Motes, they were at the museum, and Motes hit him in the head with a rock. Emery does not yet know how he will steal the figure in the glass case, but he knows he already has a new home for it. His blood tells him this must be a surprise to Motes. Emery backs away—endangering his life in traffic—and then hurries off.
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