The Aftermath of a Threat and a Call to Action

It feels appropriately recursive that I end my time posting with the same topic that I started with: the topic of homelessness in Victor LaValle’s Big Machine. I predicted in my last post and in conversations with other people that the homeless people would play an important role in the unfolding events, and I was right.

Ricky and Adele are now in the midst of an apocalyptic situation. Garland has massive traffic jams and general chaos, and Ricky and Adele are observing this chaos from the parking lot of a burger joint. Then, Ricky observes a homeless man vomiting on the side of the road who “looked downright malarial. His motto was malnutrition.” (LaValle, 309) This description fits many people who are homeless and on the street, and it also fits many people who are food insecure or who are otherwise struggling in a first world country. After he vomits, the homeless man wanders into the street and declares, “‘Solomon Clay is a lion in the wilderness!’ ” (LaValle, 309) I have encountered many homeless people and street preachers who use their voices to scream in the streets and in the subway cars, when everybody else is going about their day. The “lion in the wilderness” reminds me of Daniel in the lion’s den, who survives only because of his trust in God.

A lot of homeless people in New York City like to be on the A Train, because it is the longest train route in the city, and because it is an express train and has long gaps between stops. For a couple months, there was a street preacher who got on the train on a regular basis at 125th street and preached until 59th street, a time when all the passengers were stuck listening to him for five minutes. His preaching had a fire and brimstone quality to it, and even my father, who is a Christian, would turn his music up as loud as possible and shake his head. After he preached in English for seven minutes, the preacher would preach the same speech for another seven minutes in Spanish. The conviction of the preacher was undeniable, and this conviction of the homeless preacher reminded me of this homeless man in Big Machine. 

In the end of Big Machine, Ricky reached the same conclusion I thought when reading about the homeless man in the very beginning: “I’d never shaken the image of that nut standing on the side of the highway after we’d kicked him off our Greyhound bus. We’d sacrificed him.” (LaValle, 364). Ricky’s mission to “Invite them back in” feels especially apt, and the role of homeless people serves to fortify an epiphany for Ricky and Adele.

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