Door in the Dragon’s Throat: Let Her Blow!

Door in the Dragon’s Throat: Let Her Blow! February 14, 2020

Door in the Dragon’s Throat, pp. 57-62

As I started this post, I realized that I overlooked something last week. When Dr. Cooper and Gozan were down in the cavern looking at the door, this happened:

Dr. Cooper was already thinking ahead. “We’ll have to get this pile of rubble away from the Door. Go tell Jeff and Bill to bring the blasting equipment.”

Because I was so focused on the blasting equipment, I missed that Dr. Cooper is asking Gozan to run errands for him. No, not even asking. Dr. Cooper is summarily ordering Gozan around. Gozan is President Al-Dallam’s personal assistant. He does not work for Dr. Cooper. Al-Dallam has posted Gozan at the “dig” site to observe what Dr. Cooper’s team does and report back to him, not to provide extra labor for Dr. Cooper.

That’s just … weird.

Anyway! Before they blast away, they’re going to do a few more tests.

Jay, high on the pile of rubble and to one side of the Door, was pounding against the walls with a huge sledgehammer. On the opposite side of the Door, Lila pressed a special electronic sensor against the stone wall of the cavern. Down below, on the cavern floor, Dr. Cooper monitored the reading on a special sonar device, listening for the echoes of Jay’s hammer coming back through the recess behind the door and watching the pattern of lines forming on the little video screen. He was making faces, turning the dials, and looking puzzled.

See, it’s not working. He tells Jay and Lila to move, tells Jay to hit the wall again, but … nothing.

Dr. Cooper scratched his head and said, “Well, according to this readout I’m getting, there’s nothing but infinite space behind the Door. The sound just travels off into infinity and never comes back.”

He concludes that the equipment isn’t working—yet another example of Dr. Cooper going with the scientific explanation for something actually explained by the supernatural.

Does Dr. Cooper check the machinery, or bring in new set of monitors to see if he gets the same results? Nope! Instead, he tells Jay and Lila to pack it up and move on out, because Jeff and Bill have arrived with the blasting equipment! It is described as “a case of powerful plastic explosives and a detonator.” No need to know what it is they’re blasting, or what might be behind the door and the wall it’s mounted in! It’s time to blast away!

Soon the entire party stood at the bottom of the long stairway—far below the cavern’s entrance and far away from the big room where the explosives had been set.

Bill held the small electrical detonator in his hand.

“I like this part,” he said. “We’ll make those boulders dance like popcorn.”

“Everybody ready?” asked Dr. Cooper.

No one said no, so Bill threw the switch.

And yes, one could say it sounded like popcorn all piping at once—if the kernels were the size of houses and weighed several tons each and the popper were a monstrous stadium.

What. The. Hell.

As someone noted last week, the Door is the treasure. It doesn’t matter what’s behind it. An ancient metal door 80 feet tall and 40 feet wide, covered in inscriptions and designs, set in the wall of a massive cavern in the desert—people would come from all around the world to see it. It might even be named a world heritage site. It would certainly be the subject of intense research and speculation by experts, every inch of it analyzed.

And this hodge-podge team has just blasted the cavern it’s in to high heaven. Frankly, a blast of the intensity described here would be likely to make the entire cavern cave in. And remember—they still haven’t tested the area with a seismometer, which might help them get some idea of why the area is so prone to earthquakes, and why there’s that weird constant rumbling. I know they haven’t checked this because they finally do it later. 

Everyone put his hands over his erases but they could still hear the boulders bounding and pounding against the walls and ceiling of the big room like wild Ping-Pong balls.

Frankly, this ought to be a crime viewed on par with the Taliban’s destruction of those ancient buddhas. Except that in this case, they seem to be motivated by sheer stupidity. And greed. Also greed.

“It’ll take a while for all that dust to settle. Jay, now would be a good time for you to break out your seismometer up on top. Place some sensors around the circle up there so we can get a better idea where those quakes are coming from.”

See. I told you.

Dr. Cooper sends Gozan with Jay—to get “some fresh air”—and Gozan takes the opportunity to attempt to pursued Jay to help him steal all the treasure so that they can split the riches between the two of them. It’s gross and it doesn’t make sense. How would they even pull off this heist? How would having Jay—a child—on his side help Gozan do anything he couldn’t already do himself? Gozan seems to have pretty good access to everything at the camp, and he has access to plenty of resources. He could easily arrange for the rest of the team to take a day excursion or something, and come in with men and vehicles and cart whatever’ there off.

Also gross? Jay’s attitude toward Gozan. Jay ought to go tell a grownup about what Gozan is saying and ask for help, but instead he’s just rude and dismissive. This book has made me think about how I think children ought to relate to adults. I am a firm believer in children’s rights, and a firm believer that children should not be taught to offer adults unthinking obedience. Teaching children to be respectful to adults has caused a lot of problems in the world—take child sexual abuse, for example. But seeing how Jay interacts with and treats Gozan has made me realize that I do think children should treat adults with some sort of de facto, base degree of respect.

Jay’s patience with the blabbering Gozan was getting very thin.

Gozan just kept pecking away at him. “It would be so simple to carry the treasure away, out of the country. You have the plane, you have the vehicles…”

Jay is 14 years old. I sincerely doubt he can drive, much less fly. Besides, children cannot travel across international borders unaccompanied. Gozan is the personal assistant to a high-ranking government official. He should know all of this. You don’t get to a position like the one he holds without having some base level of intelligence. If Gozan wants to run off with the treasure, he doesn’t need Jay—or anyone on Dr. Cooper’s team—to do it.

Next we see how Jay responds:

“Gozan!” Jay finally snapped. “You’re asking me to take something that doesn’t belong to me. That’s stealing, sneaking, plotting, and betraying, and I won’t do it!”

“But … but why not? What is right for you is right!”

Jay’s mouth dropped open at that. “What’s right for me? Is that all you can possibly think about, just what you want?”

And then, a little bit later:

“Jay, I am only trying to help you out!”

Jay was really mad by now. “No, actually you’re trying to ruin this project, and I’d much rather you just keep quiet and help me set out these sensors. Is that too much to ask?”

Let’s try setting up an analogy.

In programs that must be holdovers of earlier eras, minor teens are asked to serve as pages at the Capitol and in statehouses. My oldest child isn’t that far off from 14, which is how hold Jay is, so I’ll age her up in my mind and imagine that she is asked to participate in one of theses programs, and is assigned to a lawmaker’s office.

So let’s imagine that a guy who works for the governor guy comes into the copy room where she’s making copies and tries to convince her to make some copies of papers the lawmaker keeps in a locked desk for him, telling her that it’s fine for her to sabotage the lawmaker she’s working for, because she’ll get something out of it herself.

What should my daughter do, in this situation?

She should tell an adult. She should go tell the lawmaker she’s working for. She should tell someone. Jay never tells anyone! I didn’t realize until this thought experiment just how big of a problem that is. If you’re a child an adult is asking you to do something wrong—especially an adult in a position of authority—you should tell another adult.

But even here, I wouldn’t want my daughter to talk to the adult trying to get her to make secret copies of confidential papers—an official who works for the governor—the way Jay does: “N0, actually you’re trying to ruin my job, and I’d much rather you just shut up and help me with these copies. Is that too much to ask?”

Many of those who argue that age should be respected also have a high degree of disrespect for youth. I don’t think it has to be that way. I think we can value youth—that we can value children’s perspectives and input and needs—while also respecting age and experience. (People who are new to something often bring a unique perspective, just as those with experience have lessons they have learned over years of work to pass on.) I tend to treat adults twice my age with a de facto degree of respect—although I will press my rights if I need to.

Of course, Jay’s attitude toward Gozan is not unique to him—it comes straight from his father. Every character in this book is treating Gozan like shit, it just stands out more when Gozan is treated that way by a child, rather than by a peer (i.e. a fellow adult). (Although it’s worth noting that Dr. Cooper isn’t really Gozan’s peer either—Gozan is the personal assistant to Dr. Cooper’s employer, who also happens to be the president of a small country.)

But enough about Jay and Gozan.

Down below, in the big room, Dr. Cooper, Bill, Jeff, Tom, and Lila were inspecting the lower half of the Door, now “clean as a whistle” ass Bill had promised, and easily accessible. Now the Door was twice as tall and made one feel twice as small to be standing next to it.

Okay, but where did all that rubble go? It’s not like it would just disappear. It’s got to be still in there somewhere. Even if the rubble were more evenly distributed and not piled 40 feet tall by the door, it would still be there. 

The sequence seems to have gone like this: There’s a 40 foot pile of rubble that’s at least 40 feet wide as well—it’s a huge as pile of boulders. Our intrepid team of explorers wants that pile of rubble gone, so what are they to do? Dynamite, of course! They blow the rubble up and now it’s gone! How convenient!

Except that that chain of events makes no sense. Best case scenario, the rubble would be widened out across the cavern, and only ten feet high by the door. This might make more of the door visible, but it would also make getting to the door only more difficult—think of the size of the boulder field you’d have to climb across. But remember, there are references to the door being “twice” as tall now and to “standing next to it.” Clearly, we’re meant to believe that the floor around the door is now completely clear of rubble. But this makes no sense. 

None of those house-sized boulders did any damage to the door. We know why—magic. If I were Dr. Cooper right now, I feel like I’d be asking about this. Of course, the goal of using dynamite was to clear the rubble away from it, not not to open the door. In fact, no one even discussed the possibility that dynamite so powerful house-sized rocks were jumping like ping pong balls might damage the Door, or break it open.

Perhaps no one is asking why something that ought to have obliterated the door didn’t merely because they didn’t even consider that it might. These really are the worst archeologists ever.

Dr. Cooper carefully ran his fingers along the seams of the Door and probed the very minute crack with a fine, sharp tool.

“A perfect fit, to begin with,” he reported. “Perfectly snug and tightly sealed. It’s been this way for centuries.”

Tom was always the heavy equipment man. “I could take a good drill to it.”

“Let’s try it,” Dr. Cooper agreed.

Don’t worry! There’s still lots to look forward to!

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