We begin, as before, with a story. Although we don’t see our handsome and well dressed Professor presumably he is writing this story as he did the other. As before it is another “Coming to America” tale, reinforcing the idea that he is a historian and perhaps working on a manuscript back the early days of the country. This time looking at a tale from 1697.
Our story takes place in the hold of a slaver ship. It’s packed to the seams with sturdy looking men, all bound in rows by cuffs and chains. It’s a dark and solemn scene. From the midst, one man calls out to Anansi, the Spider God. His words are a prayer. Not the typical prayer with gifts and offerings. The Man even acknowledges that he can’t pray to Anansi the ‘right’ way. And yet he prays. He begs for help. He offers gifts. And out of the darkness comes a slickly dressed black man.
This is Anansi. Anansi tells the man that his mother was tossed over board for refusing to have sex with one of the soldiers. He then proceeds to tell the men how totally screwed they and their future is. He lays it out in horrible detail. How they will be slaves, how they will have no freedom and how it doesn’t really get any better. The Praying Man is raised to anger by the words which pleases Anansi. “Angry gets shit done.” Anansi continues to provoke the Man’s anger, to the point of murderous desire. Anansi, it seems, wants them to rise up and kill the Slavers. Anansi releases the Man’s chains and he proceeds to release the other slaves and they set fire to the ship, choosing to die rather than be slaves. The scraps of the ships eventually float to a shore, Anansi in spider form riding on one of them.
Cut to Shadow being patched up. Every punch of the surgical staples is echoed by painful gasps. Shadow returns to the motel demanding answers from Mr Wednesday, who has been entertaining himself with one of the local girls. But Wednesday won’t give any answers. When Shadow gets angry about having been beaten up and lynched, Wednesday offers to double his pay which Shadow begrudgingly accepts. In an odd and, for Wednesday, tender moment, the old man declares to Shadow that it might not seem like it but he is angry and he is working on a plan for ‘the little shit in the big limo’. Shadow takes a literally painful bath and goes to sleep. But it isn’t a restful night as he dreams that Laura has come to his motel room and tells him that whoever said she was dead lied to him.
But it was all just a dream after all and Shadow returns of their home to pack it up and prepare to leave Eagle Point, which he says was never his home but Laura’s. It doesn’t take Shadow long to pack everything up, to clean the house and so on. Soon he’s on the road, driving while Wednesday is doing coin tricks in the passenger seat with the same odd moves that Mad Sweeney pulled at the bar. Wednesday instructs Shadow to take the back roads, waxing poetic about serendipitous discoveries and other nonsense. He finally tells Shadow that they are on their way to meet a number of people before gathering in an important place. The first stop is Chicago. When Shadow asks what’s in Chicago, Wednesday merely says “My Hammer.”
Middle of nowhere. Wednesday has a meeting in a greasy spoon dinner. He gives Shadow a shopping list and $1000 and instructs Shadow not to skim more than 5%. When Shadow says he’s not going to take any of the money, Wednesday seems insulted.
Shadow goes to a giant Costco like shopping center where he gathers Wednesday’s list which seems to have no rhyme or reason. As he’s walking past a collection of display TVs, Lucy (as in I Love Lucy) starts talking to him. Only its not exactly Lucy but a female that looks a lot like her. This is Media, a goddess who lives off time and attention. She offers Shadow a job. Her words echo Technical Boy’s “we are now, we are the future” talk. She is impressed at how smartly Shadow dealt with Technical Boy, playing into the big dumb thug impression folks have of Shadow.
When Shadow returns to the diner he crosses paths with the man Wednesday was meeting. A man who for a moment seems to have fire for eyes. Shadow is disconcerted by the image, believing that he’s seeing things and he’s going crazy. Wednesday guides him into the question of whether Shadow is crazy or is it the world that has gone mad. “Strange is a new language and what we are doing is vocabulary building.” For a moment, Shadow seems to be grasping what Wednesday is saying, that it isn’t that the he or the world are crazy but that Shadow is waking up to a new idea of what the World is.
In the car, Wednesday discovers that Shadow has bought him a cell phone so they can reach each other. Wednesday will have none of it and tosses both Shadow’s phone and the new one out the window (makes sense, give that cell phones are from the worlds of Technical Boy and Media who seem to be Wednesday’s enemies). Wednesday changes the subject to the women he loved when he was young, which amuses Shadow given the scene he walked in on the night before.
As they continue to drive the scene shifts back to our sex goddess Bilquis. She’s been busy having more sex, consuming more worshippers (male and female) and gathering more strength. We see her very professionally dressed in what appears to be a museum. On display is a collection of jewels and for a moment a form half pulses into being wearing them before disappearing. Is this what Bilquis seeks? To awaken this figure, to awaken herself in this form. Is this what she needs life and energy to achieve?
In Chicago. We meet Zorya Vechernyaya, an elderly woman who both fusses at Wednesday and flirts with him. Wednesday gives Zorya Vechernyaya a gift, a bottle of vodka. For her sisters he has a stack of romance novels for Zorya Polunochnaya and a pair of binoculars for Zorya Utrennyaya, who is still asleep. Also in the home lives Czernobog, a chain smoking fellow who doesn’t seem all that fond of Wednesday (tosses a lamp at him). Czernobog wants Wednesday to leave but Zorya V has invited them to dinner and it would be rude to throw them out. Shadow sits in the kitchen while the sisters cook. When Zorya P goes to read his coffee grinds, he catches on that the fortune he is told was a pretty lie. When he asks what the truth is, all Zorya V says is that unlike his mother, he won’t die of cancer. Czernobog and his shouting interrupts their odd moment, yelling at Wednesday that he wants nothing to do with Wednesday’s plans. It’s his brother Wednesday really wants, but the brother is gone. When Wednesday suggests that he and Shadow leave, Czernobog insists they stay so they don’t insult Zorya V.
Dinner is an odd affair. Czernobog babbles about how his brother had light hair and was viewed as ‘the good one’, while he and his dark hair were ‘bad’. But now its all grey. He goes on to talk about how he works in a slaughterhouse. Zorya V is not happy that he’s telling cow killing stories over dinner but Czernobog persists. He goes on about smashing the skull perfectly to kill the cow right away, to give it ‘a good death’ and about how the slaughterhouse has taken away the hammer. He asks Shadow to play checkers and despite coming off like a total nutcase, Shadow agrees.
Partway through the game, Czernobog brings out the hammer he used to use, talking of blood feeding it and making it shine. As he speaks, Shadow sees the image of blood flowing down the hammer. He’s visibly disconcerted, which seems to have been Czernobog’s plan as he suggests they wager on the game. If Czernobog loses, he will join Wednesday’s plan. If he wins, he will kill Shadow with a single blow of his hammer. Wednesday warns him that Czernobog is for real, if he wins he will kill Shadow. Shadow agrees to the bet.
And unfortunately loses.