|“||America has invested her religion as well as her morality in sound income-paying securities. She has adopted the unassailable position of a nation blessed because it deserves to be blessed; and her sons, whatever other theologies they may affect or disregard, subscribe unreservedly to this national creed.||”|
–Agnes Repplier, Times and Tendencies
Shadow drives Wednesday in a Winnebago west into South Dakota and they start passing signs for Mount Rushmore (which Wednesday calls a holy place). They run into a roadblock set up by the Spooks and Wednesday tells Shadow to slow down while he draws runes on the dashboard. He then tells Shadow to speed up to 30 mph as he finishes the runes on the dash and has Shadow turn right and off the road.
They have entered a realm that Wednesday later calls "Backstage" and can no longer be seen by the Spooks. They get out of the Winnebago to walk and Shadow spots a mechanical spider next to a pile of bones and candles at the bottom of the hill. He falls down the hill, landing between the spider and the bones and accidentally touches a thighbone.
Shadow is transported into one of the Spooks, Mr. Town's, head. Town calls Mr. World to tell him they lost Shadow and Wednesday. He is angry because he thinks Shadow is the one who killed Mr. Wood and Mr. Stone back at the railroad car. Shadow recognizes Mr. World's voice from somewhere but can't place it. Mr. World complains about scheduling a policy meeting and tells Town to get back there and that they can try to get Shadow and Wednesday again later.
Wednesday pries the bone out of Shadow's hand and Shadow is Backstage again and they begin walking once more. Wednesday explains that Backstage is a shortcut and is like being behind the scenes at a theatre. The spider is like a search engine, which is why Shadow could see into Town's mind. As they keep walking, Shadow starts to feel sicker and sicker. Wednesday gives him something to drink to help fortify him, telling him it's not good to be walking around Backstage for too long.
Wednesday leads Shadow out of Backstage and back into the regular world where they arrive at a mobile home and encounter Whiskey Jack and John Chapman. They eat dinner while they discuss the oncoming war between the Old Gods and the New Gods with both Chapman and Whiskey Jack refusing to join either side.
Whiskey Jack starts talking to Shadow about death and Shadow's dreams and thunderbirds. Whiskey Jack brings up Laura's not-dead state and the Buffalo and offers to help when Shadow finds his "tribe." Whiskey Jack then offers to trade his nephew's '81 Buick for Wednesday's Winnebago they left Backstage. As Chapman leaves with Shadow and Wednesday, Whiskey Jack tells Wednesday to never come back.
They walk into town and find Harry Bluejay at the rec hall and get the keys for the Buick. They drop Chapman off in Sioux Falls before stopping at a restaurant outside St. Paul. Shadow discovers the date is Valentine's Day with Wednesday telling him they walked almost a whole month while Backstage. They return to Lakeside and Wednesday leaves again.
Shadow heads outside his apartment and whispers to the lake his raffle ticket time (March 23rd, 9:15 am). Marguerite Olsen tells him it's going to be April 3rd, 6:00 pm. They chat briefly about the still-missing Alison McGovern, who Marge hopes is dead because the alternative would be worse, making Shadow realize she was thinking of her own missing son, Sandy.
Over the next month, in between Shadow's trips with Wednesday, Shadow goes on long walks all throughout the Lakeside area to help him sleep at night. He runs into Mulligan at the barber shop and they head over to Mabel's. Mulligan tells him about a distant, recently widowed cousin who has been calling him frequently. Shadow encourages him to pursue the potential relationship.
Shadow travels with Wednesday to visit gods in Rhode Island, Seattle, Dallas, and Boulder but prefers Lakeside and eating Mabel's pasties. One morning, Shadow goes on a scenic walk east on Country Q that Mabel recommended and encounters a cat who hisses at something behind him. He comes upon a graveyard and wanders through the tombstones when Laura arrives. Laura is continuing to decay and the cold bothers her so she was headed into Texas when she received a "call" to find Shadow. She realizes it wasn't Shadow who called her because it hurts too much for him to see her. Laura proceeds to tell him he's never really lived and it's why she was drawn to Robbie Burton, who was alive and filled the space. They eventually say goodbye with Laura telling Shadow she will see him "in the end."
- North Dakota
- Sioux Falls, SD
- St. Paul, MN
- Lakeside, WI
- Rhode Island
- Seattle, WA
- Dallas, TX
- Boulder, CO
- Mr. Wednesday
- Mr. Town
- Mr. World
- Whiskey Jack
- John Chapman
- Harry Bluejay
- Marguerite Olsen
- Chad Mulligan
- Laura Moon