Welcome to week 2. This was the section for today.
Week 2 (pp. 94-146)
8. The House: Interlude
12. The House: Interlude
Chapter 8: There’s rumors of a coup. Pompey, from 6, wants to become the next leader of 4, currently under Larry’s rule. Tabaqui lets Smoker know in a pompous speech about Pompey and his intentions. Smoker has a revelation in this chapter. He realizes that all of the others seem to know more about what’s going on at the House than he does. At the same time, he also realizes they are playing a big game, they just perpetuate a certain image, some behaviors and beliefs. He smiles at the thought of them being trapped in their own biases. Smoker tells Black this. They are having a night of celebration, in which they tell each other stories and legends while drinking. Smoker doesn’t want to drink the powerful and dangerous drink, he just drinks pine wine. They talk about the alleged basilisks in the forests, and no one seeing them, or returning. More stories, he doesn’t know why everybody is afraid to drink from the Moon-river drink. They crush in the mattresses on the floor.
Chapter 9: The House belonged to the Seniors. Counselors exist to maintain order, and teachers to entertain them and No one would tell them off. They could marry and adopt each other at will. (What does this mean?) They invented their world, they started a war, and nobody could enter their world. They were divided between red and black people. When they have their wars, they lock the juniors in their dorms. The seniors forget to unlock them after their battles, and they have to wait for the counselors in the morning.
Grasshopper peaked out of the door after one of this wars. He goes to visit Moor. Moor is a strange presence. He is a wheeler. He tells him OUT! Grasshopper is banned from Moor’s room for some reason. Other juniors have to serve him, and they all complain and curse Moor, – the purple one, as they call him-, but Grasshopper is jealous because he is not part of that group which is united by their dislike of Moor. Skull and other Seniors do what they want. Some of their rooms are filthy. There’s Humpback, and Ancient’s room, and his door is always closed. Grasshopper touches the amulet Ancient gave him.
Grasshopper realizes for the others their rooms are their home. His problem is that he has no room of his own, but his room is full of others he calls strangers. Grasshopper doesn’t want to fight. He wants a room to himself. But all the nooks are taken by the Seniors. He wants to find a dorm, but all of them are occupied by the Seniors. Even if Grasshopper and Blind moved to a dorm, the pack will follow them and pester them.
The last part of this chapter is what I tongue in cheek entitled the Karate Kid conversation. Grasshopper has a candid encounter with Ancient about the amulet. It happens that it worked for just a few days after he got it. Grasshopper felt as if he had arms, as if he could do whatever he wanted, even fly. But not anymore. Ancient is intrigued and fascinated by what Grasshopper is describing, what he thought to have been the effects of that amulet. It is clear that Ancient believes that there’s no ‘real power’ in the amulet, it’s just a legend among the juniors. When Blind asked him desperately for an amulet for his friend Grasshopper, Ancient concocted one.
Grasshopper believed in that power, and, to Ancient’s amazement, he reports that it worked for a while. Now Ancient is trying to make Grasshopper feel that way again. Ancient doesn’t want to tell him that it’s all a superstition, because it appears that if Grasshopper may be able to feel that power again, to overcome his disabilities and his vulnerability. Ancient then tells him that the amulet will regain its qualities and power if Grasshopper is willing to go through trials and do the feats he will be asking of him, such as kissing his heals from the standing up position, or not uttering a word to anyone for a full day, not even the counselors (a ritual of sorts that Ancient is inventing at the moment). Grasshopper is a bit hesitant at first, (will he be able to succeed at those tough requests?), but then he commits himself to do all that is asked of him.
Chapter 10: It starts with Blind in the forest. He is eating, experiencing the forest in a way, he meets Vulture and both see someone getting out of the house. Blind says it’s his Elephant, but Vulture says that he or it is not his elephant. Blind remembers Elk telling him to smile, that the smile is the best feature of a human, we are not a human until we smile. Blind is entranced, becoming one with the forest. He has two knives, one is beautiful -even though he cannot see, he knows it by the feel. The other knife is horrible, but Blind kept it because it’s the knife with which they killed Elk.
Chapter 11: In this chapter, Smoker visits the cage after the fairy tale night and the drinking. Smoker, Noble and Black are talking. Smoker is amazed at how strong Noble is, despite of being also a wheeler. Black tells Smoker about having let him hanging from the rails of the bed, until he fell. That made his arms strong. However, Noble doesn’t want to hear the story of that torture. Noble and Black end up fighting. Smoker is threatened with them crashing on him (since he is unable to leave the bed, and the fight is getting rough). Black becomes sick, he is in bed with a fever. The others come in the room and get the news of the fight.
Tabaqui, for some reason, has to choose between a punishment or some days in isolation in the cage. He gets a pass for the room in isolation called the cage, but he gives it to Smoker. Smoker doesn’t know what the paper means, but then he understands that it’s a pass to the cage only for those on wheelchairs. He accepts it and all those from the 4th send him with a special jacket they have, full of things. The jacket has something from each, something they each love: Moby Dick, poetry from Scandinavia, the book of Ecclesiastes, cards, medicines.
At the isolated room, Smoker sees pictures of his mates when they were little, with amulets. He sees Vulture, Humpback, and Moor and a bird, Nanette. He realizes Moor must have died not long before that picture with the bird who also died. He also figures out that the legends and the way they dress, are coping mechanisms they started to develop since they were little. Smoker has not grown up with them, he is an outsider in a way.
At this point I’m wondering if Grasshopper and Smoker are not living in different timelines. Moor is dead in Smoker’s time, but not in Grasshopper. Blind is the age of Grasshopper when we hear about him with the juniors, but Blind is with the seniors as well. Smoker came to the 4th from the 1st, the Pheasants, but at the 4th, the seniors are to themselves, there’s no rules, and Smoker is clearly an outsider to them who have been together since little.
Chapter 12: The Sepulcher. The Sepulcher is described as a house within the house, a place where the world works differently, with its own rules, dangerous, unpredictable, younger than the house. For some it’s their last journey, for others just the beginning. Time slows down there.
Grasshopper is at the Sepulcher, -in the hospital wing. He thought he was there shortly, to try prosthetic arms. But no, he is not leaving. He looks at the inhabitants of the House playing in the snow. He can tell them apart by the colors of their parkas. Elk brought him books, but Grasshopper is bored. The nurses tell him he needs to take care of the prosthetics, and he knows he’ll never wear them. He spends his days looking through the window.
He receives a mysterious visit by someone who is running away and needs to hide. He claims to be a ‘vampire’. Grasshopper hides him. He doesn’t look like a patient, he is just full of dirt. He claims to be a prisoner of the Sepulcher. Grasshopper wants to know what he did to have to be hiding. He says he’s tried to run away four times, with the help of a friend he won’t reveal. Of course he is not a vampire, he was just joking. Then he says he is Wolf. They both talk about how Grasshopper is bullied by the others, like Sportsman, and Grasshopper tells Wolf that, in his absence, they are picking on his friend Blind. Wolf wants to know about Grasshopper, when he came in and everything. And Wolf will tell him about them all (he seems to know him). Wolf wants to leave the place.
Grasshopper meets a girl with red hair, Ginger. Ginger takes Grasshopper to see a strange person, Death, a small tender boy. Ginger and Death are left to themselves. They talk to Grasshopper about others in the hose, such as a crazy one called White who scared the kids wrapped in a sheet with two cigarettes stuck on his nose. They talk about ghosts, and Death claims to have seen those. Ginger tells Grasshopper that Death is not making that up (the ghosts), because is a Slider. He has listened to that word before when he was asked by Splint and two other counselors, if he thought Sliders and Jumpers. But he only knows the words. Jumpers and Striders, are those who visit the House undergrounds, Ginger says, but Jumpers are thrown there and wait until they are thrown back, while Striders visit by themselves. Ginger is neither yet, but she will be one day. They both know Wolf, and they say they know about everybody, those who are there and those who are not.
Ginger tells Grasshopper he is a bit ginger too. They are descended from the same, and she admits to be the one who unlocks Wolf. Death is fragile, their favorite patient, and if anything happens to Ginger -Death’s best friend-, he’ll get very sick and possibly die, so they have impunity.
The next day they the nurses are scandalized by Grasshopper having spend the night with Ginger and Death, and having been helped to the toilet (remember Grasshopper doesn’t have arms). Elk tells Grasshopper that he has disappointed nurse Agatha. Grasshopper is worried about others thinking he is perverted because nurse Agatha called him that. Elk accepts to Grasshopper’s request to see Wolf, but on one condition, only if Grasshopper makes Wolf do all the doctors ask of him. First Grasshopper says maybe, but that’s not good enough for Elk. Finally, Grasshopper accepts, and also asks of them that they let him get out. Grasshopper also asks if Death and Ginger will ever be discharged too, and who is that senior called White. Grasshopper then enters a room with barred windows, where Wolf is. Grasshopper is doubting his choice, he is uneasy about Wolf’s reaction to him. The chapter ends with Grasshopper telling Wolf, ‘hey, hey, vampire.’