The Gray House, Week 4

This week’s section was the start of Book 2:

Week 4: BOOK 2 (pp. 223-300)
18. Ralph: A Sideway’s Glance at Graffiti
22. Tabaqui: Day the Second

By now we know Ralph is a counselor who has returned. Ralph is a nick, we don’t know his real name, but we know that previously Smoker had asked the seniors who Ralph was and I think it was Black who told him that he is a counselor who left.

Ch 18: The canteen is very quiet, as if they are mourning. Something is happening. Sphinx is the leader of the fourth, and Pompey, the leader of the sixth, is requesting the leaders of all the packs to meet him. Everybody is huddling around the fourth, expectant.

They meet at the 4th’s room, and Pompey talks to them about a law that was forgotten, that he is been reading about. Sphinx starts laughing, and Smoker thinks he is finally going to stop the charade and everybody else is going to start laughing too. But that doesn’t happen. For Smoker, they are playing roles, (as he has been saying before, it all looks like a game).

Pompey leaves, and Sphinx tells his pack that in the old times, the followers freely pledged to follow their leader and die for him if needed. There will have to be a fight. Tabaqui says that means they will have to make him die.

They are all summoned to the gym. There they all seem to make a circle, they perform a kind of dance. Smoker has no idea of what is going on. All of the sudden, Pompey is making noises, like the cooing of a dove, he reaches for the handle of a knife that is protruding from his neck. He falls dead. Blind killed him. Smoker was sick to the stomach. He is taken to the bathroom where he has to be cleaned by the others in a hazy and frantic episode.

The next day there’s officials at the House investigating what has happened.

BOOK 2, Ch 19:  This chapter of book two starts with Ralph looking at the graffiti of the house. He remembers what happened to the windows. They kept painting them black, until they ended up removing them. I am sure I’m not aware of all the significance of this part, but it has to do with the attitudes of some in the house who deny that there’s an outside.

Ralph is talking about the house. They all thought that, once a group of seniors graduated, the next generation will be alright. He says Elk thought the little ones will be different. But they weren’t. Ralph talks without much information about the problem of the ones who reach graduation, and who don’t want to leave. Don’t forget that chapter 18 ended with Smoker saying, ‘they kill in this house’. Ralph comments on the numerous suicide attempts, five of them successful ones.

Ralph says that the counselors drink on a normal basis. He reads the walls, not too close, as not to arouse suspicion. There’s lots of curse words when they go through puberty. But the walls is a way of communication. They wrote letters R’s and Ralph wonders if they were doing so to call him back, or because they knew he would eventually, come back. Ralph talks again about the spirit of the House. It either accepts you back or not. It’s not for you to decide that.

Vulture is briefing Ralph on Pompey and Wolf, the two deaths. A Pheasant has moved to the 4th (do you all think is Smoker?), the second is mourning, and Wolf died.

Ralph has a conversation with the principal, Shark. He took a two month leave but ended up being six months. Shark is upset about that. Shark tells Ralph that he has cancer. He asks him why Noble was taken by his mom, and Shark says she told him the atmosphere wasn’t a good one, she doesn’t trust them, and Noble is not doing well.

Ralph visits the residents at six. I have the feeling that the six are mentally unstable. They dress colorfully, but not as much as the Rats in two. The walls are gray,  They don’t have a leader, and they don’t seem to be choosing one after Pompey’s death. Ralph has the impression that, whatever happened to Ralph, all of them saw it.

Ralph spots a new fresh paint, no more than a month old. It has a triangle, and a cat. Ralph knows that the cat is Sphinx, and the triangle means Blind.

Ralph is interrogating Blind who sits without any intention of talking.  Finally Blind talks, and he says that Wolf died suddenly. That he went to sleep and next day he didn’t wake up. Ralph knows that what he is saying is somehow true, but he is also hiding something. Ralph is wondering how is it that they all know things, as when they all showed up the day Shadow died. How could they know that? Do they hear a bell? Ralph asks Blind what he thinks about Wolf’s death, and what Sphinx thinks. They were very attached. Yes they were, literally, by a steel cable. And Sphinx did not feel anything? Blind says no, he did not make any noise, he did not even know what was going on. So something was happening, Ralph asks. Blind did not like Wolf. Ralph asks a wrong question, he tells Blind if he is happy about Wolf’s death. Blind did not like Wolf, he may have even wished him disappeared, he is glad it was him and not other, but no, he is not glad that Wolf died. If Blind is very close to Sphinx, Sphinx must be Grasshopper.

Ralph says that Blind wouldn’t know anything about Pompey. Blind answers that he is wrong there, he knows about him, but he cannot talk. Blind tells Ralph that he is forgetting about someone, Noble. They don’t know about Noble, and Ralph doesn’t tell them. We know by the conversation between Ralph and Shark that his mother took him out of the house.

Ch 20: The beginning of this chapter is beautiful. I listened to it 4 times. It seriously reminded me to the song My Favorite Things, by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

Tabaqui and company talk to Blind after his visit with Ralph. They all want to know about Noble, but Blind doesn’t seem to know or want to talk. They seem anxious, as fearing for his life, but I have nothing else I concluded from this chapter.

Ch 21: Narration moves to Smoker, who is accusing Sphinx of living with his back to the world. There is a reference, I believe, to A Movable Feast. I have not read the book, but the title like that is mentioned. The way Smoker placed Sphinx cigarette makes me conclude, after many other clues, that he is Grasshopper (Sphinx cannot hold the cigarette in his hand).

They are arguing, Smoker is accusing Sphinx of he and friends being silly, playing games, and more, like what happened to Pompey. Only Black doesn’t mind talking about the outside. But Sphinx says that all of them have been in the house since they were six, and Smoker doesn’t understand.

Ch 22: Grasshopper describes the house, and his games like ‘look-y’, when he has to focus intently on looking . They sound as things Ancient would have asked him to do in his quest to become whole and powerful again.

That girl, Witch, finds Grasshopper outside, and she asks him for help delivering a letter. She wants to send the letter to someone outside her house, which is Moor’s, she wants to send it to someone in Skull’s group. She tells the name to Grasshopper in his ear, so we don’t know who he is, but the letter will go through Blind.  Witch knew Grasshopper will accept. Wolf is going to the Sepulcher for a couple of days. Grasshopper asks him if he wasn’t healed, but he is not.

Grasshopper continues his risky business of delivering the letters.

Ch. 23, which was included in the page count but not in the audio.

Ralph visits the pack. He is back, like he never left. He sat through the lesson. He was staring at them. He is impolite somehow, but the way he is scrutinizing them. He is described as wild, untamed, he is asking Smoker how he is doing in his new environment. No news on Noble.

The door is locked. They don’t know who may be inside the dorm, with the door locked. Tabaqui is the narrator. Sphinx, Alexander, Larry, and Humpback are there. They speculate if it could be Black killing himself. But it is not Black, it was Blind with a girl.

Blind was in Larry’s bed, making out with Long or Gaby (?). Girls come into place now. Tabaqui is glad it wasn’t his bed. Larry hates it. Gaby is purple in places. They describe Gaby as an ugly girl, but with good legs. Vulture was the one who facilitated the encounter. Tabaqui asks Blind how it was, Blind doesn’t feel anything, he says. Sphinx seems upset about the whole thing. They are all picking on Blind and the pitiful state of his linens.  Blind, as a leader, calls for a new law. Girls are permitted everywhere, they will visit each other, the way it was before, but the way it hasn’t been in a while, Tabaqui says.

Tabaqui is in the corridors when he sees a woman, her husband, a girl and a boy, brothers. He automatically likes the boy. His fingers and hands are different, long, not chubby. He hears the mother complain about her son, describe his behavior as impossible, criminal. Shark says that they are not a criminal record facility.  The mother realizes she went too far complaining about the things that happen when he is around (electronics that break). Shark says they only accepts children with disabilities, to which the mother answers that he has been epileptic since he is ten.

Tabaqui talks about how money will buy his entrance in the house. And his file will say he has something different or that he doesn’t have, as it is for others. (Now this gives us a clue to who is in the house. Children with disabilities, and it could be highly problematic and dangerous children or youngsters whose parents have money and don’t want them with them.)

The new boy called a dragon is Alexander, he seems to be epileptic, but he also seems to have something special. Sphinx tells him that if he wants to be there he has to follow the rules and not do any of what the mother claimed he was doing at home. He seems to have always belonged to the house, as if he had materialized.

Alexander says he did never break the rules. The only thing he did was, as he describes it, to chase their bad dreams. He gets close to them, and they don’t wake up without yells or screams.

Alexander took Tabaqui outside, where he wanted to go while raining, but he found him soaked and wet. When he dries up, he asks the ones in his pack for a ladder. He wants to paint a dragon. He has a stone that looks like the eye of Noble, and he paints lilies -they represent Noble, and adds it to the dragon painting. The pack finds Tabaqui drawing the dragon, and they are all drunk, but not Tabaqui.

He goes back to the dorm, and all of them are sleeping their hangover. Tabaqui finds a clock that he smashes because it wakes him up. Sphinx noticed what Tabaqui had painted. There’s Humpback, Baby, hugging their Chinese red lamp, Alexander, and Sphinx.


I found this photographer, Karen Johnson, and the pictures are from a series she shot at a hospital. I found it very interesting to read, and the pictures are as haunting as the reading was this week.

89 thoughts on “The Gray House, Week 4

  1. Talk about invading universes. This came up today on our local station as I was driving to work:

    MIT is closing an unruly building, “the place they call “Haus.””
    “Past residents — and some established artists like Shantell Martin — have painted a museum’s worth of murals in bedrooms and corridors.”
    “House rules also allowed for cats and for smoking indoors.”

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  2. Thanks for kicking off another week, Silvia. So much great stuff in these chapters. I hope I can put some thoughts together soon.

    Thought I’d let you know that you are a chapter off from the schedule – which is okay with me, just wanted to mention it in case it affects your future chapter divisions. The Pompey chapter was scheduled for last week and the last chapter for this week should be Tabaqui: Day the Second. We get a glimpse of Alexander in that chapter, but his big chapter isn’t until next week. I am bursting to talk about him. His Scarlet Dragon chapter is incredible. So, I suppose saving Day the Second for next week would allow us to talk about Alexander all at once!


    1. I noticed that when I got the book. The page count is ahead from the audio by one chapter. I can totally move the first chapter from next week here, as I did with week 5, when I added the first audio chapter for week 6.

      Next week the audio will be fixed to the pages.


    2. I have added an additional post with ch 23, and updated the schedule. I have repeated ch 23 in week 5 too. After that, both audio and page count are synchronized again.


      1. Oh, Katie, you didn’t. I noticed the mistake last week, then I got the book, and I still had no idea how to solve it, until this morning a possible solution came to me. I just thought to post ch 23 independently, in case someone was following the old audio schedule.
        The audio has two or three cuts that are just announcements of the end of the CD or book, and they messed up my count.


  3. I’m glad you mentioned the photograph, because I was beginning to think you were at the Grey House taking pictures. Every one of your photos for this discussion has been perfect!

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  4. Ralph brings a whole other element to this book. It is the first time we are seeing through the eyes of an adult – a presumably fully functioning, rational adult. It turns the story on its head a bit. I’m still trying to figure him out – figure out exactly what he’s like. His presentation of himself is different from how the residents see him. In Part One, we got a couple glimpses of him before we knew he would make a significant appearance. My first encounter conjured distrust toward the character. We meet him when Grasshopper sees everyone returning to the House, during his first summer:

    The boy looked and saw Elk standing there with a man in black trousers and a black turtleneck…….
    He (Grasshopper) pressed against Elk and purred contentedly. The man in black was looking sarcastically from under the bushy eyebrows.
    “What’s this, Elk? Another trusting soul? When did that happen?”
    Elk frowned but did not answer.
    “Joking,” the man in black said. “I’m sorry, old man. It was just a joke.”
    He strolled off.
    “Who was that?” Grasshopper asked quietly.
    “One of the counselors. He went to the resort with the guy,” Elk said distractedly. “Black Ralph. Also R One.”
    “Are there others like him? Two, Three, and Four?”
    “No. There aren’t any. It’s just that he’s called that for some reason.”
    “He’s got a silly face,” Grasshopper said. “If I were him I’d grow a beard to hide behind.”
    Elk laughed.

    Rereading this now that I’ve gotten to know him a little bit, it doesn’t strike me as darkly as it originally did. Maybe working in this environment has just made him cynical. That’s more than understandable, and maybe an understatement! But the way he talks to Elk, it just nudges me and makes my mind uneasy. “Another trusting soul.” Is there a reason not to trust Elk? Does Ralph know something concerning about Elk? Do Ralph and Elk not have a good relationship? (We know now that Ralph thought Elk was naive about the juniors, so they didn’t see eye to eye). Was it really just a joke? Off the cuff small talk about one more unfortunate kid fated to live their life in this house – more or less given up by his family. Maybe he’s referring to the fact that Grasshopper is an innocent child, but he will be forced by his experiences to become like the Seniors. Maybe I am just reading way to much into this small exchange!

    Tabaqui refers to Ralph as their Darth Vader. So he wears black, and apparently has always worn black. What else makes him like Darth Vader?

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    1. I am so glad you took the time to write Ralph’s first appearance when Sphinx was Grasshopper.
      I remember the being called R1 and Darth Vader, and the walls with that name. He doesn’t like that name, Ralph, because it is not even his name.
      Just now I am thinking that when we say R1 it sounds like “are one”, as in “we are one”. This week I can tell you that when Ralph sees the triangle and cat drawn in the wall, he knows the cat is Sphinx -as a sphinx cat, or the Egyptians who have the Sphinx and loved cats, and the triangle Blind, and all the symbolism it has.


    2. I think that what Ralph was trying to say (by turning it into a clumsy joke) is that the kids brought into the House by Elk have an absolute trust and an almost godlike esteem for him, and Ralph finds this unhealthy. We’ll get a bit more about this in the third book and in the epilogue.

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      1. Yes, Blind considered Elk a god, he took care of Grasshopper because Elk asked him, not because he wanted (since he kept being bullied, and both were bullied longer for being two).
        Also, it seems like Elk was with the children since little -Blind, Elephant, the Siamese, etc, in a place before the House?, or in an area for little ones even younger than the juniors?, before they went to the rooms -could those be orphans?


      2. That makes a lot of sense. Ralph definitely seems a bit critical of Elk and his trusting soul comment was a little jab.

        Wasn’t it just Blind who was in a previous house with Elk, and then they came together to The Gray House? It sure seems like Blind must be an orphan, or at least completely abandoned. How else could he have moved houses with Elk? I still want to know more about their relationship. Why was Elk brought in for blind? Did he just know how to work with blind children? Teach them braille and such? Or did it have to do with other handicaps Blind may have – like emotional or psychological handicaps?

        I like your “are one” comment. Interesting thought. I wonder if it means anything. There are not many people in the House who have real names. I wonder what the significance of Ralph’s name is to whomever named him.

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    3. With Blind, it looks to me like he was in an institution for blind and legally blind children in the same town, but as time went on, he was becoming more and more troublesome, so they called Elk in his capacity as a psychologist/specialist, for a consultation. Elk understood that there wasn’t anything he could do to make Blind better adapt to that place, and arranged for Blind to be transferred to the House (which, I think Silvia’s right by reading that into the story of Alexander – “others who are written up for something completely different from what they have”, was a kind of dumping ground for misfits).

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      1. Ah, that makes sense. I haven’t read the pages about Blind’s early life for a long time. Now I’m remembering some of that.

        I love hearing about Alexander. It seems to me that NOTHING is wrong with him. I don’t remember hearing anything else about epilepsy since he’s been in the House. The mother says he is epileptic, but is he? Or is he totally normal? She could very well be lying to get rid of him. (Except it does seem that he has some amount of supernatural ability – maybe? – or is that a matter of perception). To me it seems that he’s a normal child with a traumatic, abusive childhood, who’s been dumped at the house. Except that he wants to be there to escape his previous life, I would find that maddening. I feel panicky and claustrophobic just thinking about it. It is highly disturbing, especially considering that he may not be the only “normal” kid in the House.

        This family reminds me of the Dursleys.

        I continue to try to tie current residents to their past selves. Vulture must be Siamese. He had a twin who died. I’m wondering if Shuffle was Magician.

        When I’m feeling up to it, I want to grab my book and look more closely at Ralph’s chapter. It is crammed full of things to talk about!

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      2. Their dreams point to abusive pasts, and the rules. There’s some retaliation there, gangs and violence. I see that there’s a difficult combination of mental and physical disabilities, and we heard about the yellow, red, and blue, remember? Some are suicidal, some may have a psychosis that makes them violent. It’s hard to tell at this point.
        I still think Alexander, from his abusive upbringing, is bringing something to the house that is causing trouble. Whether is drugs, or his supernatural abilities, he has the ability of making their bad dreams disappear. Wolf death looks to me like an overdose. Remember when Noble took Moon and ‘disappeared for months’, was he in a detox, did he try to kill himself?, and Wolf? why did he tie himself to Sphinx, as to protect himself from running away?, or for Sphinx to have some control of him while he had taken pills or something?
        Alexander’s grandfather was even tried, what for? Skin heads knocked on Alexander’s mom’s home? They took him to the Temple (it looks to me that, because of his epilepsy, they thought he was demon possessed). Alexander regrets having fallen for Wolf’s extension of friendship. Wolf was his mistake. Wolf wanted to get rid of Blind. Alexander had a secret (his trafficking?), could he have given Wolf a careless dose of something?, was it unintentional, or a careless mistake? He was glad not to have to do that for Wolf, of getting rid of Blind (not killing, but kicking him off the house -which I don’t know how he could have done).
        These children grow up and they are not fit to come back to society. I don’t even know where they’d be sent after 18, for the House seems to have that age limit.
        There were investigations, but we don’t hear anything about it, the House is not under vigilance, nobody seems to leave to be tried, it’s as if those who die, by killing themselves or by being killed, are nobody’s business, so nothing is done.


      3. Something that stood out to me when Alexander’s family brought him in was Shark said it was a home for physically disabled, yet it seems pretty clear that there are a lot of unstable residents. We’ve talked on and off about psych issues. And you brought up the color coding in the Sepulcher. We don’t even know what the other colors are for. You mentioned in your narration that House Six seems mentally unstable. Looking through Ralph’s eyes, it’s easy to see the strangeness of so many residents and groups. Some residents are marked as insensible in the opening list.

        Regarding Alexander, I did not pick up on anything having to do with drugs. Curious what has you thinking in that direction. I haven’t gone back over any of the text for this week, so I know I’m missing a lot right now. And we are just barely introduced to Alexander this week. Next week is the chapter about his past. (And I would like to read The Martian short story, since Yuri mentioned it. I read the synopsis, so I understand the connection a bit, but gonna see if I can find the story). Maybe you are picking up on some things that I haven’t gotten to yet, or maybe I totally missed the clues – which is more than likely considering the current state of my brain! Some of your questions about Alexander’s past are in next week’s reading, so I don’t want to throw spoilers out there for anyone who hasn’t read past this week, but wanted to say that it took me some slow and close reading to realize that his grandpa was a cult leader and Alexander was his “angel.” Did you catch that? So these followers with the shaved heads, did it say there were four dozen or something, sorta worshiped Alexander, or at least sought him out for miracles. He was like a religious icon – or maybe a person can’t be an icon, but you know what I mean? In light of that pared with the way it talks about him taking away bad dreams and taking pain out of their bodies with his hands, I think he does have some legitimate supernatural powers, but I think they are subtle, you know? So, his parents gave him to his grandpa, maybe because he had weird powers,and his grandpa exploited him and was eventually indicted for something having to do with this cult. And Alexander and Wolf – woah – I really want to talk about that… week.

        Do you think Wolf was physically tied to Sphinx? I wasn’t sure if it was literal or figurative. Again, I will have to have another read when I can.

        There’s so many more things in your last post that I want to reply to, but alas, my mind is about at its limit for now. Sigh. Little by little. 🙂

        Also, yes, I do think the Pheasant Vulture talks about is Smoker. Smoker must have come right after Ralph left.

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      1. I have his Martian Chronicles. I will be reading that story in the collection.
        I read the short Borges, and I am enjoying your Omon Ra, Yuri.


      2. Awesome!! Thanks, Yuri! I feel a Bradbury kick coming on. I really connected with him in high school, but then I just never revisited him. I also want to read Dandelion Wine at your recommendation, Silvia. I need to not talk to book people. It makes my impossible reading list all the longer……but I love it!

        I don’t know if it was intentional on Mariam’s part, or just because Bradbury has been mentioned in discussion, but the whole thing with the Tube in Alexander’s story made me think of Fahrenheit 451.

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    4. You’re welcome! BTW, Mariam herself knows English at a “college ESL” level, and actually reading it is more of a chore than enjoyment, but she told me (proudly) that she’s read one book from start to finish by herself, and that was “Dandelion Wine”.
      (and in honor of “451” I’ve borrowed a turn of phrase from it, “electronic ocean of sound” – Bradbury uses it to describe Montag’s wife with her earpieces, and I gave it to Rats with their constantly-on Walkmans)

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      1. That was AMAZING.

        First lines from the book I heard, Smoker, On Certain Advantages of Training Footwear, and it just hit me, boom, Dandelion Wine!

        What a fortunate coincidence to have read DW not so long ago to have felt its tone and poetry in Mariam’s book.

        I read DW last year and I recommended it to Sherry, who, in turn, sent me this you see here,

        We need to send Mariam Ticonderoga pencils, *or do you have them in Russia, Yuri? -does she live in Russia or Armenia?, -does she say? -maybe that’s private.


      2. Love your Small Things post. Such a good reminder to me.

        This morning I had an email from Audible telling me that if I used three credits this weekend, they would give me $10. Do you know the first thing I saw when I opened the store page? Dandelion Wine. Right there on the homepage. I have not searched for the book on Audible or Amazon or anywhere. I have not searched for any Bradbury. Kismet. I love it when things like that happen.

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    5. I had a hard time getting thru/past the Ralph chapter, the first time through. It was such a break from both of the other time streams/stories, it felt so very different, and I didn’t want to read it. I really wanted to get back to the Grasshopper streams, they were my favorite, first time through.

      The second time through, the Ralph chapter seemed so very important. It seemed to explain so much, and tie so many things together. It didn’t seem like a separate, disjointed, jarring interruption to the storyliines, but rather an important, integral one.

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      1. I have only read the book once, but I felt like you, I was totally immersed in the Grasshopper streams. But I listened to the Ralph chapter more than once, to get more from it. It seemed to be the more “objective”, or the one written from an adult pov. But I love that the more I think I know about the house, the more I realize I don’t know anything, ala Socrates, hahahaha. I am being tempted to read it again with all of you pretty seriously. I may announce another book club in November.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. If you do, I’m in!
        I can’t guarantee to keep up with the schedule tho. My life is fairly hectic/chaotic atm, and I only have 1 given day off per week.

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    6. I have read/listened to the book twice, and I’m still trying to figure Ralph out.

      Based on comments you all have made here, I was inspired to read The Jungle Book(s) (both of them, plus a modern ‘third’), and The Lord of the Flies (how did I never read that!?), before starting my much-looked-forward-to third reading, of the physical book, this time. I have only just picked up The Lord of the Flies from the library this Saturday, so it’ll be awhile before I can read it, but I was startled to find out one of the main characters was called “Ralph”.

      I wonder …. do the characters have anything in common? Having not read a bit of LOTF beyond the free kindle teaser, I have no idea.

      E.M. Forster’s preface to the 50th anniversary edition of the LOTF says of the Ralph character in that novel —

      “Ralph is aged a little over twelve. He is fair and well built, might grow into a boxer but never into a devil, for he is sunny and decent, sensible, considerate. He doesn’t understand a lot, but has two things clear: firstly, they will soon be rescued—why, his daddy is in the Navy!—and secondly, until they are rescued they must hang together. It is he who finds the conch and arranges that when there is a meeting he who holds the conch shall speak. He is chosen as leader. He is democracy. And as long as the conch remains, there is some semblance of cooperation. But it gets smashed.”

      Made me go, ‘hmmmmmm’ …. ?


  5. I too have to ponder all the other correlations you are finding with juniors and seniors. I agree with Vulture – Siamese, and Magician.

    Don’t be too convinced of my theory. Now that you mentioned it, yes, he was called his Angel. It may have been a cult, and his grandpa was making money out of it. Electronics etc. stopped working, and those shaved heads (instead of skin heads they can be Hare Krishna people. I went with the drug explanation because of a reference to something Alexander passed them in the sinks, or something he had in his pocket… it is unclear. I think I am mixing up next week with this, yes, I am, this week only had his showing up at the house.

    I know that there is a secret that low key servant by choice Alexander has, and Wolf, caught up on it. The chain was real, I believe. Do you all remember how Grasshopper (Sphinx) was told to make Wolf do what they were asking him to do, follow his treatment?


    1. That bit with Wolf and Alexander, I have so many questions, but I will save them for next week! I love Alexander. He is my new favorite. I really want to explore the relationship between Sphinx and Wolf. Hopefully I can spend some time reviewing the book this weekend.

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      1. But please, take care of yourself, Katie. I want all of us to keep enjoying this, not to feel out of breath, or pressured.
        I listen to GH or read as I can… right now I started some of week 6, and put it down because, again, I am sprinting without YOU, and I think I already messed up here by advancing information, sigh.

        I’m getting into yet another part of the book seemingly unrelated (I know it is related, but she opened a new line). By now, I think I am used to her invitation to accumulate information on the residents, and then put it away for later.

        I know she will wrap up much, but right now, I am walking in darkness, and I have not adjusted to it in full.

        My favorite part of this book club, is when you bring up some pieces in the past that gain clarity when considered side to side with the present time. It is a great challenge for the reader, to try to tie in new information with past one. That in turn, makes us come up with new explanations, and we change with them.

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      2. Thanks, I will. I am blessed to have a husband who does double duty when I’m not well. So, I’m really not doing much other than sitting around. That would be much more tolerable if I could read and think all day, but the frustrating part about things like chronic fatigue syndrome is that it totally messes with the brain – clarity, memory, neurotransmitters all go nuts – not just the body. But I am in good hands, both with my family and with God. And I have felt slightly better yesterday and this morning, so I’m trying to be hopeful that I am moving in the right direction.

        I don’t think you’ve given away any information. There’s so many bits and pieces and mysteries that it doesn’t matter to me if I get a strange little detail about an upcoming chapter.

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  6. This is fun. All of the sudden, I get flooded with new and intriguing lines, full of insinuations and direct information, all of it in a peculiar mix. I don’t want to consume that too fast. I want to enjoy it, and think at every step, or I will be given solutions unprepared though, with enough of the book to savor them.

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  7. Mariam lives in Yerevan (they’ve only spent a couple of years in Moscow when the war was really bad, and came back when it abated); BTW, in the house that is half museum of her great-grandfather Martiros Saryan (an amazing character himself, a state-approved and -recognized impressionistic painter, among all the “Socialist Realism” artists that were the norm in Soviet days), on the street of his name. She and her husband are both graphic artists, so I would imagine that in the pencil department they are stocked, but I’m planning to visit her in November and can pass on something if you would feel like it.

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  8. Oh wow! Fascinating discussion! 🙂 I wasn’t able to write down everything that jumped out to me, but here is what I have. The lists of the nicks was interesting to me…it took me awhile to figure out that the Bold were the Striders and there are very few of them? Sleepy, Blind, Sphinx, Tabaqui, and Red? The names in Parenthesis were Jumpers…I’m still murky on all of that…and Legend, an actual legend or a name/nick?

    Ralph – a spider
    Elk murdered by the denizens? big “to-do” surround that graduation in which Elk died?

    R on Graffiti is for Ralph
    House seems to have a spirit or essence on p. 229

    a counselor sacrificed before each graduation?
    why haven’t the Hounds replaced Pompey they leader?

    Love the part about Tabaqui’s likes/who he is…so poetic and I felt like I could identify with a lot of it!

    This jumped out at me: “Blind has a well-developed sense of duty,” Sphinx says by way of response.
    p. 249 (to the point of killing Pompey?)

    “Your thoughts now smell different than your words. It’s so obvious.” p. 270 (love that phrase)

    Witch and Blind – I wasn’t clear on how Blind read the letter?

    “This is the way art is suppressed nowadays.” Stinker sighed. “I only poured my entire heart into that goblin.” “That much is obvious, ” Humpback said. ” Your black soul is right there for everyone to see.” (ha.)

    I thought Wolf’s knight play acting was hilarious!

    That’s all the things I jotted down unfortunately, but I was fascinated by Ralph’s thoughts, The Aphid chapter I was VERY lost LOL!

    Is there more swearing, drinking/drugs?,and sexual thoughts because we are seeing them older? There was very little swearing in the beginning of this book.

    The Alexander part…wow. I felt his anguish and the abuse through the writing so clearly. Can you imagine how confusing and how messed up in your mind one could become through abuse? So heart-wrenching.

    I’m sure there is so much I’m missing because I stopped writing things down.

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    1. You and Silvia both mentioned liking the opening of Tabaqui’s chapter. Me too. It fills out his character, giving him so much more depth in my eyes. More humanity. It’s endearing.

      In the earlier chapters, I saw Tabaqui largely as this high-energy, mischievous, kinda crazy, guy. But this chapter introduces us to someone who is also quiet and thoughtful and insightful and loving.

      “I like being really loved and being everyone’s last hope.” ❤

      Has anyone read the Carroll poem that is the epigraph in his chapters? I have been meaning to, but haven't. I don't have any insights to its significance right now.

      Amy, about the letter from Witch: I could be wrong – I haven't looked back in the book – but I think Blind was just supposed to pass it on to Skull.

      The cursing stood out to me in this week's too – or actually mostly in the beginning of next week's. It made me realize that there has been very little thus far and this was a shift. Actually, Ralph mentions that there is an increase of curse words on the walls when they hit adolescence, and when I read that, I thought that it was interesting that we are told that, but we haven't hear much of it in their conversations. It made an impression on me with Alexander's grandfather and Wolf, and I think that is intentional. The words were used in an oppressive manner toward Alexander.

      About the Aphid chapter: the first thing I noticed is that it is Smoker's chapter, but he's no longer narrating. Since choosing Black, he is sorta receding into the background. What makes you feel lost, Amy? Is it the topic of conversation between Smoker and Sphinx? Or what happens at the end with Black? Or something else? I keep saying this lately, but I need to go back and look over the chapter to remember all the specifics. I think it is heavily occupied with the perception/reality theme.

      And, yes, Alexander. ❤ ❤ ❤

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      1. Sylvia wrote: Has anyone read the Carroll poem that is the epigraph in his chapters? I have been meaning to, but haven’t. I don’t have any insights to its significance right now.

        I have, I read it (and 3 Jungle Books, and LOTR, and Peter and Wendy!), solely b/c of this book :D. It’s silly, lovely, fun, quick, a treat. It MUST have significance, it’s so prominent in the book, but I couldn’t say what it is. I picked up an audible/kindle whispersync. I think the kindle was free, and the audible was nominal – under a buck, perhaps.


    2. Jumpers and Striders: the table is describing the situation with these abilities at the point in the narrative where it’s inserted (beginning of Book Two); Noble “upgrades” to a Strider during the last year, and one more character becomes a Jumper (or realizes he’s been one).
      Also (this is not in the book, but from Mariam’s answer to my question), Wolf was a Jumper, but a “forgetful” one, that is, he never remembered anything about himself when on the Other Side, and never remembered anything about what happened to him there when he returned (unlike Sphinx, who still has nightmares featuring his life on the Other Side, or Noble – who later will retell the entire story of his Jump after taking Moon River).

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    1. You know, I thought the Witch character was such a rich, interesting one. I was hoping to hear more about her, but we never did.

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  9. Amy, I read your comment and I had to leave, but Katie told you. I also got confused when Witch talked to Grasshopper, but finally I understood what the deal is. Grasshopper at this point, I am not sure how much he can do without his arms (or with his prosthetic ones), so she puts the letter in his pocket, and Blind gives it to Skull. Witch is, I believe, a Moor’s girl, and it means they cannot have contact with another pack? It is risky, I get, for Grasshopper to facilitate this correspondence.

    The neat thing about the book is that, the more you re-read parts, and the more you discuss it among others, or with yourself, -grin, the more familiar we become with it, and it gets clearer in some aspects, but not completely, since much in it is opened to interpretation.

    As for memory, since I’m reading ahead, the talk here on previous sections helps me with things to come.

    At any time, keep asking questions. It’s fun to think about those together.

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  10. Things that stand out to me in Ralph’s Graffiti chapter:

    I wonder how Ralph feels about his life at the House and his life in general. He strikes me as the kind of person who, in his younger days, had big dreams and ideas about making a difference in the world, but time and experience have left him beaten down, discouraged, cynical.

    He says, “Thirteen years. Enough time to blaze a trail, had the floorboards underfoot been something else, had they been earth and grass. A wide and permanent trail. His own. Like a deer might make. Or an….” He breaks off A what? An ELK?

    Is he disappointed with his choice of vocation? The location of his vocation? His inability to affect change? Does he feel like a failure? At this point, he seems very fatalistic. He doesn’t come back to try to make a difference. It seems he comes back because he couldn’t resist it. Partly like a bad car accident you can’t help but gawk at, partly like the Siren song of the residents irresistibly calling him back. He wants to see the awful and inevitable conclusion to something that is already in motion and can’t be altered.

    I found this appallingly delicious: “The House had been saturated with sticky horror, making Ralph gasp in its noxious fumes.” Whew! I mean, really. Ralph has been witness to – I don’t even know what all – but, really bad stuff – and not just Elk’s murder. No wonder he ran. Even if he didn’t fear for his life – the trauma of events and the knowledge that children have done these things and will continue to do these things – how could he not run? And I’m sure I am only grasping a portion of his experience.

    Do you notice how Ralph keeps referring to the residents as “they”, in italics. This chapter in general gives me an us v. them vibe – the “other.” Ralph perpetuates it with the way he talks about the residents; the residents perpetuate it in the way they view the Outsides.

    The windows that have been boarded up – a symbol of the resident’s fear of – and even denial of – the Outsides. This piece of information furthers the idea that the residents are maladjusted and creating their own reality. It also suggests an honest fear of what their life will be once they reach adulthood. When I put myself in their shoes, I realize how terrifying the prospect of leaving really would be. They’ve lived their lives in this place, separated from the rest of the world. They know they are different, and I’m sure they know that the world can be a hostile place. Presumably, they haven’t been taught how to interact with and be a part of the rest of the world. They have been abandoned by the people who are supposed to love and care for them unconditionally. In the House, they have made their own families; their own safe places. This is their world; it’s all they know and they know it intimately. It should not be surprising that the unknown world and the looming future provoke anxiety. Anxiety even to the point of killing is shocking, but in a place full of children who are largely left to their own devices, it’s believable.

    And Wolf. You know how Vulture’s leg started hurting when he was talking to Ralph? It was right when Wolf was mentioned in their conversation. We’ve already seen glimpses that Wolf is somehow still with them, even though he died. Do you think Wolf was supernaturally hurting Vulture to put an end to the conversation? Or do you think Vulture was using it as an opportunity to not have to talk about Wolf?
    What do you make of what Ralph says here: “Wolf had been one of those who’d changed reality around them. One of the strongest in that regard. A potential challenger.” A challenger to what? I know we’ll get more pieces to the puzzle and hear more about how they changed reality, but does anyone have any insight at this point? Was it the Poxy Sissies who changed reality? We know the Seniors already had their games and the Juniors followed in their footsteps, but what is different about the young ones? Does it have to do with the intimacy they have with the House? Like how they combed all the records in the basement, for instance? Was that in this week, or am I getting ahead of myself?

    Ralph calls the Third and the Fourth the strangest and most dangerous. What makes the Fourth the most dangerous? I mean, we love them, right? Is it Blind? There is something not right, but I can’t put my finger on why they are the most dangerous, especially considering the aggression of the Sixth. Is their threat not necessarily of a violent nature – though we see Blind kill Pompey without hesitation. In general, they don’t seem violent. Why are they so dangerous? Because of their alternate reality? Are they the perpetuators of delusion and myth throughout the whole House? Their pack was originally formed because they wanted relief from violence, from bullying. They created their pack as a safe place. But I have not forgotten this passage, it stood out to me at the time as important for the future: Blind says (p 67), ” Think how we’re stronger than they are. And they are only more numerous than we are. One day, when we grow up, they are going to regret ever picking on us.” Could this be why they are dangerous? This is long before the formation of the Poxy Sissies. This is just Blind and Grasshopper. Is there an element of revenge, or is this just a pep talk between two downtrodden misfits?

    Alright. That’s it from me for the moment, but I will try to finish my observations on this chapter tomorrow. Happy Saturday, Everybody!


    1. The place where Ralph breaks off is indeed when he thought of elk and, consequently, of Elk (I asked).
      But my understanding of the reasons of his running away from the House is not because of danger or trauma; he says that as the “squirts” of the “past” chapters started growing, he started noticing that they were subtly changing reality. At first he understood it as a kind of game that he, after spending some time learning it, could participate in, but it still wasn’t “real”, not in a sense that an undifferent observer would notice. And then “this invisible world was not immune to incursions from other, completely random people. There could be only one explanation: this world came to exist on its own, or was on the threshold of existence” – that is, the changes were actually occurring, he didn’t just share a common delusion with the kids. That’s what had frightened him – so, their dangerousness (to him) comes from that (just as he was alone to have understood the dangerousness of the blacked-out windows).
      As for “potential challenger” – I think he meant to Blind, in his position as master of the House; “Wolf’s innermost wish was no secret from anyone”, Alexander said – to throw Blind out and assume his place.
      Which, as we keep being led to, is something that is absolutely impossible – Blind _is_ the House, in a sense. That’s why Pompey had to die; all their attempts to explain this to him, to get him to back off (“He’s an idiot! That is too a reason!”) failed, he still went ahead with his challenge.

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      1. You’re right. Ralph tells us straight out that he didn’t run because of the sense of danger. Coming back, he doesn’t fear being hurt. I feel a sense of horror from him, but it’s a horror of something rather intangible. Like you say, how they were subtly changing the House. And I think Ralph feels alone. Even Elk didn’t take his concerns seriously. He gave up trying to speak to the other counselors about it. So, he is witness to these concerning subtleties, and no one else sees.

        That makes sense that Wolf was a challenger to Blind. I didn’t catch that. If nothing else, he certainly became a rival for Grasshopper’s loyalty. When Wolf was with Alexander, I didn’t understand what Wolf’s innermost wish was, and I didn’t know what he was asking of Alexander. I know we’re not there yet for this week, so I won’t say more about that for now…..

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      2. So that which started as their game is now being fostered by others who may be taking advantage of the kids? Has someone from outside noticed these neglected kids and found them the perfect candidates for their evil purposes?


      3. Silvia, I was wondering who the “completely random people” was referring to. It made me think of that guy, I don’t remember his name, in Sphinx’s nightmare. Where did that guy come from and are there other people, not of the House with whom the residents interact? Or was he of the House long ago? I never thought about the possibility that some of the residents could be encountering actual people from the Outside. I guess it depends on how we view the Underside. If it’s paranormal, then perhaps these random people are spawned in this alternate reality. We know the residents are changing things with their games. If the Underside is a pretend world and some of them actually leave the property at night, your guesses make a lot of sense.

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      4. Ahhh, I didn’t see that Wolf’s innermost wish was to usurp Blind. Makes sense!
        In that line of Alexander’s, I had thought he was saying Wolf’s innermost wish was to die (because of his past suicide attempts, weren’t there two?).


      5. Yuri wrote: Which, as we keep being led to, is something that is absolutely impossible – Blind _is_ the House, in a sense. That’s why Pompey had to die; all their attempts to explain this to him, to get him to back off (“He’s an idiot! That is too a reason!”) failed, he still went ahead with his challenge.

        That’s interesting. Hm, another angle to consider. I had just come to the decision (having just read The Jungle Book 1, The Second Jungle Book, and the Third Jungle Book (whose reading was inspired by The Gray House, and Sylvia’s book club’s commentors’ comments :D), that the reason Pompey ‘had’ to die, was because of the Law. A Pack can have only one Leader, a Leader challenged must win, or die … and the same for the challenger. Simple ‘Law of the Jungle’, taught to me by Akela, the wise wolf Leader of the Seoonee Pack :).

        But …. hm, yes, Blind sort of IS the House, isn’t he?

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    2. (and the reason I had to ask if it was elk he was thinking about is because I needed to know if the word she had in mind started with a vowel or not, to correctly put “a” or “an” there – there are no articles in Russian)

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    3. I think they are dangerous because they change the rules… in a way, they do change reality. Even if the supernatural elements aren’t real, they still change the society of the house, instead of forcing themselves into their given roles. That makes them both powerful and unpredictable.


  11. Katie, a wonderful study of Ralph. I loved it. So Ralph was thinking about Elk for sure.

    You know, I haven’t forgotten that passage about Blind either.

    A few things, the summer Elk, Wolf, Blind, and Grasshopper spent by themselves. What was Elk trying to do? It seems to me that he was trying for these three youngsters to not fall in the path of the seniors. Wolf met Grasshopper at the Sanctuary, he knew a bit of what was going on at the House, but Grasshopper did not know about him. When Grasshopper comes back to the House, he wants to show Blind his affection, but Blind doesn’t openly acknowledge to Grasshopper that he missed him too. When they become the poxy sissies, Grasshopper paints something in relief for Blind to touch it. But ever since, we see Grasshopper and Wolf ‘tied together’, at the moment of death that’s what is said, they were attached by a steel cable. And then what Yuri reminds us that we got to know when Ralph questions Blind. That Blind didn’t like Wolf, but Wolf died before Blind could know that he had commissioned Alexander to make him disappear.

    I think this will come later, (or has it already come up, in a flashback, Max and Rex, the twins, and one is hurt by Lame because he was hurting a cat… one of the twins dies, the other must be Vulture.

    However, what has already come up is the fact that some of the people are not seen by all of them? viz, Wolf.

    So, whatever is going on with Elk, Blind, Sphinx, Wolf, the House itself, that is at the heart of all that is going on with the House and its denizens (that’s such a super fun new word for me).

    Oh, why did Shark tell Ralph that it was two months and he took six instead? There’s one part when Mariam describes the personnel as completely detached, as in the evening, after they had finished work, they locked the house and left, pretending that the House didn’t exist, or something like that.

    Why would a grown up like Ralph come back to a place where people have been killed?, among them, counselors like himself? However, the children seem to respect Ralph, and they ask him about Noble. They know he knows. Why does Noble never talk about his stay outside of the House?

    Why did a kid like Grasshopper had to go to the House? If he was six or so?, he had been living with his mom until then, what was the reason why he could not continue living at home?


    1. I love your perception that Elk was trying to widen the children’s horizon’s that summer at the House. He’s an optimist and a humanist, I think. And Ralph thought he was foolish. But, how can you not try to believe the best for these broken children.

      When Wolf joins the group, I don’t feel like we get a clear picture of Blind’s feelings about the situation. Is he jealous? Is he annoyed that Grasshopper brought Wolf to the group? Like you said, Grasshopper wants to show him affection, but Blind doesn’t return any of it. Is it because of Wolf, or is it just Blind’s way? Do we ever see Blind with emotions? It seems that he functions merely mechanically. Maybe it’s just that he has attachment issues, so prevalent in orphans. He does things out of duty, but does he ever do things out of love? Did Blind dislike Wolf from the start or just over time?

      We will have to talk about Wolf and Alexander when it comes up next week – and I will need to reread it to see if I understand it more clearly – because I was seeing it a bit differently than you – though admittedly I was a bit confused.

      About Ralph coming back – he talks about it as though he had no choice, like the residents beckoned him and he came. There is a hint of determinism in this section, isn’t there?

      I think Shark was just complaining because Ralph had a two month leave from work, but he didn’t come back for six months. It’s interesting that Shark himself is talking of time in a distorted way when he tells Ralph that the past years had been kind to him – even though he was only gone 6 months. Ralph says “Six months is years now?” And Shark says “It is. In combat situations each month counts as a year. So, all in all, you’ve been AWOL for six years….”

      It is an interesting question about Grasshopper. He must have been unwanted, but I think we can only speculate as to why. We are told that his mother is beautiful and used to being the center of attention. Maybe she was a single mom and a child with disabilities cramped her style – if she was looking for a husband or was a social butterfly, it’s a lot harder when you have a child. Maybe, if she is physically perfect, her sons deformities were a source of torment for her – like she couldn’t stand the sight of him because she prized physical perfection. All I know is, in my book, she’s a bad woman. How in the world do you do that to your child?

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      1. In Russia, they have just put out an “extended” edition of the House, which restored some episodes that were cut during editing. There are big ones (in a couple we get to hear those who didn’t speak in their own voice – Noble, Humpback and Black), but also small ones, and one of these is the scene with Grasshopper, his mom and Elk in Elk’s office, before she leaves Grasshopper there. And we see that she’s basically thinking of him as completely helpless, unable to do anything for himself at all – she even cuts him off every time he tries answering Elk’s questions directed to him, speaking for him instead. So, while I don’t dispute that she’s not a candidate for Mother of the Year, it’s just that she has so firmly convinced herself that her son cannot function unless he receives constant professional help that the House could seem to her the only possible way to give it to him, in his best interest.

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      2. Wow, right now I also remembered that time distortion in the conversation between Ralph and Shark.

        Back to Elk. Is it possible that he had children who were not just disabled but sociopaths (or at least Blind?), or children who, because of their environment and the House, grow up, -as Ralph thinks-, to perpetuate that violence, those gang games which end up, as we saw, in deaths. But Elk may have thought that, by giving them love (like that summer), a group of them could grow to change the atmosphere to that of taking care of each other, instead of hurting each other?

        But maybe Elk did not know of other forces (that which Ralph sees that is in them, but it’s being fostered or corrupted, or complicated by ‘others’).


      3. Oh, how fascinating! I wish they hadn’t cut that scene. I think I’d still be judging her, though. LOL. As a mom, I simply can’t imagine doing that – just leaving him in the hands of other people and having little to no contact. It’s interesting what it says about her. Maybe she’s not the kind of person I painted her as. Despite the physical confidence she seems to carry, maybe she is insecure about her ability to mother and care for him. Perhaps her biggest fault is her own lack of confidence – disbelief that she is capable of being enough for him.

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      4. But she is answering for him too. See the contrast between her and Ancient, who seems to always care for Grasshopper. Some grown ups extend physical disabilities to mental and emotional disabilities… maybe the mom feared for others around them both to injure him and he not being able to defend himself. While little, what she did for her son must have been very similar to another mom of a little boy, but as he grew, she may have felt she couldn’t be with him at all times, and what better place than to be among others who also have disabilities, and where other grown ups care for the children. She may not know what we know about the House being a strange place.


      5. I don’t think I got the relationship between Wolf and Alexander quite well either. I’m surely looking forward to one of your great analysis of these two fascinating people.

        I now remember those intriguing exchanges about time between Ralph and Shark.


      6. Silvia, Blind does seem like a sociopath. I think that’s the word my brain has been dancing around. Actually, this morning I was trying to write my thoughts on the conversation between Blind and Ralph, and I was trying to put my finger on what Blind is. I will post it in a while. I didn’t get too far on it.

        I like where you are going with Elk. Elk sees these kids who need extra love and care, and he pours his life into them, and they take his life. They take his life even though they love him – or from Ralph’s perspective, they love him as well as they are capable of loving. Maybe it’s a commentary on the damage that abandonment and lack of bonding cause. It’s also a discouraging thought that a man who does everything he can to love them and improve their lives fails.

        We know a few families who have adopted children from Russia and China and we have heard about and seen attachment disorders and all the heartache that it causes the child and the family as they mature. In realistic terms, I think that is portrayed through some of these characters.

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      7. I also didn’t like that she left him at the House. I liked the boy Grasshopper, but I don’t know what’s happened between him and Sphinx.


      8. Katie said, “Do we ever see Blind with emotions?”

        We did when Grasshopper was in the Sepulcher. He sent a note to Grasshopper with the single word message, “miss”.

        The note sparked a conversation later between Grasshopper and Wolf, about Blind, in which Wolf seemed to indicate existing animosity between the two boys (Wolf and Blind).

        Liked by 1 person

  12. And true. The 3rd and 4th are the dangerous ones, not the 6th as I once thought. Blind is the leader of leaders, and he is in the fourth.

    Weren’t rumors once of Larry wanting to become leader in place of who?

    What’s the relationship between all this and the letters that Witch is sending to Skull through Grasshopper and Blind?


    1. I think Ralph meant that the third is the most strange and the fourth the most dangerous.

      I don’t remember Lary wanting to become the leader. He is the leader of the Bandar-Logs, but I don’t think he has further aspirations.

      And I think the letters are merely romantic in nature. I think Witch and Skull are together, but Moor can’t find out about it, so they have to have a middle man. Was that your impression? We don’t know exactly what happened to Moor at this point, but I wonder if he is defeated in an altercation having to do with this relationship.

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      1. I agree, the third is the most strange, the fourth the most dangerous, that’s how he describes them.

        You are right, it wasn’t Lary. It’s page 80 and 81, when they are drinking and it’s said that Lary would benefit by Pompey’s untimely death, and the rumors of a coup, and page 81 has the long legend that Tabaqui tells them, which it’s shortened by Pompey being after Blind’s position. I’m going to read it again.


      2. Do you think that was a joke, that Lary would benefit from Pompey’s death? I don’t understand why he would benefit. Because he’s a Bandar-Log and is always on the hunt for news to spread around?


  13. Good morning. I’m getting ready for church, but, are they vampires?, Wolf says he was one. Are some seniors who don’t live the House living in the Underside (underground), and dominating from there? (Remember, if Sphinx will be like Skull?, does that mean he will be a vampire?)

    Now I went from a realistic to a supernatural explanation again, hahaha.


    1. I hope it’s not vampires! lol. We have too many vampires in our culture. One vampire would be okay, but no more. 🙂 That’s an interesting thought, that some of them flee to the Underside after graduation. Need to get going to church as well, but I’ll be back. I want to talk about some of the other things you said.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I thought the same…vampires, hahaha.

        Can the Striders be those who voluntarily become ‘vampires’, or whatever they are, or those elected?, and jumpers those who are thrown to the Underside world?


      2. I think that with Lary and Pompey, Tabaqui meant that Lary had worked himself into such a mental lather over this coup, that once it’s over he’d be able to finally climb down from that. Remember how Smoker said that Lary was shaking all over, “You have any idea what kind of atmosphere is out there right now?”, but the pack didn’t allow him to vent properly.

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      3. Yeah, thanks for reminding us. Lary is a very anxious guy, with all his pimple problems. He doesn’t seem to be into all that’s going on with the guys at Sphinx and Blind’s dorm.


  14. What do you guys think about Ralph’s vision of Pompey’s death? I was surprised that he had that ability. Did it come from the energy of the residents of the Sixth? Like, somehow a glimpse of it it was transferred into his mind?

    “Ralph had seen enough to understand that whatever happened to Pompey, they were all there, the entire pack, and the memory of what they saw, the bitter taste of it still in their mouths, was poisoning their existence. He was now carrying their pain and their fear – of whom, he could not yet see. They were too closed, too resistant to his attempt to understand more fully.”

    Remember when Ralph sees the symbols on the wall that had been used for target practice? Sphinx, Blind, and Black. Why Black? He seems outside of his pack in so many ways. Why should he be a target? Because he is physically powerful? Do other packs not know that he is a black sheep in his own house?

    And then we get the conversation between Ralph and Blind.

    This time related observation stood out: “An emaciated figure with colorless eyes, faceless and devoid of a discernible age, like a drifter who had long forgotten the date of his birth. At the same time as he was standing up, he was also getting younger and younger with lightning speed, and when Ralph reached him he was met be a mere boy. Anyone would have written this off as a trick of light in a dimly lit corridor, a mirage that disappeared when seen up close. Anyone but Ralph.”

    Curious. How many times through the course of this book have we heard Blind described in strange terms – almost inhuman, ageless, one with the House…Now Silvia has put vampires in my head (noooo!!! Lol), and I start asking myself, is he a human being, or is he…..something else? Not a vampire or zombie, but something other worldly. In Eastern European tradition, I wonder, are there inhuman humans in their folk stories, like our vampires and zombies. May be barking up the wrong tree, but it’s an interesting thought….Maybe the strangeness of his ageless appearance simply has to do with him being one with the House.

    There seems to be a power struggle going on between Ralph and Blind. Maybe some animosity too. They wait each other out. Neither of them want to give more than absolutely necessary.

    This struck me as the most significant moment in their exchange: “Blind did not answer. As soon as Ralph made a motion toward him, Blind’s posture changed, dissolved in a deceptive softness. A familiar trick. Poor little House kids. This is precisely how some of them react to a perceived threat. And this is exactly when one has to be extra vigilant. Blind relaxed, but his eyes, those clear pools stapled to fair skin, froze. Turned into ice. A chilly, snakelike stare. Blind didn’t know how to hide it.”

    After Pompey’s death, Sphinx looks at Smoker in a similar manner:

    “You are a really fastidious person,” Sphinx said.
    I looked back.
    His stare was ice cold.
    “I’m not fastidious,” I said. “I’m normal. And you?”
    His eyes narrowed.
    “And I’m not.”
    No one had ever looked at me that way before. With such boundless loathing. Like he didn’t want to see me at all.
    “God,” he said. “You’re not worth half of his fingernail. You…”

    Who’s fingernail? I assumed Blind, but I’m not certain.

    I’m reading the part about the steel cable. It’s so strange. So the two were literally tied together? To keep Wolf from running away or something? All these years? Did Wolf still want to run away once he found a home with the Poxy Sissies? I know that Grasshopper assumed responsibility for Wolf the day he went in the Cage with him; was this cable part of the deal? Also, is it weird that the only times we hear about more than one person being in the Cage, it is with Wolf? I took the cable to be figurative, although I admit it is odd, and does read more easily if taken literally. I just thought of it as them being so in tune with each other – like how Ralph described the residents of the third coming to the Sepulcher the night Shadow died – like a sixth sense.


    1. Katie, I read this (and your other comments) many times. I love reading them as much as the book! Thanks for being so generous with quotes.
      Ralph saw what happened with the seniors before this generation, and I think he has learned to read the boys by their body language, their writings on the walls, and that sixth instinct he may have.
      Blind and Ralph’s exchange was so interesting. That age reference could be interpreted in different ways, it could mean that Blind is after all, a young man, but something in him shows age or ageless, and also in-humanness. I agree with you that he seems to be out worldly. Vampires, ha ha ha. I do think Wolf said, “I’m a vampire”, and it can be literal (non human, eternal being, ghostly being…), or someone who was receiving transfusions at the Sanctuary, who did not want them, and whom they tied to Grasshopper so that he’ll receive treatment.

      And whose fingernail? Why all that hatred between Sphinx and Smoker, because Smoker sees this as a Game, and is unwilling to participate in it?

      I also noticed that about Wolf, he is a mysterious character, in my opinion. What is the cage? Why is he there? After Pompey’s death, authorities went to investigate, but did they also investigate Wolf’s death? And why did Ralph tell Blind, you wouldn’t know anything about Pompey’s death, when he did, and he asked about Wolf’s death right away.

      I’m leaving to evening services, but these questions are going to stay with me for a long time for sure!


      1. Every exchange – all the way back to the mirror chapter – between Smoker and Sphinx is fascinating and engrossing. Philosophical. It’s hard to figure out exactly how Sphinx feels about Smoker. Clearly, he is frustrated by Smoker. But it seems like he is trying to help him – mentor him. At this point, I don’t know if Sphinx is delusional and Smoker should hold onto his independence, or if it would greatly benefit him to take Sphinx more seriously and start looking at things with a more open mind.

        Maybe Wolf’s death wasn’t investigated because there was a seemingly natural cause? We don’t know exactly what is wrong with Wolf. There is something wrong with his back, but that’s all I’ve gathered. Maybe there were other health issues that would have made his death seem reasonable. (And while Alexander feels responsible, did he really have anything to do with it, or was it coincidence)?

        If Ralph hadn’t gotten fed up with Blind, I wonder if he would have interrogated him about Pompey in the same way he did Wolf. I think Ralph was saying to Blind, you told me nothing about Wolf, so I expect the same will be true if I ask you about Pompey, so I’m not going to waste my time.

        Liked by 3 people

  15. And I’ve been meaning to ask, what is the significance of the whitish spot on the floor in the aphid chapter? “Sphinx walks quickly. At the entrance to the hallways he stops and lets his eyes find the familiar whitish spot on the floorboards.” This is right outside the cafeteria.

    When he sees the spot, Sphinx says in his mind, “You should have seen it, Smoker. Seen what they had wrought when their time came. If you’d have seen that, then for the rest of your life you would’ve kept you mouth shut about the Outsides, about open and closed doors, about chicks in their shells. If you you could have seen.” He’s talking about the seniors and how they go crazy right before graduation. Was this Elk’s death, do you think? What is the white? Maybe the floor was bleached white from cleaning up the blood?

    It seems like Sphinx is suggesting it’s better to deny the inevitable – to hide it and not remind anyone – in hopes of avoiding more killing. But that seems naive. And Sphinx is quite intelligent. I wonder what he thinks will happen at the end of this year – it is his year, right? And most of his pack?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The significance of this place and the whitish spot will be explained in Sphinx’s telling of the story of the last graduation at the very beginning of book 3 (and you’re exactly right about bleached floor).
      Smoker seems to still insist on sweeping everything that’s going on in the House into his “Game” schema, and Sphinx was trying to tell him, in a roundabout way, that not everything fits into it, that there are other things, which Smoker overlooks or dismisses as insignificant, at play here; he thinks that knowing more about the massacre during the last graduation might have served as a good example of that.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Smoker is so sure of himself – so sure that he has things figured out and that he can’t learn anything of value from the rest of his pack – even though he keeps asking questions. I like Smoker, but I do get this exasperated vibe from him – I wish he had a little more imagination. I would really love to discuss all of Smoker and Sphinx’s interactions. (I will be up for it at some point)! Sphinx is always observing, his brain is always examining. I think it makes Sphinx crazy that Smoker doesn’t truly open his eyes and ears. Are Smoker and Sphinx at opposite ends of the spectrum? Is a middle ground point of view most desirable, or is one of them much more correct than the other? Does Sphinx need to change anything about his perspective? Is there anything that he can learn from Smoker? That’s the kind of thing going on in the back of my mind.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Katie, I agree with you. Smoker exasperates me too. They are so opposite. I think you nailed it when you said that he doesn’t have any imagination.

    I read the section for week 6, and now I cannot stop. I need to keep reading. I need to be careful right now, so that I don’t reveal any of what’s coming, or that I don’t spill what I know in the comments.

    Tomorrow, new week! That should give us new material to keep exchanging thoughts and comments!


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