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.