Drawing by this artist
The photo is my backyard fence, with some editing that makes it look eerie, don’t you think?
Welcome to Week 5. The book is getting more and more intriguing. Today’s section is:
Week 5 (pp. 301-367)
23. The Confession of the Scarlet Dragon
30. Tabaqui: Day the Sixth
Ch 23: 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, 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, Lary, 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 Lary’s bed, making out with Gaby. Girls come into place now. Tabaqui is glad it wasn’t his bed. Lary 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 accept 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 to what he has, or that he doesn’t have anything and yet he’d be admitted, as it is for others. (Now this gives us a clue to who is in the house. Children with disabilities, and it also 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 with yells or screams anymore.
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 in the room, and Baby, hugging their Chinese red lamp, Alexander, and Sphinx too.
Ch 24: Confessions of a Scarlet Dragon. We are hearing about how one of them got there. He grew up with his grandfather, a doubled standard kind of monster, who did not use napkins or cutlery. He starved this boy. He ends up dying from choking with a fish bone. They send this boy (I think it’s Alexander), to God’s house to ‘clean him’. He goes to another relatives house. These relatives complained that there are those others with shaved heads threatening them because Alexander lives there. Finally they send him to the House, where he feels at home, because he thinks he was sold to his relatives, but in the House he is a slave of his own volition.
This amazing picture is from this person at flickr
(Do you think of Alexander’s grandfather’s kitchen?)
I remember that in the beginning of the book, Alexander is described as a slave, one they don’t hear speak, and one who does everything they ask him for. It’s also mentioned how his grandfather was shown in ‘the tube’ (TV?), as a scammer, involved in fraudulent things.
Alexander is talking about how he never broke the rules. He only performed small ‘miracles’ (which they seem to be drug trafficking to me), since he says he passed that poison from his hands to theirs, he did not expect that it would be Wolf the one who would do this to him. He feared Sphinx, but Sphinx became his friend. But when Alexander spent time with Wolf at the cage, Wolf convinced Alexander that he also wanted to be his friend. But, by knowing his secret, Alexander is now his slave, which is to Alexander worse than being dead. Wolf asks Alexander to get someone out of the house. But Alexander gets lucky, his curse worked to his favor when Wolf shows dead the next day after this request. It appears to me to be an overdose.
Alexander is on the rooftop. (Did he fall?) This is a strange scene, that ends with Alexander at the Sepulcher. There’s a girl he saw. And Alexander is sent to the Sepulcher, where Blind visits him. Alexander wants to confess, but he doesn’t find the way to do so, and he did not want Blind to feel as if he owed him anything. Which makes us believe that Wolf asked Alexander to get rid of Blind, to make him leave the House, not necessary kill him.
Wolf and Blind go out in the night (we are talking about the time before Wolf died), they visit the Forest. Alexander says he is afraid of going outside.
Ch 25: Tabaqui, day the 3rd
It looks like Tabaqui has the flu, they are giving him a treatment, so that he passes the revision. It is physical revision day. The next day, day 4, his throat is fine. He calls the nurses spiders, and he doesn’t like them. Sphinx says there’s nothing interesting, but Tabaqui says that’s not true, there’s the new law, the law that allows girls in their dorms. And, how is Sphinx going to know, when he is always inside the dorm. Sphinx is taking care of Tabaqui.
Sphinx is irritated because Blind is with Gaby, the girl. Black tells Gaby, who has invited you?, and she answers, your boss’ boss, Blind.
Ch 26: Gaby says that the boys are anxious. It’s the day of their physical, they explain. Long can relate, ‘Now this one time when I got raped…’ Tabaqui chokes on a nut, Gaby whacks his back.
Gaby inspects the boy’s records to their dismay. When Black comes back, Smoker starts asking who is Mother Ann, since Sphinx said he wasn’t Mother Ann to be kicking Blind’s girlfriend out of the dorm.
Sphinx and Tabaqui found the information. They were interested in the yellow papers found in the basement. They put the pieces together, and found out that the House was founded in 1870. They are the only ones who have a picture. They say the children at that time wore gray uniforms.
Ch 27: The Soot of the Streets. This section starts with the manual and the options for entertainment they have in the House. One of the notes says,
WHILE JUMPERS AND STRIDERS DO NOT REALLY EXIST!
Have a nice time.
Smoker doesn’t believe Sphinx. Sphinx says, let’s go to smell the soot of the streets. Smoker asks if they are going outside. Sphinx gets upset. Smoker doesn’t seem to know that there are banned words, words not spoken, such as outside. Smoker doesn’t believe Tabaqui, Sphinx accuses him of not listening, and not thinking. Sphinx says threateningly, Smoker, do you want to crawl on the floor? Sphinx doesn’t like the way Smoker asks, instead of asking him, ‘what do you mean about the soot of the streets?’, he blasts off, ‘are we going outside?’
Smoker and Sphinx talk in private. Sphinx says that maybe he is spoiled, Alexander understands him without words, Noble is always quiet, but Smoker, it is as if I have to ask you to forgive me for something you are not telling me.
Blind is trying to get a drink, and Sphinx enigmatically says, ‘Blind, you know that this machine has not been giving anything but paper cups for the last hundred years.’ They go to the common area, there is music, girls, even though Smoker is by them, Blind and Sphinx talk alone. Sphinx complaining to Blind that Smoker doesn’t listen. Smoker leaves the place upset but he thinks that maybe they two were talking close to him to allow him to listen.
Smoker finds Red. Smoker is still not used to talk to people of other packs. Red looks ugly, but they make themselves ugly looking on purpose. Red tells him that Mother Ann was the old principal of the house last century. When she was principal they added the sanctuary, that initially was just a room with two beds. Smoker thinks it’s Red who found this out, but Red tells Smoker that it was Tabaqui. Tabaqui likes to embellish the stories, to act coy, but he told the truth.
Sphinx catches up with both of them and asks Red to take off his glasses in front of Smoker. Smoker is surprised, he says he sees the face of an angel. He looks a different person. Sphinx exclaims, “I miss you Death”. Red says, I’m sorry, Death is no more. He also tells Smoker they do everything, the leaders of the packs, to look ugly. He even sleeps with a bag over his face. They look like corpses, and Red says he also has experience looking like them, the corpses.
Smoker tells Sphinx that he sometimes plays a game, he tries to imagine the leaders without their dress up clothing.
Lary is busy with his pimples and aftershave lotion. Elephant and his leader, Vulture, second house, look at the rain through the window, and a cactus, the Pheasants in one are conducting a memorial service. The adults close the doors of the House, as if it didn’t exist. Lary is telling his girlfriend, ‘you’ll like them’, but she doesn’t want to go. Gaby is trying to choose the least damaged pantyhose, there’s an Asiatic girl in a wheelchair, very beautiful, Doll,
The chapter ends with Smoker’s dream, in which the Pheasants are calling him to attend Ghoul’s funeral. It’s a rare dream, he sees his parents, sister, a plant, Sphinx comes from that plant. We also go to Blind, alone now with Arachne, he is playing the flute, not as well as Humpback, this is again a very oniric chapter with Blind’s visions.
Ch 28: Witch and Grasshopper talk. She tells him that when he grows, he’ll be Skull.
Blind talks about how all of them sleep, and about the dreams he thinks they are having. He goes to Elk’s room, when he knows he is fine, he leaves.
Rex, one of the Siamese, is torturing a cat who falls in a hole and hurts its leg. Lame asks Rex to let the cat go, but the cat is hurt. Lame says they’ll play now, but he is Rex, and Rex is the cat. Max is looking at him from his dorm’s window.
The House sleeps, but not the basement. There the seniors are having a party. Grasshopper goes there following the song’s words, and breaking a window to let them be free. They ran back to their dorm, Stinker upset since he could not go that fast in his wheelchair, all of them scared that maybe the seniors have heard them and are following them. When they find themselves out of danger, they talk around an imaginary fire, and say they too will have fun, even without the girls, it will be even better when our turn comes. Magician claims to have seen Skull. They all say that’s not possible.
Grasshopper describes coffee and waxes poetic. He wonders if coffee is not the substance that makes you become a grown up. The music coming from the coffee place is calling him. He goes where the others, seniors, are. They seem to laugh at him, because Grasshopper wants to know what that music is. The seniors pass him a paper that says, Led Zeppelin, and Grasshopper asks, ‘led to where?’ The seniors laugh, maybe it’s music to better break windows. They caught him. It was Elephant who told them. But Grasshopper tells Elephant that they did not retaliate. Grasshopper gives that paper, Led Zeppelin, to Tabaqui, and asks him to write about it, -even though he doesn’t know what to write-.
Don’t you love this artist’s coffee wings? Her name is Kelsey Montague
Ch 29: The day of exchanges, Tabaqui sets to go without much conviction. He picks those necklaces he makes with walnuts, etc. He gets a vynil from Lary. He realizes that most of the exchanging people are girls. He sees a nice girl with a vest of many colors. Tabaqui used to go to exchange day with nothing, and got things, until people got mad at him for doing that.
The girl is Mermaid. She insists in Tabaqui taking her vest. Tabaqui doesn’t want initially, but when he does, he also insists on her taking all his necklaces. Lary was approaching, trying to get there before the exchange between Mermaid and Tabaqui ends. But he misses it. After that, Tabaqui pays Viking to take him on his shoulders. Lary follows them to the room. There he informs Sphinx that Tabaqui stole his vinyl and took it to the exchange. Tabaqui tells Sphinx he did not trade Lary’s vinyl, but it is at his wheelchair, so probably one of the rats must have taken it.
Noble comes. He is changed. His haircut is a slaughter, done by a bipolar person, Tabaqui thinks. Tabaqui is both excited about Noble being back, but saddened to see him not being himself. Sphinx shakes them all out of their thoughts, and orders them all to go to eat. Tabaqui, excited, is fishing meatballs from the soup to add them to a sandwich. Here we have his habits that earned him his former nick, Stinker.
- I ordered a paper-copy of the book, and I realized that those with book pages are a section ahead of the listening ones. I am going to include the first of next week section, since it is the last section in pages 352 to 367, Tabaqui Day the Sixth.
Ch 30 of the audio. Tabaqui Day the Sixth, pages 352 to 367
Ch 30: The boys receive the visit of Ginger and Fly. They are still not used to the girls. It looks like Noble likes Ginger, but Ginger goes back to the times before Noble, when the children were young.
She talks about how she was curious about the room they had, with the hidden drawings. And one day she climbed. Noble says what about the bars?, and she replies that there weren’t bars before. She says the seniors looked at her with curiosity from the first floor, but she made it. She saw the room, which wasn’t the way she imagined it, yet it was wonderful, it looked as if it expanded forever. She left them a present, a drawing, a bird. But she didn’t like it. She came to finish the painting the next day, and signed it Jonathan. The boys discovered all of the sudden that she was the Jonathan they thought it was a ghost. They left traps and everything, but never caught her. From them started a relationship in which Jonathan left them things, like a book called Seabird they’d all read.
Fly asks for the time, which drives Tabaqui crazy. He has that rule, no watches.
I have written lots yet I have not thought about the meaning in certain passages, the allusions that may play an important part, or not. But I will wait for you to do so at the comments as you can, or I’ll do this in my own head as I revisit chapters, conversations, a line here and there…