Week 6 (pp. 368-445)
The House: Interlude
The Longest Night
Isn’t this picture magical?
It is by our Amy, a friend I have known for many years but never met in person, one who is reading along with us all.
This week, more of the girls show up. My other images are of them.
I’m typing this on Monday. I’m not that much ahead anymore. I’ve only listened and read some of week 7. But this week is very loaded with new happenings, and it ends with a crescendo, The Longest Night, after which we have Book 3. By the time I started Book 3, I had to stop reading. The House is very changed now. I felt I needed to discuss week 6 with all of you before reading any more.
- The House. Interlude
Grasshopper is talking to Ancient. Ancient is 19, he is telling him that he’s going to leave the house. Grasshopper doesn’t understand why that, or where he is going, after he’s spent all his life in the House. Ancient admits to being afraid. He tells Grasshopper that he should learn from his graduation, to pay attention. That’s why they are all given two, another one, and their own. They talk about that amulet Ancient gave Grasshopper when he was little. Grasshopper doesn’t need it anymore.
This graduation, according to Ancient, is going to be worse than last, because the House is divided, it used to have one leader, but now it has two.
Grasshopper is with Wolf, they are on the roof of the House. Wolf asks him what he thinks about this place which Wolf loves (it’s the House but not the House at the same time.) Wolf asks him if he thinks that place is a good one to think, Grasshopper doesn’t know if it brings him good or bad thoughts. Grasshopper is afraid to share his thoughts, finally he tells Wolf he is thinking about the place where he used to live with his mom and grandmother. They have a beautiful exchange (page 372), where they talk about how fake it all looks from the roof, as if it’s just a picture, a picture you could punch a hole through. And they don’t know what’s truly behind it.
At the dorm, they are looking at a bunch of photographs of the Seniors when they were little. They were done in a place outside the House. Grasshopper skipped that first summer trip (remember, the trip when he stayed behind with Wolf, Blind, and Elk). The last trip wasn’t that great. It would have been, but at the resort they went to, it seemed as if the adults in charge did a lot for the disabled ones, and were overprotective, spoiling the fun. I commented last week that, after a while, the reader forgets about their disabilities. Yuri said that was one of the reasons why Mariam doesn’t want the book to become a movie. In a movie, we will see the disabilities first.
The seniors remember what they call the only 2 good places they even consider to be, in a sense, The House, that’s the summer place by the beach, and the ski resort. At the beach, they talk about their counselors forgetting about them and falling in love with the tanned girls at the place. The leaking roof, the evenings when it rained, all of them huddled in the main space, playing cards they even ‘stole’ from the grown ups.
This one by Dreamer Constant
Stinker is indignant. There’s at least 14 packages at the director’s office, they are his, and they have confiscated them claiming they don’t have a name to whom they belong. He starts a campaign to protest and get those packages.
Blind got those cassettes with Led Zeppelin for Grasshopper, but he cannot play them anywhere. Grasshopper suspects Skull gave them to him (since Blind is passing him Witch’s letters). And Blind tells him it may be of use to help Stinker get those packages, for he is sure one must be a tape recorder.
- A Completely Different Corridor
Ginger is wondering why the girls corridors are different than the boys. She is talking about their old principal, who favored the girls, and had the rooms well equipped. Not anymore, they seem to be quite in ruins now, so much that they all take their mattresses out and sleep in the corridors.
In the girls’ wing we are introduced to Rat, who spends lots of time outside, who has been absent for two months, who brings things from outside, that’s why they also call her flyer. Mermaid and Rat ask Ginger (whom they call Gingie), how it was with the boys. She is reluctant to talk about it, but she has to, and tells them. We are also introduced to Catwoman, a woman who lives at the girls’ wing, who seems to demand their company, who is unable to leave her room, and who has lots of cats.
- Walking with the Bird
Vulture is addressing his ‘nest’, the guys in his pack. It’s a dark beginning, this chapter, He describes them as living on carrion (everyone but him). He is encouraging his pack to invite girls, which is now allowed. They seem to be ‘off’ in their responses to this. Beauty, however, likes the girl named Doll. His crowd is not a very good looking crowd. I loved when he says, “A Boschian masterpiece. In the dar.” Bosh, whom we call El Bosco (though he wasn’t Spanish, -grin), is one of my favorite painters. At the time when he painted, Spain had a close relationship with the Nederlands, and I’m not sure how or why, we have the most of his paintings at the El Prado museum, in Madrid. To just see his Garden of Delights is worth the whole price of the admission to the museum. I just watched a documentary on Netflix about Bosch that was fascinating.
Now we are introduced to Shadow, his brother, who he sees, among other ghosts. Vulture sees Black and the salute each other, though they too don’t like each other.
Gaby is at the Crossroads sofa. Crossroads is capitalized. And who is this being with gills and four fingers, who sells Vulture a key? This pages (391 and 392), are full of references and information. He sees a Rat, ready, as he says of the ‘rats’, to ‘off himself’ anytime, anyplace. Himself or those around him.
And for those of you who love small things, and details, here’s to you,
Sphinx notices the freshly acquired nail-sized key and approves. It’s the little things that matter.
Sphinx leaves, having to sort the puddle that Rat left. They cover his wrists. (Why are the rats suicidal?)
Vulture has a conversation with Shuffle, who is also The Magician, and Crookshank in the Underworld. There’s a quick reference to the girls with their slim necks and their collars, and to chains. They are also the girls of the ‘pack’. Are the girls dogs in the Underside?
Vulture mentions how the House belongs to the wheelers, and he says his leg hurts and it’ll be a night of torture, however he talks about a strong stimulant at his disposition. And this last paragraph I’m going to quote, it’s to all of us, Carroll fans:
I take off the glasses and wait. I know that in another moment the White Rabbit is going to sneak by the end of the corridor, galloping at full speed, late for his Carrollian shindig. And there he goes. Flashing for a fraction of a second. You just have to know where to look, or you’d never catch him. I rest for a bit longer and then crawl forward again… Step, step… There goes Great Bird, the one feeding on carrion…
I did not know the word shindig, probably you all did, but it means this: a large, lively party, especially one celebrating something.
- Tabaqui (Day the seventh)
Short chapter where Lary, who is in love with Needle, introduces her to the pack. The situation is tense, but Tabaqui manages to make a bit of conversation with this sweet girl Noble returns, he is looking very strange, but Tabaqui says that’s ‘normal’ these days with him. He makes coffee, and cuts it with cola, crushed almonds, cinnamon, and shakes out the contents of the basilisks eggshell amulet over the cup and gulps it without wincing. Sphinx asks him what happened, and he answers “I leaned too close to the fire”. “His grin is almost maniac.” we read. Tabaqui thinks is bad to dress up normal stuff in romantic nonsense, the type that annoys Smoker. Noble is in love. I believe we can all assume Ginger is the ‘fire’. Sphinx thinks and tells Noble that is not a good idea to lean so close to the fire, that fire is a dangerous element. For sure, Smoker is annoyed, he says he is tired of them all.
This chapter was so poetic. Mermaid is working on some sorcery that will take her closer to Sphinx, whom she has decided to love even before he knows about it. I thought about her and her amulet, and how Sphinx was given an amulet by Ancient as well. She also tries not to look at the contents of the amulet, not to ruin its magic. Mermaid is a very sensitive girl, all her rituals in order to live, to survive, to give meaning to her life. Grasshopper also did some of the same with his ‘lookies’ games, etc.
I thought about Mermaid as one of those children who have nothing, and who invent their own games, who make up their own imaginary rules or quests, to maybe block that which is happening around, or to overcome severe obstacles of any kind.
Darling and Godmother, (adults in charge of the girls) questions Mermaid in this chapter. Darling is annoyed at them going to see the boys, actually, at Ginger and Rat. They consider Mermaid innocent, different to the others, and they are preaching to her and asking her not to go to the boys wing, not to have a boyfriend. Mermaid is repulsed by their hypocrisy, and the way they are talking about her and the other girls. Mermaid thinks the change in Needle (since she is with Lary), is a good one, and though she has not been to the boys, or wasn’t thinking about it, she rebels and says she plans to work some magic and make Sphinx (who doesn’t know anything about this), her lover. The two women are aghast. They say she picked poorly, -a guy without arms, bold, looking old.
Needle and Bubble ask Mermaid if she is happy. They both have this theory that if she is happy, she’s a happy charm herself. Mermaid answers that she doesn’t know. Bubble argues that she may still be a true happy person who doesn’t want to admit to it, or it can get jinxed, but she is not too convinced.
This chapter was brilliant. Rat talks to her PRIP (short for primary progenitor, her father). It’s an amazing conversation. From it, we learn that Rat has a tattoo of a rat they call Fleabag. Rat is a troubled girl, but by the way her father treats her, we no longer wonder why. Sheep is the grown up from the House in that meeting. She even tells Rat’s father that her daughter has a sensitive nature. PRIP was trying to convince her that Rat is possessed by demons, sigh. Rat shows a tough face though. When her PRIP is sermonizing about his other many children whom he has to take care of, and how this one is so bad, and has made him waste his time, she replies to him that he could have worn a condom. PRIP is angry, out of himself, Sheep is scandalized by her words. It’s obvious that Rat wants out of there.
Rat goes to the common area. It’s now a fact than boys and girls are mingling together, chatting, kissing, but Rat doesn’t get it. She doesn’t think there’s anything pleasurable in kissing. Elephant is scared of Rat. Rat wanders into Red’s floor, the second, and it’s dirty. Apparently rats are dirty. Red offers Rat some cheap liqueur, and they start a fascinating conversation. We can discuss it at leisure in the comments, but the problem is that Noble likes Ginger, Ginger ‘thinks’ she loves Blind, but Blind is not that type to correspond her love. He was glad to have Gaby, and if Ginger continues going to the boys’ dorm, she is going to make the mistake of offering herself to Blind, who’d most likely accept her advances just because. Ginger is Red’s sister. Red doesn’t want Blind for his sister, and he bluntly asks Rat to take Ginger place in insinuating herself to Blind. Rat cannot believe what Red is asking. She tells him how he could have lied, and told her how Blind is madly in love with her, and maybe she would have accepted that request. However, Red’s honesty is quite commendable, and somehow appreciated by Rat, who, before, was vulnerable when Red was asking about her father’s visit. I love how Red sees Rat as strong, and never thinks about showing pity. Rat, however, is not all that put together when it comes to her father’s relationship, but she seems stronger in terms of Red’s unusual request. It’s quite interesting to hear that Blind, according to Red, has shown some interest in her nonetheless. It’s a very loaded conversation between two interesting people.
Noble has a vision of a ghost, Ginger. He also feels as if he is leaving his body and wandering about the House, until he is back to his body, and his bed, and feels his legs frozen, his torso hot. It looks as if Alexander was going to make a tea at that time in the night, but what he does is to prepare a hot bottle and place it under the blanket for Noble’s freezing legs. A strange cat that is not Mona sits on Noble’s lap.
- Tabaqui (Day the eight)
Flyer (Rat the girl), comes from the Outsides with things, packages, and arranges them on the table. Lary snatches one that contains a record, Tabaqui gets chocolate, before Blind can get to things, Rat snatches cigarettes, coffee, and dark glasses of an especially ghastly persuasion (whatever that means), and they do all this before R One appears, when they remove the things from everything that smells of fun and can therefore upset the teachers.
The other scene in this chapter is when they are at their dorm looking at a painting and a map of New Zealand. It’s beautiful, how the drawing by Leopard is described. But the pictures make them a bit depressed. Even Blind is present at those viewings, he can feel the animals that Leopard drew, because he scored the outlines of them, and they have also described them to Blind. Tabaqui remarks that Smoker is not even asking questions, and says, “Could it be that he too is finally growing up?”
- The Longest Night
So much to talk about this chapter. I have read and listened to it 4 times. I have memorized a sequence of the events in my head. It all starts by them speculating if today it’d be the Longest Night. Blind says yes, there may be even two Longest Nights (and nobody understands what he means by that.)
Smoker wants to get out. He does, but not without Tabaqui joining in. They find an abandoned wheelchair. Elephant is sleep walking. Blind is wandering about the House until he relaxes his back against a wall with people behind who are not sleeping. Red is frightened. He tries to find Ralph in his office and room, but he is not there. Tabaqui goes with Smoker to Vulture’s tent where he is playing cards with Dearest and Shuffle. Beauty and Doll are kissing on the stairs. Tubby is looking for that lithe and fair haired being, so pleasant to be next to. Butterfly is hiding in a stool at the teachers’ bathroom. He has diarrhea. Inside Vulture’s tent, Smoker asks for coffee but ends up drinking a strong and bitter drink that sets him into a trance. There’s now an independent paragraph on Crookshank, a river, and Elephant, another about a guy called Saara, a ghostly guy who is described as poisonous, reason why mosquitoes don’t even alight on him. A third independent paragraph about Dogheads. Talk about someone who is being called to the swamp, and who asks, ‘to go or not to go?’ Then, hunters. More ambiguous narrative about the Forest, Saara, Smoker becoming a cat, other cats who tell him, ‘jump’, ‘jump into the shadow’, and though the jump looks suicidal to Smoker, he does it. Smoker opens his eyes and tells the others he was a kitty.
Squib, Solomon, and Don try to kill Red with their razors, they cut him in the cheek, they cut also by the collarbone, and his hand that he had covering his neck. Butterfly was in the other stool, and Blind was in the stool that Red runs to in an attempt to lock himself from those three. When those three see there’s Blind and someone else, they flee. In their way out, they meet Ralph, but Ralph is holding Tubby in his arms, and he only sees Squib.
Tabaqui and Smoker leave Vulture’s tent. They all realize something has happened. They meet Ralph, they see him taking Red to the infirmary. He places Tubby on Smoker’s lap, but Tubby crawls away. They have to go to find Tubby. Ralph sees Vulture waiting for him on the hospital landing, and Vulture gives him a joint (I think this is what he was going to use for his legs pain.) Ralph goes to his office. There’s a surreal episode in which time seems to have stopped. Ralph dismisses any supernatural happening thinking it possible both the ticking clock on the wall and his own watch must have stopped working.
Ralph gets a paper slid under his door saying that Blind snuffed Pompey. Tabaqui is awaking everyone, informing them of what’s happened, while we find Blind being questioned by Ralph. This is another charged conversation, where much is said and much is also insinuated. Sphinx and Humpback are looking for Tubby when Noble shows up. Sphinx says something that is written in italics, ‘two more, Now there’s only Blind.’ What about Blind?, Sphinx says, no luck, Vulture admits. They finally find Blind, who tells them about his encounter with Ralph. Blind tells them about Ralph trying to figure out whos punking him (the watches and time not passing by issue.) There’s many mysteries around their conversation. They think it’s because Ralph asked Blind not to touch the three who attacked Red, but Blind says there’s more, like Ralph getting cut too (he has a cut in his cheek), and Ralph finding out about Pompey, plus Ralph maybe figuring out the composition of Blind’s vomit (undigested rats.) I don’t know, should we go back to some people feeding on ‘blood’?, or Blind strange feeding habits?
Here is when Sphinx tells Blind how come he doesn’t know he is bleeding until someone tells him? This made me think Blind has that disease where people cannot feel pain.
Last, in the conversation between Ralph and Blind, Blind seem to be in two places at once.
The floor is yours now.