We are coming to the end pages of the book. (I have already finished it, and I find myself in need of discussing this week and the last two, to see if among ourselves we can come to some conclusions, or discuss our different takes on what we are reading).
Week 8 (pp. 522-604)
WEEK 8 AUDIO: cuts 42 – 45
Week 8 opens with this strange chapter. Red and his pack are cleaning the 2nd quarters, which is no easy feat. He has a quick vision of the place clean, he says, “In short, Sepulcher. The dear old home. Only without Spiders.” But now it’s a different story, a filthy place.
For a pause, Red goes to the Coffeepot. Big mistake. There Gaby accuses him of ruining her life by making her pregnant. A huge fight ensues. The boys’ counselors show up, but the girls continue.
Red ends up with a swollen hand. He is beaten up. Ginger helps him clean up. She puts him with clothes under the shower, and when his razor falls, she asks worried about the razors and the 2nd.
Red goes to the Sepulcher for medical care. He says how he’s spent so much time in it (always in need of stitches, and being healed), and how he finds Corpse there, a character who is not doing so good, who has been told not to smoke yet he does smoke.
There’s this brilliant scene about the plastic bags, and how Corpse ‘hunts one down’, which Red appreciates much.
We are confirmed by Corpse and Red’s conversation that Red’s old nick was Death. He explains that’s because he sees those who are about to die before they do. They show up in dreams. He doesn’t like that.
Very mysterious chapter. Ralph tells us about the parents, the categories they have assigned them, Managers and Contacters, the first ones always pestering counselours with visits and phone calls, the second category appearing only before graduation.
Ralph explains again what Yuri said in his comment the previous week, about the admission of new students every six years, and the betrayal felt by the Seniors for having been exposed to a graduation when they were six years old.
All the counselors are stressed, they are dealing with the parents, and with their groups. We know that Ralph removed Smoker from the pack and placed him at the Sepulcher, because he feared for him.
Godmother (the girls director, and second to Shark) calls Ralph to her office. This woman is most intriguing, and their conversation one tense battle in which Ralph gets the message that she wants control, and he is not willing to side with her and leave his ‘kids’. Of notice is a young boy who had been listening.
Another meeting. This one with all the girls and boys’s counselors, Shark and Godmother. This scene was written to perfection. Ralph is looking through everybody’s actions and seeing their true personalities, their weaknesses and strengths too. They are what he called before, ‘his pack, his motley crew’. The tenderness at stake is moving. Godmother has plotted with Shark to take control of this graduation, so that whatever happened at the last one doesn’t repeat. But their chances of being on top are very slim. Godmother finally delivers this plan: they’d have graduation early, and none of them will be notified, so that the children won’t discover the date. Both Shark and Godmother want to also remove potential dangerous people for graduation.
Ralph finds himself trapped, and he goes to his office and presents his resignation. Shark and Godmother catch up with him at the canteen and convince him not to quit upon the promise that he will decide who is removed from the House.
That night Ralph attempts to get drunk, and he keeps thinking about what’d happen if they remove Blind from the House. He knows taking any of them outside would be a mistake. Then he thinks about the Lost Syndrome, that which happened to some who left the House and found themselves lost and returned.
He goes to the library to find files of those students. There, the night guard is set to help him, but Ralph doesn’t want his help. It happens this man is the former principal, who is not held in high esteem by Ralph. Ralph humors him, and it happens that this strange dwarfish character ends up taking him to his office. There Ralph sees he has a collection of not working clocks. He tells Ralph about time being different in the House. He also gives him liquor, a strange concoction the type those in the House drink. He tells him that Godmother is Vulture’s grandmother, and she is asking Ralph about removing those, only to trick him into letting her suggest a different person, Vulture. She doesn’t want Vulture to graduate and inherit her house, who is hers only as long as Vulture doesn’t get to it.
Ralph goes to an unrecognized area of the House guided by a young boy. There he admits to being a stoolie, a snitch, and he betrays his own and tells them the evil plots of the Outsides. Next morning Ralph is aghast when he hears that Godmother has left a resignation letter on the door of Shark. Ralph knows this has to do with the House denizens. It’s not her to staple a letter. Besides, they’ve found her car abandoned in the immediacies.
Ralph visits Smoker, and explains that he is not sick, that they put him there to get him out of danger. Ralph tells Smoker what happened in the last graduation, and that alone convinces a reluctant Smoker to keep a diary that he’ll get to Ralph, to alert him of the plans the pack has for graduation.
Smoker comes back to the dorm. Blind has a strange rush, they tell him it’s what happens to those removed from the House for a while. They tell him it was Ralph. To them, Ralph was wrong. He interrogated Blind, I believe, on the disappearance of Godmother. Tabaqui calls Ralph a nutter.
Smoker is confused, but he starts his diary. He tries, Tabaqui snatches the diary, and it becomes a common diary of sorts, where everybody starts writing odd and random things. Humpback went to the top of an oak tree, where he lives with his bird Nanette.
Tabaqui takes them to see his collection of junk, the special thing about it seems to be that it doesn’t belong to anyone. They don’t have an owner.
Smoker’s diary almost gets ruined by Tubby, but it’s salvaged. Pages 586 to 589 are the entries in the diary. From them we learn that they are hearing rumors about a bus, and some of them want to get on it. There’s something about Blind being paranoid, and he thinking about grandmothers. We know also that tents and people are surrounding the House.
This is another surreal chapter, a conversation between Blind and Humpback. Blind talks about being one with the House. Humpback doesn’t like that Blind knows and takes their dreams from them. Blind says they are not dreams. There’s a strange talk about a transformation those who have these dreams endure.
We are learning now about Blind bringing people ‘over’. And at the designations, he, Noble, Sleepy and Corpse are told to go completely over. Is this completely over the Forest? Blind wants Humpback to be present in the next Fairy Tale Night, and be the Pied Piper, playing his flute and driving them away. He asks for Madrigal of Henry the VIII.
I have left many things unsaid, but I’m willing to discuss them in the comments.