Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 20: A Night in the Lonesome October-fest

Snuff accepts Gray's invitation to have a meal at her place and enjoys it. Afterwards, as they are walking:

Streaks of high cirrus fluoresced above us from the stars they framed, and a gust of wind stirred my fur. 
"I hunted rats and ate out of dustbins and saw my kittens killed and was hung by my tail and abused by wicked urchins," Graymalk said suddenly, "before the mistress found me. She was an orphan who'd lived on the streets. Her life had been even worse." 
"Sorry," I said. "I've seen some bad times myself." 
"If the way is opened, things should change." 
"For the better?" 
"Maybe. On the other paw, if it isn't opened, things may change, too." 
"For the better?" 
"Damned if I know, Snuff. Does anybody really care about a hungry cat, except for a few friends?" 
"Maybe that's all anybody ever has, no matter how the big show is run." 
"Still. . . ." 
"Hard times do really bring out the revolutionary in a person, don't they?" 
"I'll give you that. Also, sometimes, the cynicism." 
"Like you?" 
"I suppose. The more things change. . . ."

What a great passage. The opening reminded me of 24 Views of Fount Fuji: "Kit lives, though he is buried not far from here; and I am dead, though I watch the days-end light pinking cloudstreaks above the mountain in the distance, a tree in the foreground for suitable contrast." There is something authentic about Graymalk's pronouncement, they way she blurts out her history with no preamble, as if trying to to justify her decision to this dog who is her opponent, but remains her friend.

She sneaks into the Great Detective's house, and Snuff speaks with Nightwind, who is also watching the house. They discuss the constable, the vicar's companion Tekela, Larry Talbot's role in the Game. We learn what had been implied, that the officer had been murdered by the vicar as part of a mystical ceremony, in order to offset the penalty for joining the game late.

When Nightwind asks about Larry's wolf form, Snuff misleads him:

"Done. I haven't heard anything about him for a while. The dog is a stray from town. Name's Lucky. I give him some of my food when he's around and he does favors for me. He hangs around Talbot's place, too, because Talbot saves scraps for him. He's too big for anyone to want to feed on a regular basis, though, which is why he hasn't a real home. You might even spot him in the woods or fields some night, hunting rabbits."

I had assumed that the Companions can speak with each other and other creatures of the same species, and this seems to support that. However, we also have at least one instance of Snuff conversing with one non-dog, non-companion, so I don't know.

"Well, this will all shake down in a few days, I'm sure. In ample time for the work to be done and the world…Should I say 'redeemed' or 'preserved'? 
"Let us say 'messed with,' either way." 
He closed his left eye and opened it again.

I like that bit too.
"Good kitty," said the Great Detective, in a well-controlled falsetto, "come visit us again sometime." 
Graymalk was deposited on the back steps and the door was closed. I cleared my throat, but she sat there for a time grooming herself before wandering off in the other direction. Suddenly, she was beside me.

Zelazny was good at characterizing all the animals, not just Snuff.

"She has a good memory, that old lady," Gray finally said. 
"In what respect?" 
"Her servant spotted me, on a sudden return to the kitchen, and she heard me call out. She came back and called me by name. She was very nice. Even gave me a saucer of milk, which I felt obliged to drink. Who'd've thought anyone would look at a cat well enough to recognize her later, not to mention remembering her name?"

This part didn't ring quite true to me. We have a lot of cats in our neighborhood and we're pretty good about recognizing them. It's not a trick on the order of Rainman counting the dropped toothpicks or anything.

It rains on them as they investigate the Good Doctor.

As we drew nearer, I saw that the front door of the farmhouse stood open, light spilling out through its rectangle. And someone was moving upon the roadway, headed toward us. Another discharge from the storm clouds gave the building a thorny corona of light, and outlined briefly in its glare I saw that a very big man was moving toward us at an ungainly but extremely rapid pace. He was dressed in ill-fitting garments, and my single glimpse of his face showed it as somehow misshapen, lopsided. He halted before us, swaying, turning his head from side to side. Fascinated, I stared. The rain had washed all scents from the air, until we achieved this proximity. Now, though, I could smell him and he grew even stranger to me, for it was the sick, sweet scent of death that informed his person, reached outward from it. His movements were not aggressive, and he regarded us with something akin to a child's simple curiosity.

The giant figure before me leaned forward, staring into my face. Slowly, unthreateningly, he extended his right hand toward me and touched me on the head.
"Good…dog," he said in a harsh, cracked voice, "good…dog," as he patted me.
Then he turned his attention to Graymalk, and moving with a speed that belied his earlier gesture, he snatched her up from the ground and held her to his breast.
"Kit-ty," he said then. "Pret-ty kit-ty."

When the Good Doctor came up beside the giant he placed a hand upon his arm.
"Raining cats and dogs, I see," he said.
I stopped barking as the giant turned his head and stared at him, doubtless at a loss for words in the face of such a sallying of wit.
"The doggy wants you to put the kitty down," he told him. "The kitty wants to get down, too. Put her down and come back with me now. It's a bad night to be outside, with all this rain."

"Cat…kitty…down," said the big fellow, and he leaned forward and deposited Graymalk gently on the road. His eyes met mine as he rose, and he added, "Good…dog." 
"I'm sure," said the Good Doctor, taking hold of his arm with both hands now and turning him back toward the farmhouse. 
"Let's get out of here," Graymalk said, and we did.

I really love the Good Doctor and the Experiment Man. We never see much of the Good Doctor, but really seems to care for his creation.


  1. Josh: "This part didn't ring quite true to me. We have a lot of cats in our neighborhood and we're pretty good about recognizing them. It's not a trick on the order of Rainman counting the dropped toothpicks or anything."

    I don't think this part was intended to point out how brilliant the Great Detective is. You're right--it's no big feat to recognize a neighborhood cat. But I think the idea here is to show that Gray, being cynical after the way she was treated before meeting Jill, is flat-out surprised by the idea that a person might remember her. I mean, she just got done talking about how people can be so cruel to strays . . . but then she sees the Great Detective's generosity, and it shakes her up a bit, possibly even making her question her stance in the Game.

    "Who'd've thought anyone would look at a cat well enough to recognize her later, not to mention remembering her name?"

    That's not Gray commenting on the Great Detective's perception or memory. That's Gray realizing that maybe--just maybe--not everyone in the world is a total jerk, like the kids who treated her like crap so many years ago.

    It's an important part, I feel, in the capacity for Gray's character to change toward the end of the book. The first part (her story about being rescued by Jill) explains why she would be an Opener; the second part (the Great Detective's generosity) explains why she begins to think maybe she was wrong about people (and the world) in general.

    1. The reason I came to the conclusion I did was that when the Great Detective recognizes Snuff in Chapter 11, this scene does seem to be intended to showcase his deductive prowess. However, I like your explanation a lot better, and that's what I'm going to go with in the future.