Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 23

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 23

This chapter.


This chapter, man.

I love October 23rd. It's got three memorable scenes, and I would love it for any one of them.

Lily loved this part:
Up in the morning, out on the job. I hassled the Things, then checked around outside. A black feather lay near our front door. Could be one of Nightwind's. Could be openers on a nasty spell. Could just be a stray feather. I carried it across the road to the field and pissed on it.
She also had a strong reaction to Snuff's throwaway reference to Rocco.
He reminded me of someone I once knew: Rocco. Rocco was a big, floppy-eared hound, always happy, bouncing about and slavering over life with such high spirits that some found it annoying, and he was very single-minded. I called to him one day on the street and he just dashed across, not even paying puppy-attention to his surroundings. Got run over by a cart. I rushed to his side, and damned if he still didn't seem happy to see me in those final minutes. If I'd kept my muzzle shut he could have stayed happy a lot longer.
She was crying after this bit, so we took a short time to recover. We progressed on to Snuff's investigation into Rastov's murder, and she seemed to be in better shape, as she was pretty indifferent to Rastov, but when Quicklime started talking about him, she started crying again.
"I think I'm done with the Game. He was a good man. He took good care of me. He cared about people, about the whole world. What's that human notion, compassion. He had a lot of that. It's one of the reasons he drank a lot, I think. He felt everybody else's pain too much. No. I'm done with the Game. I'll slip back to the woods now. I still know a few burrows, a few places where the mice make their runs. Leave me alone here for a while now. I'll see you around, Snuff."
 "Quicklime loved him so much!" 

Just like Rastov, she's poisoned with compassion. 

We moved on to the vicarage. She liked it when Lynette was petting Gray, because she could imagine her own cats performing those same actions.

"I'll go rub up against her and let her pet me," Graymalk said. "That makes people happy. You can be looking at the chain while I do that."

It was actually the locks in which I was most interested. But even as I advanced to do that I heard the distant clopping of a horse's hoofs, approaching at a very rapid pace.

"Uh-oh," Graymalk said amid purrings, as the girl stroked her and told her how pretty she was. "Tekela must have seen us come in, flew off and given alarm."

For my part, I like Snuff's simple declaration "If Graymalk were dead, I was going to kill him." It's so Zelaznian in a lot of ways, but it also shows just how much Snuff cares for her. Throughout the entire book, he's talking how important it is to abide by the rules of the Great Game, and here he is willing to cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil" 

So they get away, ride into town and before the vicar can ask, "Snuff, does this smell like chloroform to you?" Snuff is captured and delivered to vivisectionists. 

Now, I'm not a pet person. I'm never cruel, but my preferred interaction with animals is not to interact with animals. Lily loves every kind of animal. So while the description of the lab was just flavor text to me, I knew as I was reading that she could see each and every one.

I could hear whimpers, growls, a pathetic mewing, and faint, sharp barks of pain from many directions.  When my sense of smell began to work again, all manner of doggy and catty airs came to me.  I raised my head and looked about and wished I hadn't. 
     Mutilated animals occupied cages both near and far, dogs and cats without tails or the proper number of legs, a blind puppy whose ears had been cut off, a cat missing large patches of her skin, raw flesh showing at which she licked, mewing constantly the while.  What mad place was this?  I checked myself over quickly, to make certain I was intact.
Fortunately, Jack arrives on the scene in short order.
There came a loud pounding upon an outer door...It came again, more heavily; this time it was obviously the sound of someone kicking upon the door...The third time that the knocking occurred it seemed as if each blow were performed by a strong man striking his shoulder against the door, attempting to break it down.
     The shorter man took a single step toward the entrance when a splintering sound reached us from the next room, followed by a loud crash. 
     Heavy footsteps crossed the outer room.  Then the door immediately across from me was flung open.  Jack stood upon the threshold, staring at the cages, the vivisectionists, myself upon the table.  Graymalk peered in from behind him.
That was a great detail to include, and I'd even go so far as to say that the scene, as perfect as it otherwise is, would not work if Gray were not there, peering from the threshold.

     "Just who do you think you are, bursting into a private laboratory?" said the beefy man.
   ". . . Interrupting a piece of scientific research?" said the tall man.

    ". . . And damaging our door?" said the short man with the wide shoulders and large hands.
   I could see it now, like a black tornado, surrounding Jack, settling inward.  If it entered him completely he would no longer be in control of his actions.

     "I've come for my dog," he said.  "That's him on your table."

That last line is one of my friend Frederick's favorite lines of the entire book. I'm inclined to agree with him.

A great chapter from a great book. Not an easy chapter, if you're nine and you love animals, but still a great one. 

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