Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 29

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

October 29

This is my friend JL’s favorite chapter, and I like it a lot too.

Following lunch at Jill's place, to which Bubo was also invited, having finally acknowledged Graymalk to be a cat of a different category, I took a walk back to the ruin of the Good Doctor's place.
Lily: Heh, Boobie.

The meal had had an almost elegiac quality to it, Jack having asked outright whether she'd consider switching, Jill having admitted to a conflict in her sympathies now, but being determined to play the Game through as she'd started.

I defined elegiac for Lily (something that has the characters of an elegy, like a song or a poem, where you’re remembering something that’s lost or gone. Like an angel or a dog.)

"So it seems someone's killing openers." 
"Rastov was a closer." 
"I think Owen talked him into switching." 
"No, he tried but he didn't succeed." 
"How do you know that?" 
"I used to get into Owen's place through Cheeter's attic hole and listen to them talk. I was there the night before Rastov was killed. They were drinking and quoting everybody from Thomas Paine to Nietzsche at each other, but Rastov didn't switch." 
"Interesting. You sound as if you're still in the Game." 
There came a faint sound from below, just as [Needle] said, "Oh, I am, Get down! Flat!"

Lily was almost entirely disinterested in this revelation, because it was eclipsed by my Linda Enderby voice.
I knew that I was right when I heard the vicar utter an oath. I descended one more step. . . . Then I decided I could risk no more. I pushed myself backward, letting myself fall the rest of the way, recalling things Graymalk had said about always landing on her feet, wishing I'd been born with that ability, trying to achieve it this one time, anyway. . . .

I tried to torque my body in the proper direction, along the long axis, relaxing my legs the while.
Lily: Heh, torque.

She still remembered my definition from the earlier chapter, and for a magical Victorian era talking dog, Snuff sure uses “torque” a lot. For comparison, the word “October” only appears 35 times, and 32 of those are chapter titles or the name of the book itself.

Snuff says “I like being a watchdog better than what I was before he summoned me and gave me this job” and what he was before Jack summoned him was a high school physics teacher.
The bolt passed well above me, from the sound I heard of it striking wood. But the man was already cranking the weapon again as I hit the ground. I did land on my feet, but they went out from under me immediately. As I struggled to rise, I saw him finish cocking the thing, now ignoring the black form which darted before him. My left hind leg hurt. I pushed myself upright, anyway, and turned. He had the quarrel in one hand and was moving to fit it into place. I had to rush him, to try knocking him over before he succeeded and got off another shot. I knew that it was going to be close. . . .

And then there was a shadow in the doorway at his back.

"Why, Vicar Roberts, whatever are you doing with that archaic weapon?" came the wonderfully controlled falsetto of the Great Detective in his Linda Enderby guise.
Some people are good at voices. I have no particular talent in that arena, but there is one voice I can do consistently. It’s a warbling falsetto, if Julia Child were playing the role of Mrs. Doubtfire. It’s great. Lily thinks it’s hilarious. I used it for Linda Enderby, and added to what was already a great chapter.

The vicar hesitated, then turned.

"Madam," he said, "I was about to perform a community service by dispatching a vicious brute which even now is preparing to attack us."

I began wagging my tail immediately and put on my idiot slobbering hound expression, tongue hanging out and all.

"That hardly seems a vicious beast to me," the voice of the lady stated, as the Great Detective moved in quickly, passing between the vicar and myself to effectively block a shot. "That's just old Snuff. Everybody knows Snuff. Not a mean bone in his body. Good Snuff! Good dog!"

The old hand-on-head business followed, patting. I responded as if it were the greatest invention since free lunch.

This whole thing had Lily giggling hysterically.

"Whatever made you think him antisocial?"

"Madam, that was the creature that almost tore my ear off."

"I am certain you must be mistaken, sir. I cannot conceive of this animal as behaving aggressively, except possibly in self-defense."

The vicar's face was quite red and his shoulders looked very tense. For a moment I thought he might actually try angling in a shot at me, anyhow.

"I really feel," the Linda voice went on, "that if you have any complaints concerning the animal you ought to take them up with his owner first before embarking on a drastic action that might well draw the attention of the Humane Society and not rest well with the parishioners." 
"That man is a godless jackanapes . . ." he began, but then his shoulders slumped. "Perhaps, however, I acted hastily. As you say, the parishioners might view it askance, not knowing the full measure of my complaints. Yes. Very well." He lowered the weapon and released its tension. "This will be settled," he said then, "in another day or two. But for now I accept your counsel and will do nothing rash." He put away the quarrel in a case slung over his shoulder, slinging the weapon, also, moments later. "And so, madam, I thank you again for those cookies you brought by, which I found quite tasty, and I bid you a good day."

"I trust your daughter enjoyed them as well?"

"Indeed she did. We both thank you."

This is another great part. The Great Detective catches the vicar in a lie, which he attempts to cover, but the Great Detective knows.  He didn't share those cookies at all! The vicar is outstanding as a villain, so big and so small in all the right ways.
"Snuff, I know more about him than he realizes, and I have experimented with many sorts of drugs myself over the years. I know that his intent is to rescue Lynette on the night of the ceremony, but I do not believe that he has sufficiently refined the dosage which he feels will carry him past the moon madness of his affliction. And whatever the case, Vicar Roberts is aware that there is one of his sort involved, and he has melted down a piece of the rectory silverware to cast a bullet for a pistol he will be carrying with him that night."
Lily gasped softly and her eyes got wide. Kids, in general, are kind of annoying, and mine is no exception, but it’s really been a lot of fun reading this story with her because of moments like these.


  1. Ah, it's the greatest thing in the world when your kid really gets into something you're reading to them, isn't it? I'll probably read Lonesome October to my boy in a couple of years. Right now we're on "The Marvelous Land of Oz".

    1. Yeah. I think that's really the best part of being a parent. I don't want to be the jerk dad who forces his interests on his kid, but it's great when you can sit down and show them something you love and tell them why you love it and find it resonates with them too.

      My daughter was initially a bit skeptical, but recently decided that this should be a mandatory read for every child born into our family.

  2. My favorite chapter!

    I figured I'd leave a slightly different comment than I did two years ago...