Katniss has a REALLY bad trip on the venom, which is what she gets for doing needle drugs. OK, so maybe she didn't really have a say in getting stung by that tracker jacker, but addicts have all sorts of excuses. So she hallucinates her way through a few bloody deaths and then wakes up feeling miserable in a ditch full of dead leaves. First of all: I'm pretty sure that's the plot of about a dozen Tom Waits ballads. Second of all: I had a remarkably similar experience this past Saturday, except I woke up feeling miserable in my dad's bed. Thank god he wasn't home, otherwise that would have been weird. Anyway unlike me Katniss didn't have to turn up for the 8am shift at a busy diner, but she does have to keep moving. So she rallies and wonders how long she's been out. A day? Two? Hey I never saw The Hangover 2 but wouldn't it have been great if they'd been unconscious for TWO days this time? Clever, right? I mean, as far as Hangover-level standards of cleverness go. (Did any reviewers make a joke about how writing a sequel is difficult when you're hungover on the success of the first? I'm just full of belated good ideas today! Hey, what if they made a Titantic 2? Oh wait, shit.)
Katniss's thoughts turn abruptly to Peeta, as they often do. She's not sure what to make of the way he saved her in the last chapter, and wonders what Gale made of the whole thing, watching at home. Then she pushes that thought aside; “Gale and Peeta do not coexist well in my thoughts,” she says. Unless everyone's naked. Speaking of nudity, Katniss finds her way back to the stream to hydrate and decides to strip down and wash her clothes. Hot. Do the Hunger Games cameras capture all of this? I mean, obviously they do but do they wait to broadcast the sexy footage until after 10pm or are they cool with showing the kids? Or do they blur it and release an uncensored DVD later? It's very important to me that we get answers on this front. Also: why doesn't she wonder what Gale makes of THIS?
Katniss gets dressed, kills some kind of wild turkey with an arrow and starts heading upriver. She's cooking dinner when she hears something in the woods. It's Rue, and Katniss calls to her and says they can form an alliance (that word is starting to sound as silly as it does on reality shows) and travel around together. Shit, I hope they build a raft and go all Huck Finn on us! She offers Rue food, mentioning that she's had “two kills today.” Which made me at first think she was offering Rue a chunk of the girl from District 4, but no. Rue then produces some leaves that will heal Katniss's wasp stings. Things get kind of kinky:
“Ohhh.” The sound comes out of my mouth before I can stop it. It's as if the leaves are actually leaching the pain right out of the sting.
Rue gives a giggle. “Lucky you had the sense to pull the stingers out or you'd be a lot worse.”
“Do my neck! Do my cheek!” I almost beg.
Damn Katniss, you're into some weird shit. But whatever, I'll do your neck. No judgment. Rue mentions the scarcity of meat in her (agriculture-centered) district, and that prompts a discussion about life in various districts. In a nutshell: in some places you get whipped in public, in others you don't. It's not terribly interesting, but more interesting is Katniss's offhand remark that their words will probably be silenced in the broadcast to keep people from knowing about life in other districts. (“They can never know about the whippings or lack of whippings! That's the secret to our power!”-some guy)
Rue knows about the berries and plants that can be eaten (which is funny because a few chapters ago Katniss was really good at that but isn't anymore?) and also informs Katniss that some sunglasses she's been carrying around for days are actually night-vision goggles. Whoops, Katniss! But what this chapter reminds me of more than anything is a videogame. An RPG, like Legend of Zelda or Secret of Mana. (Sorry guys, my videogame references stop in 1996. Mist? Anybody?) You meet knew people, they pass on valuable information about items that you will probably use later, and that's pretty much the essential element of the interaction. It's not the worst way to write a story, but it's hard not to just think what's going to happen next what's going to happen what's going to happen next! because you're not getting much to hold on to in the present. I don't necessarily want the experience of reading to feel like taking amphetamines.
Katniss and Rue snuggle up in her sleeping bag (awww) and Rue catches her up on a few things. Peeta has broken off from the Careers and is on the run, probably as a result his dramatic gesture at the end of the last chapter (IF IT WAS REEEEAAAAAL OK obviously it was). Katniss is like “That was probably because of how he's pretending to love me” and even Rue is like “bitch please.” They start talking about the food stockpile the Careers have, and Katniss observes that without it those corn-fed rich kids probably wouldn't be able to fend for themselves. And lo, Katniss begins to form a plan.
Stray Notes & Questions
- This chapter has some weird digressions, including a part where Katniss muses about how nice District 12 really was after hearing about a mentally retarded boy Rue saw get murdered once. She thinks about her home town and “one of Greasy Sae's grandkids” who was simple but “treated like a pet” by the townsfolk. How quaint! "Come to District 12! At least we don't murder our retards!"-Mayor Gunderson
- Suzanne Collins only makes us aware of the ever-watching cameras in fits and starts. I'm not sure if this is good or bad. Like, when Katniss tells Rue about Peeta saving her, she waits for the nightly anthem and then covers her mouth with her hand to avoid detection. But earlier, when Rue mentions ruefully (!!!) that she doesn't have any sponsors, Katniss observes that people will figure out how wily she is sooner or later--with no mention about whether or not she said it for the benefit of the viewing public. I understand that showing multiple meanings in everything Katniss says could be exhausting, but I still don't have a sense of how the Hunger Games are actually, logistically broadcast. Incidentally The Truman Show had the same problem. Are people just staying home and watching this show ALL DAY? I'm pretty sure there's a character in The Truman Show who is sitting in a bathtub watching for several days. And I know it's supposed to be a parable or whatever but still! That shit will give you toxic shock syndrome, buddy! I think.