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Challenges 3 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Challenges 3
Ok, the victors reacting to archived footage of 21st century reality TV - your choice which show for gabrielladusult

This doesn't really fit any continuity, but I admit: This is the show that inspired the scenes of Hazelle forcing Haymitch to help her clean.
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"Take me to your foolishness."

The voice, full of good-humored exasperation, awakens me in the darkness. I've grown weirdly fond of that voice. Aside from that, I can hear other soft voices in the night.

The rest of the victors.

Until Katniss got a reprieve from her exile last year, we all found excuses to land in District Twelve almost every year. None of us really acknowledged that this always happened at Games season. We just happened to be visiting Twelve during the month that Haymitch went out there, meaning almost half of us were already there, anyway. Johanna would come out with Gale, claiming that late June was a good time to get out of the desert and into the forest. Annie said it was time for Finny to spend with his family when none of us were in the Capitol. Enobaria -- even after she relocated down to District Fourteen and needed to specially arrange transportation across the sea -- would usually show up at some point, claiming that, as long as she had business on the mainland, she "might as well" drop by.

For myself, I finally had to admit that I just wanted to reunite with my friends, because there was, until recently, no good way to get to, or around, Twelve in my wheelchair. Once I admitted that, Haymitch admitted that he liked having us around. Katniss and Peeta admitted that they sort of envied the prior relationship the rest of us had, and wanted in. Johanna… well, Johanna admitted nothing, but she didn't argue, either. Eno claimed she thought it was a reunion that we'd forgotten to invite her to all along, and she was damned if she'd be excluded.

So it became a scheduled thing, and now that Katniss is free, we move it from place to place. Since only Annie has a child (and we all enjoy spoiling Finny), we're free to do whatever we'd like. It's victors only, though -- Effie and Gale stay at home, and no one else has a non-victor significant other. This year, it's at my place in Three, and it sounds like they've discovered my video room. Plutarch found a stash of ancient videos from before the Catastrophes, and he's had me cleaning them up and reformatting them so he can put together a special on what the world was like before.

I'm not sure the ones he found are the best examples. There are some scripted shows (my particular favorite involves a starship that travels among hundreds of populated worlds), some game shows (a fashion design competition that I know Plutarch is fantasizing about re-starting), sports (a worldwide competition with coverage startlingly similar to Hunger Games coverage), and news. There seem to be hours of shows about extremely obnoxious people wandering aimlessly around tacky beachfronts. These are supposedly "real."

The one they've stumbled on is somewhere between a game and aimless wandering. I have watched it in dim fascination for several hours. The language is sometimes hard to parse, since, like all of these old shows, it's in a somewhat archaic form of the language, and on top of it, two of the regulars sport very strong local dialects that I'm not familiar with, but the concept is easy enough. It's called Clean House, and that's exactly what they do. A team of "experts" drops into a filthy home and cleans it, while the owners are given some superficial therapy that will supposedly prevent them from letting it get dirty again.

I have no idea why they're all watching it, but I haul myself into the wheelchair and head on in. They're all up. Peeta and Katniss are curled up on the couch together. Haymitch is sprawled on my easy chair. Annie's sitting at the video controls. Eno and Johanna (who still spend half their time making death threats at each other) are sitting on the floor and eating popcorn.

On screen, the experts are examining the house, which is filled with boxes, spilled paper, old books, closets stuffed with clothes, walls covered with hanging purses, and other such silliness.

"Where do they even get all of that?" Annie asks. "How can they afford it? I'm not sure I could afford it."

"It looks like Haymitch's place," Peeta says. "At least before Hazelle got to it."

"My place wasn't that bad."

"I had to come over and pick up so your fireplace wouldn't set the trash on fire."

"And don't forget Hazelle making him give away his clothes," Katniss adds.

"She made you give away your clothes?" Johanna repeats. "No wonder you don't talk anymore."

"We talk. We're friends. And at least she didn't make me give away my books. That last episode, where they forced the books out…"

"They were in piles on the floor, Haymitch," Eno points out.

"How many of these have you been watching?" I ask.

They all turn and smile some form of greeting at me. Haymitch gets up and move the chair enough to give me an aisle to wheel through.

Annie shrugs. "Traditional victor insomnia. Finny doesn't even wake up when I do this at home anymore."

"Three episodes," Haymitch says. "She's got this pair talking about what's not happening in their bedroom because of the mess. People really went on television to talk about that." He shakes his head. "This is what it was like? Really?"

"I've actually rather enjoyed it," I say. "Think about it as a study of how a different perspective can alter the established patterns in a community or a household."

"Do we have to?" Eno asks. "I was just having fun. I could do this. It could be my talent. I could go in to someone's house and scare them into giving up their crap. Then, I'd get Peeta to turn on that silver tongue of his to get other people to buy said crap at a yard sale."

"And use the money for the renovating and decorating of it all?" Johanna asks, grinning as she parrots the show's narration.

"Which brings us back to where they get that much crap," Annie says. "Really, even in the Capitol, no one's buried under that much clutter. How rich were these people to have so much stuff that they can't move around in their houses? They don't act like they're rich. But it has to come from somewhere. How did they pay for it in the first place?"

"Jack might have liked this," Haymitch says. "He was always going on about his house."

"No way." Johanna shakes her head emphatically. "That guy who does the decorating would make him give up his wooden duck collection because it didn't fit in some grand design plan. Jack would have picked up one of those ducks and bludgeoned him with it. It would have been a whole different kind of show."

"I wonder what they'd make me sell," I muse. "Do you suppose I'd have to give up my circuit boards?"

"They can have our victory tour plaques," Katniss suggests.

"And the stunning collection of deactivated bugs," Peeta adds.

"I have a Cornucopia fountain out back," Haymitch says. "Only puked on a few hundred times. I'm sure it'll polish right up."

Eno shrugs. "They can have my whole house in Two. Everything that counts is down in Fourteen now."

"I'd give them my whole house in Seven," Johanna says bitterly, "but someone decided to solve my clutter problem by burning it down, along with Jack's and Blight's."

"You want my house?" Eno asks. "I mean, you earned a Victor's house, and I'm sure as hell not going back to Two. There's plenty of room, and I promise I never chewed on the furniture."

"If that's a solid offer, I'll take it."

"It's solid." They watch the show for a while. "Though if you paint the inside walls that shade of green, I'm taking it back…"



An AU in which Mir does go to the Capitol on scholarship, and finds it is rather different than she expected or hoped? for orichalcum

I hope for a minute that they won't recognize me.

At school, I wear a wig. It's white, and I powder it a different color every morning. I spend an hour washing it out at night. I re-style it. They think I have at least three. I bought separates, too, so I can mix them up and make people think I have more clothes than I do. Just Mirrem the District girl who can outshine all of them once the house lights go down and the spotlight comes on. Even they admit it. If it's on long enough, they sometimes even remember that it's supposed to be Mariana here.

Not often.

And not this time.

The girl with the golden wig looks up from the table to place her order and says, "Oh, dear, Mirrem, isn't it? Didn't we meet at the audition?"

The director, who begged me for another scene and applauded, with tears in his eyes, when I finished, looks at me with no recognition at all. "Did you audition, dear?" he asks.

"Yes. Mariana Murphy. I did the scene from Agathe -- "

An iron hand grips my arm. "You are serving entrees, dear," the head waiter hisses. "You are not at a party."

I lean in, and play my part. "What can I get for you, Mr. Dorning?"

He makes his order, losing interest in me entirely.

The girl doesn't. Her name is Gordiana, and we've been in classes together for seven months. Her grades are significantly beneath mine. "Dear, it's such a shame you couldn't come to the party tonight," she says. "I've been talking with Mr. Dorning about my part all night." She smiles.

I smile back. "Congratulations."

"It's all about the connections. You really should have made more of an effort. So much depends on who you can get to know!" She turns back to Dorning and starts chatting about the series she's going to be starting.

I go back to the kitchen and put in the orders. The chef's table is covered with chopped beef, which is to be served raw over seaweed from District Four. Blood drips down the side of the table.

I'm still the butcher's daughter, after all.

I take off my apron and wad it up, shoving it into a trash can. Let them find someone else. I've had it. Another job will come up. There's always another job.

I don't need this today.

I woke up this morning wondering why the day seemed familiar. It didn't strike me until I left the audition. This is the day the doctors said my baby would be born, if I'd decided to go ahead with it. I have no idea how they figured that. Back in Twelve, Ruth just said, "Sometime in summer, probably." Here -- when I realized that Ruth's tea didn't take and went to a local clinic -- they said, "I would expect July eighteenth, but you won't be able to work in any serious way from the middle of May onward. No one wants to see a waddling waitress, let alone a waddling actress. And of course, a district child would have to be sent back to the districts, and can hardly travel alone."

So I had them take care of it. They called it a "minor cosmetic procedure." It's over. I don't even know why the date stuck in my head. I guess it's not every day that someone gives you a date like that. I take off my heels and walk barefoot through the Capitol. My room is in a ramshackle building near the train tracks. I have a sink and a shower, and that's about it. I have a mailbox in the lobby, which usually contains bills or advertisements.

Today, there's a letter. I am somehow not surprised that it's from Danny. Guess I've been thinking about where we might have been right about now, he writes. You had to do what was right for you. But I guess I'm still angry. I think I'll stop being angry someday, though. I hope we'll be friends again then.

Meanwhile, he seems to be tempering his rage with a steady dose of other women. He doesn't say this, exactly, but I can read between the lines. I know Dannel Mellark. He has the sexual self-control of a goat.

I throw his letter out and flop down on my narrow, uncomfortable bed. Stare at the ceiling.

Gordiana's right -- this whole business is about who you know and where you're seen. Places to be seen do not include any places I can afford to go, and as far as knowing anyone… my drama teachers know me, and that's about all. They can sometimes get me auditions, but I have yet to score so much as a commercial on the paying front, no matter how many academy productions I do. I get invited to a lot of the parties after the shows, but I can't go, because I have to work to pay for this lousy box that I live in, which prevents me from getting work, so I can't afford anything better. As for hosting my own event, as my advisor suggested, I can just imagine how many people I could fit into this coffin at one time. And hey, they could each take home a cockroach as a party favor. Maybe it could be a new trend.

I toy with the idea of trying to get them to entertain "District Chic" as a look. Go wigless. Wear sturdy clothes that you can work in.

The problem is, if I did manage to make it a trend, then, like everything else, they'd find a way to make it expensive, and judge the look based on how exclusive your supplier of genuine sweat-stained work-shirts was. Extra points for who they could get to sweat into it. I wonder if they could get people to pay more if it was genuine District sweat, kept in the fabric by some fabulous Capitol preservative.

Or maybe they'd base it on how famous the sweat producer was. Double the price for a well-known politician. Triple, if it's a movie star. Multiply it by ten if you can get a victor to sweat on your clothes. Since it would be easy to fake the look, every outfit would probably have to be DNA tested, with certifications on each stain. (Though the way they get around, probably half the Capitol has their sweat in the sheets. Maybe they'll just make the sheets into clothes, and sweat will be the cheapest of the preserved body fluids on them.) The idea of getting Gordiana to wear something Haymitch Abernathy has sweated and probably urinated on is at least somewhat satisfying. (During the Games last month, I considered name-dropping, but I realized that have standards. One of them is that I will never admit to knowing Haymitch, even when I'm asked point blank. I kind of expect he feels the same.)

At any rate, I wouldn't be able to afford to keep up with a trend like that. It's pretty much a given that if a trend really takes hold enough to score points with the right people, I won't be able to afford it.

I guess my brief fantasy is over. Money always makes the fantasies go away. I take a deep breath and sit up. I have two monologues to practice, and maybe if I can get the lead in the musical for fall, there will be someone in the audience who'll see me and appreciate it.

Meanwhile, I guess I'll have to paint myself up and go looking for another job.

I wonder if the butcher is hiring.
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Comments
orichalcum From: orichalcum Date: March 29th, 2014 05:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! The Mir one is both awful and realistic; it's not that she doesn't have talent, but that it doesn't matter enough in the world of the Capitol. Take that combined with an inherently suspicious and bitter personality and you don't have an easy recipe for success.

At least Peeta's able to use all the talent he inherits from her to help save himself and Katniss.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 30th, 2014 12:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Mir was definitely not getting what she expected. It's true so often that talent just is not enough. Talent's often pretty cheap. It's all of the other things that make it hard.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: March 29th, 2014 05:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
The first one is hilarious -- and you know, after the Great Catastrophe (whatever it is) hits, I can see future generations boggling at the exact same thing: How did they get so much stuff? I mean, I'm not exactly a 1%er but if you did an inventory of my possessions it would look like I had roughly the same number of things as Renaissance princes, though of course there would be more cheap paperbacks and electronics and fewer velvet-covered hand-lettered Bibles with gem-encrusted spines. Of course they can't really get their heads around just how cheap mass manufacturing was for awhile; it's got to look sort of alluring and horrifying at the same time, like seeing a 40 course Roman feast or something like that. (And I love that Jack had a wooden duck collection. Damn canon, I wanted to see so much more of him and all the other victors who didn't end up in the Magnificent Postwar Seven).

And Mir ... of course the Capitol scholarship wouldn't give her housing, would it? She should be lucky just to be breathing the same air, I suppose. I wonder how the revolution turns out in this scenario, without her now-nonexistent sons? Unless she ends up having to go back to 12 because she has no money or connections, reunites with Danny, and has a near-equivalent Peeta -- then her bitterness could be attributed to the fact of what she gave up to go to the Capitol, while getting nothing in return, instead of her never getting to go in the first place.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 30th, 2014 12:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Of the random victors I made up, Jack's probably my favorite, and I mean to spend at least a little more time with him in the next two big stories (though the timing of his Games doesn't work for his to be one of the Games I'm looking at... but the story I have in my head would have some repercussions later on).

I can't figure out how people accumulate that much junk (one featured a woman who just bought everything she saw on infomercials... sometimes twice). And the women and shoes! Ay. "Can you pare it down to 80 pairs of shoes? Is that doable?" "Oh, I don't know..." "Come on, I'm leaving you with half of what you have..." I can honestly say, I don't think I've ever owned more than ten pairs of shoes at the same time.


Edited at 2014-03-30 01:31 am (UTC)
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: March 29th, 2014 08:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have never seen Clean House, but I have seen Hoarders. I like the idea of the victors getting together. When Haymitch noted the odd feeling of looking forward to the games from the standpoint of wanting to see his friends, even though the games themselves were horrible, I could totally get it. Sad to think how few of the victors actually survived.

My favorite reaction was Annie's. how do we afford all the stuff we have and how much stuff so we have that we don't need. It puts even the Capitol's excess in perspective (well maybe not exactly... But it makes me think twice before buying two blouses instead of one just because they're on sale. I only need one).</p>

Gordiana's bitchiness made me feel sorry for Mir just a little (because those kinds of girls apparently won't die out any more than religion will. With the good comes the bad). Still, overall it was just an illustration that she was probably just one of those people who would never find happiness in whatever situation she found herself in. I'm sure if she gets discovered that she will still be a miserable shrew somehow. I guess that makes me feel even sorrier for her.

gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: March 29th, 2014 08:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
And thank you. I know you take challenges in comment order, but you always give them equal care and consideration and I, for one, appreciate it.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 30th, 2014 12:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Mir would definitely never be happy. If she got discovered, it wouldn't be for the "right" shows. She would be outshone by someone she felt was beneath her. If she won every award in the system, it would be such a bother to keep them dusted.

Clean House has a lighter tone than Hoarders -- it's hosted by a comedian, Niecy Nash, and she kind of sets the tone. It's on Netflix streaming now. Used to be on Style Network.

I live in this world, and I can't figure out how they can afford so much clutter that selling it sometimes nets them $2000 at a yard sale where they sell things at, well, yard sale prices. Granted, they have to force them to sell a few "big ticket" pieces, but those usually go for around a hundred.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 30th, 2014 04:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't get it, what's the "foolishness" voice Beetee hears at the beginning of the piece?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 30th, 2014 05:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's from the show they're watching.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 30th, 2014 05:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Aha, thanks.
mirandabeth From: mirandabeth Date: March 31st, 2014 01:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh gosh, the victors' conversation was delightful! And I adore them seeking each other out on an annual basis.

Mir's one was just depressing. Although honestly, I bet she could eventually find some way of convincing them that cockroaches were excellent party favours. :p
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 31st, 2014 09:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Probably -- but, as she says, then they'd be too expensive for her to afford.
redrikki From: redrikki Date: March 31st, 2014 03:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've never seen Clean House but I think my folks could have benefited from something like that. It's not that they bought in excess, it's that they never threw anything out, from my old baby clothes to the stuff we took from my grandparents' homes after they died.

As for the bit with Mir, I can see her growing just as bitter in the end as she was in 12. I noticed an error. but I realized that have standards. You are missing an 'I'.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 31st, 2014 09:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
CH is an interesting little show, in its way. And I do think that sometimes, having an outsider come in and turn your life upside down would be helpful.
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