Generally, Games fervor in the Capitol lasts for about three weeks after the Games end. Bettors explain their bets, interesting trivia about the arena becomes coffee shop talk, and magazines publish glossy pictures of the victor. Games with victors from Four and One increase tourism to their resorts (the only two resorts outside of Capitol territory, other than the arenas themselves). There's the opening of the arena for visitors, usually in mid-October, and the constant efforts of the media to jump on new material, but really, by the end of fall, the new victor is just another celebrity, like the rest of the victors from the beginning. News comes up and people gossip. Some victors are more interesting than others, and they get a little more play, but by the time the Victory Tour comes around, the Gamemakers are making a concerted effort to get people's attention.
They usually start small in District Twelve because the coverage itself is what gets people interested again. The first day is something of a throwaway, even though it's mandatory viewing. People are just getting settled and remembering that there is still a new victor. Twelve usually gets a few shots of coal being stoked to give the impression that things are heating up again, then the Games are recapped during the actual events. There's no need for anything fancy. By the time the train rolls into the inner districts, interest is sufficiently fired up, and there's more of a production. Haymitch says that for once, this favors Twelve, since they don't have to put on a big show, which they can't afford, anyway.
It's all very routine, and very predictable -- except for this year.
Interest in Finnick doesn't wane. Reporters and photographers from the fashion and fan magazines are routinely sent to District Four (which is warm and sunny and has a beach, so they don't object), and they get pictures of him swimming, fishing with Mags, making a great show of racing Harris along their private beach, helping Mari Lynch (who won the Thirty-Third Games) corral her children for a picnic. They aren't interested in his parents, who aren't famous… and who aren't at all popular with his fan base. His father is seen as boorish and ignorant. His mother -- unseen except in the blurry background of one photograph -- is flatly hated for "abandoning" him, not appearing during the Games for the usual run of interviews. "She doesn't deserve a son like Finnick!" is a common refrain. Finnick does take time to rebut this, saying that he loves his mother, and his district token was a barrette of hers, strung from one of his father's fishing lines. He wanted to have them in the arena with him in some way, because they are the most important people in his life.
This has no impact whatsoever on perception. Stories float around the Capitol, published in smudgy handmade magazines, in which Carolyn hates and ignores her blameless son, who only begs for a scrap of attention from her. She resents him for being beautiful and good. Many of these stories posit that Finnick is actually a Capitol child, kidnapped from his real parents and raised by pretenders. His real mother -- usually a famous actress or singer -- finally recognizes him and brings him home, where he finds true love and understands who he really is, usually with the help of the girl whose parents once made a pact with his real mother that their children would someday marry.
I only read one of them, which my manicurist hands me while my nails dry, but there are plenty of reports on the subject, along with pictures of the explosion of amateur artwork, much of it showing Finnick standing in the glimmering shallows on the beach with a halo of sunlight around his head. The press can't get enough of the craziness.
As a result of all of this, as December comes around, the Capitol is still in the grip of Finnick-mania, now also called "Four-vor" and "Finn-scination," and those of us who work in the outer districts are called in for a meeting with Caesar. The Gamemakers have decreed that the opening stops on the Victory Tour will be as grandiose as the later ones. More money is expected to be spent, and the look must be just right. They're hoping that this kind of dedication will stick, and future Games can also bring in money throughout the year. To that end, we will all be going out to our districts three weeks ahead of the Tour to get things in order. Every stop must have interesting material for the cameras, beyond the standard speech. They want people in the districts talking about Finnick, and how excited they are to have him.
I raise my hand. "There's no extra money in District Twelve. And… well, as far as getting Fannicks out in the districts -- he did kill quite a few of their children. There may not be Fannicks to find. I know it's part of the Games, but we can't expect them to…"
"I don't," Caesar says. "But there are always people who want to be on television and will say anything. Or girls with crushes, I guess." He wrinkles his nose in distaste. I'm not sure he realizes this. "As to the extra money? Of course it has to come from the District citizens. We'll be sending up crews to collect the extra donations a week before the Tour starts. I had a long conversation with Haymitch about it, over the mayor's line. He says he thinks the money can be found." He stares at me, and I understand: Haymitch is going to pay for it. He'll have to hide it, because the districts are supposed to be showing off their resources and sharing the cost, but somehow, he'll come up with it. We are also given a budget ourselves to make sure that there is proper food and drink, which I suspect is coming directly from Caesar.
I call the small inn at the edge of town and arrange for a room for three weeks. The woman on the other end seems astounded; apparently, they don't usually get long-term visitors. She tells me I can have "the very best room," which has a view out over the town square. I pack a lot of warm, fairly practical clothes.
My train leaves five days later. It's not our usual transport, just a single passenger car attached to a coal train, which is much slower. I travel with an executive for the mines. He spends much of the trip complaining about having to go all the way out to Twelve just because a few of the lazier miners have managed to convince the foreman that there's a safety issue with the depth they're digging at. "I already pay for more safety equipment than anyone else in Panem," he gripes. "Your boss agitated for air filtration systems, then wanted masks on top of it. And of course, victors get whatever they want. You really must have stories to tell."
I tell him that I get along quite well with Haymitch, which he takes as an opportunity to grill me about my "availability," as long as the sleeping berths in the car are so cozy. I lie and tell him that Haymitch has taught me how to use a knife, and I'm very good with it. This seems to curb his interest in the subject. I decide to ask Haymitch to actually teach me.
We pull into District Twelve early in the morning, three days after leaving the Capitol. Haymitch is waiting for me at the platform. He's surprisingly sober.
"I've had a lot of work to do," he says dismissively when I mention it. "No time to get drunk. I don't suppose you brought any of my medicine, though? Because I don't think I can keep it up much longer."
I sigh. "It's in my bag. A full course takes six weeks. They wouldn't let me bring enough to get you all the way through it."
"Of course not." He shrugs. "I'm not looking to get reformed, anyway. I just need to keep it together for a couple of weeks, same as I do during the Games." A porter comes to the platform with my baggage. Haymitch looks at the bags, bemused, then says, "Well, I guess I can get a couple of kids to carry it."
The porter goes back. Haymitch piles my bags in the shelter, promises me that no one will have time to steal them, and leads me toward town. There are ragged-looking children on the way to school, many in broken shoes that let in the cold, dirty snow.
"Hey!" Haymitch calls, and a black-haired boy turns and looks at him suspiciously. "You're one of the Purdy boys, right?"
He nods. "Cammern."
"Cammern. You got some brothers, right? They around?"
"Miss Trinket's got some bags. You think you have time to take them up to the inn before school? I'll pay you three coins per bag. You can pick which coins. I'll come by after school with the money, and your mama can see how much you help."
The boy's eyes go wide. I doubt he's seen three of any denomination of coin at the same time in his life. He yells for his brothers (Jed and Dale, apparently), and the next thing I know, they're piled up with my bags and headed for the inn.
"Sorry," Haymitch says. "I don't drive. No car. It's probably better that way."
"It's good to give them work," I say.
"Yeah, I've been hiring the kids around here to do a bunch of little errands lately," he says. "You'd be surprised how much there is to do, when you start thinking about it. Trees that need cutting down. Snow to shovel. And of course, if some of the tougher kids are doing chores like that for me, I have to hire someone to look after their brothers and sisters, since they can't do it at the same time."
In other words, he's been disbursing his money as fast as he can, so that when they come to collect for the Victory Tour, it will look like it's coming from the district instead of from him. I'm guessing there's a little bit more with each "payment" than is strictly agreed on, too. I hope the tax collectors don't decide that this means District Twelve can afford to pay more on a regular basis. I doubt even Haymitch will be able to think of that many chores.
We walk into town together. The sky above us is a pale gray that seems to erase the horizon, blending into the grayish white, snowy ground with only a distant blur to separate the two. A light snow starts to fall while we cross the square. Haymitch stops beside a splintery bandstand. "What do they really want to do?" he asks. "Caesar wanted to find fans."
"Caesar knows they might not be… well, entirely sincere."
"He wants me to find actors."
I shrug. "Unless you know some real Fannicks. Are there any in the school?"
"Why would I know what's going on in the school?" he asks. "I used to go there and try to figure out who we were going to kill next, but I got a strongly worded request to cut that out. I don't know any kids anymore, except the tributes. People aren't crazy about me getting to know their kids, given where kids I know end up."
"That's not your fault."
"Definitely not. Remember, I watch the whole thing every year. You do everything you can."
He stares at his feet for a few seconds, then says, "Thanks, Effie." He looks up. "I haven't been out around here for a while. It's been cold work the last couple of days. How have you been? Is the Capitol still crazy?"
"Oh, I'm fine. And Four-vor is still in full swing."
"New guys in your life?"
I think about it. "I went on a date in October, I think. I don't remember who it was."
"You should get out more. You're turning into me."
"The men in my life all seem to think there's someone more important to me."
He sits down on the bandstand's low rail and crosses his arms, looking away from me. "We have to stop that, Effie. All of it."
"I know. I'm not oblivious. To you or me. Do you know what I've been doing most of this fall?" He doesn't wait for me to answer. He just smiles ruefully. "I've been coming up with scenarios to make it work. Any way to let this happen without them taking you away. How to hide it, make the Gamemakers think it's not important. Once I even did a scenario where I made a really good argument and solved the problem. I even thought about running away to the out-districts." He looks at me and we both laugh at the idea. "But they fall through, Effie. Every single scenario falls through somewhere. If we hid it, they'd find out. If I pretended it was just about… you know… I'd have to be a way better actor than I am. And they'd never listen to an argument. There are more important things to argue about, and they don't listen to that, either. There's just no way. Not the way the world is now. And I don't seem to be changing the world very much."
"What about the out-districts?"
"Well, you shot down the other possibilities. Maybe I could learn to live in the woods."
He laughs. "No, you couldn't. Neither could I, really."
"And besides -- if Twelve's only living victor were to disappear with his escort, they'd take it out on the district. We're all nice, caged-in hostages here." He sighs and stands up. "So, that's that. Unless you have a good argument? Which I sort of hope you do."
I shake my head. "I can't think of one. I think you've thought of everything, and then just a little bit more."
"Then I guess we better get you to your room."
We start moving again, and don't talk until we get to the inn, where the boys carrying my luggage are just leaving. I thank them and try to give them each a little tip, but apparently, that's not the custom here. They look offended by it. Haymitch waves it off. He says he has errands to run, so the innkeeper, Mrs. Shannon, helps me get my things upstairs.
"I hope you like the room," she says. "It's better than the one you stayed in last time. Comfier. Bigger. You'll have room to spread out a little bit, since you'll be here a while. Your room and board covers three meals in the dining room. You'll find the menu on the dresser, but if you want something else, you just ask. My husband loves to try cooking new things, and if we have the ingredients, you're welcome to order anything."
"My little girl Sarey is awfully eager to meet you. She loves your clothes. If she starts bothering you, let me know, and I'll call her off. She knows better than to pester guests."
"Oh, I'm sure she'll be fine," I say. "I only brought a few fancy clothes for the Tour, though."
She takes a quick glance at my current outfit -- a suit I think of as comfortable and easy for traveling -- and I realize that she probably thinks even this qualifies as "fancy." I suppose it even is, around here. She's staffing the desk of the hotel wearing a threadbare blue blouse that drops off her shoulder, a pair of blue jeans, and scuffed brown flats. Her only jewelry is a wedding ring, and her unadorned blond hair is swept up into a simple bun.
I spend the afternoon re-thinking my wardrobe. I do have one pair of pants -- they're black silk, and hang like a long skirt -- and a handful of muted-color tops. I decide to go shopping. A little more money spread around can't hurt.
My first stop is the shoe store, where a friendly, round-faced man with a bushy mustache and a thick shock of floppy blond hair fits me for a new pair of boots. Unlike most of the district people I meet, he doesn't make an effort to talk me out of heels. ("Aw, no, if you've been wearing them for years, of course you're going to be used to them. Look at the way your foot arches up! I bet it's uncomfortable putting it down flat these days.") I "accidentally" pay him too much while mentioning that I've been friends with Haymitch for years, and he unobtrusively slips the extra into a little envelope. "Delly?" he calls, and a chubby little girl with a huge smile bounds in from the other room. "You know, I forgot a bit of business I did with Mr. Berryhill. Think you can swing this by?"
It's the same at a dusty clothing store, where I pick up four pairs of jeans and some snug sweaters, and the owner abruptly remembers a debt he has to the cemetery groundskeeper. There's a coat shop as well, where I pick up a heavy, camel-colored overcoat with shiny black buttons, and the old man nearly weeps over "finally" being able to repay a few miners who helped him set up his inventory last spring. The next day, I discover that several of my skirts need to be shortened, and take them to the tailors. Their daughter was a tribute a couple of years after Haymitch won, and they are subdued and quiet. They've informally adopted a girl from the Community Home to help them, and she appears to stay there full time, though they take full advantage of her unofficial status to send her back to the home with a "payment" for the day. The innkeepers' daughter Sarey helps me get all of my wardrobe into the closet and dressers -- and chatters on about what people will want to see here, if they're going to show Twelve more than usual -- and I pay her for a days' work. She runs off immediately to "show" the money to a girlfriend of hers down on the Seam.
I have an early supper with Haymitch at the restaurant in the inn -- it's plain food, but quite good -- and we take a walk together afterward, to compare notes. A few children are waiting along the side of the road. Haymitch says that they're waiting for their parents to come home from the mines.
"No childcare?" I ask.
He frowns. "No. They're just anxious to see their parents."
"Oh." I shake my head. "I don't understand why the boys wouldn't take a tip the first day," I say. "Everyone's been taking the… other tips."
"The first one was an actual tip," Haymitch says. "People around here see that as a handout, and they don't take handouts. The rest is getting around the tax man, once Eli Cartwright got word around that you were helping me with that. All's fair when it comes to taxes."
"Well, it's not a tax, per se…"
"Sure it's not."
We come to a bench not far from the bakery. The baker's boys are building a snowman with the shoemakers' daughter Delly, and Sarey from the inn. Haymitch watches them without saying anything.
"The baker here is very good, if I recall," I prod him.
"Danny? The best."
"I thought I could hire him to cater the tour. Pastries, cakes, breads. Didn't you once get him recipes from all the districts?"
"Yes, I did. Why?"
"Well, he could make them. As a special Victory Tour kick-off. And it would be something interesting for the media to talk about."
"I don't know if he still has them."
I frown. "You used to be good friends. He was looking after you when I came on board."
"And now you look after me. You're my new Danny. Though there are certain conversations he and I never needed to have."
"Haymitch, you need a friend who's here." I wrinkle my nose. "And by the way, thanks a lot for that."
"I figured you'd just love that comparison." He grins and shrugs. "And what about you? You're not dating, you haven't talked about any of your friends in the Capitol, and you spend half the year just on sponsors."
"I'm not -- "
"You're not… what? The one who needs to be fixed? The one who needs friends?" He sighs. "Maybe I'm a little worried about you, too. Or is everything supposed to be about me? Because it shouldn’t be. You need other people to worry about. Starting with Euphemia Trinket."
He shakes the whole thing off. "Don't get the wrong idea. I still spend time with Danny. I still do business with him, and we get along fine. I even watched the boys a few times when the bakery was busy. He's just got a whole life now. People have families, and… well, I guess it's the right way for it to be."
"Then what's with the long face?"
"What do you mean?"
I decide not to pursue it. "I had another idea," I say. "For the press."
"Yeah. It wouldn't involve actors or people pretending to be Fannicks. People here don't seem to pretend all that much."
"So, Sarey Shannon was helping me with my clothes, and she said something about what people would want to see. Do you think people might go along with interviews about what they might like Finnick to see here? The best things in Twelve? It would take the attention away from the question of whether or not they actually like Finnick. And then they could film you actually showing him, if there's time. I think he has two days, which is what they usually give when there's a district tour, and really there's not much to tour here."
"There's not much to see here. It's a town. About nine thousand people, give or take. What exactly would a kid from Four want to see?"
"Snow," I suggest. "He probably hasn't seen much snow. Maybe he could…" I gesture at the children playing by the bakery.
"I tried that in Eight. The Gamemakers weren't happy."
"Sarey thought he'd like to walk in the woods up at the park. I'm not sure where that is."
"Top of the hill. It's just a bare spot with fallen logs."
"And she says there are sometimes parties on the Seam, where people sing."
"Glen's place. I'm surprised a merchant girl is allowed down there. I mean, Glen's all right -- he married a merchant girl -- but the neighbors barely tolerate his wife, let alone..." He shakes his head, annoyed.
"Haymitch, we have to fill airtime with something. Why don't you call Finnick and find out what he'd like to see?"
"No district-to-district calls."
I grind my teeth. "You're not being helpful."
The first carload of miners comes back from the mines, and children start jumping up to greet them. A little girl with two long black braids runs to her father, who picks her up and swings her around. They laugh out loud, like the world is a place full of unlimited happiness for them, and then the man starts to sing in a strong, beautiful voice.
Pretty Lady Liberty in robes so fine,
Took a swim into town along the subway line….
It's an old song about the Catastrophes (this particular one about a great city sinking into the ocean) but it has a catchy beat and a little dance with fish sounds to accompany it. The little girl joins him, singing at the top of her lungs as they pass us, and shaking her little backside like a fish tail while she sings, "Glub-blubba-blubba, glub…"
"That's him," Haymitch says. "The one with the singing parties."
"I believe it. Don't you think people would like to hear him?"
"I think there's such a thing as private lives," he says. "Leave him be. That's fun for his family and neighbors. Not everyone wants that on television."
"Haymitch, we can't just have nothing when they show up. We have to have a show ready. It's not going to go away if you shoot down every idea."
He nods. "I'm not the one to run ideas by here. I can't tell you the best of District Twelve, because everything that's good about it for me is gone. You come up with an idea. Tell me when to show up and where to stand and what to wear, and I'll do it. I'll even do it sober. But that's as much as I can give you."
I suppose it's the best I'll get from him. He tells me that my best bet for getting money around is to keep up the shopping pretense. The apothecary has people who sell him herbs that he can overpay for. The grocers -- Babra's parents -- can distribute a lot by handing it out with the change, as long as it doesn't stay in the till long enough for the government to recognize it. An old man named Fisher has a hardware store, and is always ready to help out, if I can think of some reason to buy hardware. He'll deal with the miners. They don't like him and never did, but he used to be one of them, at least.
And I'm to come up with whatever the entertainment is, but it's not to treat the people here as entertainment. He's very strict about that.
I end up going to the mayor, who helps me find sites of local historical interest. Sarey is determined to show the park, and brings some of her friends along. They do not seem averse to the idea of showing Finnick Odair what children in District Twelve like to do (to my surprise, Haymitch doesn’t mind this -- he thinks that showing Finnick with children his age or younger will be helpful somehow, as long as the children are willing). Danny Mellark takes a huge order for the breads, and puts together a display of the cards that Haymitch got for him, though they seem to have been trimmed around the edges (he blames this on "grease spots"). He's also got a special cake, which he says is a local tradition, with layers made by different people. It's not exactly right, but he's gotten a recipe for a layer from a victor in each district (mailed to Haymitch), and that will be the centerpiece.
Against Haymitch's expectations, a few Fannicks -- mostly schoolgirls -- do come out of the woodwork. Their parents aren't thrilled, but give permission for them to appear.
By the time the crew transport arrives three days ahead of the tour to set up the stage and get Treeza and Chicory's families set up, we've got the show covered. I go around with cameras to show them collecting the extra money from the local families (some even manage a friendly smile), and the construction team builds out the stage.
We are as ready as it's possible to be for a visit from Finnick Odair.