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Challenges 3 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Challenges 3
How about child Effie's POV from the scene where she got Haymitch's autograph ("To the girl carrying everything")? for golden_d

I was afraid of the bigger kids when Mother first sent me to Capitol dreams last summer. They were all rich and beautiful, and wore wonderful clothes.

They looked like the sort of people who made fun of me during the Games, when I had to stand in the play yard and write the number of people who died during the Dark Days over and over on a blackboard. Some of them threw things at me while I wrote. One girl smeared mud all over my clothes so I could "look like those District slobs" that I loved so much. A boy threatened to cut off one of my curls with a knife so I could look especially like Maysilee, but that's when the teacher came in and said it was enough, and I had to go to the school counsellor, with my parents, to see where I was getting radical ideas.

Capitol Dreams was the counsellor's idea. They helped children like me, who didn't fit in, who "misdirected" our feelings.

So when I went in, I was sure they would tease me about misdirecting my feelings, and make fun of my clothes, which are off-label. Maybe they would pull my hair and call me "YOO-FEEEEEM-EEE-A!" like they were calling a pig.

Instead, they turned out to be nice. Two teenage girls, Varinia Jeffers and Mariana Henry, "adopted" me, and spent the first week showing me how to arrange my curls so they aren't just a mop on my head, and helped me alter my clothes so they fit just like designer ones. "Oh, we always do that at Dreams!" Varinia chirped. "Why spend the money, right?" Mariana laughed fondly, and I wondered if maybe they weren't really rich, either. Mariana taught me to walk properly in high heels, and another girl, Decima, taught me how to put on make-up just like I saw in magazines.

At night, there were movies and dancing. Sometimes, they put on a show just for fun. I got to be Aelia in the Founding Pageant -- the little sick orphan girl who Mother Laelia saved and took care of when she built the first settlement in the Capitol.

The adults were nice to me, too, but adults usually have been. They liked how good I was at remembering names and faces, and told me how clever I was when I set up everyone's chores so that they were finished early, and we had more time to have fun at night.

Mostly, I didn't see a lot of the other kids my age, because they were in their own camp, which I wasn't ready to join yet.

I forgot how mean they could be.

It's not my fault I got the best score on the Runner test, and I did have to prove that I understood what the Games were about. I'm not the only one who's still a fan of Haymitch Abernathy's, either. I know Constantine Jow has a poster in his locker at school, too, because he bragged about it on the way over here. He wants an autograph as much as I do, and no one's whispering about whether or not he's loyal.

No one is pushing me around or messing up my clothes -- they'd get in real trouble if they made a Dreams runner look bad at the Victory Tour party -- but they're looking at me and giggling a lot.

The adults aren't very nice, either. I know this is really important, but I'm doing everything the way I'm supposed to, and they still keep calling me by the wrong name (Miss Tinkham) and loading me up with trays while everyone else looks like they're on a break. I think about asking for one, but I guess that maybe I'm still being punished after all. I guess they don't want me to talk to Haymitch Abernathy, because it was his ally who I was sad about at school.

I take another set of hors d'oeuvres around. I go to adults who've been invited. I had to memorize all of them for the test, so I know I'm talking to Captain Libius Pettibone and his special friend, Mrs. Magna Fritcher, though they don't look at me, so I don't get a chance to address them right. Only a few people have looked at me.

The actress Emiliana Meadowbrook is here, along with her co-star, Valerian Vale. They're dancing together now, but I saw Miss Meadowbrook dancing with Haymitch earlier. They were laughing and seemed to get along. I wonder what it would be like to dance with Haymitch. I think he's very handsome tonight. But even if I were allowed to dance when I'm supposed to be working, I guess he's stopped for now. I see him off in a corner with a Capitol boy, playing a video game. I go over with my tray.

"…Aaagh!" the Capitol boy says, as his avatar goes down in flames. "You got me again!"

"That's 'cause you're still stupid, Plutarch," Haymitch says. "You get it too complicated."

"Hors d'oeuvres?" I ask.

Haymitch glances up, and I feel my face go completely hot. He says, "No, thank you," and goes back to his game. The Capitol boy, Plutarch, waves his hand and says, "More tea, all right?"

I curtsey and head to the kitchen and ask the kitchen chief if I can have another pitcher of tea for the guest of honor.

It takes a bit to brew, and I sit down on a hard little chair.

"I see the Gamemakers are keeping him off the booze," the chief says to her assistant. "I don't see why -- he certainly seems to be having some fun with it!"

The assistant laughs. "Oh, yeah. We all saw the shampoo job in District One." She waggles her eyebrows. "Not that I'd complain if I were the girl."

I look away. There was a picture on television during the District One stop of a girl with her head in Haymitch's lap. He'd thrown up on her, and everyone says it was because he was drunk. I think there was something about sex, though I'm not sure what. The only thing I can think of is really gross.

"Boy's got more serious troubles than the bottle," the chief says, shaking her head. "I heard a rumor that he and that tramp of an escort he used to have…" She sighs. "Well, I'm only saying, he's not shaping up to be a stellar victor."

"I like him," I say, but neither of them hears me. A tray with two mugs and a fresh pot of tea is put into my hands, and I carry it back out. Haymitch gives me a distract smile as his avatar digs a moat around some kind of castle in the Games. Plutarch doesn't acknowledge me.

I make another few rounds, and I see some of the Runners picking food off the feast tables. I go over. "Do you have a break?" I ask, meaning to ask how to get one, but instead, the girl snarls at me.

"Are you going to tell on us?" she asks.

I take a step back and blink. It never occurred to me to just go to the feast tables and start eating. I see a few Runners on the dance floor, too.

I wonder if all of them are out there without permission. I guess they must be. I bite my lip.

Over in the corner where Haymitch and Plutarch were playing games, I see now that Haymitch has come out and is signing autographs. Constantine gets one and goes off crowing.

I look over my shoulder, put my tray down, and join the line.

"Aw, you're ten?" he says to a girl who's come up to him. His accent is a strange, lilting kind of thing, and I guess he's tired, because it's coming out a lot now. "You like school?" I can't tell what she says, but he answers, "Really? Well, I'm not one to talk, but I think you just need to find the right book." He signs her program. The next kid, a very small boy, comes up to him, and he crouches down to look him in the eye. "Wow, that's a great toy hovercraft. My brother made a toy hovercraft once, out of bark. Never could get it to fly right… oh, it does? Well, I'll have to check one of those out…" He signs the toy.

The next boy is a little bigger, so he stands up and just bends at the waist, with his hands on his knees. I'm close enough now to hear the boy, even though his back is to me. He says he wants to learn all about forcefields, and Haymitch allows that this sort of thing could come in handy. The girl after him says he's handsome, and he tells her that she's awful sweet to think so. The little boy after her -- this one occasions another full crouch -- tells him a long story that involves the nasty squirrels, and how it was really brave of him to fight them, and how now he (the boy) wasn't going to be scared of regular squirrels after all, because he'd seen Haymitch be so brave. The line starts getting tangled up, and I straighten it out, which pushes me further back, so I can't hear the next couple of kids. When I get close again, there's a little girl introducing her little black-haired dolly, who's named after him. He signs the doll's stomach.

"Miss Tinkham," someone hisses.

I look up. "I -- "

"You're on duty. Go." Three trays are stacked on my arms, and I'm pushed away from the line. Two other kids who I know are Runners lean back into a shadow. They snicker and point. I go back into the crowd. One of the other Runners knocks one of the trays off the stack, and it goes skidding, shedding hors d'oeuvres onto the dance floor. I scramble to pick them up and put them into the discreet trash holder on the underside of the tray.

I scurry back to the kitchen to reload. I'm almost there when someone taps my shoulder. I turn around, expecting someone to tell me that I'm not moving fast enough, or maybe that I'll never be allowed to work another party.

Instead, it's Haymitch himself. He's holding something out. It's a white square, and it takes me a second to register that it's a cocktail napkin. I almost ask him if he's looking for more napkins when I realize that he's scrawled on it. It says, To the girl carrying everything -- You're doing great! Thanks for helping out tonight. Then, in huge, spiky letters, his name: Haymitch Abernathy.

"I saw you get dragged off," he said. "I just guessed you might… I don't know. Want this."

I smile when I take it. I can't think of a single thing to say.

What did the surviving Avoxes do after the war? for sonetka

We were optimistic at first.

Alma Coin had been certain that Avoxes could be "repaired." She had a notion of donor tongues being attached, and there were certainly enough people dying in the hospital beds to do the experiment. She assured us that they gave consent.

I was one of the first to try the operation, even before I went off with Cressida. My tongue supposedly came from a soldier mortally wounded in the final push of the assault. I learned later that it came from an executed hairdresser from the District Five prep team, and it may have been cut out before she died, but by then, it was long out of my mouth. Rejection set in immediately, and after less than forty-eight hours, the medics from Thirteen told Coin that it wasn't working. I understand that she threw something of a tantrum about it, though I was a little too out of it to register. They put me back under and took the thing out of me, and, after a few days of healing, let me go back off with Cressida. She fumed that it should have worked, and also that I was put into surgery when I still wasn't ready.

When I was too weak from losing my brother.

I couldn't very well argue with her, but I guess when the next four surgeries, on Avoxes who weren't in mourning, also failed, she rethought her position. By the time Katniss Everdeen shot Alma Coin, the brief experiment with transplantation had ended. We didn't find out for several weeks exactly where the tongues had come from.

The next experiment came from Beetee, about a year after the war ended. A robotic tongue, made of a kind of flexible netting. It was supposed to respond the way any artificial limb did, and I was able to move it around a little bit, but it never took to the remaining nerves well enough to produce speech. He had it removed from its permanent attachment, but did take the general principle to build the bracer, a little device that we can put in our mouths while we eat, anchored on the tongue stub. Beetee has tried to recreate the sensation of taste, but it doesn't work very well. It makes chewing and swallowing much easier, and occasionally, we can hoot a few different sounding syllables.

During the physical therapy sessions to learn to use these things, I meet a girl from the Grove named Macrina, who got caught working one of the other rebellions. We make increasingly ridiculous sounds at each other for an hour before we decide there are more amusing ways to entertain ourselves. Eventually, we write our stories out for each other, but most of our day-to-day communication is in the sign language we used in the tunnels. Proposing is a quick short-hand six months later. I just kneel and hold my arms open. She covers her mouth, nods, and cries.

By then, most of the remaining Avoxes in the Capitol -- there are forty-three of us -- have created something of a community. I have an apartment on the lake, and early in our courtship, I'd found one downstairs for Macrina. After we get married, she sells it to her friend Nonia. The one next door to Nonia opens, and she lets a man named Marcus, who she knew from the tunnels, know that it's there. It goes on like that for a while, and soon, we have a neighborhood. Nonia opens a plaza -- a little building where people can come and play games or read or play with cats -- and it has become quite popular among non-Avoxes as well. Its theme is sign-language; no verbalizing allowed. Nearly everyone in the neighborhood knows the language now, and it's something of a fad around the Capitol to learn to use it, even though we understand them perfectly well when they talk to us. I guess they like the idea that we can talk back.

I am lucky. I have a skill that I could always use without speaking. Nonia is a good businesswoman. Macrina turned out to have good maintenance skills from her years in the tunnels and is always in demand. It's harder for some of the others. The government compensates them for their injuries, which is enough to stay in housing and actually live rather decently, but no one likes being paid for nothing, no matter what some people claim. But despite the fact that we're no longer pariahs, people don't seem to know what to do with us. We've ended up with a healthy volunteer culture, anyway.

In the five years since the end of the war, it's become pleasant. My daughter, Cassandra, is three, though, and I take her to Cressida's studio every day to make sure she hears people talk. Cressida tries signing to her, but I ask her not to. Cassie has a tongue. She has a right to know how to put it to proper use.

"There's nothing wrong with signing," Cressida says while Cassie swims through a bin of feather boas. We are currently making a game show that involves performing in them; Cressida has a purple one flung jauntily around her neck. "You should be proud of it!"

I roll my eyes and make a ridiculous series of non-signs that I can tell Cressida is trying to read.

"I don't understand," she says.

I spread my arms: My point exactly.

"Right, because the fact that you signed nonsense at me to make a point means that people shouldn't learn to communicate with her when she speaks a different language."

I open my mouth and point at the stub of my tongue, shaking my head.

"I know it wasn't your choice!"

I sign, What harm if she talks and signs?

She sighs. "No harm, I suppose. But it's nice having a second language around. I hate to force everyone to learn the first."

I lean over and make a halo over her head, adopting a pose of great sanctimony.

She flicks my nose with the end of her boa and watches Cassie for a while. "Fine," she says. "You’re her father."

I press the button for the bell sound we use when a contestant gets the right answer in the trivia round.

Cassie claps her hands happily at the sound and tosses the boas into the air like confetti.

I clap for her and she curtsies.

Another bell signals that the contestants' lunch hour is over, so we call Cassie back into the booth, and get back to business.


18 comments or Leave a comment
golden_d From: golden_d Date: August 11th, 2015 11:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Aw, baby Effie. I just want to give her a hug. <3 Thank you!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 12th, 2015 06:59 am (UTC) (Link)
She could use one, I think. Poor kid really is carrying a lot.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 11th, 2015 12:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Effie really was a sweet thing and it shows how the capitol didnt have to be nice to brainwash people.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 12th, 2015 06:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, it probably wouldn't work if they weren't nice to her initially, but now, if she screws up, she loses the nice people, so people are free to be mean.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 11th, 2015 12:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Castor's proposal made me well up-- so simple. You've made his argument with Cressida both substantive and fluid. Love it.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 12th, 2015 07:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I was going to make the artificial tongues work at first, but it just wasn't interesting.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 11th, 2015 03:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Like the Avox community and Castor's parenting. And Coin performed Nazi experiments? Creepy.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 12th, 2015 07:00 am (UTC) (Link)
And she was most likely furious because they had the gall to not work properly.
redrikki From: redrikki Date: August 11th, 2015 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting set. I was especially struck by the one about the Avoxes and the argument Cressida and Castor have about language. On the one hand, the Avox sign language comes out of a place of victimization (which becomes appropriated as cool and trendy by others) but being bilingual is an important skill and a mark of their subculture. It probably comes in handy for the deaf or stroke victims. Either way, it was a neat conversation both for its content and the interesting semi-verbal way in which you wrote it.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 12th, 2015 07:02 am (UTC) (Link)
I see both sides of the language issue, really. Don't force someone to speak a language she doesn't want to speak... and don't hobble someone by refusing to teach the language that she'll most likely need in later life.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: August 11th, 2015 11:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd been wondering if Beetee or someone could develop a communication device for the Avoxes (like Hawking has) but trust Coin to go straight for the jugular, or tongue rather. Thanks so much for this story; I love seeing the beginnings of a language and also that some Avoxes actually made it through!

Small Effie is so nice. Her hero-worship of Haymitch is perfect for her age and the appeal of Dreams is, unfortunately, all too clear.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 12th, 2015 07:04 am (UTC) (Link)
I think the Capitol is so used to prosthetics that the a Hawking-like device wouldn't even occur to them! And of course, Coin's going to go straight for "Take from the Capitolites and redistribute their very bodies."

Effie happened to catch Haymitch at his very best at a time when she needed him to be, which later ricocheted to her pushing to become his best self again, even when he didn't see it.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 12th, 2015 08:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Little Effie was just the cutest thing ever. I loved how seriously she took her job, a hallmark of what you have shown us in the series. It was entertaining to see Haymitch and Plutarch form her perspective. After he won the games and the death of his family, Haymitch, in many ways, acted like an adult, but he wasn't. Effie sees that. When she referred to them as "boys", it made me laugh. I also loved how companionable he was to all the children. Effie's only preconceptions of him are all good, so this obviously didn't surprise her, but it probably would others. It's also different from the way he interacts with District 12 children. These children want to see and talk with him while to the District 12 children, he represents the reaping. Since that's how Haymitch sees them as well, it effects his interactions in how he distances himself. Plutarch is such a dick, but that's perfectly on par with what you've shown us before. I also really like how smart you made Effie. It's hard to tell with the books, but as you've written her; her ability to remember faces, her great memory, her mathematics ability...all make her such a great escort and a match for Haymitch. It makes the drugging induced by the Capitol just as bad as Haymitch pickling himself in solitude.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 13th, 2015 06:40 am (UTC) (Link)
I think Effie's competence at her job is probably what Haymitch most likes about her -- not only because his tributes get the best care they can as they go through this horrendous experiment, but because the very absurdness of her priorities, and her sincere belief in them, helps him keep his own head... almost because they're the small things.

I think that Haymitch, like Katniss, doesn't see the good he does, or the way that he affects people (when he's sober and not raging, anyway). He's talking to the kids because they want to talk to him, and that's becoming a rarer thing. He's even talking about his brother. But to him, it's just "a non-threatening activity."
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 12th, 2015 08:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
The Avox story was intense. I like that Pollux got a bit of a happy ending; with a wife and child and a community to support him. The transplanted tongue thing (from unwilling victims) was seriously creepy. Since Coin never does anything without an agenda...what's in it for her?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 13th, 2015 06:42 am (UTC) (Link)
I think with her, she's a genuine zealot as well as an ambitious bitch. She wants to prove her superiority by taking from the undeserving Capitol what they took from the Avoxes and using it to repair the damage. And she's furious that her metaphorical revenge will not cooperate with medical fact.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 13th, 2015 12:04 am (UTC) (Link)

It's Interesting...

How the fact that Effie relates better to and gets along better with people older than she is rather than her "peers" is something that goes back as far as childhood. I know several people for whom this is the case in real life. And poor, sweet, conscientious little thing! Not taking a "break" until someone in authority tells her to! (That would totally be me.) What a wonderful thing that Haymitch noticed her and made her happy like that.

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 13th, 2015 06:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: It's Interesting...

I was one of those kids myself.

Poor Effie, she really was doing the work of half the team by herself, and the others probably won't get comeuppance. I doubt Haymitch understood what the autograph meant to her much more than Peeta understood the bread story.
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