1965-05-23 - Cruel Books and Kittens
Summary: Adam and Halgrim are tutoring Jeb when tiny meows are heard! Three kittens are rescued by the monsters and resident kitten expert Jebediah Guthrie.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
halgrim jebediah adam 


Afternoon in Central Park, one of the more forested little areas. There's a few picnic benches and a barbeque grill, but nobody is around. Possibly because nobody wants to be around a mysterious gigantic figure in a hooded cloak, who has brought Jebediah here to help him study. Adam has settled on the ground, cloak pooling around him, and he's at a perfect height to work on the picnic table. "Very well, what shall we address first?"

Jebediah is jittery because learning makes him nervous and being unimpressive to Adam makes him more nervous. He hasn't had a good relationship with books. "Well, part of me gettin' in, is Ah gotta pass a two part English test, one of them is readin' comprehension but Ah don't know a lot of words and Ah just don't like readin', Ah get bored easy when Ah don't understand a lot. And the second part is just writin', grammar and sh.. stuff." He corrects himself from cursing which would prove how not well he is with grammar, if the accent hadn't already. He turns the book he got from the library towards Adam and points at the question. "It's stuff like the difference between there, their and they're and to, too and two. Ah know some but Ah don't know all and Ah… Ah spell phonetically? Ah think that's the word. Where you spell stuff the way you hear it but it ain't right?"

Adam, since they are alone and well-screened among trees and bushes, puts back his hood, exposing his enormous head to the sunlight. He closes his eyes for a moment, tilting his face up to it. "I have been too long without the sun," he murmurs. Looking at Jeb, he listens closely. Nods. "The remedy is simple, but not quick or simple. We will read together."

Jebediah looks up at Adam's face, uncloaked and smiles like he's seeing a rainbow for the first time, which is basically how he has always looked at Adam since he's met him. "Okay and do Ah just ask you when Ah don't know a word?" He asks and gets up to join Adam on his side of the table, sitting beside where he is on the ground, but Jeb takes his place on the bench.

"We'll do more than that. We'll talk about everything we read." Adam pulls a book out from a pocket of his cloak. Glancing back at Jeb, he sees that he's being admired, and…he smiles back. A smile does not sit easy on that face, but here it is nonetheless. "You will read to me, out loud." He hands over the book. It's titled _Where The Red Fern Grows_. "I asked," he adds, gravely serious, "what a young man your age and background might like to read. The librarian showed me."

"Hey, you smiled at me, for real." Jeb accuses happily, wiggling a little at his spot on the bench. Jeb takes the book from Adam when he brings it out. He starts to read aloud to Adam as instructed. He does fairly well reading about the dogs fighting but gets stuck on the word 'cur'. He can say it, but he looks to Adam, pointing at the word. "What's that mean? Ah think Ah've heard Mister Morbius say it about someone he ain't like before." He asks.

Adam bends his head, but the smile doesn't go away. He lets Jeb read along, and explains the word for him. "An ill-bred dog. One who is vicious as well as low-born. Cur." He pronounces it clearly. "Dr. Morbius was insulting some poor soul as roundly as he could."

Jeb nods and smiles, shaking his head at the idea of Mister Morbius and his insults. "Mister Morbius is not very nice sometimes, huh? Ah wouldn't expect anything less with him, of course he insulted someone that viciously." He says and then he starts to read again, encouraged a little because Adam has not stopped smiling for him. As he reads about the man rescuing the dog, Jeb seems to get a little emotional about the hurting dog, reading about the dog's injuries seems to upset Jeb a little, hurting for the hurting animal.

It's the damndest thing. Adam gets a little emotional, too. He's been so calm, like nothing can perturb him, but reading about the hound dog makes his face fall into sad lines. He puts his hand on Jeb's back, very gently. "Let's gather our courage, old sport," he says to him, "there's a long tale and this is only the beginning."

Jeb startles at first at the hand on his back. Adam seems to be the only monster willing to touch him. Even Morbius doesn't touch him. He certainly likes it plenty. He smiles and nods. "Alright, Ah just don't like animals to be hurt." He explains. When he starts up again, he doesn't stop until he gets stuck on 'rhythm', a word that doesn't look the way it's pronounced and there's no vowels besides 'y' in it. He looks to Adam again.

"I don't like it, either." Adam's sitting on the ground next to a picnic table, in a more heavily-forested, secluded area of the park. He and Jeb are reading from a book. "Ah, you know that word. Rhythm. It does not follow the usual rules of English, because it came from another language. Many words in English are like that. Sadly there's no rules for them. You can only memorize them."

"Oh yeah, Ah know the definition of rhythm. My brother, he's a singer, he has plenty of rhythm. He was born full of it, Ah think." Jeb says, squinting at the word which doesn't look that's how it should be said. Jeb gets through the rest of the first chapter without trouble, all are words he knows and can say just find but it's the very first paragraph of chapter two where he gets stuck again because how the hell do you say 'gnaw'? He points to this word and holds the book to Adam. "Guh-nah?"

Halgrim comes along the path with two younger individuals with him: a solid-bodied East Asian woman, and a wiry, ambling young black man. They both have graduate student looks of extreme concentration on their faces as they listen to him talk, and the young man is writing furiously into a notebook. Halgrim stops short of where he expects to find Adam and Jeb and says something and makes a gesture which the two seem to take as a dismissal or completion of their extended, mobile office hours. They smile and make their goodbyes and head back out to the shallower places of the park. Halgrim sighs and shakes his head as they go.

His newly won freedom allows him to proceed deeper into the park alone, and that's how he arrives, guided by an intuition he can't name (and, if he knew the real source, probably wouldn't want to). "There you two are," he says. It's warm enough that he's given up on plaid shirts for now, and settled for a dark blue Lunds Universitet t-shirt by itself. Class isn't (formally…) is session, he can get away with being so casual. "That's Germanic," Halgrim explains. "From Old Norse. English stopped pronouncing the G. In my mother language it's /gnaga/."

"Gnaw," Adam says. "Meaning, to chew. There is more to a word than merely what it means, however. To gnaw is to chew with ferocity, with intent. To attempt to mangle that which is chewed." He bites the air, demonstrating. "Professor Lindqvist," he hails Halgrim, that hideous smile reappearing. "Would you like to join us? We are reading."

"Well a puppy ain't tryin' to viciously bite you, he just wanna play!" Jebediah defends all puppies everywhere with this statement. How could a book say such a thing about puppies! He looks up at Halgrim when he arrives with a big smile, widening when he sees Halgrim is dressed like a human. "Hello Mister Halgrim! Yeah, Adam is helpin' me practice readin', though he gave me a mean book that talks bad about puppies!" He winks at Adam though to let him know he is teasing.

"If I'm not interrupting," Halgrim says, and settles on one end of the table. He sets his bag on the ground next to him and takes a moment to stretch, then leans forward on his elbows. "It's good to see you both. Now, what manner of book, exactly, is mean as it regards puppies?" He puts on a good show of being confused, yet can't quite keep the smile from his eyes. "I can't imagine why Adam would subject you to such a text."

Adam nods to the book. _Where the Red Fern Grows_ is the title. "The great library is a fine institution. Almost as fine as the libraries of Europe, would you agree? A brave woman there told me about this book." He says to Jeb, serious, asking a real question, "And why would someone tell you that a puppy gnawed them?"

"That's what it says in the book, that puppies' teeth can gnaw on a boy's finger, but you said gnaw is vicious. Puppies ain't vicious, Mister Adam. They just cute and little and sometimes they bite you because they wanna play or they are teethin'. When you get a puppy, they got baby teeths, like us." Teeths, he says, not teeth. "It says gnaw again here, when he talks about how he wants a dog real bad and it gnaws on his heart, now that's the right way to use it, but puppies they don't do anythin' vicious, 'cept for maybe those little ones. Chiwarwas or whatever. The little dogs that bark all the damn time, those things are mean as hell."

"Oh yes, the central branch here is quite wonderful. You'll find little better save at Oxford or the like." Halgrim leans in, curious. "Not sure I know of that one. A recent book?" As Jeb explains his concerns with the use of 'gnaw' as it relates to puppies, Halgrim covers his mouth with his hand, hoping to his growing smile. Somehow, he manages to say, "Perhaps the author has…misstated themselves," in a steady voice. "Or they had an over-active editor." He clears his throat and raises his eyebrows at Adam.

"That is the right way to use it," Adam says, pleased. "Excellent work. However, sometimes the wrong way to use a word can be just as effective, if not more, than the right way." He seems to be having a fantastic time, and he looks back at Halgrim in great good humor. "Let us ask ourselves. Why does the young narrator want a puppy? To hunt. Why does a puppy play? It plays at hunting. Why, then, would the writer say that he wishes for a puppy to gnaw his finger?"

Jeb sits up a little taller when Adam praises him, which might give the impression that Jeb has not often heard such a thing from a teacher in his time. He leans back on the bench, rocking slightly as he considers Adam's question. He looks over at Halgrim who his hiding his mouth with his hand and Jeb reaches over to lightly tug on his wrist. "You ain't gotta hide when you smilin'." He says with a smile of his own and then answers Adam. "Because he wants a good huntin' dog. He ain't want a yappy puppy like the one Ah told you 'bout. He wants a strong one that can hunt squirrels and gooses with him."

Now that he's not in danger of laughing about Jeb schooling Adam in puppies, Halgrim does in fact lower his hand. He's still smiling, though. "So, then, he wants an animal who will be *inclined* to gnaw. Not, as you say, to," he makes a motion, "bounce about and be ornamental. Yes?" His eyebrows go up again, encouraging Jeb to expand on this topic—or refute it, as he chooses.

"I think that's a fine conclusion," Adam says, nodding, very serious. "Whenever we see a word we know, but we don't understand why it's used, we must ask ourselves such questions. Sometimes, we can conclude it was wrongly used indeed, but in this case, I believe it was chosen deliberately. Do you concur, gentlemen?" He asks both Halgrim and Jeb as if they're colleagues at a conference.

Jeb looks at Halgrim a moment, narrowing his eyes a little. "Now, when you say ornamental, that just means like… havin' a dog as a decoration? Kinda like those little dogs are. Girls like to carry 'em around, like purses." He asks for clarification and gives Halgrim's hand a small pat, almost absent minded, like Jeb didn't even realize he was doing it. He smiles at Adam and nods. "Yeah, Ah guess you're right about that, but Ah still don't think a puppy would ever try to be vicious, but Ah get what you mean, about why he chose that word."

He looks over to Halgrim again. "The first chapter? Was all about a dog fight and then one of the dogs got hurt really bad too. This is a cruel book." Jeb explains to him, catching Halgrim up on the book so far.

"I believe we are," Halgrim says with a nod to Adam. He watches Jeb pet his hand, and seems to be conflicted on how to react, or if he even *should* react. Then Jeb is speaking again, and he focuses on that instead. "Yes, that's what it means—though of course there's nothing wrong with a non-working animal. But one can make an argument that breeding can go too far in what it produces." He frowns, then tips his head at Adam. "As with reading words you don't initially recognize or know the use of, you might ask yourself: what is the cruelty meant to tell you, if anything?"

Adam's listening to Halgrim, when there's a sound. It's a mew. A tiny little mew. He frowns and looks about. The mew repeats. Then there's another joining it. Mew! Mew!

"Probably that this gol'damn book gonna be sad!" Jebediah insists theatrically. He puts the book down for a minute when he hears the noise too. His head swiveling too to try and find the source. "Well that ain't a puppy. Sounds like kittens. Do you think they lost their mama?" Jebediah had raised a lot of barn cats in his time in Kentucky.

"I'm sure it will be," Halgrim says, and now he too is seeking the source of the sound. A little more carefully, however, because who can say if cat's really can sense things beyond normal human perception, and he's not interested in being scratched.

Adam gets up. "I don't know. Let's investigate." Mew! Mew! It's coming from the base of one of the trees, where the bushes are thickest. Adam pushes aside a big tangle of foliage, creating a way in, and raises his eyebrows at the other two. "Have a look, yes?"

"Okay," Jeb says, getting up, taking the book with them just in case it gets stolen by someone who enjoys dog hurting literature. He comes with Adam to find the source of the tiny cries. "They sound real little. They shouldn't be without their mama yet, Mister Adam." He looks back at Halgrim. "Kitten won't hurt you, Mister Halgrim, Ah promise."

Halgrim moves to stand behind Jeb and looks over him; this is quite easy, given his relative height. He's curious, though wary. "It's not just a desire to not be scratched, Jebediah. My…tenant could easily terrify them. That sort of stress can harm a fragile animal."

When Jeb approaches, the kittens mew harder. There are two of them, climbing on each other and anxiously crying little hunger cries. "They are very young," Adam observes, unnecessarily. He gives Halgrim a curious look. "You believe they might sense him?"

"Awwwww, they are just so little!" Jeb says, squatting down to let them smell his hand first before he pets them so that they know he doesn't want to hurt them. "Hey kitties. It's okay. You sound real hungry. You been away from your mama too long, huh?" He picks them both up, extra gentle not to hurt them. "You can't give 'em regular milk, it's bad for them and can hurt their stomachs." He looks through the bushes for any sign of the mother cat who would certainly come if they kept crying. If there was still a mother cat.

"Well, you know what they say, about cats and sensing the beyond. And certainly I think some people can." Halgrim eyes the kittens. "Quite young," he murmurs. "If we can't find their mother, is there a shelter they can be taken to? Or perhaps someone in the Metropolis has a mother cat to foster them, I'm sure there are a few for keeping the rodents away."

No sign of a mother cat. But there is a third kitten. This one so weak and small, it can't cry. It stirs as Jeb picks up its siblings, and blinks at him with milky blue eyes. Adam's look at Halgrim now is thoughtful. "I am fond of animals, and they of me, despite my origin."

"Ah mean, there might be but shelters kill animals if they get too full. Aww, hey bitty. Ah didn't see you there." Jeb tries to figure out a way to balance the two livelier kittens to pick up the third and settles for making a 'bucket' of sorts out of the bottom of his shirt and putting the third kitten in there with the other two. "Ah can take at least one a'them, if not all of 'em. We raised kittens all the time on the farm, you know. Ah ain't real smart about a lot but cats, Ah know a lot about." He says, cradling his bucket of kittens and turning to Halgrim. "Hold your hand out to 'em. Let 'em smell you. They too small to hurt ya."

Halgrim considers Adam. "Perhaps there's something you have in comon with them, in how humanity's treated you. If cats can be said to see ghosts, surely animals can recognize those who share their plight." He hesitates, frowning at Jeb's collection of mews, but does as Jeb asks and carefully extends one hand towards them, ready to withdraw if they should panic.

At least the kittens don't seem too concerned about Halgrim, but perhaps it's because they're hungry and cold. They are cold, too, shivering. One of them tries to nurse on his finger, but it's hard and there's no milk, and it complains in a shrill mew. Adam eases the bushes back into place, but he's watching Halgrim be nervous, and from what can be interpreted on his big weird face, he's charmed. "You are well qualified to raise them, then, Jebediah Guthrie." He's always doing that, saying Jeb's full name.

Jeb chuckles a little at the loud protest the kitten has at Halgrim's finger not producing any milk. "He's mad at yer finger for not bein' a nipple. How /dare/ you, Mister Halgrim." He teases. "They ain't scared of you though, just mad at you for not bein' milk. Try petting the one who yelled at you. Right under his chin." He gently instruct and looks over at Adam. "Sounded like you might like one. There a pet store, ain't too far from here. Ah could tell you and even /get/ you what you need to take care'a one and you could have one. Mister Halgrim here seems to think these little fuzzy jellybeans are gonna eat him but Ah could tell you how to take care'a them too."

"Very thoughtless of me, to not be possessed of a hand of teats," Halgrim agrees. He gives Adam a sideways glance, and follows Jeb's instructions on how to 'pet' (nudge, really) the kitten's chin. "Do you think they need constant care? I've my office hours and the sort, though…" He tilts his head. "Perhaps Adam can keep an eye on one for himself, and one for me, when I'm not around."

"That seems to be the best solution," Adam agrees, still very serious. "Jebediah Guthrie, you must take the littlest one. You know much more than I or the Professor. She would do best with you." The kitten tries to get a paw on Halgrim's hand, hopefully squeezing for milk, which, as Halgrim is so thoughtless, doesn't work.

Jebediah laughs some more, brown eyes barely visible through slits as they crinkle up with giggles at Halgrim's joke. "It is quite rude of you, actually, Mister Halgrim. You better get right on that or she's just gonna yell at you all the time for not havin' nipple fingers." The kitten doesn't bite or scratch at Halgrim though! She just tries to demand he give her milk even if he hadn't before. "Alright. Ah could definetly get her fixed up." He rubs the littlest one's head. "Okay, we're going on a field trip."

When Jeb stands up, with his shirt wrapped around the kittens, he shows a bit of his tanned belly. "Oh. Well, unless you might be scared, Mister Adam, that someone might be mean to you at the store. Ah won't let them though. The kittens are not afraid of you which means you are a good person. They would know."

More at ease now that the kittens haven't rejected him for being more than what he seems, Halgrim murmurs in Swedish to the one climbing his hand. He raises his eyebrows at Jeb. "A pet store, you said? I can fetch things for Adam and I, and perhaps we'll ask around the Metroplis, see if there's not a foster for them."

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