Friday, October 17, 2014

Stroke of Midnight--chapter 9, Elsie chapter 6

So after "Riding the Storm" and getting Nicca shacked up with another woman literally named Biddy, the men go to get cleaned up.

I'm now waiting for Merry to go take a goddamned shower. I suspect it will be a long wait.

She also takes pot shots at the cops being utterly useless in the Sithen. Frankly I'd much rather read this story from the POV of the cops.

 Onilwyn is missing. This character who has not been significant before is apparently one of Cel's people, and Merry's scared he's running off to talk to Andais.

We also find out that Merry and Mistral were screwing within a very short walk of the crime scene. Classy. And this is apparently where Onilwyn went, because he's in the kitchen right next to the bodies. Somebody chases him out of it by throwing pots and pans at him.

I am cringing for those poor crime scene techs. A crime scene isn't just the area immediately around the bodies. That kitchen is a part of it, the hallway is a part of it. For all we know Merry and Mistral were fucking on top of the bloody footprint or piece of pocket lint that could have solved the case.

We also discover that fairies, who are severely allergic to iron, are using cast iron skillets to cook with.

When you cook with something, you get bits of that something in the food. Small bits, but it builds up over time. So LKH now expects us to believe that fairy royalty are eating food prepared in their only bane.

Maggy May is the brownie cook giving Onilwyn the beat-down. Galen proclaims that she's "gone bogart", and Merry figures that Onilwyn tried to attack her and this is the result. Apparently when a brownie gets pissed enough to kill, they get kicked out of the Unseelie Court and have to go join the Sluagh. So now we have to do one of LKH's patented Emotional Rescues.

These really, really bother me. Frequently, these are real issues that people have a lot of trouble dealing with, and they're reduced to window dressing so the main character can look good. It's a nasty, awful message to send to people with issues--you can't rescue yourself! You have to have Uber-super ME do it!--and it's only there because LKH cannot write plot anymore.

Merry shocks the brownie out of killing Onilwyn by calling Maggie her aunt. Somehow Maggie is related to Merry--probably fairy incest--and this gives her the power to manipulate Maggie out of her probably entirely justified rage.

 And it works! We segue into a long conversation about fairy racism and why Merry can't acknowlege Maggie as her aunt, thus completely invalidating the emotional reactions of the other characters and making it all about Merry.

We do find out, eventually, that Onilwyn kicked one of Maggie's magic dogs.


We have a promise of a plot involving a forensic investigation of murdered fairies in the ever-shifting lair of bloody psychopaths, and instead we've decided to focus on the abuse of magic dogs.

Which...turns into a flashback about Merry's childhood and how special the magic dogs are to her. So she's just taken Onilwyn's concern for her abused puppies and made it all about Merry.

Onilwyn tries to shoot magic at Maggie. Merry hits him in the face with an iron skillet.

Blood flew from around the skillet, a bright surprised scarlet spray. He collapsed to his side, moaning softly. His nose looked like a squashed tomato, and there was so much blood it was hard to tell what other damage I’d done to his face.

The still uninvestigated crime scene is right outside the kitchen door. Which means the cops are going to comb through that room in the hopes that the killer might have gone in there to wash their hands and maybe shed a couple hair samples....and we're spraying blood around like it's confetti.

And then we suddenly Don't Like Onilwyn. Why?

It's not real clear, but I think Merry is implying that he beat and/or raped her as a child.

“No,” I said, and realized that the thought of letting Onilwyn touch me was repulsive. He’d been one of my main tormentors when I was a child. I still hated Cel and some of his cronies enough to feel nothing but a sense of utter satisfaction at the ruin of Onilwyn’s face. It wasn’t like he wouldn’t heal.

That's a real big deal. And pulling it directly out of your ass to justify your main character straight up pulverizing his nose with a frying pan is not how you address the issue.

We waste a paragraph focusing on one of the magic dogs.

Maggie decides that this display of wanton violence definitely makes Merry a family member and they giggle and hug each other.

Not exaggerating.

Hugs for no reason, just because were nice, and lately I wasn’t getting enough of them.

That's the end of the chapter. Merry brains the shit out of a guy who kicked a dog, and bonds with a family member over the blood.

And she still has not taken a shower.

And now, Elsie.

When we last left our abused child heroine, she was aching for the affection of her POS father because that's what kids do.

Today, she's going to church.

When you're in an abusive household, church is not that boring place where you have to sit and not wriggle. Church is safe. Your family has to behave itself for however long they're in it, they can't be shitty to you, and you get to dress up nice, look pretty, and be around other people who are nice to you. Having things outside the home is very, very important. You don't like losing them.

Horace almost refuses to let her go because he doesn't like the look of the horses.

Offering a treat and then taking it away, or threatening to take it away before giving it, is a standard abusive tactic. It creates a feeling of uncertainty in the victim, and it promotes further compliance. If Daddy takes the treat away when you didn't do anything wrong, what is he going to do if you actually misbehave? But he decides to let her go, AND he even allows her to sit next to him!

"Elsie, change seats with me," said Enna; "I want to sit beside Brother Horace." 
"No," replied Mr. Dinsmore, laying his hand on his little daughter's shoulder, "Elsie's place is by me, and she shall sit nowhere else."

That is so. very. creepy.

And of course the horses bolt on the way back from church, thus justifying Horace's latest tactic on his daughter. And this brings about the next very, very creepy stage in this father/daughter dynamic: Elsie is responsible for her father's spirituality.

No. Kids are not responsible for anything except being kids.

Horace holds her close and good god book stop being creepy

O! even in that moment of fearful peril, when death seemed just at hand, those words, and the affectionate clasp of her father's arm, sent a thrill of intense joy to the love-famished heart of the little girl.


And they get rescued when a passer-by grabs the horses' bridles and stops the coach. End of crisis.

Lora was also in the carrige with her. I can't remember if she was a sibling or a friend, but she's amazed by how calm Elsie was when the horses bolted. So Elsie gets to lead her friend to Jesus!

Yes. Evangelizing to your non-believer friends as a child is greatly encouraged in evangelical circles. Which doesn't usually amount to anything because the kids most encouraged don't have any non-believer friends. But it's an insane amount of responsibility to put on a kid. Throw in that most kids are functionally illiterate at the best of times AND that the preferred bible is the KJV 1611 (apparently Satan got hold of the bible in 1612) which puts it way, way, way out of an eight-year-old's comprehension level, and you've got kids desperately parroting words they don't understand because their parents told them their best friend will suffer forever if they don't.

I was thinking of this sweet verse. 'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me;' and oh, Lora! it made me so happy to think that Jesus was there with me, and that if I were killed, I should only fall asleep, to wake up again in His arms; then how could I be afraid?"

Once. Just once. I want one of these fucking wastes of paper to latch on to something that hasn't been drilled into the ground. Quoting the twenty-third psalm in a book OBVIOUSLY aimed at American Protestant Christians is like singing "Take me out to the ball game" to the New York Yankees.

Lora then guilt trips her for not thinking about how everyone else would suffer because they aren't Christians. AND IT WORKS!

"But tell me, Elsie, did you not feel afraid for the rest of us? I'm sure you must know that we are not Christians; we don't even pretend to be."
Elsie blushed and looked down. "It all passed so quickly, you know, Lora, almost in a moment," she said, "so that I only had time to think of papa and myself; and I have prayed so much for him that I felt quite sure God would spare him until he should be prepared to die. It was very selfish, I know," she added with deep humility; "but it was only for a moment, and I can't tell you how thankful I was for all our spared lives."

This is not humility. This is the reflex of an abused child to make everything their fault. Because if everything is their fault they can change and make it stop.

Mercifully, we don't resort to the "Roman Road" AKA the set of verses that start in Romans that every student in Sunday School has to memorize. But the entire sequence is, effectively, religious masturbation. LOOK! SALVATION! IT SHOULD BE INTERESTING AND IF YOU DO NOT FIND IT SO YOU ARE A BAD BAD PERSON.

And then we go back to how Horace abuses his daughter.

"Ah! surely papa does love me," she murmured to herself over and over again; and when he met her at the table with a kind smile, and laying his hand caressingly on her head, asked in an affectionate tone, "How does my little daughter do this evening?" her cheeks flushed, and her eyes grew bright with happiness...But, after all, this occurrence produced but little change in Elsie's condition; her father treated her a little more affectionately for a day or two, and then gradually returned to his ordinary stern, cold manner; indeed, before the week was out, she was again in sad disgrace.

What causes this? Elsie finds a humming bird somebody stuck under a glass. She figures that Arthur was being a shit again and lets it go. Only to find out that Horace put it there!


"Come here to me this instant," he said, seating himself on the settee, from which Louise had risen on his entrance. "Come here and tell me what you mean by meddling with my affairs in this way.--"No, you never mean to be naughty, according to your own account," he said; "your badness is all accident; but nevertheless, I find you a very troublesome, mischievous child;..."Tell me what you did it for; was it pure love of mischief?...Which hand did it?"
Those last four words are enough to put terror into the heart of any kid who has ever seen a switch. You know exactly what is going to happen next. Fortunately, Horace does not spank his child's hand.


"I shall tie this hand up, Elsie," he said, proceeding to do so; "those who do not use their hands aright must be deprived of the use of them. There! let me see if that will keep it out of mischief. I shall tie you up hand and foot before long, if you continue such mischievous pranks. Now go to your room, and stay there until tea-time."
 I just...I can't. I can't even. Elise runs off again wondering why she can't stop being naughty, and then this happens:

Then an earnest, importunate prayer for help to do right, and wisdom to understand how to gain her father's love, went up from the almost despairing little heart to Him whose ear is ever open unto the cry of His suffering children.

This is not a book. It's emotional torture porn. And the weird thing is that so many christian books are like this.

Horace makes her come down to dinner and tell everybody exactly why he tied her up. Then he threatens to send her to bed without supper if she doesn't stop crying. YOU JUST EMBARRASSED YOUR KID IN FRONT OF HER WHOLE FAMILY WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT HER TO DO, YOU UTTER LOATHESOME PIECE OF SHIT. And after dinner he makes her get a stool and sit down next to him. No books, no entertainment. She has to sit down and do absolutely nothing "to keep her out of trouble".

Cue the creepy shit.

"How handsome my papa is!" thought the little girl, gazing with affectionate admiration into his face. And then she sighed, and tears trembled in her eyes again. She admired her father, and loved him, "oh! so dearly," as she often whispered to herself; but would she ever meet with anything like a return of her fond affection? There was an aching void in her heart which nothing else could fill; must it always be thus? was her craving for affection never to be satisfied? "O, papa! my own papa, will you never love me?" mourned the sad little heart.

Remember, this book is being given to little girls right now. Elsie is being held up as a positive role model for girls to imitate. THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO THINK THIS IS ACTUALLY A GOOD THING FOR A LITTLE GIRL TO BE THINKING.

Guests arrive. Elsie tries to get away so they won't ask her about her hand. Horace makes her sit back down. Finally, after she falls asleep sitting up, he sends her to bed.

End of chapter.


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