This piece is a parody to Catching Fire. It's supposed to take something that's completely...
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Gust and Frenchy Sittin’ in a Tree, K-i-s-s-i-n-g
I press the icy cold tea to my cheek as I peer out at the sunny beach in front of me. No one is frolicking in the sand, and nor is it blown up. Nope. This beach is ours because we are last year’s Thirsty Games’ vanquishers. We had our pick of choice real estate afterward. Seeing that you had a propensity for beaches, you chose a luxurious home on the beach. I chose a modest home a few miles away in the mountains. I don’t know what it is about our experiences, but something rubbed off on both of us and here we are, stretched out on lounge chairs in the refreshing sunlight.
Tonight, I am over for a visit. While your house is filled with your family, including your sister Dandelion, my house is mainly empty. My parents chose to stay in our old house rather than live in my large and lavish mountainside home. Granted, it doesn’t have much of a yard, but the view is amazing.
After we came home from winning the Thirsty Games last year, we had reunited with our old friend Gust. He is the vegan of the community, spending all of his days picking herbs and mushrooms from the fields around our neighborhood. The problem is it’s illegal to pick the Lower Cases’ mushrooms. No one rats him out though. Without meat in his diet, the only thing available for him is the mushrooms, and no one likes watching a fellow neighbor starve. Only now Gust is eighteen, and has to support himself by working at the local Whole Foods, otherwise he’ll never make it. But I don’t know if he even could with all the mushrooms he eats.
So, in the spirit of our friendship with him, we have decided to support him with his veganism, despite the fact meat is nummy-ummy and we like to eat it up. After all, we wouldn’t have made it through the Thirsty Games without the help of a certain squirrel and rabbit.
I finish my iced-tea and turn to you. “So what do you think? We should go give the shrooms to Gust shouldn’t we?”
You grumble something from the comatose land relaxation has driven you into. Lazily, you pull down your sunglasses and look at me. “You’re looking a little sun burnt.”
Of course I’m sun burnt. I’m a lily-white girl exposing myself to sunlight. That’s what generally happens. “Well?” I insist.
“Hmm,” you hum as you ponder. “I suppose.”
Together, we change and head into down a mile or so away. Dup P is the smallest of the neighborhoods that make up our country of Panem. In the center is the Lower Case where all the poor people are. They enjoy the Thirsty Games more than the sophisticated neighborhoods that supply the participants. But whatever. It’s not like we’ll ever have to go back into the Thirsty Games. Winning once is good enough for me.
We visit the local herb shop, which you particularly enjoy because of your fondness of spices. The mushrooms are expensive, but there’s nothing we can’t afford since we won the Thirsty Games. Then we walk to Whole Foods, which is conveniently right next to the herb shop. We enter and a bells tolls to announce it.
As usual, we’re greeted with a thunderous applause. We take a few bows, receive a few kisses, sign a few foreheads, and even smooch a few babies before people return to their usual business and we continue on our way. We walk to the back where Oily Mae is stationed, serving her famous vegan meatloaf. There were rumors that there is actually meat in it. After all, what is meatloaf without the meat? Loaf?
“Where’s Gust?” you ask as we walk up to Oily Mae.
“He’s out back,” she replies, jerking her head toward the back door.
Of course he is. That’s where he likes to eat his mushrooms because he can’t be caught with them.
“All righty. Thanks Oily Mae!” I say, waving as I head toward the door.
“Thanks!” you call, following me.
We reach the back of the building in time to see Gust being dragged away by members of the Rebellion, otherwise known as Warmakers. Gust is screaming and kicking, trying to wrench himself from the Warmakers’ grasps. But he’s unsuccessful.
“Gust!” we call, running after him.
It’s too late. He disappears around the corner and goes silent. By the time we reach the corner and peer around, Gust is nowhere in sight – not a trace left of him.
“Gust!” I shout in vain.
You jog to the other side of the building, searching, but then shake your head at me. He’s gone. Dismayed, I catch up to you and peer in every direction in hopes of catching sight of him. All hopeless.
Then we hear it. The loud, thunderous roaring of a violent crowd, reminiscent of the movies we’ve seen on Gladiators. On an instinct, we follow the noise. It grows louder until we reach a throbbing mass of people. There has to be hundreds of them, making an unbreakable, impenetrable barrier. We charge forward, sensing that this is about Gust.
We make it past the first few layers of people only because of our momentum. Then we crash to a halt. You smack into an old lady, who immediately turns around and bludgeons you with her cane.
“Get off my lawn!” she shouts, hitting you on the head.
“OW! I’m not on your lawn lady!” you shout.
Meanwhile, I run straight into a particularly flabby man’s back. I sink in a few disgusting inches before the fat acts as rubber and catapults me back out. Screaming in surprise, I do a backwards somersault out of the crowd.
The fat man turns and when he sees me, he looks angered. You’re still trying to fight off the old lady.
“You shouldn’t be here,” he says to me, scowling. “You’ll only make it worse.”
I push myself to my feet. “What are you talking about?”
But the fat man just shakes his head and hobbles away from me.
Befuddled, I rescue you from the old lady. It’s not that you’re incapable of fighting an old lady. We are vanquishers after all. Your outstanding morals don’t allow you to hit the helpless. I wouldn’t necessarily call this angry old lady helpless, but I understand your reluctance.
Together, we push our way through the crowd. You’re rubbing some forming bruises. Once people start to realize that we’re coming, they formed an isle that we walk through. It is almost like parting the Red Sea, if the water is people. I try not to look at their faces because most of them are disgusted or dismayed, even some of them are accusatory. Usually we are greeted by acclamation, and hugs and kisses. Not this. It is a little disconcerting. One would think that being a vanquisher would warrant more respect.
Finally, we make it to the center of the crowd and at it is Gust. His hands and feet have been tied together, and a Warmaker stands at his side with a firm grip on his shoulder. He has a bloody lip but he is otherwise unharmed.
Relief floods through us and we start to make our way forward, but we stop dead in our tracks. Just as we take a step toward him, pebbles erupt from the crowd and hit Gust like hail. He cries out and falls to his knees. The Warmaker holds up a hand, and the pebbles cease.
“How do you like that hippie? Pebbles don’t feel too good do they?” the Warmaker inquires, nudging him with a well polished boot. “Now stop being silly and eat some meat!”
“Meat is murder!” Gust screams defiantly.
“Very well.” The Warmaker stands and takes a few steps back. He raises his arm and consequently everyone hefts a mighty pebble in his or her hands, ready to chuck it at Gust.
“Stop!” you shout, rushing forward.
I’m a few steps behind, having not expected you to rush off like that. In fact, I’d be looking for a pebble myself. It wouldn’t kill Gust to eat a nice steak, but enough pebbles would.
You toss yourself over Gust’s crumpled body, shielding him from any pebbles that might come his way. I stand awkwardly by you and place my hands behind my back.
“What are you doing!” the Warmaker bellows angrily. He tries to yank you off Gust so he can continue with the pebbling, but I push him away. I keep him away when he attempts it again.
I say calmly, “Back off Joe. It’s not illegal to be a vegan.”
“No, but it’s stupid and silly. Besides, he was caught with mushrooms from the Lower Case’s crops! You know that’s illegal.”
I toss him the bag of mushrooms that we’d bought. “We buy them for him. You can’t tell me that’s illegal.”
The Warmaker bristles.
“So, if you don’t mind,” I began listlessly, bending and hoisting you up. It’s more difficult than I expect seeing that you’re clinging possessively to Gust. I groan until you make it to your feet. It takes both of us to keep Gust standing. “We’ll be going now,” I finish, breathing hard.
No one stops us as we drag Gust through the town. After about a mile, we break down and steal – I mean borrow someone’s horse from a nearby stable. We’ll return it soon. It takes some manhandling – in the literal sense – to heft Gust across the horse’s back, but once we do, the journey is considerably easier. We make it to your house by the time the sun is setting. Both of us know your mother is the only one that can help Gust at this point.
Once we reach your beach house, you run ahead and knock on your door while I wait with the horse and Gust. Gust is moaning weakly, barely conscious. I cross my arms and share a look with the horse. We seem to understand each other, because we both let out a shudder and shake our heads in dismay.
You return, flanked by your mother and your sister, Dandy. All of you have a concerned look in your eyes, but only you seem to be truly distraught. We all somewhat knew this was coming. Dub P doesn’t take kindly to vegans.
“Ginger, would you mind helping us take Gust in?” your mom asks.
Since I have nowhere to be, I shrug and nod. Between you and your mother, you’re able to carry Gust’s upper half, while I take up the legs. Dandy’s only able to carry a boot. We bump Gust’s head on the door on the way in; otherwise, the transition is a success. We lay him out on your kitchen table where your mom and Dandy immediately begin concocting random things to help Gust along. Immediately, you and I know we are out of place. We would have solved this problem with duct tape, but apparently, that didn’t work for bruises.
We escape the kitchen, feeling awkward, and eventually settle back in our lounge chairs on the beach. For what seems like hours, we watch the waves as the sun slowly sinks below the horizon. Dandy comes when the first star appears and informs us that Gust will make it and he’s sleeping it off.
“On the kitchen table?” is my response.
“Oh thank goodness!” is yours.
I turn to you and grin conspiratorially. “You seem awfully glad that Gust is alright.”
“He’s our friend,” you respond tersely, but I can see the blush.
“You like him!” I exclaim. My smile widens and I pointed at you. “You have a crush on Gust!”
“I do not!”
“Oh come on Frenchy! I can tell you think the town vegan is hot!”
Dandy giggles and points at you. “She does! I read it in her diary!”
“You read my diary!” you yell, lurching to your feet. “I’M GOING TO KILL YOU DANDY!!!”
I laugh. “Without your harpoon.”
“Ginger shut up!”
“Gust and Frenchy sittin’ in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n….”
You hurl yourself at me with a guttural scream and we go tumbling in the sand. It’s all fun and games until you nearly make me bite my tongue off. In response, I switch into black-belt mode and easily end the little brawl but kicking you off me and doing one of those fancy flips into a standing position (yes, I can do those).
I dust myself off and start toward your house. Dandy’s right behind me and you run to catch up. You push yourself past us before we get into the kitchen so you’re the first one Gust sees. You hastily slow down your pace to look nonchalant, but I know better, and you straighten you clothes and run your fingers through your hair, which our brawl disheveled. After a toss of your hair, you walk in.
Gust is on the table, wrapped in gauze covered with something foul smelling. My nose crinkles, but I don’t say anything. You rush over and grab his hand from where it rests at his side.
“Gust,” you say tentatively.
Reluctantly he opens his eyes. “Oh. Frenchy,” he mumbles, barely discernable.
I stifle a smile and say, “And Ginger!”
His eyes drift toward me, but only for a second before they settled back on you and a smile comes across his face. “I’m so glad you’re here,” he says.
Disconcerted, I share a glance with Dandy, who fake gags and rolls her eyes. That was all I could handle too. I tap a fist to my chest twice and make a peace symbol before leaving the room. Dandy follows. We leave you and Gust alone to discuss things that would be awkward for us and possibly make us sick to our stomachs.
We go into your living room, where your parents are sitting watching TV. Dandy takes a seat, leaving me standing there like a giant elephant in the room that your family easily ignores. I sigh and decide that standing isn’t so bad. It was probably the best I could manage.
The news is on the TV. That’s right – it’s almost time for the announcement of the next Thirsty Games. Wow, it has already been six months since our victory. I listen intently as the vice-president comes onto a stage with purple tulips littered around it. He approaches the microphone and licks his pencil thin lips. Then he begins a longwinded speech about the founding of our country and how the rebellion rose to victory and whatnot. Really, we’d heard it over a million times. Then a little girl in a unitard and tutu skips onto stage carrying a hexagonal box. She holds it out to the vice-president who opens it a takes out a single slip.
He returns to the microphone as he unfolds the slip. Clearing his throat, he announces, “To celebrate the 75th Thirsty Games, the contestant shall be taken from the existing pool of vanquishers to show that they are the strongest among us.”
I wish I had been holding a glass of water or something so I could have dropped it and there would be a slow motion shot of it slowly falling to the floor and shattering into a million pieces. All I drop is my jaw.
“Frenchy!” I call immediately because your family is too stunned to do so.
“What!” you shout back. I have obviously interrupted something.
“Get cho ass out here!” My head bobs from side-to-side as I say it and I snap in a Z formation.
You come in reluctantly, looking flushed and frustrated. You scowl at each and every one of us, but then you take in the silence, the news cast on the TV, and the stunned looks on each of our faces. Gulping, you inch your way into the room and slowly take a seat.
“What’d I miss?” you ask hesitantly.
“We’re going back,” I respond bluntly.
“Back to where? Whole Foods? Did you lose Gust’s shrooms again?”
I stare at you straight in the face. “One: I don’t support your relationship with a shroom addict and vegan–”
“Relationship!” your mom splutters.
“Vegans aren’t that bad,” you grumble.
“–And two,” I continue. “We’re going back in the Thirsty Games.”
Your head snaps toward the TV as the news announcer repeats what the vice-president just read from the card. Then, before any of us can stop you – even me – you bolt out of the room, crashing through the nearest window.
“Frenchy!” everyone shouts.
I rush to the window, not caring that I step on some shards of glass, and peer out. The moon is bright tonight, so despite the darkness, I can see you running frenetically down the street. You’re flailing your arms in the air, screaming “Ah!” so loudly that it echoes off the nearby homes.
“Crap,” I grumble as I retreat from the window. Your family is waiting expectantly. I gave them a “what can you do?” shrug before taking off down the hall and out your front door. Unlike you, I have the mental capacity to not break through windows. I chase after you down the street, but you’re a good football field’s length ahead of me. And you’re better on land than I am. Soon enough, you swerve to the left and disappear into some vacant houses.
When I catch up, I’m faced with a dilemma. There is a string of vacant houses up for sale. Unlike us, most people can’t afford beachfront property. I stand, bent over with my hands on my knees, panting, and trying to discern in which house you chose to have your breakdown. Finally, I see another broken window with a Frenchy-shaped hole in it, and crawl through. I scrape my palm slightly, but it’s no big deal. Inside, the house is a shell. There are some nice wood floors, a couch or two, but is otherwise completely empty.
“Frenchy!” I call a little breathlessly.
You aren’t anywhere in sight and I don’t hear an answer. I wander through the halls and rooms until I come to a door that’s been flung wide open. All the other doors are locked shut, so I step through the door. It leads downstairs to the basement. It’s dark and clammy. I struggle blindly forward, wondering how the hell you managed it. I’m nearly startled out of my skin when something smacks me in the face. I latch onto it to find that it’s a string attached to a light bulb. The light clicks on.
I blink in the startling brightness. Finally, I see you, huddled in the corner. I don’t really see you though, but I can’t imagine that there would be anyone else in a vacant home with a sheet over their head.
For a moment, I am tossed into the memory of our first Thirsty Games when I found you buried in snow. Maybe that is what the sheet is for. Perhaps when you blew yourself up six months ago, something in your head snapped just a little so now when you’re stressed you seek the feeling of that snow to comfort you.
“Frenchy,” I say soothingly, hoping you won’t come at me with a knife or anything. Maybe you’ve finally snapped completely. How could I know?
Slowly, I walk toward you and crouch down. I reach out and gradually pull the sheet off you. You’re looking dejectedly at the wall.
“Hey,” I say with a reassuring smile. “It’s gonna be alright. We’ve won it once, we’ll win it again.”
“Both of us can’t though. Not this time. Never again.”
“Well, we proved them wrong once. We’ll prove them wrong again.”
“Your optimism never ceases to amaze me Ginger,” you grumble sarcastically, but I know you really mean it.
I smile and kindly place the sheet back over your head. “That’s better,” I say. “Come on out when you’re done. We’ll start our training tomorrow. Meet me at my house.”
“Why your house?” you ask from under the sheet.
“Because, my house is cooler.”
“You wish Ginger.”
Even though you can’t see me, I smile and wave to you before leaving.
The next six months are difficult. We train like crazy – mainly hiking in the mountains and swimming on the beach. Sometimes, we play sword-fought with sticks we found in the woods, but when that led to a lot of bruises, we decided it was better not to.
Somewhere in those six months – we couldn’t be sure since we spent some nights camping in the woods – it is announced that there aren’t enough vanquishers in existence to make for an interesting Thirsty Games; therefore, each vanquisher is allowed to bring a guest. That leaves us with a dilemma. You immediately think of Gust, who is still recuperating in your house – though I know that he’s completely fine. However, I can’t think of anybody I’d bring into the Games. Then I get a brilliant idea one of the nights we’re out in the woods.
I can bring an ex-convict!
Yeah, one of those big, scary brutes covered with tattoos and scars. He could handle himself in the arena, kill plenty of people for us, and somehow tragically die so the country doesn’t have a convict as a vanquisher.
The trouble is I don’t know any ex-convicts. That is easily solved with a trip to the neighborhood prison. Being a vanquisher has its perks (going back to the Games wasn’t one of them). The neighborhood sheriff knows me well and is glad to give me a tour of the facilities. I don’t necessarily tell him I am looking for a partner to the Thirsty Games, but I quickly drop all pretenses when I spot a perfect suitor to my needs.
His name is Kcinnif O’Defy and he is perfect in every way. I first see him doing pull-ups as though he is lifting a kitty and not himself through the tiny window in the cell doors. Instantly, I am hooked. His shirt is off, but I doubt even if he had one on it would hide his large, insanely hot muscles. I know, right then and there, that he is going to be my guest to the Thirsty Games.
“Him,” I say, stopping dead in my tracks. My eyes never leave the window of the door. How many pull-ups had he done?
“What?” the sheriff asks, confused.
“He’ll be my guest to the Thirsty Games.”
The sheriff just nods. Maybe he already knows what I intend to use Kcinnif for.
I fill out some paper work and it’s all set for Kcinnif to accompany me to the Thirsty Games. A few months later, Gust, you and I are waiting for Kcinnif to show up so we can set out for the Lower Case. I’m surprised you brought Gust, but then again I’m not. We stand at the hovercraft pad, waiting for the usual hovercraft to pick us up for the Games. Maybe it’d even be the same one.
“I call top bunk,” I say offhandedly.
“Mmm,” you grunt in respond.
I smile. Goody, I get the top bunk!
“Who’d you pick as your guest,” you ask. Your arms are crossed but I see you eyeing Gust’s hand yearningly.
I smile as I think of Kcinnif doing pull-ups. “You’ll see.”
And indeed, you do. Kcinnif shows up in a cop car, still handcuffed. An orderly escorts him to us, then the orderly gives us a nod and leaves. Kcinnif stands there awkwardly for a moment.
“Ginger!” you gasp and turn to me. “You got a convict to go with you.”
“Technically he’s an ex-convict… If I filled out the paperwork right.”
Kcinnif smiles at me. “Yep. I’m a free man.”
“Mmm, well, for now.” I don’t have the heart to tell him he’ll soon be in a new type of prison. Besides, he could very well use those muscles to crush my head.
Then we board the train and leave for the Lower Case.