Friday, 27 February 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Grim Grotto, Chapter 4

Considering the fact that I was away on Saturday so didn't get to write any blog posts at all, I'm really pleased with how well I've done at getting these all scheduled this week. Look, I'm even on track for my Chapter-by-Chapter posts. It's like a little miracle!

Anyway, we ended the last chapter contemplating the dangers that the Baudelaires are facing. I'm guessing in this chapter we might start facing some of them head on.

What Happens?

The children set to work with their tasks until after many hours they are summoned to report on how they're getting on. Violet can't find anything seriously wrong with the telegram device, Klaus and Fiona have tracked the sugar bowl so far but have reached a dead end, and Sunny's helped Phil make chowder. Then a mysterious shape appears on the submarine screen, like an eye. So we know that Olaf is following them, luckily it's chased off by a question mark shape. Then Klaus figures out just where the sugar bowl might be.

Thoughts as I read:

We've got a fairly simple picture for this chapter, though it goes across onto the previous page as well. It's the telegram machine and I think I can see why they're having trouble with it; the cable is almost frayed all the way through. That can't be good. I guess it's like everything else on this submarine, wearing out.

Snicket opens this chapter with a little ramble about the phrase 'fits like a glove' and why it's weird because there are a lot of different types of gloves and you have to pick the right one for the occasion. This is a very valid point and not one that I've ever really considered much before. A surgeon's gloves are obviously going to be different from a gardener's gloves but just because they fitted would mean they were right for the job if the two professions swapped. Good point Mr Snicket!

The reason for this common saying being mentioned is because the Baudelaires' uniforms fit like gloves even though they don't actually fit at all. Violet's has loops for tools around the waist, Klaus's has a waterproof pocket for the commonplace book he's started keeping, and Sunny's is waterproof so she won't have to worry about cooking spillages.

Strangely enough, just putting on these outfits makes the children feel like they belong and as though things are going right in their lives for once. Honestly, kids? Have you forgotten that every time you think something like that it all goes wrong and you end up in the company of Count Olaf again with no one believing your when you warn them? Feeling like things are going right seems to be a way to guarantee that things are about to go horribly wrong!

Now that they're all suited and booted, Violet asks to go back to the Main Hall so they can get to work on their various chores. Even Sunny is enthusiastic, saying 'Cuisi-' which means 'I'm looking forward to examining the kitch-' but doesn't get to finish because there's a scraping noise which interrupts her. If I was in the Queequeg and got interrupted by a scraping noise I'd be diving for my diving helmet!

Funnily enough, that's exactly what Violet has done and with helmets in tow, they head off to investigate.

The three Baudelaires hurried back down the corridor to the Main Hall as the horrid scraping sound continued. If you have every heard the sound of fingernails against a chalkboard, then you know how unnerving a scraping sound can be, and to the children it sounded as if the largest fingernails in the world had mistaken the submarine for a piece of educational equipment.

That's making me cringe just reading about it!

As it happens it's not giant fingernails, but a rock formation that they've bumped against. Violet offers to check that everything in the steering mechanism is still in order but Widdershins insists that she has to fix the telegram device so they can get their Volunteer Factual Dispatches, otherwise all is lost!

Meanwhile Klaus and Fiona are setting to work on the tidal charts. They have to work next to a porthole in case they see the sugar bowl outside. That's optimistic. All the same, Violet's hoping they might see Quigley Qugamire float by; as they're under water right now I'd be really hoping that they didn't see Quigley passing by!

And now it's Sunny's turn. Phil comes out to ask what she thinks they should make and she suggests 'Chowda'. So they all get to work on their various jobs until much later in the day when Widderhins summons them to report their progress.

Widdershins reports that he's successfully steered them further down the Stricken Stream. Violet's made some minor repairs (like hopefully replacing that frayed wire) but can't see why they're not receiving messages, this leads to the hilarious exchange:

"You're saying that the device isn't broken, aye?" the captain demanded.
"Aye," Violet said, growing more comfortable with the captain's speech. "I think there must be a problem at the other end."
"Procto?" Sunny asked, which mean "The other end?"

Definitely one for the grown ups there.

Basically it's beginning to look like no one is sending any telegrams. Even Sunny points out that when they tried to send a message to Mr Poe way back about three books ago the result was 'Silencio' or 'We never heard a reply.' Someone is destroying telegram devices to stop the volunteers from communicating!

Next it's Klaus and Fiona's turn. Before we find out too much we discover that Fiona's passion is mushrooms, making her a mycologist, but they don't get to say much more before Widdershins accuses them of flirting, hehe.

Once we've got past that we learn that the sugar bowl was probably carried out to sea. Sunny raises a valid point: 'Sink?' meaning 'Wouldn't the sugar bowl just drift to the ocean floor?' but apparently that's not likely so we get another little geography lesson which I like because we get some more Series of Unfortunate Events place names. These ones being 'the Gulag Archipelago' and the 'Mediocre Barrier Reef' which I think is my new favourite place ever.

They find a place marked A.A. on the map, which isn't for people with drinking problems, instead it's 'Anwhistle Aquatics'. Another place which burned down. Seems to happen quite a lot, doesn't it. Also it was founded by Josephine's brother-in-law, Gregor. Just some more random facts for you.

There's another place marked G.G. but they don't know what this stands for. I'm going to throw 'Grim Grotto' out there because, well, it's obvious isn't it? This is where things get confusing and it's almost certain the sugar bowl went there, though they don't know where it might have gone afterwards. So that's where they're heading.

And now it's Sunny's turn and Phil informs everyone just how helpful his little assistant has been, especially her sharp teeth for dicing. Sunny hastens to add 'Flosh' meaning 'Don't worry - I cleaned my teeth before using them as kitchen implements' which is reassuring because otherwise that would be gross!

Before we can dwell on this for too long we learn that dessert is leftover gum from Lucky Smells, funnily enough, no one is keen on this. But Sunny's taking things in hand here as well, telling everyone 'Yomhuledet' which means 'Don't worry - Phil and I have arranged a surprise dessert for tomorrow night'.

Then things get a bit chaotic as a glowing Q lights up on the screen on the wall. The Q is the submarine and there's an eye symbol getting closer and closer, from Widdershins and Fiona's reactions, it's not a good thing! Sunny suspects 'Olaf'.

They have to be totally silent and wait for the thing outside to pass. One noise and they might be discovered. The thing turns out to be an octopus-shaped submersible, though with many more legs than the sea creature, and sure enough inside they can see Olaf. And when Sunny speaks it's almost as though Olaf's heard her.

Then, just as this moment can't get any more tense, another shape appears on the screen, this one like a snake in the shape of a question mark. As the strange shape gets closer the octopus-vessel takes off, followed by the question mark.

Once it's safe to speak again everyone has lots of questions for Captain Widdershins, but all he says is it's very bad, which we could've worked out for ourselves, thanks Captain. Then he decides that it's time to eat. Well, I'm glad we cleared that mystery up.

But Klaus is distracted from the preparations for the meal. He's just figured out where the sugar bowl is.

At least that's a step in the right direction.

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