Saturday, December 23, 2006

Against the Blog: 2-15

The next day, Frank is looking to rent a horse to head up to see Merle. He encounters Ellmore Disco, who warns him that it would be wise to stay away from Bob Meldrum. Frank is unsure why Bob should have it in for him, as am I.

He meets Merle and his daughter Dahlia ("Dally") at the Little Hellkite. There's a lot of half-good-natured conflict between father and daughter about what exactly they're doing at a dangerous and not-that-pleasant place like this. Merle explains that he knew and liked Frank's father, and that he's sympathetic to Frank's desire for revenge. But, he says, word has gotten around that he's in town, and people want him gone.

Dally returns from errands, with the news that Bob is coming for Frank, and immediate egress is necessary. Merle sends her to escort him back to town through an escape tunnel. Exiting the mine, they ride an ore bucket back into town. Whee!

She takes him to a place called the Gallows Frame Salloon, where they have a dance. In the end, she takes him to a brothel called the Silver Orchid, where there's a vacant room where he can lie low for the time. At some point, Merle had decided that the best way to impart some sort of sex education on his daughter would be to send her to spend time there--I really can't tell if this is as an observer or participant, though I'm hoping the former. The other way's just too sordid. The Madame, Peg, imparts this useful advice: "Never, ever put money on the needs of men getting too complicated, least any more than, oh, say, the rules of blackjack" (303). During this sojourn, Dally buys a gun and become a crack shot.

Frank's "room" turns out to be a tiny alcove behind a false fireplace. He tries to sleep, until he is awakened around midnight by Merle, who wants to show him something. They go outside. There is, Merle says, a scientist named Dr. Stephen Emmens, in New York, who has a technique where he takes some silver alloy with just a tiny bit of gold in it ("argentaurum," it's called), and pounds on it until the gold content starts to increase. Merle has a small piece of this stuff--and also a thin, translucent piece of Iceland spar. He directs Frank to look at the argentaurum through the spar, and when he does, whoa--the nugget resolves itself into two nuggets, one of gold and one of silver. This process could completely cripple the world economy, Merle notes. Why, Frank wonders, are you showing me this? As indeed the reader might wonder. Merle only provides cryptic and unhelpful answers, however.

There are tommyknockers living in the mine. Having their own civilization. Stealing dynamite. A local physician, Doc Turnstone, is skeptical, but Merle shows him them. I seriously don't know what this has to do with anything. Doc's first name is Willis, and a small snippet of this chapter was the bit that Penguin released as a preview before the book was published. He was trained as a chiropractor, and on his journey west, he encountered Jimmy Drop and his gang, but was spared violence when he fixes Jimmy's bad back. He drifts around for a while, finally taking work at the Miners' Hospital in Telluride. That's where he met Lake, with whom he was romantically connected before she met Deuce Kindred. This throw him into a slough of despondency. Jimmy offers to get rid of Deuce for him, but he declines, on the basis that Lake would just end up moping about it forever. Women! So emotional!

So anyway, he tells Frank about his involvement with his sister, and that she ran off with their father's killer. As you can imagine, Frank is not cool with this.

Ellmore Disco suggests that Frank could go undercover by disguising as a Mexican musician in a band. I don't play any instruments, Frank notes. All the members of this band joined to get out of trouble, Ellmore tells him. Don't worry about finesse; just go for volume. I'm paraphrasing here. So Frank becomes "Pancho the Bassoon Player," and gets sort of not-bad at it.

Dahlia Rideout is heading east to New York City to, you know, make her fortune or some shit. Frank suggests she should look up his brother Kit if she needs any assistance while there. Somewhat poignant section ending about father and daughter:

Neither of them had ever had much interest in breaking the other's heart. In theory they both knew she had to move on, though all he wanted right now was to wait, even just another day. But he knew that feeling, and he guessed it would pass. (317)



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