Chapter 17

I've been really busy lately, hence the delay in updates. College takes an awful lot of time. I've also been working on a seemingly interminable novel.

Anyway, on to chapter 17. Christopher decides to find out who killed Wellington "even though Father had told me to stay out of other people's business".

This is because I do not always do what I am told.

And this is because when people tell you what to do it is usually confusing and does not make sense.

Wait, so he knows his dad doesn't want him to do this and that it constitutes "other people's business", but he's going to do it anyway because he doesn't understand people when they tell him what to do? What?

For example, people often say "Be quiet," but they don't tell you how long to be quiet for.

I've never had this problem. To me the context makes it obvious. I can't speak for anyone else, though.

Or you see a sign which says KEEP OFF THE GRASS but it should say KEEP OFF THE GRASS AROUND THIS SIGN or KEEP OFF ALL THE GRASS IN THIS PARK because there is lots of grass you are allowed to walk on.

I'm not sure how to interpret this. Does he mean that it's not obvious how much of the grass in the area is indicated by the sign, or does he mean that "keep off the grass" should logically refer to all grass everywhere? If the first, then okay, that works. I've never been mystified by "keep off the grass" signs either, but it kind of makes sense. If the second... no. Just no. That is not how English works. The definite article always indicates a specific instance of something, and anyone with a reasonable grasp of the language should know that. "The grass" != "(all) grass". Ever. That's French.

At this point I'm wondering if Christopher is supposed to be stupid. Was Haddon trying to write an "idiot savant"? Just how insulted should I feel?

Then he talks about people breaking rules, which I guess is his other reason for not doing as he's told.

For example, Father often drives at over 30 mph in a 30 mph zone and sometimes he drives when he has been drinking and often he doesn't wear his seat belt when he is driving his van. And in the Bible it says Thou shalt not kill but there were the Crusades and two world wars and the Gulf War and there were Christians killing people in all of them.

What I'm getting from this is that his father sets a bad example and does a cruddy job of teaching him moral values.

Also I don't know what Father means when he says "Stay out of other people's business" because I do not know what he means by "other people's business" because I do lots of things with other people, at school and in the shop and on the bus, and his job is going into other people's houses and fixing their boilers and their heating. And all of these things are other people's business.

How the heck? Okay, so he does a terrible job of explaining himself, but how does Christopher have no idea what this means? Wouldn't he eventually figure it out from context? He's fifteen. He's not a little kid who doesn't understand stuff. I knew what "other people's business" was at that age. I can't say I had (or have) a perfect idea of it, but nobody does anyway because it's somewhat subjective.

Then he says Siobhan always tells him exactly what not to do:

For example, she once said, "You must never punch Sarah or hit her in any way, Christopher. Even if she hits you first. If she does hit you again, move away from her and stand still and count from 1 to 50, then come and tell me what she has done, or tell one of the other members of staff what she has done."

That's awfully specific. Why does he need to count to fifty? Why does she tell him to start at 1? Is he so stupid that he might get confused otherwise and think she could have meant start at zero or negative infinity?

Sarah sounds nasty.

Or, for example, she once said, "If you want to go on the swings and there are already people on the swings, you must never push them off. You must ask them if you can have a go. And then you must wait until they have finished."

He didn't know that?! How old was he? I'm surprised it even occurred to him to push them off. I never did.

But when other people tell you what you can't do they don't do it like this.

They don't? Why not? British culture?

Suddenly we're in an actual scene. Christopher goes to Mrs. Shears' house and knocks on her door. When she answers it, he hears a question from a "quiz program" on her television and knows the answer to it because he's being smart right now. I don't care for the wording here: "she had been watching a quiz program on the television because there was a television on [...]". I would have said "she must have been".

He tells her he didn't kill Wellington and he wants to find out who did it, but she's not interested and shuts the door on him. I guess this means she's still mad at him because she thinks he killed the dog, and she probably doesn't like him randomly showing up at her house either. I think that's an American thing to do. Maybe she would have liked him better if he said hello how are you.

Then I decided to do some detective work.

This isn't going to be good...

I could see that she was watching me and waiting for me to leave because I could see her standing in her hall on the other side of the frosted glass door. So I walked down the path and out of the garden. Then I turned round and saw that she wasn't standing in her hall any longer. I made sure that there was no one watching and climbed over the wall and walked down the side of the house into her back garden to the shed where she kept all her gardening tools.

Wow, really? Didn't anyone ever tell you not to trespass? I'm pretty sure it's not any more legal or socially acceptable in Britain than it is here.

He looks in the window and sees "a fork that looked exactly the same as the fork that had been sticking out of Wellington. It was lying on the bench by the window and it had been cleaned because there was no blood on the spikes." Same bad wording. I really wish he wouldn't do that -- it's not accurate. (If I'd thought to implement "counts" like on Das Sporking, there'd be one for stuff like this.) Also, why is he so sure it's the same pitchfork? It could just be very similar-looking, and he probably doesn't have a perfect memory of what the original one looked like either. Memory is notoriously unreliable.

I could see some other tools as well, a spade and a rake and one of those long clippers people use for cutting branches which are too high to reach. And they all had the same green plastic handles like the fork. This meant that the fork belonged to Mrs. Shears.

...what? I don't follow. Isn't the only reason for concluding that it's her fork that it's, you know, in her shed?

Either that or it was a Red Herring, which is a clue which makes you come to a wrong conclusion or something which looks like a clue but isn't.

Yes, I know what that means. I think it's common knowledge. Why does he do this?

I wondered if Mrs. Shears had killed Wellington herself. But if she had killed Wellington herself, why had she come out of the house shouting, "What in fuck's name have you done to my dog?"

I thought that Mrs. Shears probably didn't kill Wellington. But whoever had killed him had probably killed him with Mrs. Shears' fork. And the shed was locked. This meant that it was someone who had the key to Mrs. Shears' shed, or that she had left it unlocked, or that she had left her fork lying around in the garden.


I heard a noise and turned round and saw Mrs. Shears standing on the lawn looking at me.
I said, "I came to see if the fork was in the shed."
And she said, "If you don't go now I will call the police again."

Yeah, I can't blame her.

So I went home.

When I got home I said hello to Father and went upstairs and fed Toby, my rat, and felt happy because I was being a detective and finding things out.

Yes, we already know who Toby is. You don't need to tell us again.

And we're done.

< Chapter 16 | Chapter 18 >

This page was created on 22/10/17 (dmy).
This page was last modified on 17/01/18 (dmy).