AN/ It's difficult to write with one hand, and on mind-altering medications. But I hope I did a decent job of it. Please forgive any typos, though I've tried to fix them all.
Spoiler Ranking: 8/10
Dedicated to my friends Maren and Kate, because, goodness knows, I wouldn't be lucid without the two of them to poke me into consciousness. Not that I endorse that behavior...
His name is Shoal Odair. He likes himself, and he likes his name. It's familiarity is comforting, when so many things aren't. A name is something to hold on to, even when everything else changes.
Things seem to change a lot. And he isn't sure he likes that. Shoal would be happy to live on in the big house by the sea for the rest of his life, with his mother. The two of them know how to be happy, alone. They know how to quietly love each other.
It seems like more people should be like them. He will never fully understand why there are so many crying children, or even why his mother doesn't always seem intact. He has never been as sad as any of them, never known grief. And he would call that a good thing, though there are some who wouldn't. He cites his inexperience as the reason for his bliss, correctly.
School is not difficult for him. He understands what to say to people, to make them smile. It's a gift of his. One that has seen him well. Though he could skate through on charisma alone, he tries not to. He wants to learn, to understand the past. But he can't, because it is farther away from his life than he could ever imagine.
Annie is not a mystery to him. There have been people, official-looking people, who call her 'insane'. He doesn't see the insanity, though he sees the pain in her eyes, usually so guarded. He doesn't understand it. But he doesn't mind how tightly she holds him, crushing him against her, as long as he can hear her breathing. His mother is a constant. She is not unstable. She is the most stable thing in his life.
What bothers him is the realization that he seems to be her only friend. True, there are people she visits, and he can see that they give her happiness. In District Twelve, she knows a woman named Katniss, who he finds singularly mystifying. Surely, she is very powerful. Her face has a strength to it, one that he cannot find in himself or his mother. But her eyes have the same pain as Annie's, and he has seen her cry. The balance is difficult to find.
Another thing out of place in the Twelve place is the uncomfortable number of people in the houses. Certainly, he enjoys his time spent there. The little boy is a better audience than any story-teller could dream of, and his laughter is a delightful thing. The girl, though older, is much too young to be a close friend. He looks forward, however, to the few words he can coax from her. With the baker-man, however, the house holds four people. Altogether too many.
He prefers the quiet comfort of his own home. Though he is willing to have fun telling stories to the little boy, he is relieved to go home.
Shoal is difficult to upset. At school, he has never completely lost his temper, though he has approached it. His best friend, a girl called Lissa, had run past him, her face tear-stained and splotchy. A boy, who he had counted among his friends, laughed after her, walking to Shoal, and declaring that Lissa liked him. It took a good five minutes to explain the details, all of which were forgotten when he realized the implications of what had happened.
The idea didn't bother him a bit. But he was briefly infuriated- so much, that he struck the boy- that his friend had been hurt on account of him. He could not escape the scolding by the yard teacher, or the required apology. Once he got away, he couldn't find the girl, and went home to find that his mother couldn't explain, either.
He is scared, if only a little, of what he can't understand. And Shoal cannot hope to fathom exactly why Lissa had been so upset, or what made him react so violently. Since the day, he has had more trouble talking to her, another inexplicable thing. It bothers him, the not knowing. More than a lot of things.
When his mother cannot provide an answer, whatever situation is made exponentially worse. Though Shoal is often forced into the position as caregiver to his mother, he relies on her advice more than he knows. Because she is constant, where everything around him is not.
He loves her. Though their bond is no more than that of mother and son, it is as strong as such a connection can be. Their state necessitates it.
The sea is another one of his friends. The proximity of the water is ideal; for him, it provides not just entertainment, but a voice. Something to listen to, when his mother may be far away, and his friends may be unpredictable. The sea changes, but it stays the same in that it is always there. Always. There will never be a time when it does not wait for him, down the sandy street, merely a block away.
Fish are a source of fascination, but not a way of life. When he swims, it is not to quarry them, but to experience what their world is like. Cool, but dissonant. Beneath the waves, life is different than it is above. Not always good. Unreliable.
Though he loves the water, he finds sold ground preferable. He craves stability, which is not what the ocean offers. Adventure may be hard to come by, but he prefers it that way. He will seek excitement, but only when he wants it.
Being him is not the easiest thing, but he supposes that there are more difficult things. He could be one of the people in the past, who died. Or he could be one of the few who, like his father, lived. Thinking about that terrible things before his birth. But he will never understand them, because the same thing will never happen to him.
Shoal is smart enough to understand his own connection to the father he never met. He knows that the reason that his mother is in her condition is buried back then, in the past, as well. He has heard much-dramatized tales of the Mockingjay, and the rebellion that began and ended at her hands.
Perhaps it is a good thing, though, that he doesn't know the entire story. Perhaps he is better for his lack of knowledge. Perhaps all the children of the rebellion are.
Maybe, if the world can remember, but at the same time, forget, then it's scars will heal. Shoal is one of the first children born into the new age, and his task is one of acceptance. He must accept that the past is past, and prevent it from becoming the future.
Whether or not compliance is easier than rebellion has yet to be determined, and the outlook is not a good one. There is no real measure by which to standardize life's ease. All of the generation are irrevocably different than their predecessors, and Shoal is no exception.
He sings the same simple songs as those children, though. He plays the same games of sharks-and-fishes, and walks the same weather-worn beach his father did.
Perhaps they are not so different.
His name is Shoal Odair. He is no more than a child, and yet, his name is an omen of change. Of the pain that will never be suffered, and the children who will never be killed.