We're immediately introduced to two new characters, Jonnie's love interest Chrissie (at least that name's recognized by Firefox) and her little sister Pattie, both of whom are waiting outside the courthouse. Jonnie explicitly ignores them in favor of looking at the building, the only one in the village to have a stone foundation and floor.
The building is rumored to be a thousand years old, which of course Jonnie disbelieves, but he admits it looks like it could be. It's on its seventeenth roof, its wooden walls are "gaping with wormholes," and "the stone walkway close to it was worn half a foot deep by the bare horny feet of scores of generations of villagers coming here to be tried and punished in the olden days when somebody had cared. In his lifetime Jonnie had never seen a trial, or a town meeting for that matter."
Bare feet. These people are too dumb to reinvent the shoe. Never mind that their village is falling apart and they've stopped trying to keep up some semblance of society - even at their height, they never figured out sandals, much less mastered the moccasin. And they've had a thousand years to try to rebuild civilization. Wow.
After giving us a description of a building which will soon cease to have any relevance to the plot, we finally get a good look at Chrissie. "She was a slight girl, very pretty, about eighteen. She had large black eyes in strange contrast to her corn-silk hair. She had wrapped around herself a doeskin, really tight, and it showed her breasts and a lot of bare leg."
What is it with L. Ron and corn?
Little sister Pattie, whose default state is described as attached to Chrissie's leg, is "a budding copy of the older girl," all "bright-eyed and interested." Though Jonnie ignores her question about a funeral, she happily takes Windsplitter's lead rope. "At seven, Pattie had no parents and little enough of a home, and her sun rose and set only to Jonnie's proud orders."
Pattie asks another question, and Jonnie again ignores it. Chrissie reaches out to touch his arm, but he pays it no heed, and enters the courthouse in search of Parson Staffor.
Hey, L. Ron? I've figured out that Jonnie's supposed to be our hero and all, but you have to give us a reason to like him, you know? All we've seen so far is a guy who bullies his aunt, has a child slave, and coldly ignores any gestures of tenderness or concern from his love interest.
Staffor's sleeping on a mound of grass, surrounded by flies and wads of "locoweed." Now I was ready to rage again about more stupid made-up words, but apparently this is a real plant. Shocking, I know. Anyway, Staffor used to be a fat bloke, but he got on the drugs and is now shriveled, toothless, and filthy. Jonnie prods him until he wakes up. "'That's this generation,' muttered the parson. 'No respect for their elders. Rushing off to the bushes, fornicating, grabbing the best meat pieces.'"
Ah, a stereotypical cranky, conservative, "in my day we had to walk uphill both ways through the snow," old guy. Also, it's strange to complain about the amount of fornicating when the tribe's fighting a losing battle to straighten out its birth and death ratio. Shouldn't it be everyone's duty to pop out as many kids as possible, just so some of them aren't mutants?
Whatever. Jonnie informs Staffor that there's going to be a funeral, reminding the parson that his father died. Staffor admits that he's not a hundred percent positive that Jonnie's dad is... well, his dad, since "your mother had three husbands one time and another, and there being no real ceremonies these days-" He cuts off when he notices Jonnie's holding his kill-club.
Now, Staffor quickly admits that his memory's going - any guesses why? - but come on, shouldn't some basic counting skills be enough to confirm someone's parentage? Unless Jonnie's mom was married concurrently instead of consecutively, but this doesn't seem like that type of society.
There is concern about who will dig the hole, and who will prepare the meat, and who will assemble everyone, but Jonnie assures the parson that either he or someone he bosses around will take care of everything. Staffor complains that there's nothing for him to do, wonders why Jonnie even woke him up, and flings himself back down on his bed to watch Jonnie leave. And the chapter ends.
Oh, and during all this, we hear an oath/curse/something as Staffor pops some locoweed: "Horns, but this stuff is green." I don't remember "horns" being used in this context ever again, and I certainly doubt it'll be explained later. So the tribe kept old titles but made up new curses? What does "horns" refer to? Lucifer's horns? The Giant Space-Goat's horns? The horns of the mountains? It's probably not worth worrying about.
We end at the top of page 12. Next, we will completely skip the funeral we've spent the last two chapters building up to.
Back to Chapter Two