Chapter 12 of The Crows is online today!
CW for return of an abusive ex, violence/accidental amputation, car crash, cannibalism, head injury, animal abuse (on-page entrail reading)
CHAPTER 12: HAUNTED BY THE PAST
Links on my podcast page.
Chapter 12: Haunted by the Past
…in which Carrie gets a visitor…
Carrie pulled away and pressed herself against the crumbling wall of the cottage. She heard the door slam over the muffled curses of Ricky’s father. Before she could scramble up, Ricky stalked by her, hurling the shell of a washing machine out of the way. Carrie couldn’t stop the muffled squeak that came out as he passed.~ C. M. Rosens, The Crows, pp. 252-3
There, in the back of Ricky Porter’s shaved skull, was a large gaping mouth. Thick white lips like tapeworms opened and closed, silvery mucus strands laced between them. They chomped on the air as Ricky ranted at the woods, a string of colloquialisms and swearwords assaulting the silent trees.
At the sound she made, Ricky spun around, nostrils flaring, face dark with anger. When he saw Carrie, he stopped. His eyes widened in horror, mirroring hers. He reached automatically for his hood, only to realise he wasn’t wearing it, or anything.
Carrie raised her hands. “It’s okay,” she whispered. “Ricky, it’s – it’s me, it’s okay.”
Ricky’s brown eyes burned a dark ruby red. His hands cupped the back of his head, protecting it from her rather than the other way around.
“Seriously,” Carrie whispered, getting shakily to her feet. “It’s fine, I’m just gonna go, okay, I’m just going.”
“You can’t be here,” Ricky growled at her, lowering his bloody hands. “What’re you doing here? I’m busy.”
“I – you invited me, remember?” Carrie pointed out. “You said I could come over for tea…”
Ricky jerked his head at her, then lunged forwards to pull her away from the cottage when she didn’t take the hint. He glowered, smearing her cardigan with badger blood. “Now’s not a good time.”
He tugged her over to the wall and let her go.
I really like this chapter because there’s so much going on in it. It’s 41mins long rather than 20-30mins, but there wasn’t a convenient place to cut it as the parts are the wrong length to neatly divide it like the others I’ve chopped in half.
The quote here is a really fun interaction, because Carrie was unconscious the first time he revealed what was under his hood, and also because she has no idea how much danger she’s in. He also didn’t invite her to tea, she invited herself and he didn’t explicitly say no, but so much has happened that she genuinely remembers their last conversation as containing an implicit invite. Ricky, clearly, does not remember it like that.
I love the ways that memory plays tricks on you, and I play with that a lot more in Thirteenth, where the characters are recalling childhood and teenage memories that they each have different perspectives on and different context for.
I also hope that this interaction demonstrates Ricky’s two modes – completely invincible or chronically insecure – and Carrie catches him oscillating between them. He’s got a lot of very complicated feelings about his body and his Changes, which he never addresses in the novel. Ricky frequently says to himself (and to Gerald) that he’s not a tool, and yet in this chapter he shows how being treated like one has affected his self-perception.
Earlier on in this chapter he reveals his glory to his latest victim, and finds it amusing to create a sense of tension and build-up with his tendrils, making the victim kneel in front of him… then brains them with a rock instead. It would have been funnier if he’d punched them out, perhaps, but Ricky uses a rock as the ‘obvious’ (to him) substitute for his tendrils – a tool, rather than his own fist. Here, despite repeatedly referring to his Changes as his ‘glory’ and wanting more rather than less, he is afraid of how Carrie will react, as if her negative reaction could profane or sully this part of himself. Later in the chapter, he is delighted when she says ‘you’ not ‘it’ in reference to the tendrils and his second mouth, because, “most people say ‘it’, like it’s not a part of me”. Add in his obsession with a particular physical aesthetic, his disordered eating habits when he’s stressed or upset, and his almost total lack of self-awareness, and there’s a lot of contradictory things happening under the surface that bubble up in aggression every so often.
The chapter also raises a few more questions about the nature of fate, at least from Carrie’s perspective.
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