Chapter no 17

The Giver

TODAY IS DECLARED AN UNSCHEDULED HOLIDAY. Jonas, his parents, and Lily all turned in surprise and looked at the wall speaker from which the announcement had come. It happened so rarely, and was such a treat for the entire community when it did. Adults were exempted from the day’s work, children from school and training and volunteer hours. The substitute Laborers, who would be given a different holiday, took over all the necessary tasks: nurturing, food delivery, and care of the Old; and the community was free.

Jonas cheered, and put his homework folder down. He had been about to leave for school. School was less important to him now; and before much more time passed, his formal schooling would end. But still, for Twelves, though they had begun their adult training, there were the endless lists of rules to be memorized and the newest technology to be mastered.

He wished his parents, sister, and Gabe a happy day, and rode down the bicycle path, looking for Asher.

He had not taken the pills, now, for four weeks. The Stirrings had returned, and he felt a little guilty and embarrassed about the pleasurable dreams that came to him as he slept. But he knew he couldn’t go back to the world of no feelings that he had lived in so long.

And his new, heightened feelings permeated a greater realm than simply his sleep. Though he knew that his failure to take the pills accounted for some of it, he thought that the feelings came also from the memories. Now he could see all of the colors; and he could keep them, too, so that the trees and grass and bushes stayed green in his vision. Gabriel’s rosy cheeks stayed pink, even when he slept. And apples were always, always red.

Now, through the memories, he had seen oceans and mountain lakes and streams that gurgled through woods; and now he saw the familiar wide river beside the path differently. He saw all of the light and color and history it contained and carried in its slow-moving water; and he knew that there was an Elsewhere from which it came, and an Elsewhere to which it was going.

On this unexpected, casual holiday he felt happy, as he always had on holidays; but with a deeper happiness than ever before. Thinking, as he always did, about precision of language, Jonas realized that it was a new

depth of feelings that he was experiencing. Somehow they were not at all the same as the feelings that every evening, in every dwelling, every citizen analyzed with endless talk.

“I felt angry because someone broke the play area rules,” Lily had said once, making a fist with her small hand to indicate her fury. Her family— Jonas among them—had talked about the possible reasons for rule-breaking, and the need for understanding and patience, until Lily’s fist had relaxed and her anger was gone.

But Lily had not felt anger, Jonas realized now. Shallow impatience and exasperation, that was all Lily had felt. He knew that with certainty because now he knew what anger was. Now he had, in the memories, experienced injustice and cruelty, and he had reacted with rage that welled up so passionately inside him that the thought of discussing it calmly at the evening meal was unthinkable.

“I felt sad today,” he had heard his mother say, and they had comforted her.

But now Jonas had experienced real sadness. He had felt grief. He knew that there was no quick comfort for emotions like those.

These were deeper and they did not need to be told. They were felt. Today, he felt happiness.

“Asher!” He spied his friend’s bicycle leaning against a tree at the edge of the playing field. Nearby, other bikes were strewn about on the ground. On a holiday the usual rules of order could be disregarded.

He skidded to a stop and dropped his own bike beside the others. “Hey, Ash!” he shouted, looking around. There seemed to be no one in the play area. “Where are you?”

“Psssheeewwww!” A child’s voice, coming from behind a nearby bush, made the sound. “Pow! Pow! Pow!”

A female Eleven named Tanya staggered forward from where she had been hiding. Dramatically she clutched her stomach and stumbled about in a zig-zag pattern, groaning. “You got me!” she called, and fell to the ground, grinning.


Jonas, standing on the side of the playing field, recog-nized Asher’s voice. He saw his friend, aiming an imaginary weapon in his hand, dart from behind one tree to another. “Blam! You’re in my line of ambush, Jonas! Watch out!”

Jonas stepped back. He moved behind Asher’s bike and knelt so that he was out of sight. It was a game he had often played with the other children, a game of good guys and bad guys, a harmless pasttime that used up their contained energy and ended only when they all lay posed in freakish postures on the ground.

He had never recognized it before as a game of war.

“Attack!” The shout came from behind the small storehouse where play equipment was kept. Three children dashed forward, their imaginary weapons in firing position.

From the opposite side of the field came an opposing shout: “Counter-attack!” From their hiding places a horde of children—Jonas recognized Fiona in the group— emerged, running in a crouched position, firing across the field. Several of them stopped, grabbed their own shoulders and chests with exaggerated gestures, and pretended to be hit. They dropped to the ground and lay suppressing giggles.

Feelings surged within Jonas. He found himself walking forward into the field.

“You’re hit, Jonas!” Asher yelled from behind the tree. “Pow! You’re hit again!”

Jonas stood alone in the center of the field. Several of the children raised their heads and looked at him uneasily. The attacking armies slowed, emerged from their crouched positions, and watched to see what he was doing.

In his mind, Jonas saw again the face of the boy who had lain dying on a field and had begged him for water. He had a sudden choking feeling, as if it were difficult to breathe.

One of the children raised an imaginary rifle and made an attempt to destroy him with a firing noise. “Pssheeew!” Then they were all silent, standing awkwardly, and the only sound was the sound of Jonas’s shuddering breaths. He was struggling not to cry.

Gradually, when nothing happened, nothing changed, the children looked at each other nervously and went away. He heard the sounds as they righted their bicycles and began to ride down the path that led from the field.

Only Asher and Fiona remained.

“What’s wrong, Jonas? It was only a game,” Fiona said. “You ruined it,” Asher said in an irritated voice.

“Don’t play it anymore,” Jonas pleaded.

“I’m the one who’s training for Assistant Recreation Director,” Asher pointed out angrily. “Games aren’t your area of expertness.”

“Expertise,” Jonas corrected him automatically.

“Whatever. You can’t say what we play, even if you are going to be the new Receiver.” Asher looked warily at him. “I apologize for not paying you the respect you deserve,” he mumbled.

“Asher,” Jonas said. He was trying to speak carefully, and with kindness, to say exactly what he wanted to say. “You had no way of knowing this. I didn’t know it myself until recently. But it’s a cruel game. In the past, there have —”

“I said I apologize, Jonas.”

Jonas sighed. It was no use. Of course Asher couldn’t understand. “I accept your apology, Asher,” he said wearily.

“Do you want to go for a ride along the river, Jonas?” Fiona asked, biting her lip with nervousness.

Jonas looked at her. She was so lovely. For a fleeting instant he thought he would like nothing better than to ride peacefully along the river path, laughing and talking with his gentle female friend. But he knew that such times had been taken from him now. He shook his head. After a moment his two friends turned and went to their bikes. He watched as they rode away.

Jonas trudged to the bench beside the Storehouse and sat down, overwhelmed with feelings of loss. His childhood, his friendships, his carefree sense of security—all of these things seemed to be slipping away. With his new, heightened feelings, he was overwhelmed by sadness at the way the others had laughed and shouted, playing at war. But he knew that they could not understand why, without the memories. He felt such love for Asher and for Fiona. But they could not feel it back, without the memories. And he could not give them those. Jonas knew with certainty that he could change nothing.

Back in their dwelling, that evening, Lily chattered merrily about the wonderful holiday she had had, playing with her friends, having her midday meal out of doors, and (she confessed) sneaking a very short try on her father’s bicycle.

“I can’t wait till I get my very own bicycle next month. Father’s is too big for me. I fell,” she explained matter-of-factly. “Good thing Gabe wasn’t in the child seat!”

“A very good thing,” Mother agreed, frowning at the idea of it. Gabriel waved his arms at the mention of himself. He had begun to walk just the week before. The first steps of a newchild were always the occasion for celebration at the Nurturing Center, Father said, but also for the introduction of a discipline wand. Now Father brought the slender instrument home with him each night, in case Gabriel misbehaved.

But he was a happy and easygoing toddler. Now he moved unsteadily across the room, laughing. “Gay!” he chirped. “Gay!” It was the way he said his own name.

Jonas brightened. It had been a depressing day for him, after such a bright start. But he set his glum thoughts aside. He thought about starting to teach Lily to ride so that she could speed off proudly after her Ceremony of Nine, which would be coming soon. It was hard to believe that it was almost December again, that almost a year had passed since he had become a Twelve.

He smiled as he watched the newchild plant one small foot carefully before the other, grinning with glee at his own steps as he tried them out.

“I want to get to sleep early tonight,” Father said. “Tomorrow’s a busy day for me. The twins are being born tomorrow, and the test results show that they’re identical.”

“One for here, one for Elsewhere,” Lily chanted. “One for here, one for Else —”

“Do you actually take it Elsewhere, Father?” Jonas asked.

“No, I just have to make the selection. I weigh them, hand the larger over to a Nurturer who’s standing by, waiting, and then I get the smaller one all cleaned up and comfy. Then I perform a small Ceremony of Release and

—” He glanced down, grinning at Gabriel. “Then I wave bye-bye,” he said, in the special sweet voice he used when he spoke to the newchild. He waved his hand in the familiar gesture.

Gabriel giggled and waved bye-bye back to him.

“And somebody else comes to get him? Somebody from Elsewhere?” “That’s right, Jonas-bonus.”

Jonas rolled his eyes in embarrassment that his father had used the silly pet name.

Lily was deep in thought. “What if they give the little twin a name Elsewhere, a name like, oh, maybe Jonathan? And here, in our community, at his naming, the twin that we kept here is given the name Jonathan, and

then there would be two children with the same name, and they would look exactly the same, and someday, maybe when they were a Six, one group of Sixes would go to visit another community on a bus, and there in the other community, in the other group of Sixes, would be a Jonathan who was exactly the same as the other Jonathan, and then maybe they would get mixed up and take the wrong Jonathan home, and maybe his parents wouldn’t notice, and then —”

She paused for breath.

“Lily,” Mother said, “I have a wonderful idea. Maybe when you become a Twelve, they’ll give you the Assignment of Storyteller! I don’t think we’ve had a Storyteller in the community for a long time. But if I were on the Committee, I would definitely choose you for that job!”

Lily grinned. “I have a better idea for one more story,” she announced. “What if actually we were all twins and didn’t know it, and so Elsewhere there would be another Lily, and another Jonas, and another Father, and another Asher, and another Chief Elder, and another —”

Father groaned. “Lily,” he said. “It’s bedtime.”

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