Chapter no 20

The Giver

“I won’t! I won’t go home! You can’t make me!” Jonas sobbed and shouted and pounded the bed with his fists.

“Sit up, Jonas,” The Giver told him firmly.

Jonas obeyed him. Weeping, shuddering, he sat on the edge of the bed.

He would not look at The Giver.

“You may stay here tonight. I want to talk to you. But you must be quiet now, while I notify your family unit. No one must hear you cry.”

Jonas looked up wildly. “No one heard that little twin cry, either! No one but my father!” He collapsed in sobs again.

The Giver waited silently. Finally Jonas was able to quiet himself and he sat huddled, his shoulders shaking.

The Giver went to the wall speaker and clicked the switch to ON. “Yes, Receiver. How may I help you?”

“Notify the new Receiver’s family unit that he will be staying with me tonight, for additional training.”

“I will take care of that, sir. Thank you for your instructions,” the voice said.

“I will take care of that, sir. I will take care of that, sir,” Jonas mimicked in a cruel, sarcastic voice. “I will do whatever you like, sir. I will kill people, sir. Old people? Small newborn people? I’d be happy to kill them, sir. Thank you for your instructions, sir. How may I help y —” He couldn’t seem to stop.

The Giver grasped his shoulders firmly. Jonas fell silent and stared at him.

“Listen to me, Jonas. They can’t help it. They know nothing.” “You said that to me once before.”

“I said it because it’s true. It’s the way they live. It’s the life that was created for them. It’s the same life that you would have, if you had not been chosen as my successor.”

“But he lied to me!” Jonas wept.

“It’s what he was told to do, and he knows nothing else.”

“What about you? Do you lie to me, too?” Jonas almost spat the question at The Giver.

“I am empowered to lie. But I have never lied to you.”

Jonas stared at him. “Release is always like that? For people who break the rules three times? For the Old? Do they kill the Old, too?”

“Yes, it’s true.”

“And what about Fiona? She loves the Old! She’s in training to care for them. Does she know yet? What will she do when she finds out? How will she feel?” Jonas brushed wetness from his face with the back of one hand. “Fiona is already being trained in the fine art of release,” The Giver told him. “She’s very efficient at her work, your red-haired friend. Feelings are

not part of the life she’s learned.”

Jonas wrapped his arms around himself and rocked his own body back and forth. “What should I do? I can’t go back! I can’t!”

The Giver stood up. “First, I will order our evening meal. Then we will eat.”

Jonas found himself using the nasty, sarcastic voice again. “Then we’ll have a sharing of feelings?”

The Giver gave a rueful, anguished, empty laugh. “Jonas, you and I are the only ones who have feelings. We’ve been sharing them now for almost a year.”

“I’m sorry, Giver,” Jonas said miserably. “I don’t mean to be so hateful.

Not to you.”

The Giver rubbed Jonas’s hunched shoulders. “And after we eat,” he went on, “we’ll make a plan.”

Jonas looked up, puzzled. “A plan for what? There’s nothing. There’s nothing we can do. It’s always been this way. Before me, before you, before the ones who came before you. Back and back and back.” His voice trailed the familiar phrase.

“Jonas,” The Giver said, after a moment, “it’s true that it has been this way for what seems forever. But the memories tell us that it has not always been. People felt things once. You and I have been part of that, so we know. We know that they once felt things like pride, and sorrow, and —”

“And love,” Jonas added, remembering the family scene that had so affected him. “And pain.” He thought again of the soldier.

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”

“I’ve started to share them with you,” Jonas said, trying to cheer him.

“That’s true. And having you here with me over the past year has made me realize that things must change. For years I’ve felt that they should, but it seemed so hopeless.

“Now for the first time I think there might be a way,” The Giver said slowly. “And you brought it to my attention, barely —” He glanced at the clock. “two hours ago.”

Jonas watched him, and listened.

It was late at night, now. They had talked and talked. Jonas sat wrapped in a robe belonging to The Giver, the long robe that only Elders wore.

It was possible, what they had planned. Barely possible. If it failed, he would very likely be killed.

But what did that matter? If he stayed, his life was no longer worth living.

“Yes,” he told The Giver. “I’ll do it. I think I can do it. I’ll try, anyway.

But I want you to come with me.”

The Giver shook his head. “Jonas,” he said, “the community has depended, all these generations, back and back and back, on a resident Receiver to hold their memories for them. I’ve turned over many of them to you in the past year. And I can’t take them back. There’s no way for me to get them back if I have given them.

“So if you escape, once you are gone—and, Jonas, you know that you can never return —”

Jonas nodded solemnly. It was the terrifying part. “Yes,” he said, “I know. But if you come with me —”

The Giver shook his head and made a gesture to silence him. He continued. “If you get away, if you get beyond, if you get to Elsewhere, it will mean that the community has to bear the burden themselves, of the memories you had been holding for them.

“I think that they can, and that they will acquire some wisdom. But it will be desperately hard for them. When we lost Rosemary ten years ago, and her memories returned to the people, they panicked. And those were such few memories, compared to yours. When your memories return, they’ll need help. Remember how I helped you in the beginning, when the receiving of memories was new to you?”

Jonas nodded. “It was scary at first. And it hurt a lot.” “You needed me then. And now they will.”

“It’s no use. They’ll find someone to take my place. They’ll choose a new Receiver.”

“There’s no one ready for training, not right away. Oh, they’ll speed up the selection, of course. But I can’t think of another child who has the right qualities —”

“There’s a little female with pale eyes. But she’s only a Six.”

“That’s correct. I know the one you mean. Her name is Katharine. But she’s too young. So they will be forced to bear those memories.”

“I want you to come, Giver,” Jonas pleaded.

“No. I have to stay here,” The Giver said firmly. “I want to, Jonas. If I go with you, and together we take away all their protection from the memories, Jonas, the community will be left with no one to help them. They’ll be thrown into chaos. They’ll destroy themselves. I can’t go.”

“Giver,” Jonas suggested, “you and I don’t need to care about the rest of them.”

The Giver looked at him with a questioning smile. Jonas hung his head.

Of course they needed to care. It was the meaning of everything.

“And in any case, Jonas,” The Giver sighed, “I wouldn’t make it. I’m very weakened now. Do you know that I no longer see colors?”

Jonas’s heart broke. He reached for The Giver’s hand.

“You have the colors,” The Giver told him. “And you have the courage. I will help you to have the strength.”

“A year ago,” Jonas reminded him, “when I had just become a Twelve, when I began to see the first color, you told me that the beginning had been different for you. But that I wouldn’t understand.”

The Giver brightened. “That’s true. And do you know, Jonas, that with all your knowledge now, with all your memories, with all you’ve learned—still you won’t understand? Because I’ve been a little selfish. I haven’t given any of it to you. I wanted to keep it for myself to the last.”

“Keep what?”

“When I was just a boy, younger than you, it began to come to me. But it wasn’t the seeing-beyond for me. It was different. For me, it was hearing-beyond.”

Jonas frowned, trying to figure that out. “What did you hear?” he asked. “Music,” The Giver said, smiling. “I began to hear something truly

remarkable, and it is called music. I’ll give you some before I go.”

Jonas shook his head emphatically. “No, Giver,” he said. “I want you to keep that, to have with you, when I’m gone.”

Jonas went home the next morning, cheerfully greeted his parents, and lied easily about what a busy, pleasant night he had had.

His father smiled and lied easily, too, about his busy and pleasant day the day before.

Throughout the school day, as he did his lessons, Jonas went over the plan in his head. It seemed startlingly simple. Jonas and The Giver had gone over it and over it, late into the night hours.

For the next two weeks, as the time for the December Ceremony approached, The Giver would transfer every memory of courage and strength that he could to Jonas. He would need those to help him find the Elsewhere that they were both sure existed. They knew it would be a very difficult journey.

Then, in the middle of the night before the Ceremony, Jonas would secretly leave his dwelling. This was probably the most dangerous part, because it was a violation of a major rule for any citizen not on official business to leave a dwelling at night.

“I’ll leave at midnight,” Jonas said. “The Food Collectors will be finished picking up the evening-meal remains by then, and the Path-Maintenance Crews don’t start their work that early. So there won’t be anyone to see me, unless of course someone is out on emergency business.”

“I don’t know what you should do if you are seen, Jonas,” The Giver had said. “I have memories, of course, of all kinds of escapes. People fleeing from terrible things throughout history. But every situation is individual.

There is no memory of one like this.”

“I’ll be careful,” Jonas said. “No one will see me.”

“As Receiver-in-training, you’re held in very high respect already. So I think you wouldn’t be questioned very forcefully.”

“I’d just say I was on some important errand for the Receiver. I’d say it was all your fault that I was out after hours,” Jonas teased.

They both laughed a little nervously. But Jonas was certain that he could slip away, unseen, from his house, carrying an extra set of clothing. Silently he would take his bicycle to the riverbank and leave it there hidden in bushes with the clothing folded beside it.

Then he would make his way through the darkness, on foot, silently, to the Annex.

“There’s no nighttime attendant,” The Giver explained. “I’ll leave the door unlocked. You simply slip into the room. I’ll be waiting for you.”

His parents would discover, when they woke, that he was gone. They would also find a cheerful note from Jonas on his bed, telling them that he was going for an early morning ride along the river; that he would be back for the Ceremony.

His parents would be irritated but not alarmed. They would think him inconsiderate and they would plan to chastise him, later.

They would wait, with mounting anger, for him; finally they would be forced to go, taking Lily to the Ceremony without him.

“They won’t say anything to anyone, though,” Jonas said, quite certain. “They won’t call attention to my rudeness because it would reflect on their parenting. And anyway, everyone is so involved in the Ceremony that they probably won’t notice that I’m not there. Now that I’m a Twelve and in training, I don’t have to sit with my age group any more. So Asher will think I’m with my parents, or with you—”

“And your parents will assume you’re with Asher, or with me—”

Jonas shrugged. “It will take everyone a while to realize that I’m not there at all.”

“And you and I will be long on our way by then.”

In the early morning, The Giver would order a vehicle and driver from the Speaker. He visited the other communities frequently, meeting with their Elders; his responsibilities extended over all the surrounding areas. So this would not be an unusual undertaking.

Ordinarily The Giver did not attend the December Ceremony. Last year he had been present because of the occasion of Jonas’s selection, in which he was so involved. But his life was usually quite separate from that of the community. No one would comment on his absence, or on the fact that he had chosen this day to be away.

When the driver and vehicle arrived, The Giver would send the driver on some brief errand. During his absence, The Giver would help Jonas hide in the storage area of the vehicle. He would have with him a bundle of food which The Giver would save from his own meals during the next two weeks.

The Ceremony would begin, with all the community there, and by then Jonas and The Giver would be on their way.

By midday Jonas’s absence would become apparent, and would be a cause for serious concern. The Ceremony would not be disrupted—such a disruption would be unthinkable. But searchers would be sent out into the community.

By the time his bicycle and clothing were found, The Giver would be returning. Jonas, by then, would be on his own, making his journey Elsewhere.

The Giver, on his return, would find the community in a state of confusion and panic. Confronted by a situation which they had never faced before, and having no memories from which to find either solace or wisdom, they would not know what to do and would seek his advice.

He would go to the Auditorium where the people would be gathered, still. He would stride to the stage and command their attention.

He would make the solemn announcement that Jonas had been lost in the river. He would immediately begin the Ceremony of Loss.

“Jonas, Jonas,” they would say loudly, as they had once said the name of Caleb. The Giver would lead the chant. Together they would let Jonas’s presence in their lives fade away as they said his name in unison more slowly, softer and softer, until he was disappearing from them, until he was no more than an occasional murmur and then, by the end of the long day, gone forever, not to be mentioned again.

Their attention would turn to the overwhelming task of bearing the memories themselves. The Giver would help them.

“Yes, I understand that they’ll need you,” Jonas had said at the end of the lengthy discussion and planning. “But I’ll need you, too. Please come with me.” He knew the answer even as he made the final plea.

“My work will be finished,” The Giver had replied gently, “when I have helped the community to change and become whole.

“I’m grateful to you, Jonas, because without you I would never have figured out a way to bring about the change. But your role now is to escape. And my role is to stay.”

“But don’t you want to be with me, Giver?” Jonas asked sadly.

The Giver hugged him. “I love you, Jonas,” he said. “But I have another place to go. When my work here is finished, I want to be with my


Jonas had been staring glumly at the floor. Now he looked up, startled. “I didn’t know you had a daughter, Giver! You told me that you’d had a spouse. But I never knew about your daughter.”

The Giver smiled, and nodded. For the first time in their long months together, Jonas saw him look truly happy.

“Her name was Rosemary,” The Giver said.

You'll Also Like