Reading The Hunger Games

Katniss, Gale, Peeta, Haymitch and others read the Hunger Games trilogy. I'm going to do all the books and not stop halfway through the series.

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5. PART 1 "THE TRIBUTES" CHAPTER 3

I don't own The Hunger Games... I would be absolutely happy if I did though. PLEASE REVIEW Next Chapter: starts now!

Prim's POV:

I can't believe it. Katniss is going into the Games. She going for me. I hate it. Gale went to get his lunch wile we waited. I decided to break the silence. "Who's reading?" I asked. When no one offered to I said "I guess I will." Katniss smiled at me in encouragement. Ugh... Gale was taking forever. By now the silence was gone and everyone was talking to someone. Katniss was talking to Peeta, Johanna was talking to Finnick, Cinna to Haymitch, and Rue to Thresh. I was just sitting there holding the book like an idiot waiting for everyone to settle down. I groaned again. This is getting boring. I decided to join Katniss with talking to Peeta but before I could, Gale came back with his lunch. I decided to get everyone to shut up now. "SHUT UP, I'M GOING TO READ NOW" I shouted. I'm proud to say it worked. 

The moment the anthem ends, we are taken into custody. I don’t mean we’re handcuffed or anything, but a group of Peacekeepers marches us through the front door of the Justice Building. Maybe tributes have tried to escape in the past. I’ve never seen that happen though.

"I think that's the point" Gale said. Everyone saw that that made sense and agreed. 

Once inside, I’m conducted to a room and left alone.

"That sounds looney." Rue said. "It probably is" Thresh agreed. 

It’s the richest place I’ve ever been in, with thick, deep carpets and a velvet couch and chairs. I know velvet because my mother has a dress with a collar made of the stuff.

"That sounds interesting" Cinna said. 

When I sit on the couch, I can’t help running my fingers over the fabric repeatedly. It helps to calm me as I try to prepare for the next hour. The time allotted for the tributes to say goodbye to their loved ones.

I frowned. I didn't want my sister to go. I didn't want to say goodbye. But I had to. A lot of people have to say goodbye to family. I hope it just helps though. 

I cannot afford to get upset, to leave this room with puffy eyes and a red nose. Crying is not an option. There will be more cameras at the train station.

"You always try to act brave." I mumbled to her. She just nodded and tried to ignore me. 

My sister and my mother come first. I reach out to Prim and she climbs on my lap, her arms around my neck, head on my shoulder, just like she did when she was a toddler.

I blushed a little. But I don't care that they know about it, I just don't want Katniss to die. 

My mother sits beside me and wraps her arms around us. For a few minutes, we say nothing. Then I start telling them all the things they must remember to do, now that I will not be there to do them for them. 

"You're worrying about them, even though you have a huge chance at dyeing " Finnick asked shocked. "Yeah, I care about them a lot." Katniss replied. My heart soared at that. I love my sister. 

Prim is not to take any tesserae. They can get by, if they’re careful, on selling Prim’s goat milk and cheese and the small apothecary business my mother now runs for the people in the Seam. Gale will get her the herbs she doesn’t grow herself, but she must be very careful to describe them because he’s not as familiar with them as I am.

"Teach me." Gale said determinedly. "I don't have enough time, Gale" Katniss said. "Then we will stay there until I understand" he said. Peeta was glaring at him. I guess he saw through that too. I did, Gale was trying to get more time with Katniss. 

He’ll also bring them game — he and I made a pact about this a year or so ago — and will probably not ask for compensation, but they should thank him

with some kind of trade, like milk or medicine.

"You don't need to" Gale said softly. 

I don’t bother suggesting Prim learn to hunt. I tried to teach her a couple of times and it was disastrous.

I giggled. I remember that. Katniss was smiling thinking about it too. "What happened?" Johanna asked. "Just read" Katniss said to me smiling. 

The woods terrified her, and whenever I shot something, she’d get teary and talk about how we might be able to heal it if we got it home soon enough.

"If that's how you think, you wouldn't last very long in the Games" Haymitch said seriously. "I know" I said. I was thinking the same thing. 

But she makes out well with her goat, so I concentrate on that.

"Thanks Katniss" I said. 

When I am done with instructions about fuel, and trading, and staying in school, I turn to my mother and grip her arm, hard. “Listen to me. Are you listening to me?” She nods, alarmed by my intensity. She must know what’s coming. “You can’t leave again,” I say.

"Good, make sure she stays with Prim" Peeta said quietly. 

My mother’s eyes find the floor. “I know. I won’t. I couldn’t help what—”

"She has to help this time" Katniss said fiercely. "She is, I can feel it." I said. 

“Well, you have to help it this time. You can’t clock out and leave Prim on her own. There’s no me now to keep you both alive. It doesn’t matter what happens. Whatever you see on the screen. You have to promise me you’ll fight through it!” My voice has risen to a shout. In it is all the anger, all the fear I felt at her abandonment.

"Forgive her" I said firmly. Katniss just nodded. 

She pulls her arm from my grasp, moved to anger herself now. “I was ill. I could have treated myself if I’d had the medicine I have now.”

"That does make sense" Katniss mumbled lowly. Peeta clearly heard though because he glanced at her. 

That part about her being ill might be true. I’ve seen her bring back people suffering from immobilizing sadness since. Perhaps it is a sickness, but it’s one we can’t afford.

"True" Finnick muttered. 

“Then take it. And take care of her!” I say. “I’ll be all right, Katniss,” says Prim, clasping my face in her hands. “But you have to take care, too. You’re so fast and brave. Maybe you can win.” 

Katniss frowned. She was thinking about something bad. 

I can’t win. Prim must know that in her heart.

"I DON'T KNOW THAT! YOU CAN WIN, I KNOW YOU CAN!" I said. Katniss was shocked at what I yelled. Peeta was thinking about something. "I know you can" I whispered. "Katniss, if anyone can win in District 12, it would be you" Peeta said quietly. Katniss was shaking her head not believing it. "Fine, if you don't believe it, then just listen to the book. It will prove you wrong." Peeta looked like he was ready to die. Then it dawned on me. He was going into the Games too. "Peeta, I think you will come out too." "But that's not possible." he retorted. "Nothings impossible." I said softly. "I think both will come out" Cinna agreed. "Besides, I feel like your going to be one of the main characters. Why would you die in the first book?" Cinna continued. I let that sink in before I continued to read. 

The competition will be far beyond my abilities. Kids from wealthier districts, where winning is a huge honor, who’ve been trained their whole lives for this.

I frowned. I forgot about that. "Just don't give up" I heard Haymitch say. I smiled glad that he was trying to help. 

Boys who are two to three times my size.

We all looked at Thresh at that. Everyone snickered when Thresh smiled a little at all of us. 

Girls who know twenty different ways to kill you with a knife. Oh, there’ll be people like me, too. People to weed out before the real fun begins. “Maybe,” I say, because I can hardly tell my mother to carry on if I’ve already given up myself.

"That should motivate you" Cinna said. "It should" Katniss agreed. 

Besides, it isn’t in my nature to go down without a fight, even when things seem insurmountable. “Then we’d be rich as Haymitch.”

"Always looking on the bright side, are we?" FInnick asked. I nodded. It made sense to. If you didn't then it feels like you already gave up. 

“I don’t care if we’re rich. I just want you to come home. You will try, won’t you? Really, really try?” asks Prim.

"Of course" Katniss said when everyone looked at her. "You better" Gale said. 

“Really, really try. I swear it,” I say. And I know, because of Prim, I’ll have to.

I smiled. "I now know how to get things from you" I teased. Everyone was laughing.

And then the Peacekeeper is at the door, signaling our time is up, and we’re all hugging one another so hard it hurts and all I’m saying is “I love you. I love you both.” And they’re saying it back and then the Peacekeeper orders them out and the door closes.

"I hate that part" Finnick says. "It hurts a lot." 

I bury my head in one of the velvet pillows as if this can block the whole thing out.

"Wish it could" Johanna said. 

Someone else enters the room, and when I look up, I’m surprised to see it’s the baker, Peeta Mellark’s father.

I turned toward him in shock, as did everyone else. He didn't look shocked though, he looked like he expected that. "He likes your family." was all he said. I shrugged and continued to read. 

I can’t believe he’s come to visit me. After all, I’ll be trying to kill his son soon.

Katniss bit her lip. She looked like she didn't like that thought. "Katniss, it's ok" Peeta said. "It will be hard on both of us" he continued. 

But we do know each other a bit, and he knows Prim even better. When she sells her goat cheeses at the Hob, she puts two of them aside for him and he gives her a generous amount of bread in return.

"Can you tell him I said thanks?" I asked Peeta. He nodded. 

We always wait to trade with him when his witch of a wife isn’t around because he’s so much nicer. I feel certain he would never have hit his son the way she did over the burned bread.

"He doesn't" Peeta muttered. 

But why has he come to see me?\

"He likes you. You know, some people do" Peeta said rolling his eyes. 

The baker sits awkwardly on the edge of one of the plush chairs. He’s a big, broad-shouldered man with burn scars from years at the ovens. He must have just said goodbye to his son.

"Probably" Peeta said. 

He pulls a white paper package from his jacket pocket and holds it out to me. I open it and find cookies. These are a luxury we can never afford.

Katniss gasped. "That's so nice" she said. I was smiling. Katniss under appreciated herself. She shouldn't. 

“Thank you,” I say. The baker’s not a very talkative man in the best of times, and today he has no words at all. “I had some of your bread this morning. My friend Gale gave you a squirrel for it.” He nods, as if remembering the squirrel. “Not your best trade,” I say.

Everyone snorts. Gale then realizes what she said and shouts "HEY!" This made everyone snicker even more. 

He shrugs as if it couldn’t possibly matter. Then I can’t think of anything else, so we sit in silence until a Peacemaker summons him. He rises and coughs to clear his throat. “I’ll keep an eye on the little girl. Make sure she’s eating.”

I gasp. I'm so grateful for that. 

I feel some of the pressure in my chest lighten at his words. People deal with me, but they are genuinely fond of Prim. Maybe there will be enough fondness to keep her alive.

Katniss smiles. I guess she thinks that's true. 

My next guest is also unexpected. Madge walks straight to me. She is not weepy or evasive, instead there’s an urgency about her tone that surprises me.

Katniss looked shocked. She didn't expect so many people to see her. 

“They let you wear one thing from your district in the arena. One thing to remind you of home. Will you wear this?” She holds out the circular gold pin that was on her dress earlier. I hadn’t paid much attention to it before, but now I see it’s a small bird in flight.

I gasp. "It sounds beautiful." Rue said. I nodded speechless. 

“Your pin?” I say. Wearing a token from my district is about the last thing on my mind.

Gale had to snicker there. "I love the way you think" he said. 

“Here, I’ll put it on your dress, all right?” Madge doesn’t wait for an answer, she just leans in and fixes the bird to my dress. “Promise you’ll wear it into the arena, Katniss?” she asks. “Promise?”

“Yes,” I say. Cookies. A pin. I’m getting all kinds of gifts today.

I smile. I like knowing that so many people like my sister. 

Madge gives me one more. A kiss on the cheek. Then she’s gone and I’m left thinking that maybe Madge really has been my friend all along.

"She was" Gale whispered to Katniss. 

Finally, Gale is here and maybe there is nothing romantic between us, but when he opens his arms I don’t hesitate to go into them.

Gale smiles a little. 

His body is familiar to me — the way it moves, the smell of wood smoke, even the sound of his heart beating I know from quiet moments on a hunt — but this is the first time I really feel it, lean and hard-muscled against my own.

Peeta was looking jealous. He was cleching his fists glaring at Gale. Gale was beaming at Katniss. Finnick was being Finnick and wolf-whistling. Katniss was blushing at the part. 

“Listen,” he says. “Getting a knife should be pretty easy, but you’ve got to get your hands on a bow. That’s your best chance.” 

Everyone nodding, knowing it was true. 

“They don’t always have bows,” I say, thinking of the year there were only horrible spiked maces that the tributes had to bludgeon one another to death with.

"That year was horrible" said Cinna. He cared for everyone else so I knew he was being sincere. 

“Then make one,” says Gale. “Even a weak bow is better than no bow at all.”

Katniss was agreeing with Gale. It was smart to get something she was familiar with that. 

I have tried copying my father’s bows with poor results. It’s not that easy. Even he had to scrap his own work sometimes.

"It's still good that he was able to make one himself" Haymitch said. 

“I don’t even know if there’ll be wood,” I say. Another year, they tossed everybody into a landscape of nothing but boulders and sand and scruffy bushes. I particularly hated that year. Many contestants were bitten by venomous snakes or went insane from thirst.

"That was a horrible and stupid idea." Finnick was the one to say it this time. 

“There’s almost always some wood,” Gale says. “Since that year half of them died of cold. Not much entertainment in that.”

He probably said that bitterly. He hates to think about the Games. 

It’s true. We spent one Hunger Games watching the players freeze to death at night.

"I hated that" Rue said softly. Thresh tried to comfort her. 

You could hardly see them because they were just huddled in balls and had no wood for fires or torches or anything. It was considered very anti-climactic in the Capitol, all those quiet, bloodless deaths. Since then, there’s usually been wood to make fires.

"But you shouldn't. That's how people find you" Katniss says. 

“Yes, there’s usually some,” I say. “Katniss, it’s just hunting. You’re the best hunter I know,” says Gale.

"But it's people." said Katniss. 

“It’s not just hunting. They’re armed. They think,” I say.

"Sometimes they are" said Gale. "But you have one too."

“So do you. And you’ve had more practice. Real practice,” he says. “You know how to kill.”

"Not people" Katniss said. "Well, sometimes you have to learn quickly" Gale told her. I continued to read after that because everyone knew it was true no matter how much we hate it.

“Not people,” I say.

We all snickered at that.

“How different can it be, really?” says Gale grimly.

We all looked at Gale weirdly. "Hey, I haven't said it yet" he said. I rolled my eyes thinking that he won't change and still think that

The awful thing is that if I can forget they’re people, it will be no different at all.

Katniss looked sad. She was trying to keep it from everyone but it's not working. "Don't worry Katniss. Everything will be ok" I said. Everyone was agreeing with me to cheer her up. I knew it was only for Katniss they were agreeing, but I didn't care as long as Katniss felt better. 

The Peacekeepers are back too soon and Gale asks for more time, but they’re taking him away and I start to panic. “Don’t let them starve!” I cry out, clinging to his hand.

"I won't" Gale said softly and hugged her. Peeta glared. Right now, I'm absolutely positive that both Peeta and Gale like Katniss. That is going to be bad. 

“I won’t! You know I won’t! Katniss, remember I —” he says, and they yank us apart and slam the door and I’ll never know what it was he wanted me to remember.

"Oh, what were you going to say?" Finnick asked knowingly. Just as I did, he knew that they both liked Katniss. By the looks of it, everyone did except for Katniss herself. She's oblivious to it all. 

It’s a short ride from the Justice Building to the train station. I’ve never been in a car before. Rarely even ridden in wagons. In the Seam, we travel on foot.

Cinna frowned. He probably was thinking it wasn't fair. 

I’ve been right not to cry. The station is swarming with reporters with their insectlike cameras trained directly on my face. But I’ve had a lot of practice at wiping my face clean of emotions and I do this now.

"You shouldn't" Peeta said suddenly. He blushed when we all looked at him. "What? all I said was that she shouldn't hide her emotions. It could be bad." "But it could also be good." Katniss retorted. "Alright, I'll give you that" Peeta said. He motioned for me to continue after that. 

I catch a glimpse of myself on the television screen on the wall that’s airing my arrival live and feel gratified that I appear almost bored.

We all snickered. Of course that's what she's thinking about. 

Peeta Mellark, on the other hand, has obviously been crying and interestingly enough does not seem to be trying to cover it up.

I frowned. I've never seen Peeta cry. I've seen almost everyone at my school and in the Seam cry at least once, but not Peeta. He isn't that sensitive. And I don't think it's a strategy. As I was concentrating, a thought came to me. What if he was heartbroken that both of them would be going into the Games? I looked toward Peeta and sure enough he looked just as confused as everyone else, if not more. 

I immediately wonder if this will be his strategy in the Games. To appear weak and frightened, to reassure the other tributes that he is no competition at all, and then come out fighting.

"I don't think so." Haymitch said. Clearly, he was thinking about both of them and their skills. 

This worked very well for a girl, Johanna Mason

"Woohoo! Yeah!" Johanna was cheering for herself. We all started laughing at that, and then even more.

, from District 7 a few years back. She seemed like such a sniveling, cowardly fool that no one bothered about her until there were only a handful of contestants left. It turned out she could kill viciously. Pretty clever, the way she played it.

Johanna was smiling bitterly. 

But this seems an odd strategy for Peeta Mellark because he’s a baker’s son. All those years of having enough to eat and hauling bread trays around have made him broad-shouldered and strong. It will take an awful lot of weeping to convince anyone to overlook him.

Everyone snickered. "You have to admit, she has you done" Finnick said. Peeta rolled his eyes smiling. 

We have to stand for a few minutes in the doorway of the train while the cameras gobble up our images, then we’re allowed inside and the doors close mercifully behind us. The train begins to move at once.

Katniss took a deep breath. I knew what she was thinking. Once she left the District, the Games begin. It doesn't matter of she's in the Cornucopia yet or not, because she'll be getting ready either way. Which is part of the Games. 

The speed initially takes my breath away. Of course, I’ve never been on a train, as travel between the districts is forbidden except for officially sanctioned duties.

"I hate that" I would like to see the other Districts." I said. Rue was smiling and agreeing with me. "I've seen them" Finnick stated. I rolled my eyes. "Well, obviously, you were a winner meaning you had to go to each District" Katniss said. "You're just jealous" Finnick retorted. I snorted and went back to reading. If I hadn't this would have gone on forever. 

For us, that’s mainly transporting coal. But this is no ordinary coal train. It’s one of the high-speed Capitol models that average 250 miles per hour.

I gasp. That's really fast. 

Our journey to the Capitol will take less than a day.

Rue looked shocked. "Is it usually that quick?" she asked. Finnick and Johanna nodded, since Haymitch wasn't going to answer and Cinna didn't know. 

In school, they tell us the Capitol was built in a place once called the Rockies. District 12 was in a region known is Appalachia. Even hundreds of years ago, they mined coal here. Which is why our miners have to dig so deep.

"That makes sense" Cinna said. He was trying to learn everything he could about our District, since he was going to be the designer. 

Somehow it all comes back to coal at school. Besides basic reading and math most of our instruction is coal-related.

"Which sucks, I want to learn about other stuff too" I said. 

Except for the weekly lecture on the history of Panem. It’s mostly a lot of blather about what we owe the Capitol.

We all rolled our eyes. "We don't owe them anything" Peeta growled. Everyone was angry at that statement. We all agreed with Peeta. We don't owe them anything. 

I know there must be more than they’re telling us, an actual account of what happened during the rebellion. But I don’t spend much time thinking about it. Whatever the truth is, I don’t see how it will help me get food on the table.

"True" Finnick mumbled. 

The tribute train is fancier than even the room in the Justice Building. We are each given our own chambers that have a bedroom, a dressing area, and a private bathroom with hot and cold running water. We don’t have hot water at home, unless we boil it.

"A train has better things than a home. Isn't that sad?" Haymitch asked. We all nodded. 

There are drawers filled with fine clothes, and Effie Trinket tells me to do anything I want, wear anything I want, everything is at my disposal.

"Does that mean that if she wins, she can take those?" Rue asked. "I think so" replied Johanna "Though I didn't really try." she finished. 

Just be ready for supper in an hour.

"I wonder what you'll be having" Finnick said curiously. 

I peel off my mother’s blue dress and take a hot shower. I’ve never had a shower before. It’s like being in a summer rain, only warmer. I dress in a dark green shirt and pants.

Peeta and Gale looked lost in their thoughts, probably thinking of what she would look like. 

At the last minute, I remember Madge’s little gold pin. For the first time, I get a good look at it. It’s as if someone fashioned a small golden bird and then attached a ring around it. The bird is connected to the ring only by its wing tips. I suddenly recognize it. A mockingjay.

"I love mocking jays. They are my favorite bird" Rue said. "They're my favorite too" Katniss says. They smile at each other. 

They’re funny birds and something of a slap in the face to the Capitol. During the rebellion, the Capitol bred a series of genetically altered animals as weapons.

I frowned. It was wrong to that. 

The common term for them was muttations, or sometimes mutts for short. One was a special bird called a jabberjay that had the ability to memorize and repeat whole human conversations.

"Imagine if you heard it during the Games" Thresh said looking sad. 

They were homing birds, exclusively male, that were released into regions where the Capitol’s enemies were known to be hiding. After the birds gathered words, they’d fly back to centers to be recorded. It took people awhile to realize what was going on in the districts, how private conversations were being transmitted. Then, of course, the rebels fed the Capitol endless lies, and the joke was on it.

We smiled, glad that someone got that Capitol back like that. 

So the centers were shut down and the birds were abandoned to die off in the wild.

"But they didn't" Johanna muttered. 

Only they didn’t die off. Instead, the jabberjays mated with female mockingbirds creating a whole new species that could replicate both bird whistles and human melodies. They had lost the ability to enunciate words but could still mimic a range of human vocal sounds, from a child’s high-pitched warble to a man’s deep tones.

"That's pretty cool" Katniss admitted. 

And they could re-create songs. Not just a few notes, but whole songs with multiple verses, if you had the patience to sing them and if they liked your voice.

"They would like yours, Katniss" I said. I think I was the only one to see Peeta nodding, agreeing with me.

My father was particularly fond of mockingjays.

Katniss and I smiled, liking the memory that came with this. 

When we went hunting, he would whistle or sing complicated songs to them and, after a polite pause, they’d always sing back. Not everyone is treated with such respect. But whenever my father sang, all the birds in the area would fall silent and listen. His voice was that beautiful, high and clear and so filled with life it made you want to laugh and cry at the same time.

"Yours does too" Peeat muttered. No one heard but me. I smiled at him to let him know I heard. He blushed but it didn't bother him that much. He knew that everyone knew he liked Katniss except Katniss herself. 

I could never bring myself to continue the practice after he was gone.

"You should practice" I said. 

Still, there’s something comforting about the little bird. It’s like having a piece of my father with me, protecting me. I fasten the pin onto my shirt, and with the dark green fabric as a background, I can almost imagine the mockingjay flying through the trees.

Finnick looked like he wanted to say something, but knew it would be really rude to. 

 

Effie Trinket comes to collect me for supper. I follow her through the narrow, rocking corridor into a dining room with polished paneled walls. There’s a table where all the dishes are highly breakable. Peeta Mellark sits waiting for us, the chair next to him empty.

Finnick leaned over to whisper something to Peeta. Whatever he said made him glare, so I guess it was about how he liked her. 

“Where’s Haymitch?” asks Effie Trinket brightly. “Last time I saw him, he said he was going to take a nap,” says Peeta.

We all snickered knowing what that meant. "More like pass out" Finnick muttered. 

“Well, it’s been an exhausting day,” says Effie Trinket. I think she’s relieved by Haymitch’s absence, and who can blame her?

"No one" Johanna said. 

The supper comes in courses. A thick carrot soup, green salad, lamb chops and mashed potatoes, cheese and fruit, a chocolate cake.

"That sounds really good" said Finnick 

Throughout the meal, Effie Trinket keeps reminding us to save space because there’s more to come. But I’m stuffing myself because I’ve never had food like this, so good and so much, and because probably the best thing I can do between now and the Games is put on a few pounds. 

"It is" Haymitch said. He was trying to give advice. 

“At least, you two have decent manners,” says Effie as we’re finishing the main course. “The pair last year ate everything with their hands like a couple of savages. It completely upset my digestion.”

Katniss glared. I kew she was going to do something like those two because that comment  annoyed her a lot. 

The pair last year were two kids from the Seam who’d never, not one day of their lives, had enough to eat. And when they did have food, table manners were surely the last thing on their minds. Peeta’s a baker’s son. My mother taught Prim and I to eat properly, so yes, I can handle a fork and knife. But I hate Effie Trinket’s comment so much I make a point of eating the rest of my meal with my fingers.

Everyone started snickering. I wanted to finished the paragraph so I did through my snickering. 

Then I wipe my hands on the tablecloth. This makes her purse her lips tightly together.

Everyone burst out laughing. I couldn't hold it in any longer either. 

Now that the meal’s over, I’m fighting to keep the food down. I can see Peeta’s looking a little green, too.

They both blush and smile at each other. I think they will become friends soon, well, better friends. 

Neither of our stomachs is used to such rich fare. But if I can hold down Greasy Sae’s concoction of mice meat, pig entrails, and tree bark — a winter specialty — I’m determined to hang on to this.

I smiled. She's always determined. 

We go to another compartment to watch the recap of the reapings across Panem. They try to stagger them throughout the day so a person could conceivably watch the whole thing live, but only people in the Capitol could really do that, since none of them have to attend reapings themselves.

"True" agreed Finnick. 

One by one, we see the other reapings, the names called, (the volunteers stepping forward or, more often, not. We examine the faces of the kids who will be our competition. A few stand out in my mind. A monstrous boy who lunges forward to volunteer from District 2.

"Why do people volunteer? Isn't it just volunteering for your death?" Thresh asked. We all thought about that and realized that was true. 

A fox-faced girl with sleek red hair from District 5. A boy with a crippled foot from District 10.

We all frowned. 

And most hauntingly, a twelve-year-old girl from District 11. She has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that, she’s very like Prim in size and demeanor. Only when she mounts the stage and they ask for volunteers, all you can hear is the wind whistling through the decrepit buildings around her. There’s no one willing to take her place.

We all gasp and recognize that it's Rue. Rue was shaking a little. Thresh was trying to cheer her up, and it worked a little. 

Last of all, they show District 12. Prim being called, me running forward to volunteer. You can’t miss the desperation in my voice as I shove Prim behind me, as if I’m afraid no one will hear and they’ll take Prim away. But, of course, they do hear. I see Gale pulling her off me and watch myself mount the stage. The commentators are not sure what to say about the crowd’s refusal to applaud. The silent salute. One says that District 12 has always been a bit backward but that local customs can be charming.

I smiled. I like the customs. They make it feel more like home. 

As if on cue, Haymitch falls off the stage, and they groan comically. Peeta’s name is drawn, and he quietly takes his place. We shake hands. They cut to the anthem again, and the pro-gram ends. Effie Trinket is disgruntled about the state her wig was in. “Your mentor has a lot to learn about presentation. A lot about televised behavior.”

"Is she kidding? I probably only did that because I knew it would annoy her to the end." Haymtch said. Finnick and Johanna burst out laughing. 

Peeta unexpectedly laughs. “He was drunk,” says Peeta. “He’s drunk every year.”

We all laughed, including Haymitch.

“Every day,” I add. I can’t help smirking a little.

That made everyone snort. 

Effie Trinket makes it sound like Haymitch just has somewhat rough manners that could be corrected with a few tips from her.

"Like I would listen" Haymitch scoffed. 

“Yes,” hisses Effie Trinket. “How odd you two find it amusing. You know your mentor is your lifeline to the world in these Games. The one who advises you, lines up your sponsors, and dictates the presentation of any gifts. Haymitch can well be the difference between your life and your death!”

"You know, that is true" Peeta said to Katniss. "Yeah, we might want o rethink this" she replied. They both smiled at that. 

Just then, Haymitch staggers into the compartment. “I miss supper?” he says in a slurred voice. Then he vomits all over the expensive carpet and falls in the mess. 

"Now that's just gross" I said with Rue agreeing. 

“So laugh away!” says Effie Trinket. She hops in her pointy shoes around the pool of vomit and flees the room.

"Hey Katniss, you think we can annoy her anymore?" Peeta asked. "Yeah, but not by much" Katniss replied. 

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