Black Juiceby Margo Lanagan
As part of a public execution, a young boy forlornly helps to sing his sister down. . . . A servant learns about grace and loyalty from a mistress who would rather dance with Gypsies than sit on her throne. . . . A terrifying encounter with a demonic angel gives a young man the strength he needs to break free of his oppressor. . . . On a bleak and dreary afternoon
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As part of a public execution, a young boy forlornly helps to sing his sister down. . . . A servant learns about grace and loyalty from a mistress who would rather dance with Gypsies than sit on her throne. . . . A terrifying encounter with a demonic angel gives a young man the strength he needs to break free of his oppressor. . . . On a bleak and dreary afternoon a gleeful shooting spree leads to tragedy for a desperate clown unable to escape his fate.
In each of Margo Lanagan's ten extraordinary stories, human frailty is put to the test by the implacable forces of dark and light, man and beast. black juice offers glimpses into familiar, shadowy worlds that push the boundaries of the spirit and leave the mind haunted with the knowledge that black juice runs through us all.
Kathie M. Josephs
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By Margo Lanagan
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Margo Lanagan
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Singing My Sister Down
We all went down to the tar pit, with mats to spread our weight.
Ikky was standing on the bank, her hands in a metal twin loop behind her. She'd stopped sulking; now she looked, more, starey and puzzled.
Chief Barnarndra pointed to the pit. "Out you go then, girl. You must walk on out there to the middle and stand. When you picked a spot, your people can join you."
So Ik stepped out, very ordinary. She walked out. I thought -- hoped, even -- she might walk right across and into the thorns the other side; at the same time, I knew she wouldn't do that.
She walked the way you walk on the tar, except without the arms balancing. She nearly fell from a stumble once, but Mumma hullooed to her, and she straightened and walked upright out to the very middle, where she slowed and stopped.
Mumma didn't look to the chief, but all us kids and the rest did. "Right, then," he said.
Mumma stepped out as if she'd just herself that moment happened to decide to. We went after her -- only us, Ik's family, which was like us being punished, too, everyone watching us walk out to that girl who was our shame.
In the winter you come to the pit to warm your feet in the tar. You stand long enough to sink as far as your ankles -- the littler you are, the longer you can stand. You soak the heat in for as long as the tar doesn't close over your feet and grip, and it's as good as warmed boots wrapping your feet. But in summer, like this day, you keep away from the tar, because it makes the air hotter and you mind about the stink.
But today we had to go out, and everyone had to see us go.
Ikky was tall, but she was thin and light from all the worry and prison; she was going to take a long time about sinking. We got our mats down, all the food parcels and ice baskets and instruments and such spread out evenly on the broad planks Dash and Felly had carried out.
"You start, Dash," said Mumma, and Dash got up and put his drumette to his hip and began with "Fork-Tail Trio," and it did feel a bit like a party. It stirred Ikky awake from her hung-headed shame; she lifted up and even laughed, and I saw her hips move in the last chorus, side to side.
Then Mumma got out one of the ice baskets, which was already black on the bottom from meltwater.
Ikky gasped. "Ha! What! Crab! Where'd that come from?"
"Never you mind, sweet thing." Mumma lifted some meat to Ikky's mouth, and rubbed some of the crush ice into her hair.
"Oh, Mumma!" Ik said with her mouth full.
"May as well have the best of this world while you're here," said Mumma. She stood there and fed Ikky like a baby, like a pet guinea bird.
"I thought Auntie Mai would come," said Ik.
"Auntie Mai, she's useless," said Dash. "She's sitting at home with her handkerchief."
"I wouldn't've cared, her crying," said Ik. "I would've thought she'd say good-bye to me."
"Her heart's too hurt," said Mumma. "You frightened her. And she's such a straight lady -- she sees shame where some of us just see people. Here, inside the big claw, that's the sweetest meat."
"Ooh, yes! Is anyone else feasting with me?"
"No, darlin', this is your day only. Well, okay, I'll give some to this little sad eyes here, huh? Felly never had crab but the once. Is it yum? Ooh, it's yum! Look at him!"
Next she called me to do my flute -- the flashiest, hardest music I knew. And Ik listened; Ik, who usually screamed at me to stop pushing spikes into her brain, she watched my fingers on the flute holes and my sweating face and my straining, bowing body, and for the first time I didn't feel like just the nuisance brother. I played well, out of the surprise of her not minding. I couldn't've played better. I heard everyone else being surprised too at the end of those tunes that they must've known, too well from all my practicing.
I sat down, very hungry. Mumma passed me the water cup and a damproll.
"I'm stuck now," said Ik, and it was true; the tar had her by the feet, closed in a gleaming line like that pair of zipper- slippers I saw once in the shoemaster's vitrine.
"Oh, yeah, well and truly stuck," said Mumma. "But then, you knew when you picked up that axe handle you were sticking yourself."
"I did know."
"No coming unstuck from this one. You could've let that handle lie."
That was some serious teasing.
"No, I couldn't, Mumma, and you know."
"I do, baby chicken. I always knew you'd be too angry, once the wedding glitter rubbed off your skin. It was a good party, though, wasn't it?" And they laughed at each other, Mumma having to steady Ikky or her ankles would've snapped over. And when their laughter started going strange, Mumma said, "Well, this party's going to be almost as good, 'cause it's got children. And look what else!" And she reached for the next ice basket.
And so the whole long day went, in treats and songs, in ice and stink and joke stories and gossip and party pieces. On the banks, people came and went, and the chief sat in his chair and was fanned and fed, and the family of Ikky's husband sat around the chief, being served, too, all in purple cloth with flashing edging, very prideful.
She went down so slowly.
"Isn't it hot?" Felly asked her.
"It's like a big warm hug up my legs," said Ik. "Come here and give me a hug, little stick arms, and let me check. Oof, yes, it's just like that, only lower down."
"You're coming down to me," said Fel, pleased.
"Yeah, soon I'll be able to bite your ankles like you bite mine."
Around midafternoon, Ikky couldn't move her arms anymore and had a panic, just quiet, not so the bank people would've noticed. "What'm I going to do, Mumma?" she said. "When it comes up over my face? When it closes my nose?"
"Don't you worry. You won't be awake for that." And Mumma cooled her hands in the ice, dried them on her dress, and rubbed them over Ik's shoulders, down Ik's arms to where the tar had locked her wrists.
"You better not give me any teas, or herbs, or anything," said Ik. "They'll get you too if you help me. They'll come out to make sure."
Excerpted from Black Juice by Margo Lanagan Copyright © 2005 by Margo Lanagan. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Margo Lanagan has worked as a kitchen hand and encyclopedia seller, and spent ten years as a freelance book editor. She is now a technical writer as well as a creative one. Ms. Lanagan's critically acclaimed North American debut, Black Juice, is a Michael L. Printz Honor Book and won two World Fantasy Awards. Black Juice also received the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards Prize for Young Adult Fiction, a Golden Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Short Story, and a Bram Stoker Award nomination from the Horror Writers of America. The author lives in Sydney, Australia, with her partner and their two sons.
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I recommend this book to some people but not all because it might not be in there interests. i liked this book because of the adventure in it and all the twists it had through out the whole story. I give it a 3 stars not because i didn't like the book it just got boring in the middle. But once i got to the middle i started to get more and more interested after all of the boring stuff. That's why i don't recommend it to people that don't need it for and assignment and only for people that need it for school. So for all the people that read try this book for a book report.