Mark Reads ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’: Chapter 11

In the eleventh chapter of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Ursula discovers what her actions have brought forth, and IT IS NOPE FOREVER. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Chapter XI

My dad only cried once.

The summer his parents died was a rough one. He’d lost his job in the spring, and the food was starting to run out in the house quicker than my mom could replace it, and that meant she couldn’t hide it from us. I knew what was going on before that, though, because my long insomniac nights had started the year prior. I would stay up until Love Line came on or Ska Parade if it was the right night, and sometimes, while I lay there, the battery-powered transistor radio clutched underneath my pillow, I would hear my parents argue. I spent years dreading the day they’d get divorced.

It never happened.

But it could have happened that year. I heard the pitch of my mother’s voice rise a lot on those hot nights, and whenever my dad couldn’t handle it anymore, he’d just get up and go into the master bedroom, and my mother would remain behind, often arguing with him for a few minutes before she gave up and just watched TV. I always stayed up and heard her go to bed before I eventually let sleep take me at two or three in the morning.

I remember my dad leaving the dining room one day before school started, our cordless phone wedged between his ear and shoulder as he left to go speak to his brother in the back bedroom. He was gone for a long while, and I pushed on with my summer reading for one of my AP classes, buried in books and notes at the dining room table, painfully aware that the rest of my friends were most certainly not doing schoolwork.

When he returned, he simply walked over to the dining room table and sat down. His eyes were red, and the tears fell freely down his face. But there was no other change in his expression. His eyes didn’t crinkle up like my mother’s did. His face didn’t contort into a ghastly remnant like mine did. He sat there, stony as ever, except his face was wet, his eyes bloodshot.

“My father died,” he said. He didn’t look at me. “I’ll have to go home.”

I wanted to tell him that he was home, but I understood what he meant. I wanted to comfort him because it felt like I was supposed to, but I didn’t know how. He sat there while I stared at him for a minute or so, and then he stood up, neatly tucking the chair back into its place, and he walked out of the room. I heard the television click on and my father shuffle through a few channels. We never talked about that moment after that.

*

Thoughts

  • Let me just state, for the record, that I think I am much better at dealing with adults crying, but it’s still hard for me to know exactly what to do. I usually offer hugs and just listen.
  • All right, so I’m gonna float this out here because I’m hoping someone feels the same as me. So, yes, what Ursula does to the narrator’s family is abysmal and terrifying, but Lettie insists that this is just in Ursula’s nature, and its implied that this is not only what she’s meant to do, but that she doesn’t really understand the ramifications of what she has done. In fact, the way Ursula talks about coming into this world suggests that she believes it was perfectly rational for her to do so. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing malicious about her.
  • And yet, when she starts crying, begging Lettie to let her go home, or wailing as the hunger birds tear her out of existence, I felt awful.
  • LOOK, SHE DID DESPICABLE THINGS, THIS IS NOT DEBATABLE WHATSOEVER.
  • But I don’t fully understand these beings or creatures or whatever they are, and I think everything Lettie says is intentional. Is this just the way of the world? How much should we believe of what she says? Is she a perfect example of the “adult” who is really the same as she was a kid? That theme – of the way adulthood and child intersect with disappointment or revelation – is in every inch of this book. So what is this leading up to? How has this changed the narrator’s life?
  • The hunger birds are somehow even more nope than that thing that was Ursula. God, I’M SO FREAKED OUT BY THIS BOOK.
  • This chapter ends with a very Gaiman-esque twist: the fairy ring is real, and it will protect the narrator from the hunger birds. So… what else can they do? Do I want to know?
  • I don’t. I REALLY DON’T.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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