So why does Grady not leave Floyd and strike off on his own? Following the demise of the ugly boy routine, Floyd tells Grady that he's not a Feechie, just a very ugly boy that his mother did not want, and that his loss in the ugly contest proves it. No civilizer boy could beat a Feechie for ugliness, at least according to common wisdom. Grady considers leaving, but decides against it.
Truth is, I forgave Floyd because I didn't know what else to do. I didn't have another person in the world but Floyd, and it hurt to have him disappointed in me.... It's a dangerous business, seeking the good opinion of a feller as unscrupulous as Floyd, but I kept after it (p. 42).
Later that day, the pair enter the town of Little Reedy and go to Short Fronie's public house, where Floyd hopes to win some money at cards. (Rogers populates the story with evocative and humorous names for people and places.) Floyd picks Ten-Finger Walter--a struggling phrenologist who is not very good at phrenology or cards--as his mark. While Floyd plays, Grady sits at the bar, telling Short Fronie about his troubles. Short Fronie is rough with the customers but has a tender heart for Grady and offers to let him stay with her. She's offering to become his mother. Grady has the opportunity of a lifetime thrust before him. He could become a villager and belong some place. Grady is overwhelmed and watches Floyd's card game as he tries to get his head around Fronie's offer. Floyd's game is going poorly, but Grady notices something about the way Ten-Finger eats his peanuts. During a break in the game, Grady tells Floyd what he has observed: when Ten-Finger has a good hand, he throws the shells on the floor, otherwise he puts them on the table. Armed with Grady's scouting report, Floyd makes short work of Ten-Finger, fleecing him for all his money and his phrenology equipment. Floyd tells Grady that he "saved the day." Grady tells Fronie he's sorry and then follows Floyd out the door.
Rogers presents a fascinating scene here that works on several levels. We move forward in the story from the ugly boy routine to phrenology. We see just how unscrupulous Floyd is. He has no qualms about pushing his advantage and taking everything from Ten-Finger. What's to stop him from doing the same to Grady? We're also left wondering why someone would not take the golden egg when it's presented to them. Are a few complimentary words from Floyd more valuable than a life of love and security with Fronie? Does Grady love Floyd as a parent? As Grady is well-aware, he has known no one else or any other life. Having proven himself useful, Grady is back in Floyd's good graces and opts to continue with the familiar, however unwise his choice appears.
In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of The Charlatan's Boy from the publisher.
To learn more about the Jonathan Rogers, visit his website at http://jonathan-rogers.com/.
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