The Hunger Games is currently my favorite guilty pleasure. I read the first two books of the trilogy repeatedly for almost a week, and I can’t wait till Mockingjay comes out in August. When I first read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I was more involved in the action – the quest to survive, the violence and all that. On my second reading, I started noticing the romance. Lately, I’ve been noticing more of the humor. For such a dark book, there are portions that made me literally laugh out loud. You have to hand it to the baker’s son to always say something funny. Here are some of my favorite Peeta Mellark quotes from the first book.
“What about you? I’ve seen you in the market. You can lift hundred pound bags of flour,” I snap at him. “Tell him that. That’s not nothing.”
“Yes, and I’m sure the arena will be full of bags of flour for me to chuck at people.”
Then we move on to camouflage. Peeta genuinely seems to enjoy this station, swirling a combination of mud and clay and berry juices around on his pale skin, weaving disguises from vines and leaves. The trainer who runs the camouflage station is full of enthusiasm at his work.
“I do the cakes,” he admits to me.
“The cakes?” I ask. I’ve been preoccupied with watching the boy from District 2 send a spear through a dummy’s heart from fifteen yards. “What cakes?”
“At home. The iced ones, for the bakery,” he says….
“It’s lovely. If only you could frost someone to death,” I say.
“Don’t be so superior. You can never tell what you’ll find in the arena. Say it’s actually a gigantic cake —” begins Peeta.
“Really, is anything less impressive than watching a person pick up a heavy ball and throw it a couple of yards. One almost landed on my foot.”
Caesar asks him if he has a girlfriend back home.
Peeta hesitates, then gives an unconvincing shake of his head.
“Handsome lad like you. There must be some special girl. Come on, what’s her name?” says Caesar.
Peeta sighs. “Well, there is this one girl. I’ve had a crush on her ever since I can remember. But I’m pretty sure she didn’t know I was alive until the reaping.”
Sounds of sympathy from the crowd. Unrequited love they can relate to.
“She have another fellow?” asks Caesar.
“I don’t know, but a lot of boys like her,” says Peeta.
“So, here’s what you do. You win, you go home. She can’t turn you down then, eh?” says Caesar encouragingly.
“I don’t think it’s going to work out. Winning . . . won’t help in my case,” says Peeta.
“Why ever not?” says Caesar, mystified.
Peeta blushes beet red and stammers out. “Because… because… she came here with me.”
“What’s going on?” says Effie, a note of hysteria in her voice. “Did you fall?”
“After she shoved me,” says Peeta as Effie and Cinna help him up.
“She’s just worried about her boyfriend,” says Peeta gruffly, tossing away a bloody piece of the urn.
My cheeks burn again at the thought of Gale. “I don’t have a boyfriend.”
“Whatever,” says Peeta. “But I bet he’s smart enough to know a bluff when he sees it. Besides you didn’t say you loved me. So what does it matter?”
My foot has just broken the surface of the water when I hear a voice.
“You here to finish me off, sweetheart?”
I whip around. It’s come from the left, so I can’t pick it up very well. And the voice was hoarse and weak. Still, it must have been Peeta. Who else in the arena would call me sweetheart?
My eyes peruse the bank, but there’s nothing. Just mud, the plants, the base of the rocks.
“Peeta?” I whisper. “Where are you?” There’s no answer. Could I just have imagined it? No, I’m certain it was real and very close at hand, too. “Peeta?” I creep along the bank.
“Well, don’t step on me.”
I jump back. His voice was right under my feet. Still there’s nothing. Then his eyes open, unmistakably blue in the brown mud and green leaves. I gasp and am rewarded with a hint of white teeth as he laughs.
It’s the final word in camouflage. Forget chucking weights around. Peeta should have gone into his private session with the Gamemakers and painted himself into a tree. Or a boulder. Or a muddy bank full of weeds.
“Close your eyes again,” I order. He does, and his mouth, too, and completely disappears. Most of what I judge to be his body is actually under a layer of mud and plants. His face and arms are so artfully disguised as to be invisible. I kneel beside him. “I guess all those hours decorating cakes paid off.”
Peeta smiles. “Yes, frosting. The final defense of the dying.”
Within minutes of pressing the handful of chewed-up green stuff into the wound, pus begins running down the side of his leg. I tell myself this is a good thing and bite the inside of my cheek hard because my breakfast is threatening to make a reappearance.
“Katniss?” Peeta says. I meet his eyes, knowing my face must be some shade of green. He mouths the words. “How about that kiss?”
I burst out laughing because the whole thing is so revolting I can’t stand it.
“Something wrong?” he asks a little too innocently.
“You’re such a bad liar, Katniss. I don’t know how you’ve survived this long.” He begins to mimic me. “I knew that goat would be a little gold mine. You’re a little cooler though. Of course, I’m not going. He shakes his head. “Never gamble at cards. You’ll lose your last coin,” he says.
“Tomorrow’s a hunting day,” I say.
“I won’t be much help with that,” Peeta says. “I’ve never hunted before.”
“I’ll kill and you cook,” I say. “And you can always gather.”
“I wish there was some sort of bread bush out there,” says Peeta.
“Peeta,” I say lightly. “You said at the interview you’d had a crush on me forever. When did forever start?”
“Oh, let’s see. I guess the first day of school. We were five. You had on a red plaid dress and your hair . . . it was in two braids instead of one. My father pointed you out when we were waiting to line up,” Peeta says.
“Your father? Why?” I ask.
“He said, ‘See that little girl? I wanted to marry her mother, but she ran off with a coal miner,’” Peeta says.
“What? You’re making that up!” I exclaim.
“No, true story,” Peeta says. “And I said, ‘A coal miner? Why did she want a coal miner if she could’ve had you?’ And he said, ‘Because when he sings . . . even the birds stop to listen.’”
“That’s true. They do. I mean, they did,” I say. I’m stunned and surprisingly moved, thinking of the baker telling this to Peeta. It strikes me that my own reluctance to sing, my own dismissal of music might not really be that I think it’s a waste of time. It might be because it reminds me too much of my father.
“So that day, in music assembly, the teacher asked who knew the valley song. Your hand shot right up in the air. She stood you up on a stool and had you sing it for us. And I swear, every bird outside the windows fell silent,” Peeta says.
“Oh, please,” I say, laughing.
“No, it happened. And right when your song ended, I knew — just like your mother — I was a goner,” Peeta says. “Then for the next eleven years, I tried to work up the nerve to talk to you.”
“Without success,” I add.
“Without success. So, in a way, my name being drawn in the reaping was a real piece of luck,” says Peeta.
Peeta wriggles back inside, his face lit up like the sun. “I guess Haymitch finally got tired of watching us starve.”
A disturbing thought hits me. “But then, our only neighbor will be Haymitch!”
“Ah, that’ll be nice,” says Peeta, tightening his arms around me. “You and me and Haymitch. Very cozy. Picnics, birthdays, long winter nights around the fire retelling old Hunger Games’ tales.”
“I told you, he hates me!” I say, but I can’t help laughing at the image of Haymitch becoming my new pal.
“Only sometimes. When he’s sober, I’ve never heard him say one negative thing about you,” says Peeta.
“He’s never sober!” I protest.
“That’s right. Who am I thinking of? Oh, I know. It’s Cinna who likes you. But that’s mainly because you didn’t try to run when he set you on fire,” says Peeta. “On the other hand, Haymitch . . . well, if I were you, I’d avoid Haymitch completely. He hates you.”
“I thought you said I was his favorite,” I say.
“He hates me more,” says Peeta. “I don’t think people in general are his sort of thing.”
“So do we hunt on empty stomachs to give us an edge?”
“Not us,” I say. “We stuff ourselves to give us staying power.”
“It was all for the Games,” Peeta says. “How you acted.”
“Not all of it,” I say, tightly holding onto my flowers.
“Then how much? No, forget that. I guess the real question is what’s going to be left when we get home?” he says.
“I don’t know. The closer we get to District Twelve, the more confused I get,” I say. He waits, for further explanation, but none’s forthcoming.
“Well, let me know when you work it out,” he says, and the pain in his voice is palpable.