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  • Название: Microsoft Word - CATCHING FIR1
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CATCHING FIRE
The Hunger Games Book 2
Suzanne Collins

PART I
“THE SPARK”

I clasp the flask between my hands even though the
warmth from the tea has long since leached into the
frozen air. My muscles are clenched tight against the
cold. If a pack of wild dogs were to appear at this
moment, the odds of scaling a tree before they attacked
are not in my favor. I should get up, move around, and
work the stiffness from my limbs. But instead I sit, as
motionless as the rock beneath me, while the dawn
begins to lighten the woods. I can't fight the sun. I can
only watch helplessly as it drags me into a day that I've
been dreading for months.
By noon they will all be at my new house in the
Victor's Village. The reporters, the camera crews, even
Effie Trinket, my old escort, will have made their way
to District 12 from the Capitol. I wonder if Effie will
still be wearing that silly pink wig, or if she'll be
sporting some other unnatural color especially for the
Victory Tour. There will be others waiting, too. A staff
to cater to my every need on the long train trip. A prep

team to beautify me for public appearances. My stylist
and friend, Cinna, who designed the gorgeous outfits
that first made the audience take notice of me in the
Hunger Games.
If it were up to me, I would try to forget the Hunger
Games entirely. Never speak of them. Pretend they
were nothing but a bad dream. But the Victory Tour
makes that impossible. Strategically placed almost
midway between the annual Games, it is the Capitol's
way of keeping the horror fresh and immediate. Not
only are we in the districts forced to remember the iron
grip of the Capitol's power each year, we are forced to
celebrate it. And this year, I am one of the stars of the
show. I will have to travel from district to district, to
stand before the cheering crowds who secretly loathe
me, to look down into the faces of the families whose
children I have killed...
The sun persists in rising, so I make myself stand. All
my joints complain and my left leg has been asleep for
so long that it takes several minutes of pacing to bring
the feeling back into it. I've been in the woods three
hours, but as I've made no real attempt at hunting, I
have nothing to show for it. It doesn't matter for my
mother and little sister, Prim, anymore. They can afford
to buy butcher meat in town, although none of us likes

it any better than fresh game. But my best friend, Gale
Hawthorne, and his family will be depending on today's
haul and I can't let them down. I start the hour-and-ahalf trek it will take to cover our snare line. Back when
we were in school, we had time in the afternoons to
check the line and hunt and gather and still get back to
trade in town. But now that Gale has gone to work in
the coal mines — and I have nothing to do all day—I've
taken over the job.
By this time Gale will have clocked in at the mines,
taken the stomach-churning elevator ride into the
depths of the earth, and be pounding away at a coal
seam. I know what it's like down there. Every year in
school, as part of our training, my class had to tour the
mines. When I was little, it was just unpleasant. The
claustrophobic tunnels, foul air, suffocating darkness on
all sides. But after my father and several other miners
were killed in an explosion, I could barely force myself
onto the elevator. The annual trip became an enormous
source of anxiety. Twice I made myself so sick in
anticipation of it that my mother kept me home because
she thought I had contracted the flu.
I think of Gale, who is only really alive in the woods,
with its fresh air and sunlight and clean, flowing water.
I don't know how he stands it. Well ... yes, I do. He

stands it because it's the way to feed his mother and two
younger brothers and sister. And here I am with buckets
of money, far more than enough to feed both our
families now, and he won't take a single coin. It's even
hard for him to let me bring in meat, although he'd
surely have kept my mother and Prim supplied if I'd
been killed in the Games. I tell him he's doing me a
favor, that it drives me nuts to sit around all day. Even
so, I never drop off the game while he's at home. Which
is easy since he works twelve hours a day.
The only time I really get to see Gale now is on
Sundays, when we meet up in the woods to hunt
together. It's still the best day of the week, but it's not
like it used to be before, when we could tell each other
anything. The Games have spoiled even that. I keep
hoping that as time passes we'll regain the ease between
us, but part of me knows it's futile. There's no going
back.
I get a good haul from the traps — eight rabbits, two
squirrels, and a beaver that swam into a wire
contraption Gale designed himself. He's something of a
whiz with snares, rigging them to bent saplings so they
pull the kill out of the reach of predators, balancing logs
on delicate stick triggers, weaving inescapable baskets
to capture fish. As I go along, carefully resetting each

snare, I know I can never quite replicate his eye for
balance, his instinct for where the prey will cross the
path. It's more than experience. It's a natural gift. Like
the way I can shoot at an animal in almost complete
darkness and still take it down with one arrow.
By the time I make it back to the fence that surrounds
District 12, the sun is well up. As always, I listen a
moment, but there's no telltale hum of electrical current
running through the chain link. There hardly ever is,
even though the thing is supposed to be charged fulltime. I wriggle through the opening at the bottom of the
fence and come up in the Meadow, just a stone's throw
from my home. My old home. We still get to keep it
since officially it's the designated dwelling of my
mother and sister. If I should drop dead right now, they
would have to return to it. But at present, they're both
happily installed in the new house in the Victor's
Village, and I'm the only one who uses the squat little
place where I was raised. To me, it's my real home.
I go there now to switch my clothes. Exchange my
father's old leather jacket for a fine wool coat that
always seems too tight in the shoulders. Leave my soft,
worn hunting boots for a pair of expensive machinemade shoes that my mother thinks are more appropriate
for someone of my status. I've already stowed my bow

and arrows in a hollow log in the woods. Although time
is ticking away, I allow myself a few minutes to sit in
the kitchen. It has an abandoned quality with no fire on
the hearth, no cloth on the table. I mourn my old life
here. We barely scraped by, but I knew where I fit in, I
knew what my place was in the tightly interwoven
fabric that was our life. I wish I could go back to it
because, in retrospect, it seems so secure compared
with now, when I am so rich and so famous and so
hated by the authorities in the Capitol.
A wailing at the back door demands my attention. I
open it to find Buttercup, Prim's scruffy old tomcat. He
dislikes the new house almost as much as I do and
always leaves it when my sister's at school. We've
never been particularly fond of each other, but now we
have this new bond. I let him in, feed him a chunk of
beaver fat, and even rub him between the ears for a bit.
“You're hideous, you know that, right?” I ask him.
Buttercup nudges my hand for more petting, but we
have to go. “Come on, you.” I scoop him up with one
hand, grab my game bag with the other, and haul them
both out onto the street. The cat springs free and
disappears under a bush.
The shoes pinch my toes as I crunch along the cinder
street. Cutting down alleys and through backyards gets

me to Gale's house in minutes. His mother, Hazelle,
sees me through the window, where she's bent over the
kitchen sink. She dries her hands on her apron and
disappears to meet me at the door.
I like Hazelle. Respect her. The explosion that killed
my father took out her husband as well, leaving her
with three boys and a baby due any day. Less than a
week after she gave birth, she was out hunting the
streets for work. The mines weren't an option, what
with a baby to look after, but she managed to get
laundry from some of the merchants in town. At
fourteen, Gale, the eldest of the kids, became the main
supporter of the family. He was already signed up for
tesserae, which entitled them to a meager supply of
grain and oil in exchange for his entering his name
extra times in the drawing to become a tribute. On top
of that, even back then, he was a skilled trapper. But it
wasn't enough to keep a family of five without Hazelle
working her fingers to the bone on that washboard. In
winter her hands got so red and cracked, they bled at
the slightest provocation. Still would if it wasn't for a
salve my mother concocted. But they are determined,
Hazelle and Gale, that the other boys, twelve-year-old
Rory and ten-year-old Vick, and the baby, four-year-old
Posy, will never have to sign up for tesserae.

Hazelle smiles when she sees the game. She takes the
beaver by the tail, feeling its weight. “He's going to
make a nice stew.” Unlike Gale, she has no problem
with our hunting arrangement.
“Good pelt, too,” I answer. It's comforting here with
Hazelle. Weighing the merits of the game, just as we
always have. She pours me a mug of herb tea, which I
wrap my chilled fingers around gratefully. “You know,
when I get back from the tour, I was thinking I might
take Rory out with me sometimes. After school. Teach
him to shoot.”
Hazelle nods. “That'd be good. Gale means to, but he's
only got his Sundays, and I think he likes saving those
for you.”
I can't stop the redness that floods my cheeks. It's
stupid, of course. Hardly anybody knows me better than
Hazelle. Knows the bond I share with Gale. I'm sure
plenty of people assumed that we'd eventually get
married even if I never gave it any thought. But that
was before the Games. Before my fellow tribute, Peeta
Mellark, announced he was madly in love with me. Our
romance became a key strategy for our survival in the
arena. Only it wasn't just a strategy for Peeta. I'm not
sure what it was for me. But I know now it was nothing

but painful for Gale. My chest tightens as I think about
how, on the Victory Tour, Peeta and I will have to
present ourselves as lovers again.
I gulp my tea even though it's too hot and push back
from the table. “I better get going. Make myself
presentable for the cameras.”
Hazelle hugs me. “Enjoy the food.”
“Absolutely,” I say.
My next stop is the Hob, where I've traditionally done
the bulk of my trading. Years ago it was a warehouse to
store coal, but when it fell into disuse, it became a
meeting place for illegal trades and then blossomed into
a full-time black market. If it attracts a somewhat
criminal element, then I belong here, I guess. Hunting
in the woods surrounding District 12 violates at least a
dozen laws and is punishable by death.
Although they never mention it, I owe the people who
frequent the Hob. Gale told me that Greasy Sae, the old
woman who serves up soup, started a collection to
sponsor Peeta and me during the Games. It was
supposed to be just a Hob thing, but a lot of other
people heard about it and chipped in. I don't know
exactly how much it was, and the price of any gift in

the arena was exorbitant. But for all I know, it made the
difference between my life and death.
It's still odd to drag open the front door with an empty
game bag, with nothing to trade, and instead feel the
heavy pocket of coins against my hip. I try to hit as
many stalls as possible, spreading out my purchases of
coffee, buns, eggs, yarn, and oil. As an afterthought, I
buy three bottles of white liquor from a one-armed
woman named Ripper, a victim of a mine accident who
was smart enough to find a way to stay alive.
The liquor isn't for my family. It's for Haymitch, who
acted as mentor for Peeta and me in the Games. He's
surly, violent, and drunk most of the time. But he did
his job — more than his job—because for the first time
in history, two tributes were allowed to win. So no
matter who Haymitch is, I owe him, too. And that's for
always. I'm getting the white liquor because a few
weeks ago he ran out and there was none for sale and he
had a withdrawal, shaking and screaming at terrifying
things only he could see. He scared Prim to death and,
frankly, it wasn't much fun for me to see him like that,
either. Ever since then I've been sort of stockpiling the
stuff just in case there's a shortage again.

Cray, our Head Peacekeeper, frowns when he sees me
with the bottles. He's an older man with a few strands
of silver hair combed sideways above his bright red
face. “That stuff's too strong for you, girl.” He should
know. Next to Haymitch, Cray drinks more than anyone
I've ever met.
“Aw, my mother uses it in medicines,” I say
indifferently.
“Well, it'd kill just about anything,” he says, and slaps
down a coin for a bottle.
When I reach Greasy Sae's stall, I boost myself up to
sit on the counter and order some soup, which looks to
be some kind of gourd and bean mixture. A
Peacekeeper named Darius comes up and buys a bowl
while I'm eating. As law enforcers go, he's one of my
favorites. Never really throwing his weight around,
usually good for a joke. He's probably in his twenties,
but he doesn't seem much older than I do. Something
about his smile, his red hair that sticks out every which
way, gives him a boyish quality.
“Aren't you supposed to be on a train?” he asks me.
“They're collecting me at noon,” I answer.

“Shouldn't you look better?” he asks in a loud
whisper. I can't help smiling at his teasing, in spite of
my mood. “Maybe a ribbon in your hair or something?”
He flicks my braid with his hand and I brush him away.
“Don't worry. By the time they get through with me
I'll be unrecognizable,” I say.
“Good,” he says. “Let's show a little district pride for
a change, Miss Everdeen. Hm?” He shakes his head at
Greasy Sae in mock disapproval and walks off to join
his friends.
“I'll want that bowl back,” Greasy Sae calls after him,
but since she's laughing, she doesn't sound particularly
stern. “Gale going to see you off?” she asks me.
“No, he wasn't on the list,” I say. “I saw him Sunday,
though.”
“Think he'd have made the list. Him being your cousin
and all,” she says wryly.
It's just one more part of the lie the Capitol has
concocted. When Peeta and I made it into the final eight
in the Hunger Games, they sent reporters to do personal
stories about us. When they asked about my friends,
everyone directed them to Gale. But it wouldn't do,
what with the romance I was playing out in the arena, to

have my best friend be Gale. He was too handsome, too
male, and not the least bit willing to smile and play nice
for the cameras. We do resemble each other, though,
quite a bit. We have that Seam look. Dark straight hair,
olive skin, gray eyes. So some genius made him my
cousin. I didn't know about it until we were already
home, on the platform at the train station, and my
mother said, “Your cousins can hardly wait to see you!”
Then I turned and saw Gale and Hazelle and all the kids
waiting for me, so what could I do but go along?
Greasy Sae knows we're not related, but even some of
the people who have known us for years seem to have
forgotten.
“I just can't wait for the whole thing to be over,” I
whisper.
“I know,” says Greasy Sae. “But you've got to go
through it to get to the end of it. Better not be late.”
A light snow starts to fall as I make my way to the
Victor's Village. It's about a half-mile walk from the
square in the center of town, but it seems like another
world entirely.
It's a separate community built around a beautiful
green, dotted with flowering bushes. There are twelve

houses, each large enough to hold ten of the one I was
raised in. Nine stand empty, as they always have. The
three in use belong to Haymitch, Peeta, and me.
The houses inhabited by my family and Peeta give off
a warm glow of life. Lit windows, smoke from the
chimneys, bunches of brightly colored corn affixed to
the front doors as decoration for the upcoming Harvest
Festival. However, Haymitch's house, despite the care
taken by the grounds-keeper, exudes an air of
abandonment and neglect. I brace myself at his front
door, knowing it will be foul, then push inside.
My nose immediately wrinkles in disgust. Haymitch
refuses to let anyone in to clean and does a poor job
himself. Over the years the odors of liquor and vomit,
boiled cabbage and burned meat, unwashed clothes and
mouse droppings have intermingled into a stench that
brings tears to my eyes. I wade through a litter of
discarded wrappings, broken glass, and bones to where
I know I will find Haymitch. He sits at the kitchen
table, his arms sprawled across the wood, his face in a
puddle of liquor, snoring his head off.
I nudge his shoulder. “Get up!” I say loudly, because
I've learned there's no subtle way to wake him. His
snoring stops for a moment, questioningly, and then

resumes. I push him harder. “Get up, Haymitch. It's tour
day!” I force the window up, inhaling deep breaths of
the clean air outside. My feet shift through the garbage
on the floor, and I unearth a tin coffeepot and fill it at
the sink. The stove isn't completely out and I manage to
coax the few live coals into a flame. I pour some
ground coffee into the pot, enough to make sure the
resulting brew will be good and strong, and set it on the
stove to boil.
Haymitch is still dea