The great grey beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive. Here he was, buried in the belly of that smothering month, wondering if he would ever find his way out through the cold coils that lay between here and Easter. He didn’t think much of his chances. More than likely he’d become so bored as the hours crawled by that one day he’d simply forget to breathe. Then maybe people would get to wondering why such a fine young lad had perished in his prime. It would become a celebrated mystery, which wouldn’t be solved until some great detective decided to re-create a day in Harvey’s life. Then, and only then, would the grim truth be discovered. The detective would first follow Harvey’s route to school every morning, trekking through the dismal streets. Then he’d sit at Harvey’s desk, and listen to the pitiful drone of the history teacher and the science teacher, and wonder how the heroic boy had managed to keep his eyes open. And finally, as the wasted day dwindled to dusk, he’d trace the homeward trek, and as he set foot on the step from which he had departed that morning, and people asked him — as they would — why such a sweet soul as Harvey had died, he would shake his head and say: “It’s very simple.”
“Oh?” the curious crowd would say. “Do tell.”
And, brushing away a tear, the detective would reply: “Harvey Swick was eaten by the great grey beast February.”
It was a monstrous month, that was for sure; a dire and dreary month. The pleasures of Christmas, both sharp and sweet, were already dimming in Harvey’s memory, and the promise of summer was so remote as to be mythical. There’d be a spring break, of course, but how far off was that? Five weeks? Six? Mathematics wasn’t his strong point, so he didn’t irritate himself further by attempting — and failing — to calculate the days. He simply knew that long before the sun came to save him he would have withered away in the belly of the beast.
I read the opening lines from Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always for the first time the summer after 5th grade. I’ve probably read it a dozen times since then.
I loved the imagery of Harvey being swallowed by the “beast of February.”
I resonated with the main character’s boredom, his yearning for adventure (but moreso, meaning).
I was (and am) fascinated by Barker’s portrayal of the complexity of power, human nature, good, evil, friendships, etc.
Great book to read in the month of the Great Grey Beast of February.