Chapters 1-5 Summary
Standish Treadwell often wonders about "what ifs." What if things, little things, had happened differently? Likely, the story he is about to tell never would have been. But the fact is, they did not happen differently and, as he so aptly notes, "what ifs are as boundless as the stars."
Standish Treadwell is dyslexic: words to him "are just circus horses dancing up and down." The kids at school tease him, chanting, "Standish Treadwell. Can't read, can't write. Standish Treadwell isn't bright." It is true that Standish cannot even spell his own name. He does have a story to tell, however, even though he dares not write it down, even if he could.
Despite his learning challenges, Standish is not stupid. He has an uncommonly strong imagination, and often sees things that others overlook. His old teacher, Miss Connolly, recognized this trait in him, and called him "an original." His best friend Hector appreciated it too.
Because he is considered "stupid," Standish sits in the back of the room at school, where he is "all but invisible." From this vantage point, even if he could read, the only word on the blackboard at the front of the room that he can make out is the huge one, stamped in red letters over a picture of the moon, that screams "MOTHERLAND." Standish is not paying attention on the day the note summoning him to the headmaster's office arrives in the classroom. He is lost in a daydream, imagining that he and Hector are in "the city across the water...where the sun shines in Technicolor." The world that Standish really lives in is dark and fearful; here, "the sky fell in long ago." Still, the boy had seen this other place once on TV, so he knows it exists, and he and Hector had invented a planet, Juniper, that is just like it, in all its wonder.
Standish is dreaming about being on Juniper, driving an "ice-cream-colored Cadillac" with his friend, heading home "for Croca-Colas in a shiny kitchen with a checked tablecloth and a garden that looks as if the grass was Hoovered." This vision is shattered when his teacher, Mr. Gunnell, calls his name. Mr. Gunnell is short and muscular, with "well-oiled army-tank arms." On his "sweaty, shiny head" he wears a ludicrous toupee; he has a small dark moustache, and smiles only when engaging in his favorite sport, which is hurting people. Mr. Gunnell approaches Standish, and whacks him across the hand with his cane. He then grabs hold of his ear, and...
(The entire section is 582 words.)
Chapters 6-10 Summary
To underscore his sadistic contempt for Standish, Mr. Gunnell undoes the boy's tie before releasing him. To the hapless fifteen-year-old, this deed is the ultimate humiliation. Dyslexic as he is, Standish cannot do up his tie, and Mr. Gunnell knows it. The boy had kept his tie's knot intact for a full year, moving it down each day just enough to slip his head through, then closing it up again, "neat as a whistle." Now, the "undone, hangman's rope of a tie" makes Standish feel like giving up; to show up at the headmaster's office with his tie undone is akin to suicide.
Standish was able to keep his tie in proper order all that time because of Hector, who was his protector when he was here. Hector said that the tie was just a way of making everyone the same, "just numbers." Hector, however, was never just a number, and Standish wonders if he might have been "rubbed out" because of that. If Standish forces himself to be completely honest, he must admit that his despair about what Mr. Gunnell has done is less about the tie and more about the loss of his friend.
As Standish walks disconsolately down the corridor to his fate, Miss Phillips, one of the school wardens, comes out of her office. Seeing Standish, she perceives his sorry state, and asks sternly, "What are you doing, Treadwell?" Watching the camera that sweeps back and forth, surveying the corridor, she waits until "the all-seeing eye" is turned in another direction, then quickly does up the boy's tie and straightens his shirt. Putting her finger conspiratorially to her lips, she waits until the camera is turned toward them again, then commends Standish, saying, "Good, Treadwell...that is how I expect you to arrive at school every day." Standish is amazed to have encountered such an unexpected savior.
As Standish sits on the hard bench outside the headmaster's office, waiting for the bell to signal Mr. Hellman's readiness to see him, his thoughts turn to the day he met Hector. Standish has always been the target of bullies at school since, in addition to his complete inability to achieve conventional literacy, he has "one blue eye, one brown." There is a hierarchy among the boys, in which misfits like himself are at the bottom. At the top are the privileged, like Hans Fielder, who wears long trousers because his parents are in a position to afford them. All of those in Hans Fielder's gang wear long trousers, except for Little Eric Owen, who wears shorts, but...
(The entire section is 876 words.)
Chapters 11-15 Summary
The house that the new neighbors, the Lush family, now lived in had belonged to Standish's parents before they became "nonexistent." Like countless others, Standish's Mum and Dad had vanished more than a year previously. Their disappearances were unexplained, "their names forgotten, all knowledge of them denied by the authorities." The only person Standish has to take care of him now is Gramps, a tall, proud man, cunning like a "silver fox," who "[sees] a lot, [says] little."
Because of the war, and because so many people thereabouts had been "rubbed out," the dwellings on the Treadwells' street stood derelict and largely deserted. When the Lushes moved in, Gramps said that they were spies, which Standish understood to mean that the old man just did not want them to live there. Gramps actually suspected that informers in the neighborhood resided for the most part at the top of the road, opposite the hulking palace. The houses in that area were pristine, reserved for the Mothers for Purity, like Hans Fielder's mother and her friends. These citizens did "sterling work for the Greenflies and the men in black leather coats," spying and informing on others in return for easy access to food and clothing for their families.
When Standish asked Gramps why he thought spies would know how to get raspberry stains out of a white shirt, he received an answer that was cryptic at best. By the time the two ventured out, the curfew siren had sounded, and they were forced to make their trek via Cellar Street, a series of holes knocked through the basement walls of the houses along the block. After they had passed through the dank access and arrived at what had once been the cellar door to his parents' house, Standish and Gramps knocked politely.
After a "loud silence," the door was cracked opened by an emaciated-looking, graying, very anxious man who spoke the home language with a slight accent which Standish recognized as that of the Motherland's tongue. In answer to the worried man's protestations that they had nothing of value, Gramps, in a gentle voice, introduced himself and his grandson as their neighbors, and held out his hand in a gesture of friendship. Slowly, the door was opened all the way, to reveal a thin, pretty woman and a boy about Standish' age sitting at a table.
Standish had brought raspberries and flowers as a welcoming gift for the new neighbors, and when he offered them to the woman, she accepted...
(The entire section is 720 words.)
Chapters 16-20 Summary
From that night, Gramps, Standish, Hector, and Mr. and Mrs. Lush spent more and more time together. It was not long until they melded into one family. Mr. Lush told Gramps and Standish that he was an engineer who had refused to work on a project for the Motherland, but he gave no details about the nature of his assignment. Mrs. Lush was "a doctor who had refused to eliminate the impure." Because of their recalcitrance, both husband and wife were exiled to Zone Seven.
Standish is jolted from his reverie when the bell indicating the headmaster's readiness to see him rings. When the boy enters the administrator's office, Mr. Hellman, who is standing, clicks his heels together and extends his arm out rigidly, exclaiming, "Glory to the Motherland." Standish half-heartedly reciprocates the salute, then notices a man in a black leather coat sitting in the corner of the room. This unexpected personage's face is hidden by a hat with a sharp brim, and "eye-socket-fitting sunglasses." The man's appearance is sinister, and Standish wonders why he is here.
It occurs to Standish that the man in the leather coat might be there to check up on Mr. Hellman, but he doubts this because he knows that the headmaster is not very important. Mr. Hellman's sole "claim to fame" is a cheap watch he has, which is awarded to couples with eight or more children. Standish knows that the headmaster's timepiece is worth little because he has seen with his own eyes a watch of far greater value; it had belonged to Mr. Lush, and it saved them all last winter.
The past winter had been so long and bitter that the little household reached a point where there literally was no more to eat, and nothing left to use for firewood. As Standish, Gramps, and the Lushes sat around the kitchen table, wondering what to do, Mr. Lush left the room and came back with something wrapped in a cloth, which he handed to Gramps, saying, "You know what to do with it, Harry." In the cloth was a watch of pure gold, which shone "bright as a star." Gramps studied the inscription on it thoughtfully, then commented, "If we can grind off the words it will get us out of jail." The inscription was indeed removed, and the watch traded on the black market for plentiful supplies of flour, rice, oats, candle oil, and soap." Later, Standish asked Gramps what was etched on the back of the treasure, but the old man would not say.
Standish becomes increasingly anxious as he...
(The entire section is 877 words.)
Chapters 21-25 Summary
It has been only three weeks since Standish and Hector were planning their mission to planet Juniper. Mr. Lush had managed to rig up a television set, which enabled the family to access programs "from the land of Croca Colas," the wondrous place upon which Juniper was modeled. The pictures were in black and white, but Hector and Standish knew that the life depicted was "bursting with color." Their favorite show was about a lady named "ball," who was "all plastic perfect," and laughed all the time. Standish and Hector imagined that when they broke through to Juniper, everything in their own world would change for the better, and the "promised land" would be theirs.
Hector was assigned to the same class in school as Standish. He turned out to be "supernova bright." He spoke the home language fluently and was a genius on the piano. Hector had "beautiful hands...long with really thin, long fingers." Miss Connolly, the kind, nurturing woman who had been their teacher then, took a great liking to him, but sadly, in the middle of the autumn term, she disappeared with no explanation, and no one dared ask why.
Miss Connolly was replaced by Mr. Gunnell, who "brought with him no knowledge worth learning...just propaganda." On the first day, Mr. Gunnell ordered Hector to cut his "dark blond...flopperty thick" hair to regulation standards, but the boy never did. Hector far outshined the new teacher in intelligence and bearing, and frequently made him look foolish with subtle defiance.
Mr. Gunnell took an instant dislike to Standish because of his "impurities," and to Hector because the new boy "could see right into [the teacher's] moldy old heart." Both students were banished to the back of the room, but Hector persisted in making his presence felt, frequently standing up to Mr. Gunnell and correcting him when he was clearly wrong about material he was teaching. One day, the little man could take no more and charged the boy, beating him with his cane. Hector stood unbending beneath the blows, staring hard at his teacher with stormy green eyes. When Mr. Gunnell's ire was spent, he retreated to his desk, dropping his cane along the way. Hector retrieved the offending instrument and returned it, bringing it down with a crack on a stack of exercise books and causing Mr. Gunnell to flinch and put his arms defensively over his head. The teacher never dared beat Hector again.
Although some of their classmates, "the...
(The entire section is 874 words.)
Chapters 26-30 Summary
With his nose bloody and one eye half shut, Standish climbs out from behind the schoolyard bench. He notices something interesting—he is taller than Mr. Gunnell. Perceiving that the teacher is about to strike him with his cane, Standish boldly, and perhaps foolishly retorts, "You can't keep hitting me . . . I'm taller than you."
With the whole class looking on, Standish bends to duck Mr. Gunnell's fists and feels the weight of the cane on his back instead. Glancing up quickly and seeing the teacher's chin jutting out, Standish hits him hard under the jaw and shoves his arm out straight into his chest. As Mr. Gunnell trips backward, his toupee falls off and drops ludicrously onto the pavement. The entire class laughs, including Hans Fielder, but Little Eric Owens laughs the hardest.
Mr. Gunnell comes at Standish with his cane raised and a look of "pure hatred" in his eyes. Little Eric continues to laugh, however, and at the last moment, the teacher turns his ire on him instead, beating him with the cane and then his fists. Little Eric falls to the ground, "crying for his mummy," and Mr. Gunnell begins kicking him savagely.
The students watch in paralyzed horror as "gobbets of blood [splash] on the pavement." Only Standish springs into action when Mr. Gunnell lifts his army-booted foot high over his now-motionless victim's head in preparation for a death blow. Standish rushes the teacher and hits him in the face, breaking his nose.
Miss Phillips, who has been sent out by the headmaster to see why Mr. Gunnell's class is not in the assembly hall to witness the imminent launching of the moon rocket with the rest of the school, arrives at the bloody scene. Finding Little Eric Owen lying there with one eye hanging from its socket and his "bleach-blond . . . [hair] bloodred," she kneels, feels for a pulse, and sends one of the boys to get help.
Shaking with anger, she demands to know, "Who is the monster that did this?" Mr. Gunnell replies cheekily, "Standish Treadwell."
When Miss Phillips turns to Standish and asks what happened, the boy tells her the truth, and Mr. Gunnell tries to defend himself, blustering, "I won't be laughed at . . . I demand respect."
As Mr. Hellman and other members of the administration arrive, Miss Phillips gently pushes Little Eric's ruined eyeball back into its socket and closes his other eye. When she announces quietly that the...
(The entire section is 548 words.)
Chapters 31-35 Summary
So that all might view the historic moon rocket launching, each school in the occupied territory of the Motherland has been issued a "working television." Standish notes the irony in the fact that "in this age of moon men," the television is old and "make-do" and that a teacher must struggle to position the aerial just so to get any sort of coherent picture at all.
Standish himself has no interest in witnessing the Motherland's great triumph. He and Hector had not bought into any of her "pure race chatty crap," having seen for themselves that there was "nothing pure" about any aspect of the Motherland's dominion.
It is the president of the Motherland herself who comes on the screen to address the masses. After sitting through a typically "non-stopping Olympic speech" in which she declares the "race of purity['s]" great technological victory over the "corrupt countries whose ambition is to destroy the great Motherland," everyone stands at attention to salute. In light of the events that just transpired out on the schoolyard, however, the school's salute is singularly weak, except for Mr. Gunnell's fanatically stiff-armed gesture.
After the opening speech, pictures of three astronauts appear on the screen along with their names, "ARO5 SOL3 ELD9." Standish is unable to read the names and had never paid them much mind until the moon man had arrived with the word "ELD9" printed on his space suit. On the screen, ELD9's head is shaved and his face well fed, but Standish knows what he really looks like. The man cannot be in the Motherland at this moment as the people are being led to believe because he is living in Gramps' cellar.
The image on the screen segues to a view of the control room, where men in uniforms work busily alongside others in white coats. Stunned by what he sees, Standish actually rises and walks right up to the TV to make sure that he is correct. His heart sinks as if filled with "lead stones," as he realizes what the secret was that Hector and the moon man both had refused to reveal. There among the eminent scientists is Hector's father, Mr. Lush.
The rocket takes off, rising into the gray sky until it is no more than a barely perceptible dot. When the launch is over, a parade of Greenflies under the direction of the leather-coat man marches into the gym and ushers Mr. Gunnell away.
The students are sent back to their rooms, and after a short time, Standish and...
(The entire section is 713 words.)
Chapters 36-40 Summary
Standish is given no further instructions after being expelled, so he simply walks back to his classroom. On the way, he looks out over the playground, where he sees the leather-coat man walking with Mr. Gunnell past the body of Little Eric Owen.
Stopping, the man in the leather coat takes out a pistol and places its barrel against Mr. Gunnell's head; a single shot rings out and Mr. Gunnell falls to the ground. Standish is curiously unfazed by the execution.
Back in the classroom, Standish finds that Hans Fielder has cut the bottoms off his coveted long trousers in a show of solidarity with the rank-and-file oppressed. It crosses Standish's mind that Mrs. Fielder, who doubtlessly compromised much to get her son those trousers, is not going to be happy to discover that "she has a rebel on her hands."
Uncertain as to what he should do next, Standish goes to his desk and lifts its lid. Inside, he finds a note written clearly in large letters so that even he, who cannot read, might get its gist. The note says, "YOU AND YOUR GRANDFATHER ARE IN GRAVE DANGER. TONIGHT THE OBSTRUCTORS WILL COME FOR THE VISITOR."
Pocketing the note, Standish looks out the window to see the bodies of Little Eric Owen and Mr. Gunnell being deposited into a van by two orderlies. As he walks out of the classroom and down the corridor, he runs into Miss Phillips, whose skirt is still soaked with Little Eric's blood. Carefully dodging the surveillance cameras, she accosts Standish and whispers, "Tell Harry they know."
As he crosses the playground, Standish sees blood on the pavement and one of Little Eric's worn shoes. At the guardhouse, the caretaker opens the gate for him without even looking up from his paper. Standish walks off the school grounds slowly, wondering why no one has tried to stop him.
Standish has no plan, other than to go home. As he heads down the road, he sees Gramps approaching, and it occurs to him that someone must have sent the old man to fetch him. Standish explains briefly that Mr. Gunnell killed Little Eric Owen and that he himself has been expelled.
As the boy and his grandfather proceed casually up the street together so as not to attract attention, Standish, "in the quietest of whispers," says, "This is a trap." Gramps responds, "I know."
(The entire section is 400 words.)
Chapters 41-45 Summary
As Standish and Gramps continue toward home, they notice two plain-clothes policemen following them in a car. One of the men has a pair of binoculars, which he is using to lip-read their conversation. Standish and Gramps engage in innocuous chatter, and eventually, the men in the car speed away. Only then does Standish tell his grandfather about Little Eric, Miss Phillips, and the warning note.
At one end of the road where Standish lives are the grand houses where the privileged "Families for Purity" reside. At the very top of the road is that huge, hideous eyesore of a building with the legendary past. Today, that edifice is lit up "brighter than the stars," but of course, no one in Zone Seven dares to ask why. One cannot help but wonder, however, why the behemoth uses so much electricity, when the rest of the neighborhood is lucky to get even an hour or two a day. Standish wishes that he had no hint of what the answer to that question might be, but ominously, he does.
When Gramps and Standish arrive near home, they see two black cars sitting outside their house. From a safe distance, they watch as their forbidden television set is carried away. Cryptically, Standish whispers to Gramps, "What if they find him?" but the old man answers, quietly but confidently, that the men will not find the person in question. Though he secretly laments that he will no longer be able to watch "the plastic lady who had a ball of a time in the land of Croca-Colas," Standish understands that his grandfather has allowed the television to be discovered and confiscated to deflect suspicion away from their more serious transgressions.
On Standish's birthday last March, Mrs. Lush managed to make a special cake, and Gramps mended the deflated football the boy had found in his now long-ago foray behind the wall, and gave it back to him as a gift. It was the best birthday celebration that Standish could remember, except for the absence of his mum and dad. Both of the boy's parents had been teachers at his school, but while Mr. Treadwell had managed "to at least look as if he toed the party line," his wife had blatantly refused to teach "a whole load of rubbish to children who deserved better." One day, the Greenflies had come and taken Mrs. Treadwell away; when they had brought her back a day later, the poor woman was insensible, having had her tongue cut from her mouth. That night, Standish's parents had fled for parts unknown. Mr....
(The entire section is 605 words.)
Chapters 46-50 Summary
In the days after the football was lost, it rained incessantly, so Hector and Standish devoted their energies toward building their rocket. The newspapers, rare commodities to which Standish was introduced for the first time, were filled with "rubbish" about the Motherland and the great astronauts who were going to conquer space. The boys saved some of the more interesting pictures from these "propaganda rags," and used the rest as papier-mâché for their project.
An old ironing-board cover given to Hector and Standish by Mrs. Lush served well as an outer skin for the rocket; in the boys' imaginations, the cover would shield them from the radiation that Mr. Lush said surrounded the moon. Standish asked the knowledgeable man how far away the moon was, and Mr. Lush responded, with uncommon exactness, "221,463 miles."
It was Standish who dreamed up the planet Juniper and drew pictures of the wonderful land and its inhabitants. Sadly, when the rocket was just about ready, Hector became very ill, and with no doctors nor medicine available, there was very little that anyone could do to help him. When Hector's fever was at its highest, the Greenflies came and ordered "every able-bodied person in Zone Seven" to assemble at the park in front of the monstrous building at the top of the road. The people, hundreds of them, were massed together, with the well-fed, long-trousered individuals strategically placed in front. When a man "with a very bad haircut" arrived in a car and stood before the crowd, a leather-coat man, shouting into a megaphone, asked all those "who spoke the barber's language" to raise their hands. To Standish's astonishment, everyone except Gramps, the Lushes, and himself complied. Standish did not put his hand up because he had never heard of the "barber's language," and Gramps refrained because he knew it was a trick to make it look as if the crowd, en masse, was saluting the Motherland.
Because he had been too sick to stand, Hector had been left behind when all the others were summoned outside. Standish later told him about what had happened, including his own confusion about the "barber's language," which he thought might have had something to do with the man with the bad haircut. Hector smiled weakly in amazement at his friend's naivete and told him that the unkempt dignitary was the Motherland's commander in chief.
Finally, after several days, Hector's fever broke and he was allowed...
(The entire section is 582 words.)
Chapters 51-55 Summary
That night, Standish asked Hector what was on the other side of the wall. Hector clearly did not want to talk about it, and put his finger to his lips to indicate silence. Knowing that "the walls of the house were thin," the boys went up to the attic, where their rocket was hidden. When Standish once again demanded to know what Hector had seen, the boy finally admitted that he could not share that information with his friend, because of a promise he had made to his father.
Angrily, Standish was about to go back to bed, when Hector gently and unexpectedly asked, "Don't you want to launch the spacecraft?" Regarding their papier-mâché creation, Standish bitterly retorted, "You don't believe there is a planet Juniper. You just think I made it up..." Earnestly, Hector responded that he did believe, and that, in their sorry society, the best thing they possessed was imagination, which Standish had "in bucketloads." In the moonlight then, the two friends sojourned together in their "cardboard flying saucer with its ironing-board cover."
Hector began to speak softly, reminiscing about the fine house his family used to have, with "servants to cook and clean." All of that was abruptly taken away, however, because of some action Mr. Lush had undertaken, and the family was exiled to Zone Seven. When Standish asked what it was that his father had done, Hector considered the question for a long while, then said, "Best you don't know." Standish decided then that they should launch their spacecraft soon. For some reason which he could not explain, he sensed that Hector was about to go on a long journey, without him.
Curled up inside their makeshift rocket, the boys imagined that they were hurtling together through space. Sleep overtook took them, and when Standish awoke, Hector and the spaceship were gone. Frantically, Standish went down to the kitchen, where Gramps was sitting with his head in his hands. There was a note lying on the table, but Standish did not need to be able to read the words written on it to understand that the Lushes had been "taken."
A scream rose in Standish's throat, but Gramps, crying silently, clapped his hand over his grandson's mouth and dragged him outside. There, in the rain, the old man said only, "I think the house is bugged." When Standish demanded to know why they had not been taken too, Gramps said that he did not know, and asked, "do you?" Standish...
(The entire section is 566 words.)
Chapters 56-60 Summary
In the days after the Lushes were taken, Gramps and Standish knew that they were under surveillance. Even with the din of the radio blaring endless propaganda, Gramps "took to writing down what he wanted to say . . . half pictures, half words," so that Standish could understand.
Every night, to communicate an aura of normalcy to the listeners, Gramps would call out loudly to his grandson, "Good night!" But Standish did not sleep. Instead the two would huddle on the edge of Gramps' bed together until midnight, when the detectives in the car that passed constantly up and down the road took a break. The old man and the boy would go down then to that secret passageway of holes pickaxed through the basements of the houses on their block, called Cellar Street.
During the time before the endless chain of wars fought and "of course [won] by the great Motherland," Gramps had been the senior scene painter at a big opera house. When the wars began, Gramps had painted airplanes on the ground, which from above had the appearance of being completely realistic.
After one particular war was over, Gramps was forced to attend a "program of re-education" for painting those planes. Some of his contemporaries either refused re-education or for whatever reason were denied the privilege; they became "maggot-meat" for the Greenflies.
Despite his re-education, Gramps used his exceptional skills as a scene painter for one final project, making "a perfect illusion of a perfect wall" at the bottom of Cellar Street. The creation sported a small lock that, when "jiggled" just so, caused the wall to slide open, revealing a secret chamber. The chamber had a system of battery-powered lighting installed by Mr. Lush and was protected by a warning system built by Gramps to alert whoever was down in Cellar Street if anyone entered the house above.
One week ago on a rainy afternoon, Standish came home from school to discover that Gramps was not there. Frantically, he searched for him, finally running outside over to the vegetable plot.
Finding the door to the air-raid shelter ajar, Standish entertained the terrifying notion that his grandfather had gone away through the tunnel to the forbidden area by the monstrous building at the top of the street. In a panic, he glanced over to the potting shed, where he spied an inexplicably placed pair of enormous boots sticking out of the door.
(The entire section is 629 words.)
Chapters 61-65 Summary
On the day of the Motherland's space launch and the killing of Little Eric Owen by Mr. Gunnell, Standish realizes that he and Gramps are essentially goners—they will almost certainly never get out of Zone Seven alive.
When they return home after Standish is expelled from school, they find that the front door has been kicked in and the house has been ransacked. Knowing that the detectives are once again watching them, Gramps and Standish wait until midnight, when it is safe to go down to the cellar.
The first thing Gramps does in those nether regions is pick up the traps he routinely puts out with their daily catch of rats and deposit them near the stairs leading back up to the house. The two then head to the deepest part of Cellar Street, where an overwhelming, pungent odor emitted by "alien fungus [which] smother[s] everything with its earthy stench" fortuitously makes it impossible for "the leather-coat men's dogs . . . [to] sniff out the moon man."
When Gramps opens the sliding door to the secret chamber, the moon man rises and gives him a hug. Gramps, Standish, and the moon man share a meal of bread, Spam fritters, and tea—a veritable "feast."
Afterwards, the moon man draws pictures to communicate with his hosts, giving them a clear understanding of "what [is] happening behind the wall" in the great behemoth at the top of the hill. When he is finished, Gramps turns on the radio Mr. Lush has rigged so that they can hear words of inspiration from the free world. "The Voice" that can be received on that radio is one that can be trusted "to tell the truth . . . if there is any such thing as a truth . . . hard to tell when so much is a lie."
The moon man, Gramps, and Standish listen as The Voice declares that although the "monstrous Motherland" is claiming to have launched a rocket to the moon, scientists believe that such a feat will in fact "not be possible for many years to come." The Voice urges all who can hear not to believe that the Motherland has "the capacity to fire weapons from the moon's surface" and calls on "all Obstructors to support the advancing Allies," who are preparing for a "final battle" to restore freedom to the world.
Suddenly the alarm bell rings, indicating that there is an intruder in the house. With less than a minute "to cover [their tracks]," Gramps and Standish exit the chamber, resealing it with the moon man inside, and are...
(The entire section is 767 words.)
Chapters 66-70 Summary
Standish and the moon man wait in silent dread until finally there is a noise in the garden. The moon man steals back down into Cellar Street, and Gramps appears at the kitchen door. Gramps is a mess—his face is "all smoky, his shirt torn and burnt."
In worse shape, however, is Miss Phillips, who stands behind him, badly beaten. Standish turns on the radio, which is playing music "for the workers of the Motherland." As Gramps goes over and puts a kettle on, he explains that Miss Phillips's house had been set afire; it had only been "a matter of time."
Standish brings a bowl of water to the kitchen table and watches as Gramps tenderly wipes away the smoke from Miss Phillips's face and tends to her wounds. The old man removes the woman's hat, exposing her formerly beautiful hair, which sticks up now in short tufts and is matted with blood. Standish knows what that haircut means—Miss Phillips is an Obstructor.
If they are caught, Obstructors are stripped naked and their hair shorn; if the victim is a woman, she is passed over to "young, hungry vultures" like Hans Fielder to give them "a bit of practice in killing."
It occurs to Standish then that Miss Phillips really had been his protector at school, and he wonders why he did not realize that before. He looks on in astonishment as Gramps kisses Miss Phillips and puts his arm around her. Standish had thought that his grandfather was "too old for all that," but when he straightforwardly asks how long they have been "courting," Gramps answers with a smile, "Three years."
Miss Phillips has been trying to make contact with the Obstructors concerning the moon man but has so far been unsuccessful. The music coming from the radio is interrupted by the "Voice of the Motherland," which triumphantly announces that today, pictures will be taken of the Motherland's "new-won territory, the moon," so that the "evil empires" of the world can bear witness to her achievement.
At that moment, there is "an unmistakable cacophony outside . . . boots hitting the pavement, car doors slamming, people shouting." Swiftly, Standish and Gramps spirit Miss Phillips upstairs and hide her at the back of the "old monster of a wardrobe" that had belonged to Standish's parents.
Standish goes back downstairs alone and opens the door to the leather-coat man, who demands, "Where is your grandfather?" Gramps comes "potter[ing]" down...
(The entire section is 889 words.)
Chapters 71-75 Summary
Writing furiously on a notepad, the moon man tells his story. He says that at first he sincerely believed he was involved in a genuine space mission, but before long, a colleague confided in him that the endeavor as planned was impossible as the radiation around the moon would incinerate anyone who approached it.
Soon after, the moon man was sent to Zone Seven, and the colleague in question disappeared. As it became increasingly clear that the Motherland's pioneering trip to the moon was "the greatest hoax in the history of mankind," the moon man was silenced because he dared to ask questions. He was not executed, however, because his face was still needed so that the Motherland could carry the colossal deception to fruition.
Virtually held prisoner on the grounds of the monstrous palace at the top of the hill in Zone Seven, the moon man was wandering near the wall bordering the Treadwells's property one day when he saw a boy seemingly "[emerge] from the earth" to fetch a red football. The moon man recognized the boy as the son of the colleague who had said that the space mission was impossible; that colleague was Mr. Lush, who was the eminent scientist responsible for building the first prototype rocket for the Motherland.
In answer to Gramps's next question about the current well-being of the Lushes, the moon man reveals that Mrs. Lush was shot dead in front of her husband and son when the Greenflies arrived to take them away. Hector's little finger was chopped off, with the other digits to follow one after another, if Mr. Lush did not cooperate.
The moon man's explanation is interrupted when the transmitter begins to beep urgently, signaling that the Obstructors have finally been reached. To their great relief, the moon man, Miss Phillips, Gramps, and Standish are instructed to be ready to be evacuated at 11:00 that evening.
It is then that Standish announces then that he is not going with the others; he has concocted a desperate plan to rescue Hector and to expose the moon landing as a hoax. Standish believes that if he can somehow get on to the film set and be near the astronaut when he takes his "first steps" on the moon, he might just be able to break away and stand momentarily on the fake moon surface in front of the cameras, carrying a sign with the word "HOAX" written on it.
Perceiving immediately the deadly nature of the plan, Gramps protests vehemently, but...
(The entire section is 753 words.)
Chapters 76-80 Summary
Upstairs in the bedroom that once belonged to Standish's parents, Gramps gives his grandson a wide belt to wear under his clothes. On the belt, written "large and bold . . . in Gramps's beautiful hand" is the word "HOAX."
It occurs to Standish that while he was being briefed down in the Cellar chamber by Miss Phillips and the moon man, this is what his grandfather was really doing; the cardboard figures "were [only] an afterthought." Lovingly, Gramps was crafting his contribution to the success of Standish's risky venture, knowing all the while that the endeavor would almost certainly result in his precious grandson's ultimate demise.
Standish dresses in the tattered clothes that Gramps has gathered for him and holds still while his grandfather uses some of Mum's old makeup to put "chalky paste" on his face and darken the sockets around his eyes. After he is finished, Standish looks into the mirror and is startled at his own ghostly appearance.
When Standish emerges with Gramps from his parents's room, Miss Phillips is waiting on the top stair "to say the unsayable good-bye." Outside the moon is up, and Gramps deftly removes the sheets of corrugated iron that conceal the tunnel entrance, exposing an opening that gapes like "a grave in the earth, ready and waiting for [Standish]." Wordlessly, the boy kisses his grandfather and is astonished and gratified when Gramps says, with eloquent simplicity, "Standish, I'm proud of you."
Standish passes through the tunnel and emerges in the brambles of the park surrounding the "ugly old palace." As he breaks through the thorny nettles, the enormity of the awaiting task overwhelms him, and he thinks, "I know I'm dead. The only question is how I die."
He had thought that he had everything worked out—he would "break in, find Hector, throw [his] stone, and together [the two boys] would escape"—but now that he is here, he finds that his plans are effectively destroyed in the cold light of reality.
With the layout of the grounds as described by the moon man indelibly etched in his mind, Standish heads straight for the latrines, which are not far from "that atrocity of a building." He is quickly caught in the bright eye of a searchlight beam and peremptorily ordered by one of the guards, "Stop!" It occurs to Standish that if the guard should happen to be the leather-coat man, his plot will be foiled before it has even...
(The entire section is 787 words.)
Chapters 81-85 Summary
Two other boys who also did not at first volunteer are dragged out of the crowd and are marched outside with Standish into the bright sunlight. As he berates himself for not having paid more attention to what he has "volunteered" for, Standish notices a car park full of lorries that, according to the moon man, will ferry the thousands of workers away to "a nice gas bath" when their jobs have been completed.
Standish begins to doubt that he will be able to accomplish anything in this dismal place, other than ultimately becoming "maggot meat" like everyone else.
The boys who have been selected with him are "not yet as skeletal as others [Standish] has seen," but their thinness nonetheless makes him stand out, an observation he does not find to be comforting.
The three are marched past the latrines and waiting lorries to a laboratory, where they are weighed, measured, numbered, and placed into a long room with a two-way mirror at one end. A faceless someone watches as the boys are instructed to turn first one way, then another. The two other boys are eliminated; for better or worse, Standish is the only one left.
Standish is taken down several corridors into a large, high room with a metal beam up near the ceiling, a rope dangling from it, making him wonder if he is about to be hung. Instead, he is clipped into a harness that is then fastened to the end of the rope; sandbags are attached to the harness, weighing Standish down.
A man in an astronaut suit enters the room and is hooked up to nearly invisible wires emanating from the other end of the rope. Standish is told to pull up and down on the rope on command; when he does as instructed, his feet leave the ground and the astronaut "rises from the floor just enough to make it look like there's no gravity."
Standish jumps up and down until he is too hot and thirsty to go on. A guard who looks uncannily like Mr. Gunnell comes over and orders him to move, but the boy refuses. As Standish wonders why he is being so obstinate, possibly ruining his chance to carry out his plan for lack of a measly glass of water, a white-coated man appears and sends the guard away. He then stares at Standish and comments, "You are the first one who can do this . . . unlike the others, you are healthy."
The guard returns and gives Standish a glass of water and some bread. He then takes the boy back to the moon set, where he is dropped into...
(The entire section is 814 words.)
Chapters 86-90 Summary
Hector is nothing more than a shadow, huddled in the corner of the room. Standish sits down next to him, knowing he is hurt. "What have they done to you?" Hector replies darkly, "Nothing too bad . . . I still have eight fingers left." He explains that his little finger was taken "after they shot Mama" to show his papa that if he refused to cooperate, they would kill Hector too, "but slowly."
Although he is pretty sure he knows the answer, Standish asks, "What did your papa do?" Although it is "a secret not to be spoken of," Hector relents this time and tells his friend that his father was a government scientist who "dreamed he would send a man to the moon."
After seeing how the Motherland treated her workers, however, Mr. Lush refused to work for the president any longer; he was not put to death for his recalcitrance because the government still needed him to make its moon-landing charade realistic enough to be believable.
Hector says softly that if his papa does as he is told this time, his son will be fed, and his bandage changed. If Mr. Lush does not cooperate, Hector will continue to lose fingers.
The lights suddenly go on, and Standish wonders if perhaps their captors have been listening. He sees Hector clearly now and is appalled at his friend's transparent look and grubby, bloody bandages.
Standish pulls Hector close and holds onto him tightly; he imagines that if he never lets go, his friend will get better. Weakly, Hector asks if Gramps was arrested along with him, but Standish replies, "I came by myself to take you home." Standish tells his friend that he has come to take him "to the land of Coca-Colas," as they had always planned. Hector responds with a cough, which is "full of coffins."
The lights go off as suddenly as they went on, and Hector explains that this is done on purpose to drive the prisoners mad. Hector is burning up with fever, and all Standish can think of is escaping so that they can find Mr. Lush and get some medicine.
For the present, however, words are the only medicine Standish has to give his friend, so he talks, telling Hector, "When you left, there was this huge hole . . . in the heart of me. . . . It doesn't matter what happens now because I've found you. . . . My best friend. My brother."
While listening to the rasping sound of Hector's breathing, Standish drifts off to sleep, then is awakened with a start when the...
(The entire section is 773 words.)
Chapters 91-95 Summary
Standish has no idea how long he has been sitting there in the dark thinking about Gramps, Miss Phillips, and the moon man and wondering if they made it out to safety. He has been thinking about Hector too, his head "spin[ning] with all the many possibilities of the what-if game."
In an attempt to control his thoughts and maintain his equilibrium, Standish asks himself who he would want to be "right now, right this moment." He decides that he would like to be a Juniparian, with the "radiant vision" necessary to save Hector and all the others living in oppression in the Motherland.
Standish is beginning to lose heart, and he wonders, "what if I have it all wrong and I don't have the power to throw my stone?" The thing that really weighs most heavily on his mind, however, "is the thought of Hector having another finger chopped off."
Standish is jolted back to the present reality when the light abruptly goes on and the guards come back in. They bring with them two thin mattresses and Hector, who is wearing a clean set of clothes and fresh bandages on his hand. Hector lies shivering on one of the mattresses, but his skin is hot to the touch. The guards bring in two trays of food and command both boys to eat.
Standish devours his meal ravenously—it is fish and chips, with a huge wedge of real lemon—but Hector does not touch his. Standish tells his friend that he must eat so that he can get better and cuts his food into small pieces, but Hector takes only "the smallest of bites" before asking Standish to eat his portion for him. Because he is starving, Standish does, and the guard takes the trays away.
Standish puts his arms around Hector, "hoping he will stop shivering, hoping he will stop burning up." Hector says that he saw his father, who knows Standish is here, and who asked if the moon man had reached him and Gramps. Standish quickly replies, "No," then feels ashamed. He has never lied to Hector before, but reasons, "what if he knew, and they were going to chop off another finger?"
A long time later, Hector says softly, "I don't believe you."
Hector is all that matters in Standish's present reality. In the darkness, his dying friend whispers, "Kiss me," and though Standish has always imagined the the first person he would ever kiss would be a girl, it makes no difference now, and he does. Standish begs Hector to stay with him, and his friend...
(The entire section is 851 words.)
Chapters 96-100 Summary
Standish is more nervous than he has ever been when "showtime" finally arrives. He knows that if he blows his chance, everything he has gone through will have been for nothing.
His heart sinks when he recognizes the leather-coat man up in the observation room, and he instinctively knows that his old nemesis is looking for him. To keep from being detected, Standish crouches low in the trench.
When the man in the brown overalls moves away for a moment to argue that a wind machine should not be used to make the flag blow about because there is no atmosphere on the moon, Standish takes the opportunity to release Gramps's belt with its damning word "HOAX" from around his body. Fortunately, the knot securing it comes loose easily, and there is a ribbon fastened to it that will allow the boy to "just whisk [the belt] out when the time comes."
When Standish looks up again, he discovers to his dismay that the leather-coat man is standing right there, with his back to him. The man asks a guard if he has seen "a young boy, about fifteen, with different-colored eyes;" he is indeed looking for Standish.
The leather-coat man tells one of the officials in charge that he is looking for the boy named Standish Treadwell because two "suspects" associated with him are missing, and it is believed that the escaped astronaut is with them.
Fortunately, it is only ten minutes until countdown, and the officials have bigger things to worry about right then. The leather-coat man is summarily dismissed, and Standish's heart soars when he realizes that Gramps, Miss Phillips, and the moon man have gotten away.
It is decided by the president of the Motherland himself that "the flag must wave in the breeze," so the wind machines are pulled into position. As the countdown begins, Standish suddenly becomes aware that Hector is there with him, encouraging softly, "Don't worry, Standish . . . we will do this together like we always did."
Filming commences; the whole world is watching. The landing craft touches down on the moon's surface, and the astronaut disembarks, floating down the steps. The "much-practiced moon walk" begins, and Standish bobs and weaves, landing squarely on each of his markers.
When the astronaut is in position and begins unfolding the flag to thrust it into the ground, Hector says, "Now," and Standish unclips his wire and makes his move.
Without his human...
(The entire section is 688 words.)