Chapters 1-2 Summary
In his review of The Art of Fielding, Gregory Cowles, writing for the New York Times, called Chad Harbach’s book a “precious and altogether excellent first novel.” The Art of Fielding, a novel about baseball and campus life with meditative insights sprinkled throughout, was published in 2011.
The Art of Fielding opens with Mike Schwartz, a sophomore at Westish College in Wisconsin, who first sees Henry Skrimshander during the semi-finals of a “no-name” summer baseball tournament. Schwartz does not pay much attention to Henry during the game except to notice, as everyone else does, that Henry is his team’s shortstop and is quick on his feet, not very good at bat, and the shortest guy on the field. But after the game, when Henry goes back out on the field in the blazing heat to field some more balls, Schwartz pays more attention to the scrawny shortstop. Then Schwartz fully appreciates the “grace” of Henry’s every move. When the kid removes his shirt, Schwartz is amazed at the boy’s skinny arms, which are not much wider than Schwartz’s thumb. However, when Henry scoops up a ball that had been batted his way, Schwartz cannot believe the ease of the young boy’s throw or the explosive speed of the ball as it makes its way back to the catcher. No matter where the ball is hit, Henry mysteriously is there to stop it. Schwartz concludes that the boy must have known where the ball was going even before it was hit.
When this after-game workout is finished, Schwartz feels disappointed. He wants to see more. He wishes he had taped the session so he could rewind it to see it again. Instead he watches the boy leave the field. Schwartz knows that he has waited all his life to see that much talent, that much genius on the field, and he knows that he cannot allow the boy to get away from him.
Now Henry is registering at Westish College. He feels, deep inside, that he should not be here. He is not even sure how he won the chance. It all had to do with Mike Schwartz, but it happened so quickly he has not yet adjusted to the fact.
Henry has always played shortstop in baseball, beginning when he was nine years old. It has always been a challenge, though, to convince his various coaches throughout the years that he could really play. Most coaches were ready to sit Henry on the bench, if not completely dismiss him from the tryouts. Henry was always so much smaller...
(The entire section is 597 words.)
Chapters 3-4 Summary
That Thanksgiving is the first holiday Henry does not spend with his family. Most of the time during the break, Henry is in the college dining hall, washing dishes at his new job. That night, when he gets back to his dorm, he is happy to hear his parents’ voices on the phone—until they start complaining about stories they heard from Henry’s sister. First, they worry about Henry’s roommate, Owen, whom they have learned is gay. They want Henry to ask for a different room. Then they want to know why Owen is buying clothes for Henry. Henry is not so poor; his clothes are well made, his parents tell him, and should not have needed to be replaced.
The truth is that Henry’s clothes are different from everyone else’s on campus. Owen had pointed this out and insisted that Henry go shopping with him. After Henry tried on several pairs of jeans, Owen finally approved two of them. Owen also told Henry that he had a gift certificate that was about to expire, thus making Henry accept the jeans as a gift.
Henry tries to tell his parents that Owen was only helping him fit in. His parents want to know what Henry is supposed to fit into. Henry does not have to conform, they tell him. He needs to be his own person. Henry should thank Owen for the gift, but then he should get rid of the new clothes. As Henry continues to listen to his parents’ conversation, he cannot imagine how he is going to accomplish what they are asking of him. Before he hangs up, though, it finally dawns on him that his parents live five hundred miles away from campus. They will never see his new jeans.
As the end of the semester comes into view, so does the end of the football season. With this event comes the reappearance of Mike Schwartz. Until then, Henry had seen no sign of Mike since he had arrived on campus. Then Mike calls one day and orders Henry to meet him at the gym. From that day forward, Mike puts Henry on a weight-training schedule. Mike also introduces Henry to Adam Starblind, who would become the baseball team’s centerfielder. Mike and Starblind are there to get Henry bulked up. They work him hard every day, introducing Henry to the “skullcrusher” exercise and how to yell at the pain. They also make Henry consume fortified drinks.
Henry carries a can of powdered protein back to his dorm. He attempts to mix the powder in a glass of milk, but the powder refuses to dissolve. Although neither the weightlifting nor...
(The entire section is 523 words.)
Chapters 5-6 Summary
After six weeks of practice, Westish’s baseball team heads to Clearwater, Florida, for a series of games. Their first event is against a Vermont school. Henry feels so worked up that he does a flip as the teams warm up. Owen, on the other hand, sits in the dugout, reading a book. Owen has a battery-powered reading light clipped onto his baseball cap. When Henry asks Owen what he likes about baseball, Owen says he likes all the pockets in his uniform.
Henry is not the only shortstop on the team. A senior named Tennant is the starter. Although it makes Henry nervous to sit on the bench during a game, he tells Owen he can wait a year for Tennant to graduate. Another young player tells Henry that Tennant is worried about Henry’s taking over his position. They all notice that Tennant’s playing is not very good. He makes a lot of errors. However, the team manages a win, and for the first time in recent memory, Westish’s baseball team has an undefeated record. Three days later, though, Westish has lost five games.
One night after another losing game, Mike Schwartz hints that it is time for Henry to replace Tennant. Henry swears that he is no better. He adds that Tennant is just tight. Then he reminds Mike that Tennant is a senior, and he can wait until next year. Mike tells him that he cannot wait any longer and suggests that the change might come sooner than that. The next day, Mike goes out of his way to irritate Tennant. In response, Tennant punches Mike in the face. As punishment, the coach takes Tennant out of the starting position and substitutes Henry.
The next day, Henry not only played an extraordinary game, making no fielding errors, he also starts coaching the other players, helping them to anticipate the ball. At the end of the game, the whole team has made only one error. They still lose, but the coach is happy.
As his college days pass, Henry eventually puts on some weight and even improves at bat. By the end of his sophomore year, Henry bats .500. The beginning of his junior year is spectacular. Back in Florida, he is hitting homeruns and catches the attention of professional scouts. By the time they leave the Florida camp, Henry is within a single game of tying the record of his idol, Aparicio Rodriguez, in consecutive games played without an error.
The narrative turns to another character, Guert Affenlight, in the year 1969. Affenlight works in the Westish library and...
(The entire section is 527 words.)
Chapters 7-8 Summary
Guert Affenlight is now sixty years old and the president of Westish College. He is in his office talking to Bruce Gibbs, chairman of the trustees. Gibbs is attempting to tell Affenlight that the budget cannot afford some of the programs he is pursuing. The collapse of the stock market has hurt some of the college’s investments, there has been too much money invested in financial aid, and the pockets of donors have run dry.
Affenlight understands the problem; after all, he was the school’s major fundraiser. During his first year there, Affenlight had promoted one of the school’s most successful fundraising campaigns. He also understands that the economy was a lot different back then. However, some of Affenlight’s favorite programs are important for the school’s image. He argues with Gibbs that students nowadays look at the whole picture. They want to see if the school is environmentally sensitive as well as if they offer good courses. The programs Affenlight is promoting include low-flow plumbing and a complete carbon inventory. He claims that the students themselves are doing much of the research and labor. He is working with student groups, he tells Gibbs. The truth, however, is that Affenlight is working with just one student—Owen Dunne.
The students do not understand how the world works, Gibbs retorts. He reminds Affenlight how the students had talked him into pulling out of oil stocks because the consumption of oil was not good for the environment, but their stocks in oil had been keeping the school afloat.
Affenlight does his best to listen to Gibbs. However, he is very distracted. He agrees with Gibbs—in part. He understands how the world works, but he also wants to show Owen that he can accomplish the environmental programs. When his mind returns to Owen, all Affenlight can think of is getting Gibbs out of his office so he can rush over to the baseball field.
It is a cold day, and the breeze coming off Lake Michigan does not make Affenlight feel any warmer as he makes his way to the stadium. Once there, he notices that the Westish baseball team is up by four and is about to take the field. Affenlight feels proud he can name most of the players: Mike Schwartz, Adam Starblind, and Henry Skrimshander. Then he looks around to find the one player he has come to watch, but he cannot find him. He is sitting on the home team side, which means he could not see into the dugout. He cannot...
(The entire section is 712 words.)
Chapters 9-10 Summary
Henry cannot understand what has happened. He has never thrown such an errant ball before. He believes Owen is dead. He knows it. No one has proclaimed it, but he still knows it. The paramedics are there with a stretcher. The coach had rushed to the dugout. Mike Schwartz is there, as is the president of the college. Henry saw the ball strike Owen straight in the face. Owen had been reading. He did not even see it coming.
Finally Schwartz comes out of the dugout and walks over to Henry. He asks if Henry is all right. Then he tells Henry that Owen is going to have a heck of a headache tomorrow. At the word “tomorrow,” Henry is able to take a breath: there will be a tomorrow for Owen. Schwartz adds that he is thankful the scouts left before the accident. Henry had a similar thought, but he could never have expressed it.
When Coach Cox comes out of the dugout, he signals to Schwartz and Henry to come over to him. He tells them they have decided to call the game. Coach tells the other players to go back to their dorms. Not everyone should go to the hospital, but he tells Henry and Schwartz they can come. Henry sees the president climb into the ambulance as they take Owen away.
After they wait for a long time at the hospital, a doctor finally emerges. Owen has had a CT, which shows there is no bleeding inside his brain. However, his cheekbone has been fractured and will have to be repaired right away. They can come back and see him the next day.
Around this time, President Affenlight’s phone rings. It is Pella, his daughter. She has made the connection in Chicago and will arrive in Milwaukee on time. Affenlight must tell her he might be late. Pella accepts this as routine. After he hangs up, Affenlight stops to buy a pack of cigarettes in the hospital lobby. He had promised his doctor he would stop smoking, but he needs something to calm his nerves.
Pella had left San Francisco with just a carry-on bag. Once on the plane, she regretted her hastiness. It too closely symbolized the rest of her life. She does too many things on the spur of the moment and then later feels sorry for her decisions. It is like her marriage to David. He had come to her private high school to give a lecture; almost on a dare, she went to bed with him. She had been about to register at Yale. Instead she went to Rome with David, who was many years her senior. She admits it was a “daddy thing.” David even...
(The entire section is 573 words.)
Chapters 11-12 Summary
Henry goes back to his empty dorm room. He is not used to being alone there. He kicks off his shoes and falls down on the bed and goes to sleep almost immediately. The phone wakes him up. He thinks it might be news about Owen, but it is Mike Schwartz, who asks if Henry has eaten. Henry tells him he has not eaten since lunch. Mike is always on Henry about eating enough food. Henry cannot afford to lose weight. Major baseball teams want more than players who are quick; they want big bodies too, so Henry gets up and drinks one of his milk-and-protein mixes.
Henry is about to fall asleep again when the phone rings a second time. On the other end of the line is a woman named Miranda Szabo. She is a sports agent. She has called to tell Henry that people are talking about him going in the draft on the third round. Henry had been hoping he would break the fiftieth round. She also asks him how much money he thinks he might get to sign. Henry suggests about $80,000. Miranda says it could be more like $380,000, but he needs a good agent to take care of him.
After the phone call, Henry cannot sleep. Miranda had mentioned the record Henry was about to break, Aparicio’s record for the most errorless games. The error Henry had committed that day—the ball that hit Owen—would not be recorded because the game had been called before the ninth inning was completed. The scout had not seen it. No one will know, except Henry. What if he does something like that again? Maybe he does not want to break his hero’s record. Maybe that is why it happened.
Here readers learn of Mike Schwartz’s background. Mike grew up on the south side of Chicago, a rough place to live even for a boy as big as Mike. He was so large that when his mother died when he was fourteen, Mike convinced a social worker that he was eighteen. He dropped out of school to take a job in a factory to make enough money to cover his bills. No one seemed to care one way or the other—until the day his football coach showed up at his job. The coach talked Mike into going back to school and getting his diploma.
Since then, Mike has been making a point of doing well in whatever he undertakes. Besides working on his grades and his sports, Mike wants to get into a good law school. He has applied to several. All of them so far have rejected him. There is only one school left to respond: Yale, one of the hardest to get into.
The letter from Yale...
(The entire section is 589 words.)
Chapters 13-15 Summary
Mike Schwartz had told Henry to go running before dawn because a blizzard is expected to hit in the morning. So without much sleep, Henry dons his running clothes and heads to the stadium, where he runs the steps. The stone bleachers are knee-high; to make each step, he has to jump. He does this all the way to the top. He has been doing this ever since he arrived at Westich. It is yet another way Mike had suggested for Henry to build up his body. The first time Henry had run the steps, he slipped and cracked a tooth.
It is very cold and very dark. Henry can barely see where his feet are landing. When he finally reaches the top, he leans his back against the wall and looks out onto the heavy clouds that are pressing down toward the ground. When he makes it back to the bottom of the steps, he yells at himself to rally his cold, aching body to complete the workout. He tells himself he only has to do half the stadium that morning because it is so cold and he has had so little sleep. Then he can head back to his dorm, take a hot shower, and sleep until his first class. However, the more he runs, the more his body begins to warm up. By the time he reaches the halfway mark, his legs are loose and he begins to peel off some of his clothes. He knows then that he will make it.
Pella also cannot sleep. She gets out of the guest bed in her father’s home and puts on her swimsuit. She had competed in high school and is looking forward to doing laps before dawn in the college gym. She hears her father making coffee in the kitchen but feels it is too early to talk to him. She wants to get into the pool.
On her way across campus, just as she is about to mount the stairs to the gym, she trips over a pair of male legs. A mammoth of a body is lying on the quad wearing only a towel. She has never seen so much naked flesh on one body in her life. When she rights herself, she notices that the male barely even registered that someone had tripped over him. She asks if he is all right. The body shrugs its shoulders. Pella asks if he is locked out. The person says the door is open. Then he asked if she is freshman. She tells him she is just visiting. He introduces himself as Mike Schwartz. After a few more exchanges, Mike tells Pella that he did not get into law school. Pella responds by telling him lawyers are the most boring people in the world. Mike says he had wanted to be a governor.
Although she was cold and wanted to...
(The entire section is 610 words.)
Chapters 16-18 Summary
Mike Schwartz is driving himself and Henry to the hospital. Henry is talking about all the money he will get when he signs with a team. He will use the money, he says, to pay off Mike’s law school debts; it will be an investment. Mike makes Henry stop talking. He still has not told Henry that every school he has applied to has rejected him. He says that Henry needs to focus on his studies and his game. If any more agents call, Henry is to tell them to call the coach.
When they arrive at the hospital, Owen is sleeping. He looks awful. His face is bruised and swollen. Henry and Mike leave without speaking to him. Afterward, they go to baseball practice, where the coach tells Henry that he has heard that Aparicio Rodriguez is in the States and might stop by the campus to meet Henry and congratulate him for tying his record. The coach warns Henry not to let all this attention distract him from his game.
After practice, Henry expects to go out to eat as he and Schwartz have done for years every Friday night. However, this time, Schwartz is not in the mood for it. He excuses himself and goes home. Henry had wanted to wait until they were at the diner before telling Schwartz about Aparicio coming to campus. In the end, Henry decides that the news can wait. Instead he heads over to the campus dining hall to find some food.
While Henry is looking for food, President Affenlight is in Henry’s and Owen’s dorm room looking for Owen’s eyeglasses. Just as he notices that Owen’s computer is still on, the screen lights up and Affenlight finds himself looking at a pornographic Website showing a picture of a young nude male. This makes Affenlight extremely conscious not only of his advanced age but also of the difference in age between himself and Owen. This brings Affenlight’s fantasies of a love affair with the young boy back to reality. He questions his thoughts, wondering what type of relationship he was really searching for. The sexual part had not, until that moment, been considered. However, it seems that is what Owen is seeking.
As Affenlight is pondering his feelings and motives, Henry walks in. The sight of Affenlight in his room startles Henry and he drops one of the glasses of milk he carried from the dining hall. The glass shatters and the milk spays all over the room. Affenlight is also surprised and embarrassed. He rushes for a towel and begins to clean up the mess. Then he abruptly leaves....
(The entire section is 542 words.)
Chapters 19-21 Summary
The Westish baseball team is on its way to a double-header. This means that Henry has two games in which he might beat Rodriguez’s record for the most consecutive errorless games. Scouts from several professional baseball teams will be there, vying for Henry’s attention.
Mike Schwartz, who should be helping Henry calm his nerves, has problems of his own. For one, he is completely out of money. His credit cards are at their maximum levels and his bank account is empty. He is hungry, angry, and distracted. Thinking about Pella does not help, so he tries to keep her out of his thoughts, but that is impossible. He is very attracted to her.
Mike is also angry at himself for being so secretive around Henry. Mike has not told Henry about the letters of rejection. He should have shared the bad news as soon as it arrived. The longer he withholds the news, the harder it is to tell Henry.
On top of all this, Mike has no idea what he will do after graduating. Westish is more than his school; it has been his home. He feels the school is about to abandon him. His greatest memories are contained in the four years he has studied here. However, he is determined not to be one of those athletes who spend the rest of their lives talking about the good old days when they were in their teens. Mike also does not like the idea of becoming a coach. Everyone seems to think that is what he should do. Mike knows he is good at it. He can just look at Henry and see how he has helped the young boy, how he has molded him into the star he is about to become.
Mike has to open up to Henry. The poor kid does not understand why Mike has closed down on him. However, Mike cannot tell him anything today, right before a big game. So when Henry sits down close to Mike on the bus and tells Mike about the bottle of bourbon he has been carrying around, waiting for the opportunity to give it to him when he receives his letter of acceptance into law school, Mike is gruff with Henry. He is not in the mood to deal with all the recent rejection and the confusion that has come over him. Henry moves away from Mike, hurt from being turned away. Mike can no longer keep the secret, so he blurts it out. He did not get in anywhere, he tells Henry.
When they get to the field, Mike, as usual, inspires the team. They can win, he tells the boys, and they fully believe him. As a matter of fact, they do win both games. The bad news is that an...
(The entire section is 527 words.)
Chapters 22-24 Summary
Affenlight slips out of his office with a copy of Walt Whitman’s poems in his jacket and drives to the hospital to visit Owen. When he walks into the hospital room, he is surprised to see a very attractive African American woman sitting at Owen’s bedside. At first he assumes she is a doctor, but eventually Owen introduces her as his mother. Affenlight is confused, but then the more he compares the mother and son the more he sees the resemblance, despite the different coloring of their skin. However, Affenlight is still disappointed. He had been looking forward to reading to Owen.
Owen tells Affenlight that he will soon be released. Owen’s mother suggests that they go to dinner together to celebrate the occasion. It becomes increasingly evident that Owen’s mother is attracted to Affenlight; she becomes very flirtatious. Affenlight tries to talk his way out of the date. He says he made plans with his daughter. Owen’s mother, Genevieve, says they should make it a foursome. She says maybe her son will find Affenlight’s daughter to be the perfect woman he has been seeking.
Back at the baseball game, the two hundred or so people in the bleachers, including all the agents and all the players on the field, give Henry a standing ovation. It is the end of Henry’s errorless streak, which although it is bad news for Henry is still quite an accomplishment. Henry has tied Rodriguez’s record. Henry does not know what to do with all the attention. Mike motions for the boy to tip his hat at the crowd, which Henry does. This causes another round of applause. This does not, however, improve Henry’s game. Later he makes another error.
On campus at her father’s residence, Pella does not feel terribly excited about their dinner plans, but she is pleased with a few new purchases her father has made for her. She has a new dress and some pretty earrings. As she is looking at herself in the mirror, her father comes into her room and asks her to evaluate how he looks. Pella is surprised at her father’s sudden concern and lack of confidence. He had always been so “cool” in the past. Her father excuses his inflated concern by reminding her that he is the president of the college. His image is no longer merely personal; it is the image of the whole school. He has a meeting that night with one of the parents, one of the people who is investing in the school. He must look right. However, what Affenlight really wants...
(The entire section is 570 words.)
Chapters 25-27 Summary
After hanging up the phone with Genevieve, Affenlight realizes that he has no food in the house. Pella volunteers to walk over to the school dining hall to see if the cook has anything that will serve as appetizers. The chef initially reacts coldly to Pella until she tells him she is the president’s daughter. At this, the man leaves Pella standing in the dining hall. When he returns a few minutes later, he hands her a large container of food. He tells her to make sure her father knows this is the best he could do on such short notice. Before Pella leaves, she asks the cook if he is hiring. Pella has decided to stay at the school. She will need some source of income if she wants to become more independent of her father. The cook tells her that the morning shift is open, which begins at five thirty. Pella accepts the position.
When Genevieve and Owen arrive, the conversation centers on Owen’s recent award. His mother is proud of her son, but she worries about his being so far away. When Affenlight asks Owen how he is feeling, Owen says he has felt better. Owen says he is a little dizzy and keeps hearing bells. Affenlight hears bells too. The campus clock is ringing out, so he teases Owen, asking if he hears them only on the hour, which he does. Owen then adds that he has felt worse—such as when Jason broke up with him. This was Owen’s last boyfriend. Then Owen says he never wants to be hurt like that again. Affenlight understands that Owen is sending him a message. If they are to have a relationship, Owen appears to be saying, they must be very serious about it. Once Genevieve rejoins the conversation, it is obvious that she, too, is considering a relationship with Affenlight.
When Pella returns from the campus dining hall with the container of food, she sees Genevieve for the first time and understands why her father was nervous. Genevieve is a very beautiful and sexy woman. As they prepare the food, Genevieve and Pella have a chance for a private chat. Genevieve asks Pella to confirm that her father is a bachelor. She also wants to know if Affenlight is straight. Genevieve recognized Affenlight’s name as the author of a book Owen had read. The topic of the book concerned male friendship in the nineteenth century, and Genevieve assumed the book was about homosexuality. Pella tells Genevieve that her father has always dated women.
Before Owen leaves, he asks Affenlight if he is considering dating his...
(The entire section is 470 words.)
Chapters 28-29 Summary
Henry had promised himself the day off. However, when he gets out of bed, he heads straight for the stadium. He is determined to run harder than he has ever done before. He needs to test the limits of his body. He is also teaching himself to curse. He uses words he has never allowed himself to say before. He will do the stadium steps three times instead of just once.
Schwartz is there, watching Henry. He is holding two cups of hot chocolate. After Henry is finished running, they go to the baseball field. Henry needs to get over his fear of throwing. Schwartz continues asking Henry how his arm is. He wants to make sure nothing physical is hindering Henry’s throwing.
At their next game, Henry continues either to hesitate before he throws or to throw the ball away, missing his target. Schwartz interrupts the game and calls Henry to the pitcher’s mound to ask him how he is feeling. When Henry returns to his position, he silently begs the batter to hit the ball to him so he can prove to himself that his arm is fine. However, when the ball does come, again Henry second-guesses how he should toss the ball. The hesitation makes him commit another error.
On the way back to campus, Schwartz sees the dejection on Henry’s face. Schwartz knows that he should help the boy, but he cannot find a way to do so. He knows he is pulling away from Henry at the time his teammate needs him the most. Schwartz also recognizes that he is doing this because he is jealous of Henry’s success. Despite his feelings, Schwartz makes a silent promise that he will do everything he can, even if that means giving up Pella, at least temporarily. He will help Henry through this crisis. The team needs Henry.
Henry first sees Pella in his English literature class. Rick, one of Henry’s teammates and fellow classmates, identifies her as Affenlight’s daughter. Rick had gone to high school with Pella. He knows she ran away with an older man who had come to the school as a lecturer.
After class, Pella calls out Henry’s name. She had guessed it was him from Mike’s description. She says Mike talks about him a lot. They eat lunch together, and Pella questions Henry about what it feels like to do something really well. She claims she has never realized that level of accomplishment. Henry tells her that he really does not think about it until he messes up.
Later at the game, Henry continues to make errors on the...
(The entire section is 522 words.)
Chapters 30-32 Summary
Owen makes a habit of stopping by Affenlight’s office in the afternoons. At first his excuse is that he is having trouble reading; his mind seems unwilling to hold onto a thought. So Affenlight helps Owen with his studies.
Since that kiss in Affenlight’s kitchen the night Owen’s mother had visited, Affenlight and Owen do not touch one another again until one afternoon in Affenlight’s office. That day, they kiss and have sex. Afterward, Affenlight does not feel very well. He is confused. He has never had sex with a man before. Owen asks if he wants him to leave. Affenlight is not sure, but he does not confess this to Owen. Affenlight wants Owen and does not want him at the same time.
Sensing Affenlight’s confusion, Owen finally walks out of the room. Affenlight is relieved. He goes to the bathroom and vomits. He swears that was the first and the last time he will ever have sex with another man. Then Owen returns to the office. He brings two cups of coffee and suggests that they smoke. Affenlight feels better then. Life is not as complicated as he made it seem. Relationships can be very simple.
This routine continues. Owen would come to the office; Affenlight would read; then they would have sex, with coffee and a smoke afterward. Affenlight lets it be known that he was not available for afternoon conferences. He tells everyone that he is putting himself on an afternoon exercise session. No one knows that Affenlight’s afternoons now belong to Owen.
Meanwhile, Henry is in the midst of training. To put an edge on his exercise, he challenges his teammate, Starblind, to a race: twenty sprints around the track, with each round tallied. Henry has never beaten Starblind in a race, but he is determined to do so now.
Starblind wins the first eight sprints. Henry ties him on the ninth. Henry sees that Starblind is getting tired and is having trouble catching his breath. Henry wins the next nine laps. Then he lets Starblind with the nineteenth, so the final race will determine the overall score. As they walk up to the line, Henry calls on every ounce of strength he has left. Henry can hear Schwartz’s voice in his head, telling him to empty himself of everything. Henry lets out a cry as he pushes himself to go faster. Finally, he pulls away from Starblind and crosses the finishing line first. Starblind crumples to the ground, sick to his stomach. Henry leaves Starblind alone. For some...
(The entire section is 445 words.)
Chapters 33-34 Summary
Coach Cox and Mike Schwartz, the baseball team’s captain, discuss Henry. Both the coach and Mike had thought Henry’s game was improving until the shortstop’s last erratic throw. The team is on a ferry on their way back to campus. Henry is keeping a distance from the other team members.
As the coach and Mike continue their conversation, the subject of Mike’s finances comes up. The coach has heard that Mike’s funds are very low. This is true, but Mike is embarrassed to have the coach know this. However, the coach insists that Mike accept a gift of $1,000, which he presses into Mike’s hands. Mike wants to turn the offer down but it is too tempting.
After the coach walks away, Mike finds Henry and asks how he is feeling. Henry says he is all right but points out that the error he made at the end of the game caused the team to lose. Henry tells Mike he does not know what to do to bring himself out of this slump. Henry then disappears. A few minutes later, Mike hears someone running toward him. It is Henry, and he is breathing heavily. Mike attempts to slow Henry down by talking to him. He can tell Henry is having a panic attack. One of the other teammates decides to run along with Henry, hoping that will calm him. Before the ferry docks, Henry is breathing easier and is not quite as agitated.
At home in his own bed, Schwartz feels the exhaustion of the day. Pella is lying beside him, anxious to share sex with him, but Mike has no energy for it. Instead he talks about Henry, which annoys Pella. Mike seems to be more absorbed in Henry’s well-being than in hers. Mike knows Pella wants to have sex with him, and he is worried that she thinks the reason for his lack of interest is because he is worried about Henry. Even if this is true, Mike does not want Pella to think this. She has already complained about how Henry has taken over Mike’s life.
Finally Pella joins Mike in his evaluation of Henry’s problem. She likens Henry’s block to a writer’s block, which usually is caused by a lack of confidence in one’s skills. Pella suggests that Henry see a therapist. Mike responds that Henry is seeing one: him. Mike wants to take full responsibility for Henry and is unwilling to admit that he might not be qualified to help Henry. Mike adds that Henry just needs to relax. Pella picks up on this cue and tells Mike that he needs to relax, too. This does not go over very well. The two of them...
(The entire section is 648 words.)
Chapters 35-36 Summary
As Pella makes her way home, she contemplates her relationship with Mike. She admits she likes him, but she feels that she is giving more than she is receiving. The more she thinks about Mike and their recent discussion, the more angered she becomes. To release some of her emotions, she slaps at the trunk of a tree as she passes, but she hits her finger against it at a bad angle and sprains a joint. Two young male students have been watching her and mock her. Pella charges at them, venting her frustrations upon them.
While she stands there, she notices something hanging from the limb of another nearby tree. It turns out to be Henry doing pull-ups. It is four in the morning. They exchange a few remarks. Pella concludes that Henry does not seem overly stressed and continues on her way home.
Pella’s father greets her at home. She is not in the mood to be reprimanded for spending the night out. She no longer wants to be treated as her father’s child, and she tells him so. She then announces that David will be there soon; she asks if her father will join them for dinner because she needs his support. Her father agrees.
As the morning progresses, Mike makes it over to the gym, then he calls Henry and asks him to come over. Once Henry is there, Mike plays a DVD he owns. It is of the first time Mike saw Henry, the time after a tournament when Henry did drills with his coach. As Mike watches the DVD, he realizes that baseball, more than any other sport, is an art form. The conflict in baseball is that even though it is an art, the game of baseball requires that the person who plays it become a machine. It does not matter how well someone plays but rather how often or how reliably that person can repeat the perfect performance. The real question of baseball is whether the player can perform on demand, like a car.
As Mike watches the DVD, he sees a special look in Henry’s eyes. In the video, Henry looks aloof, the way a musician looks when he becomes so involved in the music that he is unreachable. Mike does not see that same look in Henry now. He had thought that if he showed the DVD to Henry, maybe Henry would see the difference too. However, Henry seems only to notice how much skinnier he was back then.
The pressure of baseball, Mike concludes, is different from other sports, such as football. In football, a player is almost always surrounded by a group, and there is always a lot of...
(The entire section is 519 words.)
Chapters 37-39 Summary
When Pella is at work cleaning dishes in the campus dining hall, Chef Spirodocus compliments her. He also tells her that he thinks she might make a great cook. If she is interested, he is willing to teach her. He says he has more experience than merely cooking in a college cafeteria. Pella is excited that someone thinks she has talent. Learning how to be a chef would give her a new focus in life.
While Pella is at work, Affenlight is in his office, thinking about Owen. Owen had been in Affenlight’s office a few days ago, looking at old college yearbooks, when he came across a 1972 photograph of when Affenlight was a student at Westish. After Owen made a statement about wishing he had known Affenlight back then, Affenlight felt awkward. He tried to figure out exactly what Owen meant. Did Owen think Affenlight is too old? Affenlight said that back when he was a student, he was different. He might not have been capable of falling in love, for example.
Now Affenlight waits in his office alone, wondering why Owen is late. He questions if he might have said something that caused Owen to not show up for their usual afternoon meeting.
Eventually Affenlight gives up waiting for Owen. When he opens the door of his office to fix himself a cup of coffee, he finds David, Pella’s husband, standing there. The man is soaking wet from having walked through the rain. The two men have never met before. As David stands before him, Affenlight admits to himself that he no longer feels angry with David. He thought he would never forgive David for luring his young, high school–aged daughter away, but now that he is in an affair with Owen, he better realizes how such things can happen.
David is apparently not ready to be so cordial or forgiving. The first thing David says to Affenlight is, “Where’s my wife?” Affenlight invites David into his office and thinks David does not look as substantial as he does in the photograph on his firm’s Website. Today, Affenlight evaluates, David does not looking as confident. David asks if Pella is all right. Affenlight says Pella looks a lot better now than when she first arrived; when he first saw her, Pella looked “beat-up.”
Shortly after this exchange, there is a knock on the door. It is Pella, who greets her father and husband with the remark that she is glad not to see any blood on the floor, suggesting that she thought they might be fighting. Affenlight...
(The entire section is 499 words.)
Chapters 40-42 Summary
Affenlight is obsessed with discovering why Owen did not show up for their afternoon date. He walks to his window and looks across the quad. He can see Owen’s dorm window. A figure is standing there. Affenlight assumes it is Owen, so he calls. The figure moves but no one picks up the phone. Unable to stay in his office and do nothing any longer, Affenlight decides to go over to the dorm. He knows he should not be doing this. Someone might see him. It is very un-president-like to be seen in the students’ dorm. Affenlight just cannot stop himself.
Owen answers the door. When questioned about the phone, he says Henry must have turned the ringer off. Henry has recently grown tired of talking to agents. Owen then tells Affenlight that he did not go to his office because his doctor cleared him to play baseball again, so he went to practice. However, Owen admits that he has been reluctant about his and Affenlight’s relationship, but not for the reasons Affenlight had considered. Owen still likes Affenlight but feels tired of only meeting in Affenlight’s office. He says he wants to go on a real date. He wants to go to dinner or go for a ride in the country, anything a little more exciting than the same thing they have been doing day after day. Maybe they could spend a night in a motel room.
While Affenlight and Owen are talking, Pella is getting ready for dinner with David. After her shower, she stops at a window; when she looks out she sees her father emerging from the dorm across the quad. As she is trying to figure out what he is doing there, she notices Owen Dunne come out of the same door a few minutes later. She finds this very curious. Her intuition tells her it was not just a coincidence.
When David and Pella enter the restaurant, Pella notices one of her female professors, Ms. Eglantine. She wishes the professor would join them for dinner and maybe flirt with her dad. Pella could use the distraction right then, and her father could use it to get his head straight, Pella thinks. However, Pella forgets about her father, especially after he calls to tell her he cannot make their dinner date. He claims he has a business meeting to attend.
So Pella and David begin their discussion. David’s tone is very condescending, implying that he knows what is best for Pella. He mocks the job she has in the campus dining hall even when she tells him that she is being tutored to become a chef. David says San...
(The entire section is 540 words.)
Chapters 43-46 Summary
Two members of the baseball team, Starblind and Rick, come to Schwartz’s apartment to talk about Henry. They tell Schwartz that as captain of the team he should tell Henry to take some time off. Henry’s error lost them their last game, and Starblind and Rick do not want that to happen again. The team has a chance to make it to the finals for the first time in Westish’s history, and they want a fair chance of accomplishing this feat. They think Henry might hold them back. Besides, they say, a day off might do Henry some good.
Mike Schwartz knows how negatively Starblind’s and Rick’s suggestion would affect Henry. Henry already has lost so much confidence in his game due to the injury he caused Owen. Mike does not want to add another burden to Henry’s problems. So he tells Starblind and Rick that the team has to support Henry. They cannot abandon him now, not even for just one game. Their attitude must be that they live or die with Henry.
Henry, meanwhile, is in his dorm room. He wishes Owen were there so he would have someone to talk to, but Owen is gone. Henry calls his sister, Sophie. His sister has always been very supportive. She wastes no time in sensing that Henry might be under stress and tells him that he will be all right. Sophie is also very excited about coming to Westish. She is halfway there, staying in a motel for the night with her family. Tomorrow has been designated Henry Skrimshander Day. Aparicio Rodriguez will be in the stands at tomorrow’s baseball game.
Henry still feels agitated even after hanging up the phone, so he picks up his favorite book, The Art of Fielding. He flips the book to a random page and finds a quote by Rodriguez that reads, “The shortstop has worked so hard for so long that he no longer thinks.” The words soothe Henry for a while. Rodriguez is right. Henry cannot think his way out of his problems any more than he can think his way through a baseball game. Thinking only makes it worse. What he has to remember to do is simply to act and to work. He has all those years of working behind him, and he needs to rely on them. If he can do this, he will be all right. He thinks, so what if he made some mistakes and broke his streak? Tomorrow he can start all over. Henry remembers that one of the agents had told him it was not so bad that he made an error. Teams can see past that. Teams want someone with potential, and surely Henry has a lot of it....
(The entire section is 481 words.)
Chapters 47-50 Summary
Pella is sitting in the stands, watching the baseball game on Henry Skrimshander Day. There are no seats available on the home team side, so Pella sits on the visitors’ side of the bleachers. After Westish’s centerfielder makes a spectacular play to catch the ball and cause an out, one of the visitors’ fans suggests that their team should hit all their balls to Henry, insinuating that Henry would miss it. This irritates Pella. When she hears the same man say he is willing to place a bet that Skrimshander will toss a ball into the stands (in other words, make an error) before the end of the game, Pella jumps in and says she would bet the man one hundred dollars Henry will not do that.
When Pella turns her attention to the field again, she sees her father. He is standing at the fence near the dugout. She wonders how he has time to come to the game when he did not have time to meet her for dinner the previous night. She watches as her father makes his rounds, shaking hands with parents, saying hello to some of the students. Then she notices something peculiar. Her father is talking to Owen, who is standing on the other side of the fence, and her father is laughing. Pella does not like the look on her father’s face. He reminds her of a junior high student who has a mad crush on some unreachable lover.
Then she remembers hearing that her father had ridden in the ambulance when Owen was taken to the hospital. She recalls how skittish her father had acted when Owen and his mother came to the house for dinner. Then she recalls his visit to Owen’s dorm and finally his cancelling last night’s dinner date with her. None of this would add up if Pella continued to believe her dad was straight. But she begins to wonder if he is no longer straight. On top of it all, Pella realizes that her father lied to her. He said he was tied up in a business meeting last night. That was, more than likely, untrue. He probably was out with Owen. Pella worries that her father is losing his sense of propriety. What he is doing is dangerous. He has made himself too vulnerable and might be caught.
When Pella turns her attention back to the game, Henry has just escaped making another error. The ball he threw was too high, but Rick caught it. There is one out.
Henry talks himself through the next play, saying that was the error he was destined to commit. Now that the error is over, he can get his head back into the game....
(The entire section is 550 words.)
Chapters 51-53 Summary
The Westish baseball team loses the game Henry walked out of by ten to two. After the game, no one talks about the ceremony that had been planned as part of Henry Skrimshander Day. Without Henry, the second game of the double-header goes in Westish’s favor. Izzy, the boy who replaced Henry at shortstop, scores the winning run.
Mike Schwartz soaks in the whirlpool. His knees and back are aching. Playing in the pitcher position after four years of college football is hard on his joints. As he walks to the gym, Mike runs into Sophie, Henry’s sister. She has been looking for her brother, but no one seems to know where he is. Mike tells her that Henry is probably at the place where all the other team members likely to meet after a game. Sophie responds that she has seen all the other members, and no one has seen Henry. Mike makes a few phone calls but it seems that Henry has completely disappeared. When Mike calls Pella, she tells him she has to talk to him really soon; she has a problem that is worrying her. Mike puts her off. All he can think about right then is Henry.
Mike finally finds Owen, and the two of them search the campus. When Henry’s parents call Owen, he lies and says Henry has gone for a walk. Henry’s father is having a fit of anger. His son should never have walked off the field. Henry has never been known to drink, so the last place Mike and Owen look for him is at the local bar. Henry’s sister, Sophie, is there, and she is drunk. Starblind is with her. Mike tells him that Sophie is not yet eighteen. Then Mike picks up Starblind as easily if he were a child and presses him against the wall. He pushes his forearm into Starblind’s collarbone. Mike sees Starblind as a punching bag, something on which to take out all his frustrations. However, Mike is not so enraged that he has lost his sense of trouble. If he makes the scene too bad, the police will be called in, so Mike punches Starblind in the solar plexus once and lets him go.
Mike and Owen walk out of the bar with Sophie. They know she is too drunk to take her to the motel where her parents are staying, so Mike decides to take Sophie to Owen’s room and make up some story so her parents will not worry about her. On the way back to campus, Mike drives his car so slowly he does not even have to push the gas pedal. He and Owen stare out at the landscape, trying to find Henry behind every bush. Mike tells Owen that he is really worried...
(The entire section is 532 words.)
Chapters 54-57 Summary
After the game, Henry grabs his bag and makes his way through the crowd. He had wanted to shake Aparicio Rodriguez’s hand. The man looked exactly as Henry had imagined, but crowds around the baseball hero caused Henry to change his mind.
Instead he slips between Westish Field and the football stadium. There he finds a place where no one will see him and sits down and cries. This pouring out of his emotions does not make him feel better, so he puts on his weighted vest, the one he uses when he runs. He cinches the straps and pulls them tighter, then he heads for the lake.
The water is cold and soon his teeth are chattering. He sinks in, gets his head wet, then starts to swim. Henry swims past the first and second buoys and continues to make his way out into the lake. He goes farther than he has ever seen anyone else swim.
When he stops and looks back at the campus, he thinks all he wants is for nothing to ever change, at least not for the worse. He wants his dreams of success to return. He wants to see improvement each and every day. He wants everything to be perfect. That is the principle he has lived with his whole life, but now, putting his thoughts into words, he thinks he sounds crazy. Most of his life he has been chained to the one thought that if he worked hard, he would get what he wants. Now everything feels broken.
Henry treads water for a long time before swimming back to shore. On land he feels cold, so he takes off his clothes and covers himself in the sand and falls asleep.
In the morning, Henry heads back to the dorm. He is there for only a few minutes when he finds Pella knocking on his door. She tells him how awful he looks. Then she relays a message. Mike Schwartz has left his car keys so Henry can drive himself to the game. After Henry says he has no intention of going to the baseball game, Pella decides to stay with him. She makes him some tea and then lies down on the bed with him. They make love. Henry and Pella are still in bed when Owen and Mike return. Pella apologizes to Mike. He retorts, “For what? For fixing everything?” Everyone in the room feels the tension between them.
Later when Pella goes home, she runs into her father. She tells him she is moving out. She also confronts him about his relationship with Owen. Affenlight does not deny it. Pella wants to warn him that his affair will cause his ruin, but she holds her tongue. She merely says...
(The entire section is 465 words.)
Chapters 58-60 Summary
Henry finds Coach Cox and apologizes for his behavior. The coach tells Henry that though he does not want to, he will have to suspend him. Henry has missed two games. The coach will suspend him for two more, then Henry can come back. However, Henry says he was thinking of an even longer period of time off. Henry says he wants to retire from the team. The coach is startled and tells Henry that he will not allow this. He will not allow Henry to quit. When Henry will not listen to him, the coach takes Henry to Schwartz, hoping Mike can talk some sense into Henry and convince him to stick with the team.
Mike is in a foul mood. He tells Henry that Izzy has already replaced him. Then he yells out that Henry cannot even throw any more. Henry says this is why he is quitting. Mike responds, “I thought it was because you nailed my girlfriend.” Henry does not know why, but he shouts back that he has nailed all of Mike’s girlfriends, though this is untrue. Mike says he does not care. Then he goes around the locker room and asks all the other baseball players if they care if Henry leaves. No one responds, so Mike tells them all to get out on the field. Only the coach is left in the room. He asks Henry if he is going to practice. Henry says he is not.
Elsewhere in town, Affenlight parks in front of a house that is for sale. It used to be the residence of the president. The college sold it because Affenlight did not want to live in it, and another professor bought it. Now Affenlight is thinking of buying it for himself. It would give him more privacy because it is off the campus. It would also provide more room in case Pella wanted to come back and live with him. Affenlight talks to the owners. He thinks they might reach a decent deal.
Still in the locker room, Henry feels anger inside of him. At first he thinks his anger is aimed at Mike, but he realizes that it was not Mike who messed up his life. Mike caused him pain, though. It was Mike who changed Henry’s life direction. It was Mike who deserted him when Henry first arrived on campus. Mike had taken months before he even called Henry. The more Henry thinks about him, the more he hates Mike for all the physical pain he has caused—for forcing him to run the stadium steps, for all the power drinks he had to consume, for all the pull-ups and weightlifting. Henry had craved that pain at one time, but it has led him nowhere. Before he met Mike, all Henry had were...
(The entire section is 486 words.)
Chapters 61-65 Summary
Mike Schwartz’s body is wracked with pain. His back and knees hurt from football and playing on the baseball team. However, when he visits his doctor, he cannot get the medication he wants. Mike’s doctor is concerned that Mike has become addicted to the pain-killing drugs. Instead, his doctor offers various injections. Mike leaves the office desperate for relief.
On his way back to campus, Mike drives past the house where Pella is now living with two other female students. Mike had told himself he would not spy on her, but he wants to confirm a suspicion he has. He pulls over and parks across the street from the house and waits. In a short time, he sees a figure through the window. His suspicions are confirmed: Henry is there.
Later Mike turns his attention to his team. For the first time in Westish history, the baseball team has qualified for the end-of-season tournament. When Mike arrives for practice, though, he hears some of the players talking about the party they are going to have when their games are over. Mike does not like the team’s attitude; it is as if they expect to lose. He especially does not appreciate that the players have mentioned Henry’s name, wishing he were back on the team. In a fit of rage, Mike throws a glass bottle across the room to get his team members’ attention. He yells at them that they are not going to lose; they going all the way. They are going to win the national title.
After everyone else goes out on the field, Mike contemplates his future. He knows that after the tournament, he will have nothing left. He will have graduated, but he has no plans for what to do next. He feels that he has no friends and definitely no girlfriends. He will have no more baseball or football. He also has no pills and no money.
The game that will determine the baseball team’s chances of competing in the finals is finally here. Affenlight arrives to the game late and sees the score is three to zero in the visitors’ favor. Owen is up at bat. It is the first time Affenlight has seen Owen play. As Owen stands waiting for the pitch, Affenlight senses how vulnerable the boy is. Affenlight does not want Owen to be hurt again. Owen swings after a couple of pitches and hits a double, landing him on second base. After another two batters, the bases are loaded and Mike Schwartz is up at the plate. Mike hits a home run. The score is now four to three in Westish’s favor. When the game...
(The entire section is 509 words.)
Chapters 66-69 Summary
Though alcohol is supposed to be banned from college locker rooms, Mike has used what he had left of the money the coach gave him to buy a case of champagne. The baseball team celebrates by pouring much of it over one another’s heads, as they have seen other athletes do in celebration on television.
While this is going on, Mike reflects on his prospects again. They still seem dismal. He does not have enough athletic talent, like Henry does. Mike has no art in any field that he can call his own. All he knows how to do is to motivate other people. Henry had been his best student. However, Henry started to worry about not being perfect and it ruined him. Now both of them are all messed up.
Meanwhile, Henry has been hiding out in Pella’s house. He refuses to go outside. He even waits until Pella’s roommates are gone before he leaves Pella’s room. Once the house is empty, Henry passes his time cleaning up the kitchen. He feels guilty about eating the girls’ food, but he will not go outside long enough to buy any of his own. He would rather not eat at all. Most of the time that is exactly what he does. He thinks he will be better off if he does not eat or drink and merely shrinks into oblivion.
When Pella comes home this day, she is determined to get Henry moving forward in some way. He has been in hiding for too long. She makes Henry sit down so he will pay attention to her. Then she asks him to define exactly what he is going through and what his plans are. Henry has trouble doing this. He is not used to expressing his feelings to anyone. Pella tries to prompt Henry into talking by telling him Chef Spirodocus has offered him a job. The dining room chef likes Henry and wants to help. However, Henry says he cannot accept the offer. He is not ready.
When Henry objects to what Pella has suggested, she tries another angle. She gives him a pill she has been using to fight her depression. Henry refuses it. He says the drugs will change him; a pill is too potent. What Henry is looking for is something that is empty.
Pella then announces that she made a deal with herself on the way home. Either she would talk Henry into taking the job or accepting the pill or she would ask him to move out of her house. She finds that she has no choice left but to ask Henry to leave, which he does. He walks back to his dorm and finds that Owen is not home.
Meanwhile in the gym, Mike is meeting...
(The entire section is 630 words.)
Chapters 70-72 Summary
As Affenlight works in his office, preparing the speech he plans to give for commencement ceremonies, his phone rings. On the other end is Owen, calling from South Carolina. The baseball team has won the first game in the national tournament, which means they will be playing in the finals. Before hanging up, Owen asks if Affenlight will be at the game tomorrow. Affenlight confirms that he has already bought his airline ticket. He had not wanted to tell Owen early because he was afraid he might jinx the team, but he had bought the ticket because he assumed the team would win. Before they hang up, Owen asks Affenlight to go over to his dorm to check on Henry. Affenlight agrees to do this.
A few minutes later, there is a knock on Affenlight’s door. There he finds Evan Melkin, the dean of student affairs, and Bruce Gibbs. After the he invites them in, Bruce tells Affenlight they have a problem. A parent reported seeing Affenlight enter a motel room with a student. The parent, Gibbs insinuates, was Henry’s father. After this allegation, Melkin began an investigation. He went to the motel and confirmed that Affenlight had been there. Then Melkin must have watched outside Affenlight’s apartment because he later saw Owen leaving Affenlight’s apartment early one morning. When Melkin asked questions of people living in Owen’s dorm, he discovered that someone had seen a very agitated Affenlight enter Owen’s room. Affenlight does not deny any of these allegations.
Gibbs tells Affenlight that he can resign from his position as president and no further investigation will be held. However, if he refuses to do so, a full investigation will ensue and Affenlight could be found guilty of an ethics charge and be fired. If he chose the second route, the school and the students would stand to be hurt.
Affenlight thinks about Pella and Owen and how they might be affected. He does not want to hurt either of them. Pella had just decided to register for the fall term. She was committed to finally getting her degree and doing something with her life. Owen was looking forward to going to Japan. Affenlight cannot afford to contaminate their futures with his indiscretions. He wonders why he had allowed this to happen, why he had been so stupid and careless. As the men continue to talk to him, Affenlight feels a dull pain in his chest.
Once the men are gone, Affenlight walks over to Owen’s dorm to find Henry. He has...
(The entire section is 547 words.)
Chapters 73-75 Summary
Before returning to his apartment, Affenlight walks to the statue of Herman Melville, which was erected after Affenlight, as a student, had discovered Melville’s papers—notes of a lecture Melville had made at Westish a long time ago. As Affenlight sits there, the pain in his chest returns. He decides if it does not get any better, he will make an appointment with his doctor.
When he gets home, he sends Pella an email. He wants to be very open with her, exposing the truths of his life, but he ends up merely telling her that he has seen Henry. Affenlight concludes that if he told Pella the truth, she would leave Westish. But here she has a chance. She did not finish high school and her SAT scores have expired, so it might take a couple of years before she could be accepted at another school. He does not want to ruin her chances. However, there is another reason that Affenlight wants Pella to stay. The college could make him leave, but they would not force Pella out. She could become an extension of him. The idea is irrational, but at that moment, it is how Affenlight feels.
Affenlight also wants to write to Owen, but again he does not know what to say. If he disappears, Affenlight thinks Owen will eventually figure out what happened.
In South Carolina, Westish’s baseball team is ready to go onto the field. As Mike Schwartz prepares to squat behind the plate in his catcher position, he remembers feeling a premonition the previous night that Henry would show up for the game. It was a silly thought, Mike tells himself. The last thing the team needs is Henry’s presence. It would be a distraction.
Outside the field, Henry is trying to get past the man at the gate. Henry is not wearing his team uniform but he is carrying his team duffle bag. He tries to convince the guard that he is on the Westish team, but the man does not believe him. A team member would not be so late and out of uniform. Eventually the man lets Henry in after Henry digs through his bag and finds his crumpled, striped jersey with the number three on the back.
At first, Henry finds a seat in the stands. However, when someone shows up and claims the seat, Henry is forced to stand. When Henry gets close to the outfield fence, some of the players see him and wave for him to come to the dugout. Coach Cox finally sees Henry and does the same. The coach tells Henry that he needs him to coach at first base.
(The entire section is 645 words.)
Chapters 76-78 Summary
Henry’s first thought is that he is dead. He is in some dark place and is having trouble moving his body. Then he sees Mike Schwartz sitting next to his bed. Henry does not remember what happened or how he got to this place. Schwartz fills in the details.
When the last ball was pitched to Henry, it came too close to his body. Henry thought the ball was going to hit him in the face, so he turned his shoulder to it. Mike thinks Henry purposefully took the shot to his head to get on base. Mike adds that Henry scored the winning run.
After Henry was hit with the ball, the coach tried to pull him out of the game. As Mike tells the story, Henry refused to be removed. Mike was up at bat next and hit a long drive. Henry ran home before the outfielder could get the ball across the home plate. The team members and some of the fans were so excited, they all hopped on Henry. When they got off of him, Henry was unconscious. The Westish team won the game and the national championship.
Now Henry is in the hospital with a concussion. The doctors discovered that Henry was also terribly undernourished. Before Mike leaves to catch his flight back home, he tells Henry that he is in the psychiatric ward under observation for having nearly starved himself to death. The doctors plan to keep Henry there for a few days.
After Mike leaves, Henry receives a phone call. It is the recruiting agent from the St. Louis Cardinals. They have chosen Henry to play for them. He was picked in the thirty-third round—quite a bit lower than Henry had been told when he was at the top of his game. Nonetheless, Henry is excited. He wants to make sure the scout knows he is in the hospital in the psych ward. The man from the Cardinals tells Henry that he knows all about the troubles Henry has endured in the past months. The team will give him time to recover and then prove himself.
Two months later, Pella is making plans for the fall. She has made arrangements with Professor Eglantine to tutor her and has signed a lease with Mike to share an apartment. Everything is planned. There is only one thing she has to take care of. Dean Melkin has been trying to get in touch of her. He wants her to come to his office and talk to him as soon as she can. Finally Pella gives in.
Dean Melkin appears very happy to finally see her. Pella finds this strange and cannot quite figure it out until Melkin asks how her father died. He...
(The entire section is 676 words.)
Chapters 79-82 Summary
Pella has a plan. When she tells Mike, he thinks she is crazy. Pella is insistent. She wants Mike to help her move her father’s body from the college cemetery, where it is buried, to the lake. Pella claims that her father always loved the water. He always lived near water. His last wish, Pella says, if he had had time to make it, would have been to be buried in the lake.
Mike tells her they will get into a lot of trouble if they are caught, but Pella does not care. She recruits Owen and Henry to help them. At night, they each have shovels in their hands as they walk across campus to the cemetery. They take turns digging throughout the night. When they reach the casket, Mike digs around it and eventually is able to hoist up one end. Pella, Owen, and Henry pull from above as Mike lifts the casket.
Once they have the casket above ground, they open it. Mike is afraid to look inside, but Henry tells him it is not too bad. The embalming fluids have preserved Affenlight as well as could be expected. They place the body into a large plastic bag Mike had found in the gym, then they carry it to a waiting rowboat.
They row out to the middle of the lake and wait for Owen to give the signal that he is ready. Owen says some words to Affenlight, telling him how much he influenced his life. Then they lower the weighted bag into the water.
When they get back to the shore, the four of them stand there for a while and look out at the water. Pella is the first to leave. She has to go to work. Then Owen leaves. Mike and Henry are the only ones left. Henry looks at Mike’s dirty face and is reminded of the first time he saw him. Henry asks when practice starts. Then they go back to the cemetery and refill the hole they dug.
As they do, Henry recalls some of the discussions he had with the psychiatrist while he was in the hospital. Her impressions of Mike, through the stories Henry told her, were not completely positive. She claimed that in their relationship, Henry felt he had to lay down his life for Mike. Henry disagreed. He told her he did not need to do this. The psychiatrist then asked him, if he did not need to do it, why did he do it? Henry had pondered this question all summer long.
After they are finished shoveling the dirt, Henry shows Mike the contract he received from the Cardinals. Mike tells him he had better send it in; he has almost reached the deadline. Henry says he does not...
(The entire section is 652 words.)