Chapter 19 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 561

Chapter 19 returns to the flagpole skater, the stunt performer hired by Holman's to draw attention to the department store. For days, the man has been atop the pole, skating in circles. He has never come down and people begin to wonder how such a thing is possible without cheating....

(The entire section contains 561 words.)

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Chapter 19 returns to the flagpole skater, the stunt performer hired by Holman's to draw attention to the department store. For days, the man has been atop the pole, skating in circles. He has never come down and people begin to wonder how such a thing is possible without cheating. The general consensus among those watching below is that some sort of support pole must rise through the platform at night so that the man could rest a bit. But no one really begrudges the flagpole skater this brief respite since he did not actually come down, not for fifty-one hours. 

Holman's made a savvy marketing ploy when they decided to hire the stuntman. People came from as far away as Grimes Point, and it seemed most of Salinas made it to gawk as well. Not everyone went into the store to shop, but many did, and Holman's made the most of their moments in the sun, with sale after sale designed to lure in shoppers. 

The flagpole skater has more to worry about than just his stamina, as he was attempting to break his own record (which had stood for a solid year so far). On the second day, the skater reported that he was being fired at with an air gun. After some detective work, the culprit turned out to be Doctor Merrivale. The doctor plugged away at the skater as he hid behind the curtains in his office. Once caught, he swore he would stop and the police left it at that. He was, after all, "prominent in the Masonic lodge."

Henri, the painter, had refused to go with Doc on his collecting trip to La Jolla because he was so enamored with the flagpole skater. His interest has not lessened one bit when Doc returns. He is intrigued with the premise of the whole stunt on a philosophical level. Something about the endurance wed to such futility must have appealed to Henri. He resolves to build a platform for himself at home to study the problem personally and more intensely. 

Henri is not the only one whose imagination is captivated by the skater. It seems everyone in town is under a similar spell to varying degrees. Only Mack and the boys are immune. They do take a look to see what all the fuss is about, but quickly decide that it "didn't make much sense" and move on. 

For everyone else, after they become used to the daredevil aspect and have more or less solved the sleeping issue, another practical conundrum consumes them: how, exactly, does the skater go to the bathroom? 

The mystery bothers one man far more than others. Richard Frost is obsessed with it. He does not sleep. He gets drunk in order to try to push the issue out of his mind and instead gets into a fight with his wife. Richard gets out of bed, dresses, and goes out. Mrs. Frost is sure he is going to visit one of the girls at the Bear Flag and cries. 

What he does is march down the hill and then to the street that leads to Holman's. He stands at the base of the flagpole and finally summons the courage to call out to the skater. He asks, "How—how do you—go to the toilet?" 

"I've got a can up here," the voice says. 

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