East of Eden Chapter 55
by John Steinbeck

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Chapter 55

Cal comes home to find his house lit up and the door standing ajar. It is cold inside, and Lee is huddled in a chair. Adam's bedroom door is open and Cal can hear voices coming from within. Lee bluntly tells Cal that his brother is dead and that his father has suffered a stroke. 

Cal heads for his father's room but Lee stops him, telling him to let the doctors do their jobs. Cal wants to know how bad his father's stroke was, but Lee doe not know. He tells Cal that his father repeated the news of Aron's death to himself over and over for about five minutes until the news "seemed to get into his brain and explode there." 

The doctor emerges and asks Cal what he knows about strokes. He confirms that Lee is aware that Adam has had smaller episodes in the past but says that this one was very bad. Doctor Murphy says he is unlikely to recover, that he will be all but helpless, and that Adam will require around-the-clock nursing care. He does not know how long Adam has to live; maybe a day, maybe a year or two. 

Cal goes to his father's room and sees the great man now pale and expressionless. Cal sits at the side of his bed and manages to say, "I'm sorry, Father." Adam blinks in response.

Cal decides that Adam can hear him and confesses everything. He tells his father he does not know why he does bad things, that he does not want to do them but somehow ends up doing them anyway.

He looks to his father for some sort of forgiveness or understanding, but all he sees are Adam's blank "terrible eyes." Cal knows that his father's eyes will haunt him for the rest of his life.

Cal hears the doorbell and moments later a falsely cheerful nurse bursts into Adam's room. She immediately takes charge and begins ordering Lee around. She calls Adam "sugar" and treats him like a child. Cal and Lee exit the room. 

Lee asks Cal if his father was able to speak to him. Cal shakes his head. Lee assures him they can get used to anything, but Cal says he cannot. He says his life will be horrible and that he will not be able to stand it. He implies that he might even take his own life.

This infuriates Lee, and he calls Cal a "mouse" and a "nasty cur," one who is unable to see "goodness all around" him. Cal retorts that he is a murderer; his actions got his brother killed. Furthermore, Adam knows it; his eyes accused him. 

Lee reasons with Cal. He tells him his brain is affected and whatever he observed cannot be interpreted as cognizant thought. He reminds Cal of the difficulty Adam had with reading over the last several months; his inability to focus on the words came from pressure on the ocular nerve. Lee insists Cal go visit Abra. 

At Abra's house, her mother refuses to let Cal see her, but the young man insists....

(The entire section is 790 words.)