Chapter 4 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1534

After the separation there was a kind of symmetry: Keith had his weekly six-man poker game downtown and Lianne had her weekly “storyline sessions” in East Harlem for six or so men and women in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. After the towers fell, the card games ended, but Lianne’s sessions have become more intense. A clinical psychologist began the group strictly for morale, and now Lianne is in charge. She talks with them about their lives and then suggests a topic for them to write about, such as remembering their fathers or something they always wanted to do but never did. After twenty minutes of writing, they each share what they have written. There are frightening lapses and unfinished sentences, but they laugh loud and often. Their stories are a mix of real physical details and hazy reminiscence, but each story is authoritatively theirs. “No one knew what they knew, here in the last final minute before it all closed down.” Members write about difficult times and happy memories. Today they all—all but one—want to write about the planes.

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Back at the apartment, Keith is opening his mail. Some of it has his name spelled incorrectly, and he corrects the errors with a pen. The error usually involves one letter in his last name, Neudecker. He does not make the corrections for junk mail, and he does not make them in the presence of others. He is careful to conceal that.

Lianne walks across Washington Square toward Grand Central Station to meet her mother’s train. She has not been here lately and is unaccustomed to the tight security, though normal activities—tourists taking photos, commuters in a rush—are also in evidence. As she walks to the information desk to check the gate number, she sees a crowd gathering near the 42nd Street entrance. Outside, a man in a business suit is dangling, upside down, above the street. One leg is bent up, his arms are at his side, and the safety harness is barely visible from under his trousers. Lianne has heard of this performance artist known as Falling Man. He appears, unannounced, in various parts of the city several times a week. He is always suspended from a structure wearing a business suit, tie, and dress shoes. He is depicting those awful moments when people fell or were forced to jump from the burning towers. Traffic has stopped and the crowd is shouting at him as he represents a “collective dread” of a body falling among them all. Ten days after the planes, it is disturbing enough to stop the movement of traffic and people in a bustling city and to send Lianne back into the terminal. Her mother is waiting on the lower landing. She is back home after only a week with Martin; New York is her home.

The briefcase in the closet is not Lianne’s and it is not Keith’s. He has seen it there before, but he only now understands why it is here. Keith had carried it with him out of the tower, and Lianne has cleaned it since then. He is in no hurry to open it but does. Inside the pockets are a CD player with headphones, a small bottle of water, half a chocolate bar, a pen, some cigarettes and a lighter, a toothbrush, and a digital recorder. There is something morbid about looking, but he is detached and remote enough from the event to continue looking. He finds a notebook, an envelope preaddressed to AT&T—with no return address—and a guide to buying used cars. The wallet containing credit cards, money, and a driver’s license are in the other pocket.

Lianne sees the siblings’ mother, Isabel, in line at the bakery. Isabel is concerned about Justin bringing his binoculars to her house. He shares them with her kids, and she is wondering what they are looking at behind the closed door of one room. Lianne suggests the red-tailed hawks, but the woman is sure it has something to do with Bill Lawton...

(The entire section contains 1534 words.)

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