Chapter 9 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1191

As Lianne leaves the community center after her Alzheimer’s group meeting, she knows their time together is coming to an end; she does not think she can start over with another six or seven people, enjoying the beauty but always grasping after her father. She wants to go home to find a message from Carol Shoup asking her to call as soon as possible; instead, she walks without a plan and finds herself in a place that reminds her of Rosellen. She remembers the woman’s last writing and thinks she understands the repetition, the rephrasing of a single word, as a kind of protection against the final stark condition.

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Keith walks back through the park after spending half an hour with Florence. He picks up Justin from school and is relieved to have something to talk about with him: homework, teachers, friends. They plan to intercept Lianne as she returns from her meeting and to try to lift her spirits. They do not know her exact route, whether she is walking fast or slow, but they see it as a challenge. Keith is barely attentive to his son as he reflects on his final conversation with Florence, telling her it was over. The light fell from her face. He knows she counted on him to provide calm in her life, saying little but always attentive. Then she was the one who was still.

Lianne knows there will be no message from Carol when she gets home. There will be no book for her. She walks near the train tracks and passes a school, then she sees him. He seems to come out of nowhere on the other side of the protective fence that borders the tracks. He is a white male in a white shirt and a dark jacket. The children in the schoolyard are watching him, but the rest of the street is silent and disinterested for now. Faces are looking with interest out of the windows of the projects nearby. The man is closer now, wearing a suit and tie and stepping down the short ladder in the fence opening. Now she knows who it is and has the same sense of foreboding that she sees on those faces. The man climbs three stories above her, onto the train platform that resembles a slatted fire escape. She wonders why he is doing this.

Keith is only half listening to Justin as they walk, but now he realizes his son is talking in monosyllables again. He tells him to “cut the crap”—a perfect monosyllabic sentence. Justin complains that his father always wants him to talk, but now that he is, he wants him to be quiet. Justin is quite adept now at speaking in monosyllables, barely pausing between words. Keith tells him he can speak whatever language he wants, but this one is upsetting to his mother and he wants Justin to stop upsetting her, even if he does not understand it. The skies are getting darker and Keith wonders if it was a bad idea to try to meet Lianne. He also wonders if he should tell her about Florence. The more he thinks about it the more convinced he is to tell her. It will be a “perilous truth” that will lead to a clean understanding and reciprocal trust. He is convinced of it. Perhaps, given the nature of the circumstances, it will be a forgivable offense. Perhaps she would be the one to suffer, knowing she can never understand the “intensity of the involvement.” Perhaps she will grab a steak knife and kill him or begin a tortuous withdrawal from him, or perhaps her occasional insomnia will become permanent and she will enter counseling and take medication. Perhaps she will take their son and go to her mother’s for a while, or perhaps she will believe him because it is true, “simply and forever.” Perhaps she will damn him to hell and call a lawyer.

Slowly people begin gathering at the fence, heads up, eyes focused on the figure above them. Lianne moves back, away from the fence. She wishes this were some sort of comedic catharsis, some mockery of the irrational, but it is...

(The entire section contains 1191 words.)

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