Chapter 14 Summary

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In the fourteenth chapter, “Middlesex,” Milton collects his insurance policy, which does not pay quite as much as he had hoped, but is nevertheless quite lucrative. One day, Milton returns home in a 1967 Fleetwood, his first Cadillac. Cal recalls thinking that it looked like a spaceship. Milton takes the family inside and shows them the “Air-Ride” feature, a hydraulic system that lifts the seats to make the ride smoother. Cal recalls that the family was “headed east, out of Detroit, literally floating on air.”

They begin to search for houses at Grosse Pointe, the “affluent lakeside district of the auto-magnates.” Milton at first struggles to find a house; every time that he completes an application, the house is taken off the market or sold to someone else. It turns out that “Milton wasn’t the only one who worried about the neighborhood going to hell.” The Stephanides family, the realtor quickly learns, amasses five points because they are “Southern Mediterranean. One point. Not in one of the professions. One point. Religion? Greek church. That’s some kind of Catholic, isn’t it? So there’s another point there. And he has his parents living with him! Two more points!” However, before she learns this, Miss Marsh takes Milton to the least desirable house on the market, “Middlesex.” Milton offers to buy it, and when Marsh defers, suggesting that they will have to see if the loan is approved, Milton offers to pay cash. Milton, Cal explains, was aware of the Point System, but he managed to outsmart it.

Unfortunately, his strategy does not allow him to show the house to his wife and family. It was designed by Hudson Clark of the Prairie School. The house is extremely strange because it has stairs, but they do not lead anywhere, reflecting the contemporary realization that the universe does not conform to a teleological worldview. There are no doors. Instead, “we had long, accordion-like barriers, made from sisal, that worked by a pneumatic pump located down in the basement.” (Calliope gets her head stuck in the door when they move in.) There are outbuildings, and Desdemona and Lefty move into the guesthouse.

Calliope spends much of her time with Lefty, who secretly has another stroke. Although he has long believed in a soul, the effect that the stroke has on his vision makes him realize that “the brain was just an organ like any other and that when it failed he would be no more.” They spend time together, but before long Calliope makes friends with kids her own age. One of them is Clementine Stark. The two girls begin practicing how to kiss, a detail that Cal explains was of great import to Dr. Luce, greater even than his family history. Cal admits “to a certain extent, I understand. I even agree.” One day, the two girls embrace each other in Middlesex’s pool. Calliope looks up and notices that her grandfather is having another stroke, which she thinks was brought on when he saw them together.

Lefty recovers and returns from the hospital. However, he begins to lose his memories, starting with his most recent. Though he continues to age physically, his mind goes back through time until he no longer recognizes Desdemona. Finally, he dies, and Tessie helps Desdemona return to the guesthouse. Desdemona removes her widow’s dress and gets into bed, and Cal explains that “for the next ten years, except for a bath every Friday, she never got out again.”

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