Chapter 27 Summary

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The twenty-seventh chapter, “Air-Ride,” begins with Cal attending the Warhol opening at the Neue Nationalgallerie. There are no artists at the opening, and Cal eventually sits down to light a cigar. He is joined by Julie Kikuchi, who also smokes cigars. They do not talk, but afterward, they lean toward each other until “our foreheads were almost touching.” Finally Cal asks Julie to let him explain why he did not call her, saying “there’s something you should know about me.”

Cal then returns to Milton’s story. Milton once again answers the phone on a Sunday morning. The caller is able to answer questions like where Lefty and Desdemona were born, and Milton agrees to pay money to the kidnapper. He asks for $25,000, and when Milton agrees, the caller insists that Milton negotiate. Eventually, he tells Milton that he will take the $25,000. Milton leaves in the middle of the night, and though Tessie hears him dress, she does not ask where he is going. Their daily routines have fallen apart, and besides, Tessie thinks that her husband must be leaving her in the same way that her father and daughter did.

Milton drives his 1975 Cadillac Eldorado to a train station. Milton is to drop off the money in a garbage bag that is marked with chalk. As he drops the briefcase in the bag, his hand does not want to let go since he has no assurance that Callie will be returned to him. He ultimately forces himself to part with the money, but quickly returns to take out half of the money and keep it as leverage to ensure Callie’s safe return. When he arrives on the platform, he finds Father Mike withdrawing the briefcase.

Cal explains that marrying Zoë

sentenced him to a life of invidious comparisons, of Zoë always asking why he hadn’t invested in the stock market when Milton had, or bought gold when Milton had, or stashed money away in the Cayman Islands as Milton had … it was a great shock for Milton to discover his brother-in-law on the train platform. But it also made sense.

Cal allows himself to “enter Father Mike’s head” and he discovers no attachment to God. Instead, Mike’s silent smile was his way of coping with his overbearing wife.

Mike runs away from Milton and gets into his Gremlin. The two of them engage in an absurd car chase that never goes more than ten miles past the speed limit. However, when Milton realizes that Mike is going to flee to Canada, Milton pursues him. He attempts to tell the customs officer that Mike has taken his money but is only told to pull over. Milton instead speeds ahead in pursuit of the Gremlin. He approaches Ambassador Bridge, drives over it, loses control, and launches himself off the side. His last thoughts are that the Cadillac has no flight feature (though he notes that this is indeed an “air-ride”) followed by surprise that he could have made such a blunder. He thinks he is a “birdbrain.”

Cal notes that a “real Greek might end on this tragic note. But an American is inclined to stay upbeat.” When Cal and Tessie discuss Milton now, they talk about how he got out just in time. He left before Chapter Eleven could drive the family business into the ground; before Chapter Eleven could run up their credit cards and force Tessie to sell Middlesex, causing her to travel to Florida with Zoë; before Cadillac introduce the Seville, “after which Cadillacs were never the same;" and before global warming, September 11 and “a second President with only one vowel in his name.” Most importantly for Cal, Milton left without having to accept his son, though Cal would like to think that Milton could have dealt with it.

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Chapter 26 Summary


Chapter 28 Summary