Chapter 6 Summary

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At the start of sixth chapter, “Minotaur,” Cal explains that she will never be able to have children. Over the years, she has not carefully chosen the people in whom she confides that she is a hermaphrodite. Her romantic relationships have consequently been superficial. Cal explains that after she takes off her first layer of armor, the double-breasted suit, and reveals her muscular frame, the second layer of armor, she usually leaves before removing her underpants. Now, she has set up a date with Julie Kikuchi, the Asian-American girl with the bicycle whom Cal espied earlier in the book.

Cal then tells the story of the “Simultaneous Fertilization.” Before Lefty realized that he would be laid off, he had purchased tickets to see a play, “The Minotaur.” The play contains sexual content, which Desdemona disapproves of. Nevertheless, she is aroused by it, as is Lina, though she explains that she was thinking of a woman, “Third one from the right. With the red hair.” Regardless, by the end of the night, both women are pregnant.

Jimmy decides to bring Lefty into his bootlegging business. He takes Lefty out one night and explains that he used to work for the railroad, but “now I run a railroad of my own.” Lefty is at first dismayed that these illegal activities could cost him his citizenship, but knowing that he has a child on the way, he gives in. He quickly learns the slang of the bootleggers, “increasing his English vocabulary fourfold.”

Dr. Philobosian arrives one day, and when he sees the two pregnant women, he declares that he has arrived just in time. He explains that although he did have the eye disease favus, his medical license prevented the Americans from deporting him. Instead, he was kept in a hospital and ultimately allowed to enter the country. After working for a year grinding lenses for an optometrist, he came to Detroit and was pleased to find Lefty and Desdemona still living at the address they had left with the doctor.

Desdemona is uneasy when Dr. Philobosian begins discussing unusual birth defects. He explains that science has now revealed that these defects, such as children being born covered in hair like animals, is caused by “consanguinity,” or families intermarrying. Desdemona performs her first silver spoon prognostication on Lina and proclaims that the child will be a girl, much to the latter’s relief. Desdemona's own child is shortly born thereafter. It is a boy, and they name him Miltiades, after the Athenian general, but Cal explains that the child will go on to be called Milton, after the English poet.

While Desdemona is giving birth, Jimmy and Lefty are out bootlegging. They are driving across a frozen lake, keeping an eye out for dark ice (thin ice), when Jimmy asks why Lina’s family sent her to America. Jimmy begins speeding as his questions become more heated, and he demands to know whether there was a plan that would send Lina to America so that she could sponsor others, or whether Lefty is the father of her daughter. The car suddenly hits a thin patch of ice and overturns. Lefty walks away and hitches a ride back to see his wife and son in the hospital.

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