Section 7 Summary
This chapter unveils the story of Henry's son's death. Mitt was seven, the age when Henry says a parent starts worrying most because he had to give Mitt more freedom to explore his own world.
From the time Mitt was four, the family spent much of their summers at Henry's father's suburban home. Henry wanted to give Mitt a chance to feel the more natural world as opposed to the concrete city where they lived. Henry saw suburbia as a softer, gentler world. While there, Mitt became very close to his grandfather. Once, Henry's father gave Mitt a silver dollar, and Mitt carried it with him wherever he went. After Mitt died, Henry found it in a pocket of Mitt's clothes.
Mitt's death was the result of a freak accident. A group of neighborhood boys came to celebrate Mitt's birthday and were playing in the backyard. It was a "stupid" game, one boy said later. The boys piled on top of one another to create a "dog pile." Mitt, at the bottom, was smothered. Lelia tried to revive him. Henry, who had gone to the store for more treats, also attempted to resuscitate Mitt when he returned, but it was too late.
Henry had trouble sleeping after Mitt's death, obsessing over how Mitt felt right before he died. Henry wondered about the physical and psychological effects of not being able to breathe. He replayed the scene over and over, as if he might save Mitt.
One night, after Lelia left him, Henry remembered audio tapes Mitt had made. He called Lelia and asked for them. Lelia, who had returned from Europe and was staying with a woman friend, agreed. When he listened to them, Henry heard Mitt talking to imaginary people. Sometimes Mitt hid the recorder and caught some of his parents' conversations.
When Henry had gone through all the tapes, he called Lelia and asked to see her. He senses she has changed. First, she has cut off all her hair. Second, Henry suspects she has taken a new lover. Lelia confirms this, though she will not give Henry any details. She knows Henry would run a thorough investigation on him.
Late at night, they lie on Lelia's bed, talking but not touching. Lelia accuses Henry of never fully acknowledging Mitt's death. When Henry does refer to it, he calls it an accident; Lelia believes it was caused by something she and Henry did wrong.