Chapter 4 Summary

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Lorraine describes Dennis and Norton as “really disturbed.” Norton in particular is a delinquent and an “outcast”; he and John “hate each other.” During his freshman year, Norton had been caught stealing a bag of marshmallows from the supermarket, and his name had been publicized in the local newspaper. Ever since then, everyone calls him “The Marshmallow Kid.”

Norton was the one who started cheating during the phone marathons, peeking as he ran his finger down the directory so he would get a woman to call, as women were notoriously easier to keep talking on the phone for a good length of time. Lorraine admits that, when it was her turn, she cheated a little too, choosing the Pigman because his house was on Howard Avenue, not far from where she lived. The Pigman, whose real name was Angelo Pignati, answered her call with a “jolly...bubbling voice.” When Lorraine introduced herself as “Miss Truman of the Howard Avenue Charities,” he responded that his wife was not home, but Lorraine quickly assured him that it was all right; it was “good-hearted people” like himself she was interested in talking to. When Mr. Pignati asked Lorraine the name of her charity, she burst out laughing, then tried to cover her faux pas by telling him that one of the girls at the office with her had just told a funny joke. Partly at John’s prompting, Lorraine told the Pigman that their charity was called the L&J Fund.

After a long silence, the old man asked Lorraine what the joke was that the girl told her, adding that he knew a lot of jokes but only his wife laughed at them. Mr. Pignati volunteered the information that his wife was on a trip, visiting his sister in California. He then told Lorraine a joke that was a favorite of his wife’s. Lorraine, sensing a deep loneliness in his voice that made her feel sorry for him, began to wish that she had never chosen his name in the phone directory and called to bother him.

As the Pigman talked on and on, Lorraine reflected that it was John who first taught her to prevaricate. Lorraine believes that John lies all the time because “his own life is so boring when measured against his daydreams that...he makes up things to pretend it’s exciting.” John lies to his teachers to get out of trouble, and he lies to his parents to get on their nerves. Lorraine thinks that John’s parents are as bad as he is when it comes to lying; in fact, they may be worse. John’s parents lie all the time; his father brags about how he “phonied up a car-insurance claim” to defraud the company of some money, and his mother lies to store clerks to get promotional items she does not deserve.

Mr. Pignati finally perceived that Lorraine’s attention had wandered, and he apologized for taking up so much of her time. He offered to donate ten dollars to her charity and asked where he should send the money. John, who had been listening in on the conversation, demanded to talk to the Pigman at this point, grabbing the phone right out of Lorraine’s hand. Lorraine was filled with foreboding because she knew from the look in his eyes that John was going to “end up complicating everything.”

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Chapter 5 Summary