Chapters 20-21 Summary
Kiwi thought he would go back to the casino to talk to his father. Although he intended to do this, he made no arrangements for it to happen.
Instead, he asks Vijay to drive him to the local marina. There Kiwi's grandfather now lives in an assisted living facility set up in an old boat. The place is called "Out to Sea Retirement Community." When Kiwi signs the visitor log at the retirement home, he notices that his father visited two weeks earlier. He wonders if he might come again on that day. He considers erasing his name from the log and then changes his mind.
When Kiwi asks one of the residents where his grandfather is, Mr. Sawtooth Bigtree calls out "'I'm right here, you damn fool!'" However, once Kiwi presents himself, his grandfather does not appear to recognize him.
Kiwi, having no one else in the family to talk to since he refuses to return to the casino to see his father and since no one answers the phone at home, decides he will unburden himself on his grandfather. First Kiwi tells him that Kiwi's mother is dead. Until this moment, no one had told Sawtooth Bigtree of this event, even though it had happened over a year ago.
Then Kiwi tells his grandfather that the family business, Swamplandia, is in financial trouble. Tourists have stopped coming to the show. Kiwi asks his grandfather if he knows that Kiwi's father is working at a casino, trying to make money to save Swamplandia. Kiwi also tells his grandfather about Ossie communicating with ghosts and that he is working at Swamplandia's biggest competitor, The World of Darkness. Kiwi confesses that he feels as if he is a traitor.
Kiwi's motive for telling all of this to his grandfather is to make the old family patriarch hurt. Kiwi believes that since his grandfather is part of his family and since the rest of his family is suffering, Grandfather Bigtree should be hurting too.
Grandfather's reaction to all of Kiwi's announcements is to turn to face Kiwi and then spit in his face. Then Sawtooth Bigtree raises his fist and swings it in Kiwi's direction, hitting him in the jaw. The next thing Kiwi realizes is that his grandfather is trying to choke him. Although his grandfather has grown frail with age, his large hands are still very strong and Kiwi has trouble breathing.
It takes some time for Kiwi to realize that he must fight back or Sawtooth Bigtree would kill him. So Kiwi twists and turns his grandfather around the room until he too can wrap his hands around the old man's throat.
When the paramedics arrive, one of them takes Kiwi to the side, admonishing the boy for nearly killing his grandfather. The man tells Kiwi that he "got off lucky this time" but suggests that Kiwi never do anything so stupid again or he might end up in jail.