Chapters 7-8 Summary
Milo’s first day back at his old job is jarringly surreal. He encounters Horace, who now has a much larger space in the office (including Milo’s old desk). Horace is in the middle of a sexually graphic conversation with his own mother about a significantly older woman he is dating. When Milo tries to apologize for the harassment Vargina mentioned, Horace claims he only did it as a joke.
Horace’s open relationship with his mother reminds Milo of his strained relations with his own mom. Milo was never able to understand why his mother put up with his father’s philandering and other bad behavior. To make matters worse, when his father was dying, Milo found himself at odds with his mother about the best care plan for his dad.
Milo’s father died during his junior year of college, right before Milo moved in with Purdy and the rest of their cohorts. The day before Milo left for college, his father gave him a Spanish knife, explaining it had come from a cathouse of uncertain origin. When Milo graduated, he left the knife in a kitchen drawer at his old place. When he returned there for a party, he discovered the knife, only to be accused of stealing it by the new female tenant, the snooty daughter of a former governor. Milo relinquished the knife and now forever believes that his inability to keep it was proof that he didn’t deserve it.
On the way home from work, Milo takes a shortcut through a neighborhood playground and is shocked when he sees a man and his child playing; they resemble a family he used to know. Milo used to see the father often in the playground or watching his kids play in the yard. Occasionally, they would make small talk; although it wasn’t about anything important, it gave Milo the sense that they were in a similar place in life. Milo felt that they were both part of a new generation of fatherhood that was more involved on a day-to-day basis.
One day, Milo was reading the paper and saw a picture of a familiar face. The man, his wife, and both of their children had been killed in a terrible highway accident. Milo notes that the man’s early death prevented him from eventually being labeled a bad father (a fate for which Milo feels destined). Milo is still haunted by his acquaintance whenever he passes by their now-empty house or this familiar playground.