Chapters 9-10 Summary

Milo races to pick up Bernie from the home of Christine, his low-rent babysitter. When he arrives at the house, he discovers that the daycare children are under the watch of Nick, Christine’s volatile brother. As Nick shoots some of the kids with Vitamin Water from a plastic gun, he asks Milo if he wants to make some money helping him build a deck. Milo, who is uneasy around Nick, vacillates, but Nick makes him promise to give him a firm answer soon.

Noticing Bernie is not among the children running around screaming, Milo heads into the house, momentarily worried that the lack of supervision could leave Bernie susceptible to a variety of deadly accidents. Instead, he finds Bernie biting the crotch of one of his playmates, Aiden, and escorts him out as Nick regales the yard children with a story of shotgun suicide.

On the way home, Bernie mentions that he heard Maura on the phone with a male friend named Paul. Milo initially thought Paul was gay but feels differently now as his son reports that she was using words like “pansy” and “depressive” to describe Milo.

That evening after Milo goes to bed, Milo’s awkward joking gives way to an argument in which he attempts to find out what Maura said to Paul. Before she can answer, she must head upstairs because Milo’s yelling has awoken Bernie.

Milo tries to make progress with Purdy, who is out of town at an “Ideas Festival.” Purdy’s ongoing procrastination has put Milo in serious financial straits, so he travels to visit his mother in his old house.

Milo’s mother, Claudia, came out as a lesbian shortly after her husband’s death; her much younger lover, Francine, answers the door. Claudia remains ensconced in an altitude tent in her living room and does not come out to greet her son. This latest new-age obsession is part of Claudia’s larger obsession with warding off death.

While Francine fetches Milo a beer, he asks his mother if he can borrow ten thousand dollars. She balks, citing financial straits of her own as well as Milo’s need to grow up and take responsibility for himself. When Milo asks her to take a more active role in Bernie’s life, she refuses. He vulgarly insults her and Claudia terminates the conversation abruptly, sending Milo out without emerging from the tent.