Chapter 24 Summary
Jacob sits in the lobby of his retirement home. He cannot believe his son Simon forgot it was his day to come visit, particularly because it is the day for the circus, and Simon spent the first seven years of his life on the Ringling Brothers circus. But Jacob recognizes that Simon himself is around seventy years old and must be prone to forgetting. Jacob thinks about the fact that he can remember so many things, like the day of Simon’s birth and how he almost fainted with joy when Marlena showed him Simon’s red hair, so much like his own.
The clock reads past three, and Jacob knows that the Spec is surely over. Suddenly he feels trapped in the lobby. Jacob does not think that he should continue to live this way, so he resolves to free himself. He looks around and sees that no else is in the room. He reaches for his walker and considers the distance he will have to travel to make it outside. He gets to the door and then to the sidewalk, where he is blinded by the sun. Jacob has been away from the real world for so long that everyday occurrences like dogs barking and horns honking make him feel moved.
Jacob maneuvers his walker in the direction of the circus and shuffles down the sidewalk. Thirty minutes later, he is nearly at the circus tents. He continues walking and does not stop for the ticket vendor, a teenage boy who tries to stop Jacob to make him pay. Jacob tells the kid he does not have any money, and the kid says Jacob cannot enter the circus without paying for a ticket. The manager of the circus approaches and escorts Jacob into the tent, offering him a wheelchair to make things easier. Jacob tells the manager that in his days the managers always put old men in the ticket booth, and the manager asks Jacob if he used to be on a show. When the manager hears that Jacob was on the Benzini Brothers circus, he asks if he was there for the stampede. The manager is excited to hear that Jacob was in the midst of the stampede, and he introduces himself—Charlie O’Brien the third. Charlie asks Jacob to join him in his trailer after the show for a drink. Jacob is delighted that Charlie thinks his company will be “an honor and a privilege,” so he agrees.