Part 1, Chapter 18 Summary

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Gladney drives to Iron City to retrieve his daughter Bee from the airport; instead, he finds his ex-wife Tweedy. First he thinks that something happened to Bee and that Tweedy has come to tell him in person; however, Bee is arriving on a later flight and Tweedy is here to spend a little time with her.

Tweedy finally says Bee is in Indonesia with her father; Gladney reminds her that he is Bee’s father and that Malcolm Hunt is only her stepfather. More importantly, he is concerned about the young girl traveling so far on her own, but Tweedy says Bee is perfectly capable of coping on her own and that this is good practice because she intends to become a travel writer.

Tweedy tells Gladney (she calls him “Tuck”) that she is unhappy because she had depended on him loving her forever. Gladney reminds her she divorced him, took all his money, and married a “well-to-do, well-connected, well-tailored diplomat who secretly runs in and out of sensitive and inaccessible areas.” He tells her that Janet, another of his ex-wives, is now living and working at an ashram in Montana. She was probably the same kind of covert operative Hunt is, but Tweedy finds that hard to believe after meeting her once for half an hour.

Tweedy tells Gladney that when her husband goes undercover, he disappears retroactively; sometimes she wonders if the man she married really exists and hopes Bee can elucidate on his life away from Tweedy. She is nostalgic about her marriage to Gladney and romanticizes the wonders of growing up in a small town.

At the airport, a group of passengers from another flight files into the waiting area; they are obviously shocked and distraught, and some are even wounded. Gladney forces one passenger to look at him and explain what happened.

The plane suddenly lost power in three of its four engines and dramatically dropped twelve thousand feet; panic ensued on the plane. No one assumed any reasonable authority, and the passengers were stunned at this apparent lack of sanity as they prepared for what the pilot called a crash landing. "Crash landing" sounded so much better than "crash;" one word should not matter so much, but everyone clung to that extra word.

Nearly a hundred passengers have gathered around the narrator, although none of them interrupts to dispute or embellish the story. It is almost as if the story did not happen to them and that this passenger was telling the rest of them what they all saw and felt.

At the last moment, the engines miraculously restarted and a harrowing landing became relatively routine. They endured that trauma needlessly.

Bee is suddenly in her father’s arms. On the drive home, Tweedy says every child should have to travel “thousands of miles alone” just to feel independent; she has been giving Bee this opportunity regularly since Bee was young as flying is “the last refuge of gracious living and civilized manners known to man.”

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