Part 3, Chapters 38 Summary

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That night Gladney tells Babette that Siskind thinks the problem is that people who fear death are no good at suppressing their fears. Babette is confused, as they have been told for years that repression causes “tension, anxiety, unhappiness; a hundred diseases and conditions.” People are supposed to talk about their fears and “get in touch with their emotions.” Siskind disagrees, believing repression is something that differentiates people from animals. It may be crazy, but Gladney says it is the only way to survive.

The next day, Gladney begins to carry his gun with him to school. It is always with him, in his jacket or in his desk drawer, and it gives him a sense of power. This is something he can control, even if it is in secret. He begins to think that people who come into his office unarmed are foolish. One afternoon he takes the gun from his drawer and examines it; three bullets remain in the chamber, and he wonders how his father-in-law, Vernon Dickey, used the other bullets. He ponders four Dylar tablets and three bullets.

Later he asks Heinrich about Mercator’s snake-sitting feat. No one would let him officially sit for months with poisonous snakes, so Mercator had to “go underground.” Mercator found a notary public in Watertown who would certify his feat, but the best he could do was a hotel room where a man promised to bring twenty-seven venomous snakes but showed up with three. Mercator got bitten after just three minutes; anticlimactically, he discovered that the snakes were not poisonous. Rather than be thankful just to be alive, Mercator is now in hiding.

Gladney walks back to his office; it is late and the campus is empty, but he feels as if someone is walking parallel to him, in and out of the shadow. He thinks perhaps the gun is making him unusually jumpy. Gladney finally turns around to face his foe from behind a tree, gun ready. When he sees it is Winnie Richards, Gladney puts the gun back in his pocket.

She tells him that she has read about an organization near Iron City, led by Willie Mink, a genius with questionable ethics, which was doing research on things like Dylar. She tells him many details about a woman wearing a ski mask meeting Mink for “unsupervised human experimentation”; she does not know she is describing Babette. Mink has been ousted from the organization and is living in the motel in Germantown where he met Babette.

At home, Gladney is struck again by Babette’s harmless but atypical behavior; she wants to go running, Gladney tells her it is chilly and she should wear her ski mask. Gladney takes the neighbors’ car and drives toward Iron City. Feeling a sense of unreality, he runs a red light and fails to yield on an expressway ramp. He feels “lighter than air, colorless, odorless, invisible.” His passions are agitated, and he reaches into his pocket to touch the stainless steel gun. 

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Part 3, Chapters 37 Summary

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Part 3, Chapters 39 Summary