O R D I N A R Y P E O P L E
b y J U D I T H G U E S T
Chapter One: To have a reason to get up in the morning, it is often necessary to possess a guiding principle. CONRAD KEITH JARRETT gazes around the empty walls of his room. The walls were painted pale blue, the color of anxiety. Failure is gray. Conrad Jarrett, the self-described Anxious Failure, worried about schoolwork. He thinks about DR. CRAWFORD's admonitions that he would feel anxious. He remembered his time in the mental hospital: the permanent residents he could spot by their walk, how LEO told him he was O.K. because he could play Scrabble, and thus concentrate. Conrad sees his face is chalk white and he had a rash. His hair still hasn't grown out from the awful hair cut he gave himself. He thinks about his neighbors, and can scarcely remember their name- Cahill. He thought that the May fly knows the answer, because they never have to ask the question. He had ambitious plans for putting his life in order, but the details have been lost. Today is September 30, one month since he left the hospital.
Chapter Two: CALVIN JARRETT gives a short prayer while he shaves. BETH JARRETT, 39, a woman who looks younger and almost perfect, brushes her hair. She was to play golf that day. She tells Cal to talk to Conrad about his clothes- she thinks that he dresses like a bum. Calvin is forty-one, a tax attorney orphaned at age eleven at the Evangelical Home for Orphans and Old People. His mother, nevertheless, visited occasionally. He wondered what fatherhood was: Talking to a kid about his clothes, not applying pressure, looking for signs. Responsibility. Calvin wondered why he never saw any of Conrad's old friends anymore. He wanted to correct all of his children's defects. Conrad told his parents that JOE LAZENBY was taking him to school that day. Calvin took it as wonderful news. Conrad was reading Jude the Obscure. Conrad had lost twenty-five pounds that year, and he still ate very little. Calvin tries to be friendly, asking questions. Conrad doesn't want his father to read while he talks to him. Calvin remembered what Crawford had said: Conrad would not be the same person he was before. Conrad asks about the doctor in Evanston. Conrad developed a habit: biting his fingernails.
Chapter Three: He waited for Lazenby, who was late. In the early morning, his room is his enemy. There is danger in just being awake. He thinks that his father has noticed something is wrong, from his mention of the doctor. He thinks the 'gray disease' has infected them both. Lake Forest, Illinois was a pillar of good taste. Lazenby's red Mustang comes into the driveway. Conrad sits by DICK VAN BUREN. KEVIN STILLMAN whines that they are late because of Van Buren. Conrad feels a slow, rolling pressure of panic building within himself. They see JEANNINE PRATT, a new girl. Conrad feels a bit jealous of Stillman, a diver who does not deserve the girls he gets. Conrad thinks momentarily about JORDAN (BUCK). MISS MELLON, the sensitive English teacher, asks Jordan his opinion of Jude Fawley, and offers him an extension on his paper. Conrad feels a need to push himself. MR. RAYMOND, the Chem teacher, doesn't look him anymore. MR. SIMMONS, the Trig teacher, is embarrassed. Only FAUGHNAN, the choir director, treats him with respect. Choir is the one time of day when he lets his guard down. GAIL NOONAN, one of Buck's former dates, introduces Conrad to Jeannine. Conrad thinks of the song "Rainy Day Man," an old James Taylor tune. SALAN, the swim coach, catches him yawning and he is overly concerned. He asks all the wrong questions, such as whether he got shock at the hospital. Lazenby complains about Salan on the way home. At home, Conrad looks through his desk, and sees a photograph of Lazenby, Buck, and himself. Beth walks in, and startles him. She then avoids him. She goes into her room.
Chapter Four: Cal and Beth are at a Mediterranean restaurant for lunch, instead of the Quik-Lunch, where Cal usually lunches. He thinks about how beautiful, self-possessed, and complex she is, and remembers meeting her while playing tennis with RAY HANLEY. They dined at the Chatterbox Cafe. Beth discusses possible vacations, and wants to go to London for Christmas. Calvin thinks the timing isn't right. Cal thinks that their mistake last year was going to Florida last Christmas, but Beth disagrees. Beth needs Cal to go with her. She wants to handle things differently this time. She worries that the incident will always hang over their heads. She tells him that she doesn't understand him at all. Jarrett is at his office. He thinks of Ray and NANCY HANLEY, his partner and wife, who now live in Glencoe. They were handling the Sandlin account. Ray gives useless advice about Conrad, who was officially diagnosed with Severe Depressive Episodes: High Risk of Suicide. Cal made an appointment for Conrad with TYRONE C. BERGER. Checking up was another duty of fatherhood. Jordan was his light-hearted son, who never worried. Cal felt that everything was his fault.
Chapter Five: Berger's building was shabby, and contains a number of specialists. Stuck between the directory and the wall is a small business card which says "I love you. Is this okay? Jesus C." The letters on Berger's office slant upward. The room seems cluttered, and is disordered. Berger has the look of a crafty monkey, and seems unprofessional. Conrad knows that eccentricity is a favorite put-on of psychiatrists. The office was robbed recently. Berger asks Conrad if people treat him as if he is dangerous, and how he tried to kill himself. (Platinum-Plus). Berger is of an undetermined age. Conrad wants control, but Berger is not big on control. They decide to meet twice a week. The exchange about razor blades reminded Conrad about the hospital: STAN CARMICHAEL declared Conrad a profane and unholy boy, and demanded he ask forgiveness. ROBBIE interrupted him.
Chapter Six: CHERRY, the secretary, comes in late. She is nineteen, with a false smile and a boyfriend from Northwestern. Cal and Beth fought the night before about London. Cal smokes cigars for respite. He wonders what kind of man he is, then thinks of ARNOLD BACON, his mentor. Cal met Bacon when he was seventeen. Bacon wanted him to become a lawyer. Cal went into prelaw at Wayne University, then went into law school at Michigan. It was a lucky accident that Bacon took him on. Bacon did not approve of Cal marrying Beth. Arnold was indifferent to him after they married. It was Wednesday, November 5. It would have been Jordan's 19th birthday.
Chapter Seven: KAREN ALDRICH smiles at Conrad. She was nervous. She was back in school from the hospital, and even involved in the drama A Thousand Clowns (Herb Gardner). She lives in Skokie. The waiter is hostile towards them. Karen is no longer seeing a psychiatrist, and this makes Conrad feel a bit embarrassed. He says that he got shoved into it by his father, and puts down Berger. He feels how two-faced he is being. Karen says that things were so different in the hospital, so emotionally energetic. She tells him to be less intense. She says she wants him to call again, but he knows it isn't true. Conrad thinks that his life is dull compared to hers.
Chapter Eight: Cal repaired a broken doorknob, watched Michigan beat Navy, played tennis with AL CAHILL on Saturday. He pours himself a scotch and water. Drinking helps. Cal asks Conrad about friends. Conrad will be eighteen in January, but looks both younger and older. Conrad worries about going away for Christmas. Cal and Beth were going to the Murray's party. Cal doesn't want to go. He would rather see a movie. He didn't like PHIL MURRAY, an insurance salesman. Cal wanted to finish Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. They reached Anhinga Boulevard, from Heron Drive. SARA MURRAY sweeps them inside. She is a tiny woman with an endless supply of nervous energy. They discuss Rise and Fall at the party, and Cal quotes from it: "The only way to deal with absurdity is to recognize it." MAC KLINE asks Cal about playing in the Lawyer's Invitational, and Phil tells a lawyer joke. MARTY GENTHE mentions how he saw Conrad the other day. They ask how he has been. Cal watches the Murray children during dinner, and sees how well behaved they are. After dinner, Beth and Mac discuss books. (Mac is an English professor at Lake Forest). Marty talks with Cal about Conrad, and he mentions how Conrad is seeing a psychiatrist. When he mentions this, Beth calls to him that they must leave. He thinks that she believes him to be drunk. She is angry that he revealed about the psychiatrist, for it was an invasion of the family's privacy. At home, Cal goes and sees Conrad asleep. He notices the scars on his wrists. Cal wants his exams to be easy, so he doesn't feel like he's failing. Beth is tired. Cal won't sleep for hours- a side effect of drinking.
Chapter Nine: SUZANNE MOSLEY sits across from Conrad during a trig quiz. She flunked it the class last year. He wonders if she has always been that fat. After the quiz, she is crying, and he comforts her. Stillman makes fun of him in the locker room later that afternoon for talking with Mosley. He thinks he passed the trig quiz, but thinks of last year, when his quizzes were incomplete. The year before, he left class, went into the parking lot and got into an empty car and cried. The next day, before Christmas break, the homeroom teacher called him up to the desk. They spent the Christmas in Florida, at Sonesta Beach. He only remembers a mosquito from that trip. He has a dream: a metal cylinder is around him. He enters it, but the dimensions have shrunk. He is convulsed with panic. He is sealed in there. It wakes him. He feels as if he could shatter into a million pieces if jarred. Berger doesn't take much stock in dreams. Conrad wonders if he needs a tranquilizer. Berger thinks that Conrad may be pushing himself too hard. Conrad doesn't want to swim, but he doesn't want to quit because he'd look stupid. Conrad tells Berger how Salan told him a story about a friend who was hospitalized for the same thing as he, and has been in and out of institutions ever since. Berger tells him that a good, healthy problems needs a good, healthy solution.
Chapter Ten: Laughter drips upstairs from the locker room. The boys were discussing seeing a French sex film. Lazenby wants to invite Conrad, but Stillman complains that they don't do anything without him. GENTHE wonders why Conrad gets so much special attention. Stillman says that "When you hang around flakes, you get flaky." Conrad talks to Salan about quitting the swim team. Salan asks him why he wants to keep on messing up his life. After practice, Conrad tries to take too long, so that Lazenby will leave without him, but he knows it will not happen. Lazenby invites him to the show, but he declines. He says that he will get a ride to school with his dad the next day. At home, Cal asks how everything is. Conrad tries not to see his quitting the team as a failure. Conrad thinks about Cadillac Mountain in Maine, seeing all around, and the adjectives tossed out about it. Night is replacing morning ass the worst time. That was the way it used to be after the accident.
Chapter Eleven: Ray tells Cal that Cherry has lost her boyfriend. They argue over secretaries. Their last good legal secretary was LYNN SEARLES, who was stern and straight thinking. One of Bacon's favorite sayings was Lincoln's "The things which hurt instruct." Cal realizes that he is getting more like HOWARD every day. Cal runs into CAROLE LAZENBY downstairs in the plaza, and she takes him to the University Sandwich Shop. She is taking a course: Search for Identity. She asks about Conrad, and about Beth. She says that Beth is a perfectionist who never lets herself get trapped into things she doesn't want to do. Cal remembers a time when Beth was trapped. It was when Jordan was two and Conrad at ten months, and they lived in a northside apartment. Beth would want all to be perfect, even though it would wreak hardship on her. He had been a perfectionist, too, until the accident on Lake Michigan. Later that day, Beth mentions seeing Nancy Hanley having lunch at the Deerpath. She says that Ray has been putting on weight, and makes a joke about Nancy's bad marriage. Cal invites Beth to look at a car with im tomorrow, but she is not sold on the idea of getting a car. He remembers a conversation with Nancy on illusion and reality seven years before. She told him to tell Beth for her how lucky she is, because she has Cal and has never been disillusioned. Nancy would rather have not known about the affair and kept her illusions. She left and went to Oklahoma. But, at last Lynn left and Nancy came back, and they moved to Glencoe. Cal knows that they love each other because Nancy would not stay married if they were not. Conrad comes home, and tells them that he got an A on his trig quiz. He realizes that they are ordinary people, after all. For a time they had entered the world of a newspaper statistic.
Chapter Twelve: Conrad once feared that the hours after school would drag, but they do not. He studies at the library or at school and does Christmas shopping. Before class one morning, Lazenby asks Con why he quit. Lazenby was big, blond, and a sincere-type, and wrote him the only letter while he was in the hospital. Lazenby inadvertently says that he's been acting funny lately, and Con retorts with Stillman's quip about flakes. Con gets angry at Lazenby, and has a hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach, as if he were punched. He thinks that they were only Buck's friends. Conrad tells Berger that the time doesn't feel right to tell his father that he quit swimming. He tells Berger that his mother is a private person, and he doesn't have anything in common with her. He says that he doesn't feel anything, and Berger tries to relate control to his lack of feeling. Berger asks him to make up answers if he doesn't know the real ones. Berger wants Conrad to get mad. One day after school, Conrad sees Jeannine. She knows him as the tenor who always sings on pitch, and he takes this as an admonition to not sing as loud. Jeannine has applied for a music scholarship to the University of Michigan, and takes private voice lessons. She is small and grave and beautiful. They go to have a Coke. He recognizes Berger in her blue eyes. They go to a small, empty coffee shop instead of Pasquesi's, the normal hangout. They make idle chit-chat, and he walks her to the railroad tracks, where they stand and talk more. After they part, he wants to run but the street is crowded with people, and he wonders what they would think. He sees a travel poster that says "Ski the Laurentians" and he thinks of Buck skiing, and how he helped Conrad while he slipped and fell. He prepares for the familiar arrow of pain, but there is none.
Chapter Thirteen: Cal and Con go to pick out a Christmas tree. They buy a tree that's twelve feet tall for twenty dollars. Conrad had simple plans for Christmas. They ate lunch. Cal remembers how Conrad once couldn't decide what to eat. Evanston does not have the air of fantasy that Lake Forest has, for it is too large. They think of many places which have been tainted with the anxious atmosphere of unreality. Beth had wanted to use the artificial tree. When Beth returns home from a meeting, she is angry that she heard from Carole Lazenby that Conrad isn't swimming anymore. Cal is concerned because he worried so much about Conrad, and even cancelled a progress report with MR. KNIGHT and MR. HELLWARTH. Conrad said that he would have told her, if he thought she gave a damn. Beth feels that he is deliberately trying to hurt her. Con tells her to go to Europe- go to hell. Then he says that the only reason that Beth cared was because someone else knew about it first. He then mentions how Beth never visited the hospital, because she was always in Spain or Portugal. He goes up to his room and slams the door. Beth is trembling, and does not relax when Cal puts his arms around her. Cal goes up to Conrad, but Beth tells him not to apologize like he always does. Beth refuses to go upstairs. Her voice is bitter. She says that she will not be manipulated. When Cal goes up, Conrad only wants to sleep. He only wants Cal not to be mad. He says that talking to his mother won't make a difference because it won't change the way she feels about him. He thinks that she hates him, and that there is nothing that he can do about it. Cal remembers how he met with Knight and Hellwarth the year before about Conrad's grades dropping. Conrad doesn't want his father to blame this on Berger.
Chapter Fourteen: It is now time for the hammers of guilt and remorse. In school he sees the others in competence and good help. Music is his only escape. He is afraid to look through last year's records, because that carries too much weight of Before. Berger asks Conrad why he is such a rotten kid. Berger says that problem with the fight is proportion. Conrad says that he can't talk anything out with his mother because of all that he has pulled. Berger won't let him mention the suicide, but Conrad still feels guilty about the blood. Conrad realizes who it is who can't forgive who. Berger tells him to recognize his mother's limitations, that she can't love him enough, but she loves him as much as she's able. Berger tells him that he has to forgive himself. Conrad still can't answer why he attempted suicide.
Chapter Fifteen: Howard and ELLEN are over for Christmas dinner. Ellen and Beth look more like sisters than mother and daughter. It was a relief to have Christmas in Chicago again. Conrad goes to his grandmother obediently. He is dressed well, in tan slacks and a bulky pullover. Cal remembers Grandfather Trivia, a game of cliches that their grandfather used to say. Conrad gives his grandmother an apple shaped candle, and his grandfather gloves. Conrad bought a silver bracelet for his mother. The mood of the house is subdued. Cal gives Conrad his present: a green LeMans. Conrad is not as enthusiastic as they hoped. Something was missing from the entire day. It wasn't just the car. Cal wonders if they are actually a family. He thinks that they should have gone to London. He says to Beth that he guesses that Conrad didn't like the car. Beth says that he wants people to perform for him. She chides him for moping the entire day. She tells him that Conrad is not a child anymore, and he doesn't need his constant concern and protection. Cal asks Beth is she is at all interested in Conrad's problems, and she tells Cal that she hates him when he looks at her that way.
Chapter Sixteen: Conrad makes a list of goals: (1. Finals 2. Exercise 3. Friends 4. Job 5. Guitar 6. Books 7. Girls) He thinks about when he and Lazenby were sixteen and would compare notes on girls. He thinks about Jeannine. Buck used to tease Conrad for making lists. At the library, Conrad sees a pretty, dark haired woman staring at him. Conrad asks for a job at the library, but they are fully staffed at the moment. In the parking lot, the woman, who drives a blue Karmann Ghia, tells him how good looking he is. He feels total displacement. When he gets home, he looks at himself in the mirror, and realizes that he is. He talks to Berger about it. He tells how he thinks that he is having delusions of grandeur and is being conceited and fantasizing. He feels the car is a bribe for happiness. Conrad talks about girls, and Berger says that this is a healthy sign that he is waking up. He doesn't want to see Karen. The only dates that Conrad has been on were the All-Skate types, where a group went together. Conrad tells Berger that he considers him a friend, and Berger tells Conrad that he is a friend, too.
Chapter Seventeen: On Conrad's birthday, he cleans the garage out. He has begun playing his guitar again. Cal discusses this with him as he drinks a beer. They talk about building a rec room with Buck. They were going to Howard's and Ellen's. Cal asks Conrad what he and Berger talk about. Cal wants to go talk with him. Conrad gives Cal a B+ for fatherhood. Beth and Cal had sex the previous night. It is the only time that she is open to him. She feels that Cal hasn't been friendly, lately. Cal thinks about the time when Buck broke his arm, and he said that he was accident-prone. Beth gave him an evil look for saying that. Cal goes to see Berger, and sees him as Primitive Man. His hair is dark, and his eyes a stinging sharp blue. He thinks that all psychiatrists are mad. Cal begins the conversation by saying that he doesn't believe in psychiatry as a panacea. He says that he always thought that Conrad could solve his problems because he is an intelligent person. Cal says that all life is an accident, and Berger says that this is a philosophy of a drifter rather than a tax accountant. Cal compares Beth to a watercolor. Cal says that Conrad compares the hospital to the zoo, and Berger's to the Circus. Cal realizes that he has come to talk about himself.
Chapter Eighteen: It is exam week. He leaves his car door open. He thinks someone might want to take a cigarette break in it, or cry in it. Miss Mellon gives an exam that says "Relax. No Big Deal" on it. Conrad tries not to get distracted. He thinks of Miss Mellon eating lunch with MR. PROVOSKY, the Algebra teacher. He is attracted to her. On Thursday, Conrad talks to Jeannine. He gives her a ride home. She lives on Wisconsin drive. She apologizes for being callous about his brother. He is worried, because she now knows the rest of the story, too. She tries to reassure him that she doesn't think less of him. Conrad goes home, and sees that they have company. Carole Lazenby was there, and she is friendly towards him. She wants him and Joe to see each other more often. Conrad calls Karen (356-3340). He calls her, and says that he is a friend from Northville. The mother wonders why he isn't in school, and is rather brusque. She hangs up on him. He then calls Jeannine, and asks her out. She accepts.
Chapter Nineteen: Ray tells Cal that they need a god legal secretary. SANDRA FARENTINO is their new secretary, and just like Cherry. They go to the Carriage Grill, a lawyer's hangout. Cherry wrote Ray a letter condemning him when she quit. Ray tells Cal that he just isn't himself. Cal asks Ray what he wants him to do- pretend like everything is fine. Ray suggests going to the lawyer's tournament in Dallas in March. Ray thinks that may be the answer. Ray tells him not to worry about Conrad, for in another year he will be off at Harvard or Michigan and be fine. He mentions his daughter, VALERIE, whom he thinks is gone because of all that has happened. Ray tells him how Beth thinks that Cal is out of focus and obsessed. Cal feels sorry for Ray, because he is playing the unpleasant role of counselor. Cal tells Ray that people are born, then they die, and in between they perform a lot of pathetic and meaningless actions. Cal and Beth lost Conrad at Miami International Airport. Conrad disappeared while they deplaned, and was gone for forty minutes. Conrad only explained that he had gone to look for a men's room and had gotten lost. Then, two days later, they got a call from Howard. They had gone to play golf and left him on the beach with some friends had met down there. Later, he called Howard and asked questions about the number of strings of lights that he and Buck put up last year. When Cal and Beth found Conrad, he was in the hotel room, lying on the bed in a bathing suit, reading a magazine, and seemed fine. Cal bought that. Cal realizes that Ray is right: Life is not a series of pathetic, meaningless actions. Some of them are so far from pathetic that they are beyond reason.
Chapter Twenty: Conrad is in front of Jeannine's house. He is on time: eight-thirty. Berger has cut him down to one session a week. There is no urgency to escape his thoughts. Jeannine's mother is pleasant faced, with red hair, and a wide smile. She introduces MIKE, Jeannine's younger brother (thin, blond), to Conrad. He knows Conrad as "the tenor." Jeannine's mother grills him, and he almost forgets what his father does. He would rather let her think that he is stupid than something worse. Conrad chats with Mike. Mike wants to take guitar lessons, but might take karate. They were going bowling, even though she is a lousy bowler. He notices that she is wearing the blue skirt that she wore the first day he saw her at school. She is a gemini, two faced and unpredictable, she says. He is a capricorn, dutiful and responsible. They play Instant History, looking at people and determining what they are. On the way home, he holds her hand. She talks about her parents' divorce, her father who lives in Akron and manages a department store, and her mother, who is a nurse. They decide to go out again. He kisses her.
Chapter Twenty-One: Cal and Beth discuss going to the Lawyer's Invitational golf tournament. They would stay with WARD and AUDREY BUTLER, her brother and sister-in-law. Ward is nothing like his sister: loud in temperament. He is easy to like. He sees "A London Symphony" by Vaughan Williams by the stereo. It makes him think of Europe. He thinks of Spain, and Toledo, and the monastery where they stayed, Parador de San Francisco. Everything seemed orderly and safe there. He finally finds a definition: he is a man who believes in safety. Arnold had written Cal off when he married Beth. There was a withdrawal of friendship. Bacon knew that Beth was not a sharer. He thinks that maybe Beth is right: people did use other people according to their own needs. He wonders why he has never had an affair. He had a chance, with a woman lawyer, MOLLY DAVIS. They worked together for several weeks, and felt vibrations. Beth does not forgive. Beth would never have accepted an affair, for it would be too humiliating- even if only they knew.
Chapter Twenty-Two: Conrad goes to a swim meet after school. They lose badly. Conrad feels oddly hurt by remarks about how the team stinks. For the first time, he feels a twinge of regret. Afterward, he hangs around, and he hears the voices of the other swimmers. He hears Lazenby mention how Salan gave a lecture about how great Buck Jarrett was. They shut up when they realize that Conrad is listening. Stillman asks Conrad if he is in Jeannine's pants yet. He tells Stillman not to be suck a prick, but Stillman says that he is walking around like he is the King Shit. Conrad hits him, then hits him again and again until Lazenby pulls him away. He walks away, his knees trembling. Lazenby goes to talk to Conrad. He tells him that Stillman is a zero upstairs, and they all know it. Lazenby isn't sure whether they are still friends, and he says that he misses Buck, too. Conrad says that it hurts too much to be around him. He strains to keep control of himself. Conrad goes home and tries to wash his clothes. He fixes dinner, but will not watch TV or listen to music- he is punishing himself. The telephone rings, and he thinks that it is Stillman's father, calling from the hospital to tell about his son's nose and jaw being broken. He doesn't answer. He merely waits. It is part of the punishment.
Chapter Twenty-Three: An angry driver flicks Cal off because he is driving two slow. Communication is the bridge between distances. He reaches home, and sees Conrad asleep on the couch. He wakes him up. Waking up has always been a painful process for Conrad. Conrad tells Cal about the fight. Cal only asks if he got hurt, and does not seem as worried as Conrad thought he would be. Cal says that he called earlier, but nobody answered the phone. Cal is surprised to find ought that he has never been in a fight before. Cal says that Conrad owed it to himself to blow up. Beth was asleep, too. Conrad had never heard her come in. Cal wonders what is wrong with Beth.
Chapter Twenty-Four: Beth and Cal prepare to leave. She has her 'airport expression'- distant and remote. She is afraid of strangers. Cal wouldn't let Conrad stay home alone while they were gone. He had to stay with the grandparents, with their house that smells of too-sweet perfume. Perhaps Beth learned from her mother that there is danger in revealing too much. His grandmother worries too much about Conrad- the length of his hair, what he is doing with his time, and how he should 'thank his lucky stars.' That night, he picks Jeannine up at work. The bakery owner, the first time Conrad came, thought that he would rob the place because he had a furtive look. They stop at Jeannine's home before going out. a black Buick is parked in the driveway, with Ohio license plates. It is MR. PAUL FERRIER's car, a light haired and heavy set man with an outdoor look. He is a take-charge guy who can make awkward situations fast and simple. Jeannine has to stay in and watch her brother, because he was leaving for a business trip the next day. Conrad doesn't mind sticking around. Conrad plays the guitar for Mike, and impresses him. Jeannine and Conrad talk about Ferrier. She says that a man who dates a married woman is not a nice guy. Her parents weren't divorced when Ferrier first was around. She starts crying. She only wants her parents to get back together. He holds her, and he never felt so strong and so needed.
Chapter Twenty-Five: Audrey and Cal make small talk. Audrey's sons, CHARLIE and KERRY (9 and 7) are playing. Like Jordan and Conrad, Charlie is the daredevil and Kerry is more cautious. Audrey asks Cal about Conrad. She knows little, because Beth won't talk about him. On the plane, Beth met questions about summer plans with indifference, a delayed punishment for Christmas. It surprises Cal that Beth is so reserved with Audrey, for she likes her. Emotion is Beth's enemy. Cal remembers one August night, when he found her outside weeping, trying not to weep. She had not cried at the funeral, nor did Conrad. As he thinks morbid thoughts, Audrey asks him if something is wrong. He says no, for he is with his lovely sister-in-law with a seventy-one under his belt, and on his way to winning the first tournament of his career. Ward comes back with Beth, who looks like a teenager. Her eyes are alive, her cheeks burned from the sun. Beth went horseback riding that day. Ward mentions how their parents wrote about how Con was staying with them. Beth frowns slightly. Beth studies her wristwatch carefully. It is a platinum watch, set with diamonds and a gift to her on their fifteenth anniversary.
Chapter Twenty-Six: On Sunday, his grandmother asks Conrad when he got in. It was one-thirty-- she had stayed up and waited. It is a warm, perfect day. Conrad plans ahead, but hesitates. It gives him the sensation of riding an elevator. At Lombardi's the night before Jeannine and Conrad ran into Phil Truan and SHIRLEY DAY, his date. Con was the authority figure on bowling. Truan, he thinks, is a nice guy. Conrad feels that he is strong. He and his grandfather sit in the living room reading the paper while his grandmother does the dishes. He reads on page three Girl Takes Own Life. It says about how Karen Susan Aldrich committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. His head is filled with strange sounds. His grandfather notices a change. He heads for the stairway. His body feels nothing. He lies in bed. He thinks about LEO helping him in the hospital. Leo dragged him back to bed after a manic episode, then fed him peaches. He thinks about his suicide attempt, then awakens. The house is dark. Conrad could have committed suicide by overdosing on Valium, but he chose razor blades instead. He goes outside and walks around. A police car drive past, and the policeman asks about him. He tells Conrad that he shouldn't be walking around, because there are too many nuts in the world. The only reason that Conrad isn't classified as one, he thinks, is because of outward appearances. Conrad goes back to his grandparents' house. He thinks about the ordeal on the boat. He has an inner conversation with Buck, asking him why he let go (he got tired). Conrad tells him that he never got tired, never before him. Conrad felt punished for being the one who hung on. He was forced to have a hopeless rerun of that day. That was the nature of hell. Conrad awakes at six-thirty. He calls Berger, and says that he needs to see him.
Chapter Twenty-Seven: Berger asks him what is wrong. Conrad has a flashback about being in B Ward when Robbie Clay, an accountant, had burned himself with matches around the genitals. Conrad tells Berger that he can't talk about the things he can't talk about. Conrad wants to get off the hook for killing Buck- for letting him drown. Berger tells him that he couldn't have done anything. Berger tells Conrad that it is okay for him to be himself. When Conrad says that he doesn't know who he is anymore, Berger responds that he does, but he won't let him out. The thing that hurts Conrad is not letting himself connect with his feelings. Depression is not giving vent, but reduction of feeling. They go to get breakfast at Nick's. Berger tells Conrad that Karen wasn't healthy- she was just pretending. Conrad is worried that he'll do something crazy. Conrad goes home and takes a shower. Conrad thinks of when he and Buck were suspected of stealing comic books. He thinks of when he was eight and Buck tortured him by trying to gag him. He looks at his wrists, and remembers how SALLY WILLET told him in grade school that he had a long life line. He wonders if Karen had a long one, too. He begins to cry. Then he goes to sleep.
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Cal didn't win the invitational. They make reservations for the Captain's Table. Beth discusses future vacations involving golf. Cal brings up Conrad, and she asks him if he brings Conrad up deliberately. Cal lets himself drink too much after this conversation, partially out of anger at Beth. Later, Beth wants to finish the argument. She is angry that Cal lets Conrad control him. Cal says that Conrad isn't the problem, and Beth says that Cal wants people to give him attention. Beth feels that Conrad attempted suicide to hurt her, by making it as bloody and messy as possible. Suddenly she cries. She looks at him stiffly. Ward and Audrey stand in the doorway. Cal asks Beth if she can see anything except in terms of how it affects her. She says that she can't, because she is human. Beth scoffs at the idea that she hates Conrad, because mothers don't hate their sons, but she thinks that Conrad tries to blackmail her. Ward tells Beth that they just want all of them to be happy, and Beth replies that they had better check on their kids before they give a definition of happiness. When Conrad was taken in from the boating accident, he apologized to his parents. He didn't after he tried to commit suicide. The suicide attempt did something to Beth- something terrible.
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Beth was very distant on the plane ride back. When Cal gets home, he realizes that he is not really that necessary. He thinks of a Hemingway quote: "Never confuse movement with action." Conrad, Cal and Beth had dinner together at Naroff's. Beth acted perfectly. Beth and Conrad even joked with each other. That night, Conrad hugs Beth, but she drops her head and stares off into space.
Chapter Thirty: Jeannine doesn't want to go off to college. Conrad asks her to hang around with him for another year, but she can't. Jeannine talked to Lazenby to find out more about Conrad. Jeannine saw Suzanne Mosely, and she asked Jeannine if she was 'serious' with Conrad. Suzanne is crazy about Conrad, because he is the only nice boy in school. Conrad tells her that he has always paid attention to her- sneaking looks at her during choir. They embrace, then make love. She tells him that she is not a virgin- she had sex with a boy in Akron after her father moved out. She admits how she used to be wild, and do stupid things. She relates to him how she was caught stealing from a convenience store and how her father cried afterward. He talks to her about his suicide attempt, which he has never done before. She touches his scar. He tells her that the suicide attempt was like falling into a hole which keeps getting bigger. He doesn't believe in God, but she does.
Chapter Thirty-One: Beth left the telling of it up to Calvin. She was packing, and told Cal to handle telling Conrad. She says that she is leaving because she can't stand the way that he looks at her- the Poor Beth expression. She knew when he suggested a counselor. Beth has an addiction to secrecy. Nightly they argue. Her outer life is deceiving: she gives the appearance of orderliness and practicality, but inside is stubborn impulse. She feels that he doesn't love her anymore. Howard and Ellen are shocked, as are Ray and Nancy. Conrad and Cal go outside. He tells Conrad that Beth is going away to stay with Uncle Ward, then she will go to Europe. He has rented a house in Evanston. Cal tells him that she left that morning. Conrad feels that he knows why she left. He feels that his father can't tell him anything without checking for razor blades around the house. Cal tells him that he doesn't know why she left. Cal yells at Conrad for making the razor blade joke, and Conrad tells him to yell more, just like he did with Buck. Cal tells him that he never worried about Conrad because he is the good kid. Thus, he never listened. Conrad says that he admires Cal, but Cal warns him not to admire people too much. They tell each other they love the other. Cal believes that Beth will come back. Conrad says that she'd better, for he is a lousy cook.
Epilogue: The house looks the same to him. It is late August. Conrad said goodbye to Berger. He rated Berger a nine. They still want to see each other occasionally. Conrad stands on Lazenby's porch, half hoping that Lazenby won't be home. KATY LAZENBY, all grown up, answers the door. He talks to Lazenby about moving to Evanston. They plan to play golf together. Conrad thinks of a letter that Beth wrote to Ellen, mentioning how the Aegean sea was blue, just like the ones that Buck and Conrad drew on maps when they were children. She saved all the maps, and kept them in a box that he had found in a basement. Lazenby's mother invites the two in for peanut-butter toast. Conrad realizes that it is love that keeps him and Beth apart as it holds them together.