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Frank wants to go on a cycling trip with his friends from school, and convinces Laman to let him borrow his bicycle. In return, he promises to empty Laman’s chamber pot every day and to run all of Laman’s errands.
One day at the library, the librarian gives Frank a book called Butler’s Lives of the Saints. The deaths of the virgin martyrs, “worse than any horror film,” fascinate Frank. He does not know what the word “virgin” means, and although he looks in the dictionary, the definition is too abstract to be of help. The librarian, Miss O’ Riordan, is so impressed by Frank’s supposed religious zeal that she writes to congratulate Angela on her son.
Frank’s teacher, Mr. O’Halloran, tells Angela that her son is intelligent and must continue school instead of becoming a messenger boy and wasting his talents. On his advice, Angela takes Frank to the Christian Brothers to inquire about further schooling, but the priest there slams the door in the McCourts’ faces, telling them that there is no room for Frank. This infuriates Angela.
The post office supervisor offers Frank a job as a telegram messenger. This job offer pleases Frank, who is anxious to finish school. Mr. O’Halloran tells his students that he is disgusted with the class system that forces smart boys into menial jobs, and he tells Frank that he should leave for America. Frank tries to apply to be a chaplain in the Foreign Legion, but his doctor thinks Frank too young and refuses to give him the necessary physical examination.
Frank worries that he is committing a sin by masturbating. He also worries about the fact that his mother is sleeping with Laman Griffin. The day before Frank is due to go on his cycling trip, he forgets to empty Laman’s chamber pot. Angered, Laman says that Frank cannot borrow his bike. Frank protests that Laman is breaking his promise, and Laman starts beating Frank. Frank leaves the house and goes to stay with his Uncle Ab Sheehan.
Angela sends Michael to Ab Sheehan’s house with food for Frank. Michael feels bereft without his big brother, and asks Frank to come home. Frank refuses, but feels guilty. It tears at his heart to watch Michael walk away in his broken shoes and his raggedy clothes, and he thinks of all the things he will buy for Michael once he gets his job at the post office.