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The Assistant

Bernard Malamud

Chapter Eight

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight, page 2

page 1 of 2
Summary

After returning from the hospital, Morris wants to get up right away, but he fights the urge and remains in bed dreaming of his parents in Russia and his childhood. He listens to the quiet downstairs and knows that his store is like a graveyard. One day, Morris gets up quickly and decides to go down. Ida urges him to stay in bed, but Morris refuses. Ida tells Morris that Frank has been taking in seventy-five per week without pay, but Morris insists that Frank has to leave.

Frank hears Morris coming downstairs and feels worried. Frank greets Morris and offers to light the radiator, which he has been keeping off to save money. Morris tells Frank that Frank must leave. Frank explains that he has not stolen anything, but Morris says that is not the reason that Frank needs to go. Frank confesses his role in the robbery, but Morris says that he already figured it out. Despite Frank's arguments, Morris makes him leave. Frank packs his belongings and says good-bye to Tessie Fuso. He writes Helen a note describing his love and how great she is, which she weeps over but has no thought of replying to.

Morris likes the changes that Frank made to the store, but sees immediately that business is awful. Without Frank's extra money, it is worse than before. Ida, Helen and he discuss the situation as they crowd around the store's back radiator one night. Helen suggests that Morris find another job. Ida suggests that Helen marry Louis Karp. Ida visits Julius Karp in the liquor store and asks him if he can still find them a buyer. She also suggests that Helen is lonely and that Louis should not be bashful, Frank Alpine has gone away. Julius Karp becomes more interested and tells Louis later than night, although Louis greets the news coolly.

The next afternoon, Karp brings over Podolsky, the possible buyer. Podolsky eyes the store for most of the afternoon, even though business is slow. Morris basically tells Podolsky the truth about the store and Podolsky later slips out unnoticed.

Morris wakes up the next morning and puts on his suit. He decides to go get a job. He goes first to a supermarket run by his old business partner, Charlie. Charlie and Morris once bought a grocery together, but Charlie swindled Morris's four thousand dollars from the business and later used the money to open his own supermarket. Now he is very successful with a house in Florida. Morris still asks for a job and works at the supermarket as a cashier for a day, but comes up a dollar short in his till. When he leaves that afternoon, he leaves for good. The following day Morris looks all over Manhatttan for a job, but finds that he is old and too tired for the new places. On his way home, he stops to see Breitbart. Breitbart is not there, but Morris sits with Breitbart's slowwitted son, Hymie, and gives Hymie two quarters when he leaves. Next Morris goes to Al Marcus's house, but finds that Marcus has been taken to the hospital.

Later that night, Morris gets an urge for sweet hot cream and heats some up in the store. A bizarre skinny old man appears and offers to burn down Morris's building so that Morris can collect the insurance money. The man uses celluloid to start fires, which leaves no traces. Morris turns down the man, saying that he does not like to cheat people.

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