page 1 of 2
Wilder wakes Jack up one night and leads him to the bedroom window, where Jack sees a white-haired man sitting in his backyard. Panicked at first, Jack goes outside and discovers that the man is Babette’s father, Vernon Dickey, who has dropped by unannounced. Vernon, a tough-looking handyman with a bad smoker’s cough, makes Jack feel incompetent and unmanly for not being able to fix things around the house.
Jack brings Vernon inside for coffee. Jack tells Vernon that Babette worries about him, and Vernon mentions that a woman wants to marry him. Jack tells us that Vernon’s way with women has always made Babette nervous and uncomfortable. Babette comes down to the kitchen and, after some initial awkwardness, happily settles into the task of caring for her father. Vernon stays with the family for some time, causing both exasperation and amusement.
One night, Jack wakes up to the sound of TV coming from Denise’s room. He goes into her room and tries to find the Dylar Denise has taken. When she wakes up, he tries to coax her into giving him the pills, but Denise tells him that she already threw them away. After leaving her room, Jack finds Vernon sitting awake in the kitchen. Telling Jack that they need to talk, Vernon takes him out to his car, where he gives Jack a loaded gun. Jack wants to give it back, but Vernon won’t take it. Instead, he describes to Jack all the dangerous things that would necessitate having a firearm handy. Jack notes that a gun is the “ultimate device for determining one’s competence in the world” and that this particular one is German made.
The next morning, Vernon decides to leave. As he’s about to pull away, he launches into a long speech, directed at the crying Babette. He tells her not to worry about his limp or his cough or his smoking or the women or his financial situation or the shakes he gets. The only thing Babette should worry about, he says in a deadpan way, is his car. Babette finds the bit about the car funny, but Jack notes that she still seems worried and defensive about her father.
The arrival of spiders marks the change in seasons. On one of their strolls through campus, Jack and Murray walk into town, where the main street reminds Jack of the Law of Ruins and Albert Speer’s plan to build a structure for Hitler that would collapse romantically. At home, Jack begins to rummage through the garbage in a frantic, futile search for the Dylar, picking his way through the crushed, material objects that make up his family life. He goes in for another physical with Dr. Chakravarty, who lectures him briefly on the patient/doctor relationship before telling Jack that his potassium levels seem off. He tells Jack he should go to Autumn Harvest Farms—where they have all of the latest, gleaming instruments—for further tests. After returning home, Jack begins to throw things away again. He sees a connection between his mortality and all of the material objects he has filled his life with.
Babette listens to talk radio, and Jack interrupts her in order to question her about how she’s feeling and how she’s dealing with her fear of dying. Babette says that being with Wilder helps the most, and she likes him more the less he talks. Denise frantically tries to get her mother to wear sunscreen when she runs, but Babette deflects her daughter’s attention.
Take a Study Break!