Summary: Chapter 7

The morning Doc Hata gets discharged from the hospital, Liv and Renny come to escort him home. Liv suggests that Doc Hata take a pair of hospital slippers to use getting into and out of his pool, but his doctor said he should avoid harsh chemicals to prevent worsening the case of shingles he’s developed. Liv dismisses Dr. Weil’s warning, saying that the young physician can’t be that great since he’s always playing golf.

Doc Hata thinks about when he was Dr. Weil’s age. As a newly minted officer trained as a field medic, Doc Hata longed for the time when real experience would test his preparation. He believed that such a real-world test would reveal his true self. Yet he also wondered what was more important: one’s training, or one’s “essential, inner spirit.” He suspects that someone like Liv would reject both options and declare it’s only what a person does in the present that really matters.

As he makes his way out of the hospital room, Doc Hata worries he might fall down, but he urges himself to keep going lest such an event lead to more tests. He wants to return to simplicity rather than invite more complication.

In the lobby, Doc Hata runs into Anne, who has arrived to visit Patrick in the ICU. Anne tells Doc Hata that her husband has decided to give the store back to the bank, and she confides that they had a nasty fight. Doc Hata offers words of comfort, insisting that bad luck cannot last forever and that she and James can begin again once the worst is over. Anne walks Doc Hata to the door, and they make tentative plans to visit Patrick together. Doc Hata thinks about how cruel it is that if Patrick does succeed in getting a new heart, it means that another child will have died.

This thought makes him recall the letter he received from Fujimori reporting Enchi’s death. In the letter, which Doc Hata still has and reads from time to time, Fujimori explained how they had searched for Enchi’s body but found only small bits of flesh. Later, Fujimori looked up and saw hundreds of birds in the trees, picking at leaves and branches. Realizing that the birds were eating Enchi’s remains, Fujimori wept. Doc Hata notes that Fujimori had a “dark sensibility.”

Doc Hata gets into Liv’s car and they drive off. They pass the Ebbington mall, and Doc Hata thinks about asking Liv to stop. Renny mentions that he’s noticed more incidents of borderline racism in Bedley Run. Doc Hata says he knows what Renny is talking about, but he insists that he takes responsibility for any uneasy situations he’s found himself in. Liv agrees with Doc Hata and argues that people should adapt to Bedley Run rather than try to change it.

When they arrive at Doc Hata’s house, he thinks about the “simple majesty” one can find in “the discretionary pleasures of ownership.” He considers the good fortune he’s had to be in the right place at the right time so frequently in his life. Liv shows him the restoration work her team has completed, and Doc Hata feels grateful to have both Liv and Renny to keep him company.

After they leave, he puts on swim trunks and gets in the pool. The water feels cool, and he thinks about the warm waters of Singapore and Rangoon where he used swim during the war. He recalls swimming along the shoreline and seeing soldiers making love to “fallen women.”

He then remembers warning Sunny about what can happen to young women who leave the security of their families. She had returned from Jimmy Gizzi’s house, and he wanted to know how she would support herself if she left his house again. He presumed that Sunny planned to go live in the city with Lincoln Evans, who, as he learned from Sally Como, was a fugitive accused of stabbing Jimmy. Sunny explained that Jimmy had tried to rape her, and Lincoln had stabbed him to protect her.

Later that night, Sunny made a fire in the hearth. Doc Hata reflects on the irony that even though he always warned her about the hazard of fires, he was the one who eventually set the house ablaze. He wonders if, like Fujimori, he’s begun to appreciate the odd aspects of life. Then he thinks about the dark water of his pool, which has a “mysterious resistance” that compels one into the past.

Analysis: Chapter 7

Throughout this chapter, Doc Hata struggles to stay in the present as thoughts of the past flood in. The conversation he and Liv have about Dr. Weil makes Doc Hata think with regret about how he neglected to pursue further medical training when he was younger. Even as he wallows in memories, he imagines that Liv would reject his focus on the past and simply insist that whatever a person does now matters most of all. Doc Hata takes a cue from the argument he imagines from Liv. He comes back to the present and focuses hard on walking out of the hospital without falling. He wants to avoid any further complications that would keep him in the hospital, a place where he’s spent much of his time conjuring images from his past. He longs instead to return to the simplicity of his home life, where he can focus his mind and stay in the here and now by following his daily regimen of activities. But despite all his efforts, Doc Hata’s memories intrude more and more into his present, and the chapter ends with Doc Hata’s pool becoming a symbolic conduit into the past.

Doc Hata’s thoughts about Patrick Hickey and his old friends Enchi and Fujimori harken to a pseudo-scientific philosophy of life and death. Doc Hata realizes that if Patrick does succeed in getting a new heart, that heart would have to come from somewhere. That is, Patrick’s life would have to come at the expense of another child’s death. Doc Hata refers to this logic as a “conservational law.” Just like the first law of thermodynamics, which states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed within a closed system, Doc Hata envisions humanity as a closed system that carefully balances life and death. Although he doesn’t announce it explicitly, Doc Hata sees a similar logic at play in the gruesome demise of his friend Enchi, who died in a mortar round explosion. In a letter to Doc Hata, Fujimori explained how some of Enchi’s remains were blown into the trees, and birds flocked there to feast on the remains. In effect, through Enchi’s death, the birds gain life through nourishment. Doc Hata recoils from the “dark sensibility” expressed in Fujimori’s letter, but his own thoughts about the ironic law of conservation dictating Patrick’s survival shows that he and Fujimori actually share a similar philosophy of life and death.

The conversation that Doc Hata, Renny, and Liv share during their car ride demonstrates the essentially individualistic culture of Bedley Run. Renny complains that the people of Bedley Run seem less welcoming than they used to, and he notes a particular uptick in the number of racist comments that he’s heard around town. Doc Hata acknowledges that he, too, has noticed more frequent examples of ignorance and intolerance. However, rather than worrying about what others think or say, Doc Hata insists on self-reliance. As he tells Renny: “I’ve always believed that the predominant burden is mine, if it is a question of feeling at home in a place.” Liv agrees with Doc Hata’s assessment and translates it into a slightly different form. She argues that Bedley Run is a place that welcomes those who are able to adapt to its standards of politeness and privacy, even if those standards may in themselves seem unwelcoming. Whereas Renny worries that the Bedley Run community has grown increasingly intolerant, Doc Hata and Liv see the issue less in terms of the community as a whole and more in terms of individual responsibility.

Doc Hata takes immense pleasure in the things he owns because they give him a feeling of freedom. Upon returning from the hospital, the sight of his pristine Tudor-style home fills Doc Hata with a sense of what he calls “the discretionary pleasures of ownership.” The word “discretionary” often applies to money, and it implies a certain level of flexibility. For example, the phrase “discretionary funds” refers to funds that need not be earmarked for groceries, bills, or other necessities but rather can be spent freely because they represent a surplus. In a similar way, Doc Hata’s use of the phrase “discretionary pleasures” indicates that he has accumulated a surplus of belongings, both money and property, that provide him with a kind of reserve fund of security and well-being. He can tap into the feelings of security and well-being that he gets from this surplus anytime and at his own discretion. Wealth and the feeling of freedom thus go hand in hand. They also exist in a cyclical relationship, as demonstrated when Doc Hata takes pleasure in the blossoming red maple in his front yard, which he understands as a symbol of the blossoming good fortune he can look forward to in the future.