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James is having a hard time sleeping after his decision,
so he spends some time outside thinking about the girl in his past
that he’s referred to several times before, the girl he loved. He
recounts the first time he was ever in her room. By sunrise, he’s
convinced that he’s permanently destroyed what he had with her.
James goes back to his room and examines himself in the mirror.
He still can’t look himself in the eyes. He decides to remove the
stitches from his cheek with nail clippers borrowed from Warren,
which makes his face a bloody mess. At breakfast, Leonard recounts
his life story. His mother and father died when he was young, he
explains. He followed around a mobster named Mikey the Nose, who
took Leonard under his wing and eventually adopted him. Leonard
implies that he’d like to help James in the same way. James turns
him down, and Leonard changes the subject to the day’s football
game, in which James’s favorite team, the Cleveland Browns, is playing.
Lincoln apologizes to James about taking Roy’s side: he’s learned
that Roy likely trashed the bathrooms after James cleaned them.
They agree to “start over.”
James’s brother Bob and two friends, Julie and Kirk, come
to visit him at the clinic. They bring him presents: cigarettes,
chocolate, clothes, and books. They watch some football together
and then go for a walk in the woods, where they meet Lilly and her
grandmother. Bob, Julie, and Kirk urge James to try and get better
and give him a list of people who have asked about him. Back at
the clinic, Julie goes to the bathroom. She runs into John, who
gives her his business card. James explains that John is his roommate.
In the lounge, Leonard announces that he’s called a Cajun
restaurant to cater that evening’s dinner. James goes to the telephone
with his list of people. He calls the friend who put him on the
airplane to Chicago, and his parents, who tell him they would like
to participate in the facility’s weeklong Family Program. James
refuses. He goes back to his room. John tries to make amends for
giving his card to Julie by offering his daughter up to James, a
suggestion that repulses James. John curls up under his covers,
cursing and punching himself. James recounts John’s life story of
being molested by his father.
At the Cajun dinner, James stuffs himself and barely makes
it to the bathroom in time to throw up. Later, he gets a phone call
from Lilly, who tells him that her grandmother thought he had pretty eyes.
James goes to sleep that night smiling. The next day James’s new
job is making coffee for the group, a clear sign that he has progressed
and moved further up the clinic ladder. He has breakfast with Leonard,
Ted, and Ed. Ed is in rehab for the fourth time, and he tells everyone
that this is the last time his union will pay for it. Ted skipped
bail and is trying to lessen his sentence by going through treatment.
James’s psychology test results reveal that he is highly
intelligent and angry and has low self-esteem. Joanne tries to convince
him to accept the Twelve Step program, which is solely accountable
for the success rate of the facility, but James refuses. James leaves
Joanne’s office to go to a speech by the Bald Man, who is sharing
a humiliating story of how he was so drunk that he peed all over
his clothing in front of his daughters and neighbors and had to
be restrained with a dog leash. This is a serious moment for the
Bald Man, a moment in which he reveals when he knew he had hit rock
bottom. Despite stern warnings from Lincoln, most of the men laugh,
and the Bald Man leaves the room sobbing. James goes outside to
think and comes to the conclusion that he must try to get sober.
At the opening of this section, James is counting down
the twenty-four hours he has promised Leonard he will remain in
the clinic, and he is taking an inventory of damage. He notes that
he just doesn’t want to look like Frankenstein anymore, but the
reader can infer that he’s not just fixing his face so he can die
pretty. James finds unexpected satisfaction from his visitors. Although
some small part of him may have expected his brother to come visit,
he certainly does not expect to see Kirk and Julie, people with
whom he assumed he’d burned bridges. One critical detail that the
narrative omits is just what egregious harm he’d done Kirk and Julie,
to make James think that they’d never want to see him again. Kirk
treats this past situation just as it ought to be treated, simply
by not speaking of it. The visit also effectively joins past and
present in James’s life. His old friends and his brother spend some
time watching a football game played by James’s favorite childhood
team, but they are watching in the facility, where James’s current
life is. At the same time, the brief conversation with Lilly and
her grandmother in the woods implies that there is a future to speak
The gifts that James’s visitors bring him remind him of
what it means to be human. They bring him the essentials: a shaving
kit, some warm slippers, new clothing, and small pleasures, like
chocolates and some books. James notes that the presents are things
that he went without for so long, and that somehow he managed to
eke out a life when he sought no nourishment, shelter, and company other
than drugs and alcohol.
James’s existence to date has been focused mostly on his
problems and the feelings he has toward himself. This is beginning
to change. Perhaps the two most striking examples of this change
are his encounters with the Bald Man and John. Although his interaction
with John is direct, and his observation of the Bald Man is from a
distance, these two men both serve as foils to James’s own life.
By comparison, his experiences do not seem nearly as bad. When the Bald
Man speaks, James finally sees that the worst thing you can lose
is your dignity. John admits that he tried to commit suicide and thought
it was funny, and James begins to see just how troubled John is.
Later, when John tries to “give” his own daughter to James by way
of making up for his pass at Julie, James comes to the full realization
that John is truly, irreparably damaged, and that this damage is
in no way comparable to the damage that James believes is inherent
in his own life.
Much of this section of the book shows a change in James’s
perceptions of himself and the world. James’s psychology test reveals much
about himself that he already knows, but the test is also a valuable
tool by which he can measure his own self-worth. Joanne stresses
his intelligence and the fact that he needs to realize that he is worth
saving. Given James’s predilection toward viewing himself as a destroyer
of all things good, he likely has never been able to think of himself
as worth much before. It takes someone who’s never met him before
to give James the validation he so badly needs: Lilly’s grandmother
tells him that he has pretty eyes. The fact that someone kind and
sweet, someone’s grandmother, was able to look into his eyes, where
he himself has not been able to look in quite some time, seems to
give him new reason to go on. Also at this point, three characters
at the facility who play smaller roles in James’s life step forward
to give James further perspective and validation of himself: Lincoln,
James’s unit supervisor, makes the effort to apologize to him for
doubting him earlier, and Ted and Ed become actual meal-time friends,
where previously James had only Leonard. Indeed, Ted and Ed are
two men that James can actually identify with: good men, he says,
who happen to be bad men.
Ace your assignments with our guide to A Million Little Pieces!