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Gram finds that she cannot fall asleep, and asks Sal to go on with the story. That evening, Sal rushes over to Phoebe's house, but before she can tell her that Mr. Birkway is Mrs. Cadaver's brother, Mr. Birkway himself appears at the Winterbottom house with Phoebe's journal in hand. He apologizes to her for reading her journal aloud and proceeds to explain that Mrs. Cadaver is his sister and that her husband died in a car accident that also blinded Mrs. Partridge. Margaret, he sadly adds, was the nurse on duty at the emergency room the night of the accident, and had tried to treat her husband and mother. When Mr. Birkway leaves, Sal reveals to Phoebe that the lunatic is Sergeant Bickle's son. They devise a plan, and Sal goes home. That night, Sal lays awake, imagining what Mrs. Cadaver had felt when the ambulance brought her husband and mother to her in the emergency room. The words of the mysterious messages permeate her visualization.
When Sal wakes, she finds that her grandmother spent the whole night lying awake, but is still determined to see Old Faithful. When they reach the geyser's roped-off site, Gram, in her eagerness to get a better look, begins to climb under the ropes, but is stopped short by a ranger. Together, they watch as the geyser builds up energy and sprays into the sky, causing the ground beneath them to rumble and a fine warm mist to cover them. Gram delightedly lifts her face to the mist, and, as they are leaving, breaks out into tears of happiness at having finally seen Old Faithful.
As Sal and her grandparents drive across the mountainous roads of Montana, Sal is overcome by the wild beauty of the land and by terror as they climb the steep and vertiginous hills. To squelch her fear, she continues with Phoebe's story, determined to finish it that day. Phoebe and Sal plan to locate and talk to Sergeant Bickle's son, and through him, find Mrs. Winterbottom. The next day at school, Mr. Birkway apologizes to the class for reading their journals aloud and sends them to the library. In the library, Ben and Sal flirt bashfully, and Sal futilely tries to remain still long enough for Ben to kiss her successfully. After school, Phoebe calls all the Bickles in the phone book until they determine which number belongs to Sergeant Bickle. Later that night, Sal calls the Bickles, pretending to be a friend of his son's, and manages to get his son's name and address from him. Mike Bickle, they find, studies at a university not far from their homes.
When the girls arrive at the bus stop the next morning, they find Ben waiting for the bus as well. He explains that he is going to visit someone at a hospital in Chanting Falls, and the girls quickly lie that they are visiting a friend at the college there. As they ride the bus together, Sal, who is sitting next to Ben, enjoys feeling Ben's arm press up against hers. At the university, the two girls, feeling absurdly out of place, timidly ask for Mike Bickle's room number at the front desk of his dormitory. The man promptly gives them the number, but the two girls panic and run outside. Outside, however, they find the lunatic himself sitting on a bench with Mrs. Winterbottom.
Text and story do not always, as Mr. Birkway would have us believe, lead to experiment with other perspectives and gain greater personal understanding. Phoebe repeatedly demonstrates how texts can be willfully misinterpreted and can lead one further from the truth instead of closer to it when she melodramatically interprets the messages on her doorstep as clues about Mrs. Winterbottom's "kidnapping" or "murder." However, Sal finds herself practicing the lessons she learned in English class and the lesson contained in the messages when Mr. Birkway reveals part of Margaret Cadaver's story to her and Phoebe, and Sal later finds herself identifying with Margaret's grief and horror. The revelation of Margaret's past has a double significance to the narrative: first, it plays a role in Phoebe's search for Mrs. Winterbottom, closing off one "potential" explanation for her disappearance. Secondly, Mrs. Cadaver's experience affects Sal's own narrative: she can no longer so easily dismiss, belittle, and ignore Margaret. In fact, that night, she finds herself living through Mrs. Cadaver's life-shattering experience, showing the way in which taking on another person's perspective allows us to better understand and sympathize with them.
Sal and Phoebe's actions expose their lack of vision and contribute to the unlikely twists of the plot. The girls cling at straws and follow the most preposterous but most easily accessible leads to mystery of Mrs. Winterbottom's disappearance. They suspect Mrs. Cadaver because of her name, her missing husband, and her "suspicious" actions in the back yard. When they discover that the lunatic is connected to Sergeant Bickle, they are determined to track him down, convinced that he has information about Mrs. Winterbottom. Although the girls' logic is preposterous, in the end, it leads them to the information they want. They find Mrs. Winterbottom and the lunatic together, after all. Walk Two Moons sustained a great deal of criticism for resorting to such unlikely plot twists and machinations, but it is important to remember that Creech's story is, in a way, a tall tale, and intentionally filled with exaggeration, caricature, and humor. As an adventure/accomplishment romance, the plot twists often stand in for and represent the hero's internal growth. Sal, by remaining faithful to her friend and determined in her quest to, one way or another, get more information about the strange people around her, grows and draws closer to her own truths.
Old Faithful, a symbol both of nature's strength and inexorability, awes its spectators for both its unbridled and magnificent power as well as its clocklike regularity. Old Faithful reminds us of nature's spectacular power but also of the comforting regularity of many natural occurrences: birth and death, day and night, the turning of the seasons, the motion of the earth relative to the stars. Gram immerses herself in the beauty of the powerful geyser, attesting to her acceptance and appreciation of the forces of the natural world. Her communion with the geyser, her sudden tears in the car afterwards, her sleepless night, and Sal's determination to finish Phoebe's story foreshadow a predictable but tragic confrontation between Gram and the forces of time and nature.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Walk Two Moons!