The warehouse Eggers works in is condemned, but Might stays in the building because they never receive an official order to vacate. The magazine itself still doesn’t make enough money to do more than barely sustain itself, and Marny and Moodie both seem to be perpetually sick. Eggers find a person named Lance Crapo to handle the business side of the publication, and they also find an overzealous intern named Zev Borow, who comes to work for them for free after graduating from Syracuse. Eventually, Eggers and Moodie decide to relocate the office, moving to a “glassy office box in the middle of the city.” They manage to get this space because the San Francisco Chronicle agrees to rent it to them cheap so that they’ll be closer and thus able to do freelance design at a quicker pace. “The grind has begun,” Eggers notes, calling this “very bad.”
Not for the first time, Eggers bristles at the idea of Might becoming an actual job. When he starts coming into a conventional office in a “glassy” building, he no longer feels as if he’s working on a creative, cutting-edge project. Rather, he feels like his life has become a “grind.”
One evening, Eggers and Toph walk by a restaurant where, they discover, Bill Clinton is eating. Excited, they line up outside and wait for him to emerge. As the crowd grows, Eggers tells Toph to take off his hat and jockeys for space, trying to box out other people who are also trying to catch a glimpse of the president. When Clinton emerges, he waves to the crowd, and then he makes his way toward Eggers and Toph. The crowd bunches around them, threatening to squeeze them out, but Eggers lifts Toph up at the exact right moment and forces his hand forward just as Clinton extends his own hand. Perfectly timed, they shake hands, and Eggers feels immensely proud, wishing that someone had taken a picture.
This scene is an example of the ways in which Eggers sometimes transitions into the standard role of a parent. Although he normally exists as an unconventional cross between Toph’s older brother, his roommate, and his guardian, his pride in this moment is the kind of pride a parent feels upon seeing something good happen to their child.
By this point, Eggers and Kirsten have been in an on-again, off-again relationship for a year and a half, but now they decide to finally break up once and for all. Strangely enough, though, Kirsten chooses to move in with Beth, who has just finished her second year of law school and decided to move to San Francisco. This is tricky, since she has up until this point lived in Berkeley, meaning that she has always been close to Eggers and Toph. As such, Eggers feels stranded in the suburbs, so he decides that he and Toph must also relocate. After another depressing period of apartment-hunting—in which they are once more unfairly judged by landlords—they find a place in “a quiet neighborhood” near Toph’s new school.
At this point, it has been several years since Eggers’s parents died. As a result, he and Toph have fallen into a pattern of life which they’ve become accustomed to. Because they’re both young, though, their lives are still in flux. When they suddenly find themselves having to relocate, they are reminded once more that they aren’t fully established in their new lives.
Toph is getting older. Eggers hates the fact that he is the only person in his new school who lives in an apartment, but this doesn’t stop his little brother from becoming popular. One night, he returns from hanging out with a group of girls and reports that he played Spin the Bottle but that he didn’t actually kiss anybody. It takes all of Eggers’s restraint to keep himself from joking around, but he’s able to coax more information from Toph by asking harmless, straightforward questions. He’s delighted that Toph is finally opening up to him about girls, since he normally talks to Beth about such matters.
The fact that Eggers is interested in Toph’s early experiences with girls is another way in which he resembles a traditional parent. Like most parents, he wants badly to know about Toph’s private life, but he also doesn’t want to embarrass him or be perceived as prying. Since he is otherwise such a nontraditional guardian, these moments—in which he acts like a conventional adult caretaker—are significant.
One day while working at Might—which has become “depressing” and “routine”—Eggers feels as if he’s been “kicked from inside.” He tries to work through the pain, but it gets worse, and soon he’s on the floor. No one sees him as he wiggles toward a couch. He wonders if he’s been shot, but rules out this as a possibility. Still, he’s convinced he’s dying. Finally, people notice him and crowd around, and Shalini helps him up and takes him to the hospital. On the way, he feels a strong sense of affection for her, but he can’t focus on this because he’s in such excruciating pain. “Can AIDS kill like this?” he wonders. When he arrives at the hospital, he learns that he has a kidney stone. Afterwards, when he’s recovering at home, Toph goes to the grocery store, buys ingredients, and makes dinner.
Kidney stones are excruciatingly painful, but they’re also fairly common, and their symptoms are more or less easily identifiable. Nonetheless, Eggers characteristically jumps to the worst-case scenario, assuming that he must be dying of AIDS, an assumption that is admittedly less unlikely than his first thought, which is that he has been shot. The entire experience is important because it suddenly puts him in an unfamiliar position. Although he’s accustomed to tragedy and hardship, he isn’t used to being the one who actually needs physical help from others. Toph proves his maturity and responsibility when he makes dinner for Eggers, a sign of just how much he has grown up since the opening of the book, when he wasn’t old enough to even open the fridge to see for himself what there was to eat.