Things are awkward over the next few days because Lindsey and Colin do not talk about anything they mentioned in the cave, but slowly things return to the way they were. Lindsey has a boyfriend, and Colin works on the Theorem. To shake things up a little, Hassan has a girlfriend, and everyone is preparing for a pig hunt.
The fact that Lindsey and Colin fail to continue talking about their feelings once they are back to their normal lives, surrounded by other people, and away from the intimacy of the cave shows that the script people expect them to perform gets in the way of their self-expression and happiness.
Colin tries to prepare for the pig hunt by reading. The feral pig seems like a fierce enemy. Colin consoles himself by thinking that he is not really going on a hunt—it is more like a walk through the woods with a gun. The morning of the hunt, he is excited to wake up before the rooster for the first time. He runs into Hassan in the bathroom, and Hassan says that he is confident no pigs will die today.
Colin’s attempt to prepare for the hunt by reading shows that as usual, he is more comfortable getting to know the world through books and theories than by jumping into new experiences.
Colin and Hassan drive to the meeting place for the hunt in the Hearse with Lindsey. Lindsey directs them to a lodge off a dead-end, where they find TOC, JATT, and a middle-aged man Colin recognizes from one of the interviews as Townsend Lyford. Katrina comes outside and greets Hassan cheerfully. Colin calls Hassan a smooth cat.
The narrator’s emphasis that Colin and Hassan are driving with Lindsey in the Hearse underscores that for them, the pig hunt feels both silly and like a rite of passage with high stakes.
Inside the lodge, SOCT hands Colin and Hassan camouflage outfits and bright orange vests. They change in the outhouse. Mr. Lyford then gives a speech before everyone about the dangers of the feral pig, or “the poor man’s grizzly bear.” He puts heavy emphasis on a lot of words. He calls pig hunting a sport and says that the pigs are pests that even the government says should be eradicated. To Colin’s surprise, TOC calls Mr. Lyford “Dad.” Everyone gets their marching orders except Katrina, who refuses to hunt on moral grounds. Hassan tells her he is thinking of going vegetarian. She tells him not to get skinny, they kiss publicly, and Colin is baffled.
The way Mr. Lyford speaks is very unfamiliar to Colin and Hassan, who have grown up in relatively wealthy families in the city. Nonetheless, SOCT includes them in the group by giving them hunting clothes. Hassan also appears to have found a girlfriend who affirms his attractiveness despite his body image issues. Colin is thus noticing that unexpected and unfamiliar situations can offer opportunities for surprisingly positive relationships.
On the hunt, Colin and Hassan are to stick with Mr. Lyford while the others go off separately. He tells them to start looking for rootings, or places where the hog has turned up the soil. He talks to them as if they are younger than they are, but he also offers them chewing tobacco, which they decline. Eventually, Hassan finds a rooting, and Mr. Lyford takes off at a brisk pace between a run and a walk. Colin and Hassan ask to slow down, and Mr. Lyford disappointedly decides to leave them behind in search of the pig because “This is no time for lollygaggin’ or dillydallyin’.” He leaves his chewing tobacco with Colin in case the hog smells the wintergreen.
Colin and Hassan are not quite sure what to make of Mr. Lyford, but the fact that Colin is sticking with his friend on this adventure, which is extremely far removed from Colin’s usual summer practice of studying, is a testament to his character growth thus far in the novel. Colin is willing not only to be flexible with his plans for how to spend his time but also endures the condescension of Mr. Lyford when he is used to being recognized as the smartest person in the room.
Hassan has Colin pull out the mini recorder from the interviews and records a “captain’s log,” in a Star Trek voice, about how boring hog hunting is, and how he is going to take a nap while Colin keeps a lookout. While Hassan naps, Colin thinks about Katherine XIX and decides against calling her again. He wants to wait until he completes the Theorem. He begins thinking about Katherine III and why on earth she is posing a problem for the Theorem. He only knew her for twelve days. He anagrams her name, “Katherine Mutsenberger,” and finds the phrase, “remark eighteen, snub rest.” It does not make sense, he thinks, because he remarked all nineteen.
Hassan, as usual, finds a way to make even the disastrous hog hunt amusing. He provides Colin with an example of how to adapt a failure to make the best of it instead of continuing with a sense of unrealistic optimism to strive for the original desired outcome. Colin gets partway there: he decides to use the failed hog hunt as an opportunity to work on the Theorem, but he continues to think in vain of his prospects with Katherine XIX.
When Hassan wakes, Colin tells him about Katherine III, and how she dumped him at the end of “smart kid camp.” She was homeschooled, and as it turns out, Hassan knows her from homeschooling events he attended before he started going to Colin’s school. When Colin expresses his perplexity that the formula does not work for Katherine III, Hassan encourages him to call her. Colin has never thought of this before, but he decides to give it a try. When Katherine III picks up, he reminds her who he is and questions her about how cool she was in fourth grade, then hangs up. Hassan tells him she must think he’s “STARK RAVING BONKERS.” Colin ponders for a moment whether the formula could possibly already be right. He calls Katherine back and finds out that indeed, she did not dump him—he dumped her. He apologizes for hurting her feelings, and they get off the phone amicably.
Through Hassan’s encouragement, Colin realizes that Katherine III is an actual person who might have another piece of the puzzle he is trying to put together. Even Hassan has another piece of the puzzle, and Colin has never noticed because he has never asked his friend about his Katherine III dilemma. When he listens to Hassan and Katherine III, Colin recognizes that the story might have more sides than the one he remembers. This realization is a significant step towards doing as Lindsey has suggested and making his stories less self-centered.
Colin feels betrayed by his memory. He tells Hassan that he has only ever been two things: a child prodigy and dumped by Katherines. Hassan says he should be grateful that now he is neither. Colin is now a Dumper, and Hassan is “making out with a ridiculously hot girl.” He says the world has turned upside down, like a snow globe God is shaking. Colin feels an affinity with Lindsey now in her inability to identify what “I” means. He now has not one missing piece from his gut but, rather, thousands. He feels that there is something wrong with him that he needs to fix. He looks up at the branches splitting the sky into pieces and feels like he has vertigo.
Colin must reconcile himself to the fact that not only do others have missing pieces from his stories but also to the fact that this means he might be wrong about things he recalls as facts. Colin, who prides himself as perpetually right, experiences this realization as a threat to one of his core identifiers. Combined with other surprising events of the past weeks, Colin’s shift in perspective feels like an even bigger shift than the one he experienced when first walking across the field in Gutshot. The realization that he has thousands of missing pieces signals some growth: Colin no longer thinks of Katherine XIX as the one piece that will fix everything.
Just then, Hassan spots a pig, and the pig spots Colin and Hassan. It is huge and terrifying. Colin tries to recall useful information from books he has read, but try as they might to intimidate the pig, it charges at them. All Colin can do is summon the courage to shoot the pig the way Lindsey showed him. He is amazed to see the pig stop dead in its tracks and run away, but then it becomes clear that the pig ran away because Colin accidentally shot a hornets’ nest. Colin and Hassan take off running, Colin always remaining behind Hassan so his friend, who is running impressively fast but is still not athletic, will not die alone of hornet stings on a hog hunt in south-central Tennessee.
Colin demonstrates great courage to engage with his physical environment in the midst of a crisis. Whereas a few weeks ago he might have thought of the altercation with the pig as an opportunity to become an infamous victim like the Archduke or like Saint Apollonia, he now thinks only of his and Hassan’s survival. When it really counts, he demonstrates a will to stay alive and unremarkable rather than dead or injured but with a grand legacy.
When the buzzing stops, Hassan collapses. Colin panics at first, thinking his friend is allergic to bees and going into anaphylactic shock. Hassan reassures him after a moment that he is simply out of breath. It then becomes clear that while Hassan only has three stings, Colin has taken the brunt of the damage, with eight stings, because he stayed behind Hassan. The stings are very painful, and Hassan announces that he hates the outdoors. Colin, drawing on information he learned in one of the factory interviews, pulls out Mr. Lyford’s chewing tobacco and presses it on his stings to alleviate the pain. He offers some to Hassan. Hassan tells Colin that this is an actual interesting fact, and that he should “focus less on who was prime minister of Canada in 1936 and focus more on shit that makes my life better.”
Colin finds his sense of self in the midst of emergency, pulling facts out of the back of his mind. He shows that his misunderstanding of what happened with Katherine III does not indicate that he is not a knower of facts but rather that he simply rearranged the facts in that particular case. Hassan’s praise for Colin’s memory means a lot because usually he criticizes Colin for bringing up facts at inappropriate times. By making use of his talents in the situation at hand instead of simply showing off, Colin feels that he is making a difference.
Colin and Hassan begin walking downhill, uncertain of where they are and worried that they might die out in the forest. Finally, they see a house that Colin recognizes as one that can be seen from the Archduke’s grave. They hurry toward it and see movement in the graveyard. As they draw closer, Hassan confirms with Colin that they are seeing Katrina, naked, straddling “some guy.”
Colin’s use of the Archduke’s grave as a physical landmark demonstrates that the grave is more important to Colin and Hassan because of the geographical location to which it has led them (Gutshot) and because of the sight they find there (Katrina cheating on Hassan) rather than because of its original significance to them.