Colin and Hassan arrive home after Hollis and Lindsey. Hollis tells them Lindsey went to stay overnight with her friend Janet. She thinks Lindsey is upset about “the boy.” Hassan offers to help Hollis brainstorm ideas for making money, and Colin tells them he is going to go out camping.
Lindsey has already told Colin that she is glad not to be dating TOC. Although she might still be upset about the breakup, she has shown much more distress over the change Hollis is expecting to come to Gutshot. It seems that Hollis is unaware that the reason Lindsey was dating TOC in the first place was to forge a stronger connection to the Gutshot of the past.
Colin drives in the Hearse to the field where he practiced shooting with Lindsey, hoping that he is correct in understanding “sleeping over at Janet’s” as a hint from Lindsey to him. He hikes up to her secret hideout, anagramming along the way. He does indeed find Lindsey in the cave, and she confirms that she was giving him a code through Hollis. Colin sits beside her, and she turns out the light she has briefly illuminated for him to find his way into the cave.
Colin, who has only known Lindsey for a short time, can understand subtle communication from her that her own mother does not. The intimacy between Colin and Lindsey is heightened by his receptivity to her communication.
Lindsey tells Colin that she thinks TOC is not real after all, and she is mad that she wasted so much of her life with him. She was crying on the way home in the car with Hollis because she realized she only ever liked the idea of being his girlfriend. She worries that compared to Hollis, who is trying to help all the factory workers, she is the most self-centered person in the world. Colin tells her she can’t be because that is his title. She reminds him that he let the hornets sting him instead of Hassan. He concedes that they are at least nearly tied for most self-centered.
The narrator relates this conversation Colin and Lindsey have in the darkness through dialogue only, no description. The atmosphere of the scene is thus entirely about Lindsey and Colin’s conscious effort to communicate their inner thoughts with one another. By making themselves vulnerable in this way in front of each other, they both realize that they share common ground in their reliance on others to prop up their senses of self.
Colin askes Lindsey how to fix the problem of being self-centered. She tells him she has been thinking about his “mattering” business. She says she thinks how you matter is defined by what matters to you. It is easy to get caught in something unimportant, like she did with TOC, but there are more real things and people to care about, like the “oldsters.” Colin says he doesn’t think it is possible to fit missing pieces back inside oneself once they go missing: dating TOC did not fix the Alpo dog food prank, and getting Katherine XIX back would not fill the hole in Colin’s gut. Lindsey says that maybe no girl will. Colin agrees and says that neither will the Theorem. Life, he has decided, might be about more than achieving arbitrary markers.
Colin and Lindsey realize together that no one person or thing can make them feel fulfilled. This realization is accompanied by a newfound understanding that achievement for the sake of achievement, or for the sake of impressing someone else, will only result in dissatisfaction because there will always be more to achieve and more people to impress. The fact that they come to this realization simultaneously is important because it means they can be important to each other without being each other’s “missing piece.”
After a silence, Colin says he thinks the Archduke’s grave contains someone else’s body. Lindsey says it’s her great-grandfather. Colin is surprised that she knows “Fred N. Dinzanfar” is an anagram of “Franz Ferdinand.” She tells him that all the old-timers know. Dinzanfar wanted his grave to marked as such, and a couple years ago, Hollis put up the sign on the road to bring in revenue with tours. Ironically, what Dinzanfar did to be remembered has led to people forgetting him now that a lot of kids at school think the grave really belongs to the Archduke. Lindsey observes that by contrast, the interview tapes that they have been making will preserve real stories.
This moment reveals Colin’s realization during the fist fight when he lost his glasses and anagrammed the letters on the Archduke’s obelisk. Colin’s anagramming abilities have led, in this instance, not necessarily to originality, but rather to the original roots of a story that has affected both Gutshot and Colin himself by bringing him to Gutshot in the first place. The fact that Hollis has made money for Gutshot off of this jumbled story shows that spitting back facts in a mixed-up order can be just as impactful as coming up with new ideas.
Colin and Lindsey seem to grab each other’s hand. Colin tells her how he dumped Katherine III and changed his memory of the event. Lindsey says that makes sense because she remembers things as stories. Once she spots a constellation of events, she makes other events fit into the shape. Colin’s memory must work the same way: he is a natural-born storyteller. She asks him to tell her the story of the Katherines.
Whereas Lindsey and Colin have thus far thought of themselves as very different kinds of storytellers, Lindsey now helps Colin understand his way of processing memories as a kind of storytelling. His memory has not failed but rather arranged the facts into a constellation. The idea that he is a natural storyteller is another positive identifier for Colin.
In a section subtitled, “The Beginning, and the Middle, and the End,” Colin tells Lindsey about each Katherine. Katherine I was his tutor’s daughter. Katherine II was an eight-year old whose romance with Colin was orchestrated by her best friend. After Katherine III came Katherine IV, from violin lessons. Katherine V gave Colin his first kiss while he was reading Huck Finn in the sandbox in fifth grade. Katherines VI, X, and XV were all girls from smart-kid camp. Katherine VII took pity on him in middle school when he had no friends until she realized he was hurting her social standing. Katherine VIII’s full name anagrammed into “Heart Breaker, Ink.” Katherine IX was in sixth grade when Colin was in seventh. Katherine XI went to one movie with Colin, held his hand, called him a genius, and never called him back. Katherine XII said Colin reminded her of Holden Caulfield. Katherine XIII was a longtime crush who Hassan helped him woo like Cyrano de Bergerac. Katherine XIV liked Camus, Kierkegard, and metaphors. He had a fourteen-hour relationship with Katherine XVI at an Academic Decathlon tournament. Katherine XVII was an indie girl he met on the internet. He invested greatly in Katherine XVIII until she dumped him over email after two dates and four kisses, and two weeks later, Katherine XIX showed up on his doorstep. They dated for 343 days before she left him with the hole in his gut.
By weaving all his Katherine stories into one master-story that has a beginning, middle, and end, Colin finally concedes to leave his Katherine streak in his past as one of the stories that make up his life. His recounting of each of the Katherines shows an increasing interest in Katherines who make him feel smart. Even when girls barely dated him, he still considers them part of his narrative. This tendency shows the extent to which Colin has historically needed a Katherine to define himself. In fact, Katherine XIX is the only girl he dated long term. Because she was also Katherine I, it seems that Colin’s great upset has been over not nineteen girls, but really over just one. In a sense, this is his first breakup all over again, and his great achievement in telling this story is accepting that time will move forward without Katherine in his life. Notably, Colin’s statement that Katherine V was the first girl who kissed him contradicts his earlier recollection of his first kiss, with Katherine I. This mixed-up detail emphasizes that for Colin, his entire romantic life has been about Katherine I/Katherine XIX.
Colin ends his story by saying that the moral is that “What you remember becomes what happened,” and that “breaking up isn’t something that gets done to you; it’s something that happens with you.” Lindsey adds that the other moral is that anyone can learn to tell a good story. Colin says that something about telling the story “made my gut grow back together.” They mention that they like each other. After a pause indicated by ellipses, Colin says, “Wow. My first Lindsey.” Lindsey responds, “My second Colin.” Colin says, “That was fun. Let’s try it again.” There are several more lines of ellipses. They drive home late and in their separate cars. They kiss “once more” in the driveway and then sneak into the house to sleep.
The act of telling his Katherine story constitutes for Colin the mastery of Lindsey’s type of storytelling, which requires a moral and an element of romance in addition to a beginning, middle, and end. That mastery also constitutes a new kind of self-awareness: Colin has finally sorted out the pieces of his past into a narrative that helps him understand himself. Once he comes to this sense of self-awareness, he can leave the pieces of the Katherine narrative behind long enough to acknowledge his feelings for Lindsey, kissing her in the cave and again on the driveway.