After receiving a call from Clark, asking him to come down to his office, Jende parks the car in the garage and pulls his briefcase from out beneath his seat. He holds it in his lap and thinks about how it’s his greatest pride to carry it every day to work, about how it makes him feel like “a sort of big man himself, not just a little man driving a big man around.” He turns around and checks the backseat, which is “impeccable,” thanks to his recent visit to a car wash. He puts on his gloves and hat, picks up the briefcase, and steps out of the car.
The briefcase is a symbol of Jende’s progress. Though his work doesn’t require him to carry one, it’s a point of pride. It’s proof that, though he doesn’t have Clark Edwards’s wealth, that he is a man who is just as worthy of respect and who’s just as willing to work hard to provide for his family. It’s also a reflection of Jende’s newfound attention to having a refined appearance, which he didn’t have at the beginning of the novel.
Jende enters Clark’s office and sees Clark sitting at his desk, writing on a legal pad. He lifts his head, smiles, and wordlessly motions for Jende to have a seat. Clark puts aside his writing pad, looks at Jende, and clasps his hands. Clark commends Jende’s good work and mentions how “highly” he thinks of him, calling him his “favorite chauffeur.” He then runs his fingers through his hair, exhales, and rubs his eyes before saying that he has to let Jende go. He apologizes and Jende bows his head, realizing that the thing that he feared most was happening.
This meeting in Clark’s office differs from the last time Jende entered this space, when Clark barely acknowledged him. Here, the acknowledgement comes, not only as a result of their knowing each other, but because Clark feels guilty about disposing of Jende. His running of fingers through his hair and the rubbing of his eyes are nervous tics that are signs of discomfort with his action.
Clark mentions that “it’s a horrible time” for this to happen due to Jende’s new baby. Jende looks up and angrily demands to know why he’s being fired, but Clark only describes the situation as “complicated.” Jende accuses Clark of lying to him and is sure that Cindy is behind the decision. Jende reminds Clark that he did what his boss asked him to do and wrote only what Clark told him to write in the blue notebook. Jende insists that Cindy now dislikes Jende because she thinks he’s a liar, but Jende insists that he “would never do anything to cause trouble in another man’s house.” Clark opens a drawer in his desk and takes out a check. He says that it’s Jende’s paycheck for the rest of the week, “plus more.” He stands up, thanks Jende for everything, and shakes “Jende’s weak hand.” Jende bids Clark goodnight.
Clark’s acknowledgement of other people’s difficulties—of the fact that Jende has another child to care for and that Leah still can’t find work—doesn’t prove that he’s sympathetic. His unwillingness to explain his reasons for the decision, though Jende already knows, indicates that he’s more interested in protecting Cindy’s reputation than he is in explaining why he would destroy someone’s livelihood, especially for following his instructions. Clark’s action demonstrates that he’s not a very responsible person and he uses money to pay for yet another mistake he’s made that’ll have far-reaching consequences.