Elefante and Melissa, who are now dating, pick up Sportcoat who they think can lead them to the Venus. Elefante is happier than he’s ever been with Melissa by his side, and he’s more motivated than ever to find the Venus. At first, he found Melissa to be shy, but as he got to know her, he recognized that her reticent manner is one that belies confidence and trust. While courting Melissa, Elefante takes notice of how respectfully Melissa treats her employees at the bagel factory. Because she treats them with kindness, respect, and understanding, they treat her the same way.
More than at any other point in the novel so far, Elefante is happy—partially because he thinks he might be able to get his hands on the Venus, but primarily because he has Melissa by his side. Unlike many of the people with whom Elefante associates, Melissa is kind, hardworking, and deserving of immense respect. Furthermore, she operates a legal business, a rarity in Elefante’s world.
This respectful attitude also carries over to how Melissa treats old people, including Sportcoat. Elefante notices that Melissa calls the old deacon “Mister Sportcoat” and never refers to him as “colored” or “Negro” the way many other white people, including Elefante himself, often do. At first, Elefante worries that such behavior is “dangerous, odd, and foreign,” but he quickly warms up to it.
Although Elefante is one of the more progressive characters in the novel, he is not without his prejudices. However, here, Melissa opens his mind to a new, more respectful way of thinking about his Black neighbors.
Thinking about “dangerous, odd, and foreign” matters shifts Elefante’s focus to Bunch Moon. Although there’s been no official confirmation, Elefante heard that Joe Peck had Bunch killed. This is yet another brutal act of violence in what Elefante sees as an endless drug war, which will only continue to take lives. However, despite the danger that surrounds him, Elefante is happy to have found love. Love makes everything else tolerable to him; it helps him block out the outside noise and focus on the one person whom he cares for unequivocally. For the first time in his life, Elefante no longer feels lonely.
Elefante knows that the drug trade is an endless cycle of violence. It is one of many reasons why he never takes part in it, even though it could make him rich. Unlike Peck, Elefante has a sense of what actually matters in life: love. This is part of the novel’s simple but effective message, as well its fundamental optimism.
Elefante and Melissa’s courtship was initially strange because it was a first for both of them. However, the two quickly got on, and their dinner plans quickly turned into extended dates featuring lengthy conversations and joy. Elefante immediately felt that the two of them were in love. However, now, while driving to Sportcoat in the middle of the night, he knows it for sure. Before, Elefante thought that he should never have a business partner because they would weigh him down. Now, however, with Melissa by his side, he feels stronger and more capable than ever before.
Elefante and Melissa have both apparently lived strange lives. Elefante is nearing retirement age and is only now going on his first date. Although Melissa is a bit younger, the same holds true for her. However, ultimately, it doesn’t matter—the two of them immediately connect with each other, mutually benefiting from each other’s company. This is a major development for both characters.
While on their way to Sportcoat, Elefante thinks about a recent visit he paid to Sister Paul after Sportcoat insisted that they meet. At first, Sister Paul did not like Elefante—she thought he didn’t live up to his father’s name. However, after Melissa assured Sister Paul that Elefante is a good man who is worthy of his father’s name, Sister Paul opened up to him.
Sister Paul thinks highly of Elefante’s father and wants to make sure his son lives up to his image. Sister Paul remembers Elefante’s father as a family man with a good heart, and she confirms with Melissa that the same is true of Elefante.
Sister Paul told Melissa and Elefante about her life and the events surrounding the construction of the Five Ends Church, which finally allowed Elefante to discover the location of the Venus. Before Elefante left Sister Paul, he promised to send her some of the cheese that usually goes to the Cause. She also asked him to buy Mars bars for the security guard who watches over her and performs errands for her free of charge. Elefante agreed to do this as well.
Finally, Elefante understands the significance of the Five Ends Church motto as it relates to the Venus. Assuming Elefante can get his hands on the object, it will change his life forever. Finally, he will be able to get away from his life of crime and start anew.
Back in the present, Elefante and Melissa pick up Sportcoat and head to the Five Ends Church. Together, they chisel lightly into the Jesus mural in search of the Venus. Eventually, they manage find the statue hidden in a small metal box. Elefante is elated and promises to give Sportcoat enough money to replace the missing Christmas funds. He also promises to build a new church if that’s what the members of the Cause would like. As they talk, Elefante treats Sportcoat with great respect and even calls him “Mister Sportcoat.” At first, Sportcoat is taken aback by the title, and he asks Elefante to repeat himself. When Elefante obliges, hearing Elefante call him Mister Sportcoat fills the old deacon with warmth and a sense of shared humanity.
Now that he knows he will be a rich man, Elefante is generous to Sportcoat. He wants to continue in the footsteps of his father by continuing to support the Five Ends Church in any way he can. After hearing from Sister Paul, Elefante realizes the way that his life is inextricably linked to the residents of the Cause. Partially because of this newfound respect—and because of Melissa’s influence—he calls the old deacon “Mister Sportcoat.” In so doing, Elefante gives Sportcoat the respect that he has long been denied. Elefante’s action also represents a gesture of respect between characters of different races, a rarity in the world of the novel.