Two years later, the members of the Cause gather at the Five Ends Church to attend Sportcoat’s funeral. After helping Elefante secure the Venus, nobody in the Cause (except for Hot Sausage) ever saw Sportcoat again. Sportcoat’s funeral, like all funerals in the Cause, is a rambunctious and exciting affair that Sportcoat would have marveled at. There is a huge amount of cheese everywhere, and all of his friends and family are present.
Here, the novel takes a huge leap forward to the days following Sportcoat’s death. This leap in time allows the novel to reveal the positive outcome of Sportcoat and Elefante’s actions. It is also a way for the novel to come full circle; it begins with Hettie’s funeral, and it ends with Sportcoat’s.
The church is now in a better state because of the money Elefante put into it (although it is still being renovated during the funeral), and Elefante himself shows up for Sportcoat’s funeral, as do Potts and even Sister Paul. Included in Elefante’s renovations is a marvelous painting of a Black Jesus, which adorns the church’s back wall. Although the members of the church are thrilled with the improvements, they do not know where the money is coming from to pay for them.
Sportcoat’s funeral is an even grander affair than Hettie’s. This suggests that Sportcoat had a huge impact on the community; they all want to show up to celebrate his life. Additionally, this passage discusses the improvements that have been made to the Five Ends Church. Throughout the novel, the church has served as a beacon of light and hope for the community. As such, when the church gets a boost, so do the residents of the Cause.
Elefante and Melissa are now married, and Potts is retired from the service. Meanwhile, Deems, as a result of his conversation with Sportcoat, is no longer selling drugs. Instead, he’s managed to join a minor league baseball team (the Iowa Cubs) and is well on his way to playing professionally. Additionally, two members of the Five Ends choir, Nanette and Sweet Corn, have made themselves Pudgy Fingers’s guardian in Sportcoat’s absence.
Deems, in becoming a sports star, undergoes the most extreme transformation of any character in the novel. Not only is Deems able to escape his criminal past, but he also manages to excel in one of America’s most popular sports, symbolizing his attainment of the mythic American Dream. His success would surely make Sportcoat proud.
After the funeral, Sister Gee talks to Hot Sausage to learn about what happened to Sportcoat. Hot Sausage tells Sister Gee that Sportcoat managed to maintain his sobriety throughout the end of his life. However, Sportcoat felt certain that he would eventually drink again. The last time Hot Sausage saw Sportcoat, the old deacon was walking into the water near the docks where he shot Deems. There, Sportcoat held a bottle of King Kong, which he no longer drank. Hot Sausage warned Sportcoat not to go into the water, insisting that it was too cold. However, after walking in up to his neck, Sportcoat turned to Hot Sausage and said, “Sausage, the water is so warm! It’s beautiful.”
Sportcoat’s death is largely shrouded in mystery, much like Hettie’s. Also, like Hettie’s death, the reader only ever gets a secondhand account of what happened. Although the passage is somewhat ambiguous, it seems as though Sportcoat walked into the water and drowned himself so he would not relapse. He wanted to die a sober man rather than one consumed by addiction. In the end, Sportcoat dies the same way as Hettie. However, Sportcoat’s death enables his redemption.
Hot Sausage also tells Sister Gee that he learned that Pudgy Fingers isn’t Sportcoat and Hettie’s biological son. When Hettie first moved to New York, and before Sportcoat followed her, she got a knock on her door. Outside was a woman with a small child around 5 to 6 years old. The woman asked Hettie if she could briefly look after the boy. Hettie agrees to do so, but the woman never came back. Nonetheless, Hettie and Sportcoat decided to raise the child as their own.
Good parents who are also present in their children’s lives are a rarity in this novel. Although Hettie and Sportcoat are far from perfect parents, they take in Pudgy Fingers and do what they can for him. They know that if they don’t, no one else will.
Additionally, Hot Sausage tells Sister Gee the story of the moonflowers, which were mysteriously planted behind the Five Ends Church. He informs her that it was Sportcoat who planted and maintained the flowers. Hettie always wished Sportcoat would do more gardening, and she loved moonflowers, so Sportcoat plants them in her honor. Before walking into the water, Sportcoat asked Hot Sausage to make sure that someone looks after the flowers in his stead.
It is notable that moonflowers replace moonshine in Sportcoat’s life. The flowers signal Sportcoat’s renewed dedication to Hettie, as well as his new lease on life. Here, the flowers symbolize both love and redemption. Sportcoat wants to show Hettie that he can be a good man and maintain his sobriety.
About one week after Sportcoat’s funeral, Sister Gee takes the Staten Island Ferry—something she’s never done before—to see Potts. While riding the ferry, Sister Gee tries to keep a low profile, as though someone might recognize her. However, she quickly realizes that doing so is silly; no one she knows rides the Staten Island Ferry.
Sister Gee’s ferry trip to see Potts is a sign of hope and progress. The ferry bridges the gap between two worlds, one belonging to a white, former police officer, and the other belonging to a poor, Black house cleaner.
As Sister Gee looks out across the water, she sees the Cause Houses on one side of her and the Statue of Liberty and Staten Island on the other. She feels as though one side represents “the certainty of the past,” while the other represents “the uncertainty of the future. This makes her nervous, but she reassures herself by thinking about Potts. Potts is newly divorced from his wife and has a lot in common with Sister Gee. Like Sister Gee, he’s lived an unselfish life, always cleaning up others’ messes. Sister Gee thinks that together, the two of them could make a nice couple and finally live the lives they want to.
The final pages of the novel are optimistic and hopeful about the future. Here, in its final moments, the novel emphasizes that although nobody can change the past, the future can be a better and brighter place—one that sees more equality and tolerance, and less violence.