Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Dad Character Analysis

Thomas Schell, Jr., Oskar’s father, never appears in the novel, since it takes place after he died, but he provides its emotional center, and his death precipitates the novel’s main storylines. Dad didn’t work in the World Trade Center—he was a jeweler, and he was visiting the towers for a meeting, which just happened to be on the morning of September 11. For Oskar, the public grief of the city becomes enmeshed with the painful, private grief of Dad’s death. Oskar feels like he has to choose between loyalty to his father’s memory or being able to be there for his Mom in the present. Other characters in the novel are also rocked by Dad’s death: Mom and Grandma, of course, are also in grief, but his death has larger ripple effects, too. When Grandpa sees the name “Thomas Schell” in the obituaries, he immediately boards a plane to Manhattan from Dresden, though he hasn’t been back for forty years. Even though Dad is dead, we do get to hear his voice. Oskar preserves the phone messages that Dad left on September 11, playing them to himself and, eventually, to Grandpa. Dad’s voice is also embedded in the structure of the novel like a voicemail. In the eleventh chapter of the novel (which may or not be coincidental, given the significance of “11” in this novel focused around 9/11), in a flashback, Dad tells Oskar the story of the “Sixth Borough,” which turns out to be a fable to help Oskar deal with loss and grief. Oskar is overwhelmed with guilt and grief, not only because he didn’t tell anyone about the phone messages, but, more importantly, because he heard his Dad make his final phone call but he didn’t pick up the phone. When Oskar finds the mysterious key in Dad’s closet, he takes the key as a sign and starts an elaborate expedition, just like the kind of expeditions his Dad used to send him on around the city. Finding out what the key unlocks becomes Oskar’s way of both holding onto his Dad’s memory and trying to help assuage his guilt at the loss. The expedition also allows Oskar to connect with others who are in pain when he learns about the difficulties they have faced in their lives and how they experience love and loss.

Dad Quotes in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close quotes below are all either spoken by Dad or refer to Dad. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Mariner Books edition of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close published in 2006.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Isn’t it so weird how the number of dead people is increasing even though the earth stays the same size, so that one day there isn’t going to be room to bury anyone anymore?

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker), Dad
Related Symbols: Science, Mathematics, and Invention
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

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I spent all day walking around the park, looking for something that might tell me something, but the problem was that I didn’t know what I was looking for…But that’s how tricky Dad could be. There was nothing, which would have been unfortunate, unless nothing was a clue. Was nothing a clue?

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker), Dad
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
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There were four more messages from him: one at 9:12, one at 9:31, one at 9:46, and one at 10:04. I listened to them, and listened to them again, and then before I had time to figure out what to do, or even what to think or feel, the phone started ringing.
It was 10:26:47.
I looked at the caller ID and saw that it was him.

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker), Dad
Related Symbols: Telephones
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes

But still, it gave me heavy, heavy boots. Dad wasn’t a Great Man, not like Winston Churchill, whoever he was. Dad was just someone who ran a family jewelry business. Just an ordinary dad. But I wished so much, then, that he had been Great. I wished he’d been famous, famous like a movie star, which is what he deserved. I wished Mr. Black had written about him, and risked his life to tell the world about him, and had reminders of him around his apartment.

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker), Dad, Mr. Black
Related Symbols: Letters, Notes, and Notebooks
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes

A millimeter at a time, the Sixth Borough receded from New York…The eight bridges between Manhattan and the Sixth Borough strained and finally crumbled, one at a time, into the water. The tunnels were pulled too thin to hold anything at all. The phone and electrical lines snapped…those fireflies in glass jars, which had once been used merely for decorative purposes during the festivals of the leap, were now found in every room of every home, taking the place of artificial light.

Related Characters: Dad (speaker), Oskar Schell
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

By the time the park found its current resting place, every single one of the children had fallen asleep, and the park was a mosaic of their dreams.

Related Characters: Dad (speaker), Oskar Schell
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 13 Quotes

I want to stop inventing. If I could know how he died, exactly how he died, I wouldn’t have to invent him dying…There were so many different ways to die, and I just need to know which was his.

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker), Grandpa, Dad
Related Symbols: Science, Mathematics, and Invention
Page Number: 257
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 14 Quotes

There won’t be enough pages in this book for me to tell you what I need to tell you, I could write smaller, I could slice the pages down their edges to make two pages, I could write over my own writing, but then what?

Related Characters: Grandpa (speaker), Dad
Related Symbols: Letters, Notes, and Notebooks
Page Number: 276
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 15 Quotes

He needed me, and I couldn’t pick up. I just couldn’t pick up. I just couldn’t. Are you there? He asked eleven times. I know, because I’ve counted. It’s one more than I can count on my fingers….Sometimes I think he knew I was there. Maybe he kept saying it to give me time to get brave enough to pick it up.

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker), Dad, William Black
Related Symbols: Telephones
Page Number: 301
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 17 Quotes

I’d have said “Dad?” backwards, which would have sounded the same as “Dad” forward.
He would have told me the story of the Sixth Borough, from the voice in the can at the end to the beginning, from “I love you” to “Once upon a time…”
We would have been safe.

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker), Dad
Page Number: 326
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Dad Character Timeline in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The timeline below shows where the character Dad appears in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1, “What The?”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...interests Oskar. When Oskar describes playing tambourine, he mentions for the first time that his Dad has died. (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Thinking about his tambourine and his Dad’s death makes Oskar free associate about death in general: he ruminates about all the dead... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Oskar describes the limousine ride to the cemetery for his Dad’s funeral. He chatters at Gerald, the limousine driver, telling nerdy puns and jokes that fail... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...in a limo—when he and “the renter” (that is, Oskar’s Grandpa) went to dig up Dad’s coffin—and then talks about the “Reconnaissance Expeditions” that he and his Dad used to do... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Oskar describes the last story that his Dad ever told him, about New York City’s sixth borough, but he doesn’t tell the full... (full context)
Chapter 3, “Googolplex”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...is the narrator of this chapter. He describes the bracelet he made for Mom after Dad’s death, in which he converted Dad’s last voice message into Morse code and depicted it... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Since his Dad’s death, Oskar has had trouble with several triggering things, like showers, crossing suspension bridges, and... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
One night, he rummages around Dad’s closet and tries to pull down a blue glass vase he’s never seen before. The... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...the key had been in and sees the word “Black” written on the back. His Dad’s handwriting looks weird, as though it were written hastily. He Googles “Black” and puts some... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...he can skip school. They chat and Mom tells him that he sounds just like Dad, but Oskar says that it doesn’t make him feel good when she says he sounds... (full context)
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Oskar notices that one of the pages has his Dad’s name, “Thomas Schell,” on it. (The name is written in red ink on the last... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Oskar listens to Dad’s phone messages again. He keeps the phone inside his closet—he didn’t want his mother to... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...bit over the walkie-talkies, as they do very often. Oskar tells Grandma that he misses Dad. He asks her why Grandpa wanted to leave, and imagines a device that would flash... (full context)
Chapter 5, “The Only Animal”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...this chapter. Oskar remembers reading the first chapter of A Brief History of Time when Dad was alive, and they discuss doing something relatively insignificant: even though it might seem miniscule... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...starts to cry, but then rings the buzzer again and tells the man that his Dad is dead. The man says that if Oskar comes up, he’ll look at the key,... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...be old enough for her to love me.” He asks again if Abby knew his Dad, Thomas Schell, and again, she says no. When he shows her the key, she also... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
After Dad died, Oskar explains to the reader, Oskar and his Mom went to Oskar’s Dad’s storage... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
That night, Oskar stays up designing jewelry, and he can’t stop thinking about his Dad’s storage facility. He can’t sleep, so he goes to Mom’s room and watches her sleep.... (full context)
Chapter 7, Heavier Boots
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...his Mom fight as Oskar’s Mom is tucking him into bed. Mom tells him that Dad’s spirit is in his coffin, but Oskar curses at her. Oskar blames his Mom for... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...start to make up, but the fight escalates when Oskar says that she can’t miss Dad when she is with Ron now. He yells that if he could have chosen, he... (full context)
Chapter 8, “My Feelings”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Grandma feels the baby (that is, Dad) kick in her belly, and she releases all the animals from the apartment: they leave... (full context)
Chapter 9, “Happiness, Happiness”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...at the top of the World Trade Center. Oskar wonders if she could have served Dad coffee on the morning that Dad died. (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...puberty. Oskar rejects this statement, saying that he feels the way he does because his Dad died a horrible death. (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
That night, Oskar listens to one of Dad’s messages again—the one left at 9:46 AM—and waits for Saturday, so that he can continue... (full context)
Chapter 11, “The Sixth Borough”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
In the first chapter of the novel, Oskar alludes to his Dad telling him the story of the Sixth Borough, and this chapter depicts the scene in... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
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Dad tells Oskar that the Sixth Borough was an island separated from Manhattan by a thin... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...Philharmonic played, and the children of New York were pulled “into Manhattan and into adulthood,” Dad says. By the time the park had found its resting place, the children had fallen... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Dad tells Oskar there are lots of clues in Central Park to its mysterious origin, like... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Dad says that there’s a gigantic hole in the middle of the Sixth Borough where Central... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Oskar asks Dad if any of the things that he dug up from Central Park were actually from... (full context)
Chapter 12, “My Feelings”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Oskar’s Mom calls, asking if Grandma has heard from Dad; neither of them has. Mom tells Grandma that she loves her. Grandma goes over to... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Mom comes home and asks if Oskar’s Dad had called. Oskar says no, and also says no when Mom asks if there had... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Grandma writes about Dad’s funeral sometime later, in which they buried Dad’s empty coffin. That night, Oskar walks Grandma... (full context)
Chapter 13, “Alive and Alone”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...who he is, the old man writes that his name is Thomas, just like Oskar’s Dad. Oskar gives the old man his card. (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Oskar, surprising himself, runs home and gets the phone with Dad’s messages on it. Oskar plays them for Grandpa. Grandpa suggests (by writing) that maybe Dad... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Oskar says that he wants to know how Dad died so he can stop inventing how he died. Oskar says he has found videos... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
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...the middle for planes to fly through. Then, he has the idea to dig up Dad’s coffin. (full context)
Chapter 14, “Why I’m Not Where You Are (9/11/03)”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...“I’m still sorry”. There’s a photograph of a doorknob in the chapter. Grandpa writes to Dad about how he is about to go meet Oskar to dig up Dad’s coffin. (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
One day, Grandma tells Grandpa about Dad—who is, she says, “Not our son, my son.” Grandma gave Dad the only letter that... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...the window. Grandpa goes outside, and Oskar tells Grandpa about his idea to dig up Dad’s grave. The text gets too close to read, eventually crowding into a black square. (full context)
Chapter 15, “A Simple Solution to an Impossible Problem”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
The day after “the renter” (Grandpa) and Oskar dig up Dad’s grave, Oskar goes to Mr. Black’s apartment to tell him what happened, but an unfamiliar... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...no longer felt like he was moving in the direction of finding out more about Dad. (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
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...night, he looks at the telephone (the new one, not the old one with his Dad’s messages on it). He hasn’t listened to any messages on the new phone. But now,... (full context)
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...is why he’s at work on a Sunday night. Oskar asks William if he recognizes Dad’s name, but William says he doesn’t. Oskar describes his first visit to Abby Black, eight... (full context)
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...William had already sold all of his father’s belongings—and he had sold the vase to Dad. (full context)
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William says that Dad had come to the sale on the way home from work and that Dad was... (full context)
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Oskar tells William that his Dad had left five messages on the answering machine on the morning of September 11, but... (full context)
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...that is) under the streetlamp to discuss the details of their plan to dig up Dad’s coffin: somehow, they’re much better at concocting these plans than actually carrying them out. Oskar... (full context)
Chapter 16, “My Feelings”
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...but Grandma knows that, too. Grandpa says that last night, he and Oskar dug up Dad’s grave, and Grandpa buried the letters he wrote, along with the key to Grandma’s apartment,... (full context)
Chapter 17, “Beautiful and True”
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...meet Grandpa, and at exactly midnight, Gerald, the limousine driver who had driven Oskar to Dad’s funeral, arrives. During the drive, Oskar figures out that he can open the sunroof; he... (full context)
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At the cemetery, it takes twenty minutes just to find Dad’s grave. Oskar and Grandpa start digging, but after an hour, they’ve barely gotten anywhere. The... (full context)
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Mom says that Dad had called her from the World Trade Center on the day that he died. Dad... (full context)
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...if time worked like that: if the man had gone back into the window, and Dad would have left his messages backward until the machine was empty, and the plane would... (full context)