Denver CO, 1 November Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment. Orin and the rest of his football team (the Arizona Cardinals) are flying around a stadium in bird costumes. Orin, who is afraid of heights, is hating every minute of it. He angrily thinks to himself: “I’m an athlete! Not a freakshow performer!” In the next passage, an E.T.A. student called Michael Pemulis tells a group of little kids about the effects of eating Amanita muscaria, a psychoactive mushroom.
The surreal passage featuring Orin and his NFL team draws attention to the relationship between sport and entertainment. Orin’s indignation at being made to behave like a “freakshow performer” suggests he believes being an athlete is something more dignified and skillful. At the same time, this publicity stunt is only incrementally more extreme than the real world of sports entertainment—after all, there really are football teams called things like “the Cardinals” who wear bird logos on their uniforms while competing against each other for peoples’ entertainment.
The narrative switches to first person again. The narrator, Hal, explains that he did not start smoking Bob Hope (an endnote explains that this is Boston slang for marijuana) until he was 15. Smoking weed helps him to go to sleep and makes him have a recurring dream in which he is playing a competitive tennis match being watched by an enormous crowd. He can see Avril in the audience, her fist raised in a gesture of “unconditional support.”
In contrast to all the nightmares that have featured in the narrative thus far, Hal’s dream is rather comforting and sweet. Or at least so it seems—in reality, perhaps the image of Avril and her “unconditional support” actually intensifies the feelings of pressure to succeed that Hal faces from all the adults around him.