20 November Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment; Immediately Pre-Fundraiser-Exhibition-Fête Gaudeamus Igitur. At E.T.A., there is a solemn, ritualistic atmosphere as the students prepare to play. The chapter is being narrated in the first person by an E.T.A. student who is not Hal. The narrator describes a kind of curse that afflicts the family members of Barry Loach, one of the trainers at E.T.A. In one manifestation of the curse, Barry’s older brother, who was studying to be a Jesuit priest, experienced a sudden and devastating loss of faith in humanity.
Barry Loach is certainly not the only character whose family appears to be cursed. Indeed, perhaps a family “curse” is really just a way of conceptualizing the manner in which misfortune breeds misfortune, creating cycles of misery where the problems of one family member are passed on to others.
Barry attempted to prove the existence of human goodness and empathy to his brother by dressing up as a homeless person and asking passersby to touch him. Almost everyone refused, but gave him money instead. Barry ended up making more money through this exercise than he did at his job. His brother was not persuaded by this performance, while Barry himself had his own spiritual crisis due to the fact that absolutely no one would touch him. Eventually, one person chose to enthusiastically shake his hand: Mario Incandenza.
This sad and profound passage considers the fact that people are more likely to give money to homeless people than they are to interact with them. This shows that dehumanization does not always take the form of shunning or violence; it can take the form of charity and pity. Again, Mario is shown to be the moral compass of the novel, as he is the only person who does not participate in this dehumanization.
Orin has been imprisoned inside a glass cage by his latest Subject, the Swiss hand-model (Luria P——). He has attempted to kick down the glass to escape, but has had no success. Luria stands looking at him from the other side of the glass, accompanied by another person Orin doesn’t know, who appears to be sitting down (Fortier in his wheelchair). Orin has been drugged, and still feels nauseous from it. Luria and Fortier demand to know where the master copy of the Entertainment is buried. The two of them release sewer cockroaches into Orin’s cage, at which point he starts to scream “Do it to her! Do it to her!” Luria looks at Fortier and rolls her eyes.
This scene is a reworked version of the final part of George Orwell’s 1984, in which the main character, Winston Smith, betrays his lover Julia under torture. It is possible that the “her” Orin is referring to is either Luria or Avril (and there is even a controversial theory that Avril and Luria are the same person). Most importantly, the line “Do it to her” indicates that Orin has surrendered to his torturers, and will agree to tell them how to find the master copy. This means that the A.F.R. “win” the battle to get the copy and presumably unleash it on the U.S., although this is never explicitly confirmed in the novel.
Gately is lying in his hospital bed, feeling the hottest he’s ever felt in his life. He keeps trying to explain that he is a Demerol addict, but isn’t able to do so. He drifts in and out of surreal dreams. He dreams of what happened after his Dilaudid binge with Facklemann. A group of people including some local thugs entered the apartment, two of them carrying Pamela, who had a grisly shin injury. There were also women dressed in red leather. One of the men present was a “bland corporate guy” who was putting cartridges into a TP’s viewer.
Recall that when Poor Tony was employed to dress as a decoy during the Antitois’ acid attack on the Canadian Minister of Inter-O.N.A.N. Trade, the attacker and decoys all wore red. While we cannot be sure that these two parts of the story are related, the shared detail of the red outfits reminds readers of how interconnected all the different parts of the story are.
The cartridge features Sorkin, a bookie who was scammed by Facklemann in the past. One of Sorkin’s henchman, Bobby C, oversees a pharmacist’s assistant withdrawing two syringes filled with an unknown liquid. C tells Gately not to worry, as Sorkin doesn’t think Gately was part of Facklemann’s plan to screw over Sorkin and Eighties Bill. He tells Gately to just relax and watch Facklemann get his due punishment. Managing to speak for the first time, Facklemann asks if anyone would like some Dilaudid. C and the pharmacist’s assistant tie up Gately.
Again, it emerges that Bobby C is likely the same C that died after taking Drano-laced heroin with Poor Tony, and whose body Tony left behind a dumpster. Rather than concluding with a dramatic final scene, the novel curls into itself, braiding together final aspects of the narrative (including the above revelation that the Swiss hand model is Luria P——).
The pharmacist’s assistant injects Gately with something he calls “pharm-grade Sunshine” (an endnote explains this is the third hardest drug to obtain in Boston, after Vietnamese opium and DMZ). Gately doesn’t feel anything as the Sunshine goes into his bloodstream. He watches as other members of the group sew Facklemann’s eyes open. They’ve already given Facklemann Narcan to make sure he felt the pain of the sewing. Most of the other people in the room are now injecting heroin themselves, while the corporate man drops liquid into Facklemann’s eyes.
This surreal and horrifying scene has another direct reference to a famous dystopian novel: Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (later turned into a film by Stanley Kubrick). In the book, the main character, Alex, is punished for rape and murder by having his eyes clamped open and injected with liquid while he is forced to watch a film featuring sex and violence.
Gately tries to figure out what’s going on before the Sunshine kicks in, while he still has some cognitive capacity. The room is chaotic; someone is vomiting, and Facklemann’s other eye is being sewn open. Gately has an out-of-body experience; the high from the Sunshine is “obscenely pleasant.” The cartridge in the viewer is about “ultraviolence and sadism.”
Here the word “ultraviolence” confirms the connection to Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, where the term was first used.
As Gately finally gets high off the Sunshine, the room and everyone in it melt away in a surreal manner. The effect of the drug is “obscenely pleasant”; Gately feels as if his body is disintegrating, but in a nice way. Gately passes out. When he comes to, he is lying on a beach on “freezing sand.” It is raining and the tide is out.
The final scene of the novel featuring Gately on the beach is anti-climactic yet also eerie and rather lovely. At the same time, this is not the true ending of the novel in terms of its chronological narrative, because some parts—including the opening chapter—are set in the years after this final scene takes place. The book is thus “infinite” in the sense that it is not contained by the novel as a frame, but stretches out into the future. This sense of expansiveness is intensified by the fact that it is left up to the reader to piece together what the novel’s chronological ending actually is.