The day after he digs the hole, Charlie meets Jeffrey in the street to play cricket and listen to a cricket match on the radio. He tells Jeffrey about a nightmare he had last night about The Wizard of Oz, but he neglects to mention that he was dressed as Dorothy, or that his mother was the Wicked Witch, cackling at him. Jeffrey mentions that Laura is missing, and jokes about Charlie abducting her. Charlie is secretly nervous, but he manages to joke about the matter, and Jeffrey seems not to notice his discomfort.
Charlie’s nightmare reinforces the obvious, which is that he dislikes his mother. At the same time, it also suggests that Charlie, like Dorothy, is a dreamer and a loner in a small, dull town. Charlie proves that, much like his parents, he can conceal his secrets and his feelings from other people, even his close friends.
Charlie bowls to Jeffrey, who easily hits everything he receives. After about half an hour of this, Charlie notices two low-flying airplanes above him. For a second, he imagines that the planes have come to arrest him. Although the cricket match is about to resume on the radio, Charlie tells Jeffrey he’s going home. Jeffrey is confused, but says he’ll talk to Charlie later. Charlie arrives home, where he notices that his father is out helping with the search for Laura. Charlie’s mother asks if he wants lunch, and he politely says no.
Charlie’s paranoia is on full display in this moment, as he imagines that the planes are there to take him away. We also get a flavor for Jeffrey’s cricketing abilities, though we don’t know exactly how talented Jeffrey is yet, because he has yet to be allowed to play in a competitive game. We see evidence that Charlie is growing up when he uses “diplomacy” on his mother, just as Wesley suggested.
A few hours later, Charlie hears a tapping at his window. Charlie is sure that it’s Jasper, and so is surprised to see Jeffrey instead. Jeffrey is excited because his favorite cricketer, Doug Walters, did well in his first professional game. In the middle of the conversation, very casually, he tells Charlie that some of his family died yesterday. Charlie doesn’t know what to say, but he asks Jeffrey what he means. Jeffrey explains that his uncle and aunt were killed in a bombing of the village where his mother grew up. Horrified, Charlie asks Jeffrey if he’s all right. Jeffrey says that while he didn’t know his aunt and uncle personally, he feels sorry for his mother, who can’t stop weeping. He adds that his parents are trying to arrange for his cousins, aged twelve and four, to stay with them, even though this is highly difficult to do. In the meantime, his family is sending money to the people who are taking care of his cousins.
In this section, we get more of a sense of Jeffrey’s inner life. So far, Jeffrey has been defined by his external qualities, or the lighter aspects of his personality—his athleticism, his humor, etc. Here, we see that Jeffrey deals with the same feelings as Charlie. Indeed, Jeffrey’s optimism and cheerfulness are reactions—defense mechanisms, even—to the misery his family has experienced, and will probably continue to experience for many years. It’s important that Silvey shows us that the Vietnamese are the victims of Australian soldiers, just as Australian soldiers are victims of the Vietcong. Jeffrey has just as much right to be angry with the townspeople as they do to be angry with him.
Charlie tells Jeffrey that he’s sorry for his family’s loss. Jeffrey mentions that his mother has begun saying “fuck,” which causes both of them to laugh. They spend the rest of Jeffrey’s visit talking about trivial things like toothpaste and men’s nipples. Then Jeffrey says he has to go. Charlie senses that he should say something, but doesn’t know what.
Jeffrey uses humor and jokes to fight his own depression and despair. In this sense, he relies on Charlie to cheer him up, as he needs a friend to bounce his jokes and insults off of. Charlie seems to feel exactly the same way about Jeffrey.
Later in the evening, Charlie sits and watches television with his father and mother. There is a news story about Laura’s disappearance. Wesley expresses his surprise that Laura hasn’t turned up yet. When Charlie asks him how the search has been, he mentions that Laura may have been meeting someone by the river. Charlie begins to panic, but before he can ask anything else, his mother tells Wesley that they shouldn’t be discussing the matter in front of Charlie. Charlie angrily says that he deserves to know about Laura, and his mother tells Wesley that he and Wesley are exactly the same. She leaves the kitchen and slams her bedroom door behind her.
It’s important that Wesley respects Charlie enough to tell him the truth about Laura, or at least part of it, while Charlie’s mother refuses to allow Charlie to hear this information. Charlie’s mother is very committed to the appearance of normality and stability—an obvious trend in Corrigan—while Wesley is not. Charlie’s mother seems to be the one alienating herself from her husband and son, rather than vice versa, when she runs off to her room like an angry, bratty child.
Alone, Wesley reminds Charlie to be diplomatic, adding that he already tells Charlie more than enough about Laura. Charlie asks Wesley if he can come on the search party, but Wesley says that he can’t under any circumstances. Charlie senses that Wesley is right in everything he’s said, as usual.
Charlie respects Wesley’s judgment, even if he initially disagrees with it, so he accepts that he shouldn’t come on the search party.
In his room later that night, Charlie thinks about Vietnam, and wishes he’d asked his father about the matter. He realizes that the bombing in Vietnam seems like one of the least violent things that he’s experienced lately. He also realizes that he wouldn’t care so much about Vietnam if he weren’t friends with Jeffrey, and this distresses Charlie.
Charlie confronts problems of morality that have confounded much wiser, older people. It’s a fact that human beings care more about people they know than they do about strangers, but this is also an evolutionary necessity. Charlie doesn’t arrive at any “solutions” to these moral problems. Rather, his new maturity seems to consist in recognizing them in the first place.
Charlie wonders what will become of Laura. Perhaps the search party will never find her body, and he and Jasper will never find out who killed her. Charlie wonders if he’ll ever be able to forget Laura, or if her family will, if her killer isn’t brought to justice. He concludes that it’s impossible to be completely satisfied with an unsolved mystery. One always craves the truth, especially if it’s about something as important as murder.
Charlie continues to crave the truth and to believe in the truth’s power to restore order and righteousness to the world. At the same time, he’s learning that truth by itself is sometimes ineffective in personal interactions. It’s important to be honest, but also to be tactical—“diplomatic”—with information, calculating what its impact on other people might be.
Charlie gets in bed and thinks about Eliza. She is his only comfort when he’s feeling anxious about Laura. He imagines the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz melting into nothingness, and thinks that it would be interesting to experience death—it might even come as a relief.
Even if he doesn’t understand what to make of Laura, Jasper, or Cooke, Charlie is committed to trying to understand what goes on in their heads. This leads him to some unusual places, like trying to imagine what it would be like to experience death.