Even the morning after the Morgan’s Falls trip, Josie is cold toward Klara. Klara is surprised that the Mother also seems distant, since it seemed like the trip went well.
Klara still has a limited understanding of human emotions, so she can’t understand how a trip can seem to go well but also make someone distant at the same time. The Mother seems pleased with Klara but sad that her trip made her imagine a future without Josie.
Josie becomes weaker, and now instead of going down to the kitchen for breakfast, the Mother has coffee in Josie’s bedroom. Melania Housekeeper is bothered by Klara’s hovering around, so she sends Klara outside. As she walks, she gets the idea of asking for help from the Sun for Josie, since the Sun did so much to help Beggar Man.
Klara’s relationship with the Sun transforms over the course of the book. She goes from observing it from a distance to trying to cultivate a personal relationship with it in a way that resembles spirituality or religion.
A doctor visits Josie often, as does Rick. Josie stops taking remote school lessons. Melania Housekeeper makes Klara chaperone when Rick is there. During Rick’s visits, he and Josie often play “the bubble game,” a game that they invented when they were younger. Josie draws sketches, then Rick adds dialogue or thought bubbles to them.
The bubble game represents how even though Rick and Josie are different, their differences can complement each other. The fact that Josies sketches while Rick writes dialogue for them suggests that Josie is more fanciful and more of a leader, whereas Rick is more practical and willing to follow her lead.
Josie and Rick discuss a man who is painting Josie’s portrait in the city. Rick finds him creepy, particularly since Josie has been to his studio four times but never seen anything. He takes lots of pictures of her different body parts. Josie counters that the Mother is always there, and she wouldn’t just hire a pervert.
Josie’s lack of suspicion suggests both that she has a trusting nature and that she trusts her mom in particular. Rick, perhaps because of his less comfortable upbringing, is more likely to regard strangers with suspicion.
Eventually, after more visits, the bubble game goes from fun to tense. Rick has a harder time writing the words. He is particularly stumped by what to write about a tribe of eyeball aliens looking at a female figure. Ultimately, Josie is disappointed by what Rick writes.
Josie seems to be using her art as a way to express feelings that she can’t put into words. The eyeball aliens could reflect the scrutiny of the doctor, the portrait being taken of her, her mom’s constant supervision, or perhaps all of the above.
Klara sees one of the bubble game comics on the ground while tidying up one day. Josie asks her what she thinks of it. Klara believes that Rick interpreted two of the figures in the drawing as himself and Josie. Josie doesn’t like the text, because it implies that she is a blob character who changes with different situations, but Klara believes the text Rick wrote for the characters is kind to Josie, since it shows she is clever at protecting herself.
The fact that Rick tries to compliment Josie but ends up accidentally insulting her shows how difficult communication can be, even among people as close as Josie and Rick. Although Rick did not intend to insult Josie, his implication that she changes her personality seems to have hit too close to home, since Josie is still learning how she wants to present herself in new situations—like, for instance, in the interaction meetings.
On another afternoon, Josie and Rick play the bubble game again. Rick is taking a while on a bubble, and they start talking about other subjects, and Josie suggests that Rick should try to get into Atlas Brookings, a college that takes a small percentage of unlifted children (like Rick). Josie is worried that “the plan” won’t work if Rick doesn’t get a good education. Rick finally finishes the bubble. Josie is offended by what he writes, and Rick leaves without another word. The comic features a Josie-like character saying that she’s glad her mother has “Courage” so that she can stay in bed all day and be sick.
With his bubbles, Rick implies that Josie’s mother is to blame for Josie’s illness, since the illness itself is connected to the process of being “lifted.” Josie’s insistence on helping Rick get into Atlas Brookings seems to be an attempt to help him attain a level of privilege similar to hers in order for them to be together. Rick seems to genuinely want to stay with Josie, but he seems more skeptical of the lifestyle changes he might have to make in order for “the plan” to become reality.
One morning later, Klara finds Josie drawing and writing intensely. She asks Klara to put the paper in an envelope in a drawer. Klara guesses correctly that the paper must be for Rick. But Rick has not come back since the bubble game incident. Klara volunteers to deliver the letter, and Josie agrees.
Once again, Josie finds that she has an easier time expressing herself in drawings than in person. This might suggest a creative personality, or it could be the result of her isolated lifestyle and educational background.
Klara takes the letter to Rick’s house. She notices Rick’s house is not as nice as Josie’s. Rick is excited about the envelope and invites Klara inside. Rick apologizes for the smell and says his mother isn’t well (but not sick like Josie), but Klara can’t smell.
Even someone like Klara can see that there is a difference between how Josie lives and how Rick lives. Klara’s inability to smell, however, suggests that, for a robot, such differences are not as significant as they are to humans.
Rick opens the envelope and finds that it contains a drawing that says “Rick and Josie forever” on it. A happy stick-figure boy and girl are surrounded by pointy looking objects. Rick likes it. Klara suggests maybe he should say thank you in person. Rick wonders if it’s a good idea, but Klara argues it is.
Klara has become more acting on her own behalf instead of strictly following orders. Despite this, her main priority is generally not herself but Josie. The fact that even a robot learns to care for other people could be read as an argument against the idea that people are inherently selfish, since Klara started out as something like a blank slate.
Klara then asks about McBain’s barn. She believes it may be related to helping Josie with her illness. Rick is confused, but Klara doesn’t want to explain everything yet. Rick trusts Klara and tells her there’s an informal path going to the barn, but it’s not maintained and could be difficult for an AF.
Klara’s secrecy about her actions suggests that her “religion” with the Sun is becoming more and more elaborate. On the one hand, there is something primal about Klara’s beliefs—something that recalls ancient humans worshiping the sky. But there are also elements to her beliefs about the Sun that are quite ordinary and that would ultimately make sense to contemporary readers: she asks the Sun to help cure an illness, just as many people today often pray to ask for an illness to be cured.
Just then, Rick’s mother (Miss Helen) interrupts. She doesn’t seem to notice Klara at first and talks a lot. She asks Klara questions about various things, like how she learned to speak. She then talks about how Rick is trying to get into Atlas Brookings, the only decent college that accepts unlifted students, but Rick has had trouble getting tutors. Rick asks his mother to drop the subject.
It's implied that Miss Helen is drunk or similarly impaired, and that this is typical for her. This contrasts sharply with the Mother, who is very put-together and businesslike, favoring coffee instead of alcohol. This suggests that Rick’s inability to gain college admittance has less to do with his own aptitude and more to do with his mother’s inability to secure the proper credentials for him.
Miss Helen begins telling Klara a story about how one time she looked out the window and saw the Mother (whom she calls Chrissie) with a child who wasn’t Josie. Rick suggests maybe his mother wasn’t in the best condition that day, but Miss Helen asserts that she was seeing and thinking clearly. Miss Helen believes she saw the Mother with Sal—except this was two years after Sal died. Klara agrees that this is a strange story.
Because Miss Helen is drunk, she is less inhibited about saying things she probably shouldn’t. Although Miss Helen is an unreliable source, she doesn’t seem to be making up the story about seeing Sal after she was dead. Klara already knows that the Mother was deeply affected by Sal’s death and that there are things about it the Mother doesn’t want to discuss, so this deepens the mystery.
Rick suggests Klara should leave, but Miss Helen says first they need to discuss Rick’s education. She notices Josie’s drawing, but Rick takes it and puts it away before she can see. Miss Helen gets off topic, so Klara asks her what she has to say about education.
Miss Helen keeps switching topics of conversation, showing how she lacks the focus to provide stability for Rick in the way that Josie’s mom does for her.
Rick leaves. Miss Helen says that she’d like for Klara to help Rick study. Then she says that the real issue is getting Rick to want to try (because he believes he can’t go away and leave his mother alone). Miss Helen then says that, while she has a “secret weapon,” the only one who can really affect how Rick thinks is Josie.
Despite her flakiness, Miss Helen does seem to understand some important things about her son’s personality—in particular, how he is too stubborn to listen to her but how Josie might be able to influence his opinions.
Klara says she’s surprised that Miss Helen would choose a path that might lead to her own loneliness. Then Rick comes back, and Klara says she must get back to Josie. Rick asks Klara to tell Josie that he really likes the picture and that perhaps he’ll be over the next day to say so himself.
Despite her flaws, there is also a selfless side to Miss Helen, and it seems that she really does want what is best for Rick. Rick’s decision to go back and see Josie means that the drawing had its desired effect and Josie was able to use it to express her feelings.
Following Rick’s instructions, Klara makes the journey to Mr. McBain’s barn just before sunset. She stumbles, but Rick (who has been watching from a window) comes out to help her. He agrees to carry her piggyback the rest of the way.
This passage shows Rick’s selfless personality. He is willing to do what he can to help Josie, even when Josie doesn’t know about it and when it doesn’t directly affect Josie. More so than many other characters in the book, Rick treats Klara as a person instead of an object.
Rick and Klara make it to Mr. McBain’s barn, and Klara asks to be left alone. She sits and waits in the barn for the Sun to fill it. As the Sun gets near, she forms words in her thoughts (because she believes the Sun doesn’t need to hear her aloud) and asks the Sun to make Josie better, just like the Sun did for Beggar Man. She apologizes to the Sun if her request seems selfish and promises that she’ll do something special in return if the Sun helps her.
Klara’s idea that the Sun can read her thoughts makes her ritual in the barn resemble prayer. Klara envisions her relationship with the Sun as almost transactional, where if she does enough to please it, it might do her a favor. Although the story seems to take place in a realistic future world, where the Sun is not actually a godlike being, the novel never goes outside of Klara’s perspective, and she remains a committed believer in the power of the Sun.
As Klara heads back, she finds that Rick ignored her and waited for her to finish. Klara tells Rick that his mother, Miss Helen, is stronger than he realizes and that he should consider going to college, but Rick remains skeptical. He says his mother’s “secret weapon” is just an old flame of hers who is connected to the school.
Rick shows his selfless nature both in his concern for Klara as well as in his concern for his mother, Miss Helen. As Klara points out, however, it’s possible to care too much, and Rick’s concerns about his mother could end up holding back his own future.
The next day, Rick comes to visit Josie again. They tease each other and reconcile. Rick suggests that maybe Klara should give them some privacy. Klara says she has to stay to stop any hanky-panky, but Josie assures her that’s not going to happen.
This passage shows the importance of in-person interaction and how, even though Rick and Josie made up after Rick received Josie’s drawing, it takes an in-person meeting for them to really get back to how they used to be.
Klara begins to think about destroying the Cootings Machine. She doesn’t want to tell anyone about her plan, but—conveniently—the Mother tells Klara that they’ll soon be taking a trip into the city. They are all going so that Josie can have her portrait done by Mr. Capaldi. Mr. Capaldi is also interested in meeting AFs. Rick and Miss Helen will also be coming because they have their own business in the city.
Destroying the Cootings Machine would be the special gift to the Sun that Klara promised in McBain’s barn. Her secrecy about her actions suggests that she knows the humans around her might not approve, but she nevertheless remains convinced that her actions are right.
Later in the week, Rick and Miss Helen visit the house. Everyone seems to be in a good mood. Rick tells Klara he’s decided he’s going to do his best to get into Atlas Brookings, the college that accepts unlifted students. He even agreed to meet with the man his mother used to be involved with who has connections to the school.
Miss Helen was correct, and it was ultimately Josie (perhaps with Klara’s help) who was able to convince Rick to try to apply to Atlas Brookings. Though Josie has slightly selfish reasons for wanting him to go there, she also seems to truly believe it is a worthwhile opportunity for Rick.
Two days later, Klara is a little surprised when Melania Housekeeper tells Klara that the Mother won’t allow her (Melania) to come to the city with them, so it’s Klara’s duty to keep a close eye on Josie. Melania calls Mr. Capaldi a creep and suggests he might not really be a portrait painter. Klara agrees, and Melania Housekeeper says she and Klara are on the same side when it comes to protecting Josie.
The Mother seems to sense that Melania Housekeeper does not always approve of the Mother’s plans regarding Josie. It seems clear that Mr. Capaldi is doing much more than simply making a painting of Josie, but if Klara has realized what’s happening, she doesn’t reveal it to the reader yet.
One night, still before the trip, Klara hears Josie crying out in the middle of the night. Josie says she isn’t in pain but needs the Mother at once. Klara says that as an AF, she can do whatever Josie needs, but Josie insists on her mom. When the Mother comes, Josie says she doesn’t want to die, and her mom stays until Josie falls back asleep.
This passage shows that Josie puts on a strong face in public but that, in private moments like in the middle of the night, she sometimes has a hard time confronting the horror of the disease she has and the possibility of her own death.