Paul describes the act of writing as a time machine that allows him to re-enter the past. He compares writing memories to rape, something terrifying that consumes him whole. He says that writing creates a kind of magic—and that magic, as he knows from John Coffey, can be dangerous. When he wrote down his memories of Delacroix’s execution the day before, he wrote in a steady flow that brought him back to the past and made him feel that he could smell the man’s burned body in the solarium.
Paul’s mixed description of writing as a project that is both good and bad, soothing and dangerous, implies that the act itself is bound up with suffering—in particular, with the evocation of painful memories and lost people or things. The process also involves self-examination, thereby allowing the full truth to come forth.
When Paul is done with this episode, around four o’clock, he goes on his usual walk in the woods, making sure that Brad Dolan’s car is nowhere to be seen, even though he knows that Brad’s shift has long ended. He stays in the shed he knows for a little while. The next morning, he wakes up and gets dressed rapidly, in the hope that Brad Dolan might not have arrived yet, but his hopes are disappointed when he sees Brad’s car in the parking lot. Elaine startles Paul while he is looking out the window, and she tells him she knows he is looking for Dolan’s car.
Paul desperately tries to flee Brad Dolan in the same way that he persistently tried to get rid of Percy Wetmore. The men’s similar attitudes signal that, even in the seeming comfort of the nursing home, cruelty can strike innocent people. Instead of being confined to the extraordinary setting of death row, sadism affects people of all walks of life, proving seemingly ineradicable in human life.
Elaine asks if Paul can postpone his walk, and when he says he probably shouldn’t, she devises a plan. She decides to set off the smoke detector by smoking a cigarette. Full of admiration and thinking that Elaine reminds him of his late wife Janice, Paul tells her he loves her. She teases him but seems pleased. After Paul tells her to be careful, she kisses him, and Paul praises what he ironically calls “love among the ruins.”
Elaine bravely defies the nursing home’s rules to help her friend achieve what he describes as a moral obligation. Once again, the characters prove more willing to respect morality than legality, demonstrating that human beings can respect higher principles even if they put their own safety or well-being at risk.
A few minutes after Elaine leaves, Paul hears the fire alarm and, as he thinks about what Elaine has done, he trusts that his alliance with Elaine could defeat even numerous Percy Wetmores and Brad Dolans. Paul grabs a few cold slices of toast, despite the cooks’ offer to make some fresh ones, and heads outside. On his way to the woods, Paul reflects on his conversation with the other prison guards in his house, when he told them how he knew that Coffey was innocent.
Paul realizes that it is not punishment, but the healing powers of love and solidarity that are capable of defeating the eternal cruel impulses of human beings. True justice, then, does not come in the form of judgment and proclaimed superiority over others, but in the bettering of relationships among human beings. Justice is felt in its capacity to heal harm, not to punish the aggressor.