After finishing his story, Paul sits looking out the window of the solarium. When Elaine walks in, he hands her the rest of the story and Elaine, who has read the first part, realizes that Paul is a hundred and four years old. She says she is a little scared to read the rest but decides to do it anyway. Paul goes to sit outside in the sun and sees Brad Dolan leave the premises in his car.
Paul shares his story with Elaine so that she might understand him more fully and, perhaps, provide the comfort that he seeks, helping him to deal with the injustice of Coffey’s death. The presence of Brad only reinforces the feeling that it is impossible to ever escape cruelty and injustice.
At 4 P.M., when Elaine has finished the story, she joins Paul and says she is sorry for Coffey and for Paul. She begins to cry and Paul holds her. She asks Paul what happened to Melinda Moores and Paul says she died about ten years later of a heart attack, outliving Hal by two years. When Elaine asks, Paul says he is not yet ready to talk about Janice’s death. He promises her to tell her one day. However, he is never able to fulfill that promise because Elaine dies three months later in her bed of a heart attack. Writing retrospectively, Paul says he loves her and misses her, along with Janice and Brutal and everyone else.
As in prison, death is an omnipresent theme that affects Paul personally, demonstrating that people from all walks of life are bound to suffer the same fate. The variety of ways in which people die show that it is impossible to predict one’s death, however good or bad one may be in life. Surrounded by so much death, Paul is bound to suffer the pain of his loved ones’ absence—to live, as his narrative demonstrates, with what remains of his memory.
Paul then takes Elaine to go see the shed in the woods. When they arrive, he opens the door and Elaine lets out a surprised scream. Paul calls Mr. Jingles and the mouse appears, slowly limping into John’s hand. Then, to Elaine’s disbelief, Paul takes out a colored spool and shows her Mr. Jingles’s favorite trick. Paul says he feeds him toast because the mouse’s digestion can no longer handle peppermint candies. When Mr. Jingles accepts a piece of toast from Elaine, Paul jokes that the mouse knows she is not a floater.
Mr. Jingles’s return seems just as miraculous as his first appearance in prison. In the same way that he accompanied Delacroix through his prison ordeal, this time he is providing company and amusement to Paul during the last years of his life. This situation establishes a surprising comparison between Delacroix and Paul, suggesting that Paul, like Delacroix, might not be as free as he may seem.
Paul says the mouse appeared out of nowhere, showing up at the nursing home one day, and that he took care of him. Paul throws the spool again and he and Elaine talk about the fact that Coffey touched the mouse in the same way he touched Paul, making both of them resistant to aging. Suddenly, a voice interrupts the conversation with a sarcastic, threatening tone and Brad Dolan enters the shed. Paul, who feels that Brad is Percy, runs toward him to keep him from killing Mr. Jingles. Brad, however, comments that the mouse is already dead and, when Paul and Janice turn around to look, they realize that Mr. Jingles has indeed died while running after the spool. Elaine bursts into tears.
As Paul had already noticed previously, the past does seem to repeat itself in the present, as Brad’s appearance coincides perfectly with Mr. Jingles’s death, a situation that is strikingly reminiscent of Percy’s boot-crushing of the mouse in prison. While it remains uncertain whether these two situations truly are connected, Brad proves just as free of compassion or remorse as Percy.
Elaine tells Brad Dolan to get out and he finally leaves, fearful of Elaine’s connections—and having satisfied his curiosity about where Paul goes when he walks in the woods. He says he will close the shed tomorrow, for it is off-limits to residents. Paul begins to cry when he sees the peppermint candies he had bought for Mr. Jingles and, together, Paul and Elaine bury Mr. Jingles outside the shed. After that, they go watch the sunset and Paul recites a prayer in his head.
Like Percy, Brad’s cruelty proves motivated by a desire to harm weaker people for the mere pleasure of affirming his authority. Mr. Jingles’s death becomes a sacred moment, and a reminder that Paul, too, will die one day.