Zachary Loup is stoned. He’s only at the memorial to avoid being with his mom’s boyfriend. Black satin ribbons adorn the telephone poles along Main Street. The marching band warms up outside Greeley’s. Police officers monitor the crowds. The memorial is supposed to honor the murder victims, but it’s more of a rally. When Principal Stanton hops onto the bed of a pickup truck that functions as a makeshift stage to address the murders, the crowd’s rage is palpable. Zachary thinks to himself: “Which came first, the outrage or the fear?” Zachary wanders through the street. Everyone around him is whispering rumors about David. Zachary texts his friends to see if anyone is there, but nobody can make it.
The narrative hasn’t revealed much about Zachary Loup yet, though readers know from Makani and her friends’ discussions about him that he’s a bully. Still, in keeping with the book’s theme about the unknowability of others, this chapter reveals that Zachary has a complex inner life he doesn’t share with the world. In this scene, for instance, Zachary thinks critically about the impact the murders have had on the town, and the potential meaning—or meaninglessness—of symbolic displays of solidarity like the memorial parade.
Zachary considers David. He and David had been neighbors and playmates when they were young children. Zachary remembers that David was quiet most of the time, except for when he snapped. Zach has anger management problems, too, but even he knows that holding in one’s rage isn’t healthy. One altercation with David sticks out in Zachary’s mind. He’d borrowed David’s bike without asking, as he had done many times before. This time, however, David ran toward Zachary and pushed him into the street, breaking Zachary’s arm. David’s “unbridled rage” still haunts him.
Zachary’s more intimate exposure to David gives him an opinion about David that is different from most people’s. While most can’t see beyond David’s unremarkable appearance and quietness, Zachary has seen the anger and violence that lies beneath. David—like everyone else in the novel—is more than he seems at first glance.
Zachary gets a text from his mother, Amber. One of Amber’s coworkers saw Zachary at the memorial and told on him. Amber orders Zachary to go home immediately. Zachary ignores his mom. Caleb Greeley, whose wealthy, religious family owns practically half the town, is on stage speaking about the victims. He’s using generic language he probably pulled from the news coverage. In truth, Caleb had hardly known his murdered peers. Zachary resents Caleb for his privilege and fakeness. Zachary is about to leave when he spots an attractive girl walking toward him.
Zachary’s feelings about Caleb are similar to Makani’s, in that they both see Caleb’s grief for the murder victims as attention-seeking and disingenuous. Other students have exhibited this fakeness, too—Matt Butler’s girlfriend Lauren, for example, pretended that she and Haley were close friends after Haley’s death. It's not totally clear why students feel compelled to perform displays of grief they might not feel inside. At any rate, the phenomenon of public grief comments on the role community plays in getting through periods of strife and confusion—there’s something about the presence or opinion of others that comforts people in uncertain, confusing times.
Caleb finishes his speech and hops down off the pickup truck. He’s first trumpet and wants to return to then marching bad as quickly as possible. They’re supposed to lead the memorial attendants in a march down Main Street. A news station has donated candles for the marchers to hold. Caleb doesn’t think the gesture is generous, though—he assumes a wealthy person must’ve thought the candles would look better on TV. Caleb can appreciate the effort. He’s an “overachiever,” himself: he aces his classes and volunteers. He worked to have the term “evolution” removed from class textbooks. He also has mission work lined up in Papua New Guinea, which will make him the first Greeley to leave Nebraska in many generations.
Caleb has a very different take than Zachary on the town’s outward displays of grief. He doesn’t see these displays as fake—he sees them as going above and beyond, or “overachiev[ing].” Whether or not Caleb is correct that outward appearances can determine the quality or correctness of a person’s grief, knowing Caleb’s insight complicates readers’ understanding of him as a character. One might even have more sympathy for him, since it’s clear his fixation on outside appearances comes from a sense of duty rather than something nefarious. At any rate, the juxtaposition between the way others see Caleb and the way Caleb sees himself reaffirms the fact that it’s difficult to know much about others.
Right before the marching band’s performance is supposed to begin, Caleb realizes he’s misplaced his plume. He asks several of his band mates if anyone has seen it, but nobody has, and nobody cares. Alex rolls her eyes and accuses Caleb of only wanting to look good on TV. But this isn’t at all what Caleb is thinking: he’s really concerned that if the band looks sloppy, it’ll seem like they don’t care about the victims. Assuming he left the plume at Greeley’s, he rummages through his pocket for his key, pushes the back door open, and steps inside.
Alex—like Zachary before her—misjudges Caleb. She assumes he wants his plume because he’s afraid of looking bad on TV. In reality, though, he's more concerned about disgracing the victims’ memories. Caleb’s logic doesn’t totally track—and to a degree, he’s ultimately more concerned with appearances than maybe he ought to be. Nevertheless, this scene shows how common it is to misjudge people when a person doesn’t know anything about their inner thoughts and feelings.
Meanwhile, Zachary walks through the procession. Katie Kurtzman, the pretty girl from earlier, walks in front of him. Not only is she pretty, but she’s also nice to everyone. Suddenly, a man bumps into Katie and spills his blue slushie all over her shirt. Zachary jumps in and aggressively confronts the guy about his carelessness, even as Katie insists that everything is fine. Katie tells Zachary she needs to go home and take care of her siblings. He offers to drive her, but she insists on walking. Zachary tries to keep the conversation going.
This uncomfortable scene between Zachary, Katie, and the slushie man shows a new side to Zachary’s character—others’ assessment that he’s a huge jerk is at least somewhat true. This scene also shows how much miscommunication and misunderstanding can happen when a person is more concerned about appearing a certain way than listening to others. Zachary berates the man for spilling his drink on Katie because he wants to seem macho and strong; in so doing, he totally misses that Katie doesn’t want him to do this and is even embarrassed by it.
When Zachary senses Katie’s not interested, he says “fuck you,” loudly. Maybe Katie isn’t as nice as he thought. Or maybe he’s the problem. Suddenly, Zach sees a camouflage jacket—the clothing the news had reported David was last seen wearing—in the window across the street. He tries to find Katie, but it’s too late: she’s gone, and the camouflage is gone, too. Meanwhile, Caleb is looking for his plume in the Greeley’s break room. He can’t find it anywhere and starts to panic about looking bad. Then he chides himself for making the memorial about himself.
Zachary lashes out at Katie because her rejection embarrasses him. He’s too concerned about suffering the public humiliation of rejection to think about the way his poor behavior impacts Katie. This scene is important, too, since it reveals a potential David Ware sighting. It’s possible that another murder will soon take place. Finally, this passage further develops Caleb as a sympathetic character. Everyone judges him for being overly concerned with outward appearances, and Caleb worries about these things, too. Like all the other teens at Osborne High, Caleb suffers from self-doubt and guilt that he’s not trying hard enough to be a good person.
Outside, Makani, Darby, and Ollie catch up with Zachary. They try to tell Zachary that he might be in danger, but Zachary’s having none of it. If their theory about David targeting people who have bullied or hurt others is true, Zachary argues, wouldn’t Ollie be a victim, too? Zachary suggests that Ollie hurt Chris, and Ollie falls silent. Zachary smirks, realizing that he’s struck a nerve. He finally relents, though, and agrees to go home after the rally. Meanwhile, inside Greeley’s, Caleb has come face to face with David.
Ollie’s silence is telling—Zachary’s comment about Chris was meant to hurt Ollie, and it worked. Ollie, like many of the other teens at Osborne High, keeps things he’s ashamed about buried inside and suffers from feelings of inadequacy. Ollie’s silence could also explain his earlier distance toward Makani. Maybe her story about hurting Jasmine has made him consider the way his own past actions have hurt someone he was close to, as well. So far, hardly anybody has escaped a David Ware attack alive, so it seems likely that Caleb isn’t going to make it out of Greeley’s.
Back at the memorial, the marching band is playing “Pomp and Circumstance,” a piece best-known for its use in graduation processions. Darby assumes the band doesn’t have any funeral repertoire. The music is awkward and awful; Makani thinks it would have been better if the band played nothing. The crowd moves forward, along with Makani, her friends, and Zachary.
The book intersperses episodes of intense violence with moments of comic relief. The marching band’s questionable decision to play “Pomp and Circumstance” at a memorial also devalues the whole idea of the memorial in the first place. It reveals the memorial to be a disingenuous display put on so the town can appear caring instead of a thoughtful, genuine display of mourning and solidarity for the murder victims.
Meanwhile, inside Greeley’s, David chases Caleb through the store. Caleb screams, but nobody outside can hear him over the marching band. David catches Caleb and stabs him through the back. Caleb thinks about the mutilations David performed on the other victims: slashing Haley’s throat, scrambling Matt’s brain, cutting off Rodrigo’s ears. He pleads with David to tell him what he’s going to do to him. David stares blankly back and silently finishes his task.
Grandma Young complained that the (largely symbolic) parade would misdirect the town’s energy away from practical efforts that could stop the killings. Caleb’s death—which nobody can hear over the parade—tragically, literally, and rather ironically shows that she was right. In this way, the book suggests that public displays of mourning or solidarity serve little purpose besides making participants feel good. They don’t actually help the victims they are supposedly for.