One day when Rosemary is 15, she is riding her bike when Kitch Chalmers flags her down to say hello. They catch up, and Kitch tells Rosemary that she regrets her wild youth but that she has returned to a better path now. She asks if Rosemary has heard from Lowell, and expresses sadness at the fate of the Cooke family. She then explains that the last time she’d seen Lowell, she was walking him to basketball practice when they ran into one of the graduate students who used to study Rosemary and Fern.
Kitch was never particularly close to the Cooke family, yet is now revealed to hold the key piece of information regarding Lowell’s disappearance. This hints at the fact that sometimes outsiders are able to better view a family dynamic than those within the family itself. At the same time, Kitch’s life has moved in a distinctly oppositional direction to Lowell’s. Whereas she has embraced a more dutiful path, he has pursued rebellion.
The student told Lowell that when Fern left the Cookes, he took her to a psych lab in South Dakota where she was placed with over 20 other chimps, and which was run by a professor with a bad reputation. The professor did not allow Fern to be introduced into the new chimp community slowly, even though he was aware that she had never lived with other chimps before. The professor was strict and callous, and never called Fern by her name. Hearing this, Lowell “lost it” and refused to go to basketball practice, yelling: “That’s my sister in that cage.” Kitch notes that the graduate student had said Fern was being treated “like some kind of animal.”
Lowell is deeply affected not only by his sense of justice and belief in animal rights, but also by his overwhelming love for Fern in particular. Indeed, this love stops him moving on from her absence and pursuing the “normal” activities of teenage life, such as playing on the basketball team and dating Kitch. Breaking down the binary between humans and animals can have devastating consequences in a world invested in upholding that binary and in treating animals in an inferior way.
Rosemary is horrified by Kitch’s story, but reacts by telling herself that Fern’s fate probably wasn’t as bad as Kitch had made it seem. She also reassures herself that Lowell had probably gone to rescue Fern anyway, before he moved on to set fire to the lab at UC Davis. At dinner, she says nothing.
Now that he knows the truth about animal abuse and Fern’s fate, Lowell cannot bring himself to look away, and upends his life in order to rescue other lab animals. Rosemary, however, has a greater capacity for denial and repression than her brother.