THE WORST DATE EVER                    Spoiler Alert


When Mildred arrives at her home, she is annoyed to find Archer’s car pulling up behind her.  There is no reason to think Mildred would have invited him inside, but Mildred’s drunken mother has awoken long enough to open the door while Archer and Mildred are standing on the porch.  Very soon the mother passes out again.  Thanks a heap, Mom.   This is the first of only two appearances by the mother in the book. But she has performed her role by bringing Archer and Mildred together in a situation where conversation is unavoidable.

  • When Mildred asks about Tom Rica, and Archer mentions that Rica is so far gone he would be useless as a witness that Carl denied shooting Jerry Hallman, she flies into a rage about why Archer didn’t tell her about Carl’s denial earlier.


  • Archer responds that he never had a chance because she was too involved in walking in front of a truck.


  • She apologizes for over-reacting to Archer putting his arm around her and says, “I admit I had a bad reaction . . . It reminded me of something. We were talking about those people at the [Buenavista] Inn.”


  • She confirms that Zinnie and Dr. Grantland have been having an affair for a few months (which anyone who isn’t blind or three day’s dead already knows) and supplies the interesting detail that Zinnie had been to see a lawyer but backed off filing for divorce because of Jerry’s threats to fight for custody of their daughter. Which gives Zinnie a motive to dissolve her marriage another way . . .


At that moment the phone rings and Mildred has a brief conversation. She hangs up, upset.  Archer figures out that the caller is Sheriff Ostervelt and that he is on his way to offer his protection from Carl.  Mildred also reveals that the Sheriff is going to be accompanied by Rose Parish, the social worker at the hospital who is besotted with Carl.  It’s unclear which of the two is more unwelcome, but the prospect of their arrival gets Mildred to deliver a little more of the truth.

  • Ostervelt’s general offer to conceal Carl’s “confession” about drowning his father is only part of the story.


  • Immediately after Carl was committed, Ostervelt drove Mildred to a parking spot near the Buenavista Inn, began kissing her, and said he had it arranged for her to live at the Inn for free and he would visit her every night.


  • Before Archer can question her further, Ostervelt and Parish arrive.


                   We’re From the Government and We’re Here to Help You


The next two chapters are a grab bag of incident; like many of the events in the middle of the novel they did not appear at all in the short story.  No summary can quite do them justice so I will limit myself to the elements that advance the plot.

  • Archer and Ostervelt have a tense confrontation on the porch, which Parrish defuses by persuading Ostervelt to cool his heels in the car.


  • Archer correctly guesses that Ostervelt got Rica the placement in the mental hospital instead of a long state prison sentence.


  • Speaking privately with Archer, Parish says that she doesn’t believe that Carl killed either his father or his brother. She very nearly admits that she is in love with Carl and says she would do anything for him.


  • By the time of his escape Carl had realized he hadn’t killed his father.


  • Mildred joins Parish and Archer and an edgy conversation ensues. Mildred understands that although Parish thinks Mildred has tried hard to be a good wife to Carl, Parish wants to replace her


                                   We’ve Got to Get Out of This Place


Ostervelt has assigned a deputy to stand guard at Mildred’s house.  Fearing that the guard has “shoot on sight” instructions, Mildred suggests that just possibly Carl might be at the house of Mrs. Hutchinson, the elderly housekeeper who is taking care of Martha,  Zinnie and Jerry’s daughter.  If that seems like an odd suggestion for Mildred to make you would be right—unless you knew a lot more about what is really going on.




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