Chapter fourteen begins as the Spaulding family prepares to shake out the rugs, Douglas and Tom’s imaginations turn this chore into a magical discovery, fancying that they see the happenings and neighbors in their town in the stains of one rug. A lavish metaphor at the end of the chapter describes Tom beating the rug so hard that the dust rises up to meet him, another surrealistic chapter ending possibly a reference to the Judeo-Christian belief that man was created from dust.
Chapter thirteen continues “The Happiness Machine” theme. Leo, still infatuated with building the Happiness Machine, asks Lena if she is “pleased, contented, joyful, or delighted.” Lena gives a mocking reply which offends Leo who is taking his goal seriously, and they get into an argument. The quarrel ends only when Lena realizes that she’s burned their dinner for the first time in twenty years.
Leo then spends several weeks laboring in his garage to build his Happiness Machine. During this time, the state of his family falls to pieces, but Leo is too busy with his invention to pay attention to his wife’s forewarning.
At last, Leo completes his Happiness Machine. As luck would have it, the Happiness Machine turns out to cause sadness instead of the anticipated happiness, causing both Saul, his son, and Lena to weep after sitting in it. Lena explains to him that a Happiness Machine cannot be built for humans because it would only give them everything they wanted all the time, and produce no fulfillment. Besides, it makes them pine for things they shouldn’t even be thinking about, such as when a dancing stimulation in the Machine caused her to miss the times when Leo would take her out for dances, hence causing them to feel only unhappiness about their lives. Leo, still disbelieving, decides to take a test run in the Machine himself, but just as he is about to do so, the Machine catches fire, and burns down to the ground.
After the incident, Leo comments to Douglas and his father that he’s been a fool because the real Happiness Machine has been right in front of him all along. He shows them his newfound Happiness Machine running in perfect order — his family.
Chapter twelve could be titled “The Lawns of Summer”. It is another interception of Leo’s story which re-focuses on the Spaulding family. Douglas’ grandfather begins the day, happily reveling in the sound of the lawn mower running on their lawn, an indicator to him that summer has truly begun. Grandma, however, tells him that Bill Forrester, the man cutting their grass, is planning to plant new grass on their lawn that will only grow to a certain height, thus eliminating the need for lawn mowers. (Note: no such grass actually exists yet in the real world) Horrified at this, Grandpa gives Bill a firm lecture on how little things can matter more than the big ones, especially to experienced people like him. Bill attempts to change his mind, but only convinces Grandpa further of his position when he learns that the new grass will kill off the dandelions.
Grandpa finally pays Bill the cost of the grass flats in return for him not installing the flats in his lawn. He takes a nap and wakes up in the afternoon to find Bill cutting the lawn again, having learned to appreciate the “little things,” thanks to Grandpa.
Chapter eleven is a short chapter. It picks-up on the topic of the Happiness Machine. The setting is the front swing. Leo sits with his wife Lena. The time is night. Lena tells him that they don’t need a Happiness Machine. Leo says that he’s going to build the Machine for others. He says it that would cure-all depressed. He is greeted with only silence, but is too preoccupied with noting the sounds of nature that would belong in the Machine to notice this foreshadowing.
Chapter Ten concerns the night. Interposed between Leo’s stories is an extra story referring to Douglas’ family. It begins without fanfare. We find Tom running to Mrs. Singer’s store to get ice cream at nine o’clock on the same night for himself and Douglas. However, by nine-thirty, Douglas has not returned. This causes his worried mother to go to the ravine with Tom. Tom, in spite of the darkness of the night, feels safe because he is holding his mother’s hand and because he has a little understanding of death. His sense of security, however, vanishes when he feels his mother’s hand tremble and realizes that she is afraid, like him. The ensuing revelation that apparently unfazed grown-ups feel loneliness and pain too unnerves him and makes him aware of the darkness surrounding them. Just before he feels overwhelmed, Douglas and his friends return, breaking the spell of aloneness. Tom later tells Douglas that the ravine would not belong in Leo’s Happiness Machine, thus contrasting the pleasures humans wish for with the realities they receive instead.
Chapters eight and nine tell of the “Happiness Machine”. After listening to old people’s depressing and defeatist conversations, Leo Auffmann maintains they shouldn’t dwell on such unhappy topics. Douglas and his grandfather, passing by, suggest to Leo that he should make a Happiness Machine. After the talking people laugh at this apparently ridiculous idea, Leo becomes determined to do just that. A brief scene of him returning to his family of six children indicates his happiness at home, demonstrated when his wife Lena asks, “Something’s wrong?” after Leo expresses his wish to build a Happiness Machine.
By August 2004, Muqtada Al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric, called upon thousands of Mahdi Militia, his armed followers and de facto private army, to resist the occupation. Fighting would break out in several locations. The holy city of Najaf, the site of the largest Moslem cemetery in the world, and the Imam Ali Mosque were major sites of fighting. U.S. forces found themselves fighting in 120-degree heat. The battleground was through a tangle of crypts, mausoleums, and crumbling graves. The fight was rough. It had the religious zealots against the motivated and disciplined United States Army and Marine Corps troopers. It makes for a spellbinding account of Americans in battle.
The book itself is excellent. Dick Camp tells an excellent story. The quality of the book is remarkable. I am referring to everything from the writing, the large amount of high quality color pictures, and even quality of the paper the book on which the book is printed.
Chapter seven accomplishes another ritual of summer with the setting up of the porch swing as a place for night-long conversation. Douglas comments on how sitting in the porch swing feels somehow “right” because one would always be comforted by the droning, ceaseless voices of the adults. In keeping up with the fantasy-tinged atmosphere of the novel, the chapter gradually shifts from a realistic beginning, where the family is setting up the swing, to an almost dreamlike conclusion, where the grown-ups’ voices are personified as drifting on into the future.
Douglas Spaulding lets Tom see a tablet of paper that he is using to record his summer in, with two sections labeled “Rites and Ceremonies” and “Discoveries and Revelations.” The contents of the two sections are what would be expected for a kid, including a “revelation” that kids and grown-ups don’t get along with each other because they’re “separate races and ‘never the twain shall meet.'” Tom suggests a eye-opener of his own. He explains night is created from “shadows crawling out from under five billion trees.”