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With John, Lorraine sits in the high-school library, writing a "memorial epic" about their friendship with Mr. Pignati; the entire book is memory.
At the beginning of freshman year, Lorraine moves into John's neighborhood. She is very lonely because no one talks to her.
John sits with her on the bus one day, and they become friends.
With John, Dennis, and Norton, Lorraine makes prank phone calls to strangers.
She calls Mr. Pignati, and pretends to be a charity worker collecting for the "L & J Fund." She realizes that Mr. Pignati is very lonely. John takes the phone out of her hand, and makes arrangements to collect the ten dollars from Mr. Pignati the next day.
Lorraine tells John that they should not take money from an old man. John convinces her to go with him, saying that they can bring joy into Mr. Pignati's life.
She and John go to Mr. Pignati's, where he serves them wine, plays a word-association game with them, shows them his ceramic pig collection, and makes arrangements to meet them at the zoo the next day.
After they leave, she tells John that he should not cash the check. (Of course, John ignores her, and promptly spends it on beer and cigarettes.)
Lorraine goes home, telling her mother that she was at a drama-club meeting.
The next day, she and John cut school and meet Mr. Pignati at the zoo.
Before Mr. Pignati gets there, Lorraine sees what she interprets as three omens:
A hostile woman selling peanuts;
An aggressive peacock, which backs Lorraine against a fence;
A boy at the bat exhibit who is smirking and looking, in the glass, not at the bats but at the people who are looking at the bats.
Lorraine and John "meet" Bobo.
At Mr. Pignati's house, Lorraine finds a photograph of Conchetta in her confirmation dress. She asks Mr. Pignati about it, and she and John both think something is wrong with Mr. Pignati's response.
Lorraine learns, from John, that he has found Conchetta's funeral bill.
When Lorraine goes home, she compares her frugal, sad life with her mother to the companionship and love of life that Mr. Pignati shared with Conchetta.
Lorraine and John go to Beekman's department store with Mr. Pignati. In the subway, Lorraine sees a woman talking to herself, saying: "Death is coming. God told me death is coming" (8). Lorraine interprets this as yet another omen.
She and John enjoy their day of shopping, especially the gifts that Mr. Pignati lavishes on them: food, stockings (which Lorraine gives to her mother), and roller-skates. Lorraine and John wear their skates out of the store and, although many people are staring, Lorraine reflects on how important it is to enjoy life.
Feeling guilty for having lied to Mr. Pignati about being charity workers, Lorraine and John tell him the truth. He tells them that Conchetta is dead. They play the husband-wife-lover-boatman-assassin psychological game, and both Lorraine and John say that the boatman is most responsible for the wife's death, which means, Mr. Pignati says, that magic is most important to them.
While playing roller-skate tag, Mr. Pignati has a heart attack. After Mr. Pignati is taken away in an ambulance, Lorraine tells John that she blames him, because, when he had the heart attack, Mr. Pignati was chasing John up the stairs.
When she and John visit him in the hospital, Lorraine is anxious when Mr. Pignati tells them to keep his house keys and make themselves at home. She tries to stop John from taking the keys.
She and John dress up in Mr. Pignati's and Conchetta's old evening clothes; they kiss for the first time and have a romantic dinner.
Lorraine has a nightmare that she is forced to walk into the pig room, where she sees the pigs on a black coffin. She interprets this as another omen of death.
Lorraine objects, futilely, to John's plan to have a party at Mr. Pignati's house.
As the party begins, she calls her mother to say that she is studying at a classmate's house.
Lorraine and a classmate, Helen Kazinski, dress up in Conchetta's clothes, and Helen rips the dress she is wearing.
At the height of the by-now wild party, Lorraine is horrified to see Mr. Pignati returning home from the hospital in a cab. She calls John, who is fighting with Norton, who is smashing Mr. Pignati's pig collection.
The police arrive, and take John, who has passed out, and Lorraine home. Lorraine is terrified about what her mother will do.
Lorraine's mother is initially very angry and slaps Lorraine. However, after she calms down, Lorraine is able to tell her about her and John's friendship with Mr. Pignati. Lorraine is glad that she has been "relatively honest" with her mother (14).
The next day, Lorraine and John call Mr. Pignati to apologize and offer to help clean up. They meet him at the zoo.
After Mr. Pignati's sudden death from a second heart attack, Lorraine bursts into tears and leaves the monkey house. Because of her mother, she cannot get involved as a witness.
Later, when John finds Lorraine sitting on a bench, crying, she screams at him: "We murdered him!" (15).