Cal Stephanides, "the most famous hermaphrodite in history" (1.2.1), tells us the story of his life, the life of his parents, and the life of his grandparents.
His Greek grandparents, Lefty and Desdemona, are brother and sister living in Turkey (your read that right: brother and sister). When war breaks out between Turkey and Greece, Lefty and Desdemona flee to America. There, they live with their cousin Sourmelina and her husband, Jimmy Zizmo. After a brief stint as a cog in Henry Ford's factory, Lefty helps Jimmy smuggle liquor into Canada while Desdemona weaves silks for the Nation of Islam. They make the Great Depression seem like a grand old time.
Lefty and Desdemona have two children, but we really only learn much about Milton, who will be Cal's father. Milton is courting his cousin, Tessie (Sourmelina's daughter), but ends up going off to fight in World War II. Tessie almost marries a priest, but Milton returns not in a casket, so Tessie marries him instead. The priest, Father Mike, marries Milton's sister Zoë. They pop out four kids and Mike regrets his entire life while Zoë drinks and shouts a lot. Now that's a great depression.
Milton and Tessie have two kids: one who is just called Chapter Eleven, and Cal. That's right: Finally, we get to Cal's story. Cal is born intersex but raised female, as Calliope, because of her ambiguous genitalia. As Calliope, she spends a lot of time hanging out with her grandfather (Lefty) who has a stroke and soon dies. Then, the Detroit race riots happen, and Milton buses Calliope to private school so she won't have to integrate. Oh the horrors!
When Calliope hits puberty, she starts looking more and more masculine. She also falls in love with a girl whom is referred to as the Obscure Object. Calliope has a sexual experience with both the Object and her brother, and they're both combinations of pleasure and pain… like eating a habañero pepper.
When the Object's brother catches Calliope and his sister together, Calliope runs… smack into a tractor and gets injured. The doctors in the emergency room realize that her genitals are different from other girls', so they send the poor kid off to a specialist in New York, Dr. Luce. Luce suggests sex reassignment surgery to make Calliope a girl, since she was raised as one, but Calliope runs away.
Calliope no more, Cal hitchhikes to San Francisco. There, he finds himself in a sex show run by a man named Bob Presto. Cal swims naked in a pool while people watch him through a peephole. Meanwhile, back in Detroit, Father Mike blackmails Milton, saying that he's holding Calliope hostage. Milton chases Mike down, but dies in a car accident.
The sex show is busted by the police and Cal returns home. He reunites with his family, mourns his father, and looks forward to the future in his new identity.
Book 1, Chapter 1
The Silver Spoon
- So it begins: "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl […] and then again, as a teenage boy" (1.1).
- This chapter serves as a quick bio of Cal. For more dirt on Cal, check out his page in our "Characters" section.
- His grandmother, Desdemona, believes she can predict a child's sex by dangling a spoon over the mother's stomach. There's much debate over whether the child will be a boy or a girl.
- The chapter ends with a celebration and a tragedy: Calliope is born and Cal's grandfather, Lefty, has a stroke.
Book 1, Chapter 2
- We get a little more background info on Cal before he tells us the history of his grandmother, Desdemona Stephanides. What a name! With a name like that, you know this is going to be a good tale.
- She lives on Mount Olympus. Yes, that Mount Olympus. We're not sure if Aphrodite lives next door, but she may as well.
- Desdemona is a silk worker and has her own menagerie of silkworms.
- Meanwhile her brother Eleutherios (we'll just call him Lefty, like Cal does) has a fantasy of being a gangster type. He hangs out at hookah bars and gambles the day away.
- Desdemona wants her brother to find a nice gal, so she tries to hook him up with some of the girls in the village.
- Those girls just don't do it for him, though. Lefty jokes that he should just marry Desdemona. "You're my third cousin, too. Third cousins can marry" (1.1.101).
- Matchmaking has to be put on hold, however, as Turkey is invaded by Greece and a war breaks out.
Book 1, Chapter 3
An Immodest Proposal
- Let's check in with present-day Cal, shall we? He's living in Europe, and he has the hots for an Asian woman on a bicycle.
- Okay, back to Turkey.
- Turkey is on fire. All of Desdemona's silkworms have stopped spinning, and Desdemona and Lefty are making plans to flee to America.
- Another person with a long, nearly unpronounceable name is introduced to our narrative: Dr. Nishan Philobosian. He repairs a Greek man's injured thumb. (Spoiler alert: the Greek man is Lefty.)
- Dr. Phil (not that Dr. Phil) believes he is safe from the Greek invasion, but soldiers kill his family while he is away from home. If your entire family has never been murdered before, it seems like the feeling is the same as reading the end of Charlotte's Web. You cry for days and days.
- Back to Desdemona and Lefty… well, they're kind of falling in love. With each other. "What am I doing? Desdemona thought. He's my brother!" (1.2.65).
- Desdemona and Lefty manage to gain passage on a ship to America, and they get Dr. Phil on the boat with them.
Book 1, Chapter 4
- We're still in Turkey. Well, we're on a boat between Turkey and the United States of America.
- Here's what happens on the waters of the Atlantic:
- Dr. Phil cries a lot.
- Lefty and Desdemona pretend to be strangers.
- They court each other.
- They fall in love.
- They get married. What is this, The Love Boat? Where's Charo when you need her?
- They have tons of sex in the lifeboat. When the lifeboat's a rocking, don't come a knocking!
- They arrive in America. "Maybe here people won't be killing each other every single day," (1.4.102) hopes Desdemona. Um… we don't want to be the ones to break Des's spirit by telling her that America can be scary too.
Book 2, Chapter 1
Henry Ford's English-Language Melting Pot
- The setting shifts to Detroit. Calliope is nine and hanging out with her dad. He's afraid of heights.
- After that memory, we end up in Detroit again, but instead of 1969, we're in 1922.
- Lefty and Desdemona—once brother and sister, now husband and wife—meet their cousin, Sourmelina Zizmo, née Papadiamandopoulous, which is basically the best Greek name besides Jesse Katsopolis.
- They tell Lina that they're married and she agrees to keep their secret.
- They all move in together, and Lina's husband, Jimmy Zizmo, gets Lefty a job at the Ford Motor Company.
- One notable incident occurs when Lefty starts doing better than expected. Someone sabotages his station, saying "Don't try to be a speed king. You understand? We all have to work faster that way" (2.1.170).
- Henry Ford didn't just revolutionize the auto industry, he was also a disgusting, racist, anti-Semitic, borderline white supremacist. Oops, we got a little carried away there. Oh wait—no we didn't.
- Ford makes all his employees, including Lefty, undergo an "Americanization" class. They even teach him the "right" way to brush his teeth! (Flip-top head optional.)
- Right after graduation, they give Lefty the axe. The reason: guilty by association with Jimmy Zizmo, who has a police record. "Mixing with the wrong crowd can sink you" (2.1.258), is the advice accompanying the pink slip.
Book 2, Chapter 2
- Cal tells us that, "like most hermaphrodites" (2.2.1) he cannot have children. He also tells us that he's little wary of falling in love with Julie Kikuchi, the Asian woman on the bicycle.
- Back to the 20s, Lefty, Desdemona, Lina, and Jimmy Zizmo see a dramatization of The Minotaur. We won't mince words: The minotaur is horny (because, you know, he has horns) and after seeing the play, our four main characters are too.
- Lina and Desdemona get pregnant on the same night.
- Desdemona uses a spoon to predict the sex of Lina's baby—a girl—and she's right. Lina's daughter is born in December.
- Shortly thereafter, Jimmy Zizmo recruits Lefty to work with him. The job: smuggling liquor to and from the Canadian border.
- One night they drive their car across a frozen lake. The car doesn't make it, and neither does Jimmy Zizmo, but Lefty survives.
- That same night, Desdemona gives birth to a baby boy: Miltiades Stephanides, called Milton, cousin to Lina's daughter, Theodora.
- Cal draws our attention to something the naked eye won't see: a mutation that will one day lead to an intersex child.
Book 2, Chapter 3
Marriage on Ice
- Forty days after Jimmy Zizmo's funeral, Lina is done mourning and ready to move on with her life.
- Desdemona, on the other hand, is kind of scared of living. She doesn't want to get pregnant again. This being a pre-pill era, she has only one choice for contraception: abstinence.
- It drives Lefty and Desdemona apart.
- Lefty focuses his pent up energies on opening a bar, The Zebra Room. It's a speakeasy, where people can go to drink and… speak, we guess. Easily.
- Eventually Lefty and Desdemona come back together, and Desdemona has another child—a girl, Zoë Helen Stephanides, and Cal's future aunt.
- Lina moves out of the house, but she only moves next door.
- The stock market crashes. We're too depressed to rehash the details of this.
- The financial crisis affects Desdemona because she has to get a job.
- Lina finds a listing for silk worker, and Desdemona heads out. It's in a church populated almost exclusively by black people. Turns out, it's the beginnings of the Nation of Islam.
- Desdemona fits right in, though. The girls there are eager to learn what she has to teach them about silk.
Book 2, Chapter 4
- At the Temple of Islam, Desdemona starts hearing voices coming through the vent.
- The speaker is a prophet, W.D. Fard, and Desdemona is "the only white person who ever heard W.D. Fard sermonize" (2.4.25). It's almost like she's hearing the voice of God.
- Fard talks about how evil white people are, and Desdemona starts believing him.
- Now that Lefty and Desdemona are both working, they drift further apart, straining their marriage.
- On November 21, 1932, a man named Robert Harris kills a man in the name of the Order of Islam. This kind of gives the place a bad rap, so they all pack and leave. Desdemona is out of a job.
- On her last day, she meets W.D. Fard, but he's not W.D. Fard at all… he's Jimmy Zizmo. He faked his own death and became the leader of the Nation of Islam. His new intials may be WDF, but this is totally a WTF moment for us.
- No one ever sees him again.
- And Desdemona will never have children again—she has her tubes tied.
Book 2, Chapter 5
- Cal thinks he's fallin'… iiiiinnnnnnn…. in love…with Julie Kikuchi.
- Flash back (well, kind of forward from the last flash back) to 1944. Theodora Zizmo, called Tessie, is listening to her cousin Milton play "Begin the Beguine" on his clarinet.
- Desdemona wants her son to find a girlfriend, so she starts matchmaking again.
- He's already found someone, though—his cousin, Tessie. He plays the clarinet not just to her ears, but to her body. "Tessie allowed Milton to press his clarinet to her skin and fill her body with music. […] She felt the vibrations penetrate her muscles, pulsing in waves, until they rattled her bones and made her inner organs hum" (2.5.81). Um, this is the first, and maybe only time, a clarinet solo has made us need a cold shower.
- Desdemona's matchmaking is unrelenting, and she tries to convince Tessie to marry Michael Antoniou. He's a "good Greek boy, nice boy. […] and going to be a priest!" (2.5.98)… Yes, but how is his erotic clarinet playing?
- Tessie agrees to marry Mike, and Milton joins the Navy. World War II has begun.
Book 2, Chapter 6
News of the World
- Back to Cal for a moment. We have another song. It's no Alicia Keyes, but it's apropos. Cal and Julie sitting in the studio… K-I-S-S-I-N-G. They share their first kiss in her art studio.
- And now back to World War II.
- Tessie, on the home front, watches the newsreels every day, searching for Milton and hoping he is safe.
- Michael Antoniou is studying at Holy Cross. He writes Tessie twice a week, and she writes him back. She only writes him lies, though.
- At war, Milton gets a veritable death sentence. He's assigned the position of signalman. "Thirty-eight seconds was the life expectancy of a signalman" (2.6.60). He's basically going to be one of the guys in Saving Private Ryan who gets blown up in the first ten minutes.
- At the last second, Milton is granted reprieve. Can you say deus ex machina?
- Milton passes an admissions test to the Naval Academy at Annapolis and is transferred at the last minute. He returns home.
- Desdemona gives thanks to St. Christopher, and says that Milton must return to Greece and fix the church there.
- Tessie ditches Mike and marries Milton instead. Mike ends up shifting his focus to the next available pair of XY chromosomes in the room: Milton's sister, Zoë.
Book 2, Chapter 7
Ex Ovo Omnia
- Zoë ends up marrying Uncle Mike and moving to Greece to pop out four children.
- Cal doesn't really care about her story, though—it's all about his parents, Milton and Tessie.
- Milton converts Lefty's bar, the Zebra Room, into a diner, and kind of forces Lefty into retirement. Before Lefty leaves, he makes sure there are three insurance policies on the place. "You can never have too much insurance" (2.7.21), he says.
- Without a job, Lefty starts gambling again. He pretty much loses every dime he and Desdemona have, and they have to move in with their children.
- At the end of the chapter, Cal is conceived.
Book 3, Chapter 1
- Dr. Phil—now seventy-four years old and not paying very close attention—delivers Calliope and declares her "a beautiful, healthy girl" (3.1.5).
- On the same day that Cal is born, Lefty suffers a stroke that renders him unable to speak. Desdemona shuts herself away and watches As the World Turns every day. She kind of blames Calliope for the stroke, but she eventually grows to love her.
- Since Lefty can no longer speak, he carries young Calliope around and communicates by humming.
- Flash forward a few years. As a young girl, Calliope often talks with Marius Wyxzewixard Challouehliczilczese Grimes. (And you thought Greek names were hard to pronounce.) He's an Ethiopian nationalist and contemporary of Fard Muhammed. He calls Calliope "Little Queen of the Nile" (3.1.59), and Milton thinks he's a troublemaker.
- Milton forbids Calliope from speaking to Marius, but Cal lets us know that it won't be long before she sees him again.
Book 3, Chapter 2
- Present-day Cal invites Julie Kikuchi for an overnight weekend. They spend the night in separate rooms.
- Race riots break out in Detroit. Lefty grabs his gun and sets out to defend his diner. Tessie takes Calliope and her older brother, whom we haven't really gotten to know and Cal only calls Chapter Eleven, and hides in the attic as Detroit burns, like Greece did so many years before.
- Calliope decides to ride her bike down to the Zebra Room to help her father. Detroit is at war; white people and black people and the government are at war.
- Milton defends the Zebra Room from a looter, but it turns out he knows the looter. It's a black man named Morrison. Milton asks him "What's the matter with you people?" (3.2.68) and Morrison responds, "The matter with us […] is you" (3.2.69).
- Calliope arrives at the Zebra Room right as someone chucks a Molotov cocktail (not something you order at happy hour) through the window, shouting, "Opa, motherfucker!" (3.2.80).
- The bomber? Marius Wyxzewixard Challouehliczilczese Grimes.
- Milton takes Calliope and abandons the bar to the flames. Cal draws our attention to the flag of Detroit, and its motto: "We hope for better things; it will rise from the ashes" (3.2.93).
Book 3, Chapter 3
- Oh hey there, book title. Nice to see you.
- As Detroit crumbles, all the white people move out, including Calliope's family.
- Thanks to the windfall of insurance money, Milton is able to buy a house on Middlesex Boulevard with cash. The whole family moves in: Milton, Tessie, Calliope, Chapter Eleven, Desdemona, Lefty, and Alice the maid. Oops, sorry, we got confused with the Brady Bunch.
- Calliope's youth is punctuated by two events: her regular walks with her mute grandfather, and her first experimental kiss with her neighbor Clementine Stark. The walks are good. So is the kiss.
- The Starks move away after Clementine's father dies.
- Around the same time, Lefty has one final debilitating stroke. He starts to regress, traveling backward in time, until one day he calls Desdemona "sis" (3.3.128).
- When Lefty finally dies, Desdemona goes to bed and "For the next ten years, except for a bath every Friday, she never got out again" (3.3.138).
Book 3, Chapter 4
The Mediterranean Diet
- Cal breaks it off with Julie Kikuchi in the present before returning to Desdemona's story in the past.
- With Desdemona bed-ridden with grief, Calliope brings her trays of food.
- Desdemona somehow gets enrolled in a longevity study. They smudge the facts a bit, leading the doctor to believe that Desdemona's Greek diet has her looking great at ninety-one. (She's really twenty years younger.)
- Someone is prospering for real though: Milton is expanding his restaurant business into a franchise of hot dog stands called Hercules Hot Dogs.
- Also, Calliope's brother, Chapter Eleven, has started pleasuring himself and really enjoying it.
- At school, Calliope feels awkward because she's the only girl who has yet to blossom.
- Things are going to change, though. As part of desegregation, they're going to start busing white kids to black schools.
Book 3, Chapter 5
- Not wanting his white daughter to go to a predominantly black school, Milton enrolls Calliope in boarding school. Maybe Paula Deen's family goes there too?
- The locker rooms bring out a lot of anxiety in Calliope since, developmentally, she's so far behind the other girls.
- She starts growing out her hair to hide from other girls… like Cousin Itt.
Book 3, Chapter 6
- It's 1973. Calliope is home from boarding school and Chapter Eleven is home from college.
- Chapter Eleven confesses to Calliope that he dropped acid before playing Ping-Pong with their dad. (The Olympic Committee frowns on this.)
- He's kind of a hippie now, and so is his girlfriend, Meg. Calliope listens to Meg talk to him as they have sex: "Your dad's an exploiter, man! Forget 'em. They're dead, man. Dead. This is what's real. Right here. Come and get it, baby!" (3.6.119). How's that for pillow talk?
Book 3, Chapter 7
The Obscure Object
- Present-day Cal tells us about his college girlfriend, Olivia. They were both "emotionally adolescent" (3.7.3) and good for each other at the time, but they didn't last.
- He tells us about a few more "incomplete seductions" (3.7.2) before heading back in time to boarding school, and his meeting with the Obscure Object.
- The Obscure Object (name changed to protect the semi-innocent) is a red-haired new girl at Calliope's boarding school. Calliope gets the name from the film That Obscure Object of Desire, a film about obsessive love. Guess it's better than naming her after Shallow Hal or something.
- Being around the Obscure Object arouses Calliope. Quite literally. She starts referring to her genitals as a crocus. "A pink stem pushing up through dark new moss. […] The crocus sometimes felt soft and slippery, like the flesh of a worm. At other times it was as hard as a root" (3.7.56).
- Calliope helps the Obscure Object study her lines while they prepare to perform Antigone. The Obscure Object is Antigone, and Calliope is Tiresias.
- The Obscure Object makes Calliope feel cool, especially since Calliope seems to know more about sex than the Object does.
- Before the play, they have a minor spat. Calliope is trying to encourage the Object, and the Object pushes her away because she wants to practice her lines in private.
- Calliope takes the rejection hard, saying "I stood in the darkness, wishing I were dead" (3.7.156).
- Be careful what you wish for, Cal: Another student named Maxine Grossinger drops dead in the middle of the play from an aneurysm. R.I.P, Maxine.
- Calliope doesn't have time to mourn poor Maxine, though—the Obscure Object is in her arms needing comfort, and Calliope can't be anything but happy.
Book 3, Chapter 8
Tiresias in Love
- Calliope goes to visit the Object at her house and meets the Object's brother, Jerome, for the first time. What, no nickname for him?
- Jerome is an aspiring filmmaker, working on a film titled Vampires in Prep School. He is decades ahead of Stephenie Meyer.
- During a conversation in which the Object is basically making fun of Calliope for being a Never Nude, the Object tells Cal, "You're my best friend" (3.8.150). Aww…
- Meanwhile, Calliope prays at church to receive her period.
- Since God ain't answering that prayer though, Calliope decides to just fake her period instead.
- On the day she fakes her first period, a new war breaks out in Greece, canceling the family's vacation plans to travel there.
Book 3, Chapter 9
Flesh and Blood
- With the Stephanides family vacation canceled (either there was a war in Greece or Chevy Chase had a scheduling conflict), Calliope is free to spend some time at the Object's vacation house in the woods with her parents, Jerome, and Jerome's friend Rex.
- Calliope is jealous that the Object gives Rex attention.
- The teenagers head out to a tiny cabin in the woods (not this one), where everyone couples off—the Object with Rex and Calliope with Jerome—and has sex at the same time.
- While making out with Jerome, Calliope has an out-of-body experience in which she transfers her consciousness into Rex's body and feels what it's like to sex up the Object.
- Pain snaps Calliope back into her own body—Jerome has penetrated her and it hurts.
- She's afraid that he's going to know that she's not like other girls, but "He hadn't noticed a thing" (3.9.173).
Book 3, Chapter 10
The Gun on the Wall
- The next morning, Jerome tells Calliope, "I'm really into you" (3.10.24).
- She's all "I don't like you like that" (3.10.32), though, and he leaves.
- The Object spends the day hanging out with Rex, and Calliope spends the day feeling alone.
- That night, however, the Object crawls into bed with Calliope. Calliope pulls the sheets off her and kisses her; then she takes her underpants off. "The Object lifted her hips, very slightly, to make it easier for me. This was her only contribution" (3.10.48).
- They spend each night like this: the Object pretending to be asleep while Calliope explores both of their bodies further.
- Finally, they start exploring each other while they're awake.
- Unfortunately, one day Jerome catches Calliope like Tom Thumb with his sister playing the role of the plum.
- He calls them "Carpet munchers" (3.10.93) because he's classy.
- Calliope attacks him and spits in his face, and then she runs.
- In her tumult she runs right into a tractor, waking up later in the backseat of a car.
- The farmer drives her to the emergency room.
- When doctors remove Calliope's underwear to examine her, they discover that her sex is a lot more complicated than anyone ever suspected.
Book 4, Chapter 1
The Oracular Vulva
- Cal's parents want a second opinion on her genitals, so they take her to the doctor who screwed things up in the first place: Dr. Philbosian.
- He refers the Stephanides family to a doctor who refers them to another doctor in New York, so off they go to the big apple.
- It turns out that Dr. Luce is the head of the Sexual Disorders and Gender Identity Clinic at New York Hospital.
- His waiting room looks like an erotic museum exhibit. Even the paperweight is a penis.
- Cal tells us that "Peter Luce was considered the world's leading authority on human hermaphrodism" (4.1.69) and the rest of the chapter is a combination of hermaphroditic history and Calliope's psychological evaluation.
- All you need to know about Calliope's psych eval can be summed up like this: She lies a lot to make herself seem normal… whatever normal is. Oh, and she and Dr. Luce watch porn together. You know, like you do with your doctor.
- Back in the hotel room, Calliope has a crisis of faith when Milton says she can come home "Soon as [she's] better" (4.1.195). She wonders what he means by better.
Book 4, Chapter 2
Looking Myself Up in Webster's
- Worried about this procedure that is going to make her "better," Calliope goes to the library to do some research.
- Under "hermaphrodite," Webster's dictionary refers to "See synonyms at Monster" (4.2.43). It's a really rough moment in the book.
- As if Calliope wasn't under crisis enough, she finds out that the doctor is going to perform a small procedure to keep her a girl. "You won't be Raquel Welch, but you won't be Twiggy either" (4.2.65), he says.
- When Dr. Luce leaves the room, Calliope reads her report and discovers that Dr. Luce has been lying. Genetically speaking, Calliope is primarily male.
- Wanting to stay male, Calliope decides to runs away. She leaves a note for her mom and dad in the hotel room and notes, "It was the last time I was ever their daughter" (4.2.109).
Book 4, Chapter 3
Go West, Young Man
- Calliope's first course of action is to get a haircut. The barber tells her, "everyone wants to go unisex," (4.3.9) so off it goes.
- She buys new clothes, changes her walk, uses the men's room, and begins exercising. She feels more and more like a boy every day, and she starts to call herself Cal.
- After a few bus rides, Cal starts hitchhiking to save money. His first really memorable ride is with a man named Ben Scheer.
- Ben takes Cal to a bar, pretends Cal is his son, and orders him a beer.
- That night, in a motel, Ben presses himself onto Cal and tries to take off his clothes. Cal pushes him away, and he goes to sleep.
- The next morning, Cal sneaks out of the room and hitches a new ride, this time with a man named Bob Presto.
Book 4, Chapter 4
Gender Dysphoria in San Francisco
- Cal lies to Bob Presto—who looks like Bob's Big Boy—saying that he's eighteen and on his way to Stanford.
- Presto isn't smelling what Cal is stepping in, but he pretends to believe the kid.
- When Presto drops Cal off in San Francisco, he tells him that he pretty much knew he was lying the whole time. He also asks Cal, "What are you, anyway?" (4.4.57), but Cal refuses to answer. Presto gives him a card and tells him to call if he ever needs him.
- Cal falls in with a bunch of Dead Heads in Golden Gate Park, and hangs out with them until two people beat him up and pee on him one night.
- Meanwhile, back at the ranch (and by ranch, we mean Cal's family home, Middlesex), Chapter Eleven has dropped out of school and returned home. Milton decides to make him part of the family business.
- In San Francisco, with nowhere to go after getting beaten, Cal calls Bob Presto.
Book 4, Chapter 5
- Cal has a new job with Bob Presto: he plays the god Hermaphroditus in Octopussy's Garden at a club called the Sixty-Niners.
- Basically, this looks like Cal getting stoned everyday and jumping into a pool where patrons pay quarters to watch him through peepholes.
- When the peepholes open, Cal shows them his mysterious genitalia. It's like a porn version of The Little Mermaid. Or merman.
- He hangs out with his co-workers Carmen and Zora during the day, and spreads his legs in a swimming pool for strangers at night.
- Back at Middlesex, Milton has been getting threatening phone calls. The stranger on the other line says that he has kidnapped Calliope and is holding her ransom.
- Later, in San Francisco, police raid the Sixty-Niners and shut it down.
- Being a minor, Cal gets off basically scot free. He calls home, asking for someone to get him.
- Chapter Eleven answers, and tells Cal that their Dad is dead.
Book 4, Chapter 6
- Present-day Cal prepares to tell Julie Kikuchi his story.
- Back in the past, at Middlesex, Milton agrees to give twenty five thousand dollars in exchange for Calliope.
- Boy, here's a blast from the past: The ransomer turns out to be Father Mike!
- Jealous that Milton got Tessie, and stuck with Aunt Zo yelling at him for all these years, Mike finally snaps.
- He extorts thousands of dollars from Milton and plans to flee to Canada.
- Milton gives chase in his giant Cadillac.
- The chase ends abruptly when they crash in a ten-car pileup on the Ambassador Bridge over the Detroit River.
- Mike survives. Milton does not.
- Milton has an out-of-body experience as he imagines his car is flying over the city of Detroit. And he cries because he has failed to save his daughter.
- Present-day Cal then tells us that Chapter Eleven runs the business into the ground; Cadillac changes its models forever, which Milton would hate; and Milton never had to see his daughter be reborn as his son. Basically, Cal believes that his dad got out just in time.
Book 4, Chapter 7
The Last Stop
- Present-day Cal has told Julie Kikuchi his story, and you know what? She's excited to be with him, and explore him, and learn about him. Go figure.
- Back in the past, Chapter Eleven retrieves Cal from San Francisco and brings him home. He's kind of excited to have a brother now. (He did like talking about masturbating a lot.)
- Cal reunites with his mother and the family gets ready for Milton's wake when… all of a sudden…
- Freaking Desdemona starts shrieking over the intercom! It feels like we haven't heard from her in hundreds of pages.
- Cal goes to tend to her. At first, she thinks he's Lefty. "I thought you were my husband coming to take me to heaven" (4.7.122), she says.
- She then tells him to go to Greece and fix up that church someday, before experiencing a moment of clarity.
- She remembers who Calliope was, and realizes that Calliope is now Cal.
- She blames herself for this transformation, crediting sleeping with her own brother way back when. She confesses this to Cal, and he's pretty cool with it. He says, "I like my life. […] I'm going to have a good life" (4.7.187).
- They have Milton's funeral, but Cal stays with Desdemona.
- He takes it upon himself to guard the door, "An old Greek custom […] so that Milton's spirit wouldn't reenter the house" (4.7.196).
- It doesn't—Cal doesn't even feel it anywhere around.
- Cal stands in the doorway, "weeping for [his] father, and thinking about what was next." (4.7.198)