Study Guide

Punkzilla Mortality

By Adam Rapp


I had never experienced that particular smell before P. The scent of a burnt human is unlike anything else. (1.56)

When a woman at Washington House accidentally sets her room on fire, Jamie is forced to confront death in a hideous way. It's still not enough to drive him back home to the Major.

I was advised by my oncologist to receive chemotherapy treatments right away, which I did, but unfortunately it didn't work very well and the bad stuff has recently spread to my lungs and throat and I have fallen into serious decline. (4.22)

P's first letter sets Jamie's journey into motion. It takes P almost the whole letter to work up to telling Jamie the news and inviting him to come say goodbye.

We never talked about that again but maybe he's right maybe I'm meant for the dead more than the living? Do you think it's possible that some people are on one side or the other even if they're scientifically alive? (5.16)

Branson's statement that the musician Daniel Johnston sounds like a mummy makes Jamie wonder why he likes mummy music so much.

After I find you in Memphis and everything works out and you don't die I'm going to call a cab and have it drive me straight to the first mental hospital I can find. (8.78)

One of the unfortunate casualties of homelessness is proper mental health care. Jamie stops taking his ADD meds in Portland, and the horror of his bus trip is exacerbated by the return of his symptoms.

I remember seeing this movie where a guy gets AIDS and dies. He gets all these brown spots on his face […] and then he goes blind and collapses […] Is anything like that happening to you yet? I figure AIDS and cancer have at least a few things in common but maybe I'm totally wrong. (8.86-87)

The spots Jamie's talking about are Kaposi sarcoma, a kind of cancer caused by AIDS. So while Jamie doesn't know it, in this regard, there is some shared terrain between AIDS and cancer.

[…] I have to admit that I'm sort of getting off on it like I can't wait for the spider to come and eat all the flies and maybe torture one just for pleasure. (12.4)

Looking at a spider web outside the Lakeside Motel, Jamie hopes to see the spider express the aggression he feels. It's twisted, but hey, whatever keeps you from being a serial killer.

[…] I told him about how […] you're dying of cancer. When I heard myself say it out loud things got really f***ed up and I like started punching myself like in my face and in my neck and I was suddenly crying like crazy […] (12.63)

Here's some more misplaced aggression: Jamie can't punch Lewis or P or Alan Skymer or cancer, so he punches himself. In case you were wondering if self-injury is about anger—yeah, it often is.

I asked her if they had kids and she said they almost did but they lost it and I said "Like at the grocery store?" and she said no that it died right after it was born and man that was shocking to hear P. Mad shocking. (19.58)

Jamie learns all kinds of stuff about the human condition while on his road trip, and he does it in a matter of days. After losing a child and having a breakdown, Marty tries to seduce Jamie into being her son. (Yeah, it makes us want to take a hot shower too.)

I got to Memphis 6 days ago. You are dead and I can't believe how s***ty this world is. I'm sorry P. I'm so sorry I didn't make it sooner. (21.2-5)

Jamie does get to say goodbye to his brother, but P's already unconscious by the time he arrives. Jorge manages to make the world a little less terrible, though, by offering to take Jamie in.

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