Study Guide

Stranger in a Strange Land Chapter 26

By Robert A. Heinlein

Chapter 26

  • The chapter opens at a carnival. Yeah, it's the future, but carnivals still exist—just go with it. 
  • The ten-in-one (sideshow) includes, among others, Patricia "Patty" Paiwonski, the tattooed women and snake charmer, and Dr. Apollo and Madam Merlin, the magic act. 
  • Dr. Apollo accomplishes amazing feats of magic, but one particular heckler in the crowd keeps pointing out how fake it is.
  • The head carnie, Tim, tells Dr. Apollo that he's replacing the act with a mentalist. He says Apollo's tricks are the best he's ever seen but Apollo doesn't know how to play to the audience; he doesn't know how to get them to buy the trick and be happy about it.
  • At the end of the conversation, we find out that (drumroll please) Dr. Apollo is Mike and Madam Merlin is Jill. (Okay, it's not that exciting, but we didn't see it coming.)
  • Patty comes over to comfort Mike and Jill for having lost their jobs. They tell her not to worry about it and invite her over for drinks.
  • Mike drives them to their hotel. Yep, he's driving now. 
  • Jill thinks about their life on the road. She contemplates how they go from job to job experiencing such a variety of human existence. She also thinks about how Mike often shuts himself off from the world when he's found a public library—he can just devour its catalogue with his voracious reading habits. 
  • Jill, having Mike's vast fortune at her fingertips, takes to shopping.
  • Oh, and Jill is now telepathic as well. That Martian language crash course must really be something.
  • Jill and Mike take a bath at the hotel. Mike's powers have grown exponentially since leaving Jubal's. Now he can wink from existence any inanimate object without grokking wrongness in it. He can lift trucks with his mind without becoming tired. 
  • But he still hasn't learned to laugh.
  • Mike groks that they'll soon be making a trip to see Jubal and the rest of their water brothers. But before he and Jill can talk any further, Patty arrives at the hotel room.

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