Garp is looking through the phone book (don't worry—before your time, kids) for lumber, but he becomes distracted looking at the marriage counselor section.
At this point, Garp has "been married nearly eleven years" (9.2). He hasn't written anything in a while, and looking through the marriage counselor section makes him want to get a real job.
Duncan, now ten years old, comes home from school. He asks Garp if he can spend the night at his friend Ralph's house, but Garp's distracted.
Ralph is a little older than Duncan, which is strike one. He also doesn't trust his mother—who he refers to as "Mrs. Ralph"—so that's strike two (9.21). Even so, Duncan convinces Garp to let him go.
Garp has become a paranoid parent, so much so that he imagines Duncan getting hit by a car as he rides away on his bike.
Garp tries—and fails—to get some writing done. As usual, he vents his frustration by cooking a nice dinner for the family. Hey Garp, feel free to swing by our offices any time you're having a bad day… we love a nice meal.
The phone rings: It's Helen. She reminds him about the lumber he was supposed to buy and he, in turn, tells her about his potential career as a marriage counselor. She is not amused.
Helen comes home with a bundle of two by fours and little Walt in tow.
Suddenly, Garp hears a car speeding by the house and sprints out the front door. He does this whenever he hears somebody speed by.
To his surprise, the driver is none other than the "notorious Mrs. Ralph" (9.96). She looks like she's been crying, but they flirt in an awkward sort of way, until Garp sees a book on the passenger seat: Dostoevsky'sThe Eternal Husband.
Mrs. Ralph tells Garp about her husband, who recently left her for a nineteen-year-old; then she throws The Eternal Husband at him and drives away.