Gris is now convinced that Heller will do whatever Vantagio will tell him, and as such doesn't pay much attention while Heller takes the subway. Of course, he isn't sufficiently disinterested to, you know, get up and go do something else. Maybe read a book, stretch his legs, start planning the raid to get Heller's platen.
So it takes a while for Gris to realize that Heller's going the wrong direction to be headed to the college. He rewinds the tapes and confirms that yes, Heller had looked up a stockbroker in a phonebook and is on his way to Short, Skidder and Long Associates. He's sent to see a Mr. Arbitrage about opening an account, and when Heller steps into the man's cubicle he "looked Heller up and down as though somebody had thrown a fish into the room, a fish that smelled bad."
An unenthusiastic Arbitrage checks Heller's identification, and quickly explains that not only does Heller lack credit references, but you have to be twenty-one to open an account in this or any firm. And with three "good day!"s he shoos Heller out of his office.
So... is this why it's so important for Heller to look like a teenager? Guess it makes sense. I mean, if he could get into the stock market, Heller would obviously use his superior intellect and instinctive grasp of Earth market forces to become a multimillionaire overnight. No, the only logical option on the part of the author is to hit the reader over the head with how youthful Heller looks and have him end up with a fake ID for an eighteen-year-old. Otherwise this well-crafted, intricately-plotted narrative would just fall apart.
Heller washes down the unfamiliar taste of defeat with a hot dog and orange soda from a street vendor. Then he wipes a finger against a building, is interested by the amount of junk on it, and proceeds to rub sheets of paper against various buildings as samples of how polluted the city is. This crucial research concluded, Heller takes the subway across town without incident and makes it to Empire University.
This is the third time, I think, that Heller's used mass transit, and absolutely nothing happens when he does so. He has no problems, no hilarious misunderstandings, no strange encounters. Hubbard has nothing to say about Heller on the subway beyond what stations he passed through. And this is an alien who thought there were draft animals under the hood of his car. Remarkable.
The campus is swarming with students milling about aimlessly, but Heller makes his way through the crowd "Like someone who knew where he was going amongst a lot of people who didn't know where they were going."
The man who wrote this book is listed on Wikipedia with a net worth of over $600 million.
Faced with long lines in front of the registration counter, Heller uses the time-honored tactic of cheating. He offers to deliver a stack of documents on behalf of an overworked aide, and once he does so he sits down in front of a Miss Simmons and gives her his paperwork. But the woman isn't impressed when she sees that he hasn't bothered to fill it out, and concludes that he's illiterate. Furthermore, Miss Simmons examines young Mr. "Wister's" grades and is even less impressed by all those D's, and is outright shocked when Heller announces his intention to major in Nuclear Science and Engineering. Finally, Heller's missing some course prerequisites, and doesn't even have a transcript for his application. She announces that the best she can do is take Heller's application under advisement, and orders him to come back the next morning, though she can't offer any hope.
So a bad chapter for Heller, and a good chapter for Gris. After watching Heller outright defy Vantagio orders... initially... Gris actually fantasizes about the Italian-Sicilian-Corsican-Napoleon warmly welcoming him inside Heller's room to search for that platen as an act of revenge. And when Heller's application doesn't immediately go through, he drinks a toast to Mr. Bury and his "adroit" trap of an inferior identity.
Of course, Heller still has that chance tomorrow morning to talk his way into college, and not only is he the book's hero, but he also has the mob on his side. So call it a hunch, but I think this is only a temporary setback.
A setback to what, exactly, I have no idea. I can't pick out the book's villain, and I don't know what the hero is doing, or what the plot of this story is. It's just a bunch of events happening one after the other, like a marathon of Looney Tunes shorts. Except with more murder and prostitution. And I'm not laughing or in any way entertained.
Back to Part Seventeen, Chapter Six