This will involve gag glasses and false teeth.
Gris bums around his hotel suite and watches the good old HellerVision as the book's hero drives to the Spreeport Speedway, and when Heller passes through a security checkpoint Gris sees that Heller has joined the Spreeport Racing Club and NASCAR sometime offscreen, probably when Gris was wasting chapter after chapter with Utanc. Heller puts the eye-hurtingly red Cadillac through its paces and does a few easy laps, then pulls into the pit to check something.
But then Heller is accosted by a thuggish group of... reporters.
A tough-looking camera crew was descending upon him! Five men. They were carrying rather old-looking equipment. They were filthy and unshaven. The obvious leader was a very bad egg.
Yes, reporters. This crew from Screw News heard a tip that Heller is developing a new fuel source, so they want an interview - and they won't take no for an answer! Gris is tense because Heller's not wearing his baseball cleats, so he's defenseless! When Heller refuses to speak to them, the reporters rush him! One is sent flying by a wicked punch, but the rest produce lead pipes!
The exclamation points aren't making this exciting, are they?
But we're spared further unexciting, uninteresting action when another reporter rushes in to break up the fight. Why it's Madison, looking much more presentable than the pipe-wielding reporters, and he shoos off his rivals by threatening to report them to an ethics committee. What a happy coincidence that he was in the area to "save" Heller.
Madison explains that he's from a "conservative little paper" called Chemistry Today to do a piece on the speedway's non-skid asphalt paint, but upon hearing about Heller's new fuel, his interest has been piqued. Madison explains that since the new fuel has already been leaked, Heller is going to continue to be bothered until he makes an official statement, so it might be best if he makes a "little tut-tut statement in a conservative paper like Chemistry Today and they'll bother you no more."
Heller agrees, and a truck full of audio equipment and three station wagons suddenly roars out of hiding to surround him, as a full camera crew disembarks to crowd around Heller. But before too many pictures are taken, Madison asks if Heller will don some fake glasses, since they make him "look studious," as viewers associate glasses with learning. Heller agrees. Then Madison realizes that Heller's jaw is "too regular. It will arouse jealousy or women. MAKEUP!" Heller agrees. Oh, and he needs to wear these fake buckteeth. Heller agrees.
And even though Gris is watching this all through Heller's eyes, he somehow knows that the makeup crew is turning Heller's jaw into something "protruding and pugnacious," half a page before a mirror is produced. He also knows that Heller's expression during the photo shoot is mainly "amused," again without a mirror around.
After the first barrage of pictures, Madison leaves to do a quick interview with someone else, while his crew gets out backdrops and wardrobe changes and everything so they can "practice" their craft - they're all newbies, you see. When Madison returns, he has a friendly chat about the new fuel source, which Gris doesn't bother to relay to us. Madison then asks as a big favor for Heller to do some driving and try to skid out, to test the new paint.
Heller was amused. He wanted to try some driving anyway. He made the Caddy skid and spin. He amused himself.
It's... the problem is that not only is Hubbard trying to slip into the third-person narration he so unfortunately eschewed for this book, but Gris is just an uninteresting first-person narrator. So even when the author is consistent with his writing style, it doesn't pay off.
Heller shows off for the cameras by braking and swerving after completing a lap, but there's a Hubbard Action Scene as he almost flips the Caddy and throws a wheel. But he's fine and sets about replacing the wheel on his own, while the news crew gushes about the good shots they're getting. As they leave, Madison suggests that Heller hold on to those fake teeth and glasses and wear them around other photographers. And if you're wondering why he's being encouraged to wear fake teeth and glasses, it'll be explained in a few chapters, and it's for just as dumb a reason as you're probably imagining.
The chapter ends with Gris surmising that all of this was Madison's way of building Confidence with Heller, but he worries that Mr. Bury was overstating Madison's danger. "I thought it was pretty inane."
Never thought you'd be agreeing with Soltan Gris, huh?
Back to Chapter One