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Remarkably Bright Creatures

Recap, Chapter Summary & Analysis



The Quick Recap and Chapter-by-Chapter Summary for Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt are below.

Quick(-ish) Recap

The two-paragraph version: Tova is an elderly woman whose son, Erik, disappeared when he was 18 and is presumed dead. She befriends Marcellus, is a highly intelligent octopus at the Sowell Bay Aquarium where Tova works as a cleaner. Marcellus frequently likes to sneak out of his tank to explore. When she gets injured, her temporary replacement is Cameron Cassmore, a young man who has come to Sowell Bay in search of a wealthy man, Simon Brinks, he believes is his father. Marcellus, with his wide range of talents, is able to identify that Tova and Cameron are related. He want to let them know and manages to get Cameron's ID and leaves it where Tova can see it.

Tova learns that Erik had been involved with a girl, Daphne Cassmore, before he disappeared. When she sees Cameron's ID, they realize Erik knew his mother. Meanwhile, Cameron finally gets in touch with Simon, but he learns that Simon and his mother were just friends. He angrily tosses a class ring that Daphne had left him into an aquarium tank, and he heads back to California. But Marcellus fetches the ring and presents it to Tova. Tova recognizes the engraving as Erik's initials. She realizes Cameron must be her grandson and realizes how much he resembles Erik. At the same time, Cameron realizes he can't just run away and should properly wrap things up in Sowell Bay. When he returns, she tells Cameron what she knows. Marcellus also reaches the end of his natural life around then, and Tova returns him into the sea before he dies. The book ends with Tova and Cameron playing scrabble and her going out to the pier to tell Marcellus and Erik that she misses them.


(These subheadings don't appear in the book. I'm including them in order to make this summary easier to navigate.)

INTRODUCING THE CHARACTERS

Marcellus is a highly intelligent giant Pacific octopus who has been in captivity at the Sowell Bay Aquarium in Washington since he was a juvenile. Since the average lifespan of his species is four years, he estimates he has around 160 days left to live.

Tova Sullivan is a cleaning woman at the aquarium. One night, she finds Marcellus out of his tank, tangled up in a mess of power cords in the break room. She soon discovers that Marcellus often escapes his tank and roams around, snacking on the sea creatures in the other tanks. Marcellus can comfortably be out of the water for about 18 minutes at a time.

Tova lives alone. Her late husband Will passed away from cancer many years ago. Before that, their son Erik disappeared when he was 18. He was working a summer job as a deckhand for the ferry when he never came home. Shortly after, they found a small boat washed ashore nearby with his prints on it. The police concluded that he likely took his own life, though Tova never believed it.

Soon, Tova gets the news that her brother Lars has passed away. She asks Ethan Mack, the owner of the local Shop-Way (who has a crush on her), to drive her to the Charter Village long term care facility to pick up his personal effects. It's an impressive, well-run place. She leaves there with a box of Lars's things as well as an application for the facility.

Meanwhile, in Modesto, California, Cameron Cassmore is a 30-year-old man whose mother Daphne abandoned him when he was nine, leaving him to be raised by his loving but quirky older aunt, Jeanne. Jeanne lives in a mobile home because she had to sell her house to pay for some medical bills some years ago. Cameron doesn't know who his father is.

Cameron has difficulty holding down jobs, and when he gets fired from yet another job, his girlfriend Katie kicks him out. He looks through some of his mother's stuff to find anything he can pawn to get some money for a down payment for another apartment, but ends up finding a photo of her with a man he doesn't recognize. He also finds a class ring from their year. He looks through a reunion page for her graduating class to find another photo of them together as well as the man's name -- Simon Brinks, a very wealthy Seattle real estate developer who reportedly lives in Sowell Bay. Broke, desperate and hopeful Simon could be his father, Cameron goes to Washington to track the man down.

At the aquarium, Tova starts talking to Marcellus to relieve her loneliness, and unbeknownst to her Marcellus understands and enjoys their talks. She has a small group of friends, the Knit-Wits, that started off as a knitting group that she meets with weekly, but she has never felt they were capable of understanding the losses in her life. One night, she's standing on a stepstool speaking to Marcellus when it breaks, causing her to injure her ankle. She's ordered by her doctor to stay off of it. Tova is forced to take work off. She also thinks about how she has no one to care for her in her old age and plenty of savings. She decides to fill out the application for Charter Village.

CAMERON GOES TO WASHINGTON

When Cameron gets to Washington, his budget airline loses his baggage, including some items he was planning to pawn for money. He's forced to take a loan from Aunt Jeanne, knowing it's coming out of fund she's been saving to go on a dream Alaskan cruise. The last payment for the cruise is in August. He uses the money she fronts him to buy a ramshackle camper van for $1,200 to serve as his home as well as transportation to Sowell Bay.

Cameron arrives in Sowell Bay and goes into the Shop-Way, where he meets Ethan. He comes out to find that he has a flat tire. Ethan offers to have a friend haul his camper to his place and allows him to park it in front of his home. Ethan also reaches out to Terry, the aquarium director, to get him a maintenance job at the aquarium. When Cameron asks for more hours, Terry offers to let Cameron serve as their temporary cleaner while Tova's ankle heals.

One night as Cameron is working, Tova comes in to check on Marcellus and sees that Marcellus is cowering in a corner while Cameron tries to use a broom handle to prod him back into his tank. Tova gets Marcellus back safely in his tank. Then, she starts giving Cameron pointers, both about cleaning and about befriending Marcellus. She asks Cameron to promise not to tell Terry about Marcellus's adventures out of his tank, since she knows Marcellus enjoys his freedom and Terry would not approve.

Tova continues to visit Marcellus, and she and Cameron get to know one another. While Cameron fails to make progress in locating Simon Brink, Cameron comes to enjoy working at the aquarium, and as the months pass he takes pride in holding down a job consistently for the first time. He's proud of himself when he manages to pay off his loan from Aunt Jeanne in full with interest. He also begins seeing a woman named Avery, who has a son, named Marco.

DISCOVERIES AND REVELATIONS

Marcellus is an octopus of many talents, and has a knack for identifying when two people are related. He knows that Tova and Cameron are related but he doesn't have any way of telling them.

Meanwhile, Tova starts to pack away her things in preparation for selling her house and moving to Charter Village. When she tells her friends in the Knit-Wits, they disapprove, saying that she shouldn't be living among strangers in the last years of her life. They also bring up her budding relationship with Ethan.

When one of the Knit-Wits, Mary Ann, decides to move in with her daughter, they throw a farewell lunch for Mary Ann. There, Tova chats with Adam, a man who once was friends with Erik. Adam recounts a memory of Erik and a young woman he was involved with around the time he disappeared. Tova soon learns that the woman's name was Daphne. She finds a "Daphne Cassmore" listed in Erik's senior year yearbook.

One night, Marcellus manages to get ahold of Cameron's ID and places it where Tova will find it. When this happens, Tova and Cameron realize that his mom Daphne was the girl that Erik had been seeing around the time he disappeared.

Ethan and Cameron have become good friends, and it dawns on Ethan that he's heard Cameron's last name before. There was a bad check posted on the wall of the Shop-Way when he bought it, and the name on the check was "Daphne Cassmore". When Ethan brings it with up to Cameron, they get in an argument because Cameron thinks Ethan is bad-mouthing his mother. Then, Cameron asks to be considered for a managerial job at the Shop-Way, but Ethan says he doesn't have the experience.

Cameron finally hears from Brinks Development and they say that Simon is finally available to meet with Cameron. He eagerly agrees to the meeting, though it means cancelling a date with Avery. When he goes, Simon denies being Cameron's father, saying that he and Daphne were best friends, but only ever friends.

When Cameron returns, he's in foul mood about the meeting with Simon, and Avery doesn't seem to be responding to him. Also, earlier that day, he asked Terry about making his position permanent, but Terry hasn't followed up. Tova tries to tell him that things have been hectic because a new octopus was brought in, but Cameron doesn't want to hear it. He chucks the class ring he found with his mother's belongings engraved with the letters EELS into the eel tank. He decides to immediately head back to California, even though Tova chastizes him for leaving without giving Terry notice, telling him that he's better than that.

THE END

Marcellus can feel his energy waning as his body is giving out from age, but he goes into the eel tank to fetch the class ring and presents it to Tova. Tova recognizes the engraved letters as her son Erik's initials immediately. Tova takes the dying Marcellus and takes him to the pier to return him to the sea in his final days or moments. On the jetty, Tova runs into Avery, who is looking for Cameron, and they clear up the misunderstanding.

Cameron drives for many hours, but he eventually comes to his senses about not wanting to leave everything a mess. When he returns, Tova tells him that the ring was Erik and she thinks that she's Cameron's grandmother.

A month later, Tova and Cameron are playing scrabble in her new condominimum, after she sold her house but decided not to move to Charter Bay. The book ends with Tova going to the pier and telling Erik and Marcellus that she misses them both.

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Chapter-by-Chapter Summary

Day 1,299 of My Captivity

Marcellus McSquiddles is a giant Pacific octopus, or at least that’s what Terrance “Terry” Bailey, the aquarium director, refers to him as. Marcellus was named by Terry’s daughter.

According to the plaque nearby, octopuses are “remarkably bright creatures”. It also says the average life span of a giant Pacific octopus is four years. He has been in captivity since he was a juvenile and has been here along time. He’ll likely die in 160 days.

The Silver-Dollar Scar

Tova Sullivan, 70, is the oldest employee of Sowell Bay Aquarium, where she works as a cleaner. She has a son, Erik Sullivan, who passed away, as has her late husband, Will. Her favorite exhibit is that of the orange giant Pacific octopus, Marcellus.

Tonight she wages battle against some chewing gum that was not properly disposed of. Then, she goes to clean up a mess of take-out containers in the break room when she realizes the octopus is somehow out of its enclosure and tangled up here, in a mess of power cords. He seems pale and unwell. Tova struggles to free him, but he grabs her and then releases.

Finally freed, Tova watches the octopus move into and disappear into the hallway. Tova wonders if she’s hallucinating. When she turns the bend to return to Marcellus’s enclosure, she sees him safely in the tank, though still a shade paler than usual. Everything looks normal, so Tova leaves for the night.

She gets into her car and heads for the ferry dock, where she sits on her usual bench. She then inspects her wrist where the octopus grabbed her. The largest mark is the size of a silver dollar, and she wonders if it’ll leave a scar. Then, she sits and thinks about her son, Erik.

Day 1,300 of My Captivity

Marcellus thinks about the food he likes and how he was drawn to the supply room, lured in by the smell of take-out containers in the trash. He also thinks about how the cleaning woman saved him when he got tangled up.

Falsehood Cookies

Tova meets with the Knit-Wits, a group of older women that originally began as a knitting group. There was once seven women, now only four remain – Tova as well as Mary Ann Minetti, Janice Kim and Barb Vanderhoof. The other women express concern over the welt on her arm, though Tova insists she’s fine. When Tova mentions it was an injury from work, the other women ask if she needs help. Tova declines, as she has more than enough money to cover her needs.

Janice’s husband, Dr. Peter Kim, is retired doctor. She has a son, Timothy, and a small yorkie who sometimes joins them, Rolo. Barb’s daughter, Andie, lives in Seattle, with her husband Mark. She lost her beloved golden retriever, Sully, and her husband, Rick, over the span of a few months last year.

While the other women wear “motherhood big and loud on their chests” as they chat about their kids, Tova is private and the void in her life holds “no sweetness, only bitterness”. Tova resisted joining the group for a long time, knowing that it would likely pick at her scabs.

While the other women complain that their kids don’t visit more or don’t call more, for Tova the pain is different and sharper because her son died. The other women can commiserate with one another, none of them are able to empathize fully with Tova’s pain which they can’t fully comprehend.

Erik disappeared just before his 18th birthday. At first, he was considered a runaway. He was working as a deckhand at the ferry for the summer, but he disappeared leaving the booth unlocked and the cash register full. They eventually found a small boat missing from the marina, washed ashore with his prints on the rudder. It was concluded that he must’ve taken his own life. Tova has never believed that.

After she leaves the women, Tova checks her messages and has one from Charter Village Long-Term Care Center with bad news. Tova doesn’t need to listen to message before deleting it, as she has been expecting that message for some time. She knows it’s about her brother, Lars Lindgren.

Day 1,301 of My Captivity

Marcellus explains how he manages to get out of his enclosure — there’s a gap between the pump housing and the glass which allows him to slide a tentacle through to unscrew the pump housing.

Once he’s out, he can comfortably survive 18 minutes before he starts feeling unwell, his vision blurs and he starts to turn grey. When he gets out, he chooses where to go in order to find things to snack on, but he has to be careful about snacking on too many fish since it risks attracting Terry’s attention. Marcullus does not want Terry knowing that he sneaks out of his enclosure.

To open the door to get into the hallway costs him several minutes and reopening it also requires a similar effort. He’s tried propping it open before, but it led to a miscalculation of how much time he had available since the stool he used fell over.

The Welina Mobile Park Is for Lovers

Cameron Cassmore goes to visit his Aunt Jeanne at Welina Mobile Park where she lives. Inside, she’s arguing with her landlord, Jimmy Delmonico, over some clematis vines. He wants her to take them down since Sissy Baker claimed she saw a snake in there, blinking at her. Cameron point out that it can’t be true because snakes don’t have eyelids. Finally, the landlord tells Jeanne to just trim down the vines and leaves.

Cameron’s Aunt Jeanne raised him because his own mother, Daphne, left when he was nine, and she was never able to keep herself clean long enough to reclaim him. Jeanne eventually applied for sole custody. Aunt Jeanne, a decade older than her sister, occasionally offers him Daphne’s possessions, but he always refuses.

Aunt Jeanne sold her house and moved into this mobile home a few years back to pay off medical bills. There was an incident with some “asshole guys” in the parking lot of Dell’s Saloon where Aunt Jeanne got punched in the head when trying to defuse a situation. She ended up with a host of injuries, and Cameron left a good job with a restoration company to help care for her. He notices she’s accumulated more and more stuff around here.

Jeanne asks about Katie, his girlfriend, who he says is fine. She also brings up Brad and Elizabeth Burnett, Cameron’s childhood friends. They were all a group back then, and Brad and Elizabeth are now married, expecting a baby at the end of the summer. Cameron’s well aware that his position as their third wheel is about to taken over by the baby.

He also tells Jeanne that he got fired from a job she helped him get since he showed up 10 minutes late for work. Jeanne reminds him of how smart he is, and Cameron wonders if he got it from his father, though no one knows who that is.

Before he leaves, he sees that she has a prescription for chlamydia medication. Jeanne blames it on Wally Perkins not wanting to use condoms before Cameron quickly cuts her off.

Day 1,302 of My Captivity

At the aquarium, Dr. Santiago checks on Marcellus and is concerned that he’s gained three pounds, which more weight than he should be gaining.

June Gloom

At Shop-Way, Tova tisks at the way the new bag boy, Tanner, packs her groceries. Ethan Mack, the store’s owner, offers his condolences about her brother Lars’s passing. Tove knows Ethan loves gossip, and thanks him but says very little about it, since she’s certain he’s well aware of her estrangement from her brother.

Tova and Lars were close once. She used to spend every New Years at his house in Ballard with Will, but something shifted after Erik died. Tova got irritated with people trying to ask if she wanted to talk about Erik. Nothing dramatic happened. Instead, Lars and Denise, his wife at the time, let them know they had other plans one New Years, and then there were other cancelled plans. Eventually, years of not talking turned into decades of not talking.

At home, her refrigerator is full of casseroles from people expressing their condolences about Lars. She’s putting away groceries when she hears a scratching at her door. She opens it to find a cat looking up at her. She tries to shoo it away, unsuccessfully. Finally, Tova names it Cat and offers Cat a plate of food.

Chasing a Lass

Ethan Mack worries about Tova shopping for groceries late at night. Ethan tried to make himself a bit more presentable when he knows she’s coming. Forty years ago, he quit his job as a docker and spent all his money on a ticket to move from Kilberry in Western Scotland to the United States, in pursuit of an American girl Cindy who was there on holiday.

Together, he and Cindy had driven across the country in an old Volkswagen van, getting married in a “ramshackle chapel” near the border up to Oregon. A few weeks later they were in Aberdeen, Washington when the van tuckered out, and Cindy left. He stayed here in Aberdeen, finding the grey skies familiar to his home.

He became a longshoreman and, ten years ago, retired at 55 with a pension. He then moved inland, to Sowell Bay, picking up a shift at the Shop-Way and later buying the place.

He thinks about going to check on Tova, but then he remembers that he “broke himself once, chasing a lass.”

Day 1,306 of My Captivity

Marcellus thinks about how he has a secret that he carries with him from the bottom of the sea, but no one to tell his secrets to since none of the other creatures around him possess the same level of intelligence as him.

Baby Vipers are Especially Deadly

Aunt Jeanne brought over a box to Cameron’s place three days ago, but Cameron still refuses to touch it. Katie works the front desk at the nearby Holiday Inn, and she’s home today. She asks why he’s not at work, and he lies and says International Contractors’ Day. Katie then points out that the workmen next door are still working.

Later that day, Cameron finds Katie throwing out all his stuff. She breaks up with him, telling him that she can’t do this anymore. Cameron thinks about how Katie doesn’t understand what it was like having an addict mother and the “gnawing hatred” that comes with it.

Cameron thinks about how Katie doesn’t understand what he’s been through. Similar to Tove, Cameron is also isolated by what he’s been through since he doesn’t feel like others can understand what he struggles with.

Cameron makes his way to Brad and Elizabeth’s house with his stuff. Brad says he can crash there, but only for a few nights. They talk about where Cameron might be able to rent an apartment, considering he has no job. He remember that Dell’s, a bar they’re both regulars at, has a room upstairs, and he tells Brad that he’ll talk to Old Al the bartender about it tomorrow.

Before they go to sleep, Brad tells him he’s dropping out of their band, Moth Sausage, since he’s going to be busy with the baby coming. Brad is the lead singer, so if he’s out the band is effectively done. Cameron is disappointed, but tells him it’s fine.

Day 1,307 of My Captivity

Marcellus thinks about how he can remember each fingerprint … and each key.

Muckle Teeth

Bruce LaRue, an attorney for Lars’s estate, shows up looking to speak to Tova to transfer his personal assets to her. He tells her she can go pick up his stuff at Charter Village an hour or away, or she can leave it and they’ll throw it out at some point.

Tonight, there are no big messes at the aquarium. She notes that she often sees Marcellus out of his enclosure nowadays, and he seems to like to snack on the sea cucumbers. She chats with him about whether to go pick up Lars’s stuff from the nursing home. At the seahorse exhibit, she sees the note that they’re mating right now. They mate at the same time each year, and Terry even threw a “baby shower” for the staff last year to celebrate the event.

After her shift, she recalls Ethan’s offer of help and asks him for a ride to Bellingham to pick up Lars’s effects.

Day 1,308 of My Captivity

Marcellus notes that the seahorses will spawn tomorrow, and it’ll bring large crowds to the museum. He also thinks about how the “elderly female who mops the floors” likes to converse with him.

Happy Endings

Ethan wakes up early to drive Tova to Bellingham. He feels nervous and excited. They eventually arrive at Charter Village Long-Term Care Center. Ethan asks Tova if she’s been here before, and she says no. Ethan thinks about how Tova said Lars had lived here for a decade.

Tova goes in while Ethan waits in the reception area. After a while, Ethan is bored and agrees to go on a tour of the facility. Tova eventually returns after an hour clutching a box. He also sees that Tova has brought with her a packet of information and application to Charter Village.

Day 1,309 of My Captivity

Marcellus thinks about a conversation between Dr. Santiago and Terry earlier this evening. They’d lowered a crab in a hinged box into Marcellus’s enclosure, and he immediately opened it and eaten the crab. Dr. Santiago then commented that Marcellus must be a “smart cookie” since they clearly were expecting him to take much longer to get to the crab.

Marcellus thinks to himself that he is smart. He knows their language and can use tools and solve puzzles.

Maybe Not Marrakesh

Late at night, Cameron looks around Brad and Elizabeth’s house for a spare charger. Elizabeth sees him, saying she’s just up to grab a drink. As they chat, Elizabeth suggests that Cameron spend some time traveling.

Their conversation highlights how Cameron’s life has gone a very different direction from Elizabeth and Brad’s. She talks about him travelling, and he doesn’t correct her to clarify that it’s not something he’s remotely considering when he can barely afford to rent an apartment.

Afterwards, Cameron decides to crack open the box that his mother left for him, in hopes of finding something he can pawn to put down a deposit for an apartment. Most of the stuff is sentimental and useless to him, like ticket stubs or handwritten notes, and he dismisses it. There is a small bag of jewelry. No jewels, but potentially some gold he can pawn. He also finds a photo of his mother with her arms around a man he doesn’t recognize wrapped around a class ring that engraved with the words “SOWELL BAY HIGH SCHOOL, CLASS OF 1989.”

Bugatti and Blondie

Tova is sitting outside working on a crossword at Hamilton Park when she notices a man trying to use the water fountain, which doesn’t work. She offers him some water. He recognizes her as Erik Sullivan’s mother, and he identifies himself as Adam Wright. He says that he went to school with Erik.

Later, Tova goes through the photos from Lars’s personal effects. She throws away photos of Lars from their estrangement. She keeps the ones from their childhood. Then, there’s a photo of Lars with Erik on a sailboat. She remembers how Lars taught Erik to sail. She doesn’t know where to put it. She nearly throws it out, but ends up hiding it in the kitchen drawers instead “even though it didn’t belong there, either.”

Tova keeps the photos that represent fond memories.

Tova throws away photos that remind her of a Lars that she didn’t know. Presumably, it pains her to be reminded of their estrangement and the life he led that she wasn’t a part of. In general, Tova has been running away from her pain, even if it means running away from other people.

The last photos of Lars and Erik pains her, so she’s tempted to throw it out, but she has some fondness associated with it as well, and so she doesn’t know where to place it both physically as an object and emotionally as a memory.

Day 1,311 of My Captivity

Marcellus thinks about how humans are always inanely talking about the weather. He’s also very aware that summer solstice has arrived and that it’ll be his last.

Nothing Stays Sunk Forever

Tova and Barb are at Colette’s Beauty Shop getting their hair done. Colette is past retirement age, but she refuses to retire. She’s also the best hairdresser around. They talk about Tova’s visit to Charter Village, and she notes that she was impressed with how things were run. Barb comments that “my Andie” would never put her into a nursing home.

That night at the aquarium, Terry asks Tova to clean the windowpanes in the lobby since Fourth of July weekend, the aquarium’s busiest time of the year, is coming up. Tova assures him she’s happy to get it done. In his office, Tova sees his degree in Marine Biology from the University of Washington, and Tova thinks of how Erik would’ve started school there if he had lived.

Before Tova gets to work, she sees Terry has a clamp on his desk. Terry says he thinks Marcellus has been getting out of his enclosure and needs to put a clamp on it, since he seems to be eating the sea cucumbers. When Tova goes to visit Marcellus that night, she warns him that Terry is onto his escape routine. She unfastens the latch so Marcellus can have one last night of freedom. Instead, Marcellus takes the opportunity to hand her a set of house keys that she lost a year ago.

Day 1,319 of My Captivity

Marcellus finds many items small treasures around the aquarium, and keys and coins are plentiful enough that he doesn’t bother collecting them. However, he kept this set of keys since they were familiar to him. Before he was captured, he once held a key exactly like this one, except it belonged to a set of human remains, swept under a pile of rocks.

Marcellus imagines that this is the person that the elderly woman mourns, and he wishes he could go back in time to collect all the stuff and give it back to her.

Not a Movie Star, But Maybe a Pirate

In the morning, Cameron goes to talk to Old Al about the spare room upstairs. Old Al says no, that he’s not interested in being a landlord, and he says that Cameron already owes him a huge tab — both for drinks and for the damage that he caused during one of his past shows.

Cameron offers Old Al his mom’s random jewelry and class ring as payment. Old Al then reminisces about Daphne, who he only knew as Jeanne’s “hell-raising” younger sister. He says he remember that Daphne ran away from home, and Jeanne had to go up to Washington to fetch her and bring her home. Cameron feels numb as he hears this story.

After he leaves, Cameron looks up the Sowell Bay High School Class of 1989 reunion page, wondering if one of these guys is the one that got his mother pregnant. Cameron also sees that the ring has a faint engraving on the other side with the letters “EELS”. As he scrolls through the photos, he sees another photo of his mom with the same guy, and it’s captioned “Daphne Cassmore and Simon Brinks“. Cameron looks up Simon Brinks and finds out he’s a well-known Seattle real estate developer and nightclub owner. He wonders if that’s his father.

When he sees Elizabeth, he tells her what happened with Old Al as well as his discovery of Simon Brinks. Cameron tells her that he plans on going to Washington to find this guy — and hopefully get him to pay up 18 years of child support. That night, Cameron books a flight to Seattle.

The Technically True Story

Tova uses some baking soda to get the rust off the key. That night, at the aquarium, she checks on Marcellus and is glad to see that Terry hasn’t placed the clamp on his tank yet. She opens the tank and steps up to hover over it, and Marcellus greets her, placing one of his tentacles on her arm.

She chats with Marcellus about her friends and her late husband. Then, she brings up Erik. She tells Marcellus that Erik died when he was 18 out somewhere in Puget Sound. She says that he drowned on a small boat by himself. They said that Erik killed himself, but she thinks Erik was happy. She wonders if things would have been different if she hadn’t told him to get a summer job. She recalls an argument they’d gotten in because Erik had broken something, a Dala Horse, of hers kicking a soccer ball around.

As she’s talking, the stool she’s standing on wobbles, and Tova crashes to the floor. She’s okay, but the stool is broken. She tries to fix it, but here’s a screw missing. She worries about having to explain to Terry how she broke the tool, but suddenly, Marcellus is out of his tank. He disappears for a moment and then he returns to hand her the missing screw. He then goes back into his tank.

The next morning, Tova’s ankle is throbbing and sore. She calls Dr. Remy’s office for an appointment. They make time for her at 8 AM the next morning, but they tell her to stay off the ankle until then. She then calls Terry to call out of work for the first time in her life.

Got Baggage?

Cameron looks for his baggage from the carousel in Seattle and looks for a hostel to stay in for a few weeks. When it doesn’t appear, Cameron is concerned since the jewelry he was going to pawn to pay for the hostel is in there. As he waits in the luggage claims line, a man named Elliot makes small talk with him. Cameron tells him that he’s there to see his dad who lives in Sowell Bay.

As he waits, Cameron calls Aunt Jeanne. He tells her about the ring and the discovery about Simon and that he’s in Seattle. He says he needs a little bit of help from her. Jeanne ends up giving him a two-thousand-dollar loan. While she insists it’s not a loan, Cameron wants to pawn the jewelry and get the money back to her. He knows she’s been saving up for a dream Alaskan cruise, which is likely where the money came from. The last payment for the cruise is due in late August.

Before he leaves, Elliot asks if Cameron wants to buy a camper van off of a friend of his. That way he’d be able to get around and wouldn’t need to get a hotel room. Cameron considers this and offers him $1,500 for it.

Busted But Loyal

Tova remembers how Erik once brought home a rock crab that was missing two of its ten limbs, which he named Eight-Legged Eddie. Eddie was around for a while, hobbling around, but eventually passed away and his memorial is still in their garden, marked “RIP EIGHT-LEGGED EDDIE, BUSTED BUT LOYAL”. Tova thinks about that crab as she hobbles around herself on her busted ankle.

Janice drops by to see her since she missed the Knit-Wits this week. She tells her the news that Mary Anne is moving to Spokane where her daughter Laura is. They’re going to do a lunch in a few weeks to see her off. Tova promises to be there. Janice also says that now that they’re down to three they should talk about what they want to do in the future. Tova thinks about how they’ve been meeting up for decades.

Before Janice leaves, she gives Tova a cell phone that is her son’s old phone. She says that if Tova is going to live here alone, she needs to at least have a cell phone.

Later, Tova is pulling her casserole out of the oven when the phone chimes, startling her and causing her to drop the casserole on the floor. She takes a step, but slips on the slippery floor, landing on her tailbone. She checks the phone and angrily sees that it’s an unknown caller.

Afterwards, eating dinner alone with Cat, she thinks about her husband’s cancer and all the paperwork and arrangements that followed his death. She thinks about herself, slipping on the floor, too. And she wonders if it’s time to fill out the paperwork for Charter Village.

House Special

When Cameron takes ownership of his camper, he’s certain it’s barely functional. He ended up purchasing it for $1,200. Now, he’s headed from Seattle to Sowell Bay. His destination is an address he found listed as Simon Brink’s office. However, when he arrives the parking lot is empty and the door is locked.

He finds a Shop-Way and goes to order some food. He chats with a guy with a Red Beard (Ethan), saying that he’s looking for his father Simon Brinks. Red Beard recognizes the name, but says that he doesn’t know the man personally.

When he gets back to the camper, he sees that one of the back tires is completely flat.

Day 1,322 of My Captivity

Marcellus notes that his tank really needs a cleaning since it hasn’t been cleaned in three days. He remembers that his heart skipped a beat when the cleaning lady fell, and he hopes she gets better.

The Green Leotard

Tova thinks about the Wednesday that Erik died. She was 39 then and there was a green leotard she’d wear to jazzercize class on Wednesdays that never made it into the hamper. They reported that Erik never came home that Wednesday, and the police arrived the next morning with questions.

The 3-story house Tova lives in was built by her father when she was eight. As an adult, Tova and Will moved back into the house to take care of her mother. And then they stayed after she passed away.

Not Glamorous Work

Ethan ends up getting a friend to haul Cameron’s camper to his house so he can park there for the night. Cameron thinks about how he needs money to fix the camper up and also to pay back Jeanne before the end of August. When Cameron mentions needing work, Ethan suggests that Cameron apply for maintenance position at the aquarium since he knows his good friend Terry is in need of someone. Ethan reassures Cameron that he’ll definitely get the job with his recommendation.

Cameron goes in for the interview the next day. When he enters the office, he overhears Terry talking to Tova about how she definitely needs to take off six weeks if that’s what her doctor ordered. Terry agreed to re-evaluate at four weeks, and then he hangs up.

The interview goes poorly when Terry realizes that Cameron (at Ethan’s urging) filled out the application as a joke. However, Cameron pleads for the job, saying he’ll do whatever needs to be done. Terry agrees only because Ethan recommended him. Cameron then says that he’s open to more hours, and Terry offers to let him fill in for Tova cleaning while she’s gone.

Afterwards, he gets a call back from John Hall from Brinks Development’s Sowell Bay office. Cameron says he’s looking to make an appointment with Simon, but John isn’t helpful. When Cameron says that he’s family, John lets him know that Simon is usually at his summer home this time of year, but he declines to tell Cameron where it is.

After they hang up, Jeanne texts Cameron that she’s proud of him for getting a job.

Day 1,324 of My Captivity

Marcellus notices Cameron around and surmises that the elderly cleaning lady must be gone. He thinks to himself that he will miss her. And also that he would really like the floors and tanks cleaned already.

A Sucker for Injured Creatures

Cameron goes into a real estate office in Sowell Bay and asks the realtor there if she knows how to get in touch with Simon Brinks. The realtor, Jessica Snell, is unwilling to help him at first. However, Cameron says that he believes that Simon is his father and that he was abandoned by his mother as a child. He also fibs and says that he has no other family. Jessica feels bad for him and tells him that she and Simon both attend a conference where they give everyone contact information for the other participants. She gets the address for Simon and gives it to Cameron.

As they’re talking, their conversation is interrupted by an attractive woman named Avery who works at the surf shop next door. Avery and Jessica argue about the hot water usage, and finally Avery stalks off. After he leaves the real estate office, Cameron goes to talk to Avery and gets her phone number.

Afterwards, Cameron gets a call from the airline Joyjet saying that they’ve located his baggage, but it somehow got routed to Naples, Italy.

Epitaph and Pens

Tova has a busy day of errands planned. First, she visits the real estate office, irritated by the presence of a large camper van blocking everything out front. She arranges a walk-through of the house that afternoon with the realtor, Jessica Snell. Next, she visits the bank and requests a cheque from her account. She has plenty of money, hacing inherited a substantial sum from her mother’s estate that has gone untouched. Next, she visits Janice Kim’s house to use her photocopier machine to make a photocopy of her drivers license. Then Tova goes to a listed passport photo provider in Elland to get her photo taken.

As a last errand, she goes to visit Will and Erik’s headstones. Will arranged Erik’s headstone and his name is listed as ERIK ERNEST SULLIVAN, though her maiden name should really be listed as his second middle name. There’s a blank headstone for her, too. Across the lawn, she sees old Mrs. Kretch with her granddaughter and they set up a picnic in front of a plot six plots away and chat to the headstone. The sight of it makes Tova feel uncomfortable, and she thinks about how she’s never sat around talking to Will’s headstone.

Before Tova leaves, she tells Will’s headstone that she’s selling the house.

That evening after Jessica’s walk-through, Tova goes to the Shop-Way to pick up a black pen to fill out the Charter Village application since she’s unsatisfied with the pens in the house, finding them to be more of a dark grey than black. There, Ethan offers her a pen instead, but it’s blue. Tova tells him about the application, and Ethan knows she must be referring to the Charter Village application he saw her holding. He tries to dissuade her from her plan, saying Charter village is “not you”.

Tova finds herself fighting back tears when she justifies her decision to move. She asks him, “who else will take care of me?” Ethan refuses her money for the pens, instead he asks her to join him for tea or coffee sometime.

Afterwards, Tova decides to tack on one more errand for the day and drops by the aquarium. She goes to approach the octopus’s tank, but sees that there’s a light on over there. Then, she hears a clatter.

Conscience Does Make Cowards of Us All

Cameron rubs his temple, having cut himself after falling down thanks to a broken stepladder. He tries poking at the big octopus with a brook handle to get it back into its tank instead of being burrowed up in some shelves nearby. He knows that octopuses can’t survive for long out of water and it’s been twenty minutes since he caught this guy out of its tank.

Then, a small elderly woman enters. She gasps when she sees the octopus and rushes over. She greets the creature, telling him that she’s going to help him down, moves the octopus along the shelf, and then asks Cameron to remove the tank cover. She then guides the octopus into its tank.

With the octopus safely back in its cage, the elderly woman offers Cameron a pink Band-aid from her bag for his cut. As they chat, Tova introduces herself and tells him that she’s the cleaner and that the octopus is Marcellus. Cameron tells her that he’s the temporary cleaner. She asks Cameron not to tell Terry about Marcellus escaping his tank. She says he tends to be a wanderer and is happy that way, but Terry would stop it if he knew. Cameron agrees to keep it a secret.

Expect the Unexpected

Tova thinks back to emigrating from Sweden. She was seven and Lars was nine. Her father took a plane to get things ready before their arrival while they took a train and then a ship, the SS Vadstena. It was a two-month journey. They lived in Portland, Maine for two years before relocating to Sowell Bay. On the ship, there was a passenger who looked like a walrus and would play a game with her and then tell her to “expect the unexpected”.

As Cameron works, Tova thinks about how she’s heard rumors of her homeless replacement from California, but Cameron isn’t what she expected. She finds herself liking this young man. She starts instructing him on her cleaning tips.

They also talk about Marcellus, and she says that she thinks he escapes because he is smart and bored. She tells Cameron if it happens again to just leave him alone and he’ll go back in his tank. Though, she thinks about the night with all the cables and she worries about Marcellus. Then, Tova gets an idea that brings a smile to her face, and she tells Cameron that she’s going to teach him to befriend the octopus.

Day 1,329 of My Captivity

Marcellus thinks about how skilled he is at recognizing when people are genetically related to one another and when they aren’t. He says that their gait gives away a lot.

He feels certain that the elderly cleaning lady and her new replacement are genetically related.

Hard Left, Cut Right

By late July, Cameron finally finds a clue on how to locate Simon Brinks. He reads in a magazine that he spends summer weekends at his estate in the San Juan Islands. With the photo and town, Cameron is able to find an address, though it’s four hours away.

He thinks about asking Avery to go with him, who he’s been on a few coffee dates and a dinner with. However, she’s often busy, and she’s busy this time around as well. Still, Cameron feels like things are going well for him for once. He’s managed to hold down this job, which he finds surprisingly suitable for him. Tova shows up a lot, but he doesn’t mind the weird old lady.

When he tells Ethan about the new clue about Simon, Ethan suggests that they go together and take his truck. He says they can stop for fish and chips. On the way, Ethan mentions his romantic in Tova and Cameron teases him about it. Ethan also mentions her deceased husband and son, and Cameron feels upset for Tova.

When they get to their destination, Cameron knows it doesn’t look like anywhere a billionaire would have a vacation home. The car also gets stuck. But Cameron has always been good at physics and seeing the angles of things and manages to steer them out, even when Ethan was skeptical that it would work.

Day 1,341 of My Captivity

Marcellus thinks about how humans are the only species that make “jokes”. He recalls the punch line to a joke he heard recently: “It won’t be long now.” Marcellus thinks to himself that “It won’t be long now” before it’s his time, and he can feel his body struggling to carry out its functions.

A Three-Martini Truth

Mary Ann’s farewell luncheon takes place at Elland Chophouse, located in the posh section of the waterfront district. Tova chats with Mary Ann’s daughter, Laura. She talks about how her grand-daughter Isabella is walking now. Her daughter Tatum is also staying with her, and work has gotten busy which is why Mary Ann is moving there to help out.

Soon, Mary Ann arrives and takes a seat at the center table as various guests take seats at the surrounding tables. Tova sits with the Knit-Wits. They’re joined by Adam Wright, the man Tova met at the park the other day, who asks to take a seat next to her. He introduces her to the woman he’s with, Sandy Hewitt. Adam explains that he and Laura once went to Sunday school together, and he and Sandy are helping Mary Ann to move.

Adam and Sandy are currently house-hunting, and they say that Jessica mentioned that Tova’s house has just gone onto the market. The other women are confused, and Tova gets cornered into telling the group about her plan to move to Charter Village. The women all protest, commenting about how beautiful the house her father built is. Janice offers to let Tova come move in with her and Peter instead, but Tova says she doesn’t want to be a burden.

At the end of the lunch, Adam makes a comment about it being “hell to get old alone”, and Sandy jabs him. He quickly apologizes to Tova. He ends up telling Tova one of his last memories of Erik. He recalls them sneaking some beers from her fridge and going up to his family’s cabin together, since there was a girl Erik wanted to impress. After Tova leaves, she thinks about how Will was right about there being a girl in Erik’s life when he disappeared.

The Pier’s Shadow

Cameron meets up with Avery to go paddleboarding. She introduces him to her son, Marco, who she hadn’t told him about before. Marco is 15 and Avery is 32, so he realizes she had Marco when she was 17. She’s still good friends with his father, Josh, who was just a high school hookup. Cameron realizes he doesn’t think it’s a big deal that she has a kid, and seeing her with Marco impresses him.

At the pier, Avery tells him that she talked a woman off the ledge here once. She just listened to her talk and talked her down.

He tells her about his own upbringing, and Avery reminds him that his mother handing him off to Jeanne was probably what was best for him and that it was probably hard her his mother as well. He scoffs at first, but Avery says that she thought about giving Marco away at one point, thinking that it might be better for him. Cameron also tells her that he doesn’t even know if his mother is alive.

There Was a Girl

After the luncheon, the thought that “there was a girl” still lingers in Tova’s mind. She wonders who it was or if Adam might remember her name. Tova’s phone rings and it’s Jessica Snell, saying that they have an offer on the house. She asks if she wants to accept it or counter, and Tova hurriedly says that they should counter.

That night, Tova goes by the aquarium and sees that Cameron’s mind is elsewhere. She asks Cameron about his father, and he says he still hasn’t located him.

An Unexpected Treasure

Tonight, Tova suggests they try introducing Cameron to Marcellus again. Cameron thinks about how he’s fond of Tova, but she’s a little zany about this octopus stuff. Still, he goes with it. Marcellus plays a little game with Cameron, tapping him on the opposite shoulder to get him to turn in the wrong direction.

As they interact with Marcellus, Cameron notices something shiny at the bottom of his tank, peeking out from the sand. Tova tells Cameron that Marcellus is a little bit of a treasure hunter.

Afterwards, Cameron comments on the long day he’s had, and Tova remarks about how hard he’s been working. Cameron receives the words as a complement and feels good about himself.

Day 1,349 of My Captivity

Marcellus is frustrated that these two humans still do not see that they are related. He has search his collection of items to see if there’s anything he can give them to clue them into what he knows. He knows that Tova has a hole in her heart, and he wishes to help mend it.

Some Trees

At Tova’s home, she’s organizing things in preparation for her move into Charter Village. Barb, Janice, Timothy and some of Timothy’s friends are coming over to help with packing things up tomorrow. She’s sorted things into piles — things she’ll bring with her to Charter Village, things that’ll go into the trash and things to be donated.

As she works, she notes that Ethan will be on his shift now at Shop-Way and she’s in the mood for some friendly conversation. She heads over, and she’s chatting with Ethan when she runs into Sandy there. Tova thinks about how Adam is not in the phone book and that she’d been hoping to run into Adam and Sandy again. Sandy apologies for Adam bringing up the stuff about Erik over lunch, but Tova reassures her that it’s fine. Sandy also tells her that Adam remembered the girl’s name: Daphne.

Back at home, Tova immediately pulls out Erik’s old yearbook from 1989. There’s only one Daphne listed: Cassmore, Daphne A.

An Impossible Jam

Tova doesn’t come to the aquarium tonight, and Cameron senses that Marcellus is displeased about that. He gets a phone call from Elizabeth, who informs him that she’s on best rest until the baby comes since the doctor is worried she’ll deliver too early.

Terry comes by to pick something up, but also mentions to Cameron that he has some outstanding paperwork to turn in. Cameron tells Terry that he’ll get it done. Cameron knows that paperwork isn’t his strong suit. He was offered a full scholarship to Merced Valley Technical College, but was never able to get himself to fill out the paperwork to do attend.

Tonight, Cameron fills out the necessary forms, but he struggles with the photocopy machine when he tries to make a copy of his ID. Finally, he settles on just tossing his ID onto Terry’s desk, knowing he can get it back later.

Day 1,352 of My Captivity

Tonight, Marcellus escapes from his tank and makes his way to Terry’s office. He finds Cameron’s ID and tucks it under the tail of the sea lion statue in the hallway. Marcellus knows she is the only one who would bother to clean under there, and he wants her to find it.

The Bad Check

Ethan is at home having a drink after the conversation with Sandy and Tova about the mystery girl, Daphne, when Cameron’s last name pops into his mind. He keeps thinking about how he’d heard that last name before, and he finally remembers that there was a check posted on the “bad checks” wall at the Shop-Way when he bought it with that name. Daphne Cassmore. The check was for just over six dollars.

Ethan then goes online and signs up for an ancestry website where he’s able to confirm the connection. Daphne Cassmore’s sister is Jeanne Baker. Jeanne has a robust online presence selling and collecting various knick knacks, and Ethan recalls Cameron complaining about his aunt’s collecting problem.

Ethan knows he needs to tell Tova that Cameron’s mother was potentially involved in Erik’s disappearance, but he’s worried how she’ll take the news. He knows Cameron has somehow endeared himself to Tova, which he knows from experience is a tough shell to crack.

The Downside of Free Food

Today, Cameron gets his latest paycheck and sends the last of his loan repayment to Aunt Jeanne, plus extra to account for interest. He also goes to an indie album website and orders to albums for Ethan which he thinks he’ll like. His Aunt Jeanne calls him to tell him the amount he sent was too much, but he assures her it’s right and that he owes her. He can hear that Aunt Jeanne is with someone, probably Wally Perkins.

When he mentions what they’ll do once he makes things right with Simon, Aunt Jeanne stops him, saying that that’s not his father. If there was any chance he was his father Daphne would have told them. Before they disconnect, Jeanne says that “they” (he assumes she means her and Wally) want to meet up when she goes through Seattle to depart for her Alaskan cruise next month.

Not a Date

Tova goes over to Ethan’s house at his request around 5PM. She agreed to a quick dinner, since she’s been preoccupied with looking up information about Daphne Cassmore. Their dinner is interrupted by Cameron showing up wanting to speak to Ethan about something he overheard from Tanner about him. Ethan quickly pulls Cameron aside and they disappear into the living room to speak.

Waiting around in the kitchen, Tova decides to give it a good clean. She grabs a rag from the cabinet next to the sink. When Ethan finally returns, the kitchen is nice and tidy, but Ethan gets upset when he sees the rag she used. He tells her it’s a t-shirt from the Grateful Dead concert at Memorial Stadium on May 26, 1995, one of Jerry Garcia’s last shows ever.

Ethan then tries to switch the conversation back to what he invited her over for — to tell her something — but Tova is embarrassed about what happened and quickly leaves.

A Rare Specimen

Tova reaches out to Janice for help, saying she needs to purchase a replacement t-shirt from that Grateful Dead concert. Janine is very confused about Tova’s sudden new interest in concert memorabilia. However, Tova insists that she wants it, even when it turns out the t-shirt costs $2,000. Tova has more than enough money to cover it and isn’t concerned about the money.

Instead, she’s upset when it turns out it’ll take 3 weeks to arrive. Janice says the alternative is to pick it up in Tukwila, a city three hours away that’s south of Seattle. Tova chooses that option. She recalls how the last time she drove through Seattle was to see a specialist about an experimental cancer treatment for Will, though it didn’t work.

Janice offers to have Peter accompany her, but Tova declines, saying she’s going to make the trip today. Janice tells her to bring her cell phone at least.

As she drives, the cell phone rings. Someone from admissions at Charter Village, Patrick, is calling to ask about processing her final deposit, saying they haven’t received her authorization form yet. He asks if she can go ahead and authorize it verbally since her move-in date is quickly approaching next month.

Tova pauses for a while, thinking about decisions and the paths to take. She thinks about whether making a different decision would have allowed her to see Erik one last time and if so if he would’ve mentioned Daphne. Finally, she tells Patrick to process the payment.

Not Even a Birthday Card

Tova arrives at the next cleaning at the aquarium. Cameron is still upset about his argument with Ethan who for some reason has been going around talking about his mother and some bad check that she tried to cash a long time ago.

Tova tells Cameron about her adventure in trying to obtain a replacement Grateful Dead concert t-shirt. She says there was some trouble when she went to pick it up because she’d placed the order with her friend’s e-mail because she doesn’t have her own. Cameron offers to help her set one up.

As they chat, she instructs him to clean underneath the tail of the sea lion statue, showing him how to do it. When she does, the finds his ID. She stares at it and asks him about his mother. She then tells him that her son Erik had been seeing a girl named Daphne Cassmore.

Tova then recounts to Cameron the story of Erik’s disappearance. Afterwards, Tova asks Cameron how to get in touch with his mother, in hope that she might know something more about Erik’s disappearance if they’d been seeing each other at the time. However, Cameron sadly admits that he never heard from his mother again after she left him with his Aunt Jeanne when he was nine, not even a birthday card. Inwardly, he wonders if his father wasn’t in the picture because he was dead.

When he gets back to Ethan’s that night, Cameron wants to smooth things out with him, but the lights are out. Instead Avery texts him and they make plans for Wednesday afternoon.

What If

Tova thinks about Mary Ann’s daughter getting pregnant when she was eighteen. It had been a scandal, but Tova had been jealous. She lets her imagine “what if” Erik had somehow had a child before his life was cut short. She finds herself fixated on knowing that Cameron was born the February after Erik’s disappearance.

Meanwhile, Tova thinks about how her house sale is closing soon and her move-in date for Charter Village is coming up. She looks at Cat and is reminded of how Charter Village doesn’t allow pets.

Amazing Bones

On Monday, Janice suggests getting lunch together at a Tex-Mex place. Over lunch, Janice suggests having a farewell part for Tova since she’s about to move, but Tova says she doesn’t need a party. Janice also makes another entreaty to convince Tova not to move. She doesn’t understand why Tova would want to live out her final years with a bunch of strangers. She brings up Tova’s budding relationship with Ethan.

Tova tells her that unlike the other women, she doesn’t have anyone to care for her in her old age, and she doesn’t want to burden her friends with those responsibilities. Janice says that Tova shouldn’t see it as a burden, but Tova insists that Charter Village is for the best. Tova adds that the house sale is being finalized on Wednesday. Defeated, Janice tells Tova that she and Barb will go visit her once she’s settled.

On Tuesday, Tova puts the Grateful Dead t-shirt in a tote and makes her way to Shop-Way. She picks up what she needs, and she gives Ethan the replacement t-shirt at check-out. He thanks her for the shirt, but he reassures her that it wasn’t necessary and he’d happily toss the shirt to be able to re-do that dinner.

On Wednesday, Tova meets with Jessica Snell for the closing. She feels relieved momentarily when there’s a delay, but it’s quickly resolved. Instead, the papers are signed and the sale is finalized. Back at home, Tova packs up the remaining things in the house.

A Big, Bold Lie

This morning, Ethan tells Cameron that they’re interviewing for day manager at the Shop-Way. Cameron asks Ethan if he can apply for the manager’s position. Ethan tells Cameron that he’s happy to show Cameron the ropes in the grocery business if he’s interested, but he needs someone with some experience right now. Cameron gets angry and accuses Ethan of not thinking that he’s smart and of airing his dirty laundry about his mom around town. He then stalks off.

Afterwards, Cameron gets a call from Brink Development, saying that Simon has availability this afternoon. The person on the phone asks if he’s the developer with a project to discuss with Simon, and Cameron remembers that’s the lie that he told in hopes of getting an appointment. Cameron says yes. Cameron is supposed to meet Avery to go paddleboarding, but he agrees to the appointment. He goes to Avery’s surf shop to tell her he can’t make it, but she’s not there. Instead, he asks Marco to pass along the message instead.

Cameron also calls Terry to let him know he can’t make it tonight, which Terry is fine with. Cameron also mentions being interested in making the cleaning job permanent.

The Sob

Cameron makes the drive to Seattle to meet with Simon. He’s surprised when he ends up at a plain building, and he heads to the basement as instructed. He ends up in a tiny cocktail lounge. When Simon shows up, the man looks disheveled, in stark contrast to the PR photos that Cameron has seen. Simon knows exactly who Cameron is, and says that he chose this cocktail bar for them to meet up at because he built it for Daphne, since they talked about wanting to build a speakeasy back in the day. The name, Mudminnow, was Daphne’s idea. This was all before Daphne had her problems.

When Cameron brings it up, Simon tells Cameron that he’s not his father. He says they were best friends, but only ever friends. Cameron shows Simon the class ring he found, and they look at the “EELS” engraved at the bottom. Simon says that’s not his, and brings out his own class ring which is engraved with his initials. Simon says he doesn’t know who “EELS” is.

Simon tells Cameron that he’s exactly like Daphne when he talks about retaining random knowledge all the time. Simon says that Daphne wanted to be on Jeopardy and hid her real self from her family. Simon tells Cameron that Daphne loved him, despite her problems. Cameron then asks if Simon knows where to find her, but Simon says he hasn’t seen her in years. The last time he saw her, she was living in Eastern Washington and came to him asking for money, which he gave her, though it was clear she was still using.

A New Route

After he leaves Simon, Cameron gets a text from Brad with a photo of the newborn baby. Cameron then texts Avery, asking to talk, but she doesn’t respond.

Cameron thinks about how Simon wasn’t his dad, how Avery’s probably upset with him, and how his friends are moving on without him. He also starts to doubt himself, wondering if he’s doing as good of a job at the aquarium as he thinks he is. He also sees on his phone that Katie has unblocked him and that she’s clearly met someone new. He starts thinking about leaving and just going back to Modesto.

An Early Arrival

When Tova comes to visit the aquarium, Terry says there’s a new delivery and it’s a replacement octopus for Marcellus. Terry says that Marcellus is very old and likely only has weeks or even days left to live. Terry also mentions that he knows Marcellus likes to roam around at night. Tova says she thinks he was bored, and Terry agrees Marcellus was never that happy to be trapped in a tank.

Terry knows how much Tova likes Marcellus and knew she would be excited about the new creature, but Tova thinks to herself that she doesn’t care about this new octopus, only Marcellus. The new octopus is salmon-pink and will stay in another tank for now, but will be transferred to Marcellus’s tank when he’s gone. Terry says that both Marcellus and the new octopus were rescues. Marcellus was missing half a limb and a mess when they first got him. The new one was trapped in a crab pot and injured when they found her.

Terry also reminds Tova that there’ll always be a job here for her if she changes her mind about leaving.

High and Dry

Tova runs into Cameron after she talks to Terry. Cameron is still in a foul mood, and Tova asks what’s going on. He starts ranting about everything that’s been going on. Then, he takes the class ring with “EELS” on it and tosses it into the eel tank, saying that’s where it belongs. He also tells her that Simon is not his father.

Cameron says that he’s leaving since Terry hasn’t offered to make the cleaning position permanent. Tova tells him that it’s probably because he’s distracted with the arrival of the new octopus, but Cameron isn’t in the mood to listen to anything. He says he wants to go back to California.

When Tova points out that Cameron hasn’t told Terry, Cameron says that Terry will figure it out when he doesn’t show up. Tova gets stern with him, saying that leaving Terry high and dry is not the proper way to end his employment. She says that he’s better than that, but Cameron says that he’s not and walks out.

Day 1,361 of My Captiv—Oh, Let Us Cut the Shit, Shall We? We Have a Ring to Retrieve.

As soon as Tova leaves, Marcellus cautiously moves his weary body into the eel tank, trying to reassure the unfriendly creatures that he’ll only be a moment. He grabs the ring and then goes to rest in his tank. He knows he’ll have one last trip to make after that.

A Goddamn Genius

Cameron is parked next to the highway, with engine exposed and the snapped yanked out serpentine belt. There’s a new belt in the glove box, but he’ll have to figure out how to install it.

The Eel Ring

Thursday is Tova’s last day of work. Janice and Barb bring her a cake, congratulating her on her retirement. She still needs to figure out what to do about Cat because Charter Village doesn’t allow pets, but when Cat jumps into Barb’s lap, Barb says she’ll consider taking Cat in.

She goes in to check on Marcellus, but the pink octopus is wrapped up in a ball in his place. Broken-hearted, Tova lets out a tear, realizing what it must mean. When she goes into the lobby, she finds Marcellus there, discolored and weak. She tries to lift him, but she lacks the strength. Instead, she grabs her cleaning bucket and brings it over to splash water on him. She’s then able to hoist him into the bucket. The water revives him enough that he’s able to lift an arm and he reveals the class ring that Cameron had dropped into the eel tank.

When she sees the inscription of “EELS” on the bottom, she recognizes it immediately. Erik Ernest Lindgren Sullivan.

The Very Low Tide

Tova realizes that Erik was with a girl and they must’ve had a child together. Tova says to Marcellus that he clearly knew all along, and then she breaks down in tears.

That night, Tova takes her bucket and drags it along the boardwalk. It takes a while and she knows her body will be sore tomorrow, but she makes it out to the jetty. Before she re-releases him into the water, she tells him she’s glad they rescued him though she’s not sure if he was happy about it, but that he saved her. She thanks Marcellus for leading her to her grandson, and she promises to take care of the new octopus. She realizes then that she’s not going to be going to Charter Village.

With a final goodbye, she tips Marcellus into the water.

Every Last Thing

Sitting here in the moonlight, Tova imagines that Erik must’ve had an accident out on that boat. As she imagines what Erik would have been like, Tova is approached by Avery, who introduces herself. Avery says she saw the light on at the aquarium and was thinking it might be Cameron.

Tova tells Avery that Cameron went back to California. She says that he was upset about his meeting with his non-father, and she also says that Cameron seems to believe that Avery is “ghosting” him. Avery says that Cameron stood her up, but Tova tells her that he went by her shop. Avery then realizes that Marco was being a jerk by not telling her that Cameron dropped by.

Avery then mentions to Tova that she talked someone off the ledge here once. She says the girl had mentioned something about an accident and a boom. Tova thinks it could’ve been Daphne, talking about the boom of a ship and someone getting knocked off.

Expensive Roadkill

Cameron successfully replaces the belt and keeps driving, and soon he realizes he’s been up over 30 hours. He also realizes he left his cell phone on his bumper when he started driving again, so it’s gone now.

He finally stops for a nap, and he realizes how idiotic and embarrassing he’s been as he heads back to Washington state to fix his mess and do things right.

The Dala Horse

With the house sold, Tova considers where to go. She knows she has no intention of moving into Charter House. She’s surprised when she sees Cameron standing on her doorstep, looking concerned, and Tova thinks of how he reminds her so much of Erik in that moment. He apologizes for the early hour and asks her if she knows when Terry will be in, since he knows he needs to go talk to him in person.

Tova then admits to Cameron that she never gave Terry the note he left, since she believed that Cameron would come through. She invites Cameron in, and then she gives him back the class ring, and she tells him her son’s full name. Cameron starts to break down, and Tova reaches out to hold him. Then, she offers him a tour of the house his great-grandfather built.

When they get up to Erik’s bedroom, Cameron notices that one of the planks is made of the different type of wood. Tova lifts the plank to reveal a small cavity. There’s some snack cakes stores in there, no longer remotely edible. There’s also the Dala Horse that Erik had once broken, and Tova sees that he must’ve fixed it.

Cameron then asks how she got the class ring back, and Tova responds that it was Marcellus.

Day 1 of My Freedom

Marcellus knows his death is imminent, but he feels alive again resting on the sea floor. He’s glad Tova will take care of his replacement. He thinks about how humans are often “dull and blundering. But occasionally, you can be remarkably bright creatures.”

After All

A month later, Cameron and Tova are playing scrabble in her new condominium looking out on the water. Tova asks about Cameron’s Aunt Jeanne, but he says she’s happy where she is, with Wally Perkins. He says she’ll visit soon, especially since Jeanne still wants to try to track down Daphne in Eastern Washington.

At Thanksgiving, Ethan joins them, though Avery isn’t able to since she’s working at the shop. Cameron’s luggage also finally arrives.

In front of the aquarium, there’s now a large statue of Marcellus, paid for by funds Tova donated. Tova now volunteers there, handing out information at the octopus tank. Pippa the Grippa is still shy, and she seems content to stay in her tank.

The book ends with Tova standing out by the pier, telling Marcellus and Erik that she misses them, both of them, before she heads back in for scrabble.

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Bookshelf -- A literary set collection game