Flight Summary and Analysis of Chapter 19-21


Chapter 19

Zits opens his eyes to find himself back at the bank in Seattle. The pistol and the paint gun remain concealed in his coat, and he is unsure how much time has passed. Confused over the nature of time, he looks around to see the man who had previously told him that he was not real. As he considers how he could simply pull out his gun and kill these people, he sees the blond haired, blue eyed child, whose mother smiles at him and then at Zits.

As he waves at the child, he wonders whether his mother ever loved him that way, and feels jealous of the boy. He tries to will himself to take over the boy's body, but nothing happens. He accepts that he has returned to his own body, to his ugly face and his own fear and loneliness.

Zits leaves the bank wondering whether those people in the bank have better lives than him, or if they are equally lonely. He wishes it would rain so he could feel clean again, and then remembers his first day of school. His mother had walked with him there, explaining how he would make new friends and wait for him when the day was over. But his “mother didn’t wait for [him]. She died” (159). After his mother’s death, Zits lived with his Aunt Zooey, his mother’s sister and only living relative. He then reveals his deepest shame: when he was six-years-old, Aunt Zooey's boyfriend, who smelled of onions and beer, sexually abused him. When he told his Aunt Zooey, she slapped him and then beat him worse when he began to cry for his mother. His aunt's boyfriend continued to molest him, telling him “Nobody loves you anymore” (161). After a while, Zits began to believe him.

From that time onwards, Zits learned to keep his emotions to himself, to become cold and numb. When he turned eight, he started acting out by running away from home. When he was nine, he poured lighter fluid on his aunt's boyfriend, and tried to set him on fire. The boyfriend beat Zits so badly that he was hospitalized and the boyfriend was sent to jail. Aunt Zooey blamed Zits when the boyfriend left her, and one day when he was ten, she sent him to the store and was gone when he returned. From eleven through fifteen, Zits moved between many foster homes, slowly becoming accustomed to drinking on the streets of Seattle as he described in the early chapters. He smoked crack when he was thirteen, stole a car and wrecked it at fourteen, and learned how to shoot guns at fifteen after he met Justice.

But now, he feels "tired of hurting people” (161). As he passes a restaurant, he sees a police car outside and enters to find Officer Dave and his partner. He tells Officer Dave that he is carrying a gun, and that he needs help.

Chapter 20

After Officer Dave arrests Zits, the boy is interrogated by a detective whom he calls Detective Eyeglasses. He tells the detective about Justice, and they watch a video of Zits in the bank. In the video, Zits nervously tries to hide behind a large potted plant, and continually pats his pockets to make sure the guns are still there. Though they all laugh at how ridiculous he looks, Zits feels sick to realize the atrocity he almost committed.

Before Detective Eyeglasses can ask why Zits changed his mind, the boy's image disappears from the screen for a moment. Officer Dave assumes it is a flaw in the tape.

Later, Zits leads both police officers to the warehouse where he and Justice lived together. Justice is not there, and Zits knows he will never see the boy again.

Later that same day, Office Dave finds Zits in his holding cell, and tells him “You are going to die” (168). Zits tries to act tough, claiming he knows he does not matter to anyone. Officer Dave counters that he does care about Zits, and then tells him the story of two children who died of neglect. As Officer Dave tells the story, Zits watches the story unfold as if he were transported there.

In the story, Officer Dave and his partner respond to a 911 call from an apartment building. They hear running water, and see a man and a woman passed out from drugs or alcohol. They then see that water has flooded the hallway, and follow it to bathroom to find two tiny children on the floor, having been scalded by the burning hot water that overflows from the bathtub. They were too small to open the door on their own, and their parents were passed out. By the time the ambulance arrives, the children are dead.

Officer Dave shares how he wants to go back in time to save them - had he been there an hour earlier, he could have kept them safe. Officer Dave and Zits weep together.

Chapter 21

After months of counseling, therapy, and boredom, Zits prepares to move into a new foster home. Officer Dave has arranged for him to live with his brother Robert, a firefighter, and Robert's wife Mary, a nurse. Zits likes the idea, but worries he remains unlovable and will not please a firefighter for very long.

Social workers take Zits to his new foster home, and he spends the night in his new room. The radio wakes him up with “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know,” his mother’s favorite song. That morning, he finds Robert, Mary, and Officer Dave eating breakfast together in the kitchen. Zits finds Mary beautiful, and wonders whether she is part Indian. When she asks whether he wants breakfast, he replies “Whatever” (175). Robert introduces himself to Zits, and invites him to a Mariners game. Though he remains aloof about it, Zits is actually eager to go. He further hopes that Officer Dave and Robert might act as surrogate fathers to him.

When Mary tells Zits that they hope to adopt him, Zits is emotionally overwhelmed. When Officer and Robert leave for work, Zits wonders whether he might be in love with Mary as she reviews their schedule and promises to pick him up from school. For some reason, Zits trusts she will keep her promise.

Later, Mary finds Zits in his bathroom, where she shows him how to apply some acne medicine that she bought for him. When she tells him he is handsome, he begins to weep. He is reminded of his mother as she hugs him.

Zits knows the world can be a cold, unforgiving place. He knows he has betrayed and will be betrayed again, but he does not feel lonely anymore. The novel ends as he asks her to call him by his real name, Michael.


Alexie never bothers to explain the logic of the time travel, which fits within the magical realist aesthetic. Instead, what matters are the lessons he learns through his transformations. The novel works almost like a fairy-tale, in that a mystical or supernatural situation occurs in order to teach the character something. It is important to note, however, that there is evidence that the transformations were more than simply hallucinations. One could argue that Zits, an imaginative and troubled narrator, might have deluded himself into believing his own stories, except that his disappearance from the tape remains unexplained.

Most important is that Zits is given a second chance. Even in the bank, we see that he has learned something from the way he looks at the young boy and his mother. The moment is significant for two reasons. First, the little boy represents all that Zits wishes he had had in life as a child. The boy is well loved, well clothed, and white. He fulfills Zits's ideal of beauty, and moreover remains innocent, untouched by pain. However, the boy also symbolizes new hope for Zits. Where such people inspired hatred from Zits in the first chapters, they now make him wish he could trade places. Instead of focusing on his resentments, Zits leaves the bank, ready to admit he needs help. He believes, at least somewhat, in hope for the future.

Tellingly, this is the only section in which there is no overt violence. Instead, the only violence exists in Officer Dave's story, which takes place in the past. Zits begins these final chapters by choosing not to commit violence, and his language is far more contemplative, less vitriolic, throughout. He has been disgusted by his violent hatreds because his transformations have revealed the ugliness of violence. When Officer Dave speaks of violence here, it moves Zits to pity. He cries.

The other lesson Zits has learned is that he cannot live so emotionally removed. He shows how he has learned this lesson by confessing the deep shame of his first molestation. His inherent distrust of people and desperate need for attention are explained by Aunt Zooey's betrayal. That horrific situation taught Zits that he could survive only by focusing on hatred, and that he was inherently unlovable. Zits has told the reader much information about himself, but the fact that he has saved this story until now suggests that he was not emotionally capable of sharing it earlier in the novel.

The childhood trauma with Aunt Zooey also explains Zits's affection for fire, which serves as a motif throughout the novel. His desire came from his attempt to burn the boyfriend, suggesting that he sees fire as a type of salvation. Therefore, throughout his troubled youth, he is a self-described pyromaniac, which aligns with his emotional distance and innate hatred. He is most comfortable when he burns everything down, when nothing remains. Robert, as a firefighter, serves as a strong symbol of what has changed in Zits's life. He is going to learn to embrace his life, betrayals and all, because only then can be grow emotionally. Perhaps Zits can learn to quash his inner fire, to focus on love rather than on hatred.

Note that the boyfriend is never named, which aligns with Zits’s habit of not naming unworthy characters. Zits gives names sparingly, and only to those who are either worthy or integral to the story. He withholds names of the people who have hurt him, thereby diminishing their power over him. But most poignantly, he withholds his own name, further reinforcing his own lack of self-worth. It is not until he learns to value himself, both through the transformations and the respect of Officer Dave, Robert and Mary, that he gives his name.

By giving his name, Zits suggests he has triumphed. Like the Archangel of the same name, Michael has fought his battle and won. He has a new home, a new beginning. The breakfast table scene mirrors that of his newest foster father in the early chapters, both in its physical parallel and in Zits's attempted aloofness. However, Robert does not smell of onions and beer (another image that is explained by the childhood trauma). It is only because Zits opens himself to the scene that he is able to see the positivity, the potential for kindness. He sees Mary as potentially half-Indian, which also reveals that his stringent definitions of beauty have changed. He now thinks that being Indian can mean being beautiful. But most importantly, Zits has learned to embrace his inner beauty. The acne medication is less moving than is Mary's assertion that he is beautiful even with his acne. Though Zits knows that life will continue to be full of challenges, he has opened himself to the possibility that it might not have to be, that being beautiful is not about what people see, but about what he chooses to be.