Sick Puppy is a very successful young Republican who enjoys the company of his punk-rocker friends, who are less academically inclined. On the evening of the story they all drive over to the Irvine Concert hall in a milk truck while Sick Puppy receives oral sex from Gimlet. They arrive late due to the distractions of selling LSD along the way. Once at the concert hall the group sits through a Keith Jarret concert while all of them but Sick Puppy are tripping. The rest of the crowd steers clear of this drug-influenced, rowdy, abrasive group. However, when they are approached, such as by the woman who sits behind Gimlet and has trouble seeing over her hair, the group responds angrily and aggressively.
Sick Puppy goes on to explain how he met his punk-rocker friends at a Young-Republicans party. When Sick Puppy got in a verbal argument with a man at the party, he lit this man's beard aflame and the man rushed to put it out in a bowl of punch. The punk-rockers, who had crashed the party, reacted by holding the man's head under the punch and causing all-around destruction and panic. Sick Puppy and the punk-rockers bonded over this experience with the man in the punch and became friends.
As the narrative returns to the concert, Gimlet's hallucinations cause her to become highly interested in the curly blond hair of a young girl attending the concert several rows in front of them. Cheese repeatedly asks Sick Puppy why he is so happy and is answered vaguely, but is given more specific details on occasions which lead Sick Puppy to be unhappy. One such instance was when Sick Puppy found pornographic magazines as a child and repeated the sexual images on his own sister. When his father entered the room he took Sick Puppy down to the basement and punished him by burning his penis. From that point on, explains Sick Puppy, he could no longer be aroused by vaginal intercourse and could only achieve orgasm through oral sex while burning matches on women's skin.
As the concert reaches intermission, Sick Puppy, accompanied by Cheese, goes out into the lobby. While looking through the crowd of milling patrons he spots his other friends, two of whom, Mr. Wonderful and Gimlet, are chasing the girl with curious hair and her father. They catch the father, who is carrying the sleeping girl, and reach for the girl's hair, with a knife prepared to cut off a portion. Sick Puppy observes this.
- Sick Puppy (narrator)
- Sandy Imblum (Aka Gimlet)
- Mr. Wonderful
Sick Puppy and his punk rocker friends are deeply ingrained in drug culture, and the narrative voice is certainly detached and stilted. Although he claims to be unaffected by them, drugs likely influence Sick Puppy's behavior and subsequent narration.
Sexual Dysfunction and Hideousness
Our narrator also falls victim to the anxiety and mental dysfunction that comes with an odd and brutal sexual history. His sense of intimacy, again reinforced by his detached and deadpan narration, is completely skewed and almost absent. He cannot actually connect with a woman, and can even only find pleasure from himself in burns and pain. This type of dysfunction is seen commonly in Wallace's work, for example in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and with Orin Incandenza, among others, in Infinite Jest.
Perhaps one of the most unique voices in the collection, the first-person narrator Sick Puppy speaks in racing, breathless sentences that one might associate with a person who is on high on drugs. For example,
Gimlet and Big placed drugs on their tongues also and we went driving like greased lightning down the Pacific Coast Highway in reverse until a policeman pulled us over and I was forced to give him a gift of a thousand dollars not to incarcerate Gimlet when she determined that his revolver was in reality a radioactive chemical waste product and attempted to pull it out of his holster and throw it at a palm tree in order to kill it (58)
Furthermore, there is almost a complete absence of sarcasm, irony, and euphemisms in Sick Puppy's speech. Untainted by the aforementioned qualities, Sick Puppy's barefaced narrative style helps to reveal the oddities and subtexts in the interactions between other characters.