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Summary

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Summary
Chapter Summaries
Chapter 1 Summary
“The First Day: Birth in a Bare-Bulb Place”
China, the pit bull, has gone into labor, but she looks nothing like Esch’s mother looked when she was giving
birth to Esch's youngest sibling, Junior. Mama had given birth to all four children right there in the house.
Esch was only eight at the time so she was of no help to her mother, but Mama had told everyone that she did
not need any help. Daddy said that Esch and her two older brothers, Randall and Skeetah, had been easy
births, but Junior’s birth was hard. He came into the world purple and blue, and Mama did not want to go to
the hospital. Later, Daddy dragged her to the truck to take her anyway, and the children never saw her again.
Now, as China suffers in labor, the only person she will let near her is sixteen-year-old Skeetah, who tries to
keep her relaxed. Skeetah had her mated with a male pit bull that Manny’s cousin enters into illegal
dogfights. China births her first puppy, a large, reddish-orange male that Skeetah says will one day be a killer.
The next one comes out backward, a white puppy with black spots. His tongue sticks out—he is dead. The next
three are birthed without incident, and when they think she is done, China gets up and goes to the corner of
the shed. She spills the afterbirth, and when she walks away, Skeetah sees something moving. A
brindle-colored runt has come out last, and luckily, the puppy is breathing.
Outside, Daddy gets the house ready for possible hurricanes, because in summer there are always hurricanes.
He can feel a storm coming. He sends Junior under the house to fetch jugs so that they can be filled with
water. Meanwhile, Manny arrives at the house—he is nineteen, two years older than Randall—and the two
shoot basketball together. While the boys play, Daddy tells Esch to wash the bottles, but one breaks in her
hand, and the blood mingles in the puddled water near her feet. She wants Manny to see her, but does not
want him to think her helpless. It is her brother Randall who comes to her aid. Later, she takes the broken
bottle pieces out to the Pit to be burned with the family’s other trash. Her family inherited the land there in
Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, from her mother’s parents, Mother Lizbeth and Papa Joseph. Papa Joseph used to
sell earth from his land until the Pit grew to the size of a pond, and then he and Mother Lizbeth farmed the
land. Now, the land is overgrown. At the Pit, Manny meets Esch, and he touches her where he always does
before he takes off her pants. The two lie in the red dirt, and Esch shows him that she wants him by moving
her hips. He is not the first boy she has been with, but he is the only one she has truly wanted.
Back at home, Esch makes Junior take a bath. She is the last to shower, and when she goes to bed, she
imagines Manny hovering above her.
Chapter 2 Summary
“The Second Day: Hidden Eggs”
The morning after China gives birth, Esch wakes to the sound of hammering. Skeetah is outside building a
kennel for the puppies—he is amazed that China gave birth to five living puppies and wants to see them thrive.
Skeetah does not want to abandon the task, so Esch goes off alone to look for breakfast. Her mother taught her
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how to scan the yard for hidden eggs, but for Esch, the task is still hard work that requires concentration. Esch
thinks that the only two things that have ever been easy for her to do are swimming and sex. She lost her
virginity at age twelve to Skeetah’s best friend, Marquise, in the backseat of her father’s dump truck. She
learned to swim when she was six—her father had picked her up and thrown her in the Pit, but she did not get
pulled down by the water and used her limbs to stay on the surface.
At the breakfast table, Junior is pouting because he does not want to eat the eggs and prefers to eat dry
noodles. Esch takes out the plate of eggs to Skeetah so that China can eat them instead. Esch notices that the
dog’s teats look like human breasts, and suddenly she runs outside the shed and vomits in the dirt.
Later, Big Henry arrives and Daddy tries to scam beer off him. Skeetah comes from the shed and says that he
needs to buy dog food, so Big Henry offers a ride and Esch tags along with them. They go to the grocery store
in St. Catherine, which is packed with people buying provisions for the impending hurricane. Inside, Esch
sneaks off to hide a pregnancy test in the band of her shorts, and Skeetah broods over the dog food; he must
get the most expensive brand. On the way home, the trio witnesses a car accident. A man has run his car into a
tree, and a woman is lying on the road like she is sleeping. The man appears disoriented, so Big Henry offers
assistance. He takes the man’s cellular telephone to give directions to the 911 operator, who asks him to
remain at the scene until help arrives. Skeetah is angry. He assumes the man and the woman are having an
affair and therefore not worthy of their help; besides, he wants to return to help China with her puppies. Big
Henry makes them stay.
At home, Esch thanks Big Henry for the ride. In the bathroom, Esch runs water for the tub and pees on the
stick of the pregnancy test. She sets it on the edge of the tub as she climbs in, careful not to knock it into the
water. The two lines turn blue, and Esch recalls the directions on the package. She is pregnant.
Chapter 3 Summary
“The Third Day: Sickness in the Dirt”
Esch tries hard to sleep, but the truth of her pregnancy keeps her awake. Right now, pregnancy means
vomiting from the minute Esch wakes up in the morning. She hugs the toilet while her brothers scream at her
from outside the bathroom door. She tells them that she is shaving her legs and hopes that they do not notice
her condition. Esch goes back to bed, and her father never sends one of her brothers to wake her so that she
can prepare the family for the hurricane. She wonders what all the men are up to this morning. Then Skeetah
appears in the door, and Esch knows that something is wrong. She follows him out to the shed, where one of
the puppies is not eating with the rest. Skeetah tries to move the puppy closer to China so that it can nurse, but
China growls and bites at the puppy. Esch says that the mother must know that something is wrong, and
Skeetah suspects that the puppy has picked up parvo. Skeetah decides to separate the puppy from the rest of
the litter to protect the healthy ones, and he asks Esch if she will help him when the time comes. Esch agrees.
Skeetah steals some of the hurricane provisions from the kitchen and packs them for the night’s trip into the
woods to kill and bury the puppy.
Skeetah, Randall, and Esch enter the woods and find the makeshift barbecue pit that they made when they
were younger. They set out supplies, and Skeetah decides that they need more food, so he shoots a squirrel
with his BB gun. Randall refuses to clean the squirrel, so Skeetah does, but he accidentally nips the intestines.
The smell forces Esch into the bushes to vomit. While the meat is cooking, Marquise, Big Henry, and Manny
arrive. Esch comments that Skeetah never named the puppy, so he tells her to give it a name. She chooses
Nella. Manny says that they should kill the puppy now to save it from suffering. Skeetah grabs the puppy’s
head and twists, swiftly breaking its neck the way his mother used to kill chickens.
Afterward, Skeetah takes off his clothes and gets into the water of the Pit to wash the contamination off him.
The others soon follow. Naked in the water, Manny approaches Esch, takes her hand and puts it on his penis.
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Esch looks at his lips and wonders why he never kisses her the way she has seen him kiss another girl. With
her other hand, she reaches for his chest, but Manny pulls away. He says her name like he is disappointed,
asks her if she is crazy, and tells her that things are not that way. Esch is hurt, and all she can think of is how
she has always loved Manny. She knows that the baby is his because she has not slept with any of the other
boys since him. Then, all get out of the water and dress, except Skeetah. He leads the way home naked.
Chapter 4 Summary
“The Fourth Day: Worth Stealing”
There are fleas everywhere as Esch walks toward Mother Lizbeth and Papa Joseph’s house. Little is left of
the porch to the house, and overall, the house is dilapidated. Mama had tried to keep the house a shrine, but
the increasing needs of their own family forced her and Daddy to pilfer items from inside the house. Esch
finds Skeetah there pulling up linoleum tiles from the kitchen floor. He says that he needs to build a floor for
the puppies because the parvo must be in the dirt. They soon hear Daddy’s tractor approaching, so Skeetah
throws the tiles out the window where they will not be seen. When Daddy enters, he makes Esch boost
Skeetah up to the rafters to take down plywood to use against the upcoming storms.
Skeetah asks Esch to help him with an important task, and when she agrees, he tells her that they are going
into the woods to the east where a small house and old barn belonging to a white family are located. Skeetah
found the place one day when they were playing chase in the woods, and he knows that the family keeps cows
and supplies in the barn. He is on a mission to steal cow wormer to help the puppies. Skeetah and Esch change
into camouflaged clothes and jog out to the barn. The two watch the house for movement and determine that
no one is home. Skeetah tells Esch to keep watch and to whistle if she sees a car or a person approaching.
Then they see someone in a nearby cove of trees—Randall, Junior, and Big Henry have followed them.
Randall gets Skeetah to tell him his plan, and only when Skeetah says that he plans to use some of the money
from the sale of the puppies to put Randall through basketball camp does the elder brother submit. Randall
also takes up a watch post, while Big Henry takes Junior back into the woods.
Skeetah breaks a window and climbs into the barn. Outside, Esch is consumed by an intense need to go to the
bathroom, so she squats at her post. Just then, Randall whistles, and she looks up to see a truck pulling into the
driveway. The man’s dog is barking behind the window. Esch whistles too. Skeetah falls headfirst out the
window, and the man and dog get out of the truck. The dog gives chase, and the man is yelling, “Hey!” Esch,
Skeetah, and Randall run toward home, the dog on their heels. Esch knows that she should be running faster,
but her pregnancy betrays her. They make it home, and China hears the other dog’s barking. She immediately
attacks the dog, gripping and shaking the dog by the neck. Esch tells Skeetah to back her off before she kills
the other dog, and Skeetah gleams in triumph—the cow wormer is in his pocket. He calls China back, and the
other dog limps home through the woods, leaving a trail of blood in his wake.
Chapter 5 Summary
“The Fifth Day: Salvage the Bones”
In the morning, Esch bursts into the bathroom, her need to pee intense. Skeetah stands shirtless at the sink,
gently tracing wounds on his stomach. He tells Esch that he was cut on the window glass while hurrying from
the barn. Skeetah picks up an old Ace bandage that he has cleaned and bleached and tries to wrap it around
himself. Esch takes the bandage to help him. While she wraps him up, Esch notices that Skeetah smells like
wind over the Gulf of Mexico, and this makes her think about times past when her father took them
swimming there. They dug up oysters and watched the pelicans floating on the water. Once when Mama went
along, she caught a shark, which she cooked that night in butter. Esch finishes wrapping, and Skeetah tells her
that she ran slowly the day before in the woods. Esch wonders what her pregnant body looks like to others, so
when Skeetah leaves the bathroom, she hoists herself onto the sink so that she can see herself in the mirror.
There is a “honeydew curve” under her belly button. Her T-shirts and loose jeans and shorts cover the bulge,
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and Esch plans to not tell anyone until it can no longer be avoided.
Outside, Esch’s father is underneath his dump truck trying to fix the broken parts. Junior sits next to him to
hand over tools. Daddy wants the help of the other boys, but Esch says that she does not know where her
brothers are. He makes her get into the truck to try to start the engine. After several tries and more tinkering,
the truck still will not start. Daddy does not know how he will make money after the hurricane without the
dump truck to haul away garbage and debris for others.
Skeetah brings China out of the shed because he thinks she needs time to herself away from the puppies.
Manny is there, and Skeetah tells him that he plans to take China to the upcoming dogfights so that no one
forgets that she is a “boss” dog. Manny says that his cousin will bring his dog, Rico, to fight. Esch looks at
Manny hoping that he will return her gaze, but he never looks at her. Manny says that China is not as boss as
she used to be, but Skeetah claims that since she is now a mother, she is as tough as she will ever be. Esch
asks Skeetah if he has wormed China yet, and when Manny hears that Skeetah has not properly mixed the
medicine, he warns him that he needs to cut it with oil before giving it to the dog. At home, Skeetah mixes the
wormer with bacon grease, and China takes all of it.
In the bathroom, Esch recalls what she has heard from the girls talking about what to do if you are pregnant.
She considers all these abortive options and concludes that none of them is an option for her. Sitting on the
toilet, Esch pulls back the makeshift curtain and sees Skeetah dragging wood to the shed. Daddy pulls into the
driveway very slowly, a sign that he is quite drunk. He curses the stores for not having the part that he needs
for his truck, and then he accuses Skeetah of taking wood from the hurricane piles. Daddy yells and curses at
Skeetah, saying that none of the children appreciates what he tries to do for them. He grabs Skeetah’s arm,
and China jumps forward. Skeetah tells her to hold, and Daddy says that he would call the pound if China ever
tried to hurt him. Daddy turns to walk into the house, all the while watching Skeetah and China.
Chapter 6 Summary
"The Sixth Day: A Steady Hand"
Daddy is outside knocking down what is left of the chicken coop. Skeetah spent the night in the shed after he
and Daddy fought last night, and Esch is sitting on the sofa waiting for Skeetah to come inside through the
front door to avoid seeing Daddy in the back yard. While she waits, Esch sneaks into the bathroom to devour
cans of Vienna sausages from the hurricane stockpile. Eventually she gets tired of waiting and goes out to the
shed. China rests her head on her paws while the puppies suckle, and Skeetah says that he knows something is
wrong with the dog because she is being so mild-tempered. Esch assures him that Manny gave him the right
advice about the wormer and suggests that he go inside to bathe. After some hesitation, Skeetah decides to go
and asks her to watch the dogs. Junior creeps into the shed, fascinated with the puppies. Even though Esch
warns him away, Junior gets close enough to grab one of the puppies. Esch grips one of his arms and digs her
nails into his flesh until he cries and drops the puppy. She apologizes and promises to take him to play in the
park.
When Skeetah returns, he puts the puppies in a box and forces China to her feet. She is shaking, but Skeetah
says that she needs to walk, so he puts her on her leash and practically drags her down the street. Esch runs to
catch up to them, and Junior follows on his bicycle. They walk to the park where Manny is playing
basketball—watching from the stands are his girlfriend Shaliyah and her cousin Felicia. Randall and his friends
are on the court too, and Esch sits in the grass on the outside of the court. Skeetah runs China around the track
while the others continue to play basketball. When the game is over, Manny goes to the stands to flirt with
Shaliyah, and Big Henry walks over to Esch to ask her if she wants to sit in his car, which is parked in the
shade. When the sun begins to set, Big Henry piles everyone else into the car, and he drives them home
following Skeetah and China.
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At home, the puppies are whining for milk, and Daddy is still trying to dismantle the chicken coop. He
screams for Randall to help. The storm now has a name—“Katrina”—and Daddy says they must be ready. He
tells Randall to get inside the tractor to drive while he directs him towards the coop. In the shed, China lies
down exhausted, but Skeetah says that she must eat and shoves a bowl of food in her direction. The puppies
creep towards her to suckle, and when the red one gets near her food bowl, she grimaces. When the puppy
gets near her teat, she grabs it and whips it through the air. She flings it into the tin wall of the shed, and the
puppy falls to the ground in a slump as Skeetah cries, “No!” Outside, Randall has put the tractor into gear,
and Daddy also yells, “No!” He pulls his hand from the tractor; blood is everywhere. Three of his fingers
have been sheared away.
Chapter 7 Summary
“The Seventh Day: Game Dogs and Game Men”
All the kids except Skeetah get into Big Henry’s car to go to the hospital. Daddy sits in the front seat, his
hand wrapped in a blood-soaked towel. When the nurse sees the stream of blood from Daddy’s hand, she asks
him his name and whisks him away in a wheelchair. At three o’clock in the morning, Randall and Daddy
come down the hall; Daddy’s eyes are glazed like they are when he is drunk. His hand is wrapped in gauze
and tape. At home, Daddy sleeps like he has not slept since Mama died. Esch takes soup and crackers into his
room; he nibbles the crackers while watching television. Daddy then asks Esch to play with the antenna, and
soon they are able to watch the local news station that reports Katrina’s landfall in Florida. Around the room
are family pictures that have been up ever since Mama was still alive, and on the television, the reporter says
that preparation for the storm is key. Outside, Esch can hear Skeetah and China coming through the woods.
China howls and all the other dogs in the area howl with her.
Randall’s basketball game is today, and he is outside dribbling the ball and bouncing it against the house.
China is barking, and when Skeetah comes inside, he says that China has forgotten that he is her master. He
has placed her on a chain and says that he will leave her there until she figures it out. Later, Big Henry and
Marquise arrive to drive everyone to the game. Big Henry asks Esch if she thinks that Randall is ready, and
she tells him that her brother has been practicing all day. Daddy is asleep when they leave for the game, and
Esch leaves him water and crackers.
The gymnasium at St. Catherine’s Elementary School is dark when they arrive, and Randall goes onto the
court to practice drills. Junior wants to go to the concession stand, so Big Henry gives him some money. He
asks Esch if she wants something too, but she says that she just needs to go to the bathroom. On her way out,
Esch bumps into Manny’s cousin, Rico. Manny and Shaliyah are also there, looking fresh from the
barbershop. Esch veers around them and runs to the bathroom. Inside, Esch takes the farthest stall and cries
while sitting with her face pressed against her knees. When she opens the stall door, Manny is standing inside
the bathroom. He says that he has been thinking about her before he pushes Esch back into the stall. He
then takes off her shorts and underwear and pulls her down to straddle him. She grabs his face and forces
Manny to look at her. He caresses her body until his hands fall on the swell of her stomach. Now he knows.
Manny curses and throws Esch off of him. She hits the stall door and slumps onto the ground, and Manny
flees the bathroom. Esch sits on the floor and cries.
Big Henry sends Junior to the bathroom to check on Esch, and she returns to the game. She realizes that
Manny, Shaliyah, and Rico are sitting only a few seats in front of them. Skeetah curses Manny from the
bleachers, and Rico gets up to talk to Skeetah about the puppies that his dog Kilo sired with China. Rico
wants to stake his claim, but Skeetah tells him that he has no right to any of the puppies. Manny gets up to
intervene, but Skeetah is angry and punches Rico. The brawl spills to the gym floor, and the coach blows his
whistle and tells Randall to leave with his people. Rico says that they will finish the fight at the
dog-fights—Marquise’s cousin’s dog Boss will stand in for China. Skeetah agrees to let Rico have the puppy
of his choice if his dog Kilo wins the fight.
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Chapter 8 Summary
“The Eighth Day: Make Them Know”
The next morning, Junior tries to get Esch out of bed but she rolls away from him, feeling the hurt of the day
before. Still he pesters her—Skeetah has said that Junior cannot go to the dog-fight unless Esch takes him.
Esch gets up and Junior tells her that Randall made Daddy’s breakfast earlier that morning. In Daddy’s
room, a map of the hurricane is on the television screen and two cans of beer are on the nightstand next to the
bed. Junior follows Esch and she tells him that they can go see the dog-fight. Outside, Skeetah is bathing
China, who recognizes her master. Randall is outside too, arguing with Skeetah about his behavior during the
game. Skeetah says that Randall had no right to make an offer to Rico, but Randall says that Skeetah ruined
his chances of getting into basketball camp so he did what was necessary. When Skeetah is done bathing
China, she is blindingly white.
China leads the way on the trail through the woods until they reach a clearing that appears to be a dried-up
pond. Many boys are there with their dogs. They smoke and ask each other questions about their dogs.
Marquise introduces them to his cousin Jerome whose dog Boss will fight Kilo on China’s behalf. Boss is all
black with a white muzzle, and he is huge. The dog’s hair is coarse and marred with scars from previous
fights. On the other side of the clearing, Rico’s dog Kilo is straining at the leash and digging into the dirt.
Jerome is confident that Boss is ready for the fight. The dog-masters leave the leashes in the hands of friends
while they enter the circle of the clearing. Rico only intends for Kilo to fight Boss in the last match. Skeetah
and China stand off to the side, surveying the clearing. Skeetah fought China when she turned one year old,
and she often won by grabbing the throat of another dog and holding tight until the dog yelped. The other
dogs appear to be afraid of her—none come over to sniff her or mouth her shoulder.
The first fight is quick and messy. The others continue until at last, it is Rico’s time to bring Kilo into the
clearing. Jerome walks up with Boss and gets him ready. At the call, the two dogs barrel towards each other
and clash in the middle. They rise on their hind legs and Boss gets the first bite. After a few more blows,
Jerome yells, “Come on, son!” to urge Boss to win, but Boss thinks that his master is calling him back. When
he retreats, Kilo jumps onto Boss’s back. The boys end the round and decide to have the dogs fight again to
settle the score. But in the end, there is no clear winner as neither dog will submit. Rico claims that Kilo won
the fight and demands that Skeetah give him the white puppy. Skeetah says that Rico has no right to call the
fight and unhooks China’s chain.
Randall tries to dissuade Skeetah from fighting China because she is a new mother, but Skeetah will not listen
to his reasoning. He pulls China aside and talks to her quietly in her ear, mumbling, “Make them know.”
China and Kilo take their places at the edge of the clearing, and when Skeetah yells, “Go,” both dogs run.
China is so fast that she meets Kilo before he can even get to the middle of the clearing. She grabs the back of
his neck and rips at the flesh. Rico calls for his dog to fend off the attack, and Kilo grabs China’s leg. Neither
dog will let go, so the boys call them off. Rico wipes Kilo’s neck before the dogs fight a second round. The
dogs bite at each other until finally, when the dogs are on their hind legs, Kilo swoops down and bites the
nipple off one of China’s teats. He grabs hold of China and shakes her on the ground. Again, the boys call off
the dogs. Rico thinks that he has a good chance of winning the fight as the dogs go into the third round. But
this time, China is enraged, and when Kilo tries to bite her teat again, she snaps her jaws around his neck. Kilo
screams loudly, marking the end of the fight and China as the winner.
Chapter 9 Summary
“The Ninth Day: Hurricane Eclipse”
Esch is woken by the sound of Daddy vomiting in the bathroom. He calls for Randall who is still in his bed.
Skeetah is not in the room though. After the dog fight, Skeetah cleaned and treated China’s wounds and must
have slept outside in the shed with her. In the bathroom, Daddy tells Randall that he is sick and needs to stay
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by the toilet, but Randall and Esch carry him back to bed and promise to put a garbage pail next to the bed.
Randall searches for Daddy’s medicine and asks him if his hand hurts. Randall tells Daddy that he is not
supposed to drink while on his pain medication and antibiotics, but Daddy shakes his head and says that beer
is not really like drinking alcohol. He insists that he needs to get the house ready for the hurricane, but Randall
says that the kids will take care of the preparations.
Today, the wind is gusting stronger than it has before. Esch goes out to Daddy’s truck and finds a flashlight,
drill, hammer, and nails. Skeetah comes out of the shed and says that he cannot help because he needs to keep
an eye on China. Randall has turned on the truck’s radio and a news announcer says that Hurricane Katrina
has now become a category 3 storm and is scheduled to make landfall in Louisiana sometime Monday
morning. Skeetah says that he needs to go to the store for more supplies, and Randall tells him to pick up
canned food while he is there. Randall tells Skeetah that they need his help, but Big Henry is already on the
way.
Esch needs Junior to pick the nails out of the bin with his small fingers, but he is nowhere to be found. Inside,
Esch finds him standing in front of Daddy’s bed. Junior says that Daddy was not breathing. Esch drags Junior
down the hall and asks him what he was doing. Junior says that he knows all about Daddy’s sickness, his
hand, the beer, and the medicine. Then he tells Esch that he found Daddy’s wedding ring and flings it across
the hallway. Junior runs and hides under the house. When Randall finds him, Junior wails that the ring was no
longer any good for Daddy and that he wanted to keep it to remind him of his mother. When Randall and Esch
tell Skeetah what Junior has done, he laughs and says that his little brother is wild. Esch has put the ring in her
top drawer to keep it safe.
The kids busy themselves with carrying out Daddy’s instructions:
"Cover the windows." Junior holds the nails in his shirt while Esch and Randall match boards to the windows
of the house. Randall hammers in the nails, and in the process, smashes two of his fingers.
"Bring the jugs of water in." Junior and Esch carry in the glass jugs of water that they have filled. They clean
the dust off the bottles with a rag.
"Fill my gas tank." Randall drives Daddy’s truck to the gas station, and Esch looks at the rugs that her mother
fit in the cab to cover the hot upholstery.
"Cook whatever’s in the ‘frigerator." Esch cooks the eggs and bologna that are left in the refrigerator and
Randall and Junior drink what is left of the milk.
"Park my truck in the clearing by the pit." Randall drives the truck through the woods, and the chickens
scatter. He parks the truck by the makeshift grill.
"Get the cheapest you can get." At the grocery store, Skeetah has spent money on supplies for China and has
only brought back canned peas and a dozen packs of Top Ramen for the family. Randall is angry, but Skeetah
says that the store had been wiped out of food. Skeetah says that they still have dog food, but Randall says
that none of them are dogs.
Chapter 10 Summary
“The Tenth Day: In the Endless Eye”
Esch eats all of Skeetah’s eggs and bologna because he has stayed outside in the shed with China. Randall
curses and throws a can of tomato paste across the room after he counts the meager food supplies that are
stored for the family. After breakfast, Esch overhears Randall telling Daddy that they do not have enough
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food, and Daddy tells him that if they cannot cook during the storm, then they will have to eat the Ramen
noodles dry. He adds that they will make do with what they have. He then asks for his wedding ring, and Esch
retrieves it from her drawer. He goes back to his room because he is the only one who can stand being inside
the boarded-up house; meanwhile, all the children go outside. There is no sun, and the wind blows hard.
Skeetah is piling things outside the shed while China chases the chickens. Esch says that they need more food.
Randall suggests that they look for more eggs and boil them so that they do not have to go to the refrigerator.
Skeetah does not join them because he says that he needs to exercise China. In the woods, the chickens have
hidden their eggs away in preparation for the coming storm. Esch thinks back to when her mother taught the
kids how to find eggs—Randall finds them in the most difficult places and fills Junior’s shirt with twenty-four
eggs to carry home.
As they approach home, Randall, Esch, and Junior meet Manny. He apologizes to Randall for having gotten
into a fight with Skeetah. Randall says that Skeetah believes that Manny wanted to poison China and that he is
“dogging” Esch. Manny denies it and says that he considers them family. But Randall says that he does not
think Manny regards his siblings as family, and he retires to the kitchen. Manny walks away, but Esch calls to
him and blurts out that she is pregnant. Manny shakes his head and says that the baby is not his. Esch has
always been a fighter; now she pounces on Manny, poking his Adam’s apple and clawing his face. She
screams that she once loved him; in defense, he calls her crazy. Manny then grabs Esch under her arms and
flings her backward. Manny calls her a slut and says that even her brothers know that she has slept with every
boy in the Pit. Esch tells him that when the baby is born, the truth will be known.
Randall later finds Esch sitting in the ditch. She is crying, but she says that nothing is wrong when he asks
her. He says that they need to go through the woods to the white people’s house to steal food. No animals
appear in the woods, and no one is home when they get to the house. Randall kicks through the plywood and
glass in one window, but when they peer inside, they see that the woman has removed everything from the
house. They silently walk back home. When they get there, Skeetah brings the dogs inside his and Randall’s
bedroom and says that they cannot stay in the shed during the hurricane. Randall tells Daddy, and after some
debate, they decide that Skeetah will stay with the dogs in the bedroom, and Randall will sleep with Junior
and Esch in the living room. Daddy says that the reporters are now calling the hurricane a category 5. Skeetah
says that everything deserves a chance to live.
Chapter 11 Summary
“The Eleventh Day: Katrina”
Esch wonders where all the animals go when hurricanes occur. She used to think that all the animals ran
away, but now she thinks that the small animals just hunker down in their homes to wait out the storms. The
telephone always rings on the day before a hurricane to play a message from the state government
encouraging evacuation and warning residents about the potential consequences of staying in the area during a
hurricane. The hurricane becomes real when people realize that they could die during the storm. The worst
hurricane that Esch remembers, Hurricane Elaine, a category 3, happened when she was eight years old.
Randall and Daddy slept through the storm, but Skeetah and Esch had sat up with Mama in the living room,
watching the trees blow in the wind from the slits between the boards over the windows. Now, the house is
quiet because the power has gone out. Esch is the first to wake, and she sits and listens to the howling wind
that makes the house creak. All is gray outside. Skeetah wakes, and Esch asks him if he is scared. He says that
he is not because they are not on the bay where he thinks the storm will be the worst. Esch recalls that Mama
said the wind howled this way during Hurricane Camille, another category 5 storm. Skeetah asks Esch if she
remembers the last thing that Mama said to her. She cannot, so Skeetah reminds her, “Look after each other.”
The kids sit near the window trying to find the source of a dog’s frantic barking outside. China squeals and
looks at the ceiling moments before a loud boom rocks the house. A tree has fallen onto the house and
protrudes into Daddy’s room. Daddy takes a plastic bag of pictures out of his dresser and stuffs it down his
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pants before leaving the room. The family huddles in the living room as the storms whips outside. A while
later, Randall accuses Junior of peeing on himself, but then all realize that water is coming up through the
floorboards. They look outside and see a pool of water in the yard—the Pit has overflowed. The water creeps
up the family’s legs, and Daddy says that they must get into the attic. All clamor up the stairs, and Skeetah
shuts the door behind them. Daddy says that the water has never come back this far from the Pit before. The
water and wind beat off the thin roof, and Randall says that he once heard about a family drowning in their
attic during a storm. Soon water comes through the floor of the attic, and Skeetah finds a chain saw and begins
banging a hole in the roof. Light comes through the hole, and Randall climbs out into the storm.
The family huddles together on the roof watching the water consume everything around the house. Skeetah
wraps China in his jeans and ties her to him like a sling. He sees that Mother Lizbeth and Papa Joseph’s
house juts from the top of the water—it has been built on a hill. He proposes that they use the nearby tree to
cross the water to the house. They leap for the branches while Skeetah leads. Esch is carrying a bucket with
China’s puppies over her shoulder, and she presses on although it digs into her skin. Skeetah tells Daddy that
he will swim across and break a window in the house, and he wants Esch to follow so that she is safe. He tells
Daddy that Esch is pregnant, and in disgust, Daddy pushes Esch away. The bucket is launched from her arm
as Esch falls into the water. Esch tries to swim, but she is overpowered by the water. Skeetah releases China
from the sling, and he dives into the water to save his sister. China swims to keep her head above water, and
the current pulls her towards the woods. Randall breaks the window glass, and the family climbs into the top
floor of the house. Skeetah braces himself on the roof, wailing, “No!”
Chapter 12 Summary
“The Twelfth Day: Alive”
The family sits in the attic of Mother Lizbeth and Papa Joseph's house until the wind quiets and water recedes.
Esch scoots past everyone to get to Skeetah who is sitting near a gap in the roof. He looks outside like he
wants to jump. Esch touches him between his shoulders, and his skin is hot to the touch. He jerks but does not
look at her. He says that he has failed China, but Esch reminds him that he did not fail his family. He starts to
shake, and Esch tightly embraces him. Skeetah says that as soon as the water gets down to the middle of the
tires on the truck outside, he is going to go out to search for China. But he cannot wait that long, and as soon
as he sees the first sliver of a tire poke through the water, he goes out through the hole in the window. Daddy
and Randall try to stop him, but Skeetah says that China is waiting for him and he cannot be stopped.
When all the water recedes, Daddy’s truck is covered with muddy slime. The family trudges through puddles
of cold water that fill the yard and find the back door has been blown open. Inside the house is wet and
muddy. They find some food that has been sealed away, and they wrap it up in their shirts. Randall says that
they cannot stay in the house and that they need to find better shelter, so they head for Big Henry’s house.
The landscape all around is smashed to bits, and when they get to Big Henry’s house, he says that they were
lucky that all the trees fell away from their house. He tells them that he and his mother have lots of space in
the house and that they are welcome to stay. Across the road, Manny is sitting in a white pickup truck, and he
stares across the crowd. Randall asks Esch if he is the father of her baby, and she nods. They walk past
without acknowledging him. Big Henry’s mother Ms. Bernadine welcomes them into her home and sets to
taking care of them. Esch wonders where Skeetah is and imagines him sitting before a fire waiting for China
to come home. Big Henry’s uncle Solly arrives and brings news of the destruction that the hurricane has
caused, bridges knocked out and roads full of water. Daddy apologizes to Esch for pushing her into the water
during the storm and tells her to make sure she takes care of herself so that the baby is healthy. Esch knows
that she will name the baby Rose after her mother if it is a girl and Jason after Skeetah if it is a boy.
Big Henry decides to drive into St. Catherine to survey the damage, so Randall, Esch, and Junior pile into his
truck. Many trees lie in the road and stores have been smashed, their contents spewed into the streets. Houses
have been knocked off their foundations. From the rubble of the liquor store, Randall fishes out a bottle for
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Daddy to help ease the pain in his hand. Big Henry squats next to Esch and tells her that he overheard the
conversation that she had with her father about the baby. Esch says that the baby does not have a father, and
Big Henry corrects her by saying that the baby will have many daddies to look after it. He assures Esch that he
will always be by her side.
Back at their house, Skeetah has made a clearing in the yard. Esch and the others have brought him food.
Randall tries to persuade Skeetah to come down to Big Henry’s house, but Skeetah will not leave. Esch tells
him that if China comes home she will stay put, but Skeetah says there are no ifs about it and he means to be
there when she returns. Esch, Randall, and Junior all sit with Skeetah to watch over him while he waits. Esch
knows that China will return and regard her as a mother.
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