Fish in a Tree


Lynda Mullaly Hunt

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Fish in a Tree: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Ally watches Albert pretend to read and notices a new bruise on his jaw. She approaches him and surprises herself by inviting him to eat lunch with her and Keisha, so they can "all sit alone together." Albert picks at the logic of Ally's phrasing but accepts her invitation.
Though it takes Ally a long time to get there, Albert's interest in logic isn't just an interest: like Ally's sling, it's a way for him to escape from things that make him sad and anxious, which shows that he's just as lonely as Ally is.
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At lunch, Albert asks who decided that a half-pint of milk is enough. Ally suggests he buys two or ask his mom for more money, but Albert says that his lunch is prepaid. Ally feels stupid as she realizes that Albert gets free lunch and apologizes. Albert is unperturbed. He says his mom (Audrey) isn't pleased about the free lunch, but Albert's dad is an inventor and won't get a real job. Ally vows to herself to keep this secret.
The choice to keep what she learns secret shows that Ally is well aware that Albert's financial struggles are possibly something that's embarrassing or difficult for him. This shows that when given the opportunity, Ally is thoughtful and sympathetic.
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Keisha sits down and immediately says that she watched Star Trek and the special effects are pathetic. Albert looks horrified, but they're interrupted as Shay and Jessica walk by and make a joke about the Island of Misfit Toys. Keisha ignores them, and Albert says the girls don't bother him at all. Ally wishes she could not care too. Albert says that the whole idea of misfit toys seems weird—there's nothing actually wrong with any of the toys on the island; some of them just have different names than usual. Ally argues that things can be misfits just because they're called something different, thinking of the words "dumb" and "baby."
Star Trek first appeared on TV in the 1960s and was then taken up again in 1987, meaning that to a modern viewer, the visual effects aren't that convincing. Ally's insistence that having a strange name can make someone a misfit suggests that she leans heavily on the fact that others call her dumb. While she's starting to suspect that she isn't, those words have power when she hears them all the time.
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Albert and Keisha discuss the merits of the cowboy who rides an ostrich. Albert insists that an ostrich is a perfect choice given that ostriches are hardier animals than horses. Lost in thought, Ally thinks that people have been calling her "slow" to her face for forever, as though she's too dumb to know what they're saying. She thinks that people think that knowing Ally is a slow reader tells them everything about her, when there has to be more to her.
Ally's questions here show that Mr. Daniels is starting to have an effect on Ally: now that she's had several instances during class where she's been successful, she's starting to believe that that could happen more often, and that she might not be dumb.
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