Melody’s mother wants to enroll Melody in school, so she takes Melody to see a specialist, Dr. Hugely. Doctors can’t “fix” her, and Melody often responds to them by pretending she doesn’t understand them, ignoring their questions and staring at the wall. Dr. Hugely conducts a series of tests with Melody to figure out how smart she is. First, he asks her to stack blocks according to size, which she can’t do because she can’t control her movement. Then he asks her to identify the color blue, which she does. Next, he asks her questions about three objects, and she is supposed to answer “which of these things is not like the other.” Melody has difficulty answering because she cannot speak, and also because she assumes they are trick questions because they are so simple. He asks her what animal gives birth to a calf, but she knows there isn’t just one answer, as many animals have babies that are called calves.
Melody finds doctors frustrating, because their instruments cannot measure her sharp mind. This passage, which shows a medical professional conducting condescending and misguided tests of her intelligence, is meant to show the absurdity of the way in which many people (even doctors) treat disabled people. Though Melody is smarter than this doctor can imagine, his insistence on measuring her intellect through tasks she cannot physically perform is cruel and harmful to Melody. Furthermore, he asks her questions so basic that she thinks they are a trick. This mirrors the way many of her teachers treat her, as will become clear when Melody describes her school environment.
Annoyed by Dr. Hugely’s questions, Melody puts on her “handicap face” and daydreams. Dr. Hugely finishes the evaluation without her help, and explains to Melody’s mother that he believes she is brain-damaged. Melody’s mother argues back that she knows Melody is smart, and explains that Melody laughs at her jokes. Dr. Hugely dismisses this; he doesn’t believe that Melody understands anything more than simple speech, and he believes that she will never be able to speak. He suggests keeping her at home and not giving her an education, sending her to a school for children with disabilities, or sending her to a nursing home.
Dr. Hugely assumes that her physical disabilities mean she has mental disabilities as well, a prejudice Melody must deal with throughout the book. Luckily, Melody’s mother has a special connection with her, and although she cannot speak, she understands Melody’s intelligence. The bond of family, in this case, is more useful than the advice of the doctor, who would have denied Melody the education she cherishes because of his prejudice.
Melody understands the whole conversation, and she is frightened that her mother will send her away. Luckily, Melody’s mom fights back. She tells Dr. Hugely what Melody was thinking earlier, that although he has a fancy degree he cannot understand what is going on inside Melody’s mind. Melody, her mother argues, is intelligent, and even more so because she has to try so much harder to communicate than anyone else. The chapter ends as Melody’s mother rolls Melody out of the Doctor’s office, and declares she’s enrolling her daughter at Spaulding Street Elementary School.
Melody’s mother understands what Melody communicates in her narration in the book, which is that because communication is harder for her, it is even more important, and more impressive. Once again, Melody’s mother understands this because of a special familial bond, one that Dr. Hugely is unable to replicate in a hospital setting.