Salvage the Bones

by

Jesmyn Ward

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Esch is the novel’s narrator and protagonist, a fifteen-year-old girl who is both physically and emotionally isolated from her family and the world around her. The only girl in a family of boys and men—whose friends are pretty much exclusively boys and men, too—Esch finds herself retreating into her imagination, fascinated by the Greek myths she’s studying in school and especially obsessed with the story of Medea. Esch is pregnant, and has been rejected and cast aside by the father of her unborn child—a local boy named Manny with whom Esch has been in love for a long time, despite the fact that he treats her badly and discounts her at every turn. As Esch wrestles with the knowledge that she is soon to be a mother, she considers the lack of positive female and maternal influences in her life and instead turns to three very different, very violent “mothers”: her brother Skeetah’s fighting dog China, Medea, and eventually Hurricane Katrina itself. As Esch and her family prepare for the oncoming storm, Esch struggles to gain Manny’s recognition, help her brothers keep the vicious but beautiful China’s puppies alive just a little bit longer, and raise her youngest brother Junior in the absence of her alcoholic father’s attention. Esch is largely a passive protagonist—events swirl around her, and though she is present for all of the novel’s major emotional and logistic beats, she is something of a wallflower, observing everything that happens to her and those around her but only rarely taking decisive action. As Esch’s story takes on mythic proportions of its own, she is forced to confront the gulf between fantasy and reality and at last begin to take control over her own life.

Esch Quotes in Salvage the Bones

The Salvage the Bones quotes below are all either spoken by Esch or refer to Esch. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bloomsbury edition of Salvage the Bones published in 2011.
The First Day: Birth in a Bare-Bulb Place Quotes

The puppy is pure white. She is her mother in miniature. But while her mother moans, she is silent. Skeetah bends over her. The other puppies are opening their jaws, twitching legs. We're all sweating so badly we look like we just ran into the shed from a hard, heavy summer rain. But Skeet is shaking his head, and I don't know if it's all sweat or if he's crying. He blinks. He scrapes his pointer over the pure white skull, down the puppy's chest and her belly. Her mouth opens and her belly inflates. She is her mother’s daughter. She is a fighter. She breathes.

Related Characters: Esch (speaker), Skeetah
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:
The Third Day: Sickness in the Dirt Quotes

In Mythology, I am still reading about Medea and the quest for the Golden Fleece. Here is someone that I recognize. When Medea falls in love with Jason, it grabs me by my throat. I can see her. Medea sneaks Jason things to help him: ointments to make him invincible, secrets in rocks. She has magic, could bend the natural to the unnatural. But even with all her power, Jason bends her like a young pine in a hard wind; he makes her double in two. I know her.

Related Characters: Esch (speaker), Manny
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
The Fourth Day: Worth Stealing Quotes

"You giving China a floor?" Daddy had started on our house once he and Mama got married. Hearing the stories about him and Papa Joseph when I was growing up, I always thought it was something a man did for a woman when they married: build her something to live in.

"No, Esch." Skeetah slices at the underside of the next tile with one of Daddy's rusty box cutters. "I'm saving them puppies. China's strong and old enough to where the parvo won’t kill her." He yanked. "They’re money."

Related Characters: Esch (speaker), Skeetah, Daddy
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:
The Fifth Day: Salvage the Bones Quotes

"You ran slow yesterday."

I hold the bandage close. Skeetah grabs a rusty safety pin from off the sink and pins it shut.

"Only in the beginning," I say.

"Why?"

"I don't know." The light is creeping into the bathroom like fog. Skeetah pulls his shirt back over his head, looks down at my body to my chest, my stomach, my feet. What does he know? I shift, barely help myself from folding my arms.

"Maybe you’re gaining weight."

"You’re saying I'm fat?" I am trying not to cry. I don’t want him to know, but I can’t tell him, because I can’t say it. I haven’t said it to myself yet, out loud. Just chased it around in my head since I saw the lines.

"No," Skeet says. “Just growing up, maybe."

Related Characters: Esch (speaker), Skeetah (speaker)
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

I push with my hands, and it will not sink to dense pearls like fat. It pushes back, water flush and warm. I unpin my shirt. We all share clothes, so it's mostly men's T-shirts for me, loose jeans and cotton shorts. They cannot tell, but it is there. Perhaps Skeetah saw when I walked from the water and put on my clothes. I do not know, but I will not give him the chance to see again now. I will not let him see until none of us have any choices about what can be seen, what can be avoided, what is blind, and what will turn us to stone.

Related Characters: Esch (speaker)
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:

"I ain’t saying [she] weak." Manny still hasn't looked at me. "But you know China ain’t as boss as she used to be."

"What?" Skeetah's tendons are showing.

“Any dog give birth like that is less strong after. Even if you don’t think it. Take a lot out of an animal to nurse and nurture like that. Price of being female." Finally Manny glances at me. It slides over me like I'm glass.

Skeetah laughs. It sounds as if it's hacking its way out of him.

"You serious? That's when they come into they strength. They got something to protect." He glances at me, too, but I feel it even after he looks away. "That's power."

China is licking Skeetah's hand like she licks the puppies. Skeetah pushes her head away but she keeps at it, and he looks away from Manny. The tendons in his neck smooth. The menace leaves him; if he were a dog, his hair would flatten.

"To give life"—Skeetah bends down to China, feels her from neck to jaw, caresses her face like he would kiss her; she flashes her tongue—"is to know what's worth fighting for. And what’s love." Skeetah rubs down her sides, feels her ribs.

Related Characters: Esch (speaker), Skeetah (speaker), Manny (speaker)
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:
The Sixth Day: A Steady Hand Quotes

Daddy has only knocked down one of the chicken coop's walls. The chickens wander drunken and bewildered around his feet, seemingly mystified that he is dismantling their house, even though they haven’t roosted in it in years. In the half-light from the bulb from the shed and Daddy's headlights, they look black. Daddy lets his hammer fall, and the chickens scatter, fluttering away like leaves in a wind.

"The storm, it has a name now. Like the worst, she's a woman. Katrina."

"There's another storm?" Randall asks.

"What you think I been talking about? I knew it was coming," Daddy says. Like the worst, l repeat. A woman. He shakes his head, frowns at the coop. "We going to try something."

“What?”

“I want you to get on my tractor and I’m going to direct you to this wall right here.” Daddy points at the longer wall. “And we going to knock this damn thing over.”

Related Characters: Esch (speaker), Randall (speaker), Daddy (speaker)
Page Number: 124-125
Explanation and Analysis:

"Do it," Skeetah commands China.

China's ears are fat as plastic knives laid on her head and her mouth is wet and pink as uncooked chicken, except here the bone shows. She is quivering, her muscles beset by a multitude of tics. She is shaking all over, now eye to eye with Skeetah, seemingly ignoring the dirt-red puppy rounding her bowl, waddling for milk. He is the one that is a model of the father, of Kilo; he is the fattest, the most well fed, the bully. Turgid with the promise of living. When their eyes eventually open, I think that his will be the first.

The tractor idles and the engine turns, sounds as if it going to move.

"Don't do it!" Daddy yells against his tugging, but his grunts eat the Don't, and I don't know what Randall hears, but he lets up on the brake and slips it in gear, and the tractor eases forward. "Stop!" Daddy yells. He is pulling back, his hand clenched in the wire, and he twists so hard his arm looks long and ropy.

The red puppy creeps forward, rounds China's bowl, noses her tit. China is rolling, rising. The rumble of the tractor is her growl. Her toes are pointed, her head raised. Skeetah falls back. The red puppy undulates toward her; a fat mite. China snaps forward, closes her jaw around the puppy's neck as she does when she carries him, but there is no gentleness in it. She is all white eyes. She is chewing. She is whipping him through the air like a tire eaten too short for Skeetah to grab.

Related Characters: Esch (speaker), Skeetah (speaker), Daddy (speaker)
Page Number: 128-129
Explanation and Analysis:

The blood on Daddy’s shirt is the same color as the pulpy puppy in China's mouth. China flings it away from her. It thuds on the tin and slides. Randall comes running. Big Henry kneels with Daddy in the dirt, where what was Daddy's middle, ring, and pinkie finger on his left hand are sheared off clean as fallen tree trunks. The meat of his fingers is red and wet as China's lips.

Skeetah kneels in the dirt, feeling for the mutilated puppy; he knocks into metal drums and toolboxes and old chainsaws with his head and his shoulders.

"Why did you?" Skeetah wails.

"Why?" Daddy breathes to Randall and Big Henry standing over him, the blood sluicing down his forearm. They are gripping Daddy's wrist, trying to stop the bleeding. Skeetah is punching the metal he meets. China is bloody-mouthed and bright-eyed as Medea. If she could speak, this is what I would ask her: Is this what motherhood is?

Related Characters: Esch (speaker), Skeetah (speaker), Daddy (speaker)
Page Number: 129-130
Explanation and Analysis:
The Seventh Day: Game Dogs and Game Men Quotes

We have never done it like this. His hands are on my ass, and he tries to look down, to see, but it brings us face-to-face. Sweat gathers at his hairline, catches on the red grooves left by the clippers, like ant trails, across the top of his forehead. He grimaces, looking down, away, over my shoulder, up to the ceiling.

I grab his face.

Under my hands, his jaw, freshly shaved, feels like a cat's tongue. My fingers are black as bark against his paler skin.

He will look at me.

He shrugs, twists his head to the side. Flipping like a caught fish. I roll my hips. It is too sweet.

He will look at me.

He snorts, puts his head down into my shoulder. I pull hard, and my hands slide along his face. I grab again.

He will look at me.

He grunts, grabbing at my sweaty sides, his eyes closed. His lashes are longer than those of any girls I know. Beautiful. The thumbs of his long hands press into my stomach, so he can pull again, but then they stutter. He presses hard again: my belly pushes back. He looks down and back up, eye to eye: all I have ever wanted, here. He is looking. He is seeing me, and his hands are coming around to feel the honeydew curve, the swell that is more than swell, the fat that is not fat, the budding baby, and his eyes are so black they are all black, and they are a night without stars. All I have ever wanted. He knows.

Related Characters: Esch (speaker), Manny
Page Number: 145-146
Explanation and Analysis:
The Eighth Day: Make Them Know Quotes

I try to read the entire mythology book, but I can’t. I am stuck in the middle. When I put the book down and wipe my wet face and breathe in my morning breath, ripe to the afternoon under the sheet, this is where I have stopped. Medea kills her brother. In the beginning, she is known by her nephew, who tells the Argonauts about her, for having power, for helping her family, just like I tried to help Skeet on the day China first got sick from the Ivomec. But for Medea, love makes help turn wrong. The author says that there are a couple of different versions of how it happened. One says she lies to her brother and invites him onto the ship with the Argonauts as they were feeing, and that Jason ambushes him. That she watched her brother die, her own face on his being sliced open like a chicken: pink skin cut to bloody meat. The other version says that she kills her brother herself, that her brother runs away with her and the Argonauts, assuming that he is safe, and that she chops him into bits: liver, gizzard, breast and thigh, and throws each part overboard so that her father, who is chasing them, slows down to pick up each part of his son. I read it over and over again. It is like she is under the covers with me, both of us sweating to water.

Related Characters: Esch (speaker), Skeetah
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:

I listen for the boys and the dogs somewhere out in these woods, but all I can hear is the pine trees shushing each other, the oak bristling, the magnolia leaves hard and wide so that they sound like paper plates clattering when the wind hits them, this wind snapping before Katrina somewhere out there in the Gulf coming like the quiet voice of someone talking before they walk through the doorway of a room.

A cloud passes over the sun, and it is dark under the trees. It passes, and the gold melts through the leaves, falls on bark and floor: foil coins. Soon we reach a curtain of vines, which hang from the lowest branches to the needle-carpeted earth, and we crawl. Skeetah dusts China's breasts off, waves us on. We have been walking for a long time when I hear the first tiny bark.

"You tired?" Randall asks.

"No," I say. My stomach feels full of water, hurts with it, but I will not tell him that. I push aside a branch, let it go, but it still scratches my arm. Medea's journey took her to the water, which was the highway of the ancient world, where death was as close as the waves, the sun, the wind. Where death was as many as the fish waiting in the water, fanning fins, watching the surface, shad- owing the bottom dark. China barks as if she is answering the dog.

Related Characters: Esch (speaker), Randall (speaker), Skeetah
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:
The Ninth Day: Hurricane Eclipse Quotes

"It's salty. Taste like pecans. And if worse comes to worst, we can eat like China." Skeetah rubs China from her shoulders to her neck, up along her razor jaw, and holds her face, which goes wrinkly with the skin smashed forward. It looks like he is pulling her to him for a kiss. She squints. I want to kick her. Randall shoulders his box, grabs the ramen box from me, and turns to walk into the house. Junior is tying his cord around an old lawn mower now, pulling at it like he's playing tug-of-war. The sun shines, blazes like fire, funnels down in the gaps between the trees, and lights up Skeetah and China so that they glow, each kneeling before the other, eyes together. Skeetah has already forgotten the conversation, and China never heard it.

"We ain't no dogs," Randall says. “And you ain't either."

Related Characters: Skeetah (speaker), Esch, Randall, Junior
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:
The Tenth Day: In the Endless Eye Quotes

“I’m pregnant.”

[Manny] stops in profile. His nose is like a knife.

“And?” His hair grows so fast it's already starting to curl. Sweat beads at his hairline.

"It's yours."

"What?"

“It’s yours."

Manny shakes his head. The knife cuts. The sweat rolls down his scar, is flung out onto the rotten asphalt.

"I ain’t got nothing here," he says. Manny blinks at me when he says it. Looks at me head-on, for the second time ever. "Nothing."

Nothing. For some reason I see Skeetah when I blink, Skeetah kneeling next to China, always kneeling, always stroking and loving and knowing her. Skeetah's face when he stood across from Rico, when he told China, Make them know.

I am on him like China.

[…]

I am slapping him, over and over, my hands a furry, a black blur. His face is hot and stinging as boiling water.

"Hey! Hey!" Manny yells. He blocks what he can with his elbows and forearms, but still I snake through. I slap so hard my hands hurt.

"I love you!"

"Esch!" The skin on his throat is red, his scar white.

"I loved you!" I hit his Adam's apple with the V where my thumb and pointer

finger cross. He chokes.

"I loved you!" This is Medea wielding the knife. This is Medea cutting. I rake my fingernails across his face, leave pink scratches that turn red, fill with blood.

Related Characters: Esch (speaker), Manny (speaker), Skeetah
Page Number: 203-204
Explanation and Analysis:
The Eleventh Day: Katrina Quotes

Mama had talked back to Elaine. Talked over the storm. Pulled us in in the midst of it, kept us safe. This secret that is no longer a secret in my body: Will I keep it safe? If I could speak to this storm, spell it harmless like Medea, would this baby, the size of my fingernail, my pinkie fingernail, maybe, hear? Would speaking make it remember me once it is born, make it know me? Would it look at me with Manny’s face, with his golden skin, with my hair? Would it reach out with its fingers, pink, and grasp?

Related Characters: Esch (speaker)
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:

I kick, grasping at the air, but the hurricane slaps me, and I land in the water on my back, the puppies flying out of the bucket, their eyes open for the first time to slits and, I swear, judging me as they hit.

"Esch!" Randall yells, and Junior tightens his legs like a looping shoestring across Randall's waist. Randall grips Junior's shins, those legs thin as rulers. Randall cant jump in. "Swim!" he screams.

I kick my legs and palm water, but I can barely keep my head above it. It is a fanged pink open mouth, and it is swallowing me.

"Fuck!" Skeetah yells. He looks down at China, who is thrusting up and against his sling.

"Esch!" Junior screams, and the water is dragging me sideways, away from the window, out into the yard, toward the gullet of the Pit. I snatch at the puppy closest to me, the brindle, which is limp in my hand, and shove it down my shirt. The white and the black-and-white have disappeared.

"Fuck!" Skeetah screams. He grabs China’s head, whispers something to her as she scrabbles against him. Her teeth show and she jerks backward away from him. She writhes. Her torso is out of the sling he has made. Skeetah grabs China by the head and pulls and her body comes out and she is scrambling. She flies clear of him, twists in the air to splash belly first in the water. She is already swimming, fighting.

Related Characters: Esch (speaker), Skeetah (speaker), Randall (speaker), Junior (speaker)
Page Number: 234-235
Explanation and Analysis:
The Twelfth Day: Alive Quotes

"Who the daddy?" Big Henry asks. There is no blazing fire to his eyes, no cold burning ice like Manny's. Only warmth, like the sun on the best fall days when the few leaves that will turn are starting and the air is clear and cloudless.

"It don’t have a daddy," I say.

[…]

"You wrong," Big Henry says. He looks away when he says it, out to the gray Gulf. There is a car out there in the shallows of the water. The top gleams red. "This baby got a daddy Esch." He reaches out his big soft hand, soft as the bottom of his feet probably, and helps me stand. "This baby got plenty daddies."

I smile with a tightening of my cheek. My eyes feel wet. I swallow salt.

Related Characters: Esch (speaker), Big Henry (speaker)
Page Number: 254-255
Explanation and Analysis:

I will tie the glass and stone with string, hang the shards above my bed, so that they will flash in the dark and tell the story of Katrina, the mother that swept into the Gulf and slaughtered. Her chariot was a storm so great and black the Greeks would say it was harnessed to dragons. She was the murderous mother who cut us to the bone but left us alive, left us naked and bewildered as wrinkled newborn babies, as blind puppies, as sun-starved newly hatched baby snakes. She left us a dark Gulf and salt-burned land. She left us to learn to crawl. She left us to salvage. Katrina is the mother we will remember until the next mother with large, merciless hands, committed to blood, comes.

Related Characters: Esch (speaker)
Page Number: 255
Explanation and Analysis:

"She's going to come back to me," he says. "Watch.”

[…]

China. She will return, standing tall and straight, the milk burned out of her. She will look down on the circle of light we have made in the Pit, and she will know that I have kept watch, that I have fought. China will bark and call me sister. In the star-suffocated sky, there is a great waiting silence. She will know that I am a mother.

Related Characters: Esch (speaker), Skeetah (speaker)
Page Number: 258
Explanation and Analysis:
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Salvage the Bones PDF

Esch Character Timeline in Salvage the Bones

The timeline below shows where the character Esch appears in Salvage the Bones. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The First Day: Birth in a Bare-Bulb Place
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Esch’s brother Skeetah’s dog, China, is giving birth to her first litter of puppies. As Esch... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Now, Esch observes that “what China is doing is fighting, like she was born to do.” Skeetah... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Esch tries to get Junior to turn away from the gory labor, but it is of... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Esch sees China start to struggle, and suggests Skeetah help her push. Skeetah insists that China... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Earlier that day, Esch was awakened by her father knocking on the door of her and Junior’s room, urging... (full context)
Myth Theme Icon
Esch could hear the sounds of her brothers talking with their friends; she could recognize the... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Myth Theme Icon
...China as she pushes the first puppy into the world. China writhes and bucks, and Esch thinks she looks like a churchgoer who has “caught the ghost.” Skeetah catches the first... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
...puppy comes just after the first; it is small and white with tiny black spots. Esch notes that the puppy looks like a “flat cartoon dog;” after looking at it for... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Esch thinks back, again, to earlier that day. As she walked outside and greeted Manny, who... (full context)
Myth Theme Icon
Esch listened to the boys talk; they soon brought up Manny’s girlfriend, Shaliyah. Esch was shaking... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
The fourth puppy is black-and-white and mews more loudly than his siblings. This puppy is Esch’s favorite so far, and she wants to keep it for herself. She knows, though, that... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Earlier, when Esch finished washing out all the jugs and placed them in the kitchen, she took a... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Myth Theme Icon
Walking up to the pond earlier, Esch stared down into it for a while, and when she turned to leave, she ran... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Back in the shed, China is licking her puppies clean; Esch has never seen her so gentle. Daddy warns everyone that China’s labor is not done—she... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Esch can see something moving in the corner—Skeetah goes over to inspect it, and sees that... (full context)
Myth Theme Icon
China grows stiff and rigid, glowering past her puppies and Skeetah towards Esch, Randall, and Junior. Skeetah tells everyone to leave the shed so that he can tend... (full context)
The Second Day: Hidden Eggs
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
The morning after the birth, Esch is awakened by the sound of hammering in the yard. She goes outside to find... (full context)
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Esch wanders around the Pit looking for eggs. Her mother taught her how to find eggs... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Esch, having gathered up several chicken eggs, heads inside to make breakfast. Junior, though, complains he... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...giant bag of an expensive brand and then heads for the checkout. Waiting in line, Esch can feel a pregnancy test she’s shoplifted inside the waistband of her shorts. (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
On the drive back home, Esch thinks about how watching China give birth made her realize that she herself could be... (full context)
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
When he passes the phone back to the man, Big Henry tells Skeetah and Esch that the police have asked them to stay until help arrives. Skeetah is anxious to... (full context)
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Esch asks Skeetah if he thinks the accident victims are family members or friends, and Skeetah... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Big Henry drops Esch and Skeetah back at the Pit. As Esch gets out of the car, she notices... (full context)
The Third Day: Sickness in the Dirt
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Esch wakes up at seven after a sleepless night spent obsessing over the fact of her... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Myth Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Esch wakes up again hours later, surprised that Daddy hasn’t woken her up yet to help... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Myth Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
After a while, Esch notices Skeetah standing at the door, looking as if he is about to cry. Esch... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Esch speculates that China is simply trying to protect the rest of the litter. Skeetah, with... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Inside, Esch struggles to eat some breakfast while Skeetah raids the cabinets for food so that he... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Esch and Skeetah head back out to the shed, walking past Junior in the yard. Junior... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...but Skeetah tells her to “shut up.” Skeetah goes off to wash his hands while Esch sits on the steps of the house. Randall approaches with Junior in tow, and asks... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
...up blood spurts out of its chest. As Skeetah begins cleaning the squirrel, he asks Esch about her attraction to Manny, but Esch will not answer him. They make their way... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...Henry have arrived. Skeetah makes sandwiches of the meat with bread and hot sauce, and Esch reluctantly eats hers. She is not hungry, but her stomach feels better when there is... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Esch asks Skeetah if the puppy has a name; he admits that it doesn’t, but offers... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Skeetah lifts the puppy out of the bucket. Esch reaches out to touch it, but Skeetah tells her not to, to avoid the parvo... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...into the dirty pond nearby to wash himself; all the boys join him, and soon Esch wades in, too, fully clothed. Marquise, Manny, and Big Henry get in as well. (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Myth Theme Icon
Manny asks Esch why she is in the water in all her clothes; beneath the water, he grabs... (full context)
The Fourth Day: Worth Stealing
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Esch walks across the Pit towards Mother Lizbeth and Papa Joseph’s abandoned house, swatting away fleas... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Skeetah asks Esch if she wants to come with him into the woods today—he needs her help with... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Myth Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Esch and Skeetah are startled by the sound of their father’s tractor approaching. As Daddy walks... (full context)
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Esch gives Skeetah a boost up into the attic; Daddy tosses him a hammer, and Skeetah... (full context)
Myth Theme Icon
Later, Esch and Skeetah make their way about a mile through the woods to the east of... (full context)
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
When Skeetah and Esch arrive at the edge of the woods, Skeetah tells Esch to keep watch while he... (full context)
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Skeetah places a razor blade in his mouth and he and Esch begin crawling through brambles and underbrush as they make their way around to the other... (full context)
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
As Skeetah and Esch make their way back around to investigate, they realize that Randall, Big Henry, and Junior... (full context)
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...barn, and then heads out of the woods and across the field towards the structure. Esch watches as Skeetah approaches the window at the side of the barn and tries to... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Esch is seized by the sudden need to urinate. She knows she cannot hold it, and... (full context)
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Esch stands up and looks through the trees; Skeetah pulls himself through the window as the... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
As Skeetah reaches the tree line, Esch, Junior, Randall, and Big Henry all begin running back through the woods. Behind them, Esch... (full context)
The Fifth Day: Salvage the Bones
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
The next morning, Esch barges into the bathroom, her bladder full to bursting, to find Skeetah examining himself in... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Skeetah points out that Esch ran slowly the day before, and he asks her why. She defensively says she doesn’t... (full context)
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When she’s finished throwing up, Esch pulls herself up onto the counter so that she can look at her body. Her... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
...gathering supplies for the storm; he is underneath his truck, working on the undercarriage. As Esch walks past him and Junior, who is helping him by passing him tools, Daddy asks... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
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...of one’s strength is, according to Manny, the “price of being female.” He looks at Esch as he says this. Skeetah laughs, and argues that motherhood is when animals—and humans—“come into... (full context)
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Esch worries that Manny secretly thinks she is weak because she is a girl. She attempts... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Back in the shed, Esch and Junior watch Skeetah mix up the medicine. Manny returns, having forgotten his lighter, but... (full context)
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Esch leaves the shed, thinking about talk she’s heard from girls at school—talk about how to... (full context)
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Esch is in the bathroom, and she can hear her father’s truck rolling very slowly up... (full context)
The Sixth Day: A Steady Hand
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The next morning, Esch awakens to the sound of Daddy knocking down the chicken coop—the chickens that roam the... (full context)
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When Esch gets to the shed, the puppies are nursing happily while China relaxes, but Skeetah insists... (full context)
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Esch suggests Skeetah go take a bath to clean his wounds and take his mind off... (full context)
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Esch and Junior watch as China, just as Skeetah predicted she would, kicks away the puppies.... (full context)
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Junior starts grabbing the puppies and moving them closer to China, and Esch urges him to be careful not to wake China up. Junior holds the runt instead... (full context)
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Skeetah comes back, and Esch tells him she and Junior are going to the park. Skeetah puts the puppies in... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Esch watches Manny and Shaliyah flirt and wishes she could pull her own heart out of... (full context)
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...been able to knock down one wall of the chicken coop. He tells Randall and Esch that the approaching storm has a name now, and “like the worst, she’s a woman.”... (full context)
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...see as well as Randall. Junior follows Randall and Daddy over to the tractor while Esch helps Skeetah and Big Henry put China in the shed, where she lies down and... (full context)
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Esch peeks out into the yard; Junior is shadowing Randall, and climbs up onto the tractor... (full context)
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...positioned on a hill, and it keeps moving forward. Daddy wrenches his hand free, and Esch can see that his hand and shirt are covered in oil. As Daddy walks towards... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
...her own puppy; Randall and Big Henry struggle to stop Daddy’s hand as it bleeds. Esch looks directly at China, who is as “bloody-mouthed and bright-eyed as Medea. If China could... (full context)
The Seventh Day: Game Dogs and Game Men
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The morning after Daddy’s accident, Esch recalls the events that followed it directly. Big Henry drove everyone to the hospital; Daddy... (full context)
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Now, Esch wakes up to find everyone but Junior still asleep; Big Henry is on the sofa,... (full context)
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Esch goes into Daddy’s room, bringing him chicken soup and helping him adjust the television. He... (full context)
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Randall has a basketball game later today, and Esch oils her hair and gets ready. Skeetah comes back inside, sweating and stinking. Esch asks... (full context)
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...Big Henry’s car; it is almost time to leave for the game. Big Henry asks Esch if she thinks Randall is ready for the game, and she insists he is. Marquise... (full context)
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...and Junior takes it and runs off without even saying thank you. Big Henry offers Esch some money, too, but she doesn’t take it, and instead excuses herself to go to... (full context)
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Esch uses the bathroom and when she comes out of her stall, Manny is by the... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Manny grabs Esch’s sides with his hands and presses his thumbs into her stomach. He looks down at... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
When Esch finally comes out of the bathroom, Junior is standing outside waiting for her; Big Henry... (full context)
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...dead because China killed it and all that is left for Rico is the runt. Esch knows that Skeetah is omitting the all-white puppy, the China clone. As if on cue,... (full context)
The Eighth Day: Make Them Know
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Junior wakes Esch up the next morning by shaking her and asking if she’s planning on attending the... (full context)
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Esch reads her mythology book in bed, but keeps stopping in the middle of the Medea... (full context)
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Out in the hallway, Junior is sitting on the floor outside of Esch’s door. He lets her know that Randall has fixed Daddy’s breakfast, and that Daddy, after... (full context)
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Esch sits on the toilet and watches out the window as Skeetah gives China a bath.... (full context)
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Esch, Skeetah, Randall, Junior, and China head through the woods towards the clearing where the fight... (full context)
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...about fifteen boys and their dogs stand in clumps, talking and smoking weed and cigarettes. Esch realizes that she is the only girl present. Junior runs off to play with Marquise’s... (full context)
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Marquise introduces Esch and her brothers to his cousin Jerome, whose dog Boss will be fighting for China.... (full context)
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...clearing to discuss the order and terms of the fights. As they argue and bicker, Esch notices the rising wind, and wonders whether Katrina is actually coming for them after all.... (full context)
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...boys finish talking, Skeetah takes China’s leash back and she stands still at his side. Esch notices that while some of the other dogs sniff at one another and play, none... (full context)
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...China away so that he can “talk” to her. Junior comes over to Randall and Esch and asks if China is really going to fight; they instruct him to go play... (full context)
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Rico and Skeetah tend to their dogs. Esch watches across the clearing as Manny whispers to Rico that China “ain’t shit, ain’t got... (full context)
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...her into the ring one more time. As the dogs meet for a third time, Esch thinks that the way they attack one another looks like an “embrace.” Skeetah calls for... (full context)
The Ninth Day: Hurricane Eclipse
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The next morning, Esch wakes up to the sound of someone throwing up in the bathroom. She worries that... (full context)
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Esch wakes Randall and tells him that Daddy is sick in the bathroom and asking for... (full context)
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Outside, the wind has grown stronger. Esch and Randall look through Daddy’s pickup truck for nails, hammers, drills, and spare boards to... (full context)
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...realizes Skeetah was intending to shoplift. Randall begs Skeetah not to get caught. Skeetah asks Esch and Randall to keep an eye on China. (full context)
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Esch calls for Junior; she needs his help pulling nails from their bin. She can’t find... (full context)
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Esch and Randall chase Junior to where he’s hidden—beneath the house—and drag him out. Randall asks... (full context)
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Later, Esch and Randall recount the story about Junior and the ring to Skeetah—Esch has found the... (full context)
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Esch, Randall, and Junior work together to prepare the house for the storm. They board up... (full context)
The Tenth Day: In the Endless Eye
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Randall and Esch count and sort all the food they have in the house and become frustrated and... (full context)
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...some air. Skeetah is busy washing and arranging all of China’s things. Randall asks if Esch has any ideas about how to get some more food, but she says she doesn’t... (full context)
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...over China and her things and help out. The wind picks up as Randall and Esch begin their search, and Esch imagines that Medea has called it up just as she... (full context)
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Junior, however, finds several eggs, and he and Esch bring them back up to the house so that she can hard boil them. As... (full context)
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Manny calls for Randall, and the two go outside to talk while Esch finishes up the eggs. Manny and Randall talk about basketball, and Esch overhears Randall saying... (full context)
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When Esch catches up with Manny, he asks if Randall wants something—she says that it’s her, though,... (full context)
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Manny grabs a hold of Esch and throws her away from him into the dirt. He asks how she can know... (full context)
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Esch sits on the ground and thinks about Medea. When Jason betrayed her, she killed his... (full context)
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As they run through the woods, Esch asks where Skeetah and Junior are; Randall replies that they’re somewhere else in the forest.... (full context)
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Esch and Randall approach the house and try to get the boards on the windows off;... (full context)
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Randall and Esch head back through the woods towards the Pit. Halfway through, they encounter China, who has... (full context)
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...in the living room, as he refuses to stay in the room with China, but Esch comforts him by reminding him that during hurricanes they all usually camp out in the... (full context)
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Daddy asks Esch to make him some soup, but Randall says he’ll take care of it. Esch and... (full context)
The Eleventh Day: Katrina
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Esch remembers that when she was little and her mother first told her about hurricanes, she... (full context)
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Esch and her brothers have made pallets to sleep on in the living room, and they... (full context)
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Esch remembers the worst storm she ever weathered in her lifetime. While Mama was still pregnant... (full context)
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...her head towards the ceiling. Suddenly, there is a deafening noise elsewhere in the house; Esch and Skeetah run out to the hall to see Randall heading into Daddy’s room, where... (full context)
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...living room, Daddy predicts that the storm will be over in just a few hours. Esch marvels at how China seemed to know that something was about to happen to the... (full context)
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A little while later, Randall notices that the floor is wet. Esch has been concentrating on her mythology book, rereading Medea’s story. She looks down, and sees... (full context)
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Daddy instructs Randall to open up the attic. Skeetah hands Esch the puppies’ bucket so that he can help. Once the ladder has come down from... (full context)
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Randall, Skeetah, and Junior all jump down onto the tree, and then it is Esch’s turn. She is hesitant, but Daddy urges her, and she leaps—burdened by the bucket full... (full context)
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Esch knows that her father is able to see she is pregnant; her wet clothes stick... (full context)
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Esch feels the water rise over her head—she is frightened, but the hiss of the water... (full context)
The Twelfth Day: Alive
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Esch looks back on the final hours of the storm. She and her family sat huddled... (full context)
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...about to leave and search for the Batistes. Big Henry asked where Skeetah was, and Esch explained he’d gone looking for China, who’d washed away. In the crowd gathered at Big... (full context)
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...damage throughout the town, which has rendered whole roads and bridges completely impassible. Daddy asks Esch if what Skeetah said during the storm was true, and Esch nods. Daddy apologizes for... (full context)
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Big Henry walks over to Esch and asks if she, Randall, and Junior want to take a car ride through the... (full context)
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...drives through town on the sodden bayou road. Trees everywhere have been ripped down, and Esch is shocked by how much sky she can see. On the main road through the... (full context)
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...and they all get down on hands and knees to grab whatever is still intact. Esch picks through the glass and gathers up some shards, slipping the prettiest ones into her... (full context)
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Esch decides that she will tie the pieces of glass she’s salvaged together with string and... (full context)
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Skeetah assures the others that China will come back to him. Esch enters her imagination and predicts that she, her siblings, and Big Henry will sit with... (full context)