Jojo could hear Richie when he was lying in the dirt and singing. In the morning, Jojo helps Pop destroy an animal pen that has been eaten up by termites. While they work, Jojo asks to hear the end of Richie’s story. Pop explains that Richie successfully escaped, but didn’t make it home. It started when an inmate nicknamed Blue, who was “not right in the head,” dragged off one of the female inmates and raped her. The woman was the sergeant’s wife’s favorite inmate, and knowing this Blue decided to escape. At this point Richie butts in and explains that he found Blue and the female inmate, and that Blue threatened to beat Richie up if he told. He then beckoned Richie to come and run away with him, and Richie agreed.
The fact that Richie and Pop end up telling the story of Richie’s escape together suggests that there is a kind of harmony between them more powerful than the division caused by Richie’s death. Pop may not be aware of Richie’s haunting presence, but their ability to tell a story together shows that they can still operate as a team, just as they did back in Parchman. It is also a reminder of the fact that no singular version of a story is complete by itself; a story is only whole when told from multiple perspectives.
Pop was sent to track the runaways, he says. Richie adds that while they were running, Blue talked aloud to his mother, telling her he was coming home and urging her to sing for him. On the way, they ran into a white girl who Blue tried to rape, but Richie stopped him. The girl told her father, and from that point all the white people in the area joined the lookout for Blue and Richie, ready to lynch them. Eventually, the men from Parchman found them. They cut off pieces of Blue’s body and skinned him alive. Pop knew they were going to do the same to Richie, so he took him to one side and promised him that everything was going to be all right, and that he was going to take Richie home. He then got out a shank and stabbed Richie in the neck.
The portrayal of Blue is an important––if perhaps uncomfortable––reminder of the shared humanity of all people. Blue inflicts horrific pain on others, raping one woman and attempting to rape another. However, like Richie and all the other characters in the novel, he has a family and an abiding desire to go “home.” Furthermore, Blue’s wish to be sung to by his mother speaks to the inclusion of all living things in the “song” of existence. As Richie’s earlier words indicate, the desire to go home seems to represent the desire to be included in this song.
Richie begins to scream. Pop explains that it wasn’t long before the dogs smelled blood and started ripping apart Richie’s body. As Pop says this, Richie screams more and the animals around them squeal and bark and stamp. Pop then admits he could smell Richie’s blood for the rest of his life. The smell drove him so crazy that at times he couldn’t speak. Jojo holds Pop, comforting him. Richie goes blacker and blacker and then disappears, and all the animals sing: “Thank you thank you thank you.”
The chorus of animals again emphasizes the interconnectedness of all living things. The animals seem to understand and be invested in Richie’s story, and at the end of the scene they sing on his behalf. This emphasizes the idea of all living things being joined together by song.