Melinda decides to make “a memorial for our turkey,” which she said was “tortured to provide…a lousy dinner,” so she digs up the bones and brings them to art class. Mr. Freeman, thrilled by her idea, allows Melinda to take time off from the tree to work on the bird.
This passage and the events that follow symbolize an important moment in Melinda’s narrative—for the first time, she is able to use art to express her feelings of isolation and frustration.
After several attempts, Melinda decides to skip her next class in order to work on her bird artwork, and Mr. Freeman agrees. He is working on his own piece, a mural depicting all the members of the school board in hell. Ivy also stays after in order to work on her clown project. She even smiles and raises her eyebrows at Melinda, who is too flustered to say something back.
Although Melinda is creating a dark and disturbing piece of art, this process is the first time she is expressing her feelings in an open way, and that in turn actually brings a moment of lightness and hope, as Ivy—who used to ignore her—acts friendly towards her. Unused to this kind of interaction, Melinda doesn’t even know how to react.
Inspired, Melinda glues the bones together like “a museum exhibit.” She makes knives and forks look as if they are “attacking the bones,” and places a Lego palm tree and a Barbie doll within them. Mr. Freeman is delighted and praises the work, as does Ivy. Although he asks her to describe her piece to him, Melinda is unable to do so, and so Mr. Freeman describes it for her. Despite her silence, Melinda is pleased; she makes the Barbie the bird’s head, turns the fork and knife into its legs, and puts tape over the Barbie’s mouth. Mr. Freeman says that he observes “[p]ain” in her work. Before he can say anything else, Melinda leaves the room.
Melinda has taken a symbol of freedom—a bird—and transformed it into a work of art about being trapped and attacked. The Barbie doll head clearly symbolizes Melinda herself—its taped mouth demonstrating her silence, and its turkey bone prison demonstrating how dead, alone, and victimized she feels. A Barbie also symbolizes childhood and appearances, two more objects of Melinda’s obsession. Although the work of art clearly communicates Melinda’s negative emotions to Mr. Freeman, she is unable to verbally discuss them with him.