The Round House

The Round House Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Joe discusses Geraldine’s job as the tribe enrollment specialist, describing how she determines who qualifies for tribal enrollment. The morning after Joe talks with Bazil and Soren about his mother’s phone call on the day of her rape, Soren returns to ask Geraldine about the file she went to fetch from her office that day. Joe brings a tray of breakfast upstairs for Geraldine, who pretends to be asleep as he sets it down. Joe feels guilty for betraying Geraldine’s trust and telling his father about the file. Joe goes back downstairs to Bazil and Soren.
Joe’s revelation of Geraldine’s mysterious phone call and the file triggers Bjenke and Bazil’s attempt to get Geraldine to talk about what happened on the afternoon of her rape. Although Geraldine did not ask Joe to keep the file a secret, Joe, who feels caught between Geraldine’s request for silence and Bazil’s demands for justice, feels that he has let his mother down by telling Bazil.
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Joe, Bazil, and Soren then return upstairs. Bazil goes into the bedroom and says something inaudible to Geraldine, who loudly exclaims “no!” and knocks over the breakfast tray. Bazil tells Soren and Joe to come in, and they sit in folding chairs. Geraldine sits on her bed with her back to them, covering her ears. Bazil tries to appeal to Geraldine, telling her not to behave like that with Joe around. Geraldine tells Bazil to make Joe leave. Soren asks Geraldine about the phone call and the file, and Geraldine is totally silent in response. When it becomes clear that Geraldine will not respond, they all leave.
In this conflict-filled scene, Joe sees his mother’s extremely upset reaction when Bjenke and Bazil ask her about the file. Bazil tries to use Joe to bargain with Geraldine and get her to cooperate. Obviously, the messy, unhealthy dynamic being played out between Geraldine, Bazil, and Joe is the result of each of their very different traumas—and their collective trauma—stemming from Geraldine’s rape.
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That evening, Bazil sets up a dining table in Geraldine’s room, against her protests, so that they can all eat upstairs together. Over the course of several dinners, Bazil tries his best to make conversation. One night, Bazil tells Geraldine and Joe about a conversation with Father Travis in which he recounted his experience on the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. On another night, Bazil tells Geraldine and Joe about the Ojibwe idea of doodems, which are part of the system of Ojibwe law.
Again, although Bazil clearly wants to help Geraldine, he does not listen to what she says that she wants or needs. To fill the space in conversation, Bazil tells long stories, from anecdotes that Father Travis told him about his own experiences to long lectures about Ojibwe law, seemingly attempting to use these stories to restore a sense of normalcy to their strange situation.
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Bazil recounts the story of Geraldine’s great-aunt, who was left on an island by her family. Her parents had intended to come back and pick her up, but they never did. Eventually, Geraldine’s great-aunt decided to swim to the mainland, but she got very tired and thought she would drown. When she could swim no longer, her doodem, a turtle, brought her to shore. Bazil associates this story with the many other stories throughout history about children rescued by animals. He goes on to tell the story of Arion, who was saved by a dolphin after sailors asked him to sing and then threw him overboard. Bazil then announces that he is going back to Bismarck to see a friend, who is going to help prepare legal matters for when Geraldine is ready to talk about the file and the phone call, so that they will be ready to prosecute.
Among the stories that Bazil tells is one about Geraldine’s great-aunt being saved by her doodem. For readers outside of the Chippewa religious tradition, Bazil’s stories help to contextualize the cultural significance of doodems and how they help the people who belong to their clan. As Bazil connects these Chippewa stories to stories in Greek and Roman mythology, he draws connections between cultures that are disparate culturally and geographically, showing the capacity of stories to link people who might otherwise have no point of connection.
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Bazil tells Geraldine that he believes getting justice will help her heal. Bazil also intends to talk with the governor of Minnesota, who Bazil notes spoke with Curtis Yeltow, the governor of South Dakota, about the fact that he is trying to adopt a child. This sparks Geraldine’s interest, and she asks which child he is trying to adopt. Bazil says that Yeltow, who is known for his bad legislative treatment of Native people, is trying to adopt a Native child, but is having trouble because of the Indian Child Welfare Act, which limits the number of adoptions of Native children to non-Native parents. Bazil tells her that the child’s tribal background has not yet been determined, since her mother disappeared, but she is definitely at least part Sioux. Geraldine is profoundly affected by the story, vomiting and beginning to have an anxiety attack.
Bazil asserts that getting justice will help Geraldine heal—essentially arguing that recounting stories of trauma can provide catharsis. Meanwhile, when Bazil refers to Yeltow’s attempt to adopt a Native child, he brings up the Indian Child Welfare Act, a legislative measure designed to protect Native families. This is one of the rare examples in the book of a United States law that actually advanced Native rights rather than eroding them by ensuring that Native children taken from their homes will be raised in Native households, thereby protecting their cultural ties.
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Bazil tries to assure Geraldine that she is safe. Geraldine stops writhing, stares at Bazil, and harshly tells Bazil that she was raped. Bazil encourages Geraldine to tell him what she remembers. With Joe still present, Geraldine tells Bazil that the call she received on the day of her rape was from Mayla Wolfskin, who wanted to enroll her child. Bazil asks who the child’s father was and Geraldine goes silent. Bazil encourages her to continue, so Geraldine says that Mayla called to ask Geraldine to meet her at the round house, saying that her life depended on it.
As Geraldine reacts viscerally and physically to Bazil’s news about Curtis Yeltow adopting a Native child, Bazil tells her she is safe. Geraldine’s harsh reaction to Bazil’s words seems to reflect the fact that Geraldine feels Bazil is not actually acknowledging the level of violence that she faced. Perhaps wanting to finally be understood, Geraldine begins to tell her story at Bazil’s encouragement.
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Geraldine was attacked by a man when she arrived at the round house. He put a pillowcase over her head and tied her hands. The man kept asking Geraldine for “the file,” but Geraldine did not know what he was talking about, so he marched Geraldine forward and then raped her. Bazil pushes Geraldine to remember something that will help them determine where the crime took place, but Geraldine becomes irritable, so Bazil backs off. Geraldine states that, after the rape, the man dragged her back to the round house, untied her, and took off the pillowcase. Inside, Geraldine saw Mayla Wolfskin and her baby. Mayla had just recently come into the office to file her enrollment.
As Geraldine tells her story, Bazil tries to push Geraldine to talk about anything that could help them determine where the crime took place, which would then help them establish who had jurisdiction over the case. Geraldine, however, is far more concerned with getting her story out than with worrying over those kinds of (notably very important) details. Geraldine tells her story more for personal catharsis than to convey information for her case.
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With their attacker right outside, Mayla and Geraldine looked at each other, and Mayla kept looking at her baby, so Geraldine understood that Mayla wanted her to get the baby somewhere safe. The attacker came back inside, took off his pants, and told women about how he hates Ojibwe people and Ojibwe women in particular. The man started to scream at Mayla that he loved her but she had had another man’s baby. The man continued to express bigoted and possessive thoughts, talking about how he loved Mayla and wanted to kill her. The man struck Mayla and Geraldine repeatedly and then asked Mayla where “the money” was.
As Geraldine describes her attacker’s terrifying and violent diatribe, it is clear that the attacker’s bigotry is inextricably linked to his misogyny as he describes his particular hatred for Ojibwe women, but also his obsession with Mayla. Although the attacker professes to love Mayla, he also threatens to kill her, suggesting how sex and intimacy, especially when paired with misogyny, can result in violence.
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Strangely, the man began to calm down and then apologized profusely to Geraldine. As he apologized he uncapped a gas can and poured it all over Mayla and Geraldine. While the attacker was looking the other way, Geraldine peed on his pants, wetting the matches in his pocket. He tried to start a fire with those matches, but they would not light. The attacker left to get more matches and threatened to kill the baby if they left, saying that he was going to kill them both no matter what.
Strangely, immediately after delivering vitriolic insults and violent hate speech to Geraldine and Mayla, the attacker apologizes—all while dosing them in gasoline. Although the attacker’s identity has not yet been definitively revealed, this bizarre pattern mirrors Linden Lark’s speech when he insulted Linda in the hospital room and then apologized.
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The narrative cuts to Joe eating cereal in his kitchen. He is going to work at the gas station when he runs into Bazil, who had stayed up with Geraldine all night. Bazil tells Joe that Geraldine refused to talk about what is in the file until she knows that Mayla and the baby are safe. Bazil explains that Mayla is s relative of Larose, a friend of Geraldine’s. Joe asks if Mayla is still alive, and Bazil guesses that she is not. Joe asks why the attacker would kill her, and Bazil does not respond, but gives Joe a big hug.
As Geraldine describes the attacker pouring gasoline on her and Mayla, ready to burn them alive, the narrative cuts away to Joe eating cereal the next morning. Perhaps this reflects the fact that Joe, who is the narrator, cannot stand to dwell on the extreme violence his mother faced, even decades later when he is well into his adult life.
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Joe goes to work at the gas station. When he gets back that night, Bazil tells Joe that he took Geraldine to the hospital to rest. Bazil also tells Joe that he believes Geraldine knows who raped her, and although Bazil has a suspect in mind, they need Geraldine cooperate to be sure. Bazil tells Joe he wishes that Joe had not been there to hear his mother’s story, and although Joe says it was for the best, the story feels like “poison” to Joe. Bazil tells Joe that he is going to the hospital tomorrow to see Geraldine, and so Joe should stay with Whitey and Sonja.
Although Geraldine’s story helps piece together the timeline of the crime, it is unclear whether telling it actually helped Geraldine, as it made her so upset that Bazil checked her into the hospital. Joe, meanwhile, feels that the story is “poison.” Although Bazil had believed that telling the story would make everything better, that is not necessarily the case, at least in the short term.
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After Joe works at the gas station the next day, Whitey and Sonja take Joe and Pearl home with them. As they drive home, Joe asks Whitey about Curtis Yeltow and Whitey lists the many ways that Yeltow has perpetuated the oppression of Native people in South Dakota. When they get to the house, Whitey starts to make dinner and Sonja and Joe do chores in the house and in the barn. They eat dinner together outside on lawn chairs. After Whitey goes to bed, Sonja sets up the couch for Joe to sleep on. They watch TV and then talk about the money they found. Sonja tells Joe he should use the money to go to college.
The references to Curtis Yeltow, who, although he is fairly significant in the book’s plot, never actually appears in it, seem to be a commentary on Native issues among politicians in states with large Native populations. Yeltow, who pretends to care about Native people to get their votes, actually seems to disdain them and refuses to support their issues. Yeltow shows how Native people continue to be mistreated by the United States government.
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Sonja gives Joe a pillow from her bed to sleep with, and Joe is turned on by the fact that it smells like Sonja. One night while Joe and Sonja are watching TV on the couch, Sonja rubs Joe’s foot and Joe ejaculates, though it is unclear whether Sonja realizes it or not.
Again, Joe continues to experience inappropriate sexual attraction to Sonja that he cannot control whatsoever, even ejaculating one time when she touches his foot.
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During one of the days that Joe is staying with Sonja and Whitey, Whitey notices at breakfast that Sonja is wearing earrings that he has never seen before. They get in the car to drive to the gas station. Sonja tries to turn on the music but Whitey smacks Sonja’s hand away. When they arrive at the gas station, Whitey stalks off. Sonja unlocks the station and gives Joe the keys to the gas pumps so he can take care of a car that is waiting for them to open.
When Sonja appears one morning wearing diamond earrings, Whitey, who knows nothing about the money that Joe found, immediately suspects that Sonja is cheating on him. When Whitey swats Sonja’s hand as she changes the station, Erdrich foreshadows Whitey’s impending physical abuse.
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Joe walks over to the car. The white man who is in the front seat tells Joe to fill up the tank. Joe pumps the gas and the man pays, then asks Joe how he is doing. Joe is caught off guard, since he does not know the man, but he responds politely. The man tells Joe that he hears he is a “good kid,” and then talks about how, since Joe has a good family, he might even “draw even with a white kid…who doesn’t have a loving family.” Joe turns to walk away from the man, and the man calls to Joe that he is “the judge’s son.” Joe turns around and the man tells him that he has a twin sister who also has a loving family. He then drives off. Joe realizes that the man was Linden Lark.
In this bizarre encounter between Joe and Linden Lark, Linden expresses a disturbing interest in Joe’s family. Linden also reveals his profound racism when he suggests that Joe might “draw even” with a white boy who has a bad family, implying the white supremacist view that white people are inherently better than Native people, but conceding that the conditions in which people are raised could impact their achievement slightly.
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Angry, Joe wants to quit, but he must stay because Whitey is gone. Whitey returns at eleven, smelling like beer. Sonja makes sandwiches at lunchtime and Joe watches Whitey change a tire for Geraldine’s childhood friend Larose, who is also Mayla’s relative. While Whitey unscrews the tire, Larose takes Joe inside. Joe asks Larose how she is related to Mayla, and Larose tells Joe that they are cousins. Joe asks more questions, and Larose asks sarcastically if Joe is in the FBI. Nonetheless, Larose tells Joe that Mayla went to boarding school. She then enrolled in a program that places Native students in government jobs, and went to work for Curtis Yeltow.
Throughout the book, Erdrich refers to the phenomenon of Native children going to boarding school as Mayla did. These boarding schools, which were often run by Catholic priests and nuns, often attempted to erase the Native cultures and languages of the children who attended them. In other parts of the text, Erdrich refers to how, for some reservation residents, these boarding schools were traumatic, later making them avoiding Catholicism entirely.
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Sonja interrupts by walking inside the store to ring Larose up for her purchases. Outside, Joe sees that Whitey has wandered off to the nearby bar, so Joe starts to fix Larose’s tire in his place, but one of the nuts will not budge. Joe hears Cappy, Zack, and Angus ride up behind him. Cappy succeeds in taking the nut off after using WD-40. Sonja, who has taken out her new earrings, tells Joe to go fetch Whitey, who finishes fixing the tire.
Although they keep it under wraps, Whitey and Sonja are fighting about Sonja’s earrings, causing Whitey to wander off to the bar (whereas normally he works fairly fastidiously) and Sonja to take out the offending jewelry. This fight precipitates in the domestic violence of the following scene.
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When the day is over, Sonja, Whitey, and Joe all get in the car and head back to the house. Everything seems normal that evening, but after Joe has gone to sleep, he wakes up to a crash and the sounds of Whitey and Sonja arguing. Joe hears Whitey hit Sonja, who begs him not to hit her while Joe is there. Joe knocks on the door and tells Whitey to fight him. When Whitey opens the door, Joe punches him in the gut. Whitey pins Joe’s arms and tells him that Sonja is cheating on him with a man who gave her diamond earrings. Whitey lets Joe go and promises not to touch Sonja again, but tells Joe that Sonja is “dirty.” Joe, however, knows that Sonja bought the earrings herself with the money from the doll. Joe tells Whitey that he gave Sonja the earrings for her birthday after finding them in the gas station bathroom. Sonja then hits Whitey on the head with a glass bottle, knocking him out. Sonja kicks him out into the living room, brings Joe in the bedroom, and locks the door.
In this disturbing scene, Whitey attacks Sonja because he believes she is cheating on him. The inclusion of this scene of domestic violence, in which Whitey, Joe’s beloved uncle, is the perpetrator, suggests that violence against women is part of a pattern of behavior among both Native and white men, rather than an isolated incident perpetrated by Linden, who is both racist and clearly disturbed. By opening up the capacity for violence to people like Whitey, who is a respected member of the Chippewa community, Erdrich makes it clear that violence against women is not only committed by one-off outliers or white bigots, but rather is part of a disturbingly large trend.
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Sonja instructs Joe to go to sleep in the bed. Joe tells Sonja he knows she used the doll money to buy the earrings and Sonja starts to cry. Joe tells her not to touch the money. The next morning, Sonja and Joe leave the house early for the gas station. Sonja tells Joe that he should stay with Clemence that night. Joe tells her he is quitting his gas station job. He feels that Sonja has betrayed him by using the doll money, but he also thinks he is still in love with her. Joe gets out of the car and walks to Clemence’s house.
In the aftermath of the previous night, when Whitey attacked Sonja, Joe is angry about the fact that Sonja has deceived him, taking money from the accounts that Sonja had told him she had set aside for his college. Joe perhaps feels too overwhelmed by Whitey’s actions the previous night to address them, and instead distances himself from Sonja.
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When Joe arrives at Clemence’s, he tells Clemence that he quit his job at the station. Clemence realizes that Sonja and Whitey are fighting again. Joe helps Clemence with chores. After dinner, Joe goes into the sewing room to sleep, but it makes him think about Bazil sleeping in the sewing room at their house instead of with Geraldine. Joe asks if he can sleep in the extra bed in Mooshum’s room, and Clemence says yes, but warns Joe that Mooshum talks in his sleep. Joe wakes in the middle of the night to the sound of Mooshum, who is fast asleep, telling a story.
When Clemence recognizes that Joe must have quit because Sonja and Whitey have been fighting, Erdrich reveals that Whitey’s domestic abuse is not a secret—or at the very least, Clemence seems to know about it. That Clemence accepts this abuse suggests that many adults in Joe’s community may be aware and tolerant of Whitey’s physical violence towards Sonja.
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Mooshum’s story is offset from the rest of the narrative by a title, “Akii.” The story begins by introducing Akiikwe (Akii), the Earth Woman, and her husband Mirage. Akii would help her husband find food by using her dreams to determine where the animals were. They always had lots of food until the Chippewa people were forced onto the reservation, where the farms they started were not high yielding and there were no animals left to hunt. The government promised supplies that never came, and everyone went hungry.
Mooshum’s story, like Linda’s, is offset from the rest of Joe’s narrative, suggesting that it is relatively unaffected by Joe’s narrative choices. The story seems to be set early on in the history of the Chippewa reservation, but the characters (Akii, Mirage, and Nanapush) recur in various stories in the Chippewa storytelling tradition, cropping up in different places and times.
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In order to feed their children, Akii and Mirage went ice fishing. One day, however, a fish told them that the fish were going to sleep, so they would starve. Tensions rose in Akii and Mirage’s household. Mirage started to think Akii had been possessed by a wiindigoo, giving Akii a craving for human flesh. Mirage believed he had to kill Akii, so he gathered a group of men and persuaded them all that Akii was a wiindigo. The men tied Akii up and a woman took away her children except for her oldest son. The group told the boy, Nanapush, to kill Akiii, but he refused. Instead, Nanapush stabbed one of the men holding Akii.
In the story, Mooshum introduces the idea of wiindigoo justice, a traditional justice system in Chippewa culture wherein a person can become possessed by a wiindigoo, making them kill others, and therefore they must be put to death. Although this system is actually used by Joe later in the book, the example that Mooshum gives in this story suggests the possibility of the wiindigoo justice system being used wrongly, with a kind of mob mentality.
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The men tied Akii to a tree and left her to starve or freeze, but Akii got loose and had to be tied up again. The men then decided to drown Akii in the hole she used to ice fish. After they submerged her in the freezing water, Mirage gave Nanapush a gun to shoot his mother if she emerged again. After the men left, Akii surfaced again and Nanapush helped her out. The mother and son went into the woods and walked as far away as they could, then made a shelter. Akii told Nanapush that the fish taught Akii a buffalo song, despite the fact that the buffalo had been gone for years. After a few days of camping, Akii instructed Nanapush to go find the buffalo.
Mirage’s willingness to have Akii killed because he believes that she is a wiindigoo seems to exemplify the same kind of violence against women that drives the novel’s plot in the modern day. As could be read into Whitey’s jealousy or Linden’s possessiveness, Mirage seems frustrated by his own failings, inadequacies, and perceived victimization, which he then takes out on Akii. This story, which allies itself with Akii and Nanapush rather than Mirage, condemns that kind of violence.
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Mooshum suddenly stops talking, and Joe is upset that he has not heard the story’s ending. Soon, however, Joe falls back asleep. When he wakes the next morning and sees Mooshum in the kitchen, Joe asks who Nanapush is, and Mooshum tells him that Nanapush was a greedy but good healer to whom Mooshum went for advice when he was young. Joe asks about Akii and Mooshum says he has no idea what he is talking about. Joe hopes that the next night Mooshum will finish the story and, sure enough, Joe wakes up in the night to Mooshum’s voice.
When Mooshum tells Joe that he knew Nanapush when he was young, but does not know who Akii is, his comments add to the mystery of his midnight storytelling, and seem to imply that, although Mooshum may have been the mystical mouthpiece for the story, it is not actually his own, and rather belongs to the Chippewa people communally as a part of their culture and religious belief.
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Mooshum returns to Nanapush, who had just begun his journey to look for the buffalo. Nanapush sang the buffalo song that his mother told him about and it made him cry with sadness over their loss. Nanapush continued to sing the buffalo song and suddenly he saw buffalo tracks, which he followed for a long time through the snow. Nanapush eventually saw a buffalo ahead of him, and the buffalo stopped to listen to his song. The buffalo was old and thin. Nanapush spoke to her, telling her that he hated to kill her, but he had to for his family. Nanapush sang the song again. When he finished, he shot and killed the buffalo.
As Mooshum discusses Nanapush killing the buffalo, his story alludes to the preeminent place of buffalo in Chippewa culture and religion prior to the dramatic decrease in buffalo populations in the 1800s and 1900s. Mooshum describes Nanapush’s interactions with the buffalo, making it clear how much of Chippewa religion was linked to practices (such as buffalo hunting) that are much less common in the modern day.
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Nanapush was cleaning out the chest cavity when a blizzard started. Nanapush crawled inside the buffalo and fell asleep. When he woke up, Nanapush was frozen to the buffalo’s ribs and unable to move. He began to sing the buffalo song again. Meanwhile, Akii went out to find Nanapush. When Akii reached the buffalo, she heard Nanapush singing the buffalo song and cut him out of the animal’s body. Akii and Nanapush brought the buffalo meat back to the community, including to the men who tried to kill Akii. Akii then left Mirage for good. The old buffalo woman, whose spirit revisited Nanapush throughout his life, warned him that wiindigoo justice must be carried out with care.
Akii and Nanapush’s loving mother-son relationship, in which Akii and Nanapush both support and help each other equally, serves as a foil to Joe and Geraldine’s relationship, which, at this point in the book, is full of tension and has see-sawed from one-sided care on Geraldine’s part to one-sided care on Joe’s. This story, which teaches Joe about the history of the round house, also plants the idea of wiindigoo justice in Joe’s head, while warning of the ways that it can be easily abused.
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With the story finished, Mooshum goes back to sleep. Joe also falls asleep and forgets the story until the next day, when Bazil comes to pick Joe up. Bazil talks with Edward when he arrives and tells him that they have Geraldine’s rapist in custody. Joe asks who it is, but Bazil will not tell him. At home, Geraldine is buzzing around the house, completing chores and full of energy. Joe leaves and convenes with Cappy, Zack, and Angus. The boys decide to go to the lake beach near the church.
With Geraldine’s rapist in custody, Geraldine has a sudden jolt of energy, rushing around doing household tasks. This revival marks a complete reversal of Geraldine’s previous behavior, perhaps suggesting that justice, or at least the removal of her rapist from her community (which would mean that she’s not at risk of being attacked by him again), is what Geraldine needs in order to heal.
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On the road to the beach, the boys pass the church’s youth group—a mix of reservation kids and summer volunteers—sitting on the ground in a circle. The boys get to them, leave their bikes by the dock, and strip down before they go swimming. After a half an hour, an older boy and a very beautiful girl around Joe’s age approach them. The boy asks them to leave because the beach is reserved for church activities. Cappy refuses. When the beautiful girl tells them to go, Cappy walks out of the water naked and the boy screams, then tries to fight Cappy.
In this scene, the reader sees Cappy, who Joe acknowledges to be the best looking and most charming of their friend group, showing off in front of the beautiful girl from the youth group, walking naked in front of her in a show of his confidence. Cappy displays both his youthful sexual interest in the girl and his sexual and emotional immaturity as he mocks the boy who is with her.
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Cappy dunks the boy and then lets him go, but the boy vomits in the water. Cappy apologizes, but the boy begins to have a seizure. The boys bring him onshore and send Angus to fetch Father Travis. The boy (whose name turns out to be Neal) begins to come to and Cappy, Joe, and Zack pretend that he has converted them. They put their clothes back on, and then continue acting as if they have found God when Father Travis returns with Angus. Joe looks over at the beautiful girl, Zelia, who is looking at Cappy. Joe thinks that she has fallen in love with Cappy.
Again, Cappy, Joe, Zack, and Angus clearly have very flippant attitudes toward religion, as evidenced here when they try to avoid getting in trouble with Father Travis by pretending that Neal converted them to Catholicism. For the boys, Catholicism seems to be something that they engage in when it is opportune, rather than out of any kind of genuine religious feeling.
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Later that afternoon, the boys join the youth group in order to hang out with Zelia. Joe, Angus, and Zack watch Cappy and Zelia flirt, knowing that they have no chance with her. The next day, the boys go to the youth group again, where they sing group songs and do reflection exercises. During one of the reflection exercises, one girl talks about being delivered from a “serpent,” and Cappy, Joe, Zack and Angus make a series of comments with sexual innuendos. After the girl explains her experience, Father Travis talks about the difference between temptation and instinct, saying that temptation is a “slower process.” Travis’s description inspires Joe to panic, though he isn’t sure why. The group holds hands and says a Hail Mary, and the rest of the day continues with similar exercises and discussions.
The boys continue to use Catholicism for their own means when they join the church youth group—this time, not to avoid trouble, but in order to allow Cappy to flirt with Zelia. The boys’ immaturity and over-interest in sex becomes apparent as they cannot take the exercises seriously, instead drawing attention to any sexual double meanings. But although Joe mocks Catholicism and uses it for his own means, he is very affected by Father Travis’s comments on temptation, perhaps because of Joe’s turbulent emotions due to all the unrest in his life.
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When Joe gets home, Geraldine is more subdued than she had been before, and is resting upstairs. Joe sits outside with Bazil and asks him who the rapist was. Bazil refuses to tell him, explaining that, although there will be an arraignment, they need more evidence and to know whether the rape occurred on reservation land in order to make a better case. Bazil draws Joe a map, explaining the different places it could have happened and the different jurisdictions that would entail depending on the location. Both Bazil and Joe believe, however, that it happened on reservation land.
As Bazil describes the problems they are having building the case against Geraldine’s rapist, he draws attention to how the question of who controls the land affects the delivery of justice on the reservation. Obviously, the issue of land control, which was historically prominent in Native oppression, continues to hinder Native people in various ways, including in the court system.
Themes
Land, the Judicial System, and Justice Theme Icon
Joe, Cappy and Angus discover a search-and-rescue unit a few days later while biking. At the lake, policemen and search teams with dogs are out on the water in boats. Zack hypothesizes that they are looking for a car, and Joe knows it is Mayla’s, which Geraldine said the attacker sent to the bottom of the lake. He also knows that they are looking for Mayla’s body. The boys watch the searchers until dark. The next day, the boys go back to the lake, set themselves up on a cliff above, and watch all day. Just as they are getting hungry, a tow truck pulls a Chevy Nova out of the water. There is no body in the car. There are, though, many toys in the back window, and cloth with the same fabric as the outfit of the doll that Joe had found stuffed with money.
While Joe and his friends watch the activity on the lake, Joe acknowledges that the searchers probably are hoping to find Mayla’s body, as they now believe that the attacker killed Mayla. As Mayla’s car is pulled from the lake, Joe realizes that the money he found is linked to Mayla’s disappearance, when he sees the cloth that was on the doll is also inside the car.
Themes
Women, Bigotry, and Sexual Violence Theme Icon