After the fight with Teddy, Robert soaks his aches and bruises in the bathtub. Mrs. Ross, coming into the bathroom with a cigarette and empty glass, sits on the toilet and tells Robert how his bruises remind her of when he was a child and would hurt himself skating.
As water is an ongoing symbol of change, Robert’s bath suggests that he is transitioning into adulthood and breaking away from the childhood that his mother remembers.
Mrs. Ross breaks into a fit of laughter, but Robert can see that she is not hysterical. She explains that Robert was a comically serious child who was endearingly intent on playing hockey even though he would come home covered in bruises. Mrs. Ross reflects that he had persevered and eventually became captain of the team. She comments that it is funny how most people are not hurt when they fall, but that others bruise easily.
Having lost a child, Mrs. Ross is eager to hold onto her innocent, comforting memories of Robert. Her comment about bruising implies that, despite enacting revenge on the rabbits, she still feels a sense of injustice about Rowena’s death, since most other people would have easily survived the fall that killed her. Having the rabbits killed ultimately did more harm than good, as the act only further traumatized Robert and did not change the fact that Rowena is dead.
After a period of silence, Mrs. Ross suddenly turns on Robert. She tells him that Rowena did not belong to him because “no one belongs to anyone.” Mrs. Ross accuses Robert of wanting to enlist in the army and tells him to go to hell. She says that she is just a stranger who is not responsible for Robert because she is incapable of keeping anyone alive. The next morning, Robert is gone before his mother wakes up.
Like Robert, Mrs. Ross blames herself for Rowena’s death. Whereas her guilt manifests into outward resentment, Robert internalizes his self-blame by enlisting in the military as a means of both punishment and escape. These different reactions demonstrate the varied effects that trauma and self-blame can have on the individual.