Ree climbs to Thump Milton’s house, where an older woman in an apron, Merab, stands outside the front door. The woman calls out to Ree, and tells her that she is probably in the wrong place. Ree introduces herself, and explains that she is looking for Thump Milton, but the woman tells Ree to get away. Ree pleads with the woman, telling her that “some of [their] blood is the same.” Merab tells Ree to wait, though Thump Milton probably won’t agree talk to her, and goes inside the house.
In the face of a dead end, Ree clings desperately to her blood ties with the Thump clan. Merab seems moved to action by the mention of blood, though she knows that her husband will not be as easily swayed.
After almost an hour, Merab emerges from the house and tells Ree that Thump Milton will not speak with her. “Talkin’ just causes witnesses,” she says, “and he don’t want for any of those.” Ree, indignant, tells Merab she will continue to wait until Thump Milton grows “weary.” Merab reenters the house.
Merab ultimately values silence over allegiance to relatives, but doesn’t account for Ree’s stubbornness and reluctance to accept her and her husband’s decision.
While waiting outside Thump Milton’s house, Ree distracts herself from the cold by trying to name all of the Miltons in her family. There are near-countless men with the same name, as “to have but a few male names in use was a tactic held over from the olden ways,” in order to cause confusion for the authorities and make it difficult for them to keep official records on the Dollys. Boys named Jessup, Arthur, Haslam, or Milton, Ree notes, are destined for a certain kind of life: a life of crime, a life lived along the “beaten Dolly path” of cyclical violence.
Ree’s anxiety over reaching a dead end in the search for her father causes her to spin inward and think obsessively about the inescapable traditions that bind her family to a culture of secrecy, debts, and violence.
After a long time, Merab comes out from the house once again, this time with a cup of soup for Ree. She tells her to drink it and be on her way. Merab tells Ree that Thump Milton knows she is here, and that he “knows what [she] want[s] to ask and don’t want to hear it.” She tells Ree to leave, and to not come back. Ree hands Merab her soup cup and then, indignant, shouts loudly toward the house—she accuses Thump Milton of not counting blood “for diddly” and “hope[s] he has a long life full of nothin’ but hiccups’n the runs.” Merab hurls the cup at Ree’s head; it misses and smashes against the side of the chicken coop. “Just don’t,” Merab says, and she points at the broken cup.
Merab knows she cannot give Ree what she needs—an audience with Thump—and seems initially in this passage to be trying to help Ree act on behalf of her own best interest. Ree, however, is so disappointed by Thump for what she sees as a betrayal of the codes by which both their clans survive (loyalty to blood relations, assistance in desperate times, retaliation against enemies) that she pushes Merab to physical violence.