In the morning Zeitoun picks up Nasser, drops him at the house on Claiborne, and continues alone. He chooses a new route towards the Jefferson Davis Parkway. It’s quieter, and there are fewer people, though it smells dirtier than ever. At one corner, the land rises and, in a patch of dry grass, three horses are chewing away. Zeitoun is struck by the sight and watches them for a few minutes before traveling on.
Although Zeitoun has appreciated company in the last few days, today he strikes out again on his own, committed as usual to doing whatever he can to help those in need. As he does so, he is struck by more signs of normalcy, like the horses, which seem almost surreal in the midst of such destruction.
Near the corner of Banks Street, a woman in a sparkly blue blouse calls down from a second-floor balcony, asking Zeitoun to give her a ride. Zeitoun agrees and then notices her short skirt, high heels, and made-up face: he finally realizes she must be a prostitute. He just asks her to take off her shoes so that she won’t puncture the aluminum. She asks him to take him to Canal Street, where she’s going to work, she says. He does so, she thanks him, and he paddles onward.
Initially, Zeitoun considers this woman as just another person in need of help—even when he learns that she’s a prostitute, he does his best not to judge her, and instead relates this anecdote as a humorous example of how the storm has forced people together, even those who otherwise might never have crossed paths.
At the I-10 overpass where people had been awaiting rescue, no one is left, but there are a dozen small dogs there. As Zeitoun approaches, he sees that they have each been killed, shot in the head. He quickly returns to Claiborne, where he calls Kathy and tells her he just saw the most terrible thing. Zeitoun can’t imagine why someone would do such a thing—it seems to imply that no one is concerned about being humane.
Zeitoun’s tenderness towards animals is emblematic of his compassionate nature, and means that he is particularly upset at violence done against the most vulnerable. This time, he feels the need to share this story with Kathy rather than conceal it from her. The violence against and neglect of animals after the storms is its own unique and poignant tragedy.
Still, Zeitoun is eager to ask Kathy if the kids are in school yet. She says she’ll try the next day. Kathy tries to convince Zeitoun to stay home that day and rest. He tries to, but he still can’t stop thinking about the dogs, wondering why someone couldn’t have just fed them rather than shooting them. He finds a passage, al-Haqqah, or “The Reality,” in the Qur’an. It is a beautiful passage about the “Day of Disaster” that humans denied, and that asks how humans might recognize “the reality” that is God.
Kathy, meanwhile, is struggling herself with distraction and worry, as well as the uncertainty of not knowing how long she’ll be in Arizona and how much she should settle in with her children. The Qur’an passage underlines Zeitoun’s ability to find guidance and solace in his religion, especially when facing what he can’t understand.
Zeitoun wonders if the dogs had been shot by robbers, not policeman, and wonders what he would do if they came to his house. He wishes he was not alone. He remains on his roof, telling himself that he’s simply weak when it comes to animals—he had kept a number of pets as a child, even a stray donkey.
For the first time, Zeitoun seems to question (even if only implicitly) if it was a good idea for him to stay in the city—a self-examination prompted by how shaken up he is from the seemingly senseless violence against animals.
Once, Ahmad had roped Zeitoun into contributing to a pigeon-grooming operation, holding birds in a cage made from scrap wood and chicken wire that Ahmad planned to train to deliver messages. They cared for the pigeons together, and soon there were thirty living on the roof. Then Mahmoud, their father, discovered the hobby. He had been impatient and irritable since Mohammed’s death, and he said that this hobby was pointless and a waste of time. He told the boys to free the birds, and since they refused, Mahmoud said he’d do it himself. But when he reached the roof to let them free, the birds flocked to his shoulders and arms. Mahmoud was charmed, and couldn’t send them away. He died a few years later, technically of heart disease, but everyone believed it was heartache for Mohammed.
Once again Zeitoun’s nighttime thoughts turn back to earlier times and especially to the years of his childhood—here his relationship with his brother and father and the antics that he and Ahmad performed. As he would be the first to leave the family on a shipping boat, it seems that it was Ahmad who hatched the plan and Zeitoun who was only too eager to follow. Their project with the pigeons is portrayed as a means of countering their and Mahmoud’s suffering after Mohammed’s death by giving love and care to something else. This story also gives added weight to Zeitoun’s grief about the storm’s animal victims.