Because of Winn-Dixie is a story about a girl and her dog and about the search for what really matters in life. It is also a story about stories—stories of loss, love, and humor; stories about holding on and letting go. In the steamy humidity of small-town Florida, India Opal Buloni pursues her journey toward friendship, love, understanding, and acceptance.
New in town, Opal finds herself dwelling on her struggle to understand and accept why her mother left her, questioning why her father will not talk about her mother, and needing desperately to find a friend. She first finds this friendship in a dog she deems a "less fortunate" and names him after the place where they meet—Winn-Dixie. Because of this loveable canine's charm and devotion, Opal soon meets a series of other lonely town characters, each on his or her own journey to learn what the loner Gloria Dump names "the most important thing."
Winn-Dixie wraps his love around each character, brings Opal to them, and, with Opal's help, brings them all together. As a result, Opal learns valuable lessons about life and love, but it takes both heartbreak and painful confrontation to open the pathway toward healing before Opal discovers that letting go does not mean losing.
(The entire section is 211 words.)
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Chapter 1 Summary
One summer, the local preacher sends his daughter, India Opal Buloni, to the grocery store to buy macaroni and cheese, white rice, and two tomatoes. Instead, she comes home with a big, ugly dog. Opal (as her father always calls her) goes to the Winn-Dixie grocery store and is walking into the produce section when she nearly bumps into the store manager. He is screaming, waving his arms around, and shouting, “Who let a dirty dog in here?” But when Opal looks around, she does not see a dog; she only sees vegetables rolling around on the floor. As the manager keeps shouting, more and more Winn-Dixie employees join his side and wave their hands around too.
Then the dog comes running around the corner, his tongue hanging out and his tail wagging. The dog skids to a stop and looks up at Opal. She thinks he is smiling as he pulls back his lips, revealing his teeth. The dog gets so happy that he wags his tail hard and knocks a pile of oranges off the display. To the dismay of the manager, the oranges mingle with the vegetables already on the floor, and he calls for someone to remove the dog from the store. But the dog is overjoyed and runs up to the manager to look him in the eye and thank him for the good time in the store. Once the dog is on his hind legs, the manager tumbles to the floor. Exasperated, the manager cries, and out of concern, the dog licks his face.
When the manager asks someone to call the pound to remove the dog, Opal is moved to claim the dog as her own. She tells the manager the dog belongs to her, and all the Winn-Dixie employees stare at her. Opal realizes that she has done something stupid, but she cannot bear to see the dog taken to the pound. The dog looks at Opal, and she makes up a name for him, “Winn-Dixie.” The manager scolds Opal and tells her that dogs do not belong in grocery stores, and Opal promises it will not happen again.
Opal leaves the grocery store with her new dog, Winn-Dixie. Once outside, Opal checks the dog and sees that he is skinny and is missing hair in patches. Then Winn-Dixie smiles his smile again and sneezes. Opal thinks it is hard not to love a dog who has a sense of humor, and she takes Winn-Dixie home to see what her father will make of him.
(The entire section is 423 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Opal’s father spends a lot of time preaching, so much so that Opal has come to think of her father as “the preacher.” He and Opal have only recently moved to Naomi, Florida, so he can be the new preacher at the Open Arms Baptist Church. Opal’s father has traveled far and wide; before his daughter was born, he was a missionary in India. He named his daughter after this land and gave her the middle name Opal after his mother, whom he loved. Opal tells all this to Winn-Dixie as they walk home from the grocery store, and she also tells the dog that her father’s life is consumed by sermons, prayers, and the suffering of people. He is the kind of man who never has time to go to the grocery store. Opal reasons that since Winn-Dixie is obviously a suffering dog, her father will have a kind heart and accept him into their home. At this, Winn-Dixie wags his tail, and Opal notices that he is limping and smelly. Even though he is ugly, Opal loves Winn-Dixie with all her heart.
When the pair arrives at the Friendly Corners Trailer Park, Opal instructs Winn-Dixie to behave because it is an “adults only” trailer park; and Opal only gets to live there because she is a quiet kid, “an exception” according to Mr. Alfred, the trailer park manager. Opal tells Winn-Dixe that he must act like an exception, too, and not pick any fights with the other animals in the trailer park.
Outside Opal’s trailer, she tells Winn-Dixie to sit, and he obeys. Opal goes inside and approaches her father, reminding him that he has always taught her to help those less fortunate than they are. She tells him that she has found a “Less Fortunate” at the grocery store and asks if he can stay with the family for a while. The preacher questions his daughter, and Opal tells her father that she has found a dog. Her father immediately says they do not need a dog, but Opal claims that the dog needs her. She calls Winn-Dixie into the trailer, and the dog walks right over to Opal’s father and puts his head in the preacher’s lap. The preacher’s nose wrinkles, and he looks at the matted hair and bald spots on the dog. Winn-Dixie smiles at the preacher and then sneezes, blowing the preacher’s papers to the floor. Opal’s father says that the dog is surely a stray and a less fortunate, so he offers Winn-Dixie a home.
(The entire section is 432 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
Right away, Opal cleans up Winn-Dixie. First she gives the dog a bath using the garden hose and baby shampoo. Winn-Dixie tolerates the bath, but he obviously does not like it—he does not wag his tail or smile the entire time. Opal dries him off and uses her hairbrush to work through Winn-Dixie’s matted fur. The dog wiggles his back, enjoying the attention.
While she cleans up the dog, Opal talks to Winn-Dixie about her family. She tells him that she has no other family besides the preacher—her mother left when she was three years old. She also tells Winn-Dixie that she does not have any friends because she had to leave them all behind when she and the preacher left Watley to come to Naomi. Opal reckons that she and Winn-Dixie are kind of like orphans. Winn-Dixie looks at Opal and behaves as if he understands her exact meaning. Opal then confesses that she has been thinking a lot about her mother since she and the preacher moved to Naomi. She knows little about her mother because the preacher does not speak of her, but she overheard the ladies gossiping at church so now she knows her father still loves her mother and hopes she will return. Opal wants to ask her father questions about her mother, but she is afraid that he will be mad at her. Winn-Dixie looks hard at Opal, and she thinks the dog is suggesting that she ask the preacher about her mother. The dog sneezes in confirmation.
When Opal is finished cleaning up Winn-Dixie, his fur shines. Of course he still has bald spots, but he smells nice and feels soft to the touch. Opal tries to brush his teeth, but any attempt causes him to sneeze in fits, so Opal settles that the dog just has yellow teeth. His ribs are still visible, but Opal promises to feed him nice meals to fatten him up.
She takes the dog to see her father, and the preacher claims that Winn-Dixie is so handsome. The dog again puts his head in the preacher’s lap, and the preacher pets him and scratches his head. Opal then tells her father that she and Winn-Dixie have had a little talk and they have decided that since Opal is ten years old, her father should tell her ten things about her mother. Winn-Dixie looks up at the preacher and nudges him with his nose. The preacher tells Opal to sit, and he consents to tell her just ten things about her mama.
(The entire section is 428 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
Opal, her father, and Winn-Dixie settle on the couch, and the preacher proceeds to tell Opal ten things about her mother. The first is that Opal’s mother could make anyone laugh. Second, she had red hair and freckles. Opal asks whether her own red hair and freckles are like her mother’s, and her father says they are. Third, Opal’s mother liked to plant things; the preacher jokes that Opal’s mother could plant a tire in the ground and grow a car. At this, Winn-Dixie chews on his paw, and Opal taps him to make him stop. Fourth, Opal’s mother was a fast runner, and one could not let her get a head start unless he surely wanted to be the loser in the race. Opal is also a fast runner. Back in Watley, she beat a boy named Liam Fullerton in a race, but because he was a sore loser, he claimed that boys and girls should not race each other. Fifth, Opal’s mother was a really bad cook who could not boil water or even open a can of beans. She also did not know what to do with meat. When the preacher gets to six, he rubs his nose and looks up at the ceiling, and then he tells Opal that her mother loved stories and that she could listen to stories all day, especially ones that made her laugh. Seventh, Opal’s mother loved looking at the constellations in the night sky; she never tired of looking at them.
The preacher begins offering more serious details about Opal’s mother. He tells Opal that, eighth, her mother hated being a preacher’s wife because she felt like the ladies at church criticized her all the time. The ladies judged her hair and her singing. Ninth, Opal’s mother loved to drink, which made her and the preacher fight often. The preacher lets out a long sigh and tells Opal that, ten, her mother loved her very much. Both Opal and the preacher acknowledge that although she loved Opal, her mother still packed her bags and left them.
Opal then goes to her bedroom along with Winn-Dixie and writes down all ten things so she will never forget them. Opal reads the list over and over to Winn-Dixie so she can memorize all ten things. She wants to make sure that if her mother ever returns, she will be able to tell her mother all these things so her mother will not leave again.
(The entire section is 422 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
Opal and the preacher soon learn that Winn-Dixie does not like being left alone. If they leave him alone inside their trailer, he snatches all the cushions off the couch and takes the toilet paper off the roll. So they begin tying him up outside the trailer, but Winn-Dixie howls so loudly that he makes a neighbor’s dog begin howling too. Opal says that this is the kind of noise that is not allowed in the adults-only trailer park, so she convinces the preacher to take Winn-Dixie wherever they go. She reckons that Winn-Dixie feels like his heart is empty when he gets left alone, so the preacher submits, and Winn-Dixie goes with them everywhere, even to church.
The Open Arms Baptist Church is unlike any other. The building used to be the Pick-It-Quick store, and the store’s motto had been fashioned in red tiles on the floor. When the preacher took over the church, he tried to paint over the red tiles, but the paint never stayed and the preacher eventually gave up trying to cover them. Also, the church has no pews, so members of the congregation bring fold-up chairs and lawn chairs to service. Opal figures that since the church is a little strange, Winn-Dixie will fit right in.
The first time Opal and the preacher take Winn-Dixie to church, the preacher ties him to a tree outside the front door. When Opal asks why, her father tells her that dogs do not belong in church. Inside, the singing and praying commences, and from the pulpit, the preacher begins his sermon. But he only utters a few words before Winn-Dixie begins howling outside. The preacher tells Opal to attend to Winn-Dixie, so she goes outside and brings him in among the congregation. Winn-Dixie smiles at the preacher, and all is well until a mouse scurries across the floor.
There have always been mice at the church left over from the time when the church was the grocery store, and the mice have stayed around to take advantage of the morsels left behind from pot-luck dinners. When Winn-Dixie sees the mouse, he immediately chases after it, and his paws slip and slide on the polished tiles. Winn-Dixie catches the mouse and holds it gently in his mouth. Members of the congregation are impressed with Winn-Dixie and claim that he must have some retriever in his blood. Winn-Dixie drops the mouse at the preacher’s feet, and when the mouse tries to run away, Winn-Dixie catches its tail with his paw. The preacher takes the mouse and releases it outside the...
(The entire section is 481 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
That summer, Opal spends a lot of time at the local library to relieve her loneliness. The Herman W. Block Memorial Library is just a small house full of books, not a large, impressive place like other libraries. It is run by a little old lady named Miss Franny Block. Miss Block is the first friend Opal makes in Naomi.
Opal gets to know Miss Block through an incident created by Winn-Dixie. Still feeling broken-hearted at being left alone, the dog does not like going to the library because he cannot go inside while Opal is inside hunting through the shelves. Opal teaches Winn-Dixie how to stand on his hind legs outside the library’s window so he can still see her while she roams the aisles looking for books. This calms Winn-Dixie, but one afternoon Miss Block sees the dog standing tall against the window outside the library and thinks he is a bear. Afraid, Miss Block screams and hides on the floor behind her desk. Opal runs over to Miss Block to see what the matter is, and Miss Block tells her there is a bear outside the window. Opal tells Miss Block that what she thinks is a bear is actually her dog, Winn-Dixie. Miss Block is reluctant to believe Opal because the animal is very big and very hairy, but the girl assures the old lady that she is telling the truth. Opal helps Miss Block off the floor, and Miss Block is embarrassed by the way she has acted.
Miss Block tells Opal that she once had an experience long ago with a bear that wandered into the library while she was alone one afternoon. Opal wants to hear the story, but Miss Block tells her that it is a very long story. Not taking the hint, Opal tells her that she likes long stories just like her mother does, and she asks if Winn-Dixie can come inside to hear the story too. Miss Block says that dogs are not allowed inside the library. But Opal does not wait for further answers from Miss Block, and she runs outside to get Winn-Dixie. Opal assures Miss Block that Winn-Dixie will behave nicely inside the library, and the dog lies next to Miss Block, wagging his tail and sniffing her feet. Miss Block remarks that Winn-Dixie is a large dog, and she pets his head before beginning her long story about the bear.
(The entire section is 406 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
Miss Franny Block begins her story by telling Opal that back when she was a child, Florida was a wild place full of wild men, women, and animals. Franny’s father, Mr. Herman W. Block, asked his daughter what she would like to have for her birthday. Franny’s father was a rich man and promised to get her anything she wanted. So Franny told her father that she wanted her own small library. Franny loved books and loved to read, and she wanted to share her books with other people. So her father built a small house and filled it with books, and Franny became a young librarian.
Miss Block tells Opal that when she was a little girl, she thought she knew the answers to everything. She would sit at her desk in the library with her face buried in a book. And it just so happened that on a hot Thursday afternoon, Franny was at her desk reading when a dark shadow moved past her. Thinking it was just someone looking for a book, Franny asked if she could help, but no one answered. Franny looked up from her book—right into the face of a big bear. Of course Franny was afraid, and the bear sniffed the air like it was thinking about eating her. But Franny was not going to give up without a fight, so she threw her book at the bear. Opal interrupts Miss Block’s story to ask about the title of the book, and Miss Block tells her that she had been reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Then Miss Block tells Opal the best part of the story—the part she will never forget. The bear snatched up that copy of War and Peace and ran out of the library with the book in its mouth. Miss Block says that the men in town used to tease her mercilessly about the incident. They would tell her they saw the bear in the woods from time to time slumped against a tree, reading War and Peace. They would tell her the bear thought it was a really good book and that he would need to keep it for another week.
Miss Block says that now she is the only one left from the old days; everyone with whom she grew up is now dead and gone. She sighs, and Opal can feel her loneliness, the same loneliness Opal feels being friendless and motherless in a new town. At this point, Winn-Dixie looks back and forth between Opal and Miss Block and smiles. Opal tells Miss Block that smiling is Winn-Dixie’s talent, and Miss Block thinks that is a fine talent. Opal proposes that the three of them be friends, and Miss Block thinks this is a grand idea.
(The entire section is 543 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
Under Opal’s care, Winn-Dixie begins to look more healthy: his bald spots fill in, his fur stays shiny, and he loses his limp. The dog appears proud to look like he belongs to somebody instead of looking like a stray. To complete the look, Opal thinks Winn-Dixie should have a collar and leash, so she goes to Gertrude’s Pets, where there are animals and supplies of all types. She finds a handsome red leather collar and leash that she thinks will be just perfect for Winn-Dixie. But dogs are not allowed inside the pet shop, so Opal holds up the collar and leash to the window so Winn-Dixie can see what she has found. Winn-Dixie smiles, sneezes, and furiously wags his tail at the sight of the collar and leash, and Opal knows he loves them.
But Opal has a big problem—the collar and leash are expensive, and she does not have enough money from her allowance to cover the cost. Opal explains her situation to the clerk, whose name is Otis; she asks him to set her up on an installment plan so she can pay off the collar and leash over the course of the next few weeks. The clerk questions Opal’s plan, and suddenly a parrot perched on top of one of the fish tanks screams out, “Gertrude!” Otis says that he does not think the owner would like the idea of an installment plan, so Opal revises her plan and suggests that she work in the store as payment. Opal sees sand, shells, and dust all over the floor and reckons that Otis could use her help cleaning up the store. The parrot screams again, and Opal tries to convince Otis by explaining to him that she is the daughter of the local preacher. She says she is a very honest girl. Opal then tells Otis that if she were allowed to work in the store, Winn-Dixie would have to come inside also because he gets lonely and howls without her. Otis tells her that Gertrude, the parrot, does not like dogs, to which Opal replies that everyone likes Winn-Dixie. They let Winn-Dixie into the store, and sure enough, the parrot flies over and perches on top of Winn-Dixie’s head. Otis offers Opal the job.
On her way out of the pet store, Opal sees Sweetie Pie Thomas, who has been watching the animals from the store window. Sweetie Pie tells Opal that she also saw what Winn-Dixie did to the mouse at church and claims that she loves the dog and wants one just like him. Sweetie Pie plans to have her sixth birthday party in September, and she invites Opal and Winn-Dixie to come along. Opal is thrilled that...
(The entire section is 465 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
Nearly everything that has happened to Opal during the summer has been the result of her having Winn-Dixie. Just like the dog drew her into friendships with Miss Franny Block and Sweetie Pie Thomas, he leads her to find another friend, Gloria Dump, the town witch.
When Opal says goodbye to Sweetie Pie Thomas and leaves Gertrude’s Pets, she rides her bicycle down the road and Winn-Dixie runs along next to her. Soon they go past the Dewberry house, and the two Dewberry boys, Dunlap and Stevie, get on their bikes and follow Opal and Winn-Dixie. Both boys have had their heads shaved to prevent them from getting fleas from their cat; to Opal, they look like two bald-headed babies. Opal can hear the two boys talking behind her, but she cannot make out what they are saying. Then Winn-Dixie starts to run ahead of Opal, and Dunlap hollers that Winn-Dixie is headed straight for the witch’s house. Opal calls Winn-Dixie, but he does not mind her and jumps over a fence into an overgrown yard. The boys say that the witch is probably eating Winn-Dixie for lunch, and Opal scolds them and tells them to go away.
Opal is more afraid of losing her dog than she is of confronting a witch, so she goes through the fence to find Winn-Dixie. She sees him eating something directly out of the witch’s hand. The witch laughs and says that Winn-Dixie sure likes to eat. Winn-Dixie has been eating a scoop of peanut butter, and the witch thinks he is trustworthy because he likes peanut butter. The witch introduces herself as Gloria Dump, and Opal thinks that she looks like a nice lady, not a witch. Gloria is old and has wrinkled, brown skin and a toothless smile. Opal introduces herself, and she also introduces Winn-Dixie; Gloria thinks his name is funny. Gloria asks Opal if she would like a peanut butter sandwich and invites her to sit on the porch. Gloria says that she cannot see very well with her eyes, so she sees people with her heart instead. She asks Opal to tell her everything about herself so she can see her with her heart. Winn-Dixie looks at Gloria and wags his tail like she is the best person he has ever met. Because Opal is so lonely and has no one to talk to, she decides to tell Gloria everything about her life.
(The entire section is 408 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
Opal sits and tells Gloria Dump everything about her life. She talks about her and the preacher’s move from Watley to Naomi and explains how she had to leave all her friends behind when she moved. Then Opal tells Gloria about her mother and how she left when Opal was little; she also tells Gloria the ten things the preacher told her about her mother. Gloria listens as Opal explains that she thinks about her mother much more now than she ever did in Watley. She tells Gloria about how the preacher acts like a turtle in his shell, hiding from all the things that trouble him. And she finally tells Gloria about finding Winn-Dixie in the grocery store and how he has led her to meeting new people like Miss Franny Block, Otis, Sweetie Pie Thomas, and herself. Opal admits that the Dewberry boys called Gloria a witch, but she says she never believed them. Gloria listens patiently, and Opal feels that Gloria is listening with her heart.
When Opal finishes her story, Gloria says she thinks Opal has much more of her mother inside her than the red hair, freckles, and ability to run fast. Gloria suggests that they test Opal’s green thumb to see if, like her mother, she can grow anything. Gloria picks out a small tree for Opal to plant. Opal digs a hole, plants the tree, and carefully pats the dirt all around it. Opal asks Gloria what kind of tree it is, and Gloria replies that it is a “wait-and-see” tree. So Opal will have to wait for the tree to grow before they can tell what kind of tree it is. Opal wants to come back the next day to see the tree, and Gloria laughs and tells her that the tree will not be much changed after just one day. Opal admits that she wants to come back to see Gloria, and Gloria tells her that she is always welcome in her garden and home. Winn-Dixie has been napping, so Opal wakes him up, and he licks Gloria’s hand before they leave.
That night when the preacher is tucking Opal into bed, she tells her father about all her adventures of the day. Winn-Dixie lies next to the bed, waiting for the preacher to leave so he can get into bed next to Opal. When Opal is done talking, her father kisses her head and leans over to kiss Winn-Dixie too. The preacher tells the dog that he can get up on the bed, and Winn-Dixie smiles like he is laughing. To Opal’s surprise, the preacher laughs too. He turns off the light, and when Opal goes to kiss her dog, she finds that he is already snoring.
(The entire section is 461 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
There is a bad thunderstorm that night. Opal is roused from her sleep by Winn-Dixie, who is whining and banging his head on her bedroom door. She gets out of bed and pets the dog on the head, but he will not be calmed. Winn-Dixie is trembling violently, and Opal is afraid because she does not know what is causing his fear. She kneels down and puts her arms around the dog, but he does not smile or wag his tail. He continues to whine and bang his head on the door. Thinking that he must want to get out of the room, Opal opens the bedroom door, and Winn-Dixie runs with all his might to the other end of the trailer.
Opal fears that the dog will wake her father, so she tries to get control of him, but it is too late. A loud noise comes from the preacher’s room, and Opal knows that Winn-Dixie has jumped on her father’s bed. Winn-Dixie then comes tearing out of the preacher’s room, back to the other end of the trailer. The preacher gets out of bed and questions his daughter, but Opal still does not know what is wrong with Winn-Dixie. Just then, another boom of thunder sounds outside, and Winn-Dixie begins his rampage through the trailer once again. Winn-Dixie jumps onto the preacher, and both of them end up sprawled on the floor.
The preacher asks Opal if she knows about pathological fears, and Opal admits she has never heard of them. The preacher explains that pathological fears are fears that go beyond the normal realm of fear. Yet another boom of thunder sounds outside, and it sends Winn-Dixie running. The preacher reckons that Winn-Dixie has a pathological fear of thunderstorms, and he assures Opal that once the storm is over, the real Winn-Dixie will return.
The storm soon ends, and Winn-Dixie looks at Opal and the preacher as if nothing happened. Father and daughter sit on the couch, and Winn-Dixie creeps up onto the couch with them. The preacher says there are many thunderstorms in Florida during the summer, and Opal fears that her father is going to tell her they cannot keep Winn-Dixie because he is afraid of thunder. However, the preacher puts his arms around the dog and says they must make sure Winn-Dixie does not get outside during a storm lest he run away. Opal feels an enormous love for her father for wanting to keep Winn-Dixie safe.
(The entire section is 416 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
On the morning Opal is scheduled to begin working at the pet store, she arrives so early the Closed sign is still on the door. But the door is unlocked, so she and Winn-Dixie go in. Once inside, Opal hears the most beautiful music she has ever heard. She sees that all the animals are out of their cages on the floor. Mice, snakes, hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, lizards, and birds are all on the floor together, and Otis is standing in the middle of them playing his guitar. The animals appear to be entranced, and Winn-Dixie settles himself on the floor and becomes part of it. Gertrude the parrot screams, “Dog!” and flies over and perches on Winn-Dixie’s head. Otis looks up at Opal and stops playing his guitar, but when the music stops, the animals are roused from their spell and begin hopping and crawling around the store. Otis shouts for Opal to help him, and the two begin shoving animals back into cages. In the chaos, Opal thinks Otis must be some kind of snake charmer to be able to sway the animals with the sound of his guitar. Opal tells Otis that he should start playing again, and once the music starts, the animals fall back into their trance. Opal is then able to put each one back in its proper cage. Opal asks if the animals had escaped their cages, and Otis admits that he took them out on purpose because he feels sorry that they are locked up all day. Otis confides that he has been to jail, then he tells Opal that she has to sweep the floor. As Opal works, Winn-Dixie follows her around the store, and Gertrude remains perched on his head.
When Opal leaves Gertrude’s Pets, Sweetie Pie Thomas is once again outside the window and says that she saw everything that happened with the music and the animals. Sweetie Pie asks Opal if Otis is a magic man, and Opal says she thinks he is. Sweetie Pie hugs Winn-Dixie and asks Opal if she is coming to her birthday party. Then Sweetie Pie sees her mother sitting on their porch, and she runs off to tell her mother the story of Otis as a magic man. Opal thinks about her own mother and the stories that she has been collecting to tell her. She will tell her mother about Otis, Miss Franny Block, and Gloria Dump. Opal hopes these are the kind of stories that will make her mother laugh the way the preacher said she likes to laugh.
(The entire section is 431 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
Opal and Winn-Dixie get into a routine of getting up early every day and going to Gertrude’s Pets to watch Otis play his guitar for the animals. Sometimes Sweetie Pie also comes to listen to the music, and she sits with her arms wrapped around Winn-Dixie because she loves him so much. Afterward, Sweetie Pie goes around the store and looks at all the animals to try to pick a pet for herself. But Sweetie Pie can never choose one because all she really wants is a dog like Winn-Dixie. Then Opal sweeps the floor and arranges the shelves for Otis because he is not as organized as she is. In his notebook labeled “One red leather collar, one red leather leash,” Otis writes down the hours Opal has worked. After leaving the pet store, Opal and Winn-Dixie go to visit Miss Franny Block at the library, and Miss Block always tells them a story.
But Opal’s favorite place to be during that summer is the yard of Gloria Dump. Winn-Dixie also loves Gloria’s place, and when he and Opal are near her yard, Winn-Dixie speeds up to get there even quicker. When Opal arrives, Winn-Dixie is already happily eating his spoonful of peanut butter.
On some days, the Dewberry boys follow Opal to Gloria’s house and tease her about going to visit the witch. The Dewberrys’ mother has told them that Opal should play with people her own age instead of older people. The boys also tease Opal about working for Otis and claim that he is retarded and a criminal, but Opal sticks up for both Gloria and Otis. The boys tell Opal that the preacher would be mad at her if he knew what she was up to during the day, but Opal lies and tells them her father already knows. Opal gets tired of yelling at the Dewberry boys, but it makes her feel tough to stand up for her friends.
When Opal arrives at Gloria’s house, Gloria always has a peanut butter sandwich and coffee ready for her. Opal feels relaxed in Gloria’s company. Gloria asks Opal why she does not play with the boys, and Opal says they are ignorant. Gloria suggests that the boys might just be trying to be friendly in their own way, but Opal thinks that they are silly. Gloria sighs and asks Opal if she has any stories to tell; she always does.
(The entire section is 410 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
Opal tells Gloria all kinds of stories: sometimes she relays the stories of Miss Franny Block, other times she talks about Otis in his pointy boots playing his guitar for the animals, and some days she makes up her own story. Whatever the story, Gloria listens to it from beginning to end. Gloria used to love reading stories, but now her eyesight is too bad and cannot be fixed with reading glasses. So she loves to hear a good story.
One afternoon, after telling her story, Opal tells Gloria that Otis was once in jail and that he was a criminal. She asks Gloria if she should be afraid of him. Gloria does not directly answer Opal’s question. Instead, she takes her to a tall, old tree way in the back of her yard. Opal has never been all the way to the back of Gloria’s yard, but she and Winn-Dixie follow Gloria anyway. When they get to the tree, Opal looks up and sees many bottles hanging by string from the branches. Wine bottles, beer bottles, and whiskey bottles blow in the breeze and make a clanky noise that Opal thinks sounds spooky. Winn-Dixie’s hair stands on end, and he makes a deep, low growl. Gloria asks Opal what she thinks about the tree. Opal does not know what to think and asks why there are so many bottles hanging from the branches. Gloria tells her the bottles are there to keep away the ghosts of all the things she has done wrong in her life. Opal is shocked that Gloria could have done so many wrong things; in Opal’s opinion, Gloria is the nicest person in the world. Gloria then reveals that she was the person who drank all the alcohol from those bottles. Opal reminds Gloria that her mother drank too, and she tells Gloria that the preacher said her mother drank so much sometimes that she could not stop herself. Gloria says that she used to be one of those people too, but now she does not drink anything stronger than coffee. Opal asks Gloria if her alcoholism made her do bad things, and Gloria admits that sometimes she did bad things in spite of the alcohol. Gloria tells Opal that she stopped doing bad things once she “learned what is the most important thing” in her life. Opal wants to know this secret, but Gloria teaches her that “the most important thing” is different for everyone.
Gloria then teaches Opal not to judge people by what they have done in the past but instead to see people for who they are in the present. She reminds Opal that Otis is a good man for playing his guitar and being kind...
(The entire section is 505 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
The air-conditioning unit does not work well at the Herman W. Block Memorial Library, so Miss Franny Block uses a large fan to keep the place cool. As soon and Opal and Winn-Dixie arrive at the library, the dog goes over the fan and lies right in front of it. The forced air makes his fur blow, and loose tufts of hair float away from him. Opal worries that the blowing air from the fan will one day make Winn-Dixie bald, but Miss Franny assures her that she has never known a fan to make a dog bald.
During her storytelling, Miss Franny has little shaking fits that make her forget what she is saying. Whenever Miss Franny has one of her fits, Winn-Dixie gets up from the fan and comes to sit next to her. With his ears perked up, he looks like he is protecting her, the same way that Opal has learned to protect Winn-Dixie from thunderstorms by holding him tight. Through the many thunderstorms that summer, Opal holds Winn-Dixie and rocks him back and forth, fearing that he might run away if he gets too scared. Opal then thinks about Gloria Dump and wonders who protects Gloria when those bottles start clanking and reminding her of the ghosts of all the things she has done wrong. Opal decides that the best thing to protect Gloria would be to read her a book loud enough to drown the sounds of the ghosts.
Opal tells Miss Franny that she has an adult friend with bad eyes to whom she would like to read a book, and she asks Miss Franny for suggestions. Miss Franny suggests that Opal try Gone With the Wind. Opal asks what the story is about. Miss Franny mentions the Civil War and is surprised that Opal does not know more about the Civil War. Miss Franny says that it was a terrible war and that her great-grandfather Mr. Littmus W. Block fought as a soldier when he was young. When Miss Franny says, “Now there’s a story,” Winn-Dixie slumps on the floor for a nap like he knows they are not going anywhere for a while. Opal asks to hear the story and sits down next to Winn-Dixie. All of a sudden, Amanda Wilkinson comes into the library and slams her book on Miss Franny’s desk, demanding another one. Miss Franny is not moved by the child’s demands and tells her she has to wait for the story. Then Miss Franny begins.
(The entire section is 421 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
Miss Franny Block’s great-grandfather Mr. Littmus W. Block was just a fourteen-year-old boy when he went to war. The firing on Fort Sumter had just occurred, and Littmus’s father, Artley W. Block, was already a soldier, so Littmus went to fight. He told his mother that he could not just sit by and watch the South get destroyed. Miss Franny says that men always want to fight and are lured by wars. Littmus lied about his age, but because he was a big boy the recruiters believed him and enlisted him as a soldier. Littmus left behind his mother and three sisters and went off to be a war hero, but he would soon learn the truth about the reality of war. Miss Franny says that war is “hell.” Amanda reminds Miss Franny that “hell” is a “cuss” word, and Miss Franny retorts that the word “war” should be a cuss word. Miss Franny points at both Amanda and Opal and tells them that neither of them can imagine the tragedies of war. During the war, Littmus was always hungry and covered with fleas and lice, and the weather of the seasons made him constantly uncomfortable—on top of all this, Littmus was shot at all the time.
Opal interrupts and asks if Littmus was killed, and Amanda rolls her eyes. Miss Franny reminds Opal that she would never have been born if Littmus had been killed. But Miss Franny does say that although he was not killed, Littmus left the war a changed man. When he left the war, he did not have a horse, so he walked from his post in Virginia all the way back to his home in Georgia. When he got there, his house was no longer standing because the Yankees burned it down. Amanda inquires about Littmus’s sisters, and Miss Franny says that all his sisters and his mother died from typhoid fever. His father, Artley, died during battle, so Littmus was an orphan when he got home. Opal and Amanda agree that the story of Littmus is a sad one. At this point, Winn-Dixie, who has been napping, begins to snore, and Opal tries to quiet him so she can hear the rest of the story. Opal wants to know how someone who has lost everything he loves manages to move on with his life and survive.
(The entire section is 397 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
Miss Franny continues with her story: When Littmus came home from the war, he sat on the remains of his front porch and felt so alone he cried like a little baby. He missed his family, and the war left him feeling bitter. All of a sudden, Littmus got the idea that he would like to have something sweet, like a piece of candy. He thought that the world should have something sweet in it to combat all the ugly things. So Littmus set his mind to it and walked all the way to Florida, planning his next venture. When he got to Florida, he built a candy factory on Fairville Road. Littmus’s company was famous for the Littmus Lozenge, and its success led to the family’s fortune.
Opal and Amanda admit they have never heard of the Littmus Lozenge, and Miss Franny tells them that the candy has not been made in a long time. Then she pulls open the drawers to her desk, and the girls see that Miss Franny’s entire desk is full of candy. She offers the girls each a Littmus Lozenge, and Winn-Dixie has one too. The dog swallows his candy whole and wags his tail; the girls suck on their candies and think about the taste. Opal can make out the taste of root beer and strawberry, but there is some other flavor that makes her feel sad. Amanda also feels sad eating the candy, and Miss Franny tells them that there is a secret ingredient—sorrow—inside the candies. Miss Franny says that most children cannot detect the secret ingredient; Opal and Amanda must have had sorrow in their lives or they would not have noticed it. Opal admits that she has experienced sadness over moving from Watley, not having many friends, and losing her mother at a young age. But Opal cannot imagine what sorrow Amanda has experienced because her life seems so perfect. Amanda then says the world is full of sorrow and that the candy makes her miss Carson. But before she can talk about Carson, Amanda gets up and rushes out of the library.
Opal asks Miss Franny if she can take some Littmus Lozenges for her father and friends, and Miss Franny lets Opal stuff her pockets. Then Opal checks out Gone With the Wind to read to Gloria and heads over to her yard. On the way, Opal passes the Dewberry house. She remembers Gloria’s lesson and decides to wave at the boys. Dunlap waves back and Opal thinks, “Who was Carson?”
(The entire section is 429 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
When Opal arrives at Gloria’s house, she tells Gloria that she has two surprises for her: a big surprise and a small one. Gloria says she wants the small surprise first, so Opal gives her a Littmus Lozenge. Gloria remembers the candies—her father used to eat them. When Gloria eats the candy, she says that it tastes sweet but it also tastes “like people leaving.” Gloria then asks for the big surprise, and Opal reveals that she is going to read Gone with the Wind for Gloria. Opal tells Gloria that the book is quite long, so Gloria gets settled in her chair and says they had better start reading. Opal reads the first chapter of the novel loud enough to keep Gloria’s ghosts away. Afterward, Gloria says that the reading is the best surprise she has ever had and that she cannot wait for the second chapter.
Later that night when the preacher tucks Opal into bed, she gives him a Littmus Lozenge and tells him about Miss Franny’s great-grandfather. The preacher says he can also taste the root beer and strawberry, and he thinks about the other taste he senses. After a while, the preacher says that the candy tastes melancholy and that it makes him think about Opal’s mother. Opal assures him that it is supposed to taste that way because Littmus put all the sorrow he was feeling about his family and the war into the candies.
The preacher then tells Opal he had a talk with Mrs. Dewberry and that she told him about the time Opal called Stevie a bald-headed baby. Opal admits her fault and tries to justify her behavior by telling the preacher that the boys always call Gloria a witch and Otis a retard. The preacher says that it does not matter and that Opal should apologize; he tells Opal that sometimes people have strange ways of trying to be friendly. Opal promises to apologize, and then she asks the preacher if he knows about Amanda’s family and Carson. The preacher reveals that Carson is Amanda’s five-year-old brother who drowned the previous year. Opal is angry that her father did not tell her this before, but the preacher says that people’s sorrow should not be a topic of conversation. Opal thinks about the word melancholy and feels sorry for herself, Amanda, and Carson. Unlike Sweetie Pie Thomas, Carson would never have a sixth birthday.
(The entire section is 411 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary
The next day, Opal and Winn-Dixie go to Gertrude’s Pets early in the morning so Opal can sweep and clean the store again. When she gets there, Opal gives Otis a Littmus Lozenge. Otis asks if it is Halloween since Opal is giving him candy, but Opal says that the candy is just a gift for today. Otis puts the Littmus Lozenge in his mouth and soon tears roll down his cheeks. He thanks Opal, and she asks if he likes the taste. Otis says he likes the candy and but it reminds him of being in jail.
Stricken by her curiosity and fearing that she will lose her nerve, Opal quickly asks Otis why he was in jail. Otis says that he is neither a murderer nor a burglar, and then he stares at his boots. Otis says that he is not a dangerous man—he is just lonely. Otis confides that he was sent to jail because he played his music out on the street. Otis loves to play his guitar, but he thinks that music is best played for an audience. So he would play his music on the street for everyone to hear. The police arrived one day and told Otis he was causing a disturbance; they asked him to not play his guitar outside, but the whole time Otis just continued to play his guitar. This defiance made one of the police officers angry, and he tried to put Otis in handcuffs. Otis knew that the handcuffs would keep him from playing his guitar, so he hit the police officer and knocked him out right there on the street. Otis was arrested and sent to jail, where he did not have access to his guitar. When Otis was released from jail, the police made him promise to never play his guitar on the street again. When Gertrude, the owner of the pet store, read about Otis’s story in the newspaper, she hired him to care for the animals in the store and told him that it would be alright if he played music for them.
Opal thanks Otis for confiding in her, and she makes it a point to sweep slowly that morning so she can keep Otis company. Sweetie Pie Thomas comes into the store, and Opal also gives her a Littmus Lozenge, but Sweetie Pie spits out the candy. She says it does not taste good and it reminds her of not having a dog. Opal then thinks about loneliness, and she does not want Otis to feel lonely. She thinks that it seems like everyone is lonely. As she has been doing all summer, Opal thinks of her mother.
(The entire section is 449 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary
Opal tells Gloria about why Otis was arrested, and Gloria laughs at the absurdity of the situation. Opal says that Otis is just so lonely that he wants to play his music for everyone all the time. Gloria says that sometimes things are just so sad they end up being funny. Then Opal tells Gloria what she learned from the preacher about Amanda’s brother, Carson, and how he drowned the year before. Gloria says that she remembers having heard about the drowning. Opal says she now understands that Amanda is so “pinch-faced” because she misses Carson, and she asks Gloria if she thinks that everybody is missing somebody. Gloria says she thinks “the whole world has an aching heart.”
Opal does not want to keep thinking sad thoughts, so she offers to read more of Gone with the Wind to Gloria. As they settle into the story, Opal reads about Scarlett O’Hara, who is looking forward to going to a barbecue. Opal starts thinking about Otis and throwing him a party during which he can play his music. Opal proposes to have all her new friends come to the party in Gloria’s yard. She says they can make fancy peanut butter sandwiches. Gloria laughs, and then Opal changes her mind and proposes egg salad sandwiches instead. Opal does not know how to cook because her mother is not around, so she begs Gloria to teach her. Gloria agrees to host the party, and Opal hugs her in thanks. But Gloria makes Opal promise to invite the Dewberry boys to the party. Opal does not want Dunlap and Stevie at the party, but Gloria says that she will cancel the party otherwise, so Opal promises.
Opal begins to invite the preacher and all her friends to the party. When she asks Miss Franny to come, she is very excited and suggests that Opal also invite Amanda. Opal does not think Amanda will come, but she approaches her nervously and tries to be extra nice. Amanda says she would love to come. As promised, Opal invites the Dewberry boys. Stevie says he will not go to a witch’s house, but Dunlap smiles and says they will be there. Finally, Opal invites Otis, who becomes quite bashful at the thought of being around so many people. Opal tells him she will work in the pet shop free for one week if he comes and plays his guitar for everyone. Otis agrees to attend the party.
(The entire section is 416 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary
Gloria and Opal spend the entire afternoon preparing for the party. They make egg salad sandwiches without the crusts and put toothpicks in them to make them look fancy. Winn-Dixie sits in the kitchen the whole time wagging his tail and watching them work. Winn-Dixie smiles at Gloria, trying to persuade her to give him some food. When she thinks Opal is not watching, Gloria slips the dog a sandwich. Gloria and Opal also make “Dump Punch,” a mixture of orange juice, grapefruit juice, and soda. Gloria says she is famous for the drink, but Opal has never heard of it before. The last thing they do in preparation is decorate the yard. Opal strings yellow, pink, and orange crepe paper streamers in the trees. They also put candles around the yard. Opal thinks that Gloria’s yard looks like a fairyland when it is finished. The beauty of it makes Opal’s heart feel full, and she wishes her mother could be there to see it.
Miss Franny Block is the first to arrive at the party. She is not in her usual clothing—she wears a shimmery green silk dress and high heels that make her wobble as she walks. She has a big bowl of Littmus Lozenges for the party. Opal introduces Miss Franny to Gloria, and they exchange pleasantries. Then Sweetie Pie Thomas arrives, accompanied by her mother. Sweetie Pie has many pictures of dogs from magazines, and she says that Opal’s party can have Dogs as a theme. She starts taping up the pictures on the trees and chairs. After that, the preacher arrives, and he is dressed very formally in a coat and tie. He shakes hands with all the guests and says he is pleased to meet them. In the middle of it all, Winn-Dixie wags his tail so hard that Opal thinks he will knock over something or someone. Amanda Wilkerson arrives looking cute and shy, not mean like she usually does, and Opal is glad to see her. She wants to tell Amanda that she knows all about Carson, but she settles for just being extra nice to Amanda.
Just then, Opal hears the loud voice of Gertrude the parrot, and she and Winn-Dixie go to the front of the yard where Otis is standing and holding a big jar of pickles. Otis is a little nervous about coming inside, so Opal comforts him and thanks him for bringing the pickles. He takes a small step forward and then follows Opal into the party.
(The entire section is 424 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary
Otis follows Opal all the way into the back of the yard, where the party is taking place. After Opal takes Otis to the party, she introduces him to her father, who tries to shake Otis’s hand. The preacher sticks his hand out to greet Otis, but Otis is holding on to the pickle jar with both hands. Otis tries to free a hand by shuffling around the pickle jar, but it is just too big to manage with only one hand. Otis has to bend over to put down the big jar of pickles, and when he does, his guitar hits him on the head. Otis says, “Ouch!” but he is not hurt. Sweetie Pie laughs, thinking that Otis is just being funny to entertain the guests at the party. Otis wipes his hand on his pants and shakes the preacher’s hand. Opal’s father says it is a pleasure to meet Otis. Then Opal introduces Otis to Miss Franny and Amanda. When Opal introduces Otis to Gloria, the two look each other right in the eye and smile. Gloria compliments Otis for having brought pickles to the party; she thinks that pickles are just the right thing to go with egg salad sandwiches. Otis blushes when she compliments him.
Gloria then inquires about Dunlap and Stevie, the Dewberry boys, and Opal says she invited them to come but she does not know why they are late. Opal does not tell Gloria that when she asked them to come to the party, Stevie told her they may not come because they are afraid of being at a witch’s house.
Even though the Dunlap and Stevie are missing, Gloria decides to get the party started, so she asks the preacher to bless the food. All the guests pray for good blessings, and then Sweetie Pie asks if it is time to eat. Winn-Dixie sneezes, and Opal hears a low rumble of thunder in the distance. She convinces herself that it is just Winn-Dixie’s stomach growling, but Gloria heard the thunder too. Gloria says that there has been no prediction for rain that evening. Miss Franny is worried about her dress—it is silk and cannot get wet. Amanda suggests that they move the party inside, and the preacher looks up at the sky. But before any of them can move, the sky opens and the rain pours down on them.
(The entire section is 404 words.)
Chapter 23 Summary
After the rain starts, Gloria yells to Opal and tells her to save the sandwiches and punch from getting ruined by the rain. Sweetie Pie runs around the yard and tears the dog pictures off the trees and chairs. She yells that she has saved them all from being ruined. Opal grabs the tray of egg salad sandwiches, and her father grabs the bowl of punch; the two run into Gloria’s kitchen to store the items. Then Opal goes back outside and sees Amanda helping Miss Franny Block come into the house. Miss Franny’s high heels make her so unstable that it seems she would have tipped over without Amanda’s help. Following Amanda’s lead, Opal takes hold of Gloria’s arm to help her, but Gloria tells Opal that she is alright. Opal looks around the yard at the crepe paper streamers and the candles that have all been ruined by the rain. Opal then sees Otis, who is still in the yard being drenched by the rain as he looks down at the jar of pickles on the ground between his feet. Opal calls to Otis and tells him to come in from the rain. Inside the kitchen, Amanda and Miss Franny are laughing and shaking the water from their clothing. Everyone exclaims that the rain has just come out of nowhere.
At that moment, Gertrude the parrot squawks, “Dog,” and the thunder is really booming outside. Opal looks around the kitchen and worries because she does not see Winn-Dixie anywhere. Sweetie Pie tells Opal not to worry because she has rescued all the dog pictures from the yard. But Opal is not worried about the pictures—she is worried about Winn-Dixie. In her rush to save all the food from the rain, Opal has forgotten to protect Winn-Dixie from the thunder he fears. The preacher says that Winn-Dixie is probably just in the yard hiding from the thunderstorm, and he volunteers to go outside and have a look.
Gloria offers him a flashlight and an umbrella, but Opal does not want to wait for Gloria to get provisions, and she runs out of the kitchen into the yard. She looks everywhere, but Opal cannot find her dog. She blames herself and cries out of guilt. In the middle of the chaos, Dunlap and Stevie arrive, and Opal says she does not care that her guests are now present. Gloria scolds Opal. Dunlap offers to help Opal find Winn-Dixie, but she declines his help. Gloria reminds Opal that a person cannot hold on to something that wants to go, and she wishes Opal luck in her search. The preacher and Opal take to the street to find Winn-Dixie.
(The entire section is 453 words.)
Chapter 24 Summary
Opal and the preacher walk the streets and call Winn-Dixie’s name. Opal is glad it is raining so heavily because the noise drowns her crying. Even though they call his name loudly, Winn-Dixie does not appear. Opal and the preacher walk all around town: they go downtown, they walk past the Dewberrys’ house, the library, Sweetie Pie’s house, and Gertrude’s Pets. Opal and the preacher go back to their trailer park and search for Winn-Dixie, but he is not there either. Then they walk to the church and out past the railroad tracks. Opal and the preacher eventually find themselves on Highway 50, where cars rush past them. Opal fears that Winn-Dixie may have gotten run over, but the preacher tells her that they cannot worry about what might have happened and that they must keep looking for the dog.
As they search, Opal thinks about ten things that she knows about Winn-Dixie just in case she has to write a poster to tell other people about him. The first thing is that Winn-Dixie has a pathological fear of thunderstorms; the second is that the dog likes to smile. Third, Winn-Dixie can run fast; fourth, he snores when he sleeps. Five is that he can catch mice without hurting them, and six is that Winn-Dixie likes to meet new people. Seventh, he likes to eat peanut butter, and eighth, he does not like to be left alone. Ninth, Winn-Dixie likes to sit on the couch and sleep in Opal’s bed, and tenth, he does not mind going to church. Opal goes over this list in her head and memorizes it the same way she memorized the list about her mother. Opal figures that if she memorizes the list, then she will have something to hold on to if she cannot find Winn-Dixie. But then Opal thinks that the simple list does not even begin to characterize Winn-Dixie, and she realizes that the list she has memorized about her mother must not really characterize her either. Thinking about this makes Opal cry even more.
Opal and the preacher search for a long time, and then the preacher says they have to quit. Opal says they cannot leave Winn-Dixie out in the open, but the preacher insists that they have done all the looking they are able to do. Opal criticizes her father for wanting to give up the search, and the preacher tells her not to argue with him. By this time, the rain has gotten softer, and the preacher wants to head back to Gloria’s house. Opal screams that the preacher always gives up, just like he gave up on her mother. The preacher then...
(The entire section is 549 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary
Opal and the preacher walk back to Gloria’s house, and they hear music a block away. When they enter Gloria’s kitchen, they see Gloria and Miss Franny sitting around Otis, smiling and singing while he plays the guitar. Sweetie Pie is sitting in Gloria’s lap, and Amanda, Dunlap, and Stevie are sitting on the kitchen floor. All of them are singing and clapping and having a great time.
Opal is shocked that they are all so happy even though Winn-Dixie is missing. Opal shouts to everyone that she and the preacher were not able to find Winn-Dixie. Otis stops playing the guitar. Gloria looks at Opal and tells her that she already knows that Opal and the preacher did not find Winn-Dixie—he was right there in the kitchen all along. Gloria takes up her cane and pokes under her chair; she tells the dog to come out of hiding. Winn-Dixie snuffles under the chair. Gloria says Winn-Dixie is sleeping because he wore himself out being scared of the thunderstorm. Gloria pokes with her cane again, and Winn-Dixie comes out and yawns. Gertrude squawks, “Dog,” and Winn-Dixie smiles, wags his tail, and sneezes. Opal rushes past everyone, drops to the floor, and gives Winn-Dixie a big hug.
Opal asks Gloria how she found him, and Miss Franny says it is a long story. Gloria says that everyone was just sitting around waiting for Opal and the preacher to return. To pass the time, Gloria convinced the Dewberry boys that she is not a witch. Stevie confirms and looks disappointed that the myth is now over. Gloria says that when they were through with the “witchy” things, Miss Franny suggested they have some music while they wait. Otis played his guitar. Gloria says that Otis has a gift because he can play any song on his guitar just by listening to someone hum the tune. Gloria and Miss Franny brought up all the songs they knew as girls when suddenly someone sneezed. When they looked around, they could see that none of the people sneezed. At first they thought there might be a burglar in the house, but not finding one, they started singing again. Then they heard another sneeze. The sound came from the bedroom, so Gloria sent Otis in to check. He found Winn-Dixie hiding under the bed, but every time Otis played the guitar, Winn-Dixie forgot he was afraid and would smile and wag his tail. So Otis played, and Winn-Dixie eventually crept out from under the bed. When he got out, he was covered in dust like a ghost. When the storm stopped,...
(The entire section is 505 words.)
Chapter 26 Summary
The rain finally stops and the clouds disappear from the sky. Opal thinks the sky is so clear it seems like she can see every single star. She goes to the back of Gloria’s yard and looks up at the branches of Gloria’s mistake tree. Because there is no breeze, the bottles remain perfectly still and quiet. Opal looks from the tree to the sky, and she talks to her mother. She tells her mother she knows ten things about her and that ten things are just not enough. Opal then says she knows her father will eventually tell her more things because he has admitted that he thinks her mother is not coming back. Opal says both she and the preacher miss her mother, but her heart is no longer empty; she has filled her heart with the love of friends. She promises she will still think about her mother—just not as much as she has in the past.
When Opal is finished talking, she looks up at the sky and remembers the tree that Gloria helped her plant earlier in the summer. Opal has not looked at her tree in a long time. She crawls around the yard searching for the tree, and when she finds it, she is surprised by how much it has grown. The tree is still small and looks more like a plant than it does a tree, but it is strong.
While Opal is looking at her tree, Dunlap walks up and asks her if she is praying. Opal says she is just thinking. Dunlap asks her what she is thinking about, and she says she is thinking about all kinds of things. She apologizes to Dunlap for calling him and his brother “bald-headed babies.” Dunlap forgives her and says that Gloria told him to go into the yard to find Opal. She and Dunlap tease each other about Gloria and the “witchy” thing, and Dunlap asks Opal if she is ever going to get up. To Opal’s surprise, Dunlap offers her his hand, and she lets him pull her up from the ground. Dunlap says he will race Opal back to the house, and Opal warns him that she is fast. She beats him back to the house, and Amanda tells them they should not be running in the dark. Opal thinks about Amanda’s brother, Carson, and feels bad, so she takes Amanda’s hand and escorts her inside the house.
The preacher asks Opal if she will sing a song with him. Opal says that she does not know many songs, but the preacher says he will teach her one. Miss Franny passes around the bowl of Littmus Lozenges, and Winn-Dixie comes out from under Gloria’s chair. He sits down next to Opal and leans into her. All agree...
(The entire section is 518 words.)