Eliza, saying the kitchen is plagued with flies, sends Mattie out to the back garden to clip asparagus to ward them off. Mattie does so, noting how poor the garden looks, even with her watering. She cuts a bunch of asparagus and ties it with twine. Back in the kitchen, she hangs the bunch from an iron hook in the ceiling. This supposedly will repel the flies.
It is not clear if this remedy actually works or is an old wives' tale. However, offering it as a solution points to the real world ways people coped with summer pests, like insects, in the days far before chemical pesticides became common. Even if hanging asparagus does nothing about the flies, Eliza and Mattie have the feeling they are combatting this problem.
At this point in the story, flies are gathering because it is very hot and more and more people are dying. Wealthy families are starting to flee the city. Cannons are fired under the premise that they will clear the air. Mattie notes that fewer and fewer customers are coming into their coffee shop.
As the heat wave rages, Mattie and Eliza discuss the plague. Mattie tells Eliza that Grandfather says it will soon pass, while Eliza tells Mattie she is off to a meeting about it.