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.