Chapter 5 Summary

On Saturday morning, Brigitte goes to the home of a man called the Captain to pick up some food. Lucky decides to use the time alone to check the contents of her survival backpack. As she begins laying out her supplies, she hears a sound like a squealing pig outside her door. Lucky knows it is not a pig. It is Miles, a five-year-old boy who likes to make funny noises. She calls out to him through the door, offering him a deal: she will tell him one story about Hard Pan in the old days if he agrees not to make weird noises while she talks, and if he goes home right afterward.

Miles spends most of his time wandering around town making noises, demanding that people read Are You My Mother out loud, and asking people for cookies. He trades Lucky half a slice of banana nut bread for a Fig Newton, and she tells him a little about her survival kit. She does not carry a map because she figures if she needs the kit, she will be lost, and a map will not help. Instead she carries things that will be useful if she is alone, such as scientific equipment and a good book.

As Miles eats his cookie, Lucky tells him a story. She says that when she was five or six years old, she and HMS Beagle and a burro named Chesterfield moved into some old dugout caves beyond the edge of town. Hard Pan was still a mining town “with hundreds of people” at the time, so Lucky got a job as a dynamiter because she was small and quick. One day a beam fell down on top of her, and she sent HMS Beagle to get Chesterfield to pull her out. Chesterfield helped her just in time and became the hero of the day. Some time later, Chesterfield—who was a girl burro—decided to go live in the wild and have a baby. But she still sometimes appears to people who get in trouble in the desert, and she lets them ride her to safety.

During the story, Miles forgets Lucky’s rules and makes several silly noises. Then he begs her to read Are You My Mother out loud. Lucky is sick of this story, having read it to him many times already. She says no and tells him he has to leave. Sometimes she cannot help being mean to Miles in this way, and he seems near tears at being kicked out. Lucky then hears Brigitte’s car and relents. She offers to let him stay and listen to Brigitte tell the story of how she came to Hard Pan.