Salvage the Bones

by Jesmyn Ward

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Chapter 3 Summary

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“The Third Day: Sickness in the Dirt”

Esch tries hard to sleep, but the truth of her pregnancy keeps her awake. Right now, pregnancy means vomiting from the minute Esch wakes up in the morning. She hugs the toilet while her brothers scream at her from outside the bathroom door. She tells them that she is shaving her legs and hopes that they do not notice her condition. Esch goes back to bed, and her father never sends one of her brothers to wake her so that she can prepare the family for the hurricane. She wonders what all the men are up to this morning. Then Skeetah appears in the door, and Esch knows that something is wrong. She follows him out to the shed, where one of the puppies is not eating with the rest. Skeetah tries to move the puppy closer to China so that it can nurse, but China growls and bites at the puppy. Esch says that the mother must know that something is wrong, and Skeetah suspects that the puppy has picked up parvo. Skeetah decides to separate the puppy from the rest of the litter to protect the healthy ones, and he asks Esch if she will help him when the time comes. Esch agrees. Skeetah steals some of the hurricane provisions from the kitchen and packs them for the night’s trip into the woods to kill and bury the puppy.

Skeetah, Randall, and Esch enter the woods and find the makeshift barbecue pit that they made when they were younger. They set out supplies, and Skeetah decides that they need more food, so he shoots a squirrel with his BB gun. Randall refuses to clean the squirrel, so Skeetah does, but he accidentally nips the intestines. The smell forces Esch into the bushes to vomit. While the meat is cooking, Marquise, Big Henry, and Manny arrive. Esch comments that Skeetah never named the puppy, so he tells her to give it a name. She chooses Nella. Manny says that they should kill the puppy now to save it from suffering. Skeetah grabs the puppy’s head and twists, swiftly breaking its neck the way his mother used to kill chickens.

Afterward, Skeetah takes off his clothes and gets into the water of the Pit to wash the contamination off him. The others soon follow. Naked in the water, Manny approaches Esch, takes her hand and puts it on his penis. Esch looks at his lips and wonders why he never kisses her the way she has seen him kiss another girl. With her other hand, she reaches for his chest, but Manny pulls away. He says her name like he is disappointed, asks her if she is crazy, and tells her that things are not that way. Esch is hurt, and all she can think of is how she has always loved Manny. She knows that the baby is his because she has not slept with any of the other boys since him. Then, all get out of the water and dress, except Skeetah. He leads the way home naked.

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