Salvage the Bones

by Jesmyn Ward

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Chapter 6 Summary

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"The Sixth Day: A Steady Hand"

Daddy is outside knocking down what is left of the chicken coop. Skeetah spent the night in the shed after he and Daddy fought last night, and Esch is sitting on the sofa waiting for Skeetah to come inside through the front door to avoid seeing Daddy in the back yard. While she waits, Esch sneaks into the bathroom to devour cans of Vienna sausages from the hurricane stockpile. Eventually she gets tired of waiting and goes out to the shed. China rests her head on her paws while the puppies suckle, and Skeetah says that he knows something is wrong with the dog because she is being so mild-tempered. Esch assures him that Manny gave him the right advice about the wormer and suggests that he go inside to bathe. After some hesitation, Skeetah decides to go and asks her to watch the dogs. Junior creeps into the shed, fascinated with the puppies. Even though Esch warns him away, Junior gets close enough to grab one of the puppies. Esch grips one of his arms and digs her nails into his flesh until he cries and drops the puppy. She apologizes and promises to take him to play in the park.

When Skeetah returns, he puts the puppies in a box and forces China to her feet. She is shaking, but Skeetah says that she needs to walk, so he puts her on her leash and practically drags her down the street. Esch runs to catch up to them, and Junior follows on his bicycle. They walk to the park where Manny is playing basketball—watching from the stands are his girlfriend Shaliyah and her cousin Felicia. Randall and his friends are on the court too, and Esch sits in the grass on the outside of the court. Skeetah runs China around the track while the others continue to play basketball. When the game is over, Manny goes to the stands to flirt with Shaliyah, and Big Henry walks over to Esch to ask her if she wants to sit in his car, which is parked in the shade. When the sun begins to set, Big Henry piles everyone else into the car, and he drives them home following Skeetah and China.

At home, the puppies are whining for milk, and Daddy is still trying to dismantle the chicken coop. He screams for Randall to help. The storm now has a name—“Katrina”—and Daddy says they must be ready. He tells Randall to get inside the tractor to drive while he directs him towards the coop. In the shed, China lies down exhausted, but Skeetah says that she must eat and shoves a bowl of food in her direction. The puppies creep towards her to suckle, and when the red one gets near her food bowl, she grimaces. When the puppy gets near her teat, she grabs it and whips it through the air. She flings it into the tin wall of the shed, and the puppy falls to the ground in a slump as Skeetah cries, “No!” Outside, Randall has put the tractor into gear, and Daddy also yells, “No!” He pulls his hand from the tractor; blood is everywhere. Three of his fingers have been sheared away.

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