“The Seventh Day: Game Dogs and Game Men”
All the kids except Skeetah get into Big Henry’s car to go to the hospital. Daddy sits in the front seat, his hand wrapped in a blood-soaked towel. When the nurse sees the stream of blood from Daddy’s hand, she asks him his name and whisks him away in a wheelchair. At three o’clock in the morning, Randall and Daddy come down the hall; Daddy’s eyes are glazed like they are when he is drunk. His hand is wrapped in gauze and tape. At home, Daddy sleeps like he has not slept since Mama died. Esch takes soup and crackers into his room; he nibbles the crackers while watching television. Daddy then asks Esch to play with the antenna, and soon they are able to watch the local news station that reports Katrina’s landfall in Florida. Around the room are family pictures that have been up ever since Mama was still alive, and on the television, the reporter says that preparation for the storm is key. Outside, Esch can hear Skeetah and China coming through the woods. China howls and all the other dogs in the area howl with her.
Randall’s basketball game is today, and he is outside dribbling the ball and bouncing it against the house. China is barking, and when Skeetah comes inside, he says that China has forgotten that he is her master. He has placed her on a chain and says that he will leave her there until she figures it out. Later, Big Henry and Marquise arrive to drive everyone to the game. Big Henry asks Esch if she thinks that Randall is ready, and she tells him that her brother has been practicing all day. Daddy is asleep when they leave for the game, and Esch leaves him water and crackers.
The gymnasium at St. Catherine’s Elementary School is dark when they arrive, and Randall goes onto the court to practice drills. Junior wants to go to the concession stand, so Big Henry gives him some money. He asks Esch if she wants something too, but she says that she just needs to go to the bathroom. On her way out, Esch bumps into Manny’s cousin, Rico. Manny and Shaliyah are also there, looking fresh from the barbershop. Esch veers around them and runs to the bathroom. Inside, Esch takes the farthest stall and cries while sitting with her face pressed against her knees. When she opens the stall door, Manny is standing inside the bathroom. He says that he has been thinking about her before he pushes Esch back into the stall. He then takes off her shorts and underwear and pulls her down to straddle him. She grabs his face and forces Manny to look at her. He caresses her body until his hands fall on the swell of her stomach. Now he knows. Manny curses and throws Esch off of him. She hits the stall door and slumps onto the ground, and Manny flees the bathroom. Esch sits on the floor and cries.
Big Henry sends Junior to the bathroom to check on Esch, and she returns to the game. She realizes that Manny, Shaliyah, and Rico are sitting only a few seats in front of them. Skeetah curses Manny from the bleachers, and Rico gets up to talk to Skeetah about the puppies that his dog Kilo sired with China. Rico wants to stake his claim, but Skeetah tells him that he has no right to any of the puppies. Manny gets up to intervene, but Skeetah is angry and punches Rico. The brawl spills to the gym floor, and the coach blows his whistle and tells Randall to leave with his people. Rico says that they will finish the fight at the dog-fights—Marquise’s cousin’s dog Boss will stand in for China. Skeetah agrees to let Rico have the puppy of his choice if his dog Kilo wins the fight.