Salvage the Bones

by Jesmyn Ward

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Chapter 8 Summary

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“The Eighth Day: Make Them Know”

The next morning, Junior tries to get Esch out of bed but she rolls away from him, feeling the hurt of the day before. Still he pesters her—Skeetah has said that Junior cannot go to the dog-fight unless Esch takes him. Esch gets up and Junior tells her that Randall made Daddy’s breakfast earlier that morning. In Daddy’s room, a map of the hurricane is on the television screen and two cans of beer are on the nightstand next to the bed. Junior follows Esch and she tells him that they can go see the dog-fight. Outside, Skeetah is bathing China, who recognizes her master. Randall is outside too, arguing with Skeetah about his behavior during the game. Skeetah says that Randall had no right to make an offer to Rico, but Randall says that Skeetah ruined his chances of getting into basketball camp so he did what was necessary. When Skeetah is done bathing China, she is blindingly white.

China leads the way on the trail through the woods until they reach a clearing that appears to be a dried-up pond. Many boys are there with their dogs. They smoke and ask each other questions about their dogs. Marquise introduces them to his cousin Jerome whose dog Boss will fight Kilo on China’s behalf. Boss is all black with a white muzzle, and he is huge. The dog’s hair is coarse and marred with scars from previous fights. On the other side of the clearing, Rico’s dog Kilo is straining at the leash and digging into the dirt. Jerome is confident that Boss is ready for the fight. The dog-masters leave the leashes in the hands of friends while they enter the circle of the clearing. Rico only intends for Kilo to fight Boss in the last match. Skeetah and China stand off to the side, surveying the clearing. Skeetah fought China when she turned one year old, and she often won by grabbing the throat of another dog and holding tight until the dog yelped. The other dogs appear to be afraid of her—none come over to sniff her or mouth her shoulder.

The first fight is quick and messy. The others continue until at last, it is Rico’s time to bring Kilo into the clearing. Jerome walks up with Boss and gets him ready. At the call, the two dogs barrel towards each other and clash in the middle. They rise on their hind legs and Boss gets the first bite. After a few more blows, Jerome yells, “Come on, son!” to urge Boss to win, but Boss thinks that his master is calling him back. When he retreats, Kilo jumps onto Boss’s back. The boys end the round and decide to have the dogs fight again to settle the score. But in the end, there is no clear winner as neither dog will submit. Rico claims that Kilo won the fight and demands that Skeetah give him the white puppy. Skeetah says that Rico has no right to call the fight and unhooks China’s chain.

Randall tries to dissuade Skeetah from fighting China because she is a new mother, but Skeetah will not listen to his reasoning. He pulls China aside and talks to her quietly in her ear, mumbling, “Make them know.” China and Kilo take their places at the edge of the clearing, and when Skeetah yells, “Go,” both dogs run. China is so fast that she meets Kilo before he can even get to the middle of the clearing. She grabs the back of his neck and rips at...

(This entire section contains 756 words.)

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the flesh. Rico calls for his dog to fend off the attack, and Kilo grabs China’s leg. Neither dog will let go, so the boys call them off. Rico wipes Kilo’s neck before the dogs fight a second round. The dogs bite at each other until finally, when the dogs are on their hind legs, Kilo swoops down and bites the nipple off one of China’s teats. He grabs hold of China and shakes her on the ground. Again, the boys call off the dogs. Rico thinks that he has a good chance of winning the fight as the dogs go into the third round. But this time, China is enraged, and when Kilo tries to bite her teat again, she snaps her jaws around his neck. Kilo screams loudly, marking the end of the fight and China as the winner.


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