Salvage the Bones

by Jesmyn Ward

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Chapter 9 Summary

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“The Ninth Day: Hurricane Eclipse”

Esch is woken by the sound of Daddy vomiting in the bathroom. He calls for Randall who is still in his bed. Skeetah is not in the room though. After the dog fight, Skeetah cleaned and treated China’s wounds and must have slept outside in the shed with her. In the bathroom, Daddy tells Randall that he is sick and needs to stay by the toilet, but Randall and Esch carry him back to bed and promise to put a garbage pail next to the bed. Randall searches for Daddy’s medicine and asks him if his hand hurts. Randall tells Daddy that he is not supposed to drink while on his pain medication and antibiotics, but Daddy shakes his head and says that beer is not really like drinking alcohol. He insists that he needs to get the house ready for the hurricane, but Randall says that the kids will take care of the preparations.

Today, the wind is gusting stronger than it has before. Esch goes out to Daddy’s truck and finds a flashlight, drill, hammer, and nails. Skeetah comes out of the shed and says that he cannot help because he needs to keep an eye on China. Randall has turned on the truck’s radio and a news announcer says that Hurricane Katrina has now become a category 3 storm and is scheduled to make landfall in Louisiana sometime Monday morning. Skeetah says that he needs to go to the store for more supplies, and Randall tells him to pick up canned food while he is there. Randall tells Skeetah that they need his help, but Big Henry is already on the way.

Esch needs Junior to pick the nails out of the bin with his small fingers, but he is nowhere to be found. Inside, Esch finds him standing in front of Daddy’s bed. Junior says that Daddy was not breathing. Esch drags Junior down the hall and asks him what he was doing. Junior says that he knows all about Daddy’s sickness, his hand, the beer, and the medicine. Then he tells Esch that he found Daddy’s wedding ring and flings it across the hallway. Junior runs and hides under the house. When Randall finds him, Junior wails that the ring was no longer any good for Daddy and that he wanted to keep it to remind him of his mother. When Randall and Esch tell Skeetah what Junior has done, he laughs and says that his little brother is wild. Esch has put the ring in her top drawer to keep it safe.

The kids busy themselves with carrying out Daddy’s instructions:

"Cover the windows." Junior holds the nails in his shirt while Esch and Randall match boards to the windows of the house. Randall hammers in the nails, and in the process, smashes two of his fingers.

"Bring the jugs of water in." Junior and Esch carry in the glass jugs of water that they have filled. They clean the dust off the bottles with a rag.

"Fill my gas tank." Randall drives Daddy’s truck to the gas station, and Esch looks at the rugs that her mother fit in the cab to cover the hot upholstery.

"Cook whatever’s in the ‘frigerator." Esch cooks the eggs and bologna that are left in the refrigerator and Randall and Junior drink what is left of the milk.

"Park my truck in the clearing by the pit." Randall drives the truck through the woods, and the chickens scatter. He parks the truck by the makeshift grill.

"Get the cheapest you can get." At the grocery store, Skeetah has spent money on supplies for China and has only brought back canned peas and a dozen packs of Top Ramen for the family. Randall is angry, but Skeetah says that the store had been wiped out of food. Skeetah says that they still have dog food, but Randall says that none of them are dogs.

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