Chapter 12 Summary

After a grueling ten-hour bus ride, Dolores arrives at Merton College and her dorm. Something is amiss though. The parking lot is empty, and there is not a soul to be seen. For a few minutes, she entertains fantasies of the college having shut down. She decides to tap on the glass of her dorm building and is surprised when a cleaning woman comes to the door.

The cleaning woman wants to know what Dolores is doing there so early. She says students are not expected for another week. Dolores is incredulous. She is certain she has the right date. She hurriedly paws through her suitcase in order to find the letter from Merton to prove herself in the right. Of course, it is she who is mistaken. The date she mistook for her arrival date on the letter was actually a payment due date.

Forlorn, Dolores has no idea what to do. She cannot expect any buses to be running back to her hometown at that late hour. The cleaning lady does not want to let her in, but finally agrees that she can spend the night as long as she does not turn on any lights. Dolores thinks about her mother’s dahlias that did not survive their transplant when her father decided to put in the pool. Dolores feels fairly sure that she, like those flowers, also will not make it through the move.

In the dark, Dolores is convinced that she has made a terrible mistake and questions Ruthie’s advice to try new adventures. She tries to read by flashlight and consumes vending machine food until she finally falls asleep on her lumpy mattress.

As she slumbers, Dolores dreams of a fish that can speak. The fish tells her to follow and dives into the water. Dolores obeys; somehow, she knows the fish is her mother.

Dolores is pulled from her reverie by the persistent ringing of a phone. Groggily, she stumbles to the hall and answers it. The caller is Dottie, the cleaning woman who admitted her into the dorm. She tells Dolores she will bring them both some breakfast.

In the morning, over day-old pastries, Dottie tries her best to bond with Dolores. She too is lonely. She too is overweight. Dottie wants very much for Dolores to be her friend. For Dolores, the fact that her weight is an attraction rather than a repulsion is something new. Dottie invites Dolores to her house for dinner and to see her fish. She wipes some of the frosting from a donut off of Dolores’s chin and licks her finger.