Chapter 28 Summary
After she hangs up the phone, Skeeter notices the doctor’s car in their driveway and waits for him to come from her mother’s room. He looks at her and seems to be taking her measure, and then he tells Skeeter her mother has cancer in the lining of her stomach. It is both shocking and familiar news. Her mother refuses to stay in the hospital, so the next few months might get very difficult for the family. Skeeter is appalled at the idea that her mother might live only two months, but her mother is a fighter and is likely to outlive that prognosis. As soon as Skeeter enters the room, her mother knows the doctor has told her and tells her to stop crying. Life will go on. Carlton will become a lawyer, and she is going to make Skeeter’s hair appointments until 1975 so she will not be able to “let herself go.”
The Christmas tree is already dropping its needles, and there are only a few gifts under it. Now that everyone knows, Missus Phelan no longer has to maintain a pretense of strength. She only gets up for a few minutes each day, though the doctor did start her on a new medicine. Pascagoula brings her food but she is not hungry. It is just not the same as when Constantine was here, she says. Getting good help is like falling in love—“you only get one in a lifetime.” Skeeter wants to add that to the book until she remembers the book has been mailed. The only thing left for any of them to do is wait for what is to come.
Carlton comes home for Christmas and is stunned at the deterioration in his mother’s health. The doctor says she should be in the hospital, but she once again refuses. Stuart stops by on Christmas Day; Skeeter lets him kiss her but only because her mother is dying, she says.
It is New Year’s Eve, and Skeeter has put away the Christmas decorations; she has tried to wrap each ornament the way her mother likes. She has heard nothing from Elaine Stein and does not even know if the manuscript arrived in time. Last night Skeeter called Aibileen just for the relief of being able to talk about it with someone; Aibileen says she keeps thinking of more things to add, forgetting the book has already been sent.
When Skeeter goes in to check on her mother, she is pleased to see she has not been vomiting as she usually does. Mrs. Phelan is appalled at the pants her daughter is wearing and adds them to the “Do Not Wear” list she started once she realized Skeeter would be without her guidance for fashion after she dies. (She keeps the list under her pillow.) Even from the grave, her mother will be telling her what to wear.
On New Year’s Eve, Skeeter cooks the black-eyed peas (for luck) just the way Pascagoula showed her. Carlton has left with the promise to call tomorrow. When Skeeter calls her father in for lunch, she finds him staring into the empty fields, looking gaunt even when he smiles. He is hopeful that the new medicine is working. Skeeter tries to tell him that the medicine is not curing the cancer, but he is not listening. He tells his daughter he is thankful she has chosen to be here with them at this time; Skeeter feels guilty that he thinks it is a choice but says she is glad she is here.
Skeeter has given in and resigned from the League. She finds herself praying for her mother to “have some relief,” for some news about the book, and for wisdom about what to do about Stuart. The doctor visits and assures Skeeter that this new-found vigor of her mother’s is not uncommon; it is a gift the dying are often given so they can finish their earthly business. On Friday, Skeeter can wait no longer and calls Harper & Row. She talks to a secretary who can confirm that her manuscript was received sometime over the holidays but can give no more information.
She and Stuart have been seeing each other once a week, and they do not talk about anything serious. Tonight, though, he tells her he does not care what people in town are saying about her and about the trick she played on Hilly. Skeeter...
(The entire section is 1,493 words.)