The Plague of Doves

by Louise Erdrich

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The 4-B’s Summary

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Last Updated on February 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 483

Evelina now resumes her role as narrator. She is working at the 4-B’s when she sees Marn, whom she knows from last summer’s waitressing, arrive in a Chevy with two children. Later, Evelina will hear rumors that Marn murdered Billy Peace, but that day she simply sets the table and gives crayons to the kids.

When the food arrives, Marn seasons the children’s food for them, and they all begin eating very fast. Then they order dessert. Marn makes the desserts huge, despite comments from Earl, the manager. Uncle Whitey, now married to Earl’s sister, tells Earl to shut up, which he enjoys doing now that Earl cannot fire him. He points out that the children look as if they'd never eaten dessert before.

Earl comes out and offers Marn her old job back. She agrees at once but says she has come to town looking for Coutts, the lawyer. She wants her land back to start a snake ranch. 

At this moment, a blond woman comes in, shouting “Defilement!” Marn recognizes the woman as Bliss, and she pushes the children under the table, then gets up, steak knife in one hand and hammer in the other.

When Bliss begins accusing Marn of murdering Billy and stealing money, Earl tells her she is out of line. Bliss and Marn face each other until Bliss crashes forward, grabs the hand holding the hammer, and twists Marn’s wrist. In the scuffle that ensues, Marn drops the hammer, but her knife enters Bliss’s coat, locking the pair together. Next, the knife goes into Bliss, but only slightly. Meanwhile, there are broken ketchup bottles all over the floor.

Bliss turns and walks out of the door, shaking. Earl tries to fire Evelina for stacking the ketchup bottles so poorly. Marn says she won't work if Evelina is fired. So, together, they help the children back into the booth and begin wiping up the ketchup.

Marn is brooding in the booth, her children still eating pie, when Mama drops Mooshum off at the restaurant. Evelina brings Mooshum his pie, and today they share it three ways, Evelina, Mooshum, and Marn.

Evelina tells Marn that she intends to go to university to study French and shows off her Berlitz book. Mooshum proudly tells Marn that Evelina is descended from royalty, related to Marie Antoinette herself. Evelina explains that Mooshum has picked this up from Mormons who are trying to convert him.

Evelina tells Marn that they will split the working hours, and Marn can have first pick. Mooshum asks about the snake ranch and then says Marn should come and live with them for a while. They can all go together to visit Geraldine, and Judge Coutts will be there. 

Marn laughs, but she is spooked that Mooshum knows about the snakes. Mooshum says the old women talk about her and know everything.

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