Salvage the Bones

Salvage the Bones Summary and Analysis of Chapter 7


On the drive to the hospital, Daddy’s breathing reminds Esch of China’s puppies. Junior, Big Henry, Randall, Daddy, and Esch are crammed into the car, and when they arrive, the older boys half-drag Daddy into the doors of the emergency room. Eventually, Daddy is released; Esch notices his eyes are glazed as if he’s drunk, but he’s more subdued than usual. In the morning, Daddy and Randall sleep in late. Esch only remembers her father oversleeping immediately after her mother died, when he was drinking himself to sleep.

Esch wonders where Skeetah is. He stayed home when they took Daddy to the hospital and apparently separated China from her puppies using a piece of Mama Lizbeth and Papa Joseph’s tin roof, blocking China from the shed. Both he and China are nowhere to be found.

Later, Esch brings Daddy chicken noodle soup to eat in bed and watches the news with him on an old television with a poor reception. Over the static, they hear bits and pieces of the weather report on Hurricane Katrina, which, according to the news anchors, could force the government to issue an order for mandatory evacuation. Esch is more interested in the old Polaroids scattered throughout Daddy’s room: pictures of the family, including Mama. Esch wishes she could take them all to her room and “fit them together like a jumbo puzzle” (136).

Outside, Esch hears China wheezing, but she cannot see her. Somewhere in the woods, other dogs bark seemingly in answer to China, but a sharp bark from her silences them all.

In the bathroom mirror, Esch pins her hair back using bobby pins that belonged to Mama. Outside the window, Randall prepares for his basketball game later in the day. Skeetah enters the bathroom, stinking of dog, pine needles, and spoiled milk. He seems lost in his own reverie, and as he prepares to shower, he mysteriously tells Esch that China “forgot” who he was when she killed her own puppy. He vows to keep her tied up “as long as it takes” (138).

Ready to leave for Randall’s game, Big Henry waits with Marquise in the front yard, where Marquise rolls a blunt. Marquise flirts with Esch; Big Henry defends her, but she grows uncomfortable when she sees Big Henry looking at her too intently. In the car, Skeetah and Marquise take hits from the blunt, and Randall concentrates in preparation for the game.

Esch daydreams, recalling that the elementary school hosting the game used to be the “black school for the district before the schools were desegregated in 1969, after the last big hurricane” (140). This is when Mama and Daddy fell in love, as both attended the same school. Daddy pulled Mama’s pigtails until she punched him, after which he began leaving her presents, like pecan candy and blackberries.

Randall’s siblings and friends sit at the top of the bleachers, and Junior runs off to buy something from the concession stand with Big Henry’s money. Skeetah is relaxed, and Esch realizes he’s high. She leaves to use the bathroom.

Reaching the bottom of the bleachers, Esch accidentally bumps into Manny, Shaliyah, and Rico. Rico is Manny’s cousin and the owner of Kilo, who impregnated China. Stunned, Esch rushes past them to the bathroom, located in a building separate from the school.

Inside the bathroom, Esch panics and rests her head on her ballooning stomach. She leaves the stall, but sees Manny closing the bathroom door behind her. Suddenly, they’re having sex, during which Esch grabs Manny’s face, forcing him to look at her directly like he never has before. He obeys and begins to feel the rest of her body, but his hands rest on her stomach, and he realizes she’s pregnant. Cursing, he pushes—nearly throws—Esch away and leaves.

After several repetitions of crying and washing her face, Esch finally leaves the bathroom, accompanied by Junior, whom Big Henry sent to check on her. When she reaches the bleachers, Skeetah notices her distress and guesses the cause, swearing at Manny and slapping the bleachers. Rico notices the sound and approaches Skeetah cockily.

Rico asserts that he expects Skeetah to give him half of China’s litter, since his dog helped to breed them. Skeetah reveals that half of the litter is dead, bragging that China killed the puppy most resembling Kilo. Verbally sparring, the boys’ dynamic escalates, and Manny approaches. Eventually, Skeetah strikes Rico, and a real fight breaks out amongst the boys. Junior and Esch distance themselves from the action. As the fight begins to disrupt the basketball game, the referee tells Randall to leave with “[his] people” (150).

Outside the school, Rico and Skeetah agree to fight China and Kilo the following day. If Kilo wins, Rico will get to take any of the puppies he likes.


In this chapter, Esch begins to see the hurricane’s shape in her own familiar environment, which she continues to describe using simile. When Esch and Daddy watch the news on a TV with a fuzzy reception, she compares the hurricane in the meteorologist’s illustration to “an oil stain,” an image that we see in the previous chapter when Daddy stains his shirt with oil trying to fix his tractor (135). Later, when a fight erupts between Skeetah and Rico, Esch narrates that the spectators usher the boys out of the gym “in the kind of frothing waves we only get before hurricanes” (150). Even the toilet flush reminds Esch of a “baby storm” (146). As the hurricane approaches, Esch becomes increasingly vulnerable to transplanting this imagery of the storm onto the world around her, foreshadowing the real storm itself.

Esch also builds on the notion that her environment is a living, breathing—perhaps even rotting—thing in this chapter. When Esch wakes up, she notices “all the fans...blowing at all of the windows, so the house hums as if it is alive” (133). This expands on existing imagery of Esch’s house and the surrounding property as rotting carcasses or animal bones.

Esch extends this imagery of decay to her own family, likening Skeetah and her father to rotting food. “Skeetah is a smell before I see him,” she narrates, “the oily sweat of dog, pine needles growing green, and an unwashed stink like milk set too long out in a hot kitchen” (137). This is the second time we see the image of boiled milk, as Esch compared the smell of the dump truck just after she lost her virginity there earlier. Later, “he peels his socks away like banana peels, and the smell of him is rotten” (138). She also says that Daddy’s neck is “stringy and long as a cooked turkey’s” (131). In this way, Esch extends the notion of a rotting environment to her loved ones, perhaps foreshadowing the destruction to come.

Esch also continues to reference Biblical allegory and myth in this chapter, this time alluding to the story of Lot’s wife. Remembering Marquise’s expression after he took her virginity, she narrates, “he threw that smile like salt over the shoulder” (139). While this certainly builds on existing motifs of fortune telling and luck (i.e. throwing salt over one’s shoulder for good luck), it also alludes to the Biblical story of Lot’s wife, who could not resist turning back to witness the destruction of Sodom, and whom God consequently turned into a pillar of salt. This also ties into Esch's earlier allusion to Eurydice, whose myth likewise involves the trope of looking backwards and suffering the consequences. In constantly summoning these myths and allegories, Esch develops motifs of death, transformation, and apocalypse, as well as the idea that love often invites chaos.

Impending death and violence continues to play out as a major motif of the novel. At the basketball game, Esch notices Skeetah is high; he “swallows and his Adam’s apple slides like a mouse down the gullet of a snake” (142). Later, when Manny throws Esch off of his lap in the bathroom, Esch smells “the salt of marsh mud, like tadpoles dying in their shrinking shallows,” imagery that we see earlier in the novel when Skeetah tells Randall that the water moccasins in the Pit water will avoid him because he smells like death (146). Here, it is not only Skeetah’s body that foretells death, but Esch’s, too. Death permeates Esch’s environment to such an extent that it becomes a part of her environment’s smell, even her own body’s smell. This builds on existing imagery foreshadowing the chaos and destruction of Hurricane Katrina.