Chapter 6

Summary

Sylvester, realizing the ridiculousness of his situation, begins to laugh. Cathy is at first offended by his reaction, but then begins to laugh too as Sylvester explains his outlandish situation. Gwendolyn apologizes for her lies, and the two of them begin to reconcile.

As Sylvester and Gwendolyn are laughing together on the floor, the concerned policeman, James, returns to make sure everything is okay. As he pulls up to the house, he sees Sylvester’s car parked crooked with the lights still on; the door is open and he mistakes Cathy’s laughter for crying

James bursts into the room and yells at Sylvester to freeze. Surprised, Sylvester pulls his gun out. After a brief argument, Sylvester puts his gun down at Gwendolyn’s insistence, but when James winks and smiles at him, he flies into a jealous rage. Sylvester tries to grab James’s gun, and the two of them become locked in struggle. The gun accidentally discharges.

Commentary

Literary Device: Chapter six is perhaps the literary height of the series, as Kelly masterfully toys with our expectations and provides visceral thrills and a chilling cliffhanger. What starts out as a rest to the turmoil quickly becomes the work’s most violent chapter; Kelly begins with reconciliation between husband and wife. For once, nobody is bickering or threatening each other, and we feel that the narrative might be winding down to a less tumultuous ending.

However, as soon as James returns to Sylvester’s house, we feel the impending dread of confrontation. We know that both men are armed, and bound to be jealous over Gwendolyn’s affections. For the first time in the series, an argument leads to significant physical struggle, leading to a climactic gunshot.

Glossary of Difficult Words and Phrases:

Sniggle: To engage in a method of eel fishing involving poking a baited hook into an eel's den.

Chapter 7

Summary

Sylvester and James stare in stunned silence; there's blood all over the room, and both are confused. Somebody has been shot, although it is yet unclear who. Sylvester and James begin to argue about who is responsible for the shooting, but Gwendolyn condemns both of them as guilty of it. It becomes clear that the man who has been shot is Twan, Gwendolyn’s brother, who has been recently released from prison.

Gwendolyn is understandably enraged because they have killed her brother. However, as the three continue to argue about who was responsible for the shooting, Twan begins to cough and wakes up. Much to everyone’s relief, he was merely shot in the shoulder, and his injury is not serious.

Twan goes to the bathroom and bandages his wound. As Sylvester tells him everything that happened, Twan says that he would have been better off in prison.

There’s a knock at the front door. Still agitated from the confrontation, James, Twan, and Sylvester bicker about who should answer the door. When Sylvester says that he’s reluctant to open another door, considering all the day’s outrageous happenings, James makes a snide remark about Sylvester’s masculinity. As the tension mounts once again, Twan grabs James's gun. Twan and Sylvester point their guns at the door and slowly open it, but it is only Rosie, the nosy neighbor, armed with a spatula.

Commentary

Literary Device: Kelly once again plays with tension and release, although the order is opposite from the last chapter. While the chapter starts shrouded in darkness, confusion, and violence, it ends with laughter and levity. As the violent confrontation that starts the chapter is exposed as a near-harmless accident, the chapter takes a lighter tone; luckily, Twan does not seem to blame Sylvester or James for his shooting, and amazingly, he seems to take it in stride. Just as Twan is cracking jokes, the knock at the door leads the reader to believe that another violent confrontation is imminent. When it’s revealed to be the spatula-bearing neighbor, Kelly once again loosens his grip on our emotions and lets us laugh.

Chapter seven also slyly comments on the melodrama of the series. Although Twan has been shot, he does not yell, argue, or act violently; many of the other characters in the story are prone to yelling and bickering at the slightest provocation. Kelly invites us to consider why an ex-convict could manage to remain so composed after being shot for practically no reason while other adults in the story constantly let their emotions run wild over comparatively minor offenses.

Glossary of Difficult Words and Phrases:

Freakin’ out: In a state of nervous panic.

We had a life until you butted up in it: You arranged your buttocks in a manner that provided a disservice to our marriage.

Put their ass on blast: Expose their ass to violence.

Chapter 8

Summary

James goes back to his car, intending to return home. He calls his wife, who tells him that she was concerned about his whereabouts. She tells him that she's baked him a pie and sounds happy that he's coming home.

Back at Sylvester's house, Rosie is explaining that she came to the house because the sound of gunfire had frightened her, and she wanted to see what was afoot. Sylvester and Twan laugh at Rosie’s hubris. Sylvester wonders aloud what she had planned to do with the spatula.

As James returns home, Bridget seems unpleasantly surprised that he arrived so soon. She is jittery, and blames her nervousness on premenstrual syndrome. She tries to lead him upstairs, but he goes to the kitchen to heat up some chicken he bought for lunch. As Bridget paces nervously around the kitchen, James becomes concerned that she is hiding something. He becomes extremely agitated and threatens to shoot someone. The narrator informs us that there is indeed another man hiding in James’s home.

Commentary

Literary Device: Kelly provides Bridget with a quaint, friendly Southern voice, which suggests an innocent and homely woman. Her offer of fresh cherry pie is both a symbol of domestic bliss and a suggestion of purity and chastity. We are presented with a character who, at first glance, seems sweetly immune to the adultery and lies that the other characters in the story are so often guilty of.

The notion of simple domesticity is shattered almost as soon as James arrives home; although Bridget is affectionate, it is apparent that she is protecting a dark secret. Her nervousness is reminiscent of Cathy’s nervousness in front of Rufus when Sylvester was hiding in the closet, so the listener immediately shares James’s suspicion. James is still agitated from confrontation with Sylvester and Twan, and the violence spills over into his home when he threatens his wife.

Glossary of Difficult Words and Phrases:

[Rosie is] a G no doubt: Rosie is obviously a member of a street gang.

That time of the month: The menstrual period.

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