Tom meets Bernard, Susan’s son, in Central Park. Bernard is mouthy and disrespectful. Tom tries to be nice but realizes he must be tough with Bernard. Tom tells Bernard that he is not worth a shit. Tom and Bernard go back and forth until Tom tells Bernard that he knows no one likes him and that he has no friends. Bernard cries. Bernard tells Tom that his parents will not be happy to hear how Tom treated him.
Bernard finally breaks down. He tells Tom that he never even played football the year before. He was only the equipment manager. Bernard asks Tom to help him. Tom agrees.
Thus far in the novel, we have seen Tom (the grownup) as a hapless failure of sorts: his marriage is falling apart; his family is a mess; he has lost his job. In this chapter, the reader experiences a new side of Tom. He is a talented coach.
The reader should note that the last chapter contained a character much like Bernard Woodruff--Todd Newbury. Tom has experience with this type of person. The relationship between Reese and Todd in chapter 10 foreshadows the relationship between Bernard and his father, Herbert. Like Todd, Bernard feels like he is not good enough for his father. Todd complains that he is not handsome or strong like his father. Similarly, Bernard cannot compete with Herbert’s prowess with the violin. Finally, the reader should note that Tom has remained a man of integrity. He only uses harsh words to break Bernard in order to help him. Once Bernard lets down his guard, Tom is committed to making him a better football player as well as a better man.
This chapter opens with discussion of Lila Wingo. Tom says she was never quite a completed person; she was always making herself over. She grew up in the mountains of Georgia with a mean father who died of cirrhosis of the liver when she was twelve. Her mother worked nights in a textile factory and died of brown lung when Lila was sixteen. (Lila lied about her parents, saying they died in a fire--as we saw in a previous chapter). Shortly after, Lila moved to Atlanta, met Henry and married him.
Lila had always wanted to join the Colleton League, a social group to which the most prestigious women in Colleton belonged. One year they invited all the women in the town to submit recipes for consideration for the annual cookbook. All summer Lila tried out new and exotic dishes on her family in hopes that she would discover something extraordinary to submit. Henry consistently complained that he wanted basic American food. One night the family sat down to a meal Lila had been working on all day. Henry complained as usual, and an argument broke out. Luke tried to stick up for his mother and Henry slapped him; then Henry demanded that Lila bring him some "real" meat. Lila went to the kitchen and combined some dog food with various spices. Henry ate it without ever realizing.
Lila finally made an amazing dinner that everyone loved; they all agreed that was the recipe she should submit. Shortly after mailing the recipe, Lila received a curt letter from Isabel Newbury saying the dish, Canard Sauvage de Casa de Wingo,” was too exotic for their cookbook. She asked what recipe book Lila copied it from.
That winter a bad season came upon the Wingo family. A terrible cold befell South Carolina and no shrimp were to be had in the sea. The children pitched in by setting crab traps and selling the crabs. They became very skilled and were able to contribute financially to their family. Still, money continued to be a problem. The following September their electricity was turned off. The night before Thanksgiving Isabel Newbury as well as some women from the Colleton League brought a turkey to the Wingo home. When Isabel came to the door Lila told her there must be a mistake, her family was doing fine. Isabel asked Lila to turn a light on because it was too gloomy. Luke told them to get out of his mother’s house. Isabel asked again for Lila to turn on a light. Lila told her to leave. The women left the frozen turkey on the Wingo’s lawn. With tears in her eyes, Lila loaded a shotgun and destroyed the turkey.
That December Savannah read in the social column of the newspaper that the Newburys were going to Barbados for their annual winter vacation. Late one night, while the Newburys were away, Luke, Savannah and Tom went to their house. They placed a giant dead turtle in Reese and Isabel’s bed. Before they left, they turned the heat all the way up. The Newburys could not live in their house for six months because the stench was so horrible. For Lila’s birthday Savannah gave Lila a copy of the Colleton League’s cookbook. She wrote out Lila’s recipe on the last page. She also included the recipe “Loggerhead Turtle Chez Newbury”--alerting Lila of their culpability in the incident. At first Lila was very angry, and then she began giggling and was very thankful.
This chapter shows how Lila Wingo suffered most of her life, believing she was worth more than her station in life allotted. She lied to everyone, including her children, about her past. She was very beautiful but was stuck being a shrimper’s wife.
This chapter also shows the nuances of Southern society. Even though Lila’s recipe was better than the rest, it was not acceptable because she was not acceptable. Furthermore, Conroy illustrates the very subtle ways Isabel Newbury and the other women insult Lila. In her rejection letter Isabel pretended to praise Lila, but added the P.S. asking where Lila copied the recipe--insinuating that she was incapable of making the dish herself. We see this malevolent behavior again when the women bring the turkey to the Wingo’s home. While this action appears magnanimous, it is a subtle way of insulting Lila. This is obvious when Isabel repeatedly asks Lila to turn on the lights. Isabel presumably has heard the Wingos have had their electricity shut off.