This chapter begins with Tom going off to college. Luke’s new shrimp boat, Miss Savannah, was catching more shrimp than his father’s boat. Savannah would shortly leave for New York City, although her parents wanted her to stay in Colleton until she had her head on straight.
Tom’s college football coach was not very impressed with Tom’s skills, and told him he could not play quarterback. He was assigned the position of defensive safety. Tom played with all of his might and made all conference his senior year.
Tom decided he wanted to be in a fraternity. He really enjoyed the rush process. Tom went to all of the events and liked the brothers. When bids came, he did not get any. Tom found out from his roommate that the fraternities did not take him seriously since he wore the same homemade sport coat to all the events. Tom was really upset.
Tom called home. Savannah answered the phone. Tom told Savannah that he did not get into a fraternity. She reassured him and told him that he is never without her. Tom decided not to tell his mother. When Tom hung up the phone he heard a girl crying at another payphone. She was sad because she was not accepted by any of the sororities. When she hung up the phone, Tom asked her if she would like to get a Coke with him. That was how he met his wife, Sallie.
Sallie and Tom went to the library to study together every night. They wrote many notes back and forth. Tom’s mother was less than enchanted that Sallie was a girl from a mill-town. Tom talks about an exciting moment in his football career that resulted in bumper stickers throughout the town reading “Kick it to Wingo, Clemson.” Tom and Sallie married when they graduated and honeymooned in a two-room cabin Luke built for himself on the tip of Melrose Island.
Luke was sent to Vietnam. Tom, who had become an English teacher and coach, offered to run his shrimp boat so that Luke would not have to sell it. Luke became a Navy SEAL. Savannah thought it was a bad sign because of what happened to the seal that Caesar attacked. Luke sent different letters to Tom than he sent to his parents and Savannah. In his letters to Tom, Luke was more honest. To his parents he wrote of the scenery and told them he was in no danger.
Tom remembers a story that Luke told him about a dangerous mission he went on to check out a downed American plane. His commanding officer was shocked that he carried the body of the dead pilot all the way back with him under the fire of the enemy. Luke said he learned to carry dead bodies to safety in training: SEALS never leave their dead or wounded behind. By the time Luke returned home, he had earned two Bronze Stars and one Silver Star. Tom asked Luke if he hated the enemy; Luke said he did not. Tom asked him why he fought. Luke said he fought because he lived in a nation that put you in jail if you did not fight. He was earning his right to return to Colleton. Luke said he would never leave his island again.
This chapter marks the departure of the Wingo siblings from their childhood. Tom leaves home, marries, and becomes a high school English teacher. Savannah publishes her first poem. Luke gets a shrimping boat and fights in the Vietnam War.
We see how Tom is still self-conscious and how he still wants to be a part of what is “normal” through his experience with the fraternities in college. Tom has the most stable and average life of the three: he goes to school, graduates, gets married, and gets a job.
Savannah and Luke are non-traditional. Savannah’s poetry logically follows her nature of questioning/ challenging everything. She is able to voice her opinion through poetry. Luke becomes a shrimper, but he is not married nor does it appear that he plans to marry. Luke is brave in this chapter, once again. He is brave when he decides to go to Vietnam; he is brave when he becomes a SEAL (one of the most difficult and daring branches of the military); he is brave on his mission to the downed plane. We see that Luke is not brave for glory; he is brave because he loves Colleton and wants to earn the right to come back to it. Luke seems to be as much a part of Melrose Island as the sand and sea.