Melinda decides to make a memorial for the turkey: she digs it up and takes the bones to art class. Mr. Freeman is thrilled. He tells her she is on fire and she is digging for the meaning of commercialism and abandoned family values during the holidays. She experiments with a couple of ways to arrange the bones artistically, but Mr. Freeman just frowns and sighs. He returns to the painting he is working on which Melinda describes as very bleak: a gutted building along a gray road on a rainy day with dirty coins painted on the sidewalk and faces of school board members in the windows of the building. There are also bars on the windows, turning it into a prison.
When the bell rings, Melinda looks at Mr. Freeman with her puppy-dog eyes and he agrees to allow her to stay through Spanish. He also gives permission to Ivy who is trying to conquer her fear of clowns, the subject she had unwittingly chosen. Melinda uses the time to work on her bone sculpture, using odds and ends from the bin Mr. Freeman keeps. She uses the head from a Barbie doll, knives and forks, and a palm tree. Mr. Freeman is delighted with what she has done and asks her to explain it, but Melinda is unable to speak. Because he thinks she has a sore throat, he tells her what he sees: a girl caught in the remains of a holiday gone bad.
Melinda finishes the sculpture by putting tape over the Barbie doll’s mouth. Ivy says it’s scary, like you don’t want to look at it too long, but that it’s good. Mr. Freeman says it shows meaning and pain. Melinda hears the bell and leaves before he can say anything more.
This chapter reveals the pain of both Mr. Freeman and Melinda. His painting shows his anger for the school board who denied him the materials he needed to teach and he places them behind the bars of the prison the school has become because of them. The dirty coins symbolize that their money is tainted and the bleak atmosphere reflects how difficult his environment is for him.
Perhaps that’s why he understands Melinda’s turkey sculpture so well. She, too, has expressed her pain: she is the Barbie doll who cannot speak as if she, too, had tape over her mouth. She is stripped bare like the turkey bones, as Mr. Freeman says, having her carcass picked off day after day. She has finally found meaning in something totally unrelated to her pain and she has expressed in a profound way. We can now understand that Melinda has been searching for a way to speak and that the sanctuary called Art class is helping her find it.
It’s interesting to note that she titles her chapter “Wishbone.” It seems to express her wish to find her voice.
Melinda tells us about how the class is learning about fruit in biology. Mrs. Keen has spent a week talking about the reproductive system of fruit which fortunately wakes up the back row. The lab portion of the class involves dissecting an apple. David, without a word, cuts his apple into eight equal parts, just like a surgeon, Melinda notes. He has been debating whether to become a doctor or a lawyer. Melinda is fascinated by him and says, “Ninth grade is a minor inconvenience to him. A zit-cream commercial before the Feature Film of Life.”
The smell of the class as everyone cuts their apples reminds Melinda of a time when she was little and her parents took her to an orchard. Her father set her up high in the tree and she remembers the sun on her hair and the breeze blowing it in her face while her mother stepped into her father’s arms and they smiled up at her. It makes her bite into the apple rather than cutting into pieces. Of course, David goes berserk and warns her that Mrs. Keen will kill her. So she cuts the apple into four pieces and finds that a seed has split its shell and a white seedling is reaching upward. It’s “an apple tree growing from an apple seed growing in an apple.” She shows it to Mrs. Keen who gives her extra credit. David just rolls his eyes while Melinda thinks that biology is so cool.
Melinda is so fascinated by David, because he has many abilities she thinks she does not: he is brilliant, he is able to explore what he wants to do in life, and, more importantly, he can shrug off ninth grade as if it is a minor inconvenience while she is voiceless because of it.
The memory she has of the apple orchard is very poignant, because it reflects what her family once had: love and time for each other.
Finding the seedling inside the apple brings Melinda pleasure. This may be because she has succeeded at something David has not or it might be because it represents her memory when love was still growing in her family. Also, like the apple, she is peeled and cored with her most wonderful memories as well as her most horrible experiences, she thinks, exposed to the world.
Celis, Christine. "TheBestNotes on Speak".
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