Heather leaves Melinda a note in her locker, asking her to meet her at her house after school. She sobs out the story that the Marthas have warned her that she is not meeting their standards. She had made a mess of the craft pillows they were making for little kids who were in the hospital and now she needs Melinda to help her with the canned food drive by drawing the posters. Melinda just sits there wondering how she could say no after Heather insists that the Marthas will blackball her if she doesn’t do this right.
Again, we have an ironic situation: Heather wants desperately to be a part of the Marthas, a group that wouldn’t even consider Melinda for a moment. Yet, she is the one who is needed to pave the way for Heather. The Outcast is only accepted when she can do something for someone else, just like teaching the star basketball player how to shoot foul shots.
In biology class, the students are studying frogs, which they will dissect. David Petrakis is thrilled, because they are finally studying anatomy. Melinda feels a little faint when it comes time to use the knife to cut open the frog’s belly. She feels “a scream start in her gut – she can feel the cut, smell the dirt, leaves in her hair.” She passes out and hits her head on the edge of the table. She has to leave school to have stitches. Melinda wonders if the doctor can read her thoughts when she stares into the back of her eyes with the bright light she uses. She wonders if the doctor would want to send her to the nuthouse or call the cops on her. As for Melinda, all she wants to do is sleep, because she knows that not talking about what happened to her will not make it go away. She wonders if David Petrakis could cut it out of her brain when he becomes a doctor.
This chapter is so poignant, because we understand that cutting into the frog doesn’t make Melinda faint, because she can’t stand the sight of blood; it make her faint, because it brings back the memory of what happened to her at the party. She is the dead frog, pinned to the board and unable to escape her fate. She can smell the dirt and feel the leaves in the hair. The vividness of the memory is what causes her to pass out. Now she feels that she can never escape the memory just by not speaking about. It is permanently lodged in her brain until someone cuts it out. From all of this description, we readers must now know that Melinda was raped at that summer party and the terrible pain cannot be bottled up inside her. She must find her voice; she must learn to speak again.
Heather lands a job as a model at a department store in the mall and now all the Marthas want to be her new best friend. She asks Melinda to go with her for the bathing suit shots and Melinda suspects it’s because she’s afraid to screw up in front of a Martha. Of course, Melinda wants to be a model, too, and paint her eyelids gold. But instead, she hides her scabby lips from Heather’s mother who stares at her in the rearview mirror.
Unfortunately, Melinda could never be a model, because she likes cheeseburgers too much. Heather has stopped eating and complains about fluid retention. The building where the shoot takes place is very cold and Melinda observes that Heather’s goose bumps are “bigger that her boobs.” Heather, however, does very well at following the photographer’s commands, something that “creeps Melinda out.” She just wants a nap.
Melinda doesn’t buy the gold eyeshadow. Instead, she buys Black Death nail polish to cover her bitten and bleeding nails and thinks she should get a matching shirt in tubercular gray.
The author creates in this chapter a complete sense of opposites: Heather is this tiny little cutie who looks great in a bikini and can fit into a size 1½. Melinda, who, like most girls, would like being a model, has scabby lips and bitten nails and could never even be considered for such a job. Her comment that she buys Black Death nail polish and wants a tubercular gray shirt emphasizes that she thinks of herself as being diseased, unfit for the world where she exists. Her physical imperfections emphasize her emotional pain and suffering. Ironically, her commentary makes us want to hug her and reassure her that she will get through all the pain eventually. She is actually more appealing to the reader than pretty little Heather who doesn’t have bitten nails and scabby lips.
Celis, Christine. "TheBestNotes on Speak".
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