chapter 6 summary

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palma and her friends exit the bus. soon, she sees marcus, a man she knows from activist circles. overwhelmed with her anxiety about velma, who has become increasingly volatile, she suddenly begins to cry. she asks him if he’s heard anything about her and shares her mounting concerns—in particular, she notes that her period suddenly and mysteriously stopped after just one and a half days, which feels like a sign. something must have happened to velma, she insists. marcus mentions that she has recently been involved with someone named jamahl, and they should probably talk to him. as they confer, the group is distracted by a fire in a nearby building.

back at the infirmary, a weary sophie heywood rests in doc serge’s office, reflecting on velma’s complex persona. you never really know someone, she tells herself, until you’ve “eaten salt together.” but despite having been through many bitter experiences with velma, she still finds her goddaughter to be a mystery. thinking back, in particular, to the day velma surprised everyone by marrying james henry, instead of sophie’s son smitty, she recalls their disagreement about sophie’s trauma during her incarceration. their neighbor, portland edgers, had been made to attack her, and now he was working on their lawn as though nothing ever happened.

wandering through claybourne, bus driver fred holt observes the town’s residents as they prepare for the claybourne festival. one asks if he has his “lists” ready, and he remembers that they are supposed to make lists of their wishes and toss them into the bonfire as part of the festivities. he would like to be invisible, it occurs to him, thinking of porter. his old friend had been fixated on invisibility, and incongruousness, and being unseen.

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