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Gram falls unconscious, and Sal and Gramps rush her to the hospital in Coeur D'Alene, where the doctors tell them that Gram has had a stroke. Despite the protests of the doctors, Gramps refuses to leave her side for even a second. Sal, reflecting on grandfather's emotions, wonders if he suspects the snakebite caused the stroke and blames himself for taking her to the river. Sal realizes then that just as Gramps should not blame himself for Gram's illness, so she cannot blame herself for her mother's miscarriage. She then recalls the process through which their dog weaned her puppies: though the beagle was protective and caring when the puppies were first born, after a few months, she roughly pushed them away. Sal's mother had explained to Sal that the mother dog wanted her puppies to be able to take care of themselves in case something happened to her, and Sal realizes that in a way, her mother's trip to Lewiston was her way of trying to make Sal more able to take care of herself. Later that night, Gramps tells Sal that he must stay with Gram, but hands her the car keys and all his money, tacitly giving her permission to drive to Lewiston herself.
Sal spends four hair-raising hours driving down to Lewiston. When she reaches the tall hill just outside the city, she creeps down the hairpin curves, finally stopping at an overlook. Another man stops and, pointing out the broken trees and a faintly glinting hunk of metal, begins to tell her about the terrible bus crash that took place a year ago in exactly that spot. He goes on to tell her that only one person survived the crash, but Sal already knows all this.
As dawn is gathering, Sal climbs down the hillside toward the overturned bus. She looks into its mangled and moldy interior and sadly realizes that there is nothing she can do here. When she climbs back up to the car, a sheriff greets her. At first he is angry with her for climbing around the bus and driving at the age of thirteen, but when Sal tells him her story, he drives her to her mother's grave, which is on a hill overlooking the river. Sal sits down to drink in all the details of this spot and, to her joy, finds a nearby "singing tree," a tree with a songbird living in its highest branches. Only then she leaves, knowing that, in a way, her mother is alive in this place.
The sheriff drives Sal back to Lewiston, lecturing her about the dangers of driving without proper training. Sal questions him about the accident, explaining what she learned the day she decided to talk to Mrs. Cadaver. Mrs. Cadaver had been the lone survivor of the terrible crash, and had sat next to Sal's mother during the entire trip, listening to her stories about Bybanks and her daughter. After the accident, Sal's father, who came to Lewiston to bury his wife, met Mrs. Cadaver and discussed his wife's last days with her. During the conversation with Margaret, Sal had asked her if she planned to marry her father, and Margaret, surprised, explained that her father was still too much in love with her mother to marry anyone else.
When they arrive in Coeur D'Alene, Sal discovers that Gram has died. She finds Gramps, who has already arranged for Gram to be sent back to Kentucky, in a nearby motel. The two move mournfully through the room the rest of the day, and that night, Sal helps Gramps recite his nightly, now slightly altered, mantra: "This ain't my marriage bed, but it will have to do."
Sal resumes her narration a few months later. She, along with her father and Gramps, are back in Bybanks. Gram is buried in a nearby aspen grove, and Gramps continues to give Sal driving lessons. The pair now practices "walking in other people's moccasins"—routinely imagining how they would feel if they were one of their friends or family members. Sal shares one other Native American myth—that of Estsanatlehi, who is born, dies, and is reincarnated ad infinitum. Sal and Ben exchange letters, and Sal looks forward to an upcoming visit from all her Euclid friends: Ben, Mrs. Cadaver, Phoebe, and Mrs. Partridge. Sal closes her story, content with what she has, accepting of what has been, and anticipating what will come.
It is "You can't keep the birds of SADNESS from flying overhead, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair,"
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