Summary: Chapter 28

Elaine sits in the food hall at Simpson’s. From her seat at the espresso counter, she can see a shoe repair and finds herself relieved that people still repair old things instead of discarding them.

Elaine begins to think of her mother, who hated housework. She wonders if her mother knew about how the other girls treated her, but she acknowledges that back then her mother would have had fewer choices.

Elaine once did a painting of her mother, called Pressure Cooker, in the form of a double triptych. The top three panels show her mother in a dress, the first depicting her in a detailed pencil drawing, the second through a collage, and the third with raised outlines depicting the figure. The bottom panels show the same progression, but in reverse, and her mother wears slacks while making jam outdoors. She derides critical attempts to make this painting about gender roles. She painted it not long after her mother’s death and wanted to resurrect her. 

Outside Simpson’s, Elaine encounters a drunk woman lying on the ground. Elaine gives her ten dollars. The woman blesses Elaine and calls her “our lady,” but adds that Elaine doesn’t love her. Elaine draws back and notices the woman’s eyes are green like Cordelia’s. As she walks away, Elaine believes she didn’t offer the woman money out of kindness and knows herself as vengeful and sly.

Summary: Chapter 29

Carol and Elaine start fifth grade with Miss Stuart, who’s Scottish. The students love her, but Elaine feels too numb to care. She clings to her cat’s eye marble, which she imagines allows her to look impartially at her friends. She imagines eating nightshade berries or jumping into the ravine while Cordelia coos at her encouragingly. 

Elaine’s mother suggests that Elaine could play with other girls. Elaine panics, worried that her mother will tell the other mothers, which would be terrible because Elaine doesn’t see her mother as a real adult. Her mother encourages her to stand up for herself instead of being spineless, which Elaine interprets to mean that the bullying is her own fault. When her mother says she wishes she knew how to help Elaine, Elaine understands that her mother is powerless.