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Chapter 23: Secret Business
Annawake has a secret plan. She goes over to Letty's house, with the pretense of bringing back a pie plate. She finds Letty in her garden, who tells her that Boma Mellowbug has antagonized the ostrich farm owner by getting a hold of one of his ostrich feathers. Annawake finally gets around to telling her that Cash Stillwater, her brother, has a secret admirer—Alice. Letty claims she would never intrude, a promise that Annawake and the reader know to be impossible for her to keep.
Chapter 24: Wildlife Management
When Taylor's rent collector comes over to her apartment, she writes him a check dated for a day after payday, and then tries to distract him from noticing. He works for city parks, and has a truck filled with goose-catching equipment. He explains in detail how he helps reroute geese to their natural habitat, from the lake in Seattle to eastern Washington.
Taylor substitutes on a Handi-Van shift during which she drives a man in a wheelchair named Steven Kant. He eventually asks her on a date. Taylor is excited, mostly at the thought of having a delicious meal, and tells him up front that Turtle will have to come, too.
Meanwhile Jax is playing a gig in Tucson when he gets a message to call Taylor immediately. Taylor is feeling desperate, and misses Jax terribly. She tells him of her job: Taylor has to keep an eye on Turtle while she is working, and now her supervisor says Taylor needs to dress more nicely. She tells him, "Poverty sucks." Jax does not think Annawake will come after her, and suggests that she come home; Taylor responds that she does not have the money, and does not want to take anyone else's. They joke a little bit about Gundi and Taylor tells Jax she is not in love with Steven. In the end, Jax feels like he has no idea what to say to ease Taylor's anxiety.
Taylor and Turtle go on their date with Steven. The entrance to the locks reminds both Taylor and Turtle of the angel statues at Hoover Dam. The three watch the boats rise from the level of the ocean to the lake level, through the locks then go on to look at the fish ladder, where the salmon swim upstream from the ocean to the lake. They watch the pathetic scene of struggling fish, salmon trying to return to their home to lay their eggs, only to be met by sea lions at the top of the ladder. Taylor feels like her life is just like the fish's journey.
Chapter 25: Picking
Cash has invited Alice on a date. While Alice waits for him to pick her up, she finds she cannot remember meeting him, but Sugar insists that she has, and that Cash is interested. Alice follows him into his truck when he pulls up, and they set off to go berry picking. They have a nice conversation in the truck. Cash is related to Sugar through marriage; Sugar and Cash's sister Letty married two brothers. He talks about his family a little, and Alice finds out that his daughter is dead. He explains his move to Wyoming by saying that he used to think "being close to good times [was] like having good times." Alice tells him immediately of Harland who lived vicariously through the T.V. Cash also relates dreadful memories of attending a boarding school meant to inculcate Indians into white culture. At the end of the evening, he gives Alice an arrowhead to keep. Alice feels giddy, and happy to have found a man who knows how to talk.
Chapter 24 develops Taylor's character further. Taylor shows that she finds humor in life even in her dire situation. When the city parks manager comes to collect the rent, she engages him to distract from the date on the check, but also to enjoy his funny personality. When he leaves, she even makes pretend with Turtle that they are fat geese, waddling to school. The idea of obese geese, eating too much in Seattle, is ironic given the fact that Taylor and Turtle have hardly enough money for peanut butter. Taylor's commitment as a mother is also further affirmed in this chapter. She has been asked out by two different men and both times she insists that Turtle will come on the date as well.
Taylor's phone call to Jax is a plot device that dramatizes Taylor's desperate situation and also develops the subplot, Jax and Taylor's romantic relationship. The reader understands that Taylor still harbors strong feelings for Jax when she jokes about Gundi, and reaffirms that she does not love Steven Kant. Jax, too, now having broken off with Gundi, would give anything to have Taylor back. Although there is no explicit commitment, the relationship will have a chance again. The conversation is a forum during which we understand Taylor's desperation more comprehensively. The terrible way in which she misses Jax suggests not only that her feelings for him are strong, but also that she is nearing her breaking point.
The scene of salmon at the Seattle locks is another metaphor that compares natural ecosystems to human experience. The salmon's upstream climb parallels Taylor's desperate attempt to make ends meet while she waits out the situation with Annawake. We could consider this scene in comparison with Jax watching the coyote eat the dove eggs. In each case, the natural world appears cruel and unfeeling. The coyote plays the same role as the sea lions and the water current play in the second scene. Still, these are natural systems that persist without questioning why or how. The title of Chapter 24 "Wildlife Management" becomes ironic when we consider the salmon: when the authorities tried to reroute the salmon by making a more narrow ladder, only more salmon tried to ascend it. The novel seems to be saying that "wildlife management" does not really exist. The jungle will always follow its own laws of survival.
We should also know that Cash Stillwater is Turtle's grandfather. Annawake is orchestrating the romance between Alice and Cash because she believes this to be true. Cash is a way for Alice to warm up to the Cherokee culture and community. She has already heard of the imperialistic boarding schools where Annawake's mother's generation went to school, but now she hears about the schools first hand from Cash. She also is invited to the stomp dance, where she will feel even more a part of the community. Cash is also a way for Alice to fulfill her own life's desires. The reader should always keep in mind the first chapter, in which Alice felt so alone, taking second-stage to the television.