When Ethan comes home, he sees that Amma has left him a cold dinner, punishment for being late to school.
Advising Ethan to stay away from Lena, Amma tells him, "One day you're gonna pick a hole in the sky and the universe is gonna fall right through" (9.02.16). We have no idea what that means, but at least we know where the chapter title comes from.
Ethan's dad, wearing pajamas and earplugs, shuffles into the kitchen for some Shredded Wheat.
Before returning to his study, Ethan's dad asks him how school went.
Ethan realizes that his dad looks worse and worse every day. "He looked a little bit like a living corpse, as he had for months now" (9.02.34).
Ethan reminisces about the time his dad taught him how to cast a fishing line on the shores of Lake Moultrie.
The conversation ends when Ethan's dad shuffles back into his study and locks the door.
Time for another memory: Ethan thinks about the one time he went into the study, when he was seven. There's a mysterious painting in there, he remembers, and it's covered with a sheet. What could be under it?
Fast forward to the next day: crazy, hearse-driving Lena Duchannes is the talk of the Stonewall Jackson student body.
Ethan is tired of all the chauvinistic talk of his basketball teammates as they rate the prettiest girls in school on a scale of 1 to 10. Although if he were to join in, we're sure he'd give her an 11.
The students in the hall part like the Red Sea when Lena Duchannes walks by: "Everyone actually stepped aside when she came down the hall. Like she was a rock star. Or a leper" (9.02.58-59).
All the guys agree that she's hot. But they also agree she's a freak because she's a Ravenwood—freak by proxy.
Lena is in Ethan's English class, taught by—who else?—Mrs. English.
Lena doesn't need a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird because she brought her own: it's one of her favorite books. The other students—clearly not avid readers—think this just adds to her freak status.
Mrs. English has a glass eye, and students who sit on that side of her don't get called on. Lena sits in front of her good eye, so she's doomed to answer questions for the whole class.
Taking on the role of class bully, Emily Asher plays keep-away with Lena's notebook.
Ethan stands up for Lena and takes the notebook back. He even throws a snappy insult in Emily's direction. You go, Ethan.
In fact, he feels like a knight in shining armor who rescued a damsel in distress.
He sees something on Lena's hand—ink. It's a number: 156.
Later, Ethan hears the band playing downstairs. But among the instruments, he hears a viola that he's never heard before. The melody is familiar to Ethan: it's "Sixteen Moons," the song that had magically appeared and disappeared on his iPod the first day of school.
The words of the song seep into his head telepathically—no one else can hear them. The lyrics have changed, though, mentioning the "sound of thunder in your ears" (9.02.98).
The song triggers a vision. Ethan relives his dream, even though he's still awake (and in class!). Again, the dream girl slips through his fingers.
When he returns to reality, Ethan discovers he's just made a lump of clay with a handprint in it. It's not his handprint, though. It's daintier—a girl's.
Ethan has clay under his fingernails, just like he did after he had the dream at home. Curious, he heads to the music room to see who was playing the song.
Take a deep breath, folks: the smell of lemons and rosemary lingers in the air.