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As the rain clobbers them, Opal and the preacher look for Winn-Dixie. They both call his name, the preacher whistles, and Opal cries. A lot. Let's face it. There is a lot of crying.
They walk everywhere: the Dewberrys' house, Sweetie Pie's house, the Herman W. Block library, the Friendly Corners Trailer Park, the Open Arms Baptist Church. Even out to Highway 50.
As they walk, Opal tries to think of ten things she could write about Winn-Dixie to help find him (remember how she asked her dad to tell her ten things about her mom?): (1) Has a fear of thunderstorms (2) Likes to smile with all his teeth (3) Is a fast runner (4) Snores (5) Can catch mice without killing them (6) Likes meeting people (7) Likes peanut butter (8) Doesn't like to be alone (9) Sits on couches/sleeps in beds (10) Goes to church
She repeats the list in her mind, over and over, memorizing it just like she memorized her mom's list. Light bulb moment! That puny little list will never really help someone get to know the real Winn-Dixie. A list won't really help her get to know her mom either. More crying.
The preacher finally tells Opal they need to stop. No. He tells her they need to go back. No.
Finally he tells her to stop arguing; it's time to give up. Well, that sets off the fireworks in a big way. Opal starts screaming at the preacher about how he always gives up, he always retreats, and accuses him of not even looking for her mother when she left. Whoa there.
Surprisingly, the preacher doesn't get mad. Instead he fans his arms out and tells her that he tried to get her to stay. He tried. He misses her every day.
He drops his arms and becomes a broken iPod shuffle: he tried, he tried, he tried. And then he starts to cry. Not just sniffly cry, either. He really lets it out with a whole shoulders-shaking sobfest.
He tells Opal that he loves Winn-Dixie just as much as she does. While he's still shake-crying, Opal hugs the preacher and tries to make him feel better (which was probably kind of weird for her).
When he stops crying, she whispers the question neither of them wants to face: "Do you think she's ever going to come back?" (24.33). No. Despite all his hopes and dreams, she's gone for good.
Opal tells him Gloria Dump's advice about loving what you got while you got it. Good advice.
But Opal is not ready to give up on Winn-Dixie, so they decide to keep looking.
Before they hit the trail again, the preacher realizes something huge: Opal's mother didn't take everything when she left. Because she left Opal. "Thank God your mama left me you," he says as he hugs her tighter than ever (24.40). That makes Opal realize how glad she is to have the preacher for a daddy.
And she holds his hand as they keep looking for Winn-Dixie. Now you're crying. Don't try to hide it. We can hear you all the way from here.