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by Laurence Yep

Dragonwings Chapter 9 Summary

The Dragon Wakes (December, 1905-April, 1906)

  • Moon Shadow and Windrider are saving up money in hopes of one day bringing Mother over to America. This requires more cash than just Mother's passage over though, since Windrider would probably need to go accompany her and bribe port people along the way.
  • The father and son are also saving up to open their own fix-it shop. Then they can qualify as merchants and legitimately bring Mother over.
  • It's about New Year's time; Chinese New Year is on the lunar calendar and usually a couple of months after the January 1 understanding of the New Year. Moon Shadow wishes that Father and Uncle would kiss and make up so they can celebrate with the Company. But it doesn't look like that's going to happen.
  • Moon Shadow and Robin smear honey on the picture of the Stove King – the bribe-the-gods-with-sweets tradition. Then they burn the picture in the stove and hang up a new picture of the Stove King over the stove.
  • Robin doesn't admit it, but she's come to believe in the tradition of the Stove King, too. She gets a new picture from Moon Shadow so she can honey-ize and burn the old picture of the Stove King.
  • April 5 marks the Feast of Pure Brightness, a day for visiting the dead and making offerings at their graves (9.8).
  • They visit the Tang people's cemetery, which the narrator describes as a temporary one since the bodies would hope to be buried in China.
  • The stable gets a visit from Old Deerfoot. They chew the fat over tea until Old Deerfoot brings up the subject of the Feast of Pure Brightness.
  • Old Deerfoot asks about Windrider's plans and slyly mentions that Uncle Bright Star will be going to the Feast. Windrider agrees to see him and takes him up on the offer for a ride.
  • Hand Clap, Red Rabbit, Lefty, White Deer, and Uncle arrive. Some good-humored teasing is exchanged.
  • Moon Shadow is happy but suddenly anxious, thinking about the dead and all. He worries that things are too good, that he's been tricked into a fantasy that he's going to wake up from.
  • Thirteen days after the Feast of Pure Brightness, the earthquake strikes. Yes, the earthquake, as in the actual San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
  • Moon Shadow is shaken awake at 5am. Windrider hastily leads him outside into the open backyard. All around them they see buildings collapsing and they hear the chaotic sounds of things moving without instruction.
  • Windrider and Moon Shadow go to check on Miss Whitlaw. Moon Shadow sees Jack and Maisie's family in a building with its walls crumbling.
  • Miss Whitlaw's building seems sturdy enough to go inside. Robin sits bundled up, staring at the destruction through the front door.
  • The crew sees that the whole street has been decimated. It's only thanks to the handiwork of Miss Whitlaw's dad that their building is sound.
  • Miss Whitlaw decides they must try to rescue any survivors.
  • Before they get started, they decide to change out of their sleepwear.
  • When father and son emerge, they see the wreckage. Moon Shadow hears someone compare their street to the moon (9.69).
  • Survivors, injured in mind and body, surface. Moon Shadow remarks on how some are dressed, choosing to save extravagant clothes and stepping out in ball gowns and penguin suits (9.72).
  • A healthy-looking man walks on and refuses to help the survivors even after Windrider calls for his help for the others (9.74-5). Several others walk on without turning back.
  • Miss Whitlaw and Robin appear. Miss Whitlaw has Windrider bust a chair for its legs. Each of the four of them takes a chair leg for a club.
  • Miss Whitlaw takes one side of the street, Windrider takes the other. They rally survivors to help clear up the mess and pull out any buried and injured survivors.
  • Miss Whitlaw finds some pickaxes to help people sort through the rubble.
  • Windrider works under a tenuous wall. He orders Moon Shadow to work elsewhere since it's a dangerous spot, likely to crumble any second. Moon Shadow insists that together the work will go faster.
  • Moon Shadow sees five of Miss Whitlaw's elderly tenants exit the building with suitcases. Moon Shadow is kind of repulsed by how old they look, calling them "old bags" who would "curdle milk" (9.101). Nice kid, we know.
  • Moon Shadow and Windrider continue to sort through the mound beside the weak wall. Miss Whitlaw delegates tasks and organizes people, winning Moon Shadow's awe. As the narrator says, "Miss Whitlaw was everywhere, encouraging here, helping there. I wondered again at the strength within her slender body" (9.102).
  • Miss Whitlaw asks Robin and Moon Shadow to prepare sandwiches and tea for everyone.
  • Robin and Moon Shadow quickly see that the water pump is not working. Uh-oh.
  • The two kiddies make sandwiches with ham and cheese, which Moon Shadow amusingly likens to cow's urine. They get the buckets of water from each of the tenants' rooms.
  • By lunch time, they have saved twenty people. Maisie and Jack have yet to be seen. They bundle up the three injured people in Miss Whitlaw's house and send a boy to find a doctor.
  • Someone tries to steal Miss Whitlaw's chest of moneys, but Windrider kicks some butt. Miss Whitlaw requests that Windrider let the thief go, explaining that the "earthquake'll bring out the best and the worst in folk" (9.121).
  • Windrider is troubled, realizing that a shortage of water will be really bad. But he tries to mollify (comfort) Moon Shadow by figuring that it would only be really bad if there are uncontainable fires.
  • But then a car drives by and announces a fire south of Market. Uh-oh.
  • This news panics people, and most of those who were helping find injured survivors drop their efforts and run to save themselves. Miss Whitlaw calls to stop them, but they continue to leave.
  • Windrider and Miss Whitlaw figure they have done their best.
  • The boy sent to retrieve a doctor returns, with no doctor.
  • The narrator speaks from the future and comments that the fire is historically known as the Ham and Eggs fire (9.140). Let this be a public service announcement not to use your stove after a really bad earthquake.
  • Soldiers in the army come down the street and suggest the crew go to Golden Gate Park with the injured people. The sergeant advises them where they can get a wagon, and Windrider returns with it.
  • While Robin, Miss Whitlaw, and Moon Shadow wait for Windrider, they see lots of hooligans scavenging the streets for loot.
  • Windrider holds onto his club. Miss Whitlaw holds onto her father's pistol.
  • At Golden Gate Park, the crew runs into Lefty, who reports that the Company men are fine. Uncle Bright Star, however, refuses to leave the building. Lefty asks for Windrider's help.
  • Lefty produces a basket of chicken and rice wine for the group to enjoy.
  • Lefty meets Miss Whitlaw and is impressed with how un-ugly she is, for a demoness.
  • The crew goes back to Miss Whitlaw's to retrieve her possessions, including the stained glass window. Lefty is also in awe of its beauty.
  • Miss Whitlaw and the group share a sad moment when they realize that Miss Whitlaw will most likely never again see the house she grew up in.
  • The narrator speaks from his present to confirm that Miss Whitlaw's house will burn in the fire that night.
  • The crew separates, with Windrider, Moon Shadow, and Lefty leaving to go to Uncle. Miss Whitlaw and Robin will return to the Park, where Windrider agrees they will meet again.
  • The men watch as Miss Whitlaw and Robin drive the wagon on. Robin carries the pistol.
  • Lefty remarks that Miss Whitlaw seems nice, and Windrider says, "She is a superior woman" (9.193).

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