Melinda's grade in art is currently a question mark.
She hasn't made any progress in carving her tree. She tries switching to finger paint, but still no tree.
She looks at books with illustrations of all sorts of trees. She knows what she needs to do, but she can't do it.
Mr. Freeman hasn't talked to her about her work since the fabulous turkey exhibit.
Well, Mr. Freeman seems to have serious troubles of his own. He's not quite here these days. He stares blankly at his new canvas, which is painted a single blue-black color.
When Ivy reminds him that the class is waiting for him, he begins talking crazily about the color of his canvas. Among other things, he says the color is the color of "Despair," of "Smoker's lung," and of "The heart of a school board director" (50.5).
There's gossip that Mr. Freeman is having some kind of "breakdown" (50.6).
Melinda, however, sees Mr. Freeman as "the sanest person [she] know[s]" (50.6).