Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Pepe Torres is a “gentle, affectionate boy” whose only fault is his laziness. Reared by his protective and loving widowed mother, Mama Torres, who struggles to provide her children with a stable emotional environment and a meager material existence on the family farm, Pepe would rather not work. Hour after hour, he plays with his dead father’s switchblade, throwing the knife at a post until his aim is extremely accurate.
One day, Mama Torres sends Pepe to town for some salt and medicine. Pepe has never been trusted with such a mission, and he feels proud when his mother gives him his father’s round black hat with the tooled leather band and his green silk handkerchief to wear on the journey. After he has left, Pepe’s younger brother asks if Pepe has become a man today; his mother answers, “A boy gets to be a man when a man is needed. Remember this thing. I have known boys forty years old because there was no need for a man.” Mama Torres’s wisdom is sound, but she does not foresee the tragic events that are about to unfold.
Pepe returns home in the middle of the night, stopping only briefly in his flight to the mountains. He tells his mother that in town he was called names he “could not allow” as a man, and that in the subsequent fight, he killed with his knife the person who called him such names. The definition of manhood in his society required such action. The mother understands, declaring, “Yes, thou art a man, my...
(The entire section is 805 words.)
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"Flight" opens at an unspecified time, probably in the 1930s, on the Torres farm on the California coast, fifteen miles south of Monterey. Nineteen-year-old Pepe Torres is amusing his younger brother and sister, Emilio and Rosy, by skillfully throwing his switchblade at a post. The knife is his inheritance from his father, who died ten years earlier after being bitten by a rattlesnake. Their mother scolds Pepe for his laziness and tells him he must ride into Monterey to buy salt and medicine. He is to spend the night in Monterey at the home of a family friend, Mrs. Rodriguez. Pepe is surprised that he will be allowed to go alone, and he asks to wear his father's hat, hatband, and green silk handkerchief. He tells his mother that he will be careful, saying, "I am a man." His mother responds that he is "a peanut" and "a foolish chicken."
Before sunrise the next morning, Pepe returns unexpectedly to the farm. He tells his mother he must go away to the mountains. He tells his mother that he had drunk wine at Mrs. Rodriguez's, and that a few other people had shown up as well. He tells her about a quarrel he had with a man. His knife seemed to fly on its own, and the man was stabbed. Pepe concludes by saying, "I am a man now, Mama. The man said names to me I could not allow."
Mama Torres agrees that Pepe is now a man, but she also has her doubts She has worried about Pepe's knife-play and where it might lead him. She gives him his father's black...
(The entire section is 814 words.)