Marcello and Michele Solara are two young men in the narrator's Neapolitan neighborhood who like to show off their car, a Fiat 1100, and to entice adolescent girls by offering them rides. No self-respecting young lady would be taken in by such an offer under regular circumstances, as her reputation would be at risk and her father and brothers would consider it an insult to her honor. The first girl the Solara brothers drag into their car is the fatherless Ada Cappuccio, age fourteen, daughter of Melina, the mad widow. They disappear with her for an hour, and no one really knows what happened, but rumors fly. When the Solara brothers try to pull Elena Greco (the narrator) into their car, her best friend, Lila Cerullo, threatens the perpetrator with a knife to his throat.
Despite the sleazy reputation they have begun to acquire, the Solara brothers come to the rescue when a group of "well-dressed youths" attack Lila's brother, Rino, and friend Pasquale, while on a stroll with the narrator and four other girls. The Solara brothers not only come to the rescue of the neighborhood boys, but also, upon the request of Lila's brother, Rino, take the five girls away from the scene. The five girls who ride in the car are Elena, Lila, Ada, Gigliola Spagnuolo (the pastry-maker's daughter), and Carmela Peluso (the carpenter's daughter and Pasquale's sister). The girls are dropped off at a distance so as not to be seen riding in the car.