Buried Onions

by Gary Soto

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What happens at the end of chapter 9 in Buried Onions?

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At the end of chapter 9, Eddie asks his godmother Nina to take him to the naval recruitment office. "I had to get out of town and signing up was the only way." He decides not to see his mother before he goes, partly because he doesn't want her to see his bruises, but he does ring her to explain what he is doing. She sends him $15 and a letter telling him how much she loves him.

In the recruitment office, he meets a friend, a stoner called Larry, and they drink free sodas together. At 2 pm, they board a bus bound for the Lemoore Naval Air Station.

I hoped what Jose told me about the service was true: all the chocolate milk you could drink. I hoped the navy could teach me to swim like a dolphin and fight like a crocodile.

On the way to the base, the truck breaks down. Eddie hangs around outside with the other recruits until they start annoying him with outlandish stories of their sexual exploits.

He starts to head towards a car about half a mile down the road. In the field next to it, he recognizes one of the workers as the person who sold Jose onions just before Jose was stabbed. Eddie realizes the pain he has caused and breaks down and cries. "My eyes filled and then closed on the last of childhood tears."

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After having limped his way home after fighting with Angel, Eddie decides that he has no other options but to escape his environment by joining the military. His nina drives him to the Naval recruiting office, and Eddie feels like crying because it seems that he has lost, or is losing, everything that has ever been important to him. Realizing that his tears are futile, Eddie enters the office and finds that Larry the stoner is there too. Eddie thinks wryly that even in trying to escape, he is still surrounded by lowlifes; "it's either homies or stoners."

After awhile, the recruits are loaded in a small van which will take them to Lemoore Naval Air Station. Eddie reflects on the irony that, thought he has joined the Navy, he will be stationed in the desert. Eventually, in the middle of fields which have already been harvested, the van breaks down, and the recruits disembark as they wait in the blistering heat for the CHP to come and rescue them. Eddie sees a car in the distance, and begins walking towards it over the barren fields in the hot sun. He sees two black men gathering what is left after the harvest, and is startled to realize that he recognizes them. As he approaches them, the full burden of his despair weighs down upon him, and he crouches low to the ground, hiding his face in shame. Eddie feels a kinship with the earth and with the men who represent his brothers in suffering humanity. One of the men raises him up and hands Eddie two onions, and Eddie feels his eyes fill with "the last of childhood tears" (Chapter 9).

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