Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 688
Chapter 10 introduces Frankie, a young boy of eleven, who, like several of the characters in the novel, comes in and out of the narrative. Frankie, it is soon learned, is relatively homeless. He shows up one day on Doc's property. At first, he just peeps in the basement's windows....
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Chapter 10 introduces Frankie, a young boy of eleven, who, like several of the characters in the novel, comes in and out of the narrative. Frankie, it is soon learned, is relatively homeless. He shows up one day on Doc's property. At first, he just peeps in the basement's windows. Eventually, he becomes brave enough to stand inside its door. A few days later, he makes his way into the basement.
Frankie is dirty and unkempt. It is obvious no one cares or looks after the boy. It takes him three weeks to make his way from looking in the windows of Western Biological before he works up the nerve to approach Doc at his workbench and even then he is "ready to bolt" at the slightest provocation, like a feral cat.
Doc, who has a long association with feral things, waits a long time before he asks Frankie any questions. Frankie answers his questions honestly. He does not go to school, he tells Doc "because they don't want him there." When Doc asks about his filthy hands and if he ever washes them, Frankie is deeply ashamed and from that point on, is careful to scrub them clean every day.
Frankie begins turning up at the laboratory daily. Doc makes sure that the story about being kicked out of school was true and it is. The school official tells Doc that Frankie has some sort of disability that prevents him from learning and has a coordination problem as well. Still, he is not "an idiot" and he is not a danger. He just does not fit in and his parents will not pay for any institution or other help. Frankly is essentially left to fend for himself.
Doc allows Frankie to stay and they do not say much to one another but one day Doc asks Frankie why he comes. Frankie says his father is dead and there are uncles at home who either hit him or "give [him] a nickel." Either way, it is clear that Frankie is not wanted.
Doc takes the boy under his wing. He gets rid of the lice in his hair and buys him new clothes at Lee Chong's. For these minor acts of kindness, "Frankie became his slave." At the laboratory, Doc tries and tries to teach Frankie to be his helper but Doc soon discovers that what the school had said was true: Frankie does have a learning disability and cannot seem to grasp even the simplest concepts that Doc tries to teach him. Doc recognizes Frankie's limits and stops trying to push him. Instead, he gives Frankie tasks he can do, like lighting his cigars.
Frankie's favorite things are the frequent parties at Doc's place. He loves to hear the men and women talking and the music playing. He makes himself as invisible as possible and just absorbs all the sights, sounds, and smells. During one party, Frankie makes the incredibly bold decision to pour a glass of beer and carry it to a girl. When the young lady thanks him, Doc says, "Yes, Frankie is a great help to me."
The compliment is the best thing that has ever happened to Frankie. He replays the event over and over, and hears Doc's glowing words in his head repeatedly and with great joy. He knows another party is coming and resolves to be an even greater help at that event so that Doc will find his help even more indispensable and will feel moved to praise the boy once again.
The night of the party, Frankie loads up a tray with glasses of beer and carries them out into the throng of revelers. But a terrible thing happens; somehow, his coordination fails him. The tray, with all its contents, falls and lands in a lady's lap. Horrified, Frankie freezes in the spot and then, after an eternal moment, runs down to the cellar.
Doc knows the boy is there. He also knows there is nothing in the world he can do or say to unwind the clock. He leaves the boy be alone with his untouchable misery and pain.