Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 677
Chapter 7 begins with a history of the evolution of the Palace Flophouse. When Mack and the boys first moved in, they had not thought of their space as anything more than a shelter from the elements. They did not love it yet. The room as long and bare, lit...
(The entire section contains 677 words.)
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Chapter 7 begins with a history of the evolution of the Palace Flophouse. When Mack and the boys first moved in, they had not thought of their space as anything more than a shelter from the elements. They did not love it yet. The room as long and bare, lit only by two small windows. The unpainted walls were made of wood; the space still smelled of its former occupant: fish meal.
Mack, the unelected yet undisputed leader of the boys, knew that this collection of men must have something to call their own; some privacy, or at least personal space, must be awarded to each resident in order to maintain the peace. To that end, Mack marked out five oblong spaces on the floor with chalk. In each seven by four foot square, Mack wrote each man's name. The space belonged to each man and it was inviolable.
For a time, nothing changed in the Flophouse. The men respected one another's space but no improvements were made to the home itself. However, a month-long rainfall trapped all of them indoors for an unprecedented amount of time. The house began to "grow dear to them." Hughie was the first to make a change. He dragged in an old cot and sewed its numerous holes up with fishing line. The boys were envious. Mack was the next to bring in a touch of domesticity when he hauled in an old and rusty set of springs from the dump. After that, each man made it his work to beautify the place. Soon not only did each have a bed, but there were also aesthetic additions, like pictures and calendars. Mack painted a wicker chaise red. The brown walls were whitewashed "which made it almost light and airy." A grandfather clock, without internal works or a face, graced the room.
Eventually, the boys were able to barter for a stove. It was beautiful and wonderfully functional but also terribly cumbersome and heavy. After exhausting all other options, Hughie and Mack carted it home. It took them three days to traverse the five miles back to the Flophouse. The addition of the stove truly made the house a home.
Mack and the boys managed to survive by various means. One way was through Eddie, who worked as a part-time bartender at La Ida. Eddie filled in for the regular bartender, Whitey, who was always glad to turn to Eddie when he needed a day off, for he knew Eddie was in no way trying to angle for his job. More important that the little bit of money Eddie was able to bring home was the liquor he was able to procure. Eddie did not take very many unopened bottle home; instead, he devised a jug system. Whenever a customer was finished with his drink, Eddie would pour the remainder into a big wine jug. Everything went into the jug: whiskey, rye, wine, beer—whatever leftovers there were. Sometimes the mix would be pretty standard, but sometimes customers would order (and leave behind) something more exotic, like a liqueur. The fun part about the wining jug was that they never knew exactly what they were going to get.
One evening, as the four of them sat around sampling that night's offering from the jug (Hazel was still away on his collecting trip with Doc), Mack and the boys began talking about what a fine man Doc was. Mack expressed his long-held desire to do "something nice" for Doc. The boys mulled over various possibilities until finally they hit on an idea for which all were enthusiastic. They would throw Doc a party.
It did not take long for all four men to realize that a party cannot be given for free. They would need to raise money. After some discussion, the boys decided that the best way to raise the funds needed would be to go on a frog collecting trip for Doc. Of course, they would keep the need for money, and the party, a secret. They wanted to surprise their friend.