The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child

by Francisco Jiménez

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Chapter 10 Summary

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Last Updated on September 6, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 346

As “Learning the Game” opens, Francisco is finishing seventh grade and not looking forward to the next four and a half months of harvesting strawberries, grapes, and cotton. When he gets home, Carlos, a neighbor, wants to play kick-the-can. Francisco is not in the mood, but he goes out anyway. Carlos always takes charge of the game and never lets Manuelito, another friend, play. Francisco tries to insist that Manuelito play, but Carlos will not allow it.

The next morning, Francisco goes to work with Papa and Roberto. Mr. Diaz, the contratista, drives up with Gabriel, another laborer who is new to strawberry picking. Papa shows Gabriel how to do the job, and at lunch, Gabriel trades a jelly sandwich for one of Francisco’s taquitos. Gabriel also talks about his wife and children, whom he misses very much. He sends money home to them but is upset because Mr. Diaz overcharges him.

The days and weeks go by, and one day, Francisco and Gabriel are loaned out to another farmer. Francisco is to hoe weeds, but Mr. Diaz wants Gabriel to pull a plow and till the furrows. Gabriel refuses, saying that he is not an animal. The contratista becomes violent and pushes Gabriel down. He threatens to fire the young man. Francisco is scared, but Mr. Diaz drives off. Gabriel tells Francisco that he will not be treated like an animal or forced to do something wrong.

Later that day, Carlos calls for another game of kick-the-can. Francisco insists that Manuelito be allowed to play, too, or Francisco will skip the game. Carlos pushes Francisco, who gets up and walks away, followed by the other children. Carlos stands alone and finally relents and lets Manuelito play.

The next day, Francisco learns that Gabriel has been fired. Papa assures him that Mr. Diaz will have to pay for his wrongdoing someday. That evening, Francisco does not want to play kick-the-can, but his brothers insist. Francisco kicks the can so far that it lands in one of the trash bins. He never plays the game again.

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