The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child

by Francisco Jiménez

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Chapter 8 Summary

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Last Updated on September 6, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 376

Francisco wants nothing more than his own “Cotton Sack” so that he can prove his maturity and usefulness. He watches as Papa prepares his sack, Mama’s sack, and Roberto’s sack, but Papa says that Francisco is too small to have one of his own. The matter is settled.

At bedtime, Papa lies down on the mattress with his aspirin and cigarettes nearby. The boys say their prayers before the family’s Virgen de Guadalupe picture. Mama cares for the baby Rorra, and then they all snuggle up on the mattress to sleep. Rain pours down, and this means the family cannot work yet another day.

The next morning, Mama makes tortillas on the kerosene stove, and the children do their chores. Papa runs errands and then goes back to bed. Mama warns the children to be quiet. This goes on for several days.

Then on a Friday, the sun finally shines, and the contratista, the labor contractor, announces a work day. The family gets into Carcachita and drives to the work site. Papa, Mama, Roberto, and Francisco all pick cotton now while Trampita stays back to watch the younger children. Francisco is happy to work, but he knows that picking cotton can actually hurt because of the plant’s sharp shells. He alternates his time between Papa’s and Mama’s rows, helping them fill their sacks. Then he goes with Roberto to the weigh station.

The contratista praises Roberto for his strength but teases Francisco for not having his own sack. By the end of the day, the family has picked six hundred pounds of cotton and earned $18. Francisco still thinks they would have done better if he could have had his own sack.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, Francisco decides that he will finally earn his own sack. He goes with Papa and Roberto to find work. It is a cold morning, and the foreman suggests that the pickers wait for the temperature to warm up a bit. Papa will not. Roberto and Francisco go with him. Francisco is soon numbed by the cold, and he cannot continue to pick. Papa tells him to go back to the fire, and Francisco knows that he is not yet ready to have his own sack.

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