The Convict Summary
by James Lee Burke

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The Convict Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Convict” describes an encounter with an escaped African American prisoner from the point of view of a young white boy. The events of three days make an indelible impact on young Avery Broussard as he observes how his mother and father and the community act and react.

The story begins in the small town of New Iberia, Louisiana, where Avery is with his father and several other men in a hotel bar. Will Broussard, his father, is a respected member of the community, but when he mentions the possibility of racial integration in the schools, it is clear none of the other men share his view. After they leave and pick up Avery’s mother from a book club meeting, Avery asks his father why he drinks with the men as they always end up arguing. His mother, Margaret, says that Will should not provoke them.

At a roadblock they are told that two dangerous convicts, one of whom is an African American, have escaped from an Angola prison truck and are in the area. Margaret becomes increasingly anxious, and when they hear the door on their tractor shed banging, she does not want her husband to go outside in the rain. When her husband returns, Margaret tells him that she has heard on the radio that one of the escapees is a murderer. About 3:00 a.m., they hear the door bang again. Avery watches his father go out, then come back and take some towels and a lunch pail back to the shed.

Margaret stays in her room that morning, clearly upset with her husband. Will suggests that his son go to a picture show, but instead Avery pokes around an old houseboat left stranded on the shore years before. He sees a bloodied black man huddled on the floor, the chains of his broken handcuffs nailed to a beam of wood. Before Avery can say anything, his father yanks him away.

Margaret insists that they call the sheriff. Will promises that the man will be gone that night and that he is no threat to them. The rest of the day they do not speak to each other. That evening, Avery watches his father take a sack to the old houseboat and hears him tell the man to take the provisions and get out of the area. The...

(The entire section is 602 words.)