The conversational tone and diction of the young narrator and of Felipe are consistent throughout the story; they create a style that is deliberately antiliterary. Sentences are short, syntax is simple, and clarity is never sacrificed for effect. The visual qualities that have made Ortiz an acclaimed poet are also present in this story; description is spare but made vivid through the use of precise detail. Ortiz also effectively uses the framing device of the young narrator who repeats the story that his older friend had told him.
Major details of plot and character are drawn from an actual murder that occurred much as Ortiz describes it on the Acoma Reservation in 1952. Two brothers, Willie and Gabriel Felipe of Acoma, ambushed a New Mexico state police officer named Nash Garcia. Ortiz would have been the same age as his nameless narrator when Garcia was murdered, and he must have heard the case discussed when he was growing up at Acoma, where he lived until he was twenty.