Part One, Chapters 11-12: Summary and Analysis
Lee Ann: Remi Boncoeur’s girlfriend
Old Cop: a cranky, ex-Alcatraz guard who works at the Barracks with Sal
Sledge: an angry, brutal cop at the Barracks
Terry: a young Mexican woman Sal meets on a bus
Blond boy: a young man who gives Sal a ride
Trailer Salesman: a man who gives Sal a ride
Sal travels by bus to San Francisco, enjoying the scenery of the West. When he arrives in the city, he looks up his friend Remi Boncoeur, who is living in a shack in Mill City. Sal recalls meeting Remi in prep school, and tells us that while they were in college, Remi introduced him to a woman Sal married and later divorced.
Remi is living in a rundown part of town near an old barracks. Sal climbs in through the window of Remi’s shack, and finds his friend asleep, in bed with his girlfriend, Lee Ann. Remi has a loud, infectious laugh and he is delighted to see Sal. However, Lee Ann is not pleased. Sal discovers that Remi and Lee Ann fight all the time during the week, then they go out on the weekend and spend all their money. Sal settles into the shack and tries to write, although he doesn’t have much success.
Eventually, Remi gets Sal a job as a special policeman at the barracks where he works. The barracks house transient construction workers who are waiting to ship out to jobs overseas. Sal’s job is to act as a guard and keep order in the frequently rowdy barracks. However, Sal finds it easier to befriend the workers than discipline them. One night he ends up drinking with them until dawn. The next morning, as part of his job, he raises the American flag, but he’s so woozy that he flies it upside down.
The older cops who work with Sal immediately get on his case. They are a grim and miserable bunch who enjoy pushing around the transient workers. They don’t care for Sal’s attitude. One night, Sledge, a tough cop, makes Sal come with him to break up a party. Sal tells Sledge to let him talk to the men, but Sledge won’t hear of it. He orders the workers around and arrests them. The men are afraid they’ll lose their jobs. Sal hates being a part of this.
When Remi is on the job, he is always coming up with schemes to steal things from the barracks. He reasons that “the world owes me a few things” and he’s determined to take whatever he can get. One night, Sal catches Remi stealing a big box of groceries from the barracks kitchen. He helps Remi carry the box back to their shack.
One afternoon, Sal, Remi, and Lee Ann rent a boat and row out to a rusty, old freighter anchored out in the bay. They climb aboard and explore the deserted ship. Sal thinks he would love to spend the night aboard, listening to the water and creaking metal. Remi dares Sal to do it, but Sal never does. Later, they all go to a race track and bet on the horses. After they lose all their money, they have to hitchhike back to town.
Lee Ann grows more and more dissatisfied living with Remi. She blames him for all her troubles and tells Remi she wants to leave him. Remi asks her to go out with him one last time to meet his stepfather who is in town. Sal, Remi, and Lee Ann go out to dinner with Remi’s stepfather and they run into Roland Major at the restaurant. Roland makes a scene and ruins the dinner. Afterwards, Sal feels terrible about the whole incident.
Sal realizes it is time to move on once again. Before he leaves, he climbs a mountain and looks down on San Francisco, reflecting on the vast American continent and the many differences between the east and west coasts.
Sal hitchhikes through Fresno and Bakersfield, then takes a bus to Los Angeles. He meets Terry, a young Mexican woman on the bus, and they are immediately attracted to each other. Terry is running away from her abusive husband and is going to visit her sister in L.A.
By the time the bus reaches L.A., Sal is in love with Terry. He looks out at the crowded city, describing it as “the ragged promised land, the fantastic end of America.” Sal and Terry rent a cheap hotel room...
(The entire section is 1,170 words.)