(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Frankie, the fourteen-year-old narrator, has a Portuguese father and a Native American mother. They all live amid a chaos of poverty with his father’s brother Angelo, various Indian relatives, and several other children. Frankie, who describes himself as too old for his mother to tend and too young to get a job, spends his time hanging out with a racially mixed group of teenagers from the rundown community. They are not vicious boys, only bored adolescents who fill their lives with idle talk about girls and an obsessive interest in the seedy adult world that surrounds them.

Worried about his sexual powers, Frankie fantasizes about Caroline, an American Indian girl who has recently moved into a shabby neighborhood called the Hole. He thinks that she might become his first sexual conquest, but the prospect of negotiating such an encounter scares him. Moreover, his genuinely tender feelings for Caroline clash with his pressing sexual need and cause him great confusion. He desires both a virgin and a sexual dynamo, and he does not know how to resolve this dilemma.

The local slaughterhouse often looms up in the boys’ imagination because it has a mysterious aura as a holy site of animal sacrifice and accumulating myth. It is more than that, however. It stands on Santa Rosa Avenue, a neighborhood where people keep chickens and cows in their yards and where small houses lurk behind abandoned refrigerators and other appliances. At night, two nefarious local denizens, Smoke and Indian Princess Sally Did, sell girls in the slaughterhouse. This commercial enterprise constantly occupies the sex-haunted imaginations of the coalition members—Buster Copaz and Mickey Toms (Indians, like Frankie), Victor James (African American), and the “angel-face” Navarro twins,...

(The entire section is 730 words.)