Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 456
This story is narrated by a young American Indian, aged thirteen or fourteen, named Frankie. He is a first-person objective narrator. This means that Frankie is a participant in the events that take place in the story, and he uses the first-person pronoun "I." He is also narrating these events after they have taken place rather than during or while they are happening. He is out one day with his friends, and they scope out a horse slaughterhouse where two shady individuals called Smoke and Indian Princess Sally Did "sold girls." In other words, local women apparently serve as sex workers there for the men in town.
Frankie and his friends—Buster, the leader; Micky, an Indian like Frankie and Buster; Victor, who is black; and the twins, Jesus and Ignacio—are looking at pictures of nude women and masturbating in the barn next door when they overhear a conversation about something happening tonight. One of the older sex workers is, apparently, upset. They decide that they ought to sneak in through a chute in the slaughterhouse so that they can find out what is going on. Frankie draws the short straw: he will have to shimmy up the chute while the others keep watch in various spots outside.
The boys agree to meet up after dark, and so Frankie has some time to kill: six hours to be exact, and he thinks the number six is unlucky. So he decides to do a good deed for someone to improve his luck, but this goes poorly when he gets tricked into doing a whole lot of work by his cousin, Old Nellie, and he feels cursed for that as well. Next, he decides to visit the girl he has a crush on, Caroline, but she is angry with him for going too fast sexually and then not coming to see her after she rebuffed his advances. She ends up declaring that he's just like all the other boys and she rejects him a final time. Frankie feels angry, sorry, and sad as he knows that his feelings for her were something special.
That night, he meets the other boys and goes up the chute. He ends up discovering a bunch of people dancing around to music, and he sees one veiled girl in the midst. When her veil is removed, he sees that it is Caroline, but she seems totally drugged and not entirely conscious. He is completely shaken by this, and he runs away before he can see what happens to her, telling the guys that he didn't see anything. The boys try to carry on as usual, deciding to go to the park to meet girls, but Frankie seems forever changed by the experience.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 730
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, Jesus and Ignacio.
The slaughterhouse has a companion barn, used to store hay for the horses on death row, which becomes an observation post for the curious boys as they snoop on Smoke and Sally Did. One day when the conspirators are in the barn, eagerly examining a girlie magazine they haven stolen from Sally Did’s Cadillac, they draw straws to see who will sneak into the slaughterhouse that night to spy on the patrons. Frankie draws the short straw.
Apprehensive about this frightening commitment to his gang, Frankie spends the day seeking distraction. He visits an aunt, Old Julia, who laughs gleefully at his efforts to tidy up her yard. Later he calls on Caroline at her bedraggled home, where he comes under the amused eye of a neighbor, old man Toms. Walking under the cypress trees with Caroline, Frankie tries to convince her of his sincerity, but his sexual overtures prompt her cutting rejection that he is “just like all the rest.” Caroline runs home, leaving Frankie angry and confused.
Frankie then goes home to the domestic confusion that reigns among his extended family. His father sits with Uncle Angelo at the kitchen table, where they console themselves with beer, while his mother, her hair festooned with pink plastic curlers, pushes beans around in a pot. Grandma and Old Uncle are by the stove, and noisy children contribute to the general disorder. After his belly is full of beans, Frankie faces up to his appointment at the slaughterhouse as his only chance to salvage a day filled with defeat.
The slaughterhouse is menacing at night, with the screams of dying horses and the smell of their rubbery guts weighing heavily on Frankie’s lively imagination. What he observes there, however, is innocuous and banal. Smoke, Sally, and “the girls” promenade around a makeshift arena made up of cardboard boxes stacked on three sides and Sally’s gold Cadillac on the fourth. Sally and an orange-haired black girl are leading another girl in a dark shawl in some kind of ceremony accompanied by music from a big transistor radio. The girl wears a tight red dress and wobbles as if she is drunk. Behind her lipstick and “done up” hair, Frankie recognizes Caroline as the apparent initiate.
Frankie gropes his way out of the slaughterhouse to the waiting coalition, where the admiring boys are disappointed by his deflating report of “just some people dancing around.” They muster a poker face, though, and head for the park to find “some chicks,” staying tough to the end. For Frankie, however, the experience spells the end of whatever scrap of youthful idealism his soul has retained.
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