by Greg Sarris

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Frankie is the story's narrator, a young American Indian boy of thirteen or fourteen years of age, just on the cusp of adolescence. He is anxious to increase his sexual knowledge for a number of reasons. First, his peer group is encouraging him to do so—the group's leader implying that it is normal to want and to have sex. Second, his family members are pressuring him to "'wet his whistle'" (a particularly vulgar and inappropriate thing to say to a thirteen year-old). Third, Frankie himself experiences some sexual feelings toward Caroline, the girl he likes, and he wants to explore those too. Caroline is also an American Indian, and she is a girl living in extreme poverty who seems to dream of finding a nice boy with whom to settle down, marry, and start a family. She has rebuffed a number of Frankie's sexual advances, continuing to want to discuss the family they might have one day (with their children, Peter and Alison), and she gets angry when Frankie stop visiting her after this. She gets angrier when she believes that sex is all he really wants from her.

Frankie's friends seem, in many ways, to be like typical boys. Buster is the self-appointed leader of the group, a boy with a great deal of bravado and bluster: when the boys look at nude pictures of women, he begins to masturbate and compels them to masturbate too. Frankie tells us that Buster would imply that they were not cool if they didn't follow suit. There's also Micky, Victor, and Jesus and Ignacio (the twins), and they mostly go along with whatever Buster says—like when he suggests that they sneak into the slaughterhouse to see the girls who are being "sold" to customers for sex.

Smokie and Indian Princess Sally Did run the slaughterhouse/brothel. They are essentially horrible people who exploit others for their own gain. Frankie's cousin, Aunt Nellie, makes a brief appearance when he goes to her house to do a good deed for someone to try to get luck on his side (since he draws the short straw and must sneak into the slaughterhouse while his friends keep watch). His parents, uncle, and grandparents also make very brief appearances when he stops home for dinner.

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