Chapter 1 Summary

Danny, a mixed-race “paisano” from Monterey, California, joins the army with his friends Pilon and Big Joe Portagee. Pilon and Big Joe are placed in the infantry, but Danny is assigned to Texas to break mules for the duration of the war.

When he comes home from the army, Danny learns that his grandfather (the “viejo”) has died and left him two houses. He feels weighted down with the responsibility of ownership, so he buys a gallon of wine and gets drunk.

He becomes violent and abusive to the Italian fishermen on the wharf. They dismiss him good-naturedly, which upsets Danny. He goes down the street and breaks windows. He is arrested, but since he has just been released from the army, he is given only thirty days in jail rather than the usual six months.

Danny spends his time in jail drawing obscene pictures on his cell wall. Mostly he is all alone and lonely, but occasionally a drunk is put in with him to sober up.

Danny catches bedbugs, kills them, and mounts them on the cell wall, labeling them with the names of local government officials. He does not name them after the justice of the peace or the police since he has a great respect for the law.

Tito Ralph comes to visit him, bearing two bottles of wine. An hour later, Tito Ralph goes out for more wine and Danny goes with him. They go to the local bar, Torelli’s, until Torelli throws them out.

Danny goes off to the pine woods and sleeps while Tito Ralph goes back to the jail and reports Danny’s escape. When Danny awakens, he is determined to hide all day to escape rearrest. He goes to a restaurant and asks for scraps for his dog. When the manager goes off to wrap up the scraps, Danny steals two slices of ham, four eggs, a lamb chop, and a fly swatter.

He trades some of the stolen food for a bottle of grappa and heads back to the woods to cook his supper. He spies his friend Pilon, who seems to be hiding something in his coat. Danny approaches him even though Pilon is trying to avoid him. Pilon asks Danny how he knew that he had a bottle of brandy in his coat. Danny acts surprised at this news. Pilon tells him that it is his duty to see that Danny does not drink at all.

They build a fire in the woods and cook the ham and drink the brandy. Soon, Danny and Pilon are overcome with loneliness and talk of their lost friends. Arthur Morales is dead, having been killed in France; Pablo is in jail for theft.

Suddenly, Danny remembers that he has two houses. Pilon declares that Danny will forget him now that he is a man of property, but Danny denies this. He promises that as long as he has a house, Pilon will also have a house.