The reality of life for this family and the financial struggles they endure are perhaps best realized in this chapter. Paps has found work as a security guard on the graveyard shift, but Ma already works nights and the boys are too young to be left alone. The only solution, Paps reasons, is to take the boys to work with him. Each weeknight, the boys pile into the car with their sleeping bags and camp out on the floor near the vending machines.
We do not know for how long this arrangement takes place, but it is clandestine and management would not approve of the boys’ being on the job site. One morning, Paps accidentally falls asleep. He is frantic to get the boys out of the office before the next shift comes in.
The family hustles out to the car but does not move quickly enough. The next guard sees the boys and the sleeping bags, and he immediately puts two and two together. Paps leaves the children in the car to go and talk to the man. The boys watch the two men argue but cannot hear what is being said; they see Paps gesture angrily and knock over the man’s coffee.
Paps gets into the car. Manny asks if he will be fired. Paps laughs a bitterly but does not respond. In anger and frustration and probably to hold back tears, their father pounds the dashboard with his fist in time to the music blaring from the radio for the entire ride home.
Once inside, Paps feels more trapped than ever. He laments to Ma that they will “never escape, never.” The hopelessness in his voice frightens the boys. Ma reprimands him, demanding that he not think that way.
The machismo that pervades some of Puerto Rican society is evident in this chapter. The family car has broken down and is beyond repair. To the delight of the family, Paps agrees it is time to purchase a new vehicle. He goes into town for this purpose while the rest of the family stays home. The boys eagerly watch the road all day until finally they see an unfamiliar truck come down the road and pull into their driveway.
The boys are thrilled and the neighborhood children are impressed. Paps beams as the boys delight over all the features of the truck and the other children look on in envy. Everyone is happy as can be...until Ma comes out to inspect.
She is furious. The truck is their only vehicle and must be used for all the family’s needs. Its bench seat can only hold three. There are neither enough room nor enough seat belts for them all. Paps cringes under her anger and says he will take the truck back and exchange it for something more suitable for them all. But, he cajoles, since they cannot do so until tomorrow, why not go out and have fun with it tonight? Ma reluctantly agrees and gets dressed up. The boys hop in the back and they go for a ride, to nowhere in particular.
Paps has come home intoxicated. Ma is about to leave for work but Paps has other ideas. He begins kissing and touching her. Despite her very real protests, he pulls her into their bedroom and kicks the door shut. The boys make a nest of couch cushions and blankets in front of the television.
Ma goes to work, but when she comes home in the morning, she packs up the boys and some of their things into the truck. She demands that they not question her.
They drive for a while, not knowing where they are going. Ma stops at a picnic area that has a playground. The boys tumble out and roam around a while, playing on the seesaws, throwing bits of stale pretzels to ducks, and generally waiting to see what will happen next. Ma does not seem to have a plan. She considers driving to Spain, which is about as realistic a goal as relocating to Oz.
Eventually Ma knows they have no place to go. She asks the boys to help her decide if she could go back or not, but that is not a decision young children are capable of making....
(The entire section contains 1095 words.)
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- Chapter Summaries
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