Joe feels as though he is floating in a river, perhaps the part of the Colorado River that ran through Shale City where he would swim as a kid. Joe is floating in the river and thinking about, and then talking to, Kareen. Joe is floating on his back so that he does not drown. He senses Kareen disappearing, perhaps underwater, and then he himself begins to sink. He tries to swim and stick his head above water, but he cannot, as he has no arms. Therefore he lays at the bottom of the shallow river, drowned, looking at the world above water, only a few feet up and yet unreachable.
Joe hears explosions and sees rockets and bombs flash in front of his eyes. Then, suddenly, his pain disappears and his mind is quiet. Joe is grateful for the relief from the pain. He thinks optimistically about the fulfilling life he can still have, even though he is armless and deaf. Joe reasons that he must have imagined himself drowning, as his legs are higher than his upper body. When Joe tries to move his legs, he realizes that he has no legs—they have both been amputated below the hip.
Joe panics and tries unsuccessfully to distract himself from the awful thought of having no legs. He tries to scream in desperation, but he realizes that he has no mouth, no tongue, no palate. Breathing heavily, he realizes that he cannot feel his nose with air coming out of it. Joe figures he is dying, but he wants to discover the extent of the damage to his body before he dies. He works out that a large hole spans from his neck to his forehead, and his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth are gone. It dawns on Joe that he is not really living, yet cannot kill himself, cannot die. He mentally calls out for his mother to wake him up and take care of him. Joe panics, "No no no please no."
Joe remembers working the night shift at the bakery in Los Angeles. Friday nights are particularly busy, so they call down to a local unemployment shelter to get an extra worker for the night. The extra workers always stink of disinfectant from the shelter and usually are not very bright.
One Friday night, a Puerto Rican man named Jose shows up for work. Jose is a good worker. During the break, he talks about how he came to California to find a job at a studio. He left his previous job as a chauffeur for a rich family in New York City after their daughter fell in love with him. The bakery men do not believe Jose, but do not confront him either; they have learned that the stories the men from the shelter tell about themselves are important to the men.
Jose is kept on at the bakery for the following week, and then full-time. One day, Jose comes in with a letter from the daughter of the family he worked for; the other men are surprised to discover he has not been lying. The girl is asking for Jose's address so she might come out and marry him with the money she has inherited. To the men's surprise, Jose asks them how best to turn her down politely, as he does not love her.