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Tortilla Flat

John Steinbeck

Chapters 12 & 13

Chapters 10 & 11

Chapters 12 & 13, page 2

page 1 of 2

Chapter 12

Sometimes unusual good luck fell upon Danny and his friends. Such was the case when word arrived that a Coast Guard cutter had gone down near Monterey in Carmel. There was nothing that paisanos like better than finding things on the beach, so Danny's friends, minus Big Joe, who was away on private business, started over the ridge to Carmel. By the end of the night, they had accumulated a large pile of flotsam including several pounds of canned foods, some coats, a barrel, and a machine gun, which they sold immediately to a prospector for five dollars, thereby eliminating the need for carrying it all back to Mr. Torrelli's.

From the five dollars, Danny gave one quarter to the Pirate, who had skipped his day's work to be part of the salvage operation. When they got back to the house, the Pirate gave the quarter back to Danny to put in the sack under his pillow. The money had become the gravitation center of the bond between the friends. They were proud to have not touched it and had stopped thinking of it in terms of currency. To the surprise of all, the bag was gone when Danny looked for it under his bed. After a moment's shock, the paisanos settled into their course. Danny picked up and weighed a three-foot switch from the yard, Pablo armed himself with a rusty can opener, and Jesus Maria retrieved the shaft of a pick from under the porch. They sat down and waited, and sure enough, within the hour, Big Joe came walking up the path with a gallon of wine under his arm.

There was no talk and no mercy. Danny waited for Big Joe to walk past and then brained him with the stick. Big Joe went out with a light and during his unconsciousness, Danny tied his thumbs together. They then splashed him with water to wake him up. The friends worked over their fallen comrade from head to toe with their weapons, and then turned him over to do the back. As Pilon pulled off the big man's shoes so that no part of him would remain comfortable, Big Joe blurted out that he had buried the sack in the front yard. Danny and Pilon fetched the bag and then proceeded to beat their friend back into unconsciousness. When he was out, Pilon cross-thatched his back with the can opener and Pablo rubbed salt into the wounds. Danny finally tossed a blanket over the unconscious man and walked back into the house. Eventually their fury broke and the friends tended to their punished comrade.

Upon a count, Big Joe had only stolen four quarters, which he had used on the wine, which the friends were now drinking. The total came to 1007 quarters, which meant that the Pirate had enough to buy his golden candlestick for San Francisco. They immediately made plans for the donation and the mass that would follow. They would have Father Ramon buy the candlestick for them because if any of them did it, the police would think that they had robbed a slot machine. They also advised the Pirate to take the extra money and buy some decent cloths for the mass. When he went out to do so, the Pirate returned with a jewel studded belt and a large handkerchief. In disbelief, the friends realized that they would have to lend the Pirate their good cloths and not attend the mass themselves. Instead, they would stay at the house to watch the dogs, which were not allowed in the church.

When Sunday finally came after all the arrangements were made, the Pirate proceeded to the church and was stunned by the beauty of his gift. He imagined that the statue of San Francisco smiled at him all through the mass. Father Ramon mentioned the gift during his sermon, which filled the pirate with holy ecstasy, but before the sermon was over, there was a scratching at the door and the Pirate's dog's burst in. At first, the Pirate was ashamed, and he led the dogs outside and admonished them angrily, but when he came back inside, Father Ramon explained that it was good for a man to be loved by his dogs. When the mass was over, the Pirate took the dogs to the forest and reproduced the entire mass for their indulgence.

Chapter 13

On the Southern frontier of Tortilla Flat, there lived the family of Senora Teresina Cortez. It was a constantly expanding family, consisting at the time of the story of nine children and Teresina's mother. To put it modestly, "Her body was one of those perfect retorts for the distillation of children." Often, Teresina could not remember who was the father of her children. Once, she had been quarantined for diphtheria, but still conceived on her regular schedule. The family had been founded on the handiwork of a Mr. Alfredo Cortez, who had provided Teresina with her last name and the first two extensions of her family. He had then left town and resumed calling himself Guggliemo. Without a breadwinner, the family was forced to exist on what they could scrape together, which fortunately for them was three or four hundred pounds of beans each year. Mother, Grandmother, and children would simply go into the fields after the harvest and use blankets to collect what the threshers missed.

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