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Tortilla Flat

John Steinbeck

Chapters 16 & 17

Chapter 14 & 15

Chapters 16 & 17, page 2

page 1 of 2

Chapter 16

When Danny returned from his binge of lawlessness, he was tired, though not remorseful, but worse, his demeanor was unchanged. Danny slipped into an impenetrable fog of listlessness. His friends tried to talk to him and break him out of the rut, but it was no use. "He is changed," Pilon said, "He is old." Pilon tried giving Danny the last two glasses of wine in the house, and for a second, he saw a flicker of the old Danny in his eyes. From there, the friends knew what they must do. The next morning, Pilon, Pablo, the Pirate, Jesus Maria, Big Joe, Tito Ralph, and Johnny Pom-Pom set out to cut squid for Chin Kee in order to earn enough money to throw Danny the biggest party ever.

Word spread quickly through the town of Tortilla flat that Danny's friends were working. The news easily replaced Cornelia Ruiz as the day's most popular subject of discussion. Around noontime, word leaked out that they were working to throw a party for Danny and the town exploded with enthusiasm. No one wanted Danny to think that he had just seven friends who were willing to sacrifice time and money for his party. Chickens were slain, decorations bought, and Mr. Torrelli's boomed with business. Even Torrelli himself decided that he would pay a visit to the party and bring a few gallons of wine.

While all of this was going on, Danny sat obliviously on his front porch, completely unaware that everyone in town had passed by his house with a curious look in their eye. At four o'clock, he got up and began walking towards Monterey with no particular purpose. As soon as he was out of site, people swarmed the house with decorations, food and wine. A farmer named Ramirez dug up a keg of potato whiskey from his manure pile and donated it to the cause. At five-thirty, the band of Danny's friends trudged home, weary and cut up from the day's work, but successful. They had earned two dollars each, which was good for fourteen gallons of wine. Their expression immediately brightened and the tiredness faded from their limbs when they saw the house and all of the neighbors swarming around it. Soon, the party was ready to go, and all that was missing was Danny.

Pilon and Pablo finally tracked down their friend on a pier in Monterey. Later Pilon would say that when he had spotted Danny, he had seen a man-sized black bird over his head, and had crossed himself and whispered two Hail Mary's. Danny lifelessly responded to their questions about his health with, "I'm okay," and only livened when Pilon announced the party. Danny turned and said something unheard to the water, and then turned to his friends with a fire in his eyes. They ran up the hill to Tortilla Flat and the party began.

The party, which is now called The Party, is now a legend in Tortilla Flat. Never is there talk of another party without lopsided comparisons being made to Danny's party. There was a smorgasbord of food, more than thirty gallons of wine, and the keg of potato whiskey. It was later said that Danny himself drank three gallons of wine, but of course, Danny has ceased existing as a normal person. His drinking and sexual endurance at the party elevated Danny to the status of legend, and as with all legends, each year a few extra gallons of wine and a few extra women are added to the total. Actually, there is not a woman in the entire town who would admit that Danny passed her up that night. There were fights to end all fights, not just man on man, but entire crowds of whirling fists and flying bodies. In Monterey, the firemen stayed up all night with their engines running, just waiting for a call.

When the weaker of the partiers began to fade, and even the most tireless men had lost the will to fight, Danny was still raging. Brandishing a fearsome table leg he challenged the entire world to fight him, but there were no takers. The legends became distorted here, and the events took a turn towards the supernatural. Most agree that Danny began to grow monstrous. They say that his eyes became like the headlights of a car and that his head almost touched the ceiling of the little house. When no one took up his challenge, Danny called, "Then I will go out to the One who can fight. I will find the Enemy who is worthy of Danny!" With this, he rushed out the door. The people in the house were helpless to follow, and listened for what would come next with bated breath and then with heads quietly bowed. From the house, they heard Danny charge into a fray, and then he let out what sounded like a last cry of defiance, and then a thump. When no sound fallowed, Pilon was the only paisano brave enough to follow his friend. In the bottom of the gulch, they found Danny, twisted and contorted, apparently from the forty-foot drop. He was still alive, but Pilon knew that he was dying. Doctors and Father Ramirez were called while the paisanos brought their friend back to his bed. No one knows what happened inside his room with the priest. The doors were closed to all but Danny, the priest, and his seven friends. When the door opened, Danny was dead.

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