Pedro Luna, Antonio’s uncle, takes Antonio, his mother, his sisters, and Ultima to the Luna farms to help with the harvest. They stop first at the home of María’s father, Prudencio Luna. Afterward, they settle into the home of one of María’s brothers, Juan Luna, because it is his turn to host his sister and her children. Antonio overhears Juan urge María to send Antonio to them for a summer before Antonio is “lost” like his older brothers.
That fall, Antonio begins school. When Ultima blesses him, he again feels a whirlwind sweeping around him. He recalls the evil whirlwinds on the llano, which he has been taught to ward off with the sign of the cross, and wonders why he feels the same whirlwind in Ultima’s presence. Reflecting on this similarity, Antonio wonders if the powers of good and evil are the same. María presses Ultima to name Antonio’s fate. Ultima replies sadly that Antonio will be “a man of learning.” In his first day, Antonio learns to write his name, much to his teacher’s pleasure. However, the class first laughs at him because he cannot speak English and because he eats green chili in tortillas for lunch. Feeling like an outcast, Antonio begins eating lunch with other children whose language and customs are different.
The war ends, and Antonio dreams of three giants, his brothers. They ask for his “saving hand” because they are dying. Antonio wakes just in time to greet his brothers upon their return.
Antonio’s brothers spend the winter sleeping all day and spending their money on women and drink. All three of them suffer trauma from the war. Their parents say that they have “war-sickness.” In the spring, the brothers are restless to build their own independent lives, resisting Gabriel’s urgings to follow his old dream of moving to California with them.
Antonio dreams that his three brothers urge him to enter Rosie’s brothel. Antonio calls out that he must resist because he might become a priest. His brothers León and Eugene predict that he will eventually enter the brothel. Antonio begs Andrew to stay outside. Andrew promises not to enter until Antonio loses his innocence. Antonio hears the voices of a priest and María, who say that innocence lasts only until understanding. Antonio hears Ultima call out that his innocence is in the lonely llano. Antonio awakes to hear his brothers arguing with their parents. The brothers want to leave the family and strike out on their own. León and Eugene leave the next morning, but Andrew stays behind.
Andrew walks Antonio to school. The Vitamin Kid beats them in a race, calling Antonio a giant killer. At the end of the year, Antonio’s teacher, Miss Maestas, promotes him from first to third grade. After school, Antonio goes fishing with Samuel, the Vitamin Kid’s brother. Samuel asks if Antonio has ever fished for carp. Antonio replies that he hasn’t because to do so is bad luck. Samuel tells Antonio a story that Jasón’s Indian originally told. The story says that the gods sent the first people to the valley but forbade them to eat the carp. During a terrible drought, the people disobeyed the rule. One god pleaded for mercy, so the gods turned the people into carp instead of killing them. The god who saved the people grew sad, so he became a carp as well. However, he is larger than the other carp and golden in color. The story explains why eating carp is a sin. Samuel says that Cico, a local boy, will take Antonio to see the golden carp. When Antonio returns home, María is angry that he is so late. When she learns of his double promotion, however, she quickly forgets it.