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Antonio is delirious with pneumonia for several days. Narciso’s death is declared an accident by the coroner. When Andrew enters Antonio’s sickroom, he seems uncomfortable. After he leaves, Ultima assures Antonio that he didn’t reveal Andrew’s secret in his delirium.
María likes to hear Antonio read prayers in both English and Spanish. Unlike many of their people, she wants her children to know both languages. León and Eugene come to visit for Christmas. They bought a car in Las Vegas but have totaled it during the drive to Guadalupe. The tension between Gabriel and his sons grows. When León and Eugene leave for Sante Fe, Andrew goes with them.
Antonio hopes that his first Communion will bring him an understanding of why Tenorio’s evil goes unpunished. Tenorio confronts Antonio on his way home from school one day. He shouts that another of his daughters is dying and vows to kill Ultima, but he hurries away without harming Antonio. When Antonio reports Tenorio’s threats, Ultima assures him that Tenorio won’t ambush her as easily as he did Narciso.
Antonio and his friends begin taking catechism lessons with Father Byrnes. That spring, fierce dust storms incite rumors of the atomic bomb. Antonio eagerly looks forward to receiving the knowledge of God. Gabriel laughs when Antonio reports that some people think the atomic bomb has caused the fierce dust storms. He replies that the wind is the voice of the llano. By blowing dust in their faces, it is telling the people that they have sucked the land dry with overgrazing.
Although he doesn’t believe in God, Florence attends the catechism lessons because he wants to be with his friends. Florence’s mother died when he was three, and his father slowly killed himself with drink. Now his sisters are prostitutes at Rosie’s house. He asks Antonio why God would do such things to him. Antonio cannot answer because these are the very questions that haunt Antonio himself. When Antonio and Florence are late to catechism lessons, Father Byrnes punishes Florence but not Antonio. Florence stands patiently in the aisle, holding his arms out to his side, while Bones quietly vandalizes a pew near the oblivious Father Byrnes. Father Byrnes tells a frightening story to explain how long eternity is. He tells the children to imagine that they must move a huge pile of sand across the ocean by allowing a little bird to move one grain of sand at a time. When the bird has finished moving the pile of sand, the first day of eternity has passed.
Antonio begs Florence to go through with confession and Communion to save himself an eternity in hell. Samuel suggests that the golden carp might be a better god for Florence. They decide to take Florence to see him during the summer.
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