Study Guide

A Gathering of Old Men Chapter 12

By Ernest J. Gaines

Chapter 12

Sully

  • After that brief intermission, we're back with Sully, which also means we're back with Gil on the way to meet his family—including his dad, Fix Boutan.
  • We're headed off the main highway and onto a twisted road that leads to what Sully calls "Cajun country."
  • Sully knows it because he's gone back with Gil to visit before and he had a decent time. But now he's nervous—and with good reason.
  • After passing through country that looks about as still and silent as death, they arrive at the Boutan home, a big, white plantation-style-looking thing.
  • There are a ton of cars and trucks parked around the house, and Sully and Gil have to walk nearly 300 feet from where they end up parking to get to it.
  • They run into Russell, who explains that Mapes wants him to make sure Fix and his crew stay put.
  • Gil asks Russell to come with him (and along with Sully), and Russell agrees.
  • He tucks his shirt in, throws on a tie and jacket, and hides his .38 revolver in the glove box of his car.
  • Outside the house there's a large-ish group of men talking quietly. Everybody notices Gil and treats him with respect. Sully says it's pretty obvious that Gil is a hero.
  • Almost on cue, a little girl runs up to Gil and, calling him Gi-Bear—a Cajun nickname—waits patiently for Gil to give her a peck on the cheek, which he does.
  • A big dude nods toward a door off to the right. Gil and Sully enter through it.
  • Behind the door, Fix is sitting in large chair holding a small child on his lap.
  • There are about a dozen men in the room, along with two women.
  • One of the women is crying and the other is trying to make her feel better.
  • Fix is happy to see that Gil showed up, but all he says is a simple "you came."
  • Fix is a big dude and it's obvious people respect and fear him in that crowd.
  • He asks his son why it took him so long to get there.
  • Gil explains that he went to Marshall.
  • When Fix asks if he saw Beau, Gil says that the body had already been moved.
  • There's a long silence. Fix asks for more information.
  • Gil tells him that Mapes doesn't want him coming to Marshall.
  • Some of the men in the room say that Mapes is a fool.
  • Fix can't believe that Mapes expects him to stay put after his son was shot dead.
  • He wants to know if Mapes is still at Marshall.
  • Gil says that he is, and Fix wants to know why.
  • Keeping his answers short, Gil explains that Mapes is still talking to the people there.
  • Fix is getting impatient. He asks if Mapes knows who did it.
  • Gil says that Mapes thinks Mathu did it.
  • He goes on to explain why Mapes thinks that Mathu killed Beau, and Fix is convinced that it doesn't make any sense.
  • Out of nowhere, some big and really rough-looking dude asks Fix if it's worth wasting more time.
  • Fix just stares at him. We find out the guy's name is Luke Will.
  • Still looking right at Luke, Fix says that he only wants to hear from, and talk to, his family. He doesn't care how well Luke knew Beau.
  • Luke tries talking again, to convince Fix that he just needs to go kill some people.
  • Without batting an eyelash, Fix says that, if Luke can't get a handle on his mouth, he had better leave the room.
  • Gil tries to start talking again.
  • It takes him a minute, but he lets Fix know about all of the elderly African American men who are waiting around with shotguns and all saying that they did it.
  • Fix can't believe that a group of African Americans with guns—but he uses a really nasty and inappropriate word instead of "African American"—are waiting for him.
  • Somebody else says they should give the old men what they want and show up.
  • Gil keeps on talking, describing how old and sad-looking the men all seem.
  • He tries to tell his dad that the men aren't really waiting for him, but are waiting to challenge what he represents.
  • Fix doesn't get it. He's tough, but deep-thinking isn't his strong suit.
  • Gil asks Sully for help. Fix says he's not talking to anybody who isn't blood.
  • He gets impatient with his son and tells him to get on with it.
  • Gil gives it another go. He tries to explain that he's got a good chance of making "All American," and that he depends on Cal when he's out on the field to help him get there.
  • This is greeted by a whole lot of silence. Some people move around and shift uncomfortably.
  • Taking a look at his feet and biting his lip, Gil keeps on going, saying that he couldn't make All American if he got mixed up in anything illegal. He asks if Fix understands.
  • All Fix does is ask him if he's through.
  • Gil says he won't go along. His dad can beat him if he wants, but he won't go along.
  • Fix repeats the question.
  • There are two old men sitting near Fix, named Alphonse and "A-goose" ("Auguste" with a Cajun accent). Fix asks them what they think of the "great All-American."
  • Neither of them do much. One of them shrugs.
  • Claude, one of Gil's other brothers, gets asked what he thinks should happen. All he says is he'll go along with whatever Fix decides.
  • Then we get to Gil's other brother, Jean. He gets the same question.
  • Jean says he agrees with Gil.
  • That starts a pretty tense conversation, beginning with Fix asking Jean if he really doesn't want to go to Bayonne and set things right.
  • Jean says he lives there and that he makes his living there. He wants to know who else has to go there, and why.
  • Fix says he wants to see his dead son. Jean asks about the others.
  • Sarcastically, Fix reminds Jean that his brother was murdered.
  • Jean says he hasn't forgotten, but that the people who want Fix to do what he used to are no real friends of the family. There are laws in place to make sure that real justice is served.
  • Luke says that there's no way that Mapes can be relied upon to fix anything.
  • Russell chimes in and says that nobody should listen to Luke Will.
  • Fix says that Luke is a friend.
  • Luke says all Fix needs to do is give him the word.
  • Playing dumb, Fix asks just what word it is that Luke is waiting for.
  • Luke is waiting for the go-ahead to hit the folks at Marshall.
  • Fix says it's his decision to make—along with his sons—and Luke Will has no say in it.
  • Luke says he'll wait, and then go to Marshall.
  • Russell talks again and tells Luke that he'd better stay put.
  • Fix tells Russell that he had better not talk that way to anybody there.
  • Russell responds by saying that he has orders to keep everybody away from Marshall and out of Bayonne.
  • Not scared at all, Fix tells him that the only people who can make him stay put are his sons and family.
  • Russell keeps on it. He tells Fix that Gil and Jean are right, and that Luke is wrong.
  • Again, all Fix says is that he decides what he's going to do, with input from his family.
  • Russell quiets down, and Fix turns to Alphonse and Auguste again, asking them if they think that Jean and Gil are right.
  • They all agree that, 20 years ago, they would have gone out seeking their own kind of justice, but that things have changed.
  • Alphonse said he'll go along with whatever Fix decides. Auguste says—in so many words—that he agrees with Gil and Jean.
  • Fix questions Auguste's family loyalty.
  • Auguste says that he loved Beau and reminds Fix that he was Beau's godfather. He hurts inside for the loss, but he's not changing his mind.
  • Luke butts in again asking the same question about wasting time.
  • Fix breaks down the votes so far for Luke, with Gil, Jean, and "A-goose" saying it's a no-go.
  • Luke says some awful and really racist stuff about how Auguste is a senile old man and Gil and Jean love African Americans too much (although Luke uses a different word).
  • Fix asks Gil what he thinks, and Gil tells him that Luke's days are over.
  • When Fix asks Gil about his own days, Gil says those days are over, too.
  • He explains to his dad that the vigilante days are over and done with, and that he wants the Boutan clan to show people they're better than people think they are.
  • Luke tries to throw Beau's death in Gil's face.
  • Gil won't even turn around to talk to Luke.
  • He lets his father know that he's sad that Beau is gone, but this will not bring him back.
  • After Fix asks Jean what he thinks again, Jean says he agrees with Gil (again).
  • Fix asks the rest of the people how they feel. Everybody just mumbles.
  • He looks back at Gil.
  • His son begs Fix to make the other people see that it's no good for the family if they go out to do harm to the old men at Marshall.
  • Fix implies that all Gil is concerned about is himself.
  • Gil admits that it would hurt him, yes, but that he is concerned about the whole family.
  • Now things get a little heavier—if they weren't heavy enough already.
  • Fix mentions the small boy he's holding—Beau's son. He wants to make sure that Gil understands that he no longer has a father.
  • Then he mentions the woman crying on the bed—named Doucette—and says that she no longer has a husband (she was Beau's wife).
  • Gil promises to do everything he can to help them both.
  • His father says they all will, but is obviously having a hard time with the fact that Gil just wants them to sit there and do nothing.
  • Luke opens his big, fat, bigoted mouth again, saying that they're just wasting time.
  • He's convinced that Mapes can't handle it, that they should give the African American men waiting there the war that they're asking for.
  • Shutting Luke up quickly, Fix says he doesn't care about Luke's war. He only cares about his family—and if the majority of the family says no, then no action will be taken.
  • Gil speaks up again. He's been crying. He tells Fix that he's sorry.
  • Fix demands to know for what.
  • When all Gil says is that he's sorry for everything, Fix demands that Gil be more specific.
  • Still crying, Gil says he feels for Beau, for his family, for the rest of the Boutans, and that he feels sorry for those old men with guns waiting out at Marshall plantation.
  • Fix isn't moved. He makes fun of Gil, calling him a regular "Christ" who feels sorry for the whole world.
  • Silently, Fix just keeps staring at his son.
  • Shaking his head, he disowns Gil. Literally. He tells him to get out of the house and never come back again.
  • Alphonse tries to persuade him to change his mind.
  • Fix says that, according to his own son, he's dead, so nothing matters anymore.
  • Alphonse tries to say that others will join.
  • Fix says that it's always been about family. With the family divided, there is no other reason to fight.
  • Gil is looking for sympathy from anybody in the room—Alphonse, Claude, anybody. No dice—he doesn't get it
  • Nobody looks at or talks to him. Gil begs his father not to send him away from home.
  • Fix just looks right through him, not saying anything.
  • Russell gently takes Gil out of the room with his arm around his shoulders.
  • When they're outside, Luke Will comes up as Russell is trying to make Gil feel better about doing the right thing.
  • Luke promises that he's going to finish things with his pals.
  • Russell says that Luke should just calm down, but Luke says no.
  • He says some more ignorant racist nonsense, even suggesting that Black men have been raping Russell's wife and little daughter for years without him caring.
  • The deputy just tells Luke that his time is over and done with.
  • Luke tells him that he's wrong. That's right. He's stubborn and he's a total racist scumbag.
  • Luke and his redneck pal go back inside.
  • Russell tells Gil he should just leave, get some sleep, and play an awesome game tomorrow.
  • Gil is beside himself with grief and rage. He can't even think about football, and he's upset that Russ would even say that.
  • The deputy says that bigots like Luke will hate seeing Gil and Cal on the field together.
  • Gil says that all he's worried about is his family.
  • Picking up on that, Russell says that he's worried about the family too, especially about the kind of future that Beau's son is going to have.
  • Seeing he's said about all he can say, Russell leaves to report to Mapes.
  • Sully tries to get Gil to leave. Gil doesn't say anything.
  • When Sully pushes him a little harder, Gil just says he needs to think.
  • All he wants to do, he snaps, is think.

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