Study Guide

A Gathering of Old Men Chapter 18

By Ernest J. Gaines

Chapter 18

Horace Thompson—a.k.a. Sharp 

  • Ugh—it looks like we're going to spend a little time with one of Luke's pals and the rest of that awful bunch, who aren't doing too well when we're introduced to Sharp at the start of this chapter.
  • The first thing we find out from Sharp is that Leroy got hit.
  • It's basically just a scratch, but Leroy is crying and whining like he's going to die any minute.
  • Leroy's whining is really aggravating his friends, who aren't acting very much like friends at all.
  • He wants to give himself up. Henry tells Leroy that, if he tries to get up and walk away, he'll kill him himself.
  • Luke tells his group of friends to get Leroy to shut up, because he's just not letting up.
  • Henry pops Leroy in the mouth and tells him to knock it off.
  • This only makes Leroy snivel and whine some more.
  • He's decided to try and get Mapes's attention.
  • Leroy calls out to Mapes and tells him that he's only a kid.
  • Mapes says he doesn't care.
  • Leroy adds that he's not just a kid—he's a white kid.
  • Mapes still doesn't care, and he lets Leroy know it.
  • As Henry asks Leroy if he's happy now, Leroy is going hysterical with crying.
  • Luke tries to get a sense for where the fire from the old men is coming from, making some standard racist comments as he does.
  • Unable to figure anything out (which isn't surprising, because he's an idiot), he tells Mapes that one of his friends—he means Leroy—is hurt, and he wants to get medical attention for him.
  • Mapes tells Luke to go ahead and try and get his pal out of there on his own.
  • Luke—who's slow to pick up on what Mapes is implying—says that if he tries to do that, the old men are going to shoot them.
  • Mapes doesn't care. He tells Luke that he can try and shoot them back, just like Luke shot him. (It's a safe bet that Mapes has been waiting a while to say that to Luke.)
  • Luke tries to convince Mapes that one of the old men shot him, but Mapes doesn't buy it.
  • Mapes promises that he'll make Luke and his gang pay for what they did, and for what they're doing.
  • This whole time, Leroy hasn't stopped whining, and now he's convinced that Mapes wants the old men to kill them (he's probably right).
  • Luke is fed up and frustrated. He starts kicking Leroy over and over again.
  • The rest of the guys pull Luke off of Leroy, and Luke smacks Sharp right across the face.
  • Sharp knows that Luke is bent out of shape that everything has backfired and that they're all stuck.
  • Luke calls out to Mapes and tells him that they're all out of ammunition. He asks the sheriff if he's willing to let them all get killed like animals.
  • Mapes doesn't respond, but Charlie does.
  • He tells Luke that he's got plenty of ammo, and his men can come and get it anytime they want to.
  • In their own racist way, Luke's pals express their confusion at how gutsy the old men are acting.
  • Luke says that there's no way out because the men are spread out all over the place and they can't see them at all.
  • Turning to Sharp, he asks him if he's backing out. Sharp really wants to—and the other guys want to also—but he knows that if he does that Luke will do some awful things to him.
  • Knowing that, Sharp tells Luke that he's there to the bitter end.
  • It's still pretty obvious that everybody's had it and doesn't have any fight left.
  • Luke calls to Mapes and tells him that they're ready to give themselves up.
  • All Mapes tells Luke is that he needs to talk to Lou Dimes, who is now in charge.
  • Luke calls out to Lou, and Lou tells him that he hears him.
  • Lou gets Charlie's attention, and Charlie says that he's not backing down from anything.
  • Luke's tough-guy friends aren't so tough anymore. They're scared. And Luke is, too.
  • Luke tells Sharp to look after his wife and kids if he doesn't make it out of there alive.
  • After telling Luke that he's still got a couple of shells left, Sharp suggests that they make a run for it and then force Tee Jack to give them an alibi to clear them.
  • When Luke asks about Leroy, Sharp basically tells him that they should just leave him there.
  • Luke demands that Sharp give him all of his shells as Leroy continues to snivel in the background.
  • Sharp knows that Luke is planning some kind of big "last stand." He tries to convince Luke that it's not a good idea, telling him that Mapes won't let anything happen to them all.
  • Luke just smiles and tells Sharp that Mapes isn't in charge anymore, that it's Charlie who's in charge. Then he asks if Sharp wants to take Charlie on.
  • When Sharp doesn't say anything, Luke just hunkers down and looks in the direction of Charlie's voice.

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