Study Guide

Alligator Bayou Chapter 1

By Donna Jo Napoli

Chapter 1

  • The narrator and someone named Cirone walk outside at night, recalling how weird it feels to be practically invisible during a night thisdark—like being back in Sicily, though this is Louisiana.
  • Our narrator came on a boat. He feels proud of how much he's grown up in a short period of time and important because he speaks English.
  • Out late at night, our narrator feels nervous because the uncles he's staying with didn't give him permission to be out; his cousin Cirone, who's been in America for year, talked him into it.
  • The narrator is fourteen, one year older than his cousin.
  • The two boys sneak behind a slaughterhouse, and the narrator thinks it's weird that people here don't like to hear the Italian language.
  • While hiding outside, he daydreams about a girl named Patricia, who thinks Sicilian Italian sounds pretty; sometimes he sees her at the vegetable stand he works at.
  • There are only six Italians in this small town, but in the big city of New Orleans, there are thousands. New Orleans is far away, though, and the narrator misses being among his own people.
  • For some reason, Cirone takes off running, and the narrator—whom we now know is named Calogero, or Calo for short—whizzes after him. Cirone stops him and pulls him down to wait. A panther creeps out, stares Calo and Cirone down, then walks on. Shudder.
  • Cirone tells his cousin that you should never run from a panther, or it will attack you. Calo, for his part, freaks out over the encounter—which, for the record, is a perfectly appropriate response, if you ask us.
  • The two kids run home and catch Uncle Francesco arguing with an angry white man, who tromps off.
  • Luckily, no one sees them creep into bed, where they squeeze onto one mattress together. You might think this is a feat in its own right, but these guys manage to do this without waking Cirone's older brother, Rosario, or Francesco's brothers, Carlo and Giuseppe, all of whom share the room, too. In other words, Cirone and Calo are like black belts of sneaking out of the house.
  • Apparently, Francesco is the youngest uncle, but since he's a fighter, he's the leader of the house.
  • Calo thinks about his brother Rocco—his only remaining family member, who still lives in Sicily with some neighbors who took him in when Calo's mother died. They shipped Calo off to America because they couldn't afford to take him in, too.
  • Calo misses Sicily, his brother, and especially his mom—not so much his dad, though, since he took off a long time ago, and Calo barely remembers him.

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