Study Guide

Alligator Bayou Chapter 17

By Donna Jo Napoli

Chapter 17

  • It is the day before the Fourth of July, and today Calo and Cirone have to take the wagon down all the streets to sell watermelons to people. Calo seems a little nervous about it after hearing about all the things that happened before and realizing that they are hated here as well.
  • There are so many melons that they should make a lot of money, though, and Francesco tells Calo to remind everyone that he will be selling fresh made limoncello, an alcoholic drink, in the store today, too.
  • Giuseppe drives the wagon, and the boys sell melons, but a few little boys follow them all over; they don't have money, and Cirone tells them to beat it. They steal a melon when no one's looking.
  • Spotting the little boys making off with a giant melon, Giuseppe makes his finger like a gun and says "bang, bang." The boys drop it and run away.
  • Later on, a girl comes out and offers Calo sweet potatoes for the stolen melon, which he accepts. Then he feels bad, so he gives her a melon, anyway. She doesn't want to take it, but she ends up accepting the kindness.
  • Just then, Mr. Johnson walks up and accuses Calo of bad business for trading for a melon, and then he up and insults Calo and all black people. Calo swallows it, and instead sells Mr. Johnson his biggest melon, overcharging him by a lot.
  • When Calo tells the white man about the limoncello, Mr. Johnson is shocked that Sicilians would have the guts to break the law and sell alcohol without a permit… and off he goes off to tell the saloon man, John.
  • The wagon only has a few melons left, so Calo proposes to donate them, and Giuseppe agrees. The boys carry two melons to Patricia's house.
  • Patricia's mother is home and lets them in, though she's all sweaty from ironing and nervous about someone seeing them come in.
  • Nevertheless, Patricia's mother is happy to meet them, and she happy that they brought her watermelons. Her kids aren't home, and she tells them she was warned not to let the Sicilians visit her house. Still, she invites them to the church to celebrate the Fourth of July.
  • When the guys all get back, they find John Wilson, the man who runs the saloon, blocking the entrance to their market—he just stands there—and then they see Francesco arguing with another white man, who must have messed with a shipment of something.
  • Calo's uncle chases the man away. John Wilson talks down to him for chasing out a white man and says he won't let anyone in the store, since Francesco is blocking John's business by selling liquor without a permit.
  • John threatens Francesco, who keeps saying he isn't selling whiskey (although he knows the law about selling liquor without a permit), and then the saloonkeeper leaves.
  • Angry and flustered, Francesco shouts that the boys should never go to the saloon, and he tells them to pour bottles of limoncello to sell. Calo gets permission to go mail Rocco's gift.

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