Study Guide

Alligator Bayou Chapter 2

By Donna Jo Napoli

Chapter 2

  • At the breakfast table, Calo is sleepy. He notices that Francesco has a gun, which reminds him about the argument he saw him having with a white man the night before. Hmm… this doesn't seem good.
  • Carlo is the only adult around. He's making goat cheese, and when he sees the gun, he warns Francesco that if he shoots at the white guy, Willy Rogers, the town will hunt them down.
  • We learn that Mr. Rogers, Willy's father, is one of the few men who run the small town, so shooting his son would be pretty much the worst idea ever.
  • Francesco thinks that if Willy shoots first, he won't be held responsible for shooting him back, but Carlo thinks this is a bogus idea, and he reminds his brother that five years ago seven black men were lynched when a white man was shot—and it was the white man who started that fight.
  • "Lynch" is a word Calo doesn't know—but Francesco does and it gives him the willies. He still says that no one should tell him how to run his business, though.
  • Carlo reminds Francesco that Willy is young, and encourages his brother to ignore their scuffle, assuring him that things will feel better in a day. Francesco isn't having any of this; he just gets mad.
  • Francesco is convinced that if he lets Rogers get away with insulting them, it will happen again, and they will lose customers, so he refuses to back down.
  • Calo mentions that people say their fruits and veggies are the best in town, but Francesco says that Willy called them Sicilian mafia.
  • Back in Italy, Calo's mom told him that the mafia would use children to do their small jobs, so Calo should be careful. Now he is shocked that anyone would call his family mafia, when he knows they're not.
  • Feeling insulted, Carlo doesn't understand why someone would say this when they run an honest store, but on the other hand, he tries to believe that words don't do any harm. (Sticks and stones, yo.)
  • Carlo's bro isn't buying the pacifist argument, though. Francesco tells him that Willy called Sicilians a disease that should be wiped out, all because Francesco served a black man in his store. Willy thinks black people should wait outside until all the white people leave.
  • Carlo and Francesco agree that Willy is wrong, and Carlo gets upset that he told them how to run their business.
  • Feelings don't matter a whole lot in the face of the law, though, and Jim Crow law states that you can't serve food to white and black customers at the same time.
  • On the other hand, these guys sell food; they don't serve it. And they wouldn't treat any of their customers like dirt, anyway, because they aren't racists.
  • Francesco is intent on waiting for Willy by the train tracks no matter what his bro says, so right after he leaves, Carlo sends Calo to his tutor, Frank Raymond, to get word to Willy Rogers not to walk by the tracks. And then Carlo prays that Calo can come up with a good lie about why he's late to work.
  • Outside, Calo takes off. He can see Francesco across the field.
  • Calo runs past a barbershop, and the barber, Mr. Blander, calls out to him. Calo tells him he's not in trouble but needs to speak to Mr. Raymond pronto.
  • The barber teases Calo a bit but ends up going to the saloon across the road to fetch the tutor.
  • Calo is super nervous but tries to wait patiently. A woman and her daughter walk by, staring him down and making him feel like a nasty piece of gum on the sidewalk. Gee, thanks, ladies.
  • Calo thinks about how Francesco told him that some American rules are so stupid that he should just ignore them, but Calo can't ignore the fact that white people won't touch Italians or African-Americans, because they consider them dirty.
  • As he waits, Calo notices the huge alligator head hanging over the saloon door and feels scared of it.
  • Frank Raymond comes out, and Calo pushes to talk to him alone.
  • Even though Calo doesn't want to tell him out in the open, his tutor is stubborn, so Calo just says what's going down—and without thinking twice, Frank says he'll take care of it, then shoos away his student.

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