Tortilla Flat: Novel Summary: Chapter XIV-XV
This section begins with a description of the daily routine adopted by the friends. They sleeping in the same room, except for the Pirate, who sleeps in the living room. They rise late, then sit in the sun on the porch discussing local events and people, telling stories, enjoying the lazy rhythms of their lives.
On this particular day, they discuss a local woman named Cornelia, whose life revolves around love and fighting. The day before, a man named Emilio had given her a little pig as a gift. Cornelia had shown the pig to some local women, and Sweets Ramirez had stepped on the pig's tail. The pig squealed and the sow burst into the house and ran riot, wrecking the furniture and pulling off Cornelia's skirt. Now Cornelia is furious and says she will beat Emilio.
Pablo then tells a story of Tall Bob Smoke and how he tried to kill himself. Bob was an awkward, rather incompetent man who desperately wanted to be admired by others. But whenever he tried to impress people, something always went wrong and everyone laughed at him. He got depressed and decided to commit suicide, thinking that everyone would then be sorry they laughed at him. But then he realized that he would be dead and would not know how sorry they were. So he decided to hold a gun to his head and wait for someone to come along and persuade him not to kill himself. Then people would be sorry that they drove him to want to kill himself. But when Charlie Meeler came along and saw Bob on the porch with a gun to his head, he grabbed the gun and it went off, shooting off the end of Bob's nose. When the news appeared in the local paper, the whole town laughed. But this time they felt bad about laughing, because of the circumstances, and after that they were more kind to Bob.
Jesus Maria then tells a story about old Mr. Ravanno. Ravanno had a son, Petey, who was always in trouble with the law. Petey fell in love with a pretty but sharp-tongued girl named Gracie. He gave her many presents, but she just laughed at him and ran away. Driven to distraction, Petey tried to hang himself, but his father discovered him in time and saved his life. As a result of this, Gracie relented and married Petey. The former bad girl became a good wife. Meanwhile Petey's father, who was over sixty, had fallen in love with Gracie's fifteen-year-old sister, Tonia. Just as his son had done with Gracie, he bought Tonia presents, but she only laughed. Ravanno then decided to hang himself, because he thought that would soften Tonia's heart. But he had to make sure that someone found him. His plans went wrong, however, and when he hanged himself in the tool house at the service station where he worked, no one found him for an hour, by which time he was dead. Tonia was not sad about it; she called him an old fool. Then she set about seducing Petey.
The friends discuss the story; they are unsure of what meaning to derive from it. After that, they come up with a clever plan to get some mackerel from the local fishermen.
As the months go by, Danny gets bored with the same old routine, day after day. He feels that he has given up his freedom and he longs to get it back and live a more adventurous life, like he used to, full of "Storm and violence, sweet violence!?
One morning the friends awake to find Danny gone. They assume he is with a woman, but when he does not return for a week they get worried and go to look for him in the woods. They find no sign of him, but when they return to the house, Danny's blankets are gone and the food has been stolen. They quickly conclude that Danny took these things, and that he has gone mad. They search for him again, and hear rumors of his wild behavior, fighting and stealing. At the jail they hear that Danny was arrested but escaped. When they catch him, the sergeant says, they will give him six months. The friends are worried and fear that something bad will happen to Danny unless they find him. They go to Torrelli, who complains that Danny has behaved outrageously towards him. He calls him a seducer, a thief and a drunkard. The friends respond aggressively, insulting Torrelli and warning him to treat Danny well.
That night Danny comes into the kitchen, but he escapes before they can catch him. The situation continues to get worse, and the friends are no longer happy together. There is only worry and sadness left. But they are also a little envious of the good time that Danny is having.
One night Danny comes to the house and steals Pilon's shoes. Pilon takes this very seriously, calling it a crime against friendship. They all decide to catch Danny, tie him to the bed and try to cure him of his sickness.
In the morning, Torrelli walks to Danny's house, convinced that he is about to get his revenge on the five friends. The friends are discussing the news brought to them by Johnny Pom-pom that Danny escaped from jail last night. Then Torrelli arrives brandishing a paper. He says that the house now belongs to him; Danny sold it to him for twenty-five dollars. He waves the paper at them; it is a bill of sale, with Danny's signature on it. The men protest, saying that Danny must have been drunk, but Torrelli is adamant. However, he is no match for his adversaries. They knock him down, take the paper, and then pretend that no such paper exists. Torrelli, who has no other proof of the sale, departs, defeated.
Soon after this, Danny and Tito Ralph, formerly the town jailer, arrive. All the men breathe a sigh of relief, and Danny denies that he signed any paper of Torrelli's. Danny has brought with him three chickens and some bread. Pilon is relieved to see him, and makes a little speech about what a good friend Danny is.
At the beginning of Chapter XIV, the narrator points out that the paisanos of Tortilla Flat do not use clocks or watches. They live according to the natural rhythm dictated by the sun, not the man-made tyranny of clock-time. Therefore they never feel the pressures exerted on people by society's idea of what should or should not be done at certain times of the day. As with so many things, they remain outside society's rules and assumptions.
The cautionary tales about Tall Bob Smoke and old man Ravanno reveal some of the traps in life that the paisanos, with their more relaxed attitudes, tend to avoid. Bob Smoke's problem was that he sought social approval all the time, and the more he sought it the less likely he was to get it. He ended up a mere object of pity. In contrast, the small group of friends are happy with one another's company; they do not seek wider social approval. As for Ravanno, he was stupid enough to fall in love with a young girl and think that he could manipulate her emotions and her behavior. This is an example of an irrational emotional attachment that the paisanos take care to avoid, especially with women. They are willing to have sex with the local women when opportunity comes their way, but they avoid commitments and entanglements that might lead to the kind of fate suffered by Ravanno.
Nothing in life, however, lasts forever. The equilibrium of the six friends in Danny's house must sooner or later be upset, and Danny's restlessness in Chapter XV will soon lead to the dissolution of this small band of brothers. The fact that he stole Pilon's shoes suggests that the pact between them has been broken.