Antonio leaves for school to begin the third grade. Andrew walks him to school. Andrew asks him why he always turns and looks back at MarÃa and Ultima. Antonio says he fears sometimes that he will return home and everything will be different. He is beginning to learn that things do change.
They meet the Kid and Samuel at the bridge and race across. Kid races ahead and Andrew falls back. Antonio tells Samuel that he saw the golden carp. Samuel says maybe Antonio "will become one of us." Samuel says he has been away herding sheep with his father. He thinks he will become a sheepherder. Samuel says the greatest calling is to be a priest because "a priest cares for his people." Samuel warns Antonio to be careful since the kids in town will have heard about Ultima's cure and Tenorio's blinding and will not understand.
At school, Antonio finds Miss Maestas to give her a greeting from MarÃa then he joins the gang on the playground. Ernie taunts Antonio, saying he has a witch to help him with his homework. Ernie is always after Antonio. Ernie tells Antonio his brother Andrew has been "whoring with the girls at Rosie's." The other boys say that all the men in town go to Rosie's, even Ernie's father. Ernie turns the conversation back to Ultima. All the boys stand around Antonio and taunt him with questions about Ultima whom they call a witch. Antonio feels that inside the circle all is quiet. Finally, Red urges them to leave Antonio alone. He says there is no such thing as witches. Lloyd says "there is if you're a Catholic." Then they move to taunting Red, saying he is going to hell because he is not a Catholic. Ernie brings the subject back to Ultima again. Antonio says she is not a witch; she is a good woman. Ernie challenges him and Antonio takes up the challenge. He wants to run away, but he remembers his father and Narciso standing up for Ultima, so he does too. They fight, but soon the whole gang joins the fight. No one teases Antonio about Ultima after this fight.
The winter passes quickly. School becomes routine. The river turns from orange to brown. The kitchen remains a safe and secure place for him. Just before Christmas, it snows. The school is putting on a Christmas play. Antonio's teacher is Miss Violet. A blizzard hits the town the night before the play. MarÃa keeps Antonio's sisters at home, but he asks to go to school because of the play. Ultima thinks something in the weather is not good. Andrew urges MarÃa to let Antonio go to school and she says he may go since it is good to learn to sacrifice early if he is going to be a priest. MarÃa teases Andrew about going to see his girl. He frowns and tells her he does not have a girlfriend. As he leaves, Ultima tells Antonio to be careful of the evil in the wind. He touches the scapular on his chest to assure her.
Outside, Antonio sees the Kid and Samuel. Samuel tells Antonio and Andrew about a fight the night before between Tenorio and Narciso. Tenorio was cursing Ultima, Narciso, and all the people of Las Pasturas. Samuel says it will only end when blood is spilled. Samuel tells Antonio about what his father says: "The blood of a man thickens with the desire for revenge, and if a man is to be complete again then he must let some of that thick blood flow." Andrew says they are only drunks. They have "nothing better to do than argue like old women." Samuel counters him and says "drunks and devils are also men."
Andrew tells the boys to run ahead to school. The schoolhouse is almost deserted since most of the children have stayed at home. Miss Violet tells them they can still have a play if the boys will play the parts. They practice all morning, but it is difficult since the boys from Los Jaros (the name of the barrio) do not know how to read. After lunch, they practice. Bones climbs the stage rope and sits down on a beam. He refuses to come down. He says the play is for "sissies." They get dressed for the play about the three wise men. Florence says there is no such thing as a virgin birth. Horse will play the Virgin Mary. They other boys tackle him and dress him in Mary's blue robes. He cries out as if in pain. Miss Violet bribes him with an "A" to subdue him. Up on the beam, Bones calls out Tarzan noises. Some of the boys throw spit wads on each other.
The audience comes in and the play begins. Abel keeps saying he needs to urinate. Red announces, "The First Christmas." As Red reads the story, Abel urinates and Bones announces the fact from above. Lloyd spits his wad of tootsie roll on Maxie who is holding the donkey. Maxie drops the donkey to clean himself. Horse bites Antonio's hand. Antonio recites his lines anyway. He is playing Joseph. When he introduces Mary, Horse stands up and punches him in the face. Red reads the story faster. The audience shouts out the names of the boys on stage. The doll's head falls off. The Kid slips in Abel's urine. Bones falls from his beam above and lands on Horse. The light bulb representing the light of the east goes out. Red finishes the story: "And that's how it was on the first Christmas!" The bell rings and everyone shouts "Merry Christmas! "and "Chingada!" (a curse word) (goddamn).
The auditorium is cleared of people in a few moments. Antonio, Red, and Miss Violet remain. They straighten up. The storm is getting worse outside. Everything is very quiet in the school building. At the door, Antonio sees that the snow storm is severe. Antonio makes his way home along the buildings of Main street. He passes the Longhorn Saloon and the doors swing open. He sees two men come out of it and fight savagely. It is Tenorio and Narciso. Men from the bar try to break them up and finally succeed in doing so. Tenorio says another of his daughters is sick. He says it is Ultima's fault. Tenorio says he will find a way to get to Ultima.
Antonio hears Narciso say he must go warn Ultima, but he cannot go in the storm, so he will go to tell Andrew. Antonio is surprised that Narciso heads in the direction of the river instead of their home. Antonio follows him. Narciso stops at Rosie's house lit by a single red light bulb. He calls it a house of whores before he walks up the path to the door. Antonio waits at the gate. A woman opens the door and exclaims over Narciso's bloody face. Antonio notices her thick makeup and her perfume. He feels torn: he wants to run away but he also wants to stay and find out the truth. When Narciso asks for MarÃ©z, Antonio feels as though his ears have exploded with a ringing noise. The woman asks which MarÃ©z and laughs. Antonio realizes he knew all along that Andrew was there. He had even worried for moment that his father would come out because he had overheard his father and Serrano whisper jokes about the women at Rosie's when they were breeding cattle.
Antonio feels feverish. He remembers his dream in which Andrew promised not to enter Rosie's house until Antonio had lost his innocence. He wonders if he has already lost his innocence. He wonders if it was Lupito's murder, Ultima's cure, the lynching party, the fight outside the saloon, or the golden carp. He agonizes over the question of how he has sinned.
Andrew comes to the door with his arm around a woman. Antonio closes his eyes.
He feels tired and older. Narciso urges Andrew to come home and warn his
parents. Andrew dismisses Narciso's pleas. Finally Narciso gives up and
tells Andrew he will be lost like his brothers. Antonio hears Narciso
say he will go himself to warn Ultima. He pulls out a bottle and drinks
from it. Antonio follows him. Antonio thinks to himself: "I have
seen evil and so I carry evil within me, and the holy sacraments of confession
and the holy Eucharist are far away. I have somehow lost my innocence
and let sin enter into my soul, and the knowledge of God, the saving grace,
is far away." He remembers the prophecy that the sins of the town
will be washed away in the waters of the golden carp.