He wakes up irritated in the hot, stifling bedroom of a woman friend with whom he has just spent the night.
Feeling ill and angry because of the room’s oppressive heat and the unpleasant odors of the filthy blanket and sagging, smelly mattress on the old, drooping, wobbly bed, he curses irritably at everyone and everything:
his sweaty, half-asleep woman friend, the wailing baby in the tin-bathtub crib who has been awakened by the “agonized sounds of the bed-spring,” and the woman friend’s estranged but jealous and protective lover.
Tired of listening to the unrelenting “blerry noise” of the “damn kid,” he walks out in a huff, but not before the woman warns that her estranged lover and father of her baby, who is quite displeased with his visits, is likely to harm him.
Dismissing her warning off-handedly and, true to his tough-man reputation, threatening to “break him in two” with his “thick, ropy, grimed hands,” which he uses for “hurting rather than for working,” He leaves the hot, humid room, scowling irritably as he heads past other equally oppressive rooms in the shanty slum to the tap outside to assuage his parched throat and cool off his face.
After he passes a walled-in garden, three men accost him and viciously stab him, leaving him helpless and bleeding profusely by the roadway, cursing.
A crowd soon gathers, some wanting to help despite his reputation for brutality and viciousness and others wanting nothing to do with him. The helpful group prevails and carries him, under a torrent of curses, to a dusty, smelly backyard shanty to await the arrival of an ambulance.
The rescuers make no bones about how much he deserved what happened to him even though he criticizes the “ blerrybaskets” for doing a less than “decent job” of stabbing him.
With the pain searing through his entire body, he fingers “the parched field” of a threadbare, smelly blanket someone has thrown over him.
He drifts in and out of consciousness, recalling his many encounters with filthy, smelly blankets, which have come to symbolize the decay and despair of his slum life.
Drifting from the blanket experience of prison to one when he was six years old, he drifts back to the blanket experience that he had in the woman’s bed moments before the attack.
Before the ambulance arrives, there are some light-hearted moments in the bantering of the crowd in spite of the grimness of the slum life.
They are talking about the revenge of a dumped lover who got jealous of his competitors success with a woman who doesn’t spare a moment for him any more!
The ambulance finally arrives, sirens screaming like the “high-pitched metallic wailing” of the “damn kid,” and bears he away, strapped to a stretcher and covered with a sheet as “white as cocaine” and a blanket “thick and new and warm.”
In his tragedy,he has finally got covered in a clean blanket as he is rushed to emergency room to die as he is “being attended to” in a hospital.