The first chapter opens in the future, after the events of the book.
At the beginning of the book, Rusty-James runs into an old friend he has not seen for a while, “five or six years.” They are at a beach someplace away from where the rest of the story takes place.
I ran into Steve a couple of days ago. He was real surprised to see me. We hadn’t seen each other for a long time. (ch 1, p. 1)
Steve asks Rusty-James what he is doing there, and he says he lives there. Steve, on the other hand, is there on vacation. He is in college studying to be a high school teacher.
They are surprised to run into each other “a long way from where we’d seen each other last.” Rusty-James says he has been “bumming around,” which is “a real popular profession” on the beach. He was in jail for five years.
By starting the book in the future and telling the rest of the story as a flashback, the story takes on a new interest. Before it begins, we already know that Rusty-James does not remember it, does not want to remember it, and somehow ended up in jail because of it. The reader becomes more interested and wants to know what happened.