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The Contender, by Robert Lipsyte, is the story of a young man named Alfred, a high-school dropout trying to avoid the pitfalls of growing up on the streets of Harlem. Unlike most of his friends, Alfred has a job; he works at a grocery store owned by three brothers named Epstein.
At a party with his "loser" friends on a Friday night, Alfred inadvertently gives them information which prompts Alfred's best friend James to attempt a robbery at the store. The attempt is unsuccessful, but it creates a problem for Alfred both with James and with the Epsteins.
Alfred is beaten up pretty severely by James's other friends, but he does go back to work on Monday. In chapter five, Lou Epstein asks Alfred if he knows anything about the break-in, but Alfred denies knowing anything. The Epsteins want to trust the boy, but it is difficult for them and the store is full of tension. Police investigators arrive and question Epstein, and James walks by and condemns Alfred with a look. Alfred briefly considers turning off the alarm so James can successfully rob the store, but he is distracted by news from Donatelli, his trainer at the gym.
Eventually, the Epsteins support Alfred's boxing career and presumably trust him once more.
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