In That Was Then, This Is Now, what event starts the action, and how is the main problem solved?

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We know from early in the story that the Douglas family--Bryon, his mother and Mark--is a poor one, compounded by the fact that the mother is in the hospital for much of the time. The two boys are jobless, and both seek to find a few dollars here and there in less than legal ways. While hitchhiking one day, the two boys are picked up by a hippie in a VW van. Randy (Ponyboy's Soc friend in The Outsiders) tells them about a hippie house where life is lived freely and drugs are used. Mark asks Randy several questions about the house, but we don't know until much later in the story why his queries are important. Mark uses this connection to begin dealing drugs to the people in the house, where the boys' friend, "M&M," is hiding out. When Bryon eventually finds Mark's drug stash, he calls the police. Mark claims that he is only selling the drugs--not using them--to bring money into the household, but he is arrested, and this marks the end of the two boys' longtime friendship. 

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