In the book, we learn that Roy Eberhardt is a new student at Trace Middle School. His father works for the government, so the Eberhardt family moves often. Accordingly, Coconut Grove is the tenth town the family has moved to, and Trace Middle is the sixth school Roy has attended.
The family previously lived in Bozeman, Montana. Roy enjoyed living in Bozeman because of its natural attractions, such as tall, majestic mountains and flowing, green rivers. Although he finds it a challenge to live in sunny Florida, Roy understands that this is where he must live for now.
His life is made utterly miserable, however, by a bully named Dana Matherson. Dana has the habit of picking on the younger boys on the school bus. The first time Dana assaults Roy, the he doesn't fight back. He's more interested in what he sees from the window of the school bus—a boy who appears to be running without any shoes. Interestingly, the "running boy" doesn't get on the school bus.
Instead, he continues running to an unspecified location. Roy's curiosity is piqued, but no one else appears to have noticed the "running boy."
The second time Dana assaults Roy, the he takes action. After Dana puts pressure on Dana's windpipe, Roy clenches his right fist and swings it up over his shoulder. He hits Dana in the nose, forcing the bigger boy to let go of his throat. Although Roy knows the rules against fighting on the school bus, he has little choice but to fight back after Dana puts him in a chokehold.
In chapter 4, Garrett tells Roy that Dana had to call out sick. He also tells Roy that all the students at Trace Middle School are talking about him and that everyone is in awe that he fought back against Dana. According to Garrett, "nobody's ever slugged a Matherson before." Although Roy is now a "celebrity" at school, he finds little pleasure in his newfound fame.