In the novel Rumble Fish, Rusty-James and his older brother, Motorcycle Boy, live with their alcoholic father. Their mother left many years ago when the two boys were still young. The mother was an irresponsible and uncommitted person, as suggested by the father's remark that she married him "for fun, and when it stopped being fun she left."
What makes the character of the father unique is that he speaks eloquently despite his drinking habit. In other, similar stories that feature alcoholic or drug-addicted parents, the parents are often depicted as abrasive, violent, and uneducated. In Rumble Fish, the father had attended law school before he met the boys' mother. He also has a wide vocabulary and provides articulate quips despite his daily consumption of alcohol.
The father is detached from his sons' lives, almost as if they are simply tenants in the same house rather than a loving, tight-knit family. The fact that the father is distant from the boys makes Rusty-James's close relationship with his older brother even more understandable. Motorcycle Boy became the father figure in Rusty-James's life.