- Doodle is born. Doodle's brother narrates the story about "the craziest brother a boy ever had." Not expected to live, it soon becomes evident--though Brother never specifically mentions it--that Doodle is mentally retarded and somewhat physically deformed. But Doodle survives, and Brother seems destined to pull him around in a wagon for the rest of their lives.
- Doodle learns to walk. After months of hard work, Brother eventually teaches Doodle to walk, and they present this surprise as a birthday present to the tearful family.
- Brother's shame. Embarrassed at Doodle's deformities and what his friends might think, Brother begins a strenuous regimen aimed at making him more normal. Doodle learns to swim, row a boat and climb trees, but Brother pushes his little brother even harder.
- The scarlet ibis appears. After a storm, a red bird appears on the property before falling to the ground dead. "Red dead birds" are unlucky, and it is declared a bad omen. Doodle develops an unusual attachment to it before deciding to bury it.
- Doodle dies. Doodle is not the same after the death of the bird, and Brother finally realizes that his goal of transforming him into a normal brother is impossible. Brother cruelly leaves Doodle alone to return home from Old Woman Swamp and, during a thunderstorm, Doodle dies. Brother finds the bloody body and recognizes the similarity between the dead bird, sheltering "my fallen scarlet ibis from the heresy of rain."