Mark and Byron Douglass are brothers, but they are not biological brothers because they are foster brothers with Mark living in Byron’s house. Their relationship is put to the test when Byron’s mother is in the hospital and Bryon turns Mark in for selling drugs.
At the beginning of the story, Mark and Byron are partners in crime. They hang out at the pool hall and mess around, getting into fights. The bar owner Charlie warns them that they are going to get hurt.
“You guys are going to get in real bad trouble one of these days. Some guy’s going to get hacked off when he finds out what you’re doin’, and you’re gonna get a pool stick jammed down your throats. (p. 2)
Unfortunately, it is the bar owner who dies while trying to protect Byron and Mark. Byron begins to decide to turn his life around when his mother goes into the hospital, but Bryon and Mark grow farther apart. Mark begins selling drugs, and Byron finds out.
“When he was questioned, he admitted selling drugs” (p. 88).
Byron separates himself from Mark at this point. He turns him into the police, and Mark cannot understand why he would betray him. Byron sees the selling the drugs as a betrayal, especially since their friend M&M ends up in the hospital.
Originally, Mark and Bryon were best friends. Then they become foster siblings when Bryon's mother adopted Mark. The reason behind the adoption is that Mark's parents shot and killed each other in a fight one night. The two boys are extremely close with each other in the beginning of the book. Bryon tells readers that he and Mark got along amazingly great.
I had been friends with Mark long before he came to live with us. He had lived down the street and it seemed to me that we had always been together. We had never had a fight. We had never even had an argument. In looks, we were complete opposites . . . He was my best friend and we were like brothers.
Mark and Bryon are not part of a wealthy family. Their family struggles to get by, and they live in a poorer and rougher part of town. Mark and Bryon are like most kids in that they embrace their present circumstances. The two boys are good kids for the most part, but they also don't have a problem breaking the law for personal pleasure or in order to make money for the family.
I had a sudden recollection of Mark and me at twelve, smoking our heads off, clowning around, hoping someone-usually some little long-haired chick-would notice us and see how cool we were.
In Chapter 1, Bryon tells readers that he and Mark frequently hang out at a pool bar. That in itself is illegal because they are underage, but the boys up the ante by hustling new customers at pool.
While their relationship starts out great, events that occur throughout the story cause Bryon and Mark to become more and more distant from each other. One cause of their relationship's decline is Bryon’s relationship with Cathy. Bryon enjoys hanging out with her, and their emotional bond strengthens. In order to spend more time with Cathy, Bryon is spending less time with Mark. Mark doesn’t understand it, and the two boys begin to grow distant.
I believe that Bryon’s job plays a part in furthering the decline in the relationship, too. Bryon’s mother is in and out of the hospital, and the family’s financial situation declines. Bryon is forced to look for a job, but Charlie won’t hire him. Charlie doesn’t trust him enough.
“Bryon, you’re an honest kid in most ways, but you lie like a dog. Take Mark—I wouldn’t trust him around anything that wasn’t nailed down, but I’d believe anything he said. I’d trust you with my wife, if I had one. I trust your actions, but I double-check most of your statements. You just think about it, and I think you’ll come up with the reason why you haven’t got a job before now. You just think about it.”
Bryon is forced to take a hard look at himself and his lifestyle. He makes a decision to clean himself up a bit for the good of the family, and he gets a job at a supermarket. On the other side of the equation is Mark. In order to make money for the family, Mark has turned to selling drugs. Bryon does not know this, because Mark hides it. This further widens the divide between the boys.
Later in the story, Mark and Bryon rescue their friend M&M from a potential drug overdose. During this event, Bryon discovers that Mark has been selling drugs. After seeing what the drugs have done to M&M, Bryon simply can’t understand how Mark could push drugs on people and profit from it. Bryon realizes that Mark might even be the guy that sold the drugs to M&M. It’s at this point that Bryon makes an incredibly difficult decision. He calls the police and reports Mark’s actions. Bryon eventually testifies against Mark, and Mark is sent to prison. Bryon tries to visit Mark in prison and apologize, but Mark doesn’t want to hear any of it. The relationship that was so strong then is now completely destroyed.