T.J. tells his mother that Claude wanted to go to the Wallace store, getting Claude in trouble instead of himself.
Claude Avery is T.J.’s younger brother. Claude got in trouble for going to Mr. Kaleb’s store for candy. Kaleb Wallace is a white man, and his store is known as a rowdy place where there is drinking and fighting. That is why the mothers don’t want her kids to go there.
“… Claude was always sneakin’ up there to get some of that free candy Mr. Kaleb give out sometimes and I had to go and get him ’cause I knowed good and well she didn’t want us up there. (Ch. 1)
The reason “Mama ’bout wore him out” was that Claude, who was afraid, of T.J., was willing to let his mother think that he was the one responsible for leading them to the store.
In reality, T.J. was the one that wanted to go to the store. Claude just went along with what T.J. said in order to help T.J. avoid trouble. Apparently, T.J. can do more damage to him than his mother. The whole incident actually started when Cassie told her mother that T.J. had gone to the store, and Cassie told T.J.’s mother.
Although this incident of exposition is a minor footnote, it actually introduces some important plot points. We know that there are problems with the Wallace store, and that T.J. is a bully. This information will become important to the story later as the conflict between the Logans and the Wallaces grows, as well as the conflict between T.J. and the Logans.