Junior muses that the biggest difference between Indians and white people is that so many more Indians die young, and that of the deaths he himself has experienced, about ninely percent of them have been because of alcohol. As he sits in chemistry class one day, Junior is dealt the most devastating blow of his young life. The guidance counselor comes to tell him that his Dad is coming to pick him up, because his beloved sister Mary has died.
Mary and her husband had had a big party in their little trailer home in Montana. There had been lots of drinking, and Mary and her husband had been passed out in the back bedroom when the trailer burned down. At Mary's burial, Junior's Mom is hysterical with grief, slapping him with the admonishment that he is never to drink, then clinging to him for hours as if he were a baby. When she finally releases him, Junior flees the house where throngs of people have gathered; ironically, most of them are drunk, trying to drown their grief at the death of a beautiful young woman due to alcohol, with alcohol.
Junior runs full-speed into Rowdy, who is crying. Rowdy tries to punch Junior, but misses, which is something that never happens. He tells Junior that his sister is dead because when he had left the reservation, she had felt she needed to leave too. Carrying the guilt of his Mary's death on his shoulders, Junior returns to school where the teachers and his friends are sympathetic and supportive. Junior does not know how to react; he feels like "every planet in (his) solar system has exploded" (Chapter 27).