Uncle Hammer gave Stacey the coat, but it was too big for him so he lent it to T.J.
When the children put on their coat, Uncle Hammer asks T.J. if the coat he’s wearing is the only one he has. It is much too small and light, and in bad shape.
Yet we were all surprised that Uncle Hammer would ask about it, for he knew as well as anyone that Mama had to buy our clothes in shifts, which meant that we each had to wait our turn for new clothes. (ch 6)
Uncle Hammer brings out a new coat, which he says he was waiting to give Stacey for a birthday present. The coat is too big, but “Mama said that she could take up the sleeves and that he would grow into it in another year.” Stacey and the other kids are thrilled, and Stacey maturely shakes Uncle Hammer’s hand.
Everything is fine until T.J. sees the coat.
T.J. sighed. “Like I said, it’s all right . . . if you like lookin’ like a fat preacher.” (ch 6)
Cassie says he is just jealous, but T.J. continues to tease Stacey about looking like a preacher. When Mama asks for the coat, to alter it, he says he does not have it.
“But I didn’t give it to him for good, Mama—just lent it to him till I get big enough for it and then . . .” (ch 7)
She tells him to go get it, but Uncle Hammer says he does not deserve the coat, and to let T.J. keep it because at least he can appreciate a good thing.
The incident demonstrates the underhanded lengths to which T.J. will go to get what he wants. It foreshadows trouble he will get into later. Uncle Hammer is obviously hurt that T.J. gave away the coat, and disappointed in his immaturity.