Here is a brief summary of the chapters of The Crazy Horse Electric Game by Chis Crutcher. You may want to read the additional information on the book in the complete eNotes study guide.
Chapter 1 describes the build-up to the game that Samson Floral, Willie Weaver’s team from Coho, Montana is soon going to play against Crazy Horse Electric for the Eastern Montana American Legion Championship. It establishes that Willie Weaver’s dad, Big Will, has been a star athlete. It shows Willie in a practice session with his friends—the punster catcher Johnny Rivers and Petey Shropshire. At this time, “Willie feels like he can do anything.”
Chapter 2 is focused on the relationship that Willie shares with his dad. They take a bike ride together toward the high eastern bluffs, and Willie delights in the strength of the Shadow and his father’s taking the turns at a high speed. His father gives him a quiet talk about how to prep for the game by missing no details of anything he is feeling or thinking. At a practice session at home with his dad, Willie finds out how his sister Missy had been born twelve years after him, and remembers the extreme trauma of her death from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, when he had come in to her room and found her blue and gasping for breath. She died when she was just six months old.
Chapter 3 is an exciting description of the Crazy Horse Electric Game, where the old rivalry between Willie Weaver and Sal Whitworth from the opposite team comes to a head. Johnny Rivers keeps up an aggressive pattern as the catcher and succeeds in needling Sal. Willie pitches a ball directly at his head after Sal has knocked Johnny down to the ground. Sal is nearly about to pull off a magnificent home run when Willie takes an incredible catch and wins the game for his team.
Chapter 4 begins by showing Willie’s desire to be more than a friend to Jenny, who has been his friend for ages. The classroom banter in this class gives further play to Johnny’s punning talent, attracting the attention of their teacher Mrs. Chambers. Willie and Jenny take a cycle ride to the spot where his dad had taken Willie, and he tells Jenny that he may have been able to save his sister Missy’s life if he had known about CPR. Jenny asks him for his championship ring, and if he wants to be her boyfriend. Willie is very happy to accept.
Chapter 5 is an important turning point. The Weavers go on a boat picnic with Willie and his friends Johnny and Jenny. The boat is let into the lake, and the boys take turns skiing. At one point, Willie’s mother admonishes him about speed, asking him to be careful, saying, “I’ve lost all I can afford to lose.” This makes Willie think about how she hides her pain about Missy and how his dad and him should not go riding without their helmets on the Shadow.
In the late afternoon, Willie goes for a final round of skiing in answer to his dad’s call for one last run, as summer’s almost over. It is during this ride that the choppy waters and high speed causes the ski to come up and hit Willie on the head. He is knocked unconscious, and his father appears too dazed to be able to take off the jacket that has him tangled in the water. It is Jenny who gives him mouth-to-mouth and helps him breathe again. However, Willie is still unconscious on the ride to the hospital, and we learn in the next chapter how he had slipped into a coma and how the loss of oxygen to his brain for precious minutes has led to his speech becoming impaired and him dragging the left side of his body.
Chapter 6 shows Willie trying to adapt to his handicap in the weeks following the accident. He gets up to run in the dark before dawn, because he doesn’t want to be seen running lop-sided. He develops a habit of hiding in dark corners. He refuses to make any serious attempt with the speech therapist assigned to him at the school. At a party, he is affected by thinking how hard it will be for Jenny to stay tied to a cripple like him (which is how he has begun to think of himself), and this leads to him accepting beer and a couple of tablets from Martin Cross, whom he had thought of as a loser in earlier times. When he has the drugs, he suffers a seizure that leads to his being taken to hospital again.
Chapter 7 has Willie meet his counselor Cyril Wheat for the first time, a therapist who spends one day a week visiting his town for patients who have been referred by their town or county. In the interaction with Cyril, what emerges for the first time is how Willie Weaver’s father refuses to come closer to him, even before the accident.
Chapter 8 begins with a disastrous racquetball session with Big Will and Willie. Big Will wants his son to get back to some sport and thinks racquetball will help, as it is played with one hand. Willie does try and gets a few good shots, but it is too soon after his accident, and his father drives him hard, then has a meltdown in court. Later, Willie is shown making a further effort by having accepted being the women’s basketball team coach at school.
Chapter 9 is another turning point when Willie overhears a loud argument between his parents late one night when he has gotten up to heat some milk. What happened to Missy and Willie has taken a toll on their relationship, and they are heaping blame and recrimination on each other. The next day, Johnny offers Willie a racket to play racquetball, but Willie turns him down. He sees Jenny and star athlete Jeff Rhodes, and a look pass between them, and he is convinced that Jenny is not telling him that there is something between them. He is fed up of everyone being too kind and walking on eggshells around him, and he has an explosion in class the next day that stuns his friends.
Chapter 10 finds Willie having left home, on a Greyhound bus. He reaches Spokane, then buys a ticket to travel further. He buys some postcards and addresses them to his family and friends to say he is ok, but he does not post them, instead handing them to a boy going to Phoenix and asking him to post them from there.
Chapter 11 shows Willie Weaver having reached Oakland, but his bus needs repairs and he has a choice of waiting for the repairs to be done or heading out to take a bus to the BART station to reach the San Francisco Bay Area. He walks with a cane and leaves the bus terminal to find that he is in a really rough part of town. A gang of Asian kids who go by the name “Jo Boys” asks him for money and asks him to wait at the bus stand with them, then board the bus along with him. He is mugged by them, robbed of all his money, and left bleeding on the street.
Chapter 12 finds Willie in the care of Lacey Casteel, the black bus driver who had noticed the gang get off with him and came back to check on Willie after he got off duty. Willie is recovering from his beating at Lacey’s place, and he realizes, from the clothes and jewelry Lacey’s wearing, that he is a pimp. Unsure of what to do next, now that he has no money and no place to go to, Willie asks to stay on at Lacey’s place, and Lacey agrees, on the condition that he work around the house and go back to school.
Chapter 13 Willie joins up at OMLC school, where he meets Andre Porter, the director, who is running a tight ship for kids
[who may have] learning disabilities, kids with attitude problems, kids with drug and alcohol problems, and kids whose parents just want them to have more attention than they can get in a class of thirty-five students where at least fifteen are armed and dangerous.
He meets another student, Jack, who is called the "Telephone Man," because he wants to be a telephone repair man and always carries a bag of repair tools tied to his belt.
In Chapter 14, Willie is adapting to his new routine at the school, where he watches a PE class led by the instructor Lisa. He is pushed into a basketball game with the Telephone Man. Lisa extricates him from this and asks him if he has done any physical therapy after his accident. She knows something about sports medicine, and she says that she could help him if he is ready.
In Chapter 15, Willie has begun to dance and find his center, the way Lisa has instructed him to do. He is practicing one night at home when Lacey comes home, drunk, and with a beautiful young girl in tow, whom Willie recognizes as Angel from his school. When Lacey is beating up Angel in the middle of the night, Willie knocks him out with his cane, and Lacey has to be hospitalized. Willie expects Angel will be relieved, but she is not. She is sure that Lacey will kill them both. Willie decides to move out of Lacey’s house and visits Lacey in hospital to tell him so. Lacey asks him to hold on. Willie practices basketball with Lisa.
Chapter 16 sees Andre Porter and Willie Weaver playing basketball, and the former asks Willie to make some friends. Angel has avoided talking to Willie since the night at Lacey’s house. Willie has noticed that Lacey gets angry and agonized every time he receives a call from his ex-wife. When Willie answers the phone one evening, she tells him to get away from Lacey, whose son is rotting in an institution and who can turn Willie’s own life “to heartache.” Lacey comes home drunk, but when he hears about the phone call, he insists that Willie accompany him to the hospital, where his son is an inmate. Willie learns that his son is in a vegetative state, having suffered brain damage from a beating that Lacey gave him. His wife calls Lacey for money and reminds him of what he has done every time she calls. Willie realizes that this is probably the main reason Lacey helped him out when he saw his disability. This is also the time when Willie, attempting to make friends like Andre has suggested, finds among the tough, joint-smoking boys in his school a punster just like Johnny and feels less of an outsider.
In Chapter 17, Willie is signed on for a Nautilus gym membership by Lisa and introduced to Sammy, a master of Tai Chi and other martial arts. Sammy gets Willie to reveal the two things that have scarred him the most—losing his sister Missy and losing the sporting prowess he had during the Crazy Horse Electric game. Sammy tells him that he can use both the things to either build him up or beat him down. Willie is able to play basketball now with the big boys like Hawk and Kato. He asks Angel to have lunch with him one day. He had made her getting out of prostitution one of the conditions for staying on with Lacey, but Lacey got back to him and said that she did not want to. When they talk about it at lunch, Angel is hostile and reveals that she has been treated badly by men since the age of seven. She tells Willie that he is exactly the same as any of the other men and that she does not want to quit her profession.
Chapter 18 finds students and staff of OMLC school pitching in to have it painted and refurbished. The Jo Boys, whom Willie has noticed on his way to and from the school, begin to raid the school and paint graffiti over the students’ work. Their leader, Kam, gets beaten up by OMLC’s Warren Hawkins (Hawk) because he has roughed up Telephone Man on the street when Telephone Man was trying to go home early from school after a bout of diarrhea. Hawk believes that the Jo Boys will be back for revenge pretty soon, and he asks Willie to join him in a night vigil at the school that night.
Chapter 19 sees Willie alone in the room in the school’s basement. When he hears noises, it turns out to be the Jo Boys who are moving around, not Hawk, who hasn’t showed. The Jo Boys set fire to the school with gasoline. Willie is confronted by Kam among the flames and brings him down with his cane. He then drags him to safety and gets to the fire alarm.
In chapter 20, the school reopens after a three-week shutdown, during which all the ravages of the fire have been dealt with. As he lay in front of the burning building, Willie had felt a sense of great betrayal from Hawk on the night of the fire. But in fact, it is Hawk who had informed the fire services. He tells Willie that he had stayed back home to save his mother from the violence his brother was unleashing at home, high on drugs. Willie realizes that he would have done the same in his place. The graduation party of Willie and his classmates is the high point of this chapter, as they gather in their hired burgundy tuxedos and speak from the heart. In fact, Willie’s speech contains the whole point of the book and his story.
Because I had everything; and I had people there to protect me and make sure I didn’t lose it. And there are lots of people like that; people whose lives are protected from the day they’re born until the day they die. But no matter how wonderful those lives seem, if they’re not contested, never put up against the wall, then they exist inside very narrow walls, and because of that I believe they lose value, in the most basic sense of the word. I guess what I’m saying is that my life is more valuable because I got knocked out of my favored spot. I can’t believe I’m saying that, but I am and I know it’s true. I learned it from the people who picked me up here.
With this, Willie is thanking all the people who have helped him regain his sense of self, his speech, his strength, and some of his athletic prowess as well.
In chapter 21, Willie takes a Greyhound to Coho, Montana once again, where his parents and all the people in town had presumed him dead for eighteen months. He finds that his parents have split up and his mother has remarried. His father is a broken man who has taken to drinking. Johnny Rivers is very happy to see him and organizes a party for people to meet him. But Jenny is angry at the way he left, and things are not the same with her, either. Before he leaves Coho once again, Willie visits his old house, where the Millers now live. He asks if he may visit the room where his sister died, and Mrs. Miller lets him come in. When he reaches the room, there is a crib there with a beautiful baby, who holds his finger in just the way his sister had done.
Willie then leaves town, no longer a hurting adolescent, but a healing adult.