Chapter 1 Summary

It is twilight, and seventeen-year-old Alfred is still waiting for James. James has never been this late, and Alfred’s Aunt Pearl says he should call James to see if he is sick. Alfred knows James is not sick. Aunt Pearl suspects James is “hangin’ out with those worthless punks,” but Alfred runs off before she can make him tell what he knows.

As he runs, Alfred remembers he has always been faster than James but wonders if he is anything more than James’s shadow. At the mouth of the alley, he stops and takes a deep breath before descending the basement steps into the clubroom. James is there, along with Hollis, Major, and Sonny. James is the only one who acknowledges Alfred. Alfred is the only one of them with a job and today was payday. The others insist he give them money, but he gave most of his money to Aunt Pearl.

Everyone but James begins to taunt Alfred for working at a grocery store for a white Jewish family; they mock him for being no better than a slave, mindlessly doing whatever demeaning task he is given. Alfred tries to defend his employer, the only one who would give him a job after he quit school; instead, he inadvertently reveals that the Epsteins have money in their cash register overnight on Fridays. Immediately the group leaves to rob the grocery store.

Alfred is disgusted with himself for betraying the Epsteins. Henry, a boy with a crippled leg, tries to talk to Alfred, but Alfred leaves the building. He does not have anywhere to go, however, and returns to the clubroom. Henry tells Alfred that Mr. Donatelli, the fight manager, has agreed to let Henry help at the gym, but Alfred is too distracted to listen and leaves again. Suddenly he remembers the Epsteins’ newly installed silent alarm and immediately leaves to warn James.

Several police cars are already there. Alfred hears someone holler stop and then fire a warning shot; the crowd murmurs that one perpetrator has been caught...

(The entire section is 504 words.)