Chapter 12 Summary

Alfred is lying alone in a pool of cold sweat on Saturday night. He alternates between wild hallucinations and passing out.

In the morning, Major calls to remind Alfred they made plans to go to Coney Island. Alfred does not want to go, but Major insists.

Alfred drinks coffee, something Donatelli says he should not drink, but Alfred remembers he is disgusted with him and drinks it anyway. Alfred allows himself to be led into a white Cadillac that Major stole. Major is a reckless driver, but Alfred begins to think it is better do something other than “waiting around for something to happen.”

The smell of food at Coney Island reminds Alfred that he has not eaten for nearly two days. Two policemen are checking license plates and registrations, and Major recklessly drives away. Alfred immediately vaults over the door; his right ankle twists under him, but he keeps running as the police follow the car. Despite the pain in his ankle, Alfred runs through the crowd until he feels safe enough to stop.

Alfred buys some food and devours it; in a moment he vomits it all up and passersby are disgusted, assuming he is a “junkie, tryin’ to beat it with food.” Alfred moves as quickly as his ankle will let him and begins to walk. He ducks into a theater and eats some ice cream, which he manages to keep down, and begins to feel better. He wants to blame Major for everything, but Alfred knows he caused his own problems.

He gets back to Harlem that evening. Major calls and wonders if Alfred has plans. He says yes and hangs up the telephone. He soaks his sore ankle and knows he will not be able to run in the morning, even he wanted to—which he does not. There are no promises, and he has been working for nothing. Dawn arrives and his ankle does not hurt, but Alfred does not go running.

At the store Monday, the Epsteins can see that he spent the weekend partying; at home he eats a can of cold, greasy pork and beans. Tuesday is another long day and he walks home past the gym.

Donatelli was right when he said Alfred would probably quit boxing, too, and Alfred figures he might as well clean out his locker. Donatelli is sitting in a chair looking out the window; he does not move while Alfred clears his locker, wishing Donatelli would turn around. He does not. Alfred says goodbye, thanks him, and says he is sorry.

Alfred asks if he might have become a contender. A trainer cannot determine that; it is up to the boxer. Alfred would have had a chance to spar and maybe have a real fight, but even then Donatelli would not know if he were a contender. He would only know when Alfred got hurt in the ring for the first time; then both of them would know. Alfred drops his bag.