Chapter 15 Summary

When Alfred finally gets home, Aunt Pearl jumps up out of concern for him. His face is a mess and he is limping, but he tells his aunt it that it “looks worse than it is.”

He does not want anything to eat, but he does want some milk. Doctor Corey already gave him some aspirin, so Aunt Pearl just gets his bed ready. Alfred wonders why she has not asked him any questions, but she reminds him that the last time he came up looking like this, he claimed he fell off an old stone fence.

Alfred smiles and splits his lip open again. Aunt Pearl learned about the fight from Lou Epstein; Alfred did not tell her because he was afraid she might try to stop him. Now that Alfred is nearly a man, she knows that if she forbids him to do one thing, he will go and do something else. She still does not like the sport of boxing, but Alfred says it is the only thing he knows how to do. She reminds him he did not know anything about boxing just a few months ago.

When Aunt Pearl was seventeen, a man from the Apollo Theater came to her house. He had heard her singing in the church choir and wanted to put her in the chorus of a stage show at his theater. She was going to wear a fancy dress and learn some dance steps.

Aunt Pearl and her sisters were thrilled at the opportunity, but her mother would not sign the papers because she believed stage shows were sinful and refused to let her daughter participate. The more her daughters begged, the more resolved their mother became.

Alfred has never heard this story before and assumes it was a secret. Aunt Pearl says it was not a secret but that he has been “closed into himself” and did not choose to listen.

Alfred asks what happened next, and she finishes the story. The man went away and she met her future husband, John. Aunt Pearl’s mother did not think he had enough money in the bank, so he worked diligently; after a long time of courting, her mother finally gave her approval for them to marry. They had a son, Charles, and then John died a month before the twins were born.

Alfred consoles his aunt, who is sobbing at the memory. She appreciates his comfort and asks if he won his fight. He agrees that the victory did not “taste sweet,” but he will not quit boxing.