Chapter 38

Unable to sleep, Cal has taken to spending his nights wandering the streets. Although Lee is aware that the boy is out, he does not say anything because he knows there is nothing he can do about it. As Cal walks, he continually ponders and tries to piece together the tidbits of information he has overheard about his mother. He knows she is not dead but he does not know the truth.

One night, he runs into a man named Rabbit, who is in town for a semiannual drunken excursion. He sits with Rabbit while Rabbit drinks; when Rabbit’s pint of whisky runs dry, Cal procures him another. Soon Rabbit has forgotten Cal’s age and even who he truly is. He offers to take Cal to “Kate’s place” where, he promises, he will see a circus unlike any other he has seen before. Cal follows Rabbit to the whorehouse.

Later that night, Cal knocks on Lee’s bedroom door. Lee admits him and patiently waits for the questions he knows are coming. Cal tells him that he saw his mother and that he knows what she does for a living. Lee does not deny it. He simply asks the boy what he wants to know. Lee confirms that his father knows and that Cathy did, in fact, shoot him before running away. He does not know, however, why she wanted to hurt him. Cal asks Lee to describe his mother but he is at a loss. He says she is a mystery and somehow lacks something very important—“kindness, maybe, or conscience.” She seemed full of hate, but he could not say what she hated or why. This is the extent of what Lee can tell the boy about his mother. He asks Cal if he hates his mother. He does.

Cal says he thinks he has her in him, all the badness and darkness of his mother. This enrages Lee. He tells the boy that everyone has some darkness but he also has light. He urges Cal to not take the “lazy way,” that is, to become like his mother and let the darkness take him because it is easy to blame her for the bad parts. Whatever he chooses in life, Lee argues, is his own choice.

The fact that he knows the truth about their mother and Aron does not eats away at Cal. He knows the right thing to do is to keep quiet about it, but Aron’s angelic goodness drives him crazy, especially when Aron takes a shine to religion and tries to convert his brother. Still, he keeps quiet, sure that Aron could not handle the revelation.