Chapters 16-19 Summary
Wasn’t No One to Stop This
The boys are out at dusk. They have drawn a three-sectioned chalk circle. They bounce a ball into each of the sections to someone else, imitating their father’s voice and chastisements as they do so.
As darkness settles, Manny begins talking to his brothers about white and black magic. Manny believes God is responsible for both types of magic, and one way to show his brothers this is by locating some poisonous mushrooms. They search and search; other children have gone home and they are alone in the night. Their desire to engage in mischief escalates and they decide to try to break out a window of a camper that belongs to their neighbors, the Grices. After a few tries, they succeed.
The owner’s son hears the window break and comes out to investigate. He is a headbanger with stringy, greasy, blonde hair. The boys do not try to hide. Eventually the Grice boy finds them. Instead of being angry, he seems pleased to have boys near his own age with whom he can talk. He invites the brothers into his home. They pass his father, who is watching television in the living room; he gets up and locks himself in a bedroom. The boys go down to the basement.
In the dank and dark room, something feels not quite right. The Grice boy asks if they want to see something. They agree and the teenager puts in a porn tape. The boys are shocked. The tape is homosexual pornography. While Manny and Joel are horrified, something unspoken has occurred between the two elder brothers and their younger sibling. The narrator wonders why they will not meet his eyes.
Paps has decided to take his younger son on a road trip with him, just the two of them. They drive up the coast to Lake Ontario and Niagara Falls. The boy is amazed with the grandeur and power of the falls.
Later in the day, Paps drops his son off at a local museum. He leaves him with a few dollars and the promise that he will return soon. Hours and hours pass; Paps does not come back. The boy watches historical footage of men who have gone over the falls in wooden barrels; many did not survive. The child is there for so long and becomes so bored that he ends up choreographing a dance routine to the footage.
Paps eventually returns—without apology or explanation for his long absence. The museum’s sole employee does not come out to question him. They go for a bite to eat. Paps tries to make his son laugh by cramming a hot dog into his mouth, but the boy refuses to comply and make his father feel better.
When they get home, Paps confesses that he had seen his son dancing at the museum. He has an odd confession. He tells the boy he thinks he is pretty.
The Night I Am Made
The beginning of this chapter finds the unnamed narrator reflecting on both the physical growth of his older brothers and how they have become different from himself in other ways. They are muscled, “wiry, long-torsoed, and lean.” They are dock workers and live in a world that is coarse and hard. They are opposites of their “fragile” brother and scoff at him for his “good grades and white ways.” But more importantly, they know they are going to be separated because of his “pansy scent.” It will be, he realizes sadly, their last night as brothers.
Later that evening, in a futile attempt to hold on to what used to bind the brothers, the narrator drinks with Manny and Joel on the docks. They consume much more alcohol than he does, yet he drinks enough to become emboldened. He tells Manny he is a “creep”—he talks about God yet also talks about “hos.” Joel hoots at this pronouncement of his brother’s character, but he also faces criticism. The narrator calls him “ignorant” and confesses he feels embarrassed by him.
The older brothers have some unkind words for their younger sibling as well. They say their mother told them he was “very bright” but also “capable of destroying himself.” They resent their mother’s preference. “In her mind,” Manny says of...
(The entire section is 1,111 words.)