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Jess and his parents walk over to the Burkes'. When they get there, they find the golden room filled with people. All the people crying unnerve Jess. Somewhere between his house and the Burkes', he seems to have gained some sort of an understanding of what happened, but he is only able to examine his thoughts with a clinical detachment, thinking of the practical ways Leslie's death will affect him. The kids at school will be respectful of him. His parents will make his sisters be nice to him. He has reached the second stage in his grieving, but he has barely begun yet.
All this breaks when Bill, Leslie's father, comes over to him. He hugs Jess and thanks him repeatedly for being such a wonderful friend to Leslie. Jess retreats from this initially by imagining how he and Leslie would react if they were watching such a melodramatic scene on TV. But his link with that detachment snaps when Bill tells him that they have decided to have Leslie cremated. One of Jess's few acknowledgments of Leslie's death had been contained in a passing thought that he would like to see her one more time, even laid out. Now that he knows he will not see her again, he cannot maintain his sense of apathy any longer, and he runs out of the house.
Jess's emotions have turned on again, with a vengeance. When he tears back to his house, May Belle wants to know if he had seen Leslie laid out. May Belle wants to know what a dead person looks like, but Jess just hits her, hard. He gathers up the paint set that Leslie gave him for Christmas, runs back to the creek, and throws it in. Jess's father approaches and tells him, "that was a damn fool thing to do." Jess is sobbing and screaming still, so his father gathers him into his lap, stroking his hair and comforting him.
Eventually Jess calms down enough to ask his father whether he thinks that God damns non-Christians to hell. His father is surprised by the question, and replies that Jess has no need to worry about Leslie, that God would not send a little girl to hell. Jess is soothed.
When they go back to the house, Jess is closer to feeling like himself than he has been all day. He is still in the throes of grief, is incredibly tired and cannot seem to focus on the outside world. He is thinking more normally, and he is aware of the situation now. Later on, Bill comes by and asks Jess to take care of Prince Terrien while he and his wife go on a trip to Pennsylvania. Jess agrees, and sleeps with Prince Terrien that night, and he is comforted by the warm body of the dog Leslie had loved.
Throughout the book, Jess's family has not been shown in the most positive light, but in this chapter it becomes clear that despite their frequent distraction, frustration, and irritability, they are good people at heart who care about Jess deeply. Leslie's death brings this out in them, and for once they are a source of comfort to him. The scenes with Jess's father are particularly telling. For once, his father seems to have found the right balance between treating Jess as a child and treating him as an adult. He knows that what Jess needs at the moment is to be cradled like a child, and yet he speaks to him as an adult when he talks with him about Leslie's death and the concept of hell. Once it has been established that Jess really needs him—not in the sense that he needs an expensive Christmas present, but that he needs his comfort and advice and love—Mr. Aarons is able to rise to the occasion. The father-son bond is stronger in this chapter than it has been at any other point in the book.
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