In Battle Mountain, Dad gets a decent job in the Barite mine. The owner of the barite mine also owns the Walls’ house and the commissary, so he deducts rent and food out of Dad’s weekly paycheck. Mom only cooks occasionally, usually one large pot of beans meant to last all week. Dad stays mostly in good spirits, drinking less and staying home with the family in the evenings. Strays and wild animals such as lizards, coyotes, and buzzards come in and out of the house.
One afternoon, while exploring the nearby dump, Brian and Jeannette mix together various hazardous waste liquids in an old shed and set it on fire. The flame quickly grows out of their control, and Brian gets stuck in the shed while Jeannette runs for help. She finds Dad, who kicks in a wall and rescues Brian. A few weeks later, Dad takes the family to a natural sulfur spring called the Hot Pot and teaches Jeannette how to swim by throwing her into the spring and letting her sink again and again. The process terrifies and infuriates Jeannette, and at first she refuses to allow him to hug her. When Dad insists he loves her and only wanted to teach her independence, she quickly forgives him.
Jeannette and Brian become fascinated by the Green Lantern, the local brothel. They do not yet know about sex, but Mom tells them that the women who work there do bad things, piquing their interest. They attempt to spy on the Green Lantern, but learn nothing about what goes on inside.
After six months in Battle Mountain, Dad loses his job. He disappears for long stretches of time, saying he is looking for gold. The family starts to go hungry, and the kids resort to stealing food from classmates and neighbors. When Mom finally confronts Dad about not providing for his family, they have a long and violent screaming match that lasts through the night. In the end, they decide that Mom will start teaching.
Mom makes good money teaching, but Dad often confiscates Mom’s paychecks and spends them on elaborate family dinners and alcohol. For Brian’s birthday, Dad buys him a comic book and takes him to dinner with Ginger, a woman who works at the Green Lantern. Later, Dad disappears with Ginger in a hotel bedroom. When Brian tells Jeannette about his birthday dinner, he says that Ginger is stupid, but refuses to elaborate what about his encounter with Ginger upset him.
A boy named Billy Deel moves to Battle Mountain. He is known to be a juvenile delinquent and develops a crush on Jeannette. One day, he invites Jeannette into his house to look at his father, who has passed out on a mattress with his genitals hanging out and his jeans soaked with urine. When she tells her mother about the incident, Mom tells her to show Billy more compassion. Later, Billy gives Jeannette a ring made out of real silver and turquoise. One day, while Jeannette plays hide and seek with the neighbors, Billy forces his way into Jeannette’s cramped hiding spot, kisses her, and tries to undress her. She fights him off and goes to his house the next day to return the ring.