"He screamed something without words and flung the papers and paints into the dirty brown water
He watched them all disappear. Gradually his breath quieted, and his heart slowed from its wild pace. The ground was still muddy from the rains, but he sat down anyway. There was nowhere to go. Nowhere. Ever again. He put his head down on one knee. "'That was a damn fool thing to do.' His father sat down on the dirt beside him. "'I don't care. I don't care.' He was crying now, crying so hard he could barely breathe. "His father pulled Jess over on his lap as if he were Joyce Ann. 'There. There," he said, patting his head. 'Shhh. Shhh.'"
This scene comes in Chapter 12, the day after Leslie has died, when Jess is just beginning to allow himself to feel his anger and grief. In throwing away the paint set, he is not only throwing away a reminder of Leslie, he is throwing away a part of himself as well, an acknowledgment of his artistic talent and calling. He feels that he is lost the best part of himself with Leslie. His father, on the other hand, reverses all his paternal insufficiencies that plague him and Jess through the rest of the book. Mr. Aarons has always been a little awkward around his son, undemonstrative and expectant. As mentioned before, he never approved of Jess's artistic leanings. Now, by telling Jess that throwing away the art set was a "damn fool thing to do," he is announcing that he has come to accept that part of Jess, and that Jess's attempt to deny it is foolish and unnecessary. One suspects that before now, if Jess had voluntarily thrown away his paint set, his father would have been pleased. Now he seems to realize that it is simply a part of Jess, which cannot be denied and should not to be denied. And when he takes Jess in his arms "as if he were Joyce Ann," he at last makes up for all the years when he maintained a distance from Jess, believing that a young man didn't need cuddling and coddling. In this time of crisis, Jess's father is shown to be an admirable one, and the suddenly solid relationship between them helps Jess to heal.