Skipper buys a dilapidated 1949 Ford with the intention of fixing it up. Skipper puts all of his money into the car and when he is finished, the Ford looks almost new. Skipper mentions that he is thinking of driving to Mexico to have the car upholster ed and tells Jack that he will consider bringing him along. Jack misconstrues this off-handed comment as a promise, and fantasizes about driving through Mexico with Skipper. One night, however, Rosemary raises the subject of Jack's going to Mexico and Skipper does not even remember talking to Jack about it. Skipper tells Rosemary he is bringing a friend along instead.
Picturing Skipper and his friend out on the road makes Jack feel "cheated and confined," and Jack's disappointment makes him think of his biological brother, Geoffrey, whom he has not seen in four years. Jack also misses his father and convinces h imself that his father was not a mean man, but simply had overwhelming responsibilities of his own. Later, however, when Jack is an adult and has his own son, he does not understand how his father could have abandoned him.
Jack makes a habit of hitchhiking to see how far from Chinook he can get. Jack plans to travel to the town of Concrete, but loses his nerve and only gets as far as Marblemount, which is one town over from Chinook. Jack continues to thumb rides, hoping tha t someday he will be able to go all the way to Connecticut to see his father. Skipper returns from Mexico almost in tears, one of only two times that Jack has ever seen him near crying. Skipper's car was destroyed in a vicious sandstorm, and the damage looks irreparable. While Skipper explains what happened, Jack quietly gets behin d the wheel of the car and pretends that he is driving.
Dwight refuses to buy Jack a new pair of sneakers because he thinks Jack outgrows his shoes too quickly. Instead, Dwight buys Jack an ugly pair of brown street shoes. When Jack plays basketball in the brown shoes, he trips all over himself. During the game, Jack is distracted by the shrill and crazy cackling coming from a crazy woman in the stands. After the woman is removed by a security guard, the audience is quiet, almost solemn, and the other team seems to feel guilty for winning the game. Norma and her boyfriend Bobby give Jack a ride home after the game and it occurs to Jack for the first time they fool around in the car while waiting to pick him up. Jack is jealous, and for a moment is even angry, but he feels too tenderly toward Norma to remain angry with her.
Rosemary joins the local rifle club and does very well at competitions. Dwight is as poor a shooter as ever and continues to buy new guns to prove that his old firearms are faulty. None of these new rifles improves Dwight's shooting, and his poor performa nce is a major source of conflict between him and Rosemary. To improve, Dwight fixes a practice target to the front door of the house and points the gun at Jack when Jack returns home from his paper route.
Jack admits to being a thief who steals candy and change from houses along his paper route, and he plans to steal enough money to run away. Jack is ready to do anything to get away from Dwight and even fantasizes about killing him. Jack is not hurt by Dwi ght's accusations that he is a thief and a liar because Jack does not see himself that way. When Dwight calls Jack a sissy, Jack thinks of Arthur, who is his best friend and the biggest "sissy" in school. Jack remembers how the word sissy sparked the fistfight between him and Arthur just a few months earlier. Regardless, Jack refuses to allow Dwight to define him with his relentless abuse and criticism.