On Friday nights all Quinn cares about is partying, but before he can go out tonight he needs to take his younger brother, Willy, over to the house of their neighbors, the Cambis. Quinn’s father was a soldier who was killed in Afghanistan, and ever since his death Quinn feels under pressure to live up to his father’s legacy. While Willy is packing his overnight bag, Quinn takes a flaskful of his mother’s bourbon. Quinn’s mother, who he calls Ma, works 12-hour night shifts at a warehouse. As Quinn and Willy walk over to the Cambis’ house, Quinn puts his arm around Willy, thinking that he loves being a big brother.
The introduction to Quinn’s life establishes a connection between him and Rashad. Both boys must balance responsibility and duties to their family with their ordinary desires to party and have fun. Both boys have one brother, and both have a father who served in the military. Of course, a significant difference is that Quinn’s father is dead. However, Quinn still feels pressure from his father’s legacy, just like Rashad.
People say that Quinn’s neighborhood, the West Side, is “going to shit.” Everyone in the West Side lives in multifamily apartment buildings, and the police patrol the area more often than they used to. Quinn loves the West Side and rejects the belief that the neighborhood is “on the decline.” When Quinn drops Willy at the Cambis’, he notices Mrs. Cambi giving him a kind, pitiful look, which Quinn is used to getting as the son of “Saint Springfield.” Quinn’s father was a “model man” who volunteered at the soup kitchen when he was off-duty and died fighting for his country. However, Quinn finds his father’s story more “shitty” than inspirational.
Springfield is a typical American city, and one way in which this is explored is through the economic and demographic changes taking place in Quinn’s neighborhood. Like many parts of the US, Quinn’s neighborhood appears to be suffering from increased economic hardship as well as social changes, represented by the fact that the police are more present than they used to be. Quinn doesn’t mention race, but it seems possible that it is also a factor in these changes.
Quinn’s friends Dwyer and Guzzo are waiting for him in the alley by Jerry’s. When Quinn meets them, Guzzo points out that it is their last night out before basketball season begins again, meaning they will have practice every Friday and Saturday night. Quinn insists that they will make tonight “worth it,” and Guzzo announces that he plans to shotgun ten beers. Quinn has a crush on Jill, who is Guzzo’s cousin, and who is known for throwing “mad parties.” Guzzo has an “army of cousins” who live all over the city, and anyone who is friends with Guzzo is automatically looked out for by the rest of Guzzo’s family.
The closeness and loyalty of Guzzo’s enormous family at first appears to be a positive thing. However, note the word choice in Quinn’s description of Guzzo’s “army” of cousins. The use of this metaphor evokes both the positive sides of the military––such as loyalty, cooperation, and service––but also the negative sides. “Army” of cousins implies an element of aggression and conflict.
Quinn and his friends always buy beer from Jerry’s. They used to shoplift from there, but don’t anymore. Instead, they pay nearby adults a little extra to buy beer for them. Quinn works during the summers, which gives him enough money to last through the year; he mostly spends it on beer and slices at Mother’s Pizza. Quinn approaches a guy who’s bought them beer before, but then he suddenly sees the door of Jerry’s fly open, and a cop push a young black man onto the ground.
Although Quinn is responsible in many ways––taking care of his brother and working during the summers in order to save money––he also engages in minor acts of rebellion that Rashad doesn’t. For example, he steals Ma’s bourbon, pays adults to buy him beer, and used to shoplift.
Quinn sees that the guy on the ground is only a teenager and that he looks familiar; he wonders if he also attends Springfield Central High. Quinn then notices that the cop is Guzzo’s older brother, Paul. Quinn stares, frozen in shock. He hears sirens approaching and runs back to Guzzo and Dwyer, telling them they need to get out of there. He explains that Paul just “beat the piss out of some kid.” Dwyer suggests that they all go and calm down over a slice of Mother’s pizza. However, once they are there, Quinn is unable to stop thinking about what happened. Ever since Quinn’s father’s death, Paul has been a father figure to Quinn, and he is haunted by the look he saw on Paul’s face.
As this passage makes clear, Quinn’s witnessing of Paul beating up Rashad is disturbing not only in itself, but also because of Quinn’s relationship to Paul. Paul is a father figure, and as such also a kind of hero to Quinn, particularly considering that Quinn’s actual father was considered to be a hero across Springfield. As such, this passage raises the question: is it possible that a person can be a hero to some and a villain to others?