Lightbulb, one of Deems’s henchmen, goes to a meeting with Bunch. He tells Bunch that Deems is not as effective at his job as he should be. He claims that because Deems grew up in the church, he does not sell to as many people as he should, and he makes sure to keep up his choir boy image around the church community.
Indeed, Deems’s religious upbringing does affect how he does business. Although Deems clearly doesn’t abide by the teachings of the church, he still respects it as a valuable social institution. It instilled community values in him from a young age, and although he is hardly a model citizen, he still cares for the residents of the Cause.
Deems’s primary selling location is near a flagpole, a central location in the Causeway Projects, which he claimed by severely injuring another drug dealer who had previously wronged him. Lightbulb tells this story to Bunch. After Deems’s grandfather died, Deems stopped playing baseball and turned to drug dealing instead. Deems’s cousin Rooster recruited him, and Deems joined a crew that consisted of himself, Rooster, Lightbulb, Bumps, Beanie, and Sugar. Rooster was the leader of the crew. After selling drugs for a while, the boys were caught and sent to juvy. While serving time, Rooster was killed. This was difficult on Deems, and it also meant that the group needed a new leader. Also, at one point, Bumps brutally beat up Deems and took some of his money to get back at Deems for not sharing his rice and beans with him.
Lightbulb’s story explains how Deems turned from a friendly neighborhood boy into a vicious drug dealer. Evidently, after the death of Deems’s grandfather, Deems needed money and did not know where else to turn. Baseball was not going to make him money any time soon; after all, he was still a minor. Because Deems does not have a family to look out for him—except for Rooster, who is already a drug dealer— his drug dealing associates become his family.
The first to get out of juvy was Bumps. As such, he made himself the new leader of the group. When the rest of the members of the crew got out of jail, Bumps gave them jobs but made it clear that they worked for him. Deems agreed to work for Bumps and pretends to forgive and forget the incident in juvy. However, instead he secretly plots revenge.
Here, tension continues to build between Bumps and Deems. Bumps seems to think he’s asserted his dominance over Deems and that Deems will simply fall in line. However, that is far from the truth.
One day, while Bumps was selling drugs by the flagpole, a woman approached him and offered sexual favors for drugs. Bumps agreed to the deal, and the woman leads him into an alleyway where some Jamaican men to whom Bumps had sold dangerous fake cocaine jump him. The Jamaican men cut Bumps up bad, leaving him disabled. Deems watched the entire incident, which he orchestrated, from afar. Then, as soon as the Jamaican men left, he went inside, grabbed a boiling pot of rice and beans, ran over to Bumps, and dumped it on him. After his revenge was complete, Deems took charge of the flagpole.
Although Bumps is hardly a likeable character, his beating is sudden and shocking. Most of the violence in the novel is only referenced in retrospect, but here there is a graphic description of what can happen when taking part in this lifestyle. Clearly, Deems never forgot what Bumps did to him in prison, considering he made rice and beans part of his revenge.
Lightbulb gives all of this information to Bunch in the hopes that Bunch will let him take over Deems’s flagpole. Bunch tells Lightbulb that he will consider it. However, when Lightbulb pushes him for an answer, Bunch tells him that he’s not going to give the flagpole to someone who just stabbed his friend in the back.
Lightbulb, ironically, is not very bright. Essentially, he gives Bunch a ton of free information and gets nothing in return. Meanwhile, Bunch continues to prove himself to be a capable player in the drug trade.
Lightbulb leaves and Bunch considers the best way to get rid of Deems. He agrees with Lightbulb’s assessment and wants Deems gone because he has a large quantity of heroin coming in from Joe Peck. Additionally, Bunch tells Earl, whose been sitting in the corner and listening in on the conversation with Lightbulb, that he’s called in someone else to deal with Sportcoat because Earl cannot seem to handle him. Unknown to Bunch, Earl recently decided to become a police informant to avoid jail time. He worries about what will happen if Bunch finds out.
Ironically, after Bunch just chastised Lightbulb for turning on his friend, it turns out that Earl has flipped allegiances as well. For the next few chapters, tension builds over the new identity of the new hitman that is coming into town.