Bill is the first member of the group at the library, watching as Mike deals with the last of the patrons. Bill thinks of Silver, leaning against the wall of Mike’s garage. He remembers on July 3, 1958 when the Losers’ Club goes deeper into the Barrens. Bill wants to tell them what to do next, how to proceed, but he does not know how. He remembers only music and darts of light.
Flashes of memory are returning to Bill, but he cannot yet make sense of any of the images. All that he knows so far is that Silver will help him fight against It. The image of the bicycle gives him comfort.
In the memory, Richie hangs his transistor radio over the lowermost branch of a tree against which he is leaning. The sun bounces off the radio’s chrome, prompting Bill to ask him to take it down. Richie obeys and also turns the radio off, which Bill wishes that he did not do, for the silence suddenly seems very loud. He sees that his friends are waiting for him to tell them what to do because he is the idea-man and has lost a brother but mainly because he has become “Big Bill.” Bill tells the group that they cannot go to the police. Bill suggests that Richie go to his parents and tell them about what the group has been witnessing, but Richie thinks that his parents would not understand or believe him.
Some members of the Losers’ Club have objects that tell the reader something about who they are. Bill has Silver, which contributes to his image as the hero of the novel. Richie has the radio, which gives a clue about who he will become when he grows up. Bill decides that they cannot go to the police because the police will not believe their stories. However, Richie says that his parents would not be any more sympathetic. The children cannot rely on authority figures whatsoever.
Ben, Richie, Stanley, and Bill all believe that Henry Bowers hates them the most, but Henry hates all four of them equally. However, “the number one on Henry’s personal hate parade” is not in the Losers’ Club at this time. It is Mike Hanlon. Henry gets this hatred from his father, “Butch” Bowers, who associates the Hanlons with all of his failures. He tells Henry that Will Hanlon lied about Butch killing his chickens to get insurance money. Butch tells his son that while “all niggers are stupid, some were cunning as well” and all of them hate white men and want to go to bed with white women. Butch thinks that Hanlon got “a bunch of nigger-lovers” in town to lie for him because Butch is only “a man who fought the Japs for his country” while Hanlon is the only black man in town.
Butch convinces his son that he is being persecuted by the Hanlons and that their poverty and suffering is the result of the black family’s presence in town. Though Butch is mentally ill, poor, and terribly ignorant, what he shares in common with the members of the Town Council who burned down the Black Spot is a belief that black people in Derry—and the Hanlons are the only blacks in town—should not be treated equally to whites or be allowed to intermingle. Lacking the wealth of those on the council, all that gives Butch a sense of pride is the illusion that he is superior to Will Hanlon.
All Henry Bowers hears from his father is how everything is Will Hanlon’s fault. When the Bowers family becomes poor in 1956, Henry is ten years old. Remembering how, according to his father, everything is Hanlon’s fault, Henry begins to feed the Hanlon dog, Mr. Chips. At first, he gives the dog old stew bones and potato chips, then he feeds the dog meat laced with poison. When the pains start, Henry ties the dog to a tree with a clothesline and watches Mr. Chips die.
This is one of the cruelest acts that Henry commits in the novel, and a sign of his psychopathy. Like Patrick Hocksetter, he is not averse to torturing animals. He uses the dog’s defenselessness to get back at the Hanlons for making him and his father look and feel weak in comparison to them.
When the dog dies, Henry Bowers removes the clothesline and tells his father what he has done. Oscar “Butch” Bowers is extremely crazy by this time and his wife will leave him a year later after he nearly beats her to death. Butch claps Henry on the back with pride and offers Henry his first beer. He later associates its taste with his father’s love. As far as Henry knows, the Hanlons never figure out who killed their dog, but he hopes that they do.
Butch is proud to have passed his racist values on to his son, and also feels that Henry has demonstrated loyalty to him. The offer of beer seems to Henry like a gesture of friendship from his father. This is the only instance in which Butch treats his son with kindness and appreciation—thus blatantly encouraging Henry’s bigotry and violence.
Jessica Hanlon is a devout Baptist, so she sends Mike to the Neibolt Street Church School where things are okay, but Mike still feels that he is a bit of an outcast because he is brown. Still, Mike thinks that he will be treated well as long as he treats others the same way. Henry Bowers is an exception to this rule of conduct. Mike is somewhat tall and agile and goes to a different school from Henry. These facts save him from some beatings. However, one spring, Henry is hiding in the bushes and emerges while Mike is walking to the library.
Mike senses that he is socially outcast due to racism in Derry. He decides that if he is respectful he can at least receive respect in return, even if he never manages to make any friends at the parochial school. Mike’s athletic physique make him less vulnerable to beatings than Ben or Eddie, but Henry relies on catching kids by surprise when he cannot overpower or gang up on them.
While running from Henry, Mike slips in some mud which Henry then rubs all over Mike, calling him “nigger.” Henry then tells Mike that he killed Mr. Chips and kicks another clot of mud at Mike before turning and leaving. Mike goes home, weeping. When he arrives, his mother, Jessica, is furious. She wants Will Hanlon to call Chief Borton and send him to the Hanlon house before sundown. Will listens but does not do what his wife asks because he knows that Chief Borton is not like Chief Sullivan and will not be sympathetic. Jessica asks if Will thinks that they should “just let it go.” Will says that racism is just something that Mike is going to have to learn how to deal with.
Will Hanlon’s response is far from unsympathetic. He simply knows that there is systemic racism in Derry that will protect the Bowers family. There are also individual racists who either quietly support Henry’s actions or are indifferent to them. Will also knows that this will not be the last instance of racism that Mike will experience. As embarrassing as this episode with Henry is, Mike was not injured, so he can at least withstand the experience.
The following day, Will Hanlon calls Mike out to the barn and warns him to stay out of Henry’s way. He tells him that “Butch” Bowers is crazy and Mike says that he thinks that Henry is crazy, too. Indeed, because of his close association with his father, Henry is going crazy. Will is careful to say that he does not want Mike to “make a career out of running away,” but he is going to be harassed a lot due to being black. Will also says that Mike must ask himself if Henry Bowers is worth the trouble. Mike does not think so, but he will change his mind on July 3, 1958.
Will gives Mike his first lecture to help him understand the condition of being black in the United States, which means that he will be a frequent target of hostility. His advice is to avoid people like Henry as best as he can. If confronted, he must decide if the person that he fights is worth the potential risk. Mike decides that, for the moment, there is nothing to gain from fighting with Henry Bowers.
Henry Bowers, Victor Criss, “Belch” Huggins, Peter Gordon, and Steve Sadler are chasing Mike through the trainyard and toward the Barrens when Bill and the rest of the Losers’ Club are still sitting near the Kenduskeag River, pondering their collective nightmare. Bill thinks that It is in the sewers. The sewage system, Zack Denbrough explains to Bill one day, is massive and complex. Bill tells his friends what his father told him about the pipes. Bill also tells them that he went to the library to research what they have been experiencing. It is called a “glamour” in Gaelic and a taelus by the Himalayans. It is a “skin-changer” or a “shape-shifting” creature. The only way to repel It is by performing the Ritual of Chüd, in which the taelus and It’s potential killer take turns telling jokes. If the killer laughs first, he or she dies. If the taelus laughs, It must go away.
The information that Bill gathers tells him three important things. First, part of the reason why It has been allowed to exist in the sewer system for so long is because the system is so complex that it would be very difficult to find where It lives. Second, creatures like It are not unique to Derry, and have existed for centuries. This helps the children to understand that they are not the first ones to confront this type of evil. Third, there is a way to defeat It. Its responsiveness to jokes gives some indication as to why It transforms Itself into a clown—an image of comic relief and mockery.
After talking about It, the Losers’ Club passes the time by setting off some firecrackers that Stan Uris got from a kid at his synagogue. Meanwhile, “Belch” Huggins and Victor Criss are helping Henry Bowers work on his father’s farm. The boys finish the farm chores and step out onto the road, where they see Mike Hanlon. Henry wants to sneak up on Mike carefully because Mike is fast. Victor asks, somewhat concernedly, what Henry plans to do. He knows that Henry can sometimes go “too far.” Henry has the idea of taking Mike to the coal pit, putting some Black Cat firecrackers in Mike’s loafers, stripping him, and sending him down into the Barrens with the hope that Mike will get into poison ivy. “Belch” also suggests rolling Mike in the coal. Henry remembers that he wants to tell Mike again that he killed Mr. Chips, thinking that Mike did not hear him the first time.
Coincidentally, both the Losers’ Club and the bullies are playing with firecrackers at the same time. Henry remains obsessed with Mike and thinks of sadistic ways to torture him. He seems particularly interested in doing things that can cause harm or damage to Mike’s skin, which is the offending attribute. Belch does not really understand the nature of Henry’s hatred, but he is dumb and eager to go along. Victor’s reservations are not a reflection of his concern for Mike but are due to his worry that Henry will do something that will land them in serious trouble.
The Losers’ Club is walking through the Barrens. They imagine that they are wading through a jungle and that the Kenduskeag is full of piranhas. They teeter on the rocks to get across the river. Eddie nears the halfway point and almost falls over. Between the flashes of the sun, he actually sees piranhas in the water. The fish look like oversized goldfish. They are as orange as the pompoms that are sometimes on clowns at the circus. Stanley grabs Eddie’s arm to keep him from falling in.
Their imagined play of walking across a jungle foreshadows the prehistoric image of Derry that Mike and Richie will see when they perform the smoke-hole ritual. Eddie sees piranhas in the water because he wants to imagine them. It latches on to Eddie’s imagination and uses his playtime fantasy as a tool to haunt him.
Ben mentions how “creepy” it is where they are walking. Bill leads them up the dry bank into heavy shrubbery. The smell of the dump is “clear and pungent.” Paper caught in the branches waves and flaps. The Losers’ Club gets to the top of the ridge and looks down at the dump. Ben says that they cannot go down because there are rats and Mandy Fazio, the “dumpkeeper” [sic], uses poison to keep the rodents away. Mainly, Mandy does not think that a dump is a place for children to play. Still thinking of a place to play, Bill comes up with the idea of going to a gravel pit at the end of the Barrens by the trainyards. They all agree to go there.
The dump is “creepy” because it is full of waste and is a desirable place for vermin. The smell of the dump is similar to the smell of the sewer. Still, the children are attracted to dumps and other wastelands because of the things they can find there, which they use as tools to build things together. The dump also offers places to hide if the bullies come around hunting for them.
Mike is currently being chased by Henry Bowers, “Belch” Huggins, Victor Criss, Steve Sadler, and Peter Gordon. Henry, “Belch,” and Steve, otherwise known as “Moose,” present no problems; they are quite slow. Victor and Peter, however, are fast, too. Mike sees that the gate to the trainyard is open and slips through, though there is a sign saying that it is private property. He closes the gate behind him. Peter catches up and grabs for the latch but cannot reach it, for the latch is inside. Henry arrives and demands that Mike open up. Mike backs away from the gate, feeling more scared than he ever has before. The bullies line their side of the gate and call him every racist name they can. Henry then lights a cherry-bomb and lobs it over the fence. It lands to Mike’s left. Henry then tells Mike again that he killed Mr. Chips. Mike hears him this time and the awareness ignites a fury within him.
Henry has more back-up than usual during his chase. One of Mike’s victimizers is Peter Gordon, who lives on West Broadway and therefore bears some relation to the men on the Town Council who tried to burn Will Hanlon out of the Black Spot. In this instance, there is comradeship between the wealthy Gordon and the impoverished Henry Bowers due to both of them being white and believing that it is okay to harass and brutalize Mike. Mike, however, is quite adept at defending himself from the bullies until Henry hurts him emotionally by telling Mike that he killed Mr. Chips.
Mike turns and runs across the trainyards. Henry and the other bullies climb the fence. Mike runs but hears his father’s voice, telling him not to get accustomed to running. Mike takes a right toward the gravel-pit. The gravel-pit was used as a coal pit until 1935 or so. As Mike runs toward it, he takes his shirt off. Henry does not see the coal but only a black boy that he thinks he has trapped against a fence. Suddenly, Mike lobs a chunk of coal that lands against Henry’s forehead.
Mike uses his father’s advice to defend himself against Henry. It is not wise for him to keep running, for then Henry would get the idea that Mike is afraid of him and thus easy to victimize. Mike stands his ground by throwing coal, both to avoid having a fist fight and to keep the other bullies at bay.
The other bullies skid to a stop. Their faces are fixed in disbelief. Mike lobs another piece of coal that hits Henry in the throat. Henry’s face contorts and is smeared with blood and coal ash. Mike leaps up the fence. He makes it over before one of them strikes his face with a piece of coal. Then, Henry approaches and lights one of his M-80 firecrackers, which he then sends over the fence. For Peter Gordon, things are going too far. Henry pressures Peter to continue over the fence with the other bullies, threatening to come after Peter next if he does not go along. Mike, meanwhile, runs and escapes into the scrub.
Mike’s resistance works because it makes the other bullies afraid to continue to engage. Peter Gordon is not interested in going after Mike if the pursuit entails some physical risk to him. However, Henry threatens to turn against Peter if Peter does not back up Henry. In this instance, Henry shows that he is willing to force the loyalty of the other bullies by threatening violence.
The Losers’ Club has reached the far side of the gravel pit by this time. They are preparing to fire off Stanley’s Black Cats. As Stanley unwraps them, they all hear an explosion nearby. Beverly asks if it is dynamite. Stanley asks if they still want to shoot off the firecrackers. Bill tells him to put them away. Stan opens his mouth to say something and hears another, smaller explosion—a cherry-bomb. Bill then prompts everyone to grab rocks as ammo.
Bill intuits that there is danger nearby. He knows that Henry and the other bullies are in the gravel pit but figures that they are probably there to terrorize the Losers’ Club. Like Ben, he knows that one has to be prepared and on the lookout for Henry.
Ben and Richie bend to get rocks, as Bill says, then Richie takes off his glasses, folds them, and puts them inside his shirt. Beverly asks why he does that. Richie says that he is not sure why but goes on picking up rocks. Ben suggests that Beverly go back to the dump for a while, but she refuses. Eddie feels a tightening in his throat but also joins in with picking up rocks.
Richie takes off his glasses because he is worried about damaging them, and his mother has already scolded him over damaging a pair. Eddie’s anxiety surfaces as the feeling that he cannot breathe. He resists the discomfort to support his friends.
Mike is still running and knows that Henry and the others are gaining on him. Mike falls down the gravel-pit and rolls to the bottom. He sees six other kids there and cries out, instinctively, to the tall boy with the red hair. He tries to tell them that he is being chased by Henry Bowers and his other bullying friends, just when Henry bursts into the pit. The other bullies join Henry at his side. Henry says that he has bones to pick with each member of the Losers’ Club, but today, he is focused on Mike. Bill then steps forward and tells Henry to leave the Barrens because it belongs to the Losers’ Club. Henry’s eyes widen at the challenge. Bill then takes some rocks and throws them at Henry. The first misses its target but the third strikes Henry’s lowered head, which is in the process of charging at Bill.
This is Mike’s first meeting with the Losers’ Club. They are brought together by what seems like fate, and united at first by their common problem—Henry Bowers. Mike instantly recognizes Bill as the leader of this group. Recognizing his role, Bill demands that Henry leave the area, asserting a strength that takes Henry by surprise. Henry charges at Bill like a bull. Unable to challenge Bill’s assertion of authority, Henry resorts to brute force, which he can easily impose due to his size.
Soon, the entire Losers’ Club charges the bullies and throws rocks. Henry picks up rocks, too, but they are mostly pebbles. He throws one of the larger ones at Beverly and hits her in the arm, cutting her. This sends Ben into a rage. Ben runs toward Henry and sends him flying upon contact. “Belch” repels Ben by hitting him with a rock the size of a golf ball. Henry gets to his knees but Ben kicks him, scolding him for throwing rocks at a girl. Henry tries to light one of his M-80s, which Ben swats away, back toward Henry. The ashcan explodes, blackening and tearing Henry’s shirt. A moment later, “Moose” Sadler hits Ben, bringing him to his knees.
Bill’s confidence gives the others the strength to stand up to the bullies. The sight of seeing Beverly harmed sets off Ben’s protective instinct. He forgets about his own fear of Henry, in a strong indication of Ben’s love for Beverly. Henry proves to be a poor match for Ben, in this instance, and avoids getting beaten up only because Belch and Moose assist him, as a result of their perverse loyalty to Henry’s reign of violence.
Bill comes up behind “Moose” Sadler and hits him with rocks. “Moose” calls Bill “a yellowbelly” for hitting him from behind, but the others are unimpressed. After all, he and the other bullies had no problem ganging up on Mike Hanlon. In a kind of revenge, Bill, Richie, Stanley, and Eddie fling rocks at Moose, who howls in fear and pain. “Belch” and Henry get hit again, too, forcing them into submission. Victor does the most damage to the Losers’ Club, due to his being such a good pitcher. He throws a rock at Eddie, which strikes him on the chin. Next, he hits Richie and gets him in the chest. One that he lobs at Bill hits Bill in the cheek and cuts him.
The members of the Losers’ Club are smaller and weaker than the bullies, but they use their power in numbers to repel their attackers. When confronting the bullies, any means of attack is deemed appropriate, given how violent and unfair Henry and the others are. Therefore, Moose’s attempt to suggest that there is a code to their fight strikes the group as absurd.
Bill then walks toward Victor and looks him squarely in the eye. Suddenly, as though able to reach each other’s minds, they throw rocks at each other while simultaneously walking toward each other. Victor ducks and bobs but Bill makes no effort to move himself out of the way. Victor runs out of ammunition first. Bill has one rock left—a smooth one about the size and shape of a duck’s egg and shot with quartz. Victor thinks it looks very hard. Bill warns him and the other bullies to leave. If not, the entire group will move in on them and Bill promises to put them in the hospital. Mike joins in on the promised effort. For the first time, Bill sees fear in Henry’s eyes.
Bill becomes fed up with Victor. To demonstrate that he will not abandon the Losers’ Club’s place in the Barrens, he engages in a face-off to prove that he is unafraid and willing to withstand greater harm before he will allow Henry and the others to run him and his friends out of their place. Bill’s act demonstrates that he knows that if he allows the bullies to run them out of the Barrens, the group will have no safe place to go in town.
Henry, however, still resists the demand to leave and calls Beverly and Mike names. This prompts four rocks to go flying. Henry is helpless and the other bullies do nothing. “Belch” warns that the Losers’ Club will be sorry for crossing Henry. However, the bullies soon leave with their heads down. The apocalyptic rockfight lasts for about four minutes and leaves the seven survivors standing in a semi-circle, each of them bleeding from somewhere. Their silence is broken by Eddie’s wheezing. Ben tries to go to Eddie but suddenly feels ill and heads for the bushes instead, to vomit. Richie and Beverly go to Eddie, and Richie helps Eddie get his aspirator. Beverly then thanks Ben for sticking up for her.
Bill and the others succeed in subduing the bullies. King describes the rockfight as “apocalyptic,” a very dramatic adjective, to illustrate how the fight is a turning point in the Losers’ Club’s relations with Henry and the other bullies. It is the first instance in which they resist him, and they have now met Mike, the final member of their circle. His inclusion will complete them and make it more possible for them to defeat It.
Everyone then turns to look at the new dark-skinned kid. Their look of careful curiosity is familiar to Mike. Bill looks at him, then at everyone else, and senses that their group is somehow complete. Beverly asks Mike what his name is. Stanley then asks him if he wants to shoot off some firecrackers. Mike’s grin is enough of a response.
Mike initially thinks that the group is only curiously interested in him because he is black. He does not realize that they are recognizing him as one of them. Stan’s invitation puts Mike at ease and is his welcome into the group.