In Denver, Dean made a comment in a restaurant about Sal getting older, which upset Sal. Referring to the man who had driven them out of San Francisco, Sal said, “I’m no old fag like that fag.” When their food came to the table, Dean started to tear up and went outside.
Sal and Dean’s close friendship starts to fray a bit. Sal idolizes the younger, energetic, enthusiastic Dean, and so is perhaps a bit sensitive about being slightly older.
The mother of the family with whom they were staying, whose husband had run off, was called Frankie. She was about to buy a truck, and Dean tried to help her choose one to buy, but she backed out in the end, which infuriated Dean. Dean called her dumb and frightened and said she reminded him of his father.
Like other female characters in the novel, Frankie has been left behind by her husband. Dean is highly critical of her, calling her dumb, even though she is kind enough to let Sal and him stay with her.
One night, Dean arranged for his cousin Sam to meet up with Sal and him. Dean told Sal all about how close he was with his cousin when they were growing up and was excited to see Sam. They went to a bar to meet up with Sam, where Dean asked people about Marylou, who he heard had been in Denver recently.
Dean has found a kind of family with all of his friends, but is excited to reconnect with his actual family through Sam.
When Sam arrived, he told Dean he didn’t drink anymore and said that he only came so that Dean would sign a paper separating himself from his family. Dean was saddened but asked Sam about old childhood memories, which Dean seemed to enjoy recalling.
This scene reveals a tragic side to Dean’s heroic wandering. He is an individualistic vagabond partly because he is separated from his own family.
Sam left and Dean and Sal went to a carnival, where they spotted “one amazing little girl,” amid a crowd of Mexicans. They bought some beer and went back to Frankie’s house, where Sal tried to make sure Dean didn’t try anything on Janet, Frankie’s young daughter.
Sal and Dean (but especially Dean) see women almost exclusively as sexual objects. Sal must even try to keep Dean away from the very young Janet. Dean is deeply charismatic, but there is also something terrifying about him.