The next day, Junior finds Rowdy on the playground and tells him that he is transferring to Reardan. Rowdy does not believe Junior at first, but when he finally does, he begins to get angry. When Junior asks Rowdy to come to Reardan with him, Rowdy spits on the ground.
Rowdy sees Junior’s choice to leave as an insult not only to the tribe, but also to him. From Rowdy’s perspective, Junior is saying that Rowdy’s friendship isn’t enough to make him stay. Rowdy also doesn’t want to go to Reardan with Junior, since he doesn’t believe that even leaving the rez will mean any real hope for him.
Junior understands that Rowdy hates Reardan because Reardan beat Wellpinit at every team sport in the previous year (including the Academic Bowl) in spite of Rowdy’s outstanding athletic accomplishments. This makes Junior scared of Reardan, too. But Junior also sees the white students as being full of hope, whereas Rowdy just hates them. With a drawing of a flying white horse, Junior explains that “hope for me is like some mythical creature: white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white.”
Rowdy sees the Reardan students only as adversaries—he can’t possibly imagine himself benefiting from the hopeful opportunities they have. Junior, perhaps because his understanding of racial boundaries is less rigid, thinks hope is something he could share with the white students. He does still think of hope and beauty as being inherently white, however, and so not necessarily possible for him.
As Rowdy begins to understand that Junior is serious, he turns away, and Junior touches his shoulder. Rowdy shoves Junior away, calling him a “retarded fag,” which breaks Junior’s heart.
Since Rowdy is one of the only people who doesn’t bully him, Junior is deeply hurt by this rejection. He realizes that pursuing his dreams could mean the loss of his most important friendship.
Both boys begin to cry, which makes Rowdy even more upset. Rowdy screams in rage and pain, and it is the worst thing Junior has ever heard. After Rowdy accuses Junior of thinking he is better than Rowdy, Junior touches his shoulder again, trying to reassure him.
Crying is contrary to Rowdy’s tough persona—even to his understanding of himself—and accepting his own feelings will be an important part of his coming of age, just as Junior will have to learn to see people in less reductive terms than merely “strong” and “weak.”
Rowdy punches Junior hard in the face, knocking him to the ground. As Rowdy walks away, Junior understands that his best friend has become his worst enemy.
Rowdy’s punch, like his insult, marks a huge breach in their friendship. Until now, Junior has been the only person Rowdy wouldn’t hit, and Rowdy has been the only person who wouldn’t hit Junior. This moment begins the quest for revenge between Junior and Rowdy that carries on throughout the novel, and starts their new, complicated relationship of both loving and hating each other at once.