Between summer and fall, Lafeyette and Rickey, who are closer in age than Rickey in Pharoah, have become “associates.” Rickey introduces Lafeyette to his group of friends who, like Rickey, have run into many troubles with the law, in particular for breaking car windows and stealing from them. Pharoah begins to spend less time with him, because he is too young and innocent for such a group.
Even though Rickey has proven capable of protecting Pharaoh and being kind to the two brothers, he also does begin to appear like a bad influence, capable of luring Lafeyette down the wrong path. Rickey’s anger does not only express itself through fighting and aggression at school, but also through illegal activities.
One Saturday, Pharoah, Lafeyette, Rickey, and other friends go window shopping. When they enter a video-cassette store, Rickey suggests to Lafeyette that they steal some. Pharoah intervenes, asking his older brother to go home, but Lafeyette, hesitating at Rickey’s proposition, tells him to leave. Deeply disappointed in his brother’s behavior, he and the other friends leave. Rickey and Lafeyette then grab tapes, hide them underneath their jackets, and try to leave the store. However, Mario Vera, an assistant manager who had been suspicious of the group when he saw them whispering among themselves, stops the two boys on their way out. With help from another employee, he discovers the tapes the boys were trying to steal.
The dangers of being Rickey’s friend become all too apparent when Lafeyette finds himself agreeing to steal some tapes, proving that peer pressure is indeed a powerful force. While the two friends’ behavior is not violent, it does introduce Lafeyette to illegal activity, which could potentially escalate in the future. Even though this proves a stressful experience for Lafeyette, Mario Vera’s intervention might play a positive role in Lafeyette’s growth, showing him that illegal actions do not always go unpunished and that he should stay away from trouble.
While Rickey is acting overconfident, Lafeyette is apologetic and asks Vera if he can let them go, but Vera needs to follow protocol and wait for the police to arrive. Vera behaves kindly with the two boys and Lafeyette later talks about returning to the store to apologize to him. When the police arrives, they simply give them a lecture about shoplifting and drop them off near a few blocks away from the Henry Horner Homes.
Rickey and Lafeyette’s behaviors are polar opposites, contrasting Rickey’s defiant attitude to Lafeyette’s inexperience and sincere repentance. While this experience might not modify Rickey’s reckless behavior, it does impact Lafeyette, who realizes that he has done something wrong and feels bad about it.
When a neighbor tells LaJoe about this incident, she becomes worried about Lafeyette since she remembers how little time it took for Terence to fall prey to other people’s bad influences. LaJoe punishes Lafeyette, making him stay home for a week and a half, and gives him greater responsibilities. She talks to him about cremating her instead of bearing the cost of a funeral when she dies. This conversation upsets Pharoah because he fears that Lafeyette will not provide for him when LaJoe dies, despite Lafeyette’s protestations to the contrary. His brother’s incident with Rickey also leads him to distance himself from Rickey, as he does not want to get into trouble and compromise his future. Like Lafeyette, Pharoah decides that he, too, will not have friends, only associates, since friends can easily betray him.
Even though LaJoe sometimes feels she has little control over her children’s behavior, she remains committed to keeping them on the right path. She knows that social pressures can have a strong influence on her sons, and thus resolves to try to make her own influence greater than that of Lafeyette’s friends. This time, then, Lafeyette’s distrust of the people around him proves warranted and not overly cynical, since Rickey’s behavior shows that people outside Lafeyette’s family are not necessarily interested in defending his best interests. However, as the story has shown on other occasions, such distrust also has negative repercussions, since it can keep the children from taking part in enjoyable activities outside their home and forming satisfying friendships.