Earlier in the summer, Weasel gives Lafeyette and Pharoah two pit bull puppies, which remind Lafeyette of Bird Leg and his passion for dogs. While Pharoah ends up giving his away, Lafeyette enjoys taking care of the puppy, whom he calls Blondie. One day, after coming home, he cannot find her and becomes angry, convinced that someone has taken his dog.
While these puppies emphasize Lafeyette’s capacity to love and care for another being and take childish joy in this new present, his reaction to the dog’s disappearance also stresses his growing distrust of everyone around him.
Lafeyette immediately thinks that his father must have sold his puppy for drug money and begins to accuse him. Paul gets angry at him but Lafeyette calls him a “dope fiend” and punches him in the face. Paul, who used to be a boxer, gets in position to fight and begins to hit his son in various places, while Lafeyette glares at his father, not even trying to fight back.
Lafeyette’s accusations are based on previous experiences in which his father actually did steal his possessions to sell them for drug money—like when Paul stole the television that LaJoe’s mother had generously given the children.
LaJoe, who is just as angry as her son, succeeds in restraining Paul for a second and Lafeyette runs out of the apartment before returning with a metal chain in his hand. LaJoe tries to calm the situation down, and both men hesitate. Paul realizes that his son is actually scared, and feels ashamed for his own reaction. He decides to sit back down and, as Lafeyette continues to speak out in anger, realizes that the drugs have destroyed his relationship with both his wife and his son. As he broods on the topic, ashamed at having hit his son in that way, he knows he is failing his family. Later, Lafeyette finds Blondie hiding under the stove.
Despite her more amenable personality, which keeps her from kicking Paul out, LaJoe is just as resentful toward Paul as her son is, since she considers him responsible for many of the problems that plague her family. While Lafeyette was wrong in accusing his father this time, Paul knows that his general attitude is justified. At the same time, Paul’s self-pity frustratingly leads to no tangible action on his part.
While Pharoah always goes excitedly to summer school in the morning, enjoying being away from the neighborhood during the day, Lafeyette becomes increasingly nervous about leaving Horner. One evening, LaJoe sees him trying to break up a fight between a group of adolescents who are beating another boy. LaJoe tries to intervene, but it is only when another boy (whom LaJoe took care of as a child, like many other children in the neighborhood) disperses the group, that LaJoe and Lafeyette can escape unharmed. On their way home, Lafeyette has a vacant stare. He has stopped confiding in anyone and seems completely emotionless. That evening, Lafeyette falls down to the ground, telling his mother he is tired.
The contrast in Pharoah and Lafeyette’s attitudes foreshadows their two very different futures. Pharoah seems capable of maintaining relative distance from the problems of the neighborhood, whereas Lafeyette often finds himself involved in them. His participation in violence, though, is never gratuitous. Here, he tries to fight back in the name of justice and compassion, keeping others from harming another boy. The weight that such events have on him is obvious in his emotional and physical fatigue and despondency.
Meanwhile, Dawn has been evicted from her apartment and moves into her mother’s apartment. One day, Lafeyette puts a picture of Craig on his wall, which LaJoe interprets as a good sign, but she is later forced to remove it after it gives her son nightmares that leave him drenched in sweat in the middle of the night.
Dawn’s eviction seems like yet another sign that Horner does not reward intelligence or hard work. Instead, poverty and violence are two massive roadblocks that can thwart the possibility of success altogether. Meanwhile, Lafeyette’s nightmares reveal the fears and grief that he carefully conceals during the day.