Cole, Garvey, and Peter go to the pond together through the summer until one morning, Peter suggests that just he and Cole go. Cole is a bit nervous, but he agrees, and Garvey lets them go. Cole slips the at.óow into his backpack and leads Peter along. Peter follows angrily. At the pond, Cole holds a hand out and says he’s ready to be friends, but Peter rejects Cole’s offer. Cole tries to explain that he never meant to hurt Peter as Peter shoves Cole and shakes his fists in Cole’s face. Peter tearfully says that everything will be okay when he can sleep at night without bad dreams. He accuses Cole of just wanting to get off the island, but Cole insists that’s not true.
For Peter, it’s terrifying to accept that Cole has changed—and it’s even scarier to consider possibly forgiving Cole. His angry and violent behavior here shows how difficult the healing process can be. This show of violence may be a final gesture before Peter realizes that it’s not doing him any good. In keeping his cool and calmly explaining himself, Cole can prevent the situation from escalating even as Peter comes at him with fists.
Peter shouts that Cole hasn’t changed. Cole slowly insists that he’s not going to beat Peter up again and says it doesn’t do any good to stay angry. Peter rushes at Cole, screaming and shouting, and pushes him down. He taunts Cole to beat him up again as he punches Cole in the face and kicks gravel at him. Cole doesn’t try to fight back, which just makes Peter angrier. Cole feels angry, but he tries hard to not let his anger consume him. He curls into a ball and begs Peter to stop. Finally, Peter stops and sinks to the ground, sobbing. Peter admits that he’s terrified and doesn’t trust Cole. Cole insists that he’s not a bad person and that his time on the island carving and carrying the ancestor rock showed him who he is.
It’s extremely important that Cole doesn’t fight back. If he does, even just in self-defense, it’ll only confirm Peter’s fears that Cole is still a violent maniac intent on hurting him. When Peter finally collapses, he confirms Cole’s suspicions that Peter is motivated by fear. After being beaten up, Peter felt as though he couldn’t trust anything or anyone, Cole least of all. It’s understandably terrifying, then, to be on an island with the very person who changed his life forever—but like Cole, Peter cannot let his anger take over his life.
Fighting back his own tears, Cole insists that they’re both part of a big circle of life and death. Cole understands now that he hurt himself when he hurt Peter and he apologizes again. Peter collapses, sobbing, and Cole puts his arms around Peter. They sit for a while until the Spirit Bear appears about 20 feet away. Cole quietly draws Peter’s attention to it, and Peter stares, openmouthed and afraid. The bear stares for a moment and then lumbers away. Peter asks if they really saw it. Cole smiles and says that “they” say there are no Spirit Bears here. Peter asks if anyone will believe them, but Cole assures Peter that what he believes is the important part.
Cole makes the case against allowing anger to consume one’s life when he brings up the circle of life and death. Anger, he suggests, will lead to violence and hurt everyone—including the perpetrator. This is the very reason why Cole wants to help Peter now: helping Peter helps everyone else. When the Spirit Bear appears, it suggests that the boys have finally let go of their anger and their fear.
Cole and Peter soak in silence and then find a second ancestor rock. They both roll their anger down the hill. Cole’s face is swollen, and he’s in pain as they head back to camp. He and Peter stare at their totems, and Cole tells Peter about being invisible. He says that this morning, they forgave each other and themselves, which allowed them to become invisible and see the Spirit Bear. Cole pulls the at.óow out of his backpack and explains its significance. He says he trusts Peter and hopes that Peter can trust him someday. Peter asks if he can help Cole carve his anger dance on the totem pole. Several hours later, Cole yells for Garvey to come look at their perfect circle. Smiling, Garvey asks if they carved a circle because circles are beginnings and ends, but Peter and Cole joke that Cole is just a slow learner.
Though it’s unfortunate that Cole and Peter rely on mean jokes when they answer Garvey’s final question, carving the circle together nevertheless suggests that the boys are well on the way to starting a friendship based on trust. Giving Peter the at.óow at this point in their relationship reinforces this—just as Cole didn’t really trust Garvey when he first accepted the at.óow, Peter doesn’t fully trust Cole either. Carving the circle, meanwhile, reinforces the idea that all people are connected to each other and to the natural world—and therefore, they must be kind and compassionate to everyone and everything.