For the last couple of pages, self has been so shocked by the beating of a young girl named Bouncing Bette.
Of course, self knows people get beat up in high school. But three guys beating up a defenseless girl? And she has to crawl — crawl — to the fire station, because Sam, his best friend Quinn, and a Honduran immigrant named Edilio are the new fire brigade.
The three boys who beat up Bette are Orc, Karl, and Chaz, and they come looking for her, armed with aluminum bats. Not once does anyone say, She’s a girl! which, in the name of gender equality, is pretty impressive.
Bette’s crime was that she was doing “magic tricks.” And no one is supposed to use magic any more, according to the self-appointed mayor of Perdito Beach, Cain (Sam’s secret half-brother. Sam doesn’t know, but Cain probably does, since he’s been giving Sam some pretty significant side-eye). Anyhoo, Sam tells Bette she can stay the night at the fire station.
She can stay the night? What if these boys attack her again? If self were Bette, she would move permanently into the fire station. But apparently, Bette herself does not want to spend the night at the fire station. She needs to get home to her little brother. Commendable maturity there, Bette!
This convo happens after Bette leaves:
Quinn: “Look, Sam, I’m not saying it’s right for her to get beat on, all right? But what do you expect? I mean, kids get picked on for wearing the wrong clothes or sucking at sports or whatever. And that’s when there are teachers and parents around. That’s just everyday life. You think now, as messed up as everything is, kids are going to be thinking, ‘Oh, Sam can shoot firebolts out of his eyeballs or whatever, okay, that’s cool?’ No, brah, that’s not the way it is.”
Edilio: “He’s right. If there’s more people with, you know, like you and Bette, there’s going to be trouble. Some folks with the power, some folks without. Me, I’m used to being a second-class citizen. But other people are going to be jealous and they’re going to get scared and, anyway, they’re all weirded out, so they are going to be looking for someone to blame. In Spanish, we say cabeza de turco. It means someone you blame for all your problems.
Edilio: “Yeah, that’s it. A scapegoat.”