This chapter begins with a letter to “Dear Alice” about a little boy who wants to play with dolls and other girls’ toys. His mother wants advice about how to handle the situation. John admits he cut out the article, because it reminded him of Norton. He remembers how Norton was teased by other kids when they were little, because he, too, played with dolls. At the age of ten, the teasing and ridicule finally made him go berserk and ever since then, he has been the tough guy of the neighborhood.
He became a specialist at the “five finger discount,” or shoplifting, and John believes that he has the potential to someday be a killer. About a month after they charged the skates at Beekman’s, Norton asks John to have a beer with him in the cemetery. He begins to pump John for information about the Pigman, because he has designs on stealing things from the old man’s house. When John tells him that the Pigman has nothing worth stealing, Norton then demands to know why John and the “screech owl“(Lorraine) go there then. John threatens Norton to stop him from calling Lorraine the nasty name, at which time, Norton backs down, because he knows John isn’t afraid of him. Norton also threatens John by saying that if John doesn’t tell him more about the Pigman, he and Dennis might just pay a visit there someday on their own. John leaves him without backing down and the showdown ends, at least temporarily.
John observes after relating this incident that he is just as screwed up as Norton, especially when it comes to beer. His father used to let him drink it when he was little, which was the only time John can remember when his father let him get close to him. He drinks beer too much, because he feels like he’s out of place in his own family where all he hears is criticism. He has become a disturbing influence there, but in Mr. Pignati’s house, he says he’s made to feel welcome and there is always a big smile. He ends this chapter by declaring that if Norton tries to hurt Mr. Pignati, he will kill him.
The characterization that John makes of Norton is significant, because it will prepare us for that character’s role in Mr. Pignati’s death. By describing Norton in this way, John can also take a long look at himself. He knows he’s an addictive personality and he’s a lonely young man whose family makes no effort to know him or understand him. In his search for a little acceptance, he has turned first to Lorraine and now to the Pigman. He won’t allow anyone to hurt his friends and will resort to murder to protect them. This declaration is interesting in that the story the two of them have written so far has hinted that somehow John and Lorraine were responsible for Mr. Pignati’s death and that they feel terribly guilty. We have to wonder: how is a person like John, who has declared he would murder anyone who tried to hurt Mr. Pignati, responsible in some way for his death?