Part 1Friday, September 8
Coach Walski informs Paul that because he is in a special program for the visually handicapped he is ineligible for the school soccer team, because of insurance issues. The insurance company would not cover him because of his handicap. Paul breaks down in tears. Mom arrives, and Paul protests that he can see perfectly well. Dad talks to Walski, who offers to let Paul manage the team rather than play, but Paul is not interested. He only wants to play, not manage the team.
Once again there is an implicit contrast between the smooth sailing that Erik has in his goal to be a football hero and the struggles of Paul just to play a game of soccer. He has been trying to win acceptance by the other kids, who call him Mara because he wears thick goggles when he plays in goal, but now he has been told he is ineligible for the team.
Friday, September 8, later
The family goes to the funeral home for Mike Costello’s wake. Paul views the body. It is the first time he has seen a dead person. A priest conducts a service. Paul later tells Joey why he is no longer on the soccer team. Joey sympathizes with him and invites him to go with him to a carnival with his friends the following afternoon, which is after the funeral takes place in the morning.
Saturday, September 9
Mom and Dad argue at breakfast. Dad is about to take Erik to football practice, but Mom thinks the practice should not take place out of respect for Mike Costello, whose funeral is also taking place that morning.
In the afternoon, Mom drives Paul and Joey to the carnival. Paul sees some soccer-playing students from Tangerine Middle School there, but Joey tells him to steer clear of them, since the school has a reputation for gangs and violence.
They meet up with Joey’s girlfriend Cara, and Kerri Gardner, whom Paul likes, and some other friends. Kerri takes up with another boy, Adam, to Paul’s disappointment. When Mom comes to pick them up, and Paul rides home feeling dispirited about his own life. He thinks he may just accept that he is a freak, and be done with it.
This is a low point for Paul. He can no longer play soccer. Even the girl he has started to like takes up with someone else. This section serves the purpose of introducing the kind of students that attend Tangerine Middle School. It is a very different school from Lake Windsor, serving a tougher neighborhood. Of course, at the moment Paul has no idea that he will soon be a student there.
Monday, September 11
Paul is called to the principal’s office, where he sees Mrs. Gates, Coach Walski, Joey, Adam, and the two other boys they went to the carnival with. It transpires that at the carnival, one of the exhibits was vandalized by boys from a soccer team. The boys deny doing anything, and Paul says it was the boys from Tangerine Middle who are the culprits. He had seen them going into the exhibit. Joey confirms this information, and the adults accept the explanation as the truth.
It has been raining hard and soon after they leave the principal’s office a sinkhole opens up and sucks in some of the buildings. There is a mudslide, and chaos ensues. Paul and Joey help to rescue some of the students who are trapped. Paul pulls about twenty students up, and then everyone moves to the main building. Ambulances, police, and fire trucks soon arrive. Paul is taken home on a bus. He leaves most of his dirty clothes in the laundry room and then goes to tell Mom what happened.
Monday, September 11, later
That night Paul watches a report on CNN about the sinkhole. There is a crater about fifty years across. Dad comes home from the engineering department angry. He has been dealing with reporters’ questions about why a school was built over a sinkhole. Paul feels good about the part he played in the incident. He had not panicked and run away but had helped out in every way he could.
While the disaster is unfolding, Paul shows that he can act quickly and with courage. Not only this, Gino, the star player on the soccer team, recognizes how well Paul has done in helping out. He also sympathizes with Paul about losing his soccer eligibility. Gino says he doesn’t agree with what happened and told the coach so. He praises Paul’s ability as a goalie. Needless to say, this acceptance from Gino means a lot to Paul. It shows that his perseverance and determination can win over people who at first had no regard for him.