How a white boy copes with his father's imprisonment for embezzling--covering up (with his mother's ready compliance), identifying his shame with a crippled black boy's handicap. Moving from the Chicago suburbs to a one-bedroom inner-city apartment is one constriction, a tight budget is another, but twelve-year-old Ritchie and Mrs. Osborne take them in stride. Ritchie befriends ""Slugger"" Slager, a wheelchair resident with a bedroom gym to keep his arms in shape and an almost overpowering personality. Together they win a wheelbarrow race (at Slugger's instigation), work out in the gym, cross Wells Street into the black slum where both are forbidden to go. They fight with poor Biggy and Joe-Joe, take up (at Ritchie's insistence) with rich Dean, and get caught in a slum riot. Ritchie feels threatened when Slugger's operation readies him for walking, and again when his father is released; the one feeling is overcome through natural friendship, the other after Biggy's discovery of the truth forces Ritchie to admit it. There is much that borders on sociology, which detracts from the story, and Ritchie's ugly association of crippling and shame is only partly ameliorated by Slugger's un-bleeding heart. No rainbow around this corner--just a slippery situation to begin with, unevenly handled.