He was amused because his son had always mistaken the words "gal and" for "gallon," and because his wife and to a less extent her relatives were not entirely amused by his amusement. They felt, he knew, that he was not a man to take the word "gallon" so purely as a joke; not that the drinking had been any sort of problem, for a long time now. He sang…

This excerpt is taken from the section in italics directly preceding Part Two of the novel. This section describes a memory of a time when Rufus, still a very young boy, is afraid of the dark and yells for his father. It demonstrates two key points that show up throughout the novel: the devotion that father and son mutually feel for one another, and Jay's drinking problem. This is the only time in the novel when Jay alludes to his problem himself; he only says that it is "no longer a problem." His words indicate to us that his drinking was, however, a problem in the past, and the comments that other characters make throughout the novel support this suggestion.