The Piece of Wood
In the epilogue, Pelzer creates an explicit metaphor out of a piece of driftwood that he observes as he stands on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. The wood is thrown up on the shore and then dragged back by the tide into the ocean. It has an “odd, twisted shape. The wood is pitted, yet smoothed and bleached from its time in the sun” (p. 156). The wood reminds him of his childhood. He too was pushed around by larger forces, and it was as if “some immense power were sucking me into some giant undertow.” But unlike the driftwood he observes, he was able to break free. The implication is that individual human life is not controlled by larger forces; it does not have to drift helplessly; individuals can take charge of their own situations.
The Russian River
The Russian River comes to symbolize happiness for Dave. His family used to vacation there before the abuse began. In chapter 2 he recalls a time at the edge of the river when his mother, then loving, held him tightly. “I could feel her heart beat. I never felt as safe and as warm as that moment in time, at the Russian River” (p. 26). Years later, he takes his son to the same place, and they both agree that it is their favorite place in the world. “The Russian River is the same as it always was, dark green and as smooth as glass, as it flows ever so gently to the mighty Pacific” pp. 159-60).
Food as Power
Much of the unequal struggle between Dave and his mother is over food. Food is really a metaphor for power. Mother wants to establish her total power and control over him by starving him. In the terrifying chapter 4, “The Fight for Food,” he retains some power whenever he manages to get hold of something to eat. At the end of the chapter, when he has been able to steal frozen food from the garage freezer, he feels completely empowered. “As I held a piece of frozen pumpkin pie crust or a bit of a taco shell, I was the king, and like a king on his throne, I gazed down on my food and smiled” (p. 79).