Maniac takes off running, again. This time he ends up at the one place in the West End he knows he'll always be welcome (and where he won't have to deal with a pill box in the living room): the Pickwells.
Good food and good company really is just what Maniac needs, and as he eats and chats with the Pickwells he realizes that there really isn't a difference between the Pickwells and the Beales, that a loving, accepting, kind family is the same, no matter the color of their skin.
As much as he enjoyed the Pickwells, Maniac knows he's needed at the McNabs. He heads back and does his best to look out for Russell and Piper.
As involved as Maniac is with the boys, there is a line he won't cross: "he prodded and persuaded and inspired and bribed the boys to do right, but he never forced them, never commanded, never shouted" (40.11).
Why not? Because "how could he act as a father to these boys when he himself ached to be somebody's son?" (40.11).
But, everybody has a breaking point. Maniac's comes when he finds Russell and Piper kicking around the baseball glove that Grayson had given him.
The shock of Maniac yelling at them keeps them on track for day, then they try the new game of "Being Good" for the next two days. Big surprise: "Being Good" gets old pretty quickly.
It all comes to a head again when Russell and Piper are once again "shooting them rebels" (40.18).
Maniac tries yelling at them again to get them to stop, but ends up getting kicked out.
Maniac lives on the streets for a couple days until Russell and Piper come find him, inviting him to Piper's birthday party. Maniac isn't willing to just go back to the way things were: he'll only come if he can bring a guest.