When Roy returned to the car, his mother asked: "Why are those two people wrestling on the porch?"
"The one in the pajamas is the kid who tried to choke me on the bus. The other one, that's his mother. They're fighting over my apology letter." (4.105-106)
The relationships between Dana and is mother is so foreign to Roy and Mrs. Eberhardt that they sit in wonder at what is unraveling before their eyes. We highly doubt that Roy and his mother would ever wrestle over anything.
The truth was, Lonna didn't know where the boy had gone and didn't intend to go looking for him. She was "fed up with the little monster," or so Beatrice overheard her say on the telephone. As for Leon Leep, he displayed no curiosity beyond what his wife had told him about her wayward offspring. Leon didn't even notice when the tuition bills from the military school stopped coming. (10.52)
One parent doesn't care and the other doesn't notice. Lonna and Leon are far from being shining examples of good parenting. But luckily for Mullet Fingers what he does have is a phenomenal stepsister...
Long before his mother sent him away from the last time, the boy and his stepsister had forged a quiet alliance. [...] She agreed to keep his whereabouts a secret, knowing that Lonna would call the juvenile authorities if she ever found out.
That concern was what had prompted Beatrice Leep to confront Roy Eberhardt after she saw him chasing her stepbrother that first day. She did what any big sister would have done. (10.53-54)
Beatrice and Mullet Fingers share an incredible bond. And since Roy is an only child, this is one relationship to which he has nothing to compare.
"Wait!" Roy jumped to his feet. "Tell me his real name. It's the least you can do, after everything that's happened."
"Sorry, cowgirl, but I can't. I made him a blood promise a long time ago." (12.61-62)
Not sure what a blood promise is? Essentially it's the Muggle world version of the Unbreakable Vow. So pretty serious stuff. And if Beatrice made a blood promise to Mullet Fingers, you better believe she's gonna keep it.
"What worries me," Mr. Eberhardt said, "is the family situation. It doesn't sound too good."
"No, it's not," Roy conceded. "That's why he doesn't live at home anymore."
"Dad, please don't turn him in. Please."
"How can I, if I don't even know where to find him?" Roy's father gave him a wink. "But I'll tell you what I am going to do: I'm going to spend some time thinking seriously about all this. You should, too." (13.67-73)
This conversation between father and son is a perfect example of their relationship. Roy talks candidly with his dad about Mullet Fingers' situation and Mr. Eberhardt shows genuine concern. Given what we know about the Leep household, it's hard to imagine a scene like this taking place there.
Roy's mother cocked her head, as if she wasn't sure that she'd heard him correctly. "His mom doesn't want him?"
Roy saw something flash in her eyes. He wasn't certain if it was sorrow or anger —or both.
"She doesn't want him?" his mother repeated.
Roy nodded somberly.
"Oh, my," she said.
The words came out so softly that Roy was startled. He heard pain in his mother's voice, and he felt bad for telling her that part of Mullet Fingers' story. (13.100-105)
Mrs. Eberhardt is shocked. How could a mother not want her son? Similar to the wrestling incident, the thought of disowning her son is incredibly alien to her.
"What I wanted to ask about," Roy said, "is you and your mom. What's the deal?"
"I dunno. We just never connected," the boy said matter-of-factly. "I quit sweatin' it a long time ago."
Roy found that hard to believe.
"What about your real dad?"
"Never knew him." The boy shrugged. "Never even saw a picture." (14.167-171)
Mullet Fingers clearly doesn't have a stable home life. But the saddest part of all of this is that he's so nonchalant about it when talking with Roy. This shows the drastic difference between Mullet Fingers and Roy's family.
When Roy's parents came in to say good night, he told them he'd never forget their trip to the Everglades, which was the truth. His mom and his dad were still his best friends, and they could be fun to hang out with. Roy knew it wasn't easy on them, either, packing up and moving all the time. The Eberhardts were a team, and they stuck together. (16.78)
This is clearly the best parent/child relationship in the entire book. When Roy is claiming that his parents are his best friends, you know they have a good relationship. Not only is this an extreme contrast to Mullet Fingers, but it is certainly a radical improvement from the relationship between Dana Matherson and his parents.
Roy had always thought that Beatrice Leep wasn't afraid of anything, but she didn't look so fearless now. He felt bad for her—it was hard to imagine living in a house where grownups behaved so idiotically. (16.127)
Roy is seeing a new side of Beatrice the Bear. And this is the same girl he was scared of at the beginning. Seeing her in a vulnerable state, Roy realizes how lucky he is to have parents like his own.
"My champ! My brave little hero!" Lonna had swooned for the cameras as he wriggled out of the burrow. Roy and Beatrice had watched in helpless disgust as she'd locked Mullet Fingers in a smothering, melodramatic hug. (21.10)
We all know that Lonna Leap doesn't care one iota about Mullet Fingers. But as soon as the cameras are turned on, she wants to appear like she is Mother of the Year. We're officially calling shenanigans.