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After Hunter Jordan died, James remembers feeling that "the fire was gone." He was finally the "king" of the house - the eldest - but his grades dropped, and he began spending as much time away from home as possible, joining a band, getting drunk and high with his new friends, and narrowly escaping arrest. His mother tried to whip him into shape, but failed. In the end, as the house fell into disrepair, Ruth sent him to stay with Jacqueline in Kentucky for the summer.