Ignatius "Ig" Perrish is the prime suspect when his girlfriend, Merrin, is raped and murdered. Despite his declarations of innocence, he is shunned by the community. He stays with his parents and brother, Terry, hiding from the press. After a vigil led by Merrin's father, who believes Ig to be guilty, Ig drinks heavily, urinates on Merrin's memorial, and wakes up with a pair of horns protruding from his head.

While seeing his doctor about getting the horns removed, Ig, under anesthesia, dreams of his childhood, when he first met Merrin. A young Ig and his friends play with cherry bombs; Ig risks a dangerous dare to win a cherry bomb, and nearly drowns, but is saved by Lee, his childhood friend and now-lawyer. He later trades the cherry bomb to Lee in exchange for fixing Merrin's broken necklace, and Lee loses two fingers when the cherry bomb goes off accidentally. Ig and Merrin bond over the fixed necklace and fall in love, frequenting a treehouse in the woods together.