The first unusual event in the opening chapter is the tragic incident that led to Maniac Magee—or plain old Jeffrey as he was back then—becoming an orphan. When Jeffrey was three years old, his parents died after their P & W trolley car—driven by a drunken motorman—plunged into the Schuylkill River.
After this tragic event, Jeffrey was sent to live with his nearest relatives, Aunt Dot and Uncle Dan, in Western Pennsylvania. Jeffrey's aunt and uncle absolutely hated each other's guts. But as strict Catholics they wouldn't contemplate getting a divorce. So they came up with an unusual living arrangement whereby they wouldn't have to share anything. There'd be two of everything in the house: bathrooms, TVs, refrigerators, toasters. And even Jeffrey himself would be shared between the warring couple. So he'd eat dinner with Aunt Dot on a Monday and Uncle Dan on a Tuesday.