What happens in Chapter One of Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli?

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liesljohnson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter One, the narrator first describes the accident that killed Maniac's parents when he was three years old. Jeffrey, as he was called then before earning his nickname "Maniac," went to live with his aunt and uncle for eight years after that. He was unhappy there because the aunt and uncle disliked each other; Jeffrey had to spend time with each of them individually instead of both. Instead of sharing things like toasters and televisions as normal married couples do, Jeffrey's aunt and uncle each had their own items. For this reason, Jeffrey thinks of their home as "the house of two toasters."

Then, one spring night, Jeffrey is performing with his classmates in the chorus of a concert at school, and he notices that his aunt and uncle are sitting on opposite sides of the audience. Angered at their hostile, cold behavior toward each other, Jeffrey yells at them from the stage: "Talk! Talk, will ya! Talk! Talk! Talk!" This outburst is "the birth scream of a legend," the narrator tells us.

And the chapter ends as Jeffrey runs offstage and out the door. He never goes back to his aunt and uncle's house, and he never goes back to school, either.