Why did Grandma Dowdel shoot at the coffin when she saw Tom the cat?

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booksnmore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Grandma Dowdel is a bit of a loose cannon, isn't she? I hope you're enjoying this book. It's one of my favorites! Grandma Dowdel is one of the most enjoyable (and ornery!) characters in adolescent literature.

In chapter one, "Shotgun Cheatham's Last Night Above Ground," we find Grandma telling a whopper of a tall tale. When a reporter comes snooping, trying to learn why the recently deceased man, Shotgun Cheatham, was called "Shotgun," Grandma decides to make fools of everyone, by pretending that Shotgun was a war hero. In order to pull off her bluff, she has the casket (and body!) delivered to her front room so that she can hold an overnight vigil over the dead body. Effie Wilcox, the town gossip, and the reporter join her. When the cat jumps into the coffin and starts batting at the gauze over the lid, the guests assume that the dead man is coming to life. Annoyed by her overnight guests (Wilcox and the reporter), and finished with her ruse, she fires the gun at the coffin, clearing the room and reasserting her reputation in the town as someone "not to be messed with!"

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A Long Way from Chicago

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