Why didn't Jeffrey have any problems at Finsterwald's in Maniac Magee?

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Jeffrey "Maniac" Magee had no problems with Finsterwald’s because he was new and did not know he was supposed to be afraid, and also because he generally wasn't afraid of anything.

Every neighborhood has that house, the creepy house no kids want to go to.  In Maniac’s neighborhood, that was Finsterwald’s.

Kids stayed away from Finsterwald's the way old people stay away from Saturday afternoon matinees at a two-dollar movie. And what would happen to a kid who didn't stay away! That was a question best left unanswered. (Ch. 5)

While it was not clear exactly what happened there, it apparently turned a perfectly happy kid into a wandering “poor, raggedy, nicotine- stained wretch” (Ch. 5).  That was why, if your baseball landed in the yard, you just left it there.  Kids wouldn’t even deliver the paper.  Being afraid of the house is known as having the “finsterwallies.”

Some high school kids are bullying a poor kid with a bad case of the finsterwallies one day when Maniac happens to see them.  He is not afraid of Finsterwald's.  He probably is not even aware of the legend, and likely would not care if he was.  So he rescues the kid.  No one knows who he is, thinking of him as the “phantom Samaritan” because they are shocked he is intervening.  He puts the boy on the porch.

As the stupefied high-schoolers were leaving the scene, they looked back. They saw the kid, cool times ten, stretch out on the forbidden steps and open his book to read. (Ch. 5)

The boy was so terrified, even of the porch, that when he woke up from his faint he ran away.  Maniac saw nothing wrong with sitting there to read.  He was just a basically homeless kid.  His parents are dead.  He sits on the porch.  Yet it is a shocking statement to everyone else who sees him.

Incidents like these are part of how the legend of Maniac Magee grew.  He is partly humble and partly fearless, but he also has a good heart.  When you add these things together, you get incidents like this.  There are enough missing details to this story—such as the fact that we do not know the kids name—to make it either true or not true, but as with everything about Maniac, it really doesn’t matter.  There is nothing particularly unbelievable about it.  It is just believable enough.

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