Chapters 1-2 Summary
Eleven-year-old Jack Gantos lives in the dying town of Norvelt, located in western Pennsylvania. It is early summer in 1962. Jack is outside, watching a war movie on the television in the house through Japanese camouflage binoculars. The binoculars are part of his father's vintage collection of war memorabilia acquired when, as a young conscript, he came across the bodies of Japanese soldiers lying in a bunker. Jack's Uncle Will was also a soldier; Jack's mother says that the army changed him from a "nice kid" to a "confused jerk." Uncle Will keeps an Indian pony on the Gantos property; he has painted the animal's body with large orange and white circles to make him look like he is "getting ready to battle General Custer."
Mom comes out to inform Jack that Miss Volker, an eccentric neighbor, has requested for him to be at her house early the next morning to help on a project. When she leaves, Jack turns his attention back to the movie, playfully picking up an old sniper rifle which is also part of Dad's collection. After removing the ammunition clip, he trains the rifle's sights on the television screen, aiming at the "enemy." Pulling the trigger, he is shocked when the gun discharges violently.
Mom sprints out of the house to find Jack covered in blood. Fortunately, the offending liquid is coming only from his nose. Jack is a nosebleeder, and when he is overexcited, blood "spray[s] out of his nose holes like dragon flames." An ambulance drives up to Miss Volker's house down the way, and for a moment, Jack is afraid that the stray bullet has killed her. To his relief, Mom informs him that the sound of the blast only caused the old lady to drop her hearing aid down the toilet. She called the plumber for help; in a town as small as Norvelt, the plumber serves as the ambulance driver as well.
As a punishment for playing with his father's gun, Mom sends Jack to his room, to be grounded...
(The entire section is 707 words.)