Chapters 1 and 2 Summary

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In the summer before their eighth-grade year, Freak moves in down the block from the house where Max lives with his maternal grandparents, whom he affectionately calls “Grim” and “Gram.” Max had met Freak in daycare a long time ago, but his memories of the past are confused. As Freak says:

Remembering is a great invention of the mind, and if you try hard enough you can remember anything, whether it really happened or not.

Max recalls that back then, he had had a reputation for “booting anyone who dared to touch” him. Having just been taken in by Grim and Gram, he had been an angry child who quickly earned the nickname “Kicker.” Max remembers that Freak had not attended daycare regularly; when he did show up, he got around on crutches or with “shiny braces strapped to his crooked legs.” Little Freak would pretend that he was Robot Man and quickly made it clear to everyone that despite his small stature, he was not someone to “mess with.”

Max does not recollect seeing Freak again after daycare until “like . . . the third grade or something,” when he caught a glimpse of “this yellow-haired kid scowling at [him] from one of those cripple vans.” By that time, Mad Max, as he was most commonly called, had a variety of nicknames; ironically, the name he hated most was his real name, Maxwell. Max had once overheard his grandparents whispering about how much “Maxwell was getting to look like Him.” He knows that Grim and Gram were talking about his father, whom they referred to as if his name was “too scary to say.”

Grim has built a small room in the basement, which Max calls his “own private down under.” Even though he describes himself as “this critter hiding out in the basement, drooling in [his] comic books,” Max actually enjoys having a room of his own where he can escape the scrutiny of others. Max does not think of himself as being a very smart person, and he makes frequent references to his perceived intellectual deficiencies. He concludes that he had “never had a brain until Freak moved [in] down the street.”

Freak moves back into the neighborhood on the first day of July. Max is “hanging out” in his backyard when he sees the moving van. He notices Freak’s mother, who “looks like some kind of movie star” and seems vaguely familiar. His attention is then drawn to “this crippled-up yellow-haired midget kid strutting around the sidewalk,” imperiously giving orders to the men unloading the van. Freak has a “normal-sized head,” but his body is twisted and “shorter than a yardstick.” He is on crutches, and when he sees Max, he points a crutch at him, hollering, “Identify yourself, earthling!” Max, who by now recognizes Freak as “the weird little robot kid from day care,” gives no response. Freak then makes a “weapon noise” and shrieks, “Then die, earthling, die!” Recognizing from the look in his eye that the “little dude” is serious, Max hastily retreats back to his room “down under.”

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Chapters 3 and 4 Summary