In the dim down under, Max thinks about “this crippled little humanoid” who has just reentered his life, and after a while he goes back outside to “check [things] out.” Max finds Freak standing under a tree behind his new home, furiously trying to jump up and hit a branch with his crutch. Frustrated, the little boy crawls over under the steps and laboriously pulls out a standard American Flyer red wagon. When he gets it under the tree, he climbs up and “whacks” at the branch again, but he still cannot reach whatever it is he is trying to get.
Max notices that there is a “small, bright-colored thing . . . like a piece of folded paper” in the tree and goes over to get it down. Staying clear of the flailing crutch, he offers the “bird-thing” to Freak, who happily explains that it is “an ornithopter . . . an experimental device propelled by flapping wings.” Max, who does not understand half the words the little boy is using, is amazed at how smart Freak is. Freak winds up the elastic band that propels the mechanical bird and lets it go, and Max chases it and brings it back; the two boys continue in this activity until the elastic breaks after almost an hour. Freak then amiably asks Max, “You live around here, earthling?” In response, Max points to Grim and Gram’s house and mentions the down under. Picking up the handle of the wagon, he tows Freak over; Freak sits up in the wagon, “happy as can be.”
Freak “hump[s] down the stairs” to the cellar by himself, but the effort leaves him short of breath. He is impressed with Max’s living quarters. When Max explains about Grim and Gram, he notes that “Grim” must be “a sobriquet for [Max’s] grandfather, based on his demeanor.” This is too much for Max, who clearly does not understand what his new friend is talking about. Freak merrily apologizes for his vocabulary and explains that “sobriquet means ‘nickname,’ and demeanor means ‘expression.’”
Max, who has noticed that Freak refers to his mother as “Fair Gwen of Air,” asks if this is a nickname too. Trying to suppress his laughter, Freak says that he is actually calling his mom, whose name is Gwen, “‘Fair Guinevere,’ from the legend of King Arthur.” Freak enthusiastically goes on to tell Max the story of Arthur, who was “this wimpy little kid” who was able to yank “this magic sword . . . [from] a big stone” when no one else could do it.
Freak gets especially excited when he talks about King Arthur’s knights, who wore metal armor to make them invincible when they went out on quests “to slay dragons and monsters.” He says that the knights were “the first human version of robots.” When Max says that he thought robots were not real, Freak heatedly argues that “robotics, the science of designing and building functional robots, is a huge industry.” Freak is amazingly well-informed about the subject of robotics. He says that although he watches Star Trek on television, he reads a lot of books as well so he can “figure out what’s real.” Max becomes uncomfortable when Freak starts talking about books, because he has been diagnosed as “learning disabled” at school and “reading books is the last thing [he] want[s] to do.”
At this point, the boys hear the Fair Gwen calling for Freak, whose real name is Kevin. When Max emerges from the down under with her son, she takes one look at his hulking presence, grabs Freak, and “almost runs home.” It is clear to Max that the Fair Gwen is terrified of him.