Chapter 2 Summary

Chapter 2: "The Mouse in the Milk—1930"

When Joey and Mary Alice are sent to Grandma Dowdel's for the second year in a row, they begin to see that this is going to be an annual event. Mary Alice in particular is not happy about this and "pitch[es] a fit." Having no choice, however, the children dutifully go. As they sit in Grandma's house one long, uneventful evening soon after their arrival, they hear a horse come by; it stops briefly, then gallops off. Moments later, there is a flash of light and a deafening explosion. Grandma goes out to investigate and discovers that her mailbox has been blown "sky high." Surveying the ruin, she mutters an ominous word: "Cowgills."

During breakfast the next morning, Mrs. Effie Wilcox comes to the door, asking to use Grandma's privy. The one at her house has been wrenched from its foundation and flung into the yard by vandals. Grandma gives her permission, then settles back into her chair, again muttering thoughtfully, "Cowgills."

Joey and Mary Alice find Grandma's Winchester Model 21 prominently displayed on the kitchen table next to a box of shells when they come down for breakfast the next morning. Grandma herself is talking to Ernie Cowgill, a hulking, dim-witted sixteen-year-old whose family runs the local dairy. Ernie has come to deliver milk, and Grandma complains to him that she found a dead mouse in one of the bottles delivered the day before. She then mentions to Ernie that she will not need anything the next day, as she will be going away.

The children know that Grandma is telling another one of her whoppers. When Joey asks what the shotgun is for, she responds cryptically, "Bait." Later that day, she catches a "good-sized mouse" in a trap, slips the grisly body into an empty bottle, then covers it with milk. After supper, when night falls, Grandma locks the door and will not allow the children to turn on the lights. The children know that some...

(The entire section is 697 words.)