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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
After some indecision, the boys finally decide to call the police. They try to decide between options like going home and trying to forget and catching a freight train west, but they know Cooger will hunt them down. When the police finally arrive, they babble about how sorry they are. However, when they reach the carousel, Cooger is gone. Jim slips and says he must have been a hundred and fifty or two hundred years old when they left, and the police look at him in disbelief. Lights blink on in the freaks’ tent, and the boys and the policemen head toward it.
Four of the freaks, the Skeleton, the Blimp, the Wart, and a dwarf, are quietly playing cards in the tent. Will thinks he recognizes the dwarf, but he can’t place him. Monsieur Guillotine, the Crusher, and Lava Sipper are also in the tent, and the text describes each of them in detail. Mr. Dark is sitting on the big stage adding a tattoo of a dragonfly on his left palm. Behind Dark is Cooger in the electric chair. The other freaks jump to their feet, and Will finally recognizes the dwarf. He is the lightning rod salesman. Seconds later, Monsieur Guillotine drops the guillotine blade on a wax dummy, and Will glances at the dummy’s face, which suddenly looks like his own.
Will wants to run, but he’s also curious if the head truly looks like his or if his imagination is playing tricks on him. Moments after, a mechanic releases a trip wire on machinery under the dust witch’s sign. There is a wax woman inside the glass box with her eyes sewn shut. The policemen think the whole carnival is first-rate. Mr. Dark welcomes them, and as he does, a crowd of freaks seems to gather. The police, the paramedics, and the freaks are enchanted. Will and Jim begin to tremble. Dark tells all present that a new act has just been perfected, and they will be the first to witness it. One policeman tries to explain what the boys told them, and Dark immediately dismisses anything boys say as nonsense they’ve scared themselves into.
The policeman inquires about the man strapped into electric chair. Dark, a fire rising in his eyes that he quickly extinguishes, explains that the man is Mr. Electrico, the newest act. Will screams that it is the dead Cooger. The authorities glance at him, without any real conviction. Will reflects on how easy he though this would be. He believed that they could call the authorities, medically fix Cooger, and be forgiven. Now, Will believes, everyone hates them.
The paramedics and the police step forward, and Dark again takes command. He announces that one hundred thousand volts will run through his Cooger’s body. Will steps forward, again, screaming to make them stop, and the police and paramedics take another step forward. Dark, though, glances ant Jim, and Jim tells Will that everything is fine, as if to calm him. Will screams again, and they throw the switch, momentarily extinguishing the lights. Sparks fly out of him, Will screams until he is hoarse, but Cooger is alive. The freaks are, according to Will, somehow breathing for him. Cooger opens his eyes, and Will sees he and Jim as reflections in his eyes. Will fears they will be crushed. Cooger welcomes the police officers, and they grin, nudging each other. Will screams out that it’s not an act, and Cooger would die again without power. He immediately realizes that he needs Cooger alive, otherwise, the freaks will be angry because it’s his fault Cooger is dying.
Dark hits a switch, and places a sword in Cooger’s empty hand. Cooger, speaking haltingly, says he was rehearsing when the boys ran screaming. Dark suggests the entire act is very tiring, attempting to explain Cooger’s odd speech pattern. The policemen laugh and joke. They prepare to leave. Dark hands the boys a dozen free passes, and asks their names. They both give fake names, and Cooger touches them with the sword, suggesting they shall live a terribly short life for being so foolish. The boys run to the back of the police car. The policemen laugh again, but the paramedics walk away looking slightly frightened.
The boys believe that saving Cooger will atone them for the things they’ve seen and done. The only way they can repent is to get Cooger medical help. They still trust the system they’ve always known. They have no idea that Cooger can’t get medical help because of the supernatural aspect of what he’s involved with. The freaks do several things to frighten the boys. Guillotine wax dummy with Will’s face is meant to encourage him to shut up. The dust witch’s sewn eyes are meant to scare the boys. The freaks obviously want Will and Jim to tell the policemen everything is fine. At the end of the chapter, Cooger touches the boys with the sword, dubbing them fools and asses, and suggesting that they will lead a short life. This is more a warning than play. The fact that the officers laugh it off re-demonstrates the lack of intelligence in adulthood.