Study Guide

Dandelion Wine Chapter 34

By Ray Bradbury

Chapter 34

  • Doug and Tom go to the arcade they like to visit. Yes, they had arcades in 1928, but instead of playing the latest video games, they had pinball, hand-cranked machines that showed short movies for a penny, and a game that would allow you to electrocute yourself for as long as you could take it.
  • Even cooler than self-electrocution? The Tarot Witch, a wax animatronic mannequin in a glass case who writes your fortune on a card. 
  • Doug's been to see a cowboy movie in which a man got shot and died, and it made Doug cry, run to the bathroom, and puke. He's now hearing a voice in his head telling him he's going to die. So a fortune from the Tarot Witch is just the thing to cheer him up. 
  • He loves the arcade, because of its mechanical predictability. But wouldn't you know, the Tarot Witch is breaking down, writing blank cards, and the drunk arcade owner, Mr. Brown, yells at her as he hangs an out of order sign on her glass box. 
  • Tom and Doug discuss the fact that maybe she's a real person, cursed and sealed in wax. 
  • Of course Doug can't take this, or the idea that Mr. Brown might get rid of her. 
  • And so they hatch a plot to rescue her. It goes like this: Doug will gather up all his pennies, take them to the arcade, and spend them all. Mr. Black will empty out the machines and go spend the cash on booze right then and there. When he leaves the arcade, Doug can bust the Tarot Witch outta there. 
  • But when they arrive, Mr. Black is ranting at the witch, dropping in coins and asking if the arcade's going to go bankrupt. She's giving him cards he doesn't like—we never learn what's on them—and he's in such a rage that he smashes his fist through the glass. 
  • Tom and Doug yell, and Mr. Black is so startled (and drunk) that he passes out and falls to the floor. 
  • They grab the witch out of the box and attempt to run home with her, heading into the ravine. But Mr. Black comes to and chases them, grabbing the witch out of Doug's arms, hurling her into the ravine, and storming off. 
  • Doug cries as he watches her break (read: die). 
  • But Tom goes and tells their dad, who is awesome enough to come rescue her and help them bring her home. We don't see Papa Spaulding much, but when he's around, he's a gem. 
  • Tom wants to cut her open and see what's inside, but Doug says to wait until he's fourteen or fifteen. For now, he needs her to be like she is, and he plans to go to the arcade and buy her machine tomorrow.He's sure she'll eventually thank him for setting her free. 
  • And in return for her freedom, of course, his fortune will be that he and Tom will live forever. He takes it for granted that she won't turn evil and eat their brains in the night. (Come on… a Tarot Witch? Filled with weird motors and stuff? In your garage? That's totally not nightmare fuel or anything.) 
  • The chapter ends with them talking to her, both of them just saying "Hey," and—you guessed it—ellipses.

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