Study Guide

Dead End in Norvelt Chapter 10

By Jack Gantos

Chapter 10

  • Jack's mother routinely harvests wild mushrooms from the woods near the town dump. (Dangerous: don't try this at home.) She uses them in the food she cooks for the Norvelt Meals for the Elderly program, which Mr. Spizz delivers on his tricycle.
  • When Jack arrives at Miss Volker's house to help out with the Hells Angel's obituary, they first drive to the drugstore to buy supplies for fixing Jack's nose.
  • At the drugstore, Miss Volker and Mr. Spizz get into an argument just like two children.
  • Mr. Spizz tells Jack that his dad's runway is totally against zoning codes, and he's going to file a complaint.
  • Oh, also? Miss Volker and Mr. Spizz used to have a little thing going before Norvelt was founded.
  • He wanted to marry her, but she refused—she wanted to fulfill her career as a nurse. But she did promise that she'd marry him once all the town's original residents died (10.56).
  • That argument with Mr. Spizz? Totally just a game. A little old-people flirtation.
  • Next, Miss Volker uses her commando surgery skills to cauterize Jack's nasal passages. He is afraid that her hands will seize up in the middle of this procedure, and she will shove the instrument into the "soft, creamy center" of his brain (10.68).
  • No soft, creamy brains here! The operation seems successful.
  • After they finish up the Hells Angel's obituary, Miss Volker asks Jack to get her some rat poison from the garage to take care of the vermin in her basement.
  • Jack rushes home to deliver his Mom's casseroles to the Community Center. The food is for old women in various stages of illness or infirmity. Want some names? Mrs. Vinyl, Mrs. Linga, Mrs. Sulzby, Mrs. Hamsby, Mrs. Dubicki, and Mrs. Bloodgood (10.102).
  • Here's a kind of sad thing: there aren't any old men who need charity meals, because they all died young "from black lung disease after digging in the mines" (10.103).
  • Jack's delivery interrupts a Girl Scout meeting at the Community Center, and we meet two of Bunny's friends: Betsy Howdi and Mertie-Jo Kernecky, who Jack is crushing on.
  • Jack hints to the girls that Miss Volker believes the Hells Angel brought some kind of plague into town, and that people could die from it.
  • Mr. Spizz chooses this opportune moment to confront Jack about the unpaid gutter-obstruction ticket.
  • Jack, taking a cue from his mother, attempts to barter for it, offering Mr. Spizz some canned peaches. Mr. Spizz responds that the whole town would have to vote on something like that.
  • That doesn't sound like such a great deal, since then it would then be printed in the newspaper—and his Mom would find out about the ticket. Grounded for life.