Study Guide

Dead End in Norvelt Chapter 8

By Jack Gantos

Chapter 8

  • Jack heads over to Miss Volker's house because she's just received news of another possible death. This time, it's Mrs. Dubicki, another original Norvelter.
  • Miss Volker wants to drive by Mrs. Dubicki's house to check on her and maybe even do a little sneaky recon.
  • So, the pair decides that Jack will dress up in his Halloween costume, which just happens to be the Grim Reaper (complete with plastic scythe). Miss Volker gets a morbid kick out of this.
  • As an added bonus, Miss Volker allows Jack to drive the car to Mrs. Dubicki's. He has never driven a car before (only the tractor), and proceeds to take Miss Volker on a more mundane Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (with the help of Miss Volker as a sort of passenger-seat driver).
  • When Jack enters the home to check on Mrs. Dubicki, he finds her motionless in her recliner.
  • A small pinch should do the trick to see if she is awake. When Jack does so, she springs up and demands to know what he is doing in her home. She's a feisty old woman!
  • Jack quickly comes up with the idea that he is the "Norvelt Grim Reaper for the Public Good" (8.67).
  • The two have a little chat, and Mrs. Dubicki asks that he come back in two weeks (she will be ready to die then), and helpfully gives him a tip that another neighbor (Mrs. Linga) has hurt her hip and "has been begging for you to come and take her away" (8.82).
  • We find out that Miss Volker kind of wishes that the old Norvelters would pass away already, since she would like to do other things with her life before she, herself, gets a visit from the Grim Reaper.
  • And, right on schedule, Jack's nose starts bleeding. Miss Volker offers to fix his "problem"—i.e., his bloody nose—with some old tools that she bought at a "retired veterinarian's yard sale" and some that she made herself (8.96). 
  • Jack doesn't seem too thrilled.