Study Guide

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 Chapter 5

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Chapter 5

Nazi Parachutes Attack America and Get Shot Down over the Flint River by Captain Byron Watson and his Flamethrower of Death

  • Now that's a chapter title.
  • Byron gets caught lighting matches for fun (this kid really is a delinquent), and Momma swears that the next time she catches him starting a fire, she will burn him. Yikes!
  • She lectures Byron with her "Smokey the Bear story" (5.2) about how her house caught fire and burned down when she was a kid.
  • Momma even swore to God she would burn Byron the next time he put the family in danger by playing with fire.
  • Not even a week later, Byron is at it again. That boy just does not learn.
  • Kenny finds him locked in the bathroom and spies on him through the keyhole. Here's what Byron is up to: Byron is pretending to make a movie called Nazi Parachutes Attack America and Get Shot Down over the Flint River by Captain Byron Watson and his Flamethrower of Death.
  • He has attached his toy army men to a bunch of toilet paper parachutes.
  • When Byron yells, "Action!" he sets a parachute on fire and drops it over the toilet. The flaming Nazi screams as he falls to his death.
  • Then Byron flushes the toilet to give the soldier a burial at sea.
  • By the seventh Nazi, Momma gets suspicious about all the toilet flushing and comes to see what's going on. Oh boy.
  • Momma grabs Byron by the throat and drags him downstairs. Kenny and Joey have never seen her so mad.
  • Momma goes to the kitchen and comes back with matches, Vaseline, a paper towel, and a Band-Aid. Hold on, is she serious? We thought that swearing to God stuff was just a threat.
  • Joey starts crying because she doesn't want Byron to get burned.
  • Kenny starts to feel sorry for Byron, but he knows Byron deserves what he gets. Plus, he's wondering what part of Byron Momma plans to burn.
  • Meanwhile, Joey keeps jumping in front of Momma, trying to keep her away from Byron.
  • Momma finally sits down and explains to Joey that she doesn't want to hurt Byron, but she has to do something to show him how dangerous and painful fire is so that he'll stop playing with matches.
  • Plus, she swore to God, remember? So she can't break her word to God. This makes sense to Joey (who is apparently very religious), so she tearfully agrees to let Momma burn him.
  • At this point, Byron makes a run for it, but Momma tackles him and sits on his chest. Momma is not to be messed with. Byron starts to cry. No more tough guy routine.
  • But she's not really going through with this, right?
  • Wrong.
  • Momma lights a match, grabs Byron's wrist, and tells him to put out his finger. She's using her scary snake-woman voice. Byron seems hypnotized, and he sticks out his finger.
  • Momma moves the match closer and closer, talking in her snake voice the whole time.
  • Byron is shaking and crying. The flame almost touches Byron's finger.
  • Byron screams.
  • Joey dashes across the room and blows out the match right before it touches Byron's finger. Holy cow, that was close.
    But Momma's not done.
  • She lights four more matches, but all four times Joey blows them out at the last second.
  • Momma finally gives up and lets Dad whip Byron when he gets home instead.

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