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This Fourth of July is the first that Max will go to the fireworks show at the millpond without Grim and Gram. Max is going with Freak, which Gram thinks is a good idea since Max can protect Freak from getting crushed.
As they draw closer to the pond, Max hears the town bully, Tony D., nicknamed Blade, yelling names their way: Mutt and Jeff, Frankenstein and Igor, Andre the Giant and a dwarf. Freak turns to leave, urging Max to follow him. “Ignore the cretin,” he says. Max laughs out loud hearing Freak dismissing Blade. A cop’s siren wails and Blade and his gang take off running. Max and Freak have avoided what Freak calls “a close encounter of the turd kind.” Max admits that even if he could take on Blade alone, he wouldn’t just be fighting Blade. He’d be fighting his whole gang. Freak laughs when he realizes he nearly instigated a fight that Max couldn’t win.
The fireworks show starts, and Freak can’t see. So Max lifts him up onto his shoulders. From Max’s shoulders, Freak calls out all of the chemicals and elements he sees bursting over the pond. Max is pretty sure there isn’t anything Freak doesn’t know.
Max and Freak head to the concessions. From his perch, Freak spots Blade’s gang coming at them from all directions. He tells Max to go left, but Max is confused between his lefts and rights. Freak kicks him like a horse, sending Max to the left. Max runs, Freak bouncing on his shoulders. He steers Max with kicks of his feet in multiple directions away from the boys trying to corner them.
Freak’s plan is to head into the pond. Max plunges ahead, and soon he’s standing knee deep in mud. Blade wades into the water until mud is up to his neck. Max is stuck in place, legs cemented in mud. Blade turns back to shore where he joins his gang. They gather rocks to throw at Max and Freak.
A police car’s spotlights sweep across the pond. The officers see Freak waving frantically. They pull Max out of the pond, and Freak refuses to get down from his shoulders until they are on the shore. Blade and his gang have taken off. The police want the boys’ names and phone numbers. One of the officers recognizes Max. He asks Max if he’s Kenny Kane’s son, and if “Old Killer Kane” is still in prison. Freak interrupts to tell the officers that they are Freak the Mighty.
After the Fourth of July incident, Max finds himself being lauded as an unlikely hero. Grim and Gram think he has rescued Freak from drowning. He knows, though, that it was actually the other way around.
After hosing Max down, Gram gives him ice cream, and Grim brews him a cup of coffee, which impresses Max. Grim calls him “son,” which floors Max because that’s the first time Grim has called him that. They discuss what happened at the fireworks show. According to Grim, Max didn’t run away from Blade, he took “evasive action.”
Freak, Max tells us, changed what is usually a boring summer into a pretty cool one. Every morning he shows up at Max’s house to hurry him through breakfast and into the day.
One day Freak says he wants to go on a quest. Max knows what a quest is because Freak has told him about King Arthur, knights, and dragons, and their secret meanings of such things. Dragons, for instance, aren’t really-breathing monsters, they just represent the unknown. Freak calls them an “archetype.” Max immediately regrets admitting that he has no idea what an archetype is, because Freak pulls out his dictionary and tells Max to look it up. Freak carries his dictionary everywhere, and Max is a bit tired of it, though he pretends to understand when Freak reads him the definition. An annoyed Freak thinks that if dinosaurs, with their small brains, ruled the earth so long, he shouldn’t need to be so smart.
Max shows more evidence of being an unreliable narrator with limited perspective in this section. Max believes that he has never been allowed to go to the fireworks show alone before because Gram doesn’t trust him. But this may be another example of Max’s limited understanding, especially since she has trusted him to go to the millpond alone for years. It’s more likely that Gram hasn’t let Max go for the reasons he mentions in his description of the event: because the event often feels edgy and out of control. In addition to reminding readers once again that Max sees the world through the lens of a 12-year-old boy, the description also serves as foreshadowing that the evening might not go smoothly.
Further evidence of Max’s unreliability as a narrator comes in his description of the bully Tony D., whom Max describes as a 17-year-old delinquent who has been to court several times, almost killed a guy with a razor, and has teeth sharpened to look like vampires’ teeth. These details seem exaggerated, but they all go to the point that Tony D. is not a guy Max wants to mess with. These details, along with the comment Max makes in his narration about not wanting to spell out the way Tony D. talks, also suggest to the reader that Max is not only narrating the story but that he has written it as well.
Despite his size, Max doesn’t fight to defend himself against Tony D., providing further evidence that he is not dangerous like his father. He also shows real consideration towards Freak, lifting Freak onto his shoulders to make sure he can see the fireworks, but also worrying that Freak might feel self-conscious about it. There is more evidence about Max’s true nature in Chapter 8, when Max leaves out details about Tony D. while talking to Gram because he doesn’t want to worry her. At all times, even after a terrifying experience, Max is thoughtful of the needs of the people around him, distinguishing himself again and again from his criminal father.
One of the key events in this Fourth of July adventure, and in the plot of the novel, is Max and Freak’s escape from Tony D. and his gang after the fireworks. Neither of the boys would have been able to escape alone, Freak because of his physical limitations and Max because he didn’t know what to do. But together, as Freak the Mighty, they are unstoppable. And this turns out to be one of the key themes of the novel—that the complete trust and acceptance that their friendship is built on benefits them both and makes them stronger.
After the police bring Max home and explain what happened, Grim offers Max coffee in a fancy cup, marking a critical shift in their relationship. “Real coffee” is a drink for adults, and by making a cup of coffee for Max, Grim is acknowledging Max’s maturity and showing that he is proud of his grandson. He also calls Max “son,” possibly for the first time, suggesting that Grim is starting to see Max for who he actually is rather than as a reflection of his father.
The scene at the end of Chapter 8 illustrates that both boys bring important qualities to their friendship. Much like Max functioned as the body and Freak functioned as the brains when they became Freak the Mighty to escape Tony D., each character brings something that benefits the other and makes them stronger. Max gives Freak the mobility to get around freely, allowing him to “go on quests,” “rescue fair maidens,” and “slay dragons.” Simultaneously, Freak believes King Arthur kept all his knights busy by making them do things to prove how strong and brave and smart they were, and he is doing exactly the same for Max. In addition, Freak is teaching Max how to think and question things he doesn’t understand. This is illustrated explicitly when Freak teaches Max how to use the dictionary to look up the word “archetype.”