Summary: Chapter 9: Life Is Dangerous

Max and Freak settle into a summer routine when they are out and about, with Freak on Max’s shoulders, directing Max with his feet. 

One day, Freak tells Max to head east. Max doesn’t know where east is, so Freak shows him his compass, which to Max looks just like an Official Cub Scout Compass. No, Freak tells him, this is the compass Lancelot used. Max laughs at the idea that Sir Lancelot was a Cub Scout. They head east on a secret mission.

After walking for miles, Max wonders if they’ve reached “yonder” yet, the yonder that Freak says is always beyond where they are. Finally, they reach a building with a sign out front that says “Medical Research.” Here, Freak explains, is where they do experiments. Freak makes Max swear by blood (saliva substituting for the blood) that he won’t tell anyone about the Experimental Bionics Unit that is inside. This secret Unit is where they’re building a bionic robot. Max doesn’t know what bionics means, but he begs Freak not to make him look it up in the dictionary.

Freak explains that he visits the Unit every few months for tests to be fitted for the first-ever bionic transplant. Max knows, from the way Freak talks, that this place means a lot to him. Freak admits that getting his parts replaced will hurt, but he says that pain is just something in your mind, so you can think your way out of it. Max worries that this is dangerous, and Freak agrees, but says that life itself is dangerous. 

Summary: Chapter 10: Rats or Worse

Freak the Mighty’s summer adventures continue. Meanwhile, Max has continued to grow, and Grim says that his legs might have stretched from carrying Kevin around. Max tells Grim that Freak is the smartest person alive and that he’s memorized the entire dictionary. Grim is doubtful, which is not surprising to Max, who thinks Grim is a know-it-all.

One day, Freak presents yet another quest idea to Max. This quest, a treasure hunt, will take place in the middle of the night. They must dress in all black. The treasure, Freak tells Max, is hidden in a storm drain. At 3 a.m., Max pulls Freak out of his bedroom window. Freak is dressed up like Darth Vader. Max rolls himself in the dirt to blacken his shirt. He puts Freak on his shoulders and they head to the storm drain.

The storm drain grate won’t budge, so Freak the Mighty uses a string and paper clip to hook and reel up a purse that lies at the bottom. Freak explains that he saw Blade and the gang drop it down the drain. The purse is empty except for an ID card. Loretta Lee, whose name is on the card, is undoubtedly a “damsel in distress.” 

Summary: Chapter 11: The Damsel of Distress

The next day, Max and Freak head to the address on the ID card. It is on the other side of the millpond in a place that used to be called “the New Tenements,” now called “the New Testaments.” Max has promised Gram never to go there, but Freak convinces him it is okay to break a promise when you’re on a quest. 

The Testaments are rundown apartment buildings, a depressing, smelly place. Freak is having second thoughts about this particular quest. They find the address on the ID card and before they can ring the bell, the door opens and a woman comes out. She calls back into the house, announcing that the circus must be in town. A man called Iggy appears, and the woman seems to recognize Max. Freak says they have the wrong address, and that they’re looking for Loretta Lee. The woman says that she is Loretta Lee.

Inside the apartment, Max and Freak tell Iggy and Loretta their names and that they found the purse, empty, in the storm drain. Loretta suddenly remembers who Max reminds her of–Kenny Kane. Iggy agrees Max is “a ringer for old Killer Kane.” Then, Loretta remembers that Freak must be Gwen’s son.

Iggy and Loretta talk about Killer Kane and what a tough guy he was. From the look on his face, it’s apparent that Freak hasn’t heard these stories about Max’s father, who’s in prison for life. Then Loretta turns to Freak, and rubs him on the head for luck. She knows about Freak’s dad, and wonders if Freak knows that his dad was a magician. “He must be a magician, because as soon as he heard the magic words ‘birth defect,’ he disappeared,’” she tells him before Iggy pushes the boys out the door.

Analysis: Chapters 9–11

The stories Freak tells as he and Max wander around their neighborhood on “quests” reinforce the idea that Freak identifies strongly with the wimpy kid who eventually became King Arthur. Freak’s stories also entertain the pair and turn their neighborhood into a magical fantasy land.

The limits of Max’s understanding that make him an unreliable narrator play a role in Chapter 9. Max doesn’t understand enough about medical research or Freak’s specific health challenges to recognize that Freak’s story about his bionic transplant is a fantasy. Everything we have learned about Freak so far suggests that he has the intellectual capacity to understand his diagnosis and the fact that his health issues will likely cut his life short. The bionic transplant fantasy allows Freak to replace that dire narrative with one of hope. Max, however, either can’t or doesn’t want to understand the reality of Freak’s condition, so the fantasy does give him hope.

In Chapter 10 Max says that he grew over the summer. He’s talking about physical growth, but the paragraphs that follow illustrate another kind of growth, as well. When Grim pities Freak, Max speaks up  to correct her and talk about how remarkable he thinks Freak is. Max is becoming more confident, likely as a result of his friendship with Freak. Yet we still see hints of the old Max who is unreasonably hard on himself, as when he can’t fall asleep because he’s waiting for his alarm to go off, which he thinks of as typical “butthead” behavior.

Chapter 10 ends with explicit foreshadowing of trouble to come when the boys decide to return the purse they retrieved to its owner. Freak theorizes the purse’s owner might be a damsel in distress, but according to Max’s narration, she actually turns out to be a damsel who causes distress. When Max and Freak encounter Loretta and Iggy Lee they are no longer on a fun adventure. Instead, they find themselves trapped in Loretta’s apartment in serious trouble. Loretta and Iggy’s drunken and violent dynamic seems familiar to Max, probably because it triggers memories of Max’s father’s behavior when Max was very small. At one point Max thinks Iggy is going to hit Loretta, suggesting that he may have witnessed his father hitting his mother. It seems that Max knows from experiencing this dynamic before that best way to stay safe is to be quiet and still and try to avoid notice.

Several important pieces of information are revealed in the scene with Loretta and Iggy: Freak learns the truth about Max’s father for the first time. Additionally, it seems clear that Iggy—as tough as he is—is still afraid of Killer Kane, even though he’s in prison. This implies that Max’s father is indeed a very dangerous man. Loretta’s memory of Freak’s dad disappearing after he learned that Freak had a birth defect underlines another connection between the friends. Though they’re missing for different reasons, both boys have absent fathers. This insight deepens their understanding of one another, their connection, and their friendship.