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Max nears the one-year anniversary of first carrying Freak around on his shoulders. As they walk home on the last day of school, their conversation turns to what it means to remember. Freak’s been reading a book about the Ice Age, and he asks Max whether he remembers what it was like during the Ice Age. Max tells Freak that would be impossible, he wasn’t alive back then. “Remembering is just an invention of the mind,” Freak tells him. Max doesn’t understand. Freak explains that you can remember anything you want to, even if you didn’t experience it yourself. You wouldn’t need a time machine to go back to the Ice Age, Freak attests, if you could remember.
Freak, Fair Gwen, Grim, Gram, and Max celebrate Freak’s thirteenth birthday. Freak the Mighty is almost a year old. Gwen is giving Freak a new computer for his birthday in case he has to stay home from school next year.
At his birthday dinner, Freak eats very little and asks Max to blow out his birthday candles. He doesn’t touch his cake. Max thinks he’s excited about the new computer.
After dinner, Grim, who is playing 3-D chess with Freak in the other room, yells, “Kevin!” The others rush into the room. Freak is having a seizure. Fair Gwen quickly calls an ambulance.
Max is not allowed to visit Freak in the hospital the first day, but he walks all the way there anyway. Gwen’s car is in the parking lot. Max sits under a tree, then wanders back to the front of the hospital, where Gwen sees him. Kevin has asked to see Max. Dr. Spivak agrees to let him, but only for a short visit.
Freak is in the ICU, or intensive care unit. He has a tracheotomy to help with his breathing. Max asks him when he’ll be coming home, and Freak tells Max he won’t be, at least not looking the way he looks now. He tells Max he’s having a special operation. Max believes him.
Freak points to a book on the table. He tells Max to open it. It’s blank inside, a book for Max to write about all of their adventures. Max protests that he’s not the one with the brain. Freak tells him to just write like he’s talking, and that he has to tell the story of Freak the Mighty.
At home that night, Max mentions the surgery to Grim and Gram. They look meaningfully at each other and tell Max to eat his vegetables.
The next day, Max leaves the house without telling Grim or Gram and heads to the hospital. When he arrives at the ICU, nurses are scurrying about, and he overhears one saying they need to page Dr. Spivak because Kevin was her patient. Max can’t believe it. He runs down the hall, kicking doors open, into the Medical Research area of the hospital. Security officers restrain him. Dr. Spivak appears and tells Max how sorry she is. Max asks her what happened with the special operation.
Max tells Dr. Spivak the story, how Freak would come here every few months and talk about how he was getting fitted for a new bionic body. It turns out that actually, Freak had researched his condition in a medical dictionary. Freak had known since he was little that he would have a very short life. He wasn’t lying about the robot, Dr. Spivak assures Max. He had invented a wonderful tale that would give him hope. In the end, Dr. Spivak says, Kevin’s heart just got too big for his body.
Grim comes to take Max home. Max doesn’t want to talk.
Freak’s idea about memory being an invention of the mind is an important lesson for Max, who has a past he’d like to remember differently. It also foreshadows the great loss that is to come and suggests that Freak knows that Max’s memories—real ones and invented or embellished ones—could be important for keeping their friendship alive.
There are clues that something is not quite right with Freak during his birthday celebration, including the new computer he gets so he can go to school by modem in case he has to stay home “for some reason” and the way Gram and Gwen look at one another when Max asks about it. The fact that Freak doesn’t eat much of his supper, asks Max to blow out the candles, and doesn’t eat any cake adds to the feeling that something is wrong.
It is significant that Max brings Freak’s ornithopter to the hospital. As the object that first brought the boys together and marked the beginning of their friendship, its appearance here seems especially meaningful and suggests that another major change is about to take place.
When Freak says he’s not coming home, it seems clear that he knows he is dying. But he carries on with the bionic transplant story for Max’s benefit, and maybe for his own as well, speaking again to the theme of storytelling as an act of hope.
The empty book Freak gives Max is more evidence that Freak knows what is coming and that Max is going to need help coping with it. The empty book represents many things. It is a new beginning. It is a place for Max to remember and to tell the story of Freak the Mighty so that Freak will be able to live on. It is a representation of how much Freak believes in Max and the potential Freak knows he has. It is an act of love to a best friend. It is a good-bye.
Max’s first assumption upon learning that the bionic transplant wasn’t real and Freak had died was that Dr. Spivak had lied to Freak to keep him from being afraid. It doesn’t even occur to Max that Freak is the one who was lying, because of the amount of trust Max had in his friend. But Dr. Spivak explains that she believes Freak invented the story because he knew he was going to die, and the bionic transplant fantasy gave him something to hope for. Dr. Spivak’s insight reinforces two of the key themes in the novel—the power of storytelling and the distinction between malicious lies and stories or fantasies that serve a more positive purpose.