Chapter 23

Will chases Jim and the young Mr. Cooger to the carnival grounds. He knows that Mr. Cooger will try to use the merry-go-round to get older, and that Jim will not try to stop him. Will hears the music of the carousel and sees the boy offer his hand to Jim. Before Jim can get on Will attacks him. He runs to stop the machine, afraid of what will happen when Mr. Cooger gets older, but Jim fights him. They struggle, and Will tries to tell Jim that they will be killed by the older Mr. Cooger. Jim responds that he will not be killed. Will slams the switch on the control box, and electricity flares out. The merry-go-round accelerates wildly, and the evil boy attempts to climb off but slips and hits his head. Will holds Jim down and Jim begins to cry, looking at the man inside the carousel. Lights go on in the tents but, to Will's surprise, no one comes out. The control box blows up, the carnival lights all go out, and the merry-go- round comes to a halt. Will and Jim go over to look at the man who has aged incredibly fast and they find that he looks mummified. Mr. Cooger is now well over a hundred years old, still alive, but barely. Will gets sick looking at him and then the two boys run away as fast as they possibly can.

Chapter 24

The boys call the police, and several minutes later they return to the carnival along with two policemen and two interns from an ambulance. Mr. Cooger is not where they left him, and the group enters the tent. They get a good look at all of the freaks inside the tent. One of them, a Dwarf, looks vaguely familiar to Will, and a few moments later he realizes that the Dwarf is the lightning-rod salesman. They see Mr. Cooger, strapped into the Electric Chair. Mr. Dark welcomes the whole group, and tells them they were rehearsing their latest acts. He claims that Mr. Cooger is the new act, Mr. Electrico. Will yells that the man is dead, and that they should take him down from the chair. The policemen start to move forward. Mr. Dark wants to run electricity through Mr. Cooger and he looks for help to Jim, who says that it is all right. This calms down the policemen, and Mr. Dark pulls the switch. Electricity courses through the dead body, buzzing throughout the tent, and Will and Jim see Mr. Dark willing the body to live. Mr. Cooger comes alive, and all of the freaks seem to be willing life into him, helping him to breathe, helping his pulse to beat. Will starts to say that the body will die if the electricity is cut but then realizes that saying that means he wants the man to die. Mr. Electrico speaks, and he claims that the boys saw him rehearsing and that he pretended to die and they ran away screaming. The policemen are satisfied, and Mr. Dark offers the boys free tickets. He asks them for their names, and they lie again. Mr. Electrico speaks again to the boys, and then they grab the tickets and run back to the police car.


Will and Jim discover that the amazing power of the merry-go-round has a dark side. When they return with the police they find that Mr. Dark has quickly come up with a solution to the problem, and he convinces everyone that things are running smoothly and the boys were simply scared off. The fact that Mr. Dark gets help from Jim alludes to a part of Jim's character that has not been explored previously. At a critical moment, when the police are on the verge of taking a look at Mr. Cooger, Jim speaks up and says that they should let the act go on. Both Will and Jim want Mr. Cooger to be all right, but they want this for different reasons. Will hopes that maybe Mr. Cooger will forgive them and no harm will come to them, but Jim still wants to ride the carousel. Because he still has a vested interest in using what the carnival has to offer, Jim steps up to Mr. Dark's defense. At the same time, Jim understands, as does Will, that Mr. Dark has them targeted now and will surely try to gain some sort of revenge for what they have done.

It is hard to believe that Mr. Dark could do anything to them that would be worse than what has been done to the lightning-rod salesman. Will realizes that they have destroyed the man that he and Jim met by crushing him into a Dwarf, an awful parody of a human being. Will rightly fears for his life after seeing all of this, but Jim thinks differently. Jim was not even afraid of what Mr. Cooger would do when the merry-go-round brought him back to his original size—it was Will who flipped the switch that caused such great trouble. It is hard to believe that Jim still desires to ride on the carousel even after he has seen the great evil that the carnival is capable of. He did not really even care about Miss Foley, and he would have been willing to let Mr. Cooger return to his normal age. Jim is either so self-concerned that he has not even considered what will happen to Will, his best friend, or else Jim is so desperate to become older that he does not care about the consequences. It seems likely that Jim still does care about Will, but that he is too wrapped up in his crazy dream of riding the carousel that he refuses to think about Will. There is a danger in acting the way Jim does, rushing headlong into things without stopping to think about them. In this case, Jim is up against something that he does not fully understand, and he risks a fate worse than death (like the lightning-rod salesman) for a foolish desire.

Although Will thinks of himself as less capable of action than Jim, it is interesting that Will has twice subdued Jim and that he acted quickly to try to stop Mr. Cooger. He may not be the first to act, but because he thinks things through completely, Will sees with certainty what needs to be done. In this case, he knew that he desperately needed to stop Mr. Cooger from returning to his original age, and that desperation gave him the strength to hold Jim down and to flip the switch on the control box. Jim has been presented as the character who is constantly in the world, but here it seems clear that sometimes it may be better to step back and evaluate things before acting. Will knows what Jim wants to do and he knows that it will not be good for his friend. Beyond that, he knows how much danger they are in, and he acts accordingly. Jim is too focused on his own narrow goal to see the broader picture, and his narrow vision is the cause of much of their trouble.