device or stratagem for concealment or deceit
I was holding a pair of
camouflage Japanese WWII binoculars to my eyes and focusing across her newly planted vegetable garden, and her cornfield, and over ancient Miss Volker’s roof, and then up the Norvelt road...
"Camouflage" is more often used as a noun or verb, but here it is used as an adjective to describe the markings that would prevent detection. The description of the binoculars makes the narrator seem like a military man, but he is actually a 12 year old boy who is on summer vacation and stealing glimpses of a war movie.
construct or build
and past the brick bell tower on my school, and beyond the Community Center, and the tall silver whistle on top of the volunteer fire department to the most distant dark blue hill, which is where the screen for the Viking drive-in movie theater had recently been
refined and tasteful in appearance or behavior or style
He had a Japanese flag, a sniper’s rifle with a full ammo clip, a dented canteen, a pair of dirty white gloves with a scorched hole shot right through the bloody palm of the left hand, and a color-tinted photo of an
elegant Japanese woman in a kimono.
Compare this adjective to the others used in the example sentence (dented, dirty, scorched, bloody) to see the contrast between the kimono-wearing woman and the sniper-holding man.
goods or money obtained illegally
In fact, he never let me play with it, because as he put it, “This
swag will be worth a bundle of money someday, so keep your grubby hands off it.”
This is a synonym for "loot" (which is also mentioned in the novel), but here, "swag" with its similarity to "swagger" (which means "act in an arrogant, overly self-assured, or conceited manner") gives more power to the father's words.
disturb, especially by minor irritations
Earlier, the pony had been rubbing himself against the barbed wire around the turkey coop, but the long-necked turkeys got all
riled up and pecked his legs.
performing an essential function in the living body
One of the young marines was holding a prayer book and looking toward heaven, which was a sure Hollywood sign he was about to die with a slug to a
show one's unhappiness or critical attitude
“You know I don’t like you watching war movies,” she
scolded me with her hands on her hips.
an shaped indentation carved or scratched into a surface
There was no scope on the rifle so I had to use the regular sight—the kind where you lined up a little metal ball on the far end of the barrel with the V-
notch above the trigger where you pressed your cheek and eye to the cool wooden stock.
a device that can interrupt the flow of electrical current
I really didn’t want Dad knowing what had happened because he would blow a
The word is used figuratively because Dad is not literally an electrical device: "blow a fuse" means to get so angry that one figuratively overloads with energy that shoots out in a sudden and unexpected burst of light before getting really dark and quiet.
relating to a deficiency of red blood cells
“The doctor doesn’t want you to become
In Greek, "an" means "without" and "haima" means "blood"--someone who is suffering from anemia does not have enough oxygen-carrying material in the blood, which often results in a lack of energy.
cut into a desired shape
Pizarro then held Atahualpa hostage for a ransom of gold so the Incas brought Pizarro piles of golden life-size people and animals and plants—all
sculpted from solid gold as if the Incas had the Midas touch while they strolled through their fantastic cities and farms and jungles and everything they even gently brushed up against turned into pure gold.
But no one will ever again see that life-size golden world because once the
conquistadors got their greedy hands on the gold they melted it down.
a mineral that contains metal valuable enough to be mined
They melted the gold
ore and sent that back to Spain, and when there was no more gold Pizarro broke his promise and strangled the Inca king.
burn with a hot liquid or steam
I could tell by the leaf-size flames under the pot that it had to be
scalding hot, and right away I was wondering if she was melting herself down.
talk in a noisy, excited, or declamatory manner
“You’ll be fine,” I
jabbered about five jittery times in a row, and each time my mind echoed back, “You won’t be fine...you won’t ever be fine because you just melted your hands off!”
Note the alliteration in "jabber" and "jittery" that emphasizes the nervous repetition.
(of the voice) quivering as from weakness or fear
“Please...Miss Volker,” I said with my voice
a notice of someone's death
“My twin sister used to write out the
obituaries for me but her jug-headed idiot husband moved her to Florida last month. I was hoping he’d just have a spasm and drop dead and she would move in with me—but it didn’t work out that way."
Note the irony (incongruity between what might be expected and what occurs) between Miss Volker, a former nurse, wanting her brother-in-law dead and her needing of her twin sister to help her write obituaries.
a favorite saying of a sect or political group
“In nursing school,” she said, “I was taught by the doctors that the role of medical science is to relieve human suffering, and I’ve lived by that
motto all my life.”
"Motto" comes from the Latin "muttire" which means "to mutter" and refers to any brief statement expressing a principle, goal, or ideal. Anyone can have a motto; the motto mentioned here comes from a profession and not a sect or political group.
shelf that projects from wall above fireplace
Miss Volker stood by the fireplace
mantel and took a breath so deep it straightened out her curved spine.
I remind the reader of the true story of the Slater 'girl' who was captured by Indians in the 1830s, knocked unconscious with a war club and scalped with a knife, but still managed to
abscond with her life and survive hairlessly to live to a ripe old age beneath a wig made of curly hamster fur.
accompanied by bloodshed
At the meeting the Lord Mayor of London stepped forward and stabbed Wat in the neck, then had his head chopped off and spiked onto a tall pole as a
gory lesson to all who would defy the king and revolt for equal rights.
of or relating to the government of a district
On it were hand-stitched all the streets and houses and gardens and yard animals and businesses and
municipal buildings and creeks.
The Latin "municipium" means "town" and this can be broken up into "municeps" (citizen) and "munus" (public office) and "capere" (to take).
a writing system using picture symbols
“Take that one,” she suggested, and pointed the scuffed tip of her hard black shoe at a large book that was decorated with Egyptian
respiratory disorder characterized by wheezing
He was a heavy breather on account of his
asthma, which was why he didn’t fight in the war even though he had a military flattop haircut that looked like an airport for paper airplanes.
prove negative; show to be false
Her slave, Paul Jennings, said he was really the one who saved the portrait, but slaves were not allowed to
contradict white people.
hostile or belligerent mood
“Mom’s gonna be on the
warpath at any moment.”
turn sharply; change direction abruptly
veered off and passed beyond Fenton’s gas station and around the town dump where hundreds of rats were picking through the trash before I circled back down to the baseball fields beside the Roosevelt Community Center to meet my friend, Bunny Huffer.
the dead body of a human being
They were made out of polished aluminum and seemed very sleek with a little glass window where the
cadaver’s face could be viewed.
reduce to ashes
“I’d rather be
cremated and have my ashes blasted into orbit like Sputnik and go beeping around the planet for all of eternity.”
notoriety for some particular characteristic
And it did make me think that moving out of this town as Dad wanted to do was a good idea, not because I thought the town was a Commie town but because once you got a
reputation for one stupid thing it stuck with you forever.
the act of turning on an axis
Then she turned and stormed out of the room, did a quick
pivot, and stormed right back.
A pivot is an "axis consisting of a shaft supporting something that turns"--when a person pivots, the shaft is the side of the body that stays planted while the rest turns. Compare with "swivel" in this list.
a feeling of excitement
“Sure,” I said, full of
walk heavily and firmly, as when weary, or through mud
Dad put on his orange hat and vest and we started to
trudge up a tree-covered hill.
turn on a pivot
swiveled back and forth for what seemed like an hour.
Compare with "pivot" in this list. Here, the pivots are the necks supporting the turning heads.
the savage and excessive killing of many people
I was kind of stunned by imagining all the bloody
carnage and I slumped back onto my bed pillow when I noticed a bubbling river of blood running out my nose and across my lips.
deserving of esteem
I had just stopped the bleeding and hid the wad of bloody tissues behind my bed when Mom came in wearing a crisply ironed summer dress and told me to put on some “
burn, sear, or freeze using a hot iron or electric current
He also concluded I would need to schedule an appointment to have the inside of my nasal passages
cauterized in order to burn away the number of leaky capillaries and stop the bleeding.
As soon as she mentioned money I pretended to be distracted and fortunately, in the doctor’s office, there were plenty of plastic medical models of
internal organs to study.
an equal exchange
“Got a basement full of them,” he replied just as quickly, and before Mom could offer another
barter he said, “I wish I didn’t have to ask you for cash, but I do.”
gather, as of natural products
“You can replant that whole field of corn, tend to it,
harvest it, and turn it into food for poor old folks.”