Jack Gantos's "Dead End in Norvelt" is a funny take on the typical autobiographical "growing up" novel which includes appearances by a sniper rifle, an obituary column and the Hell's Angels. Eleanor Roosevelt also plays an important role.
"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.
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...
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
a V-shaped or U-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.
an electrical device that can interrupt the flow of electrical current when it is overloaded
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.
I really didn’t want Dad knowing what had happened because he would blow a
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.
a notice of someone's death; usually includes a short biography
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.
“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."
"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.
“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.”
run away; usually includes taking something or somebody along
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then she turned and stormed out of the room, did a quick
pivot, and stormed right back.