Excerpt of Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
(Page 4 of 5)
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"So why'd she call an ambulance? Did she get her
arm stuck going after it?"
"No. She called the plumber, but he's also the ambulance
driver so he made an emergency call. Really,"
she said with some admiration, "it's good that people
around this town know how to help out in different
"Hey, Mom," I said quietly before going to wash my
face at the outside work sink, "please don't tell Dad
about the gun accident." He was out of town but you
never knew when he'd finish a construction job and
suddenly show up.
"I'll consider it," she said without much promise.
"But until he returns you are grounded - and if you do
something this stupid again you'll barely live to regret
I understood. I really didn't want Dad knowing what
had happened because he would blow a fuse. On top of
him not wanting me to touch his stuff he was always
trying to teach me about gun safety, and I figured after
this gun episode he might give up on me and I didn't
want him to.
"Here," she said, and handed me a wad of tissues so
I could roll them into pointy cones to plug up my nose
holes. "And before bed I want you to take a double
dose of your iron drops," she stressed. "The doctor
doesn't want you to become anemic."
"It's just a nosebleed," I said glumly.
"There may be more to it," she replied. "Besides,
given that stunt you just pulled, it's in your best interest
to do exactly what I say."
I did exactly what she said and cleaned all my blood
off and took my medicine and went to bed, but firing
that rifle had me all wound up. How could that bullet
have gotten into the chamber? The ammo clip was off.
I thought about it as I tossed back and forth, but
couldn't come up with an answer. Plus, it was hard to
fall asleep with my nose stuffed with massive wads of
bloody tissue while breathing through my dry mouth.
I turned on my bedside lamp and picked a book from
one of the tall stacks Mom had given me. She did
some charity auction work for the old elementary
school over in Hecla which was closing, and in return
they gave her a bunch of books including their beatup
Landmark history series, which had dozens of titles
about famous explorers. I was a little too drifty in
school so she thought it was a good idea that I read
more books, and she knew I liked history and adventure
I started reading about Francisco Pizarro's hard-to-believe
conquest of the Incas in Peru. In 1532 Pizarro
and fewer than two hundred men captured Atahualpa,
the Inca chief, who had an army of fifty thousand soldiers.
Pizarro's men fired off an old flintlock blunderbuss and
the noise and smoke scared the Inca army and Pizarro
jumped on Atahualpa and held a sword to his neck and
in that very instant the entire Inca empire was defeated.
Pizarro then held Atahualpa hostage for a ransom of
gold so the Incas brought Pizarro piles of golden lifesize
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. They turned all those beautiful golden
sculptures into boring Spanish coins and shipped boatloads
of them back to the king and queen of Spain,
who loved the gold but wanted even more.
Pizarro then raided all the temples and palaces and
melted down the gold he found and sent that back. Still,
it wasn't enough for the king and queen. Pizarro even
dug up the dead when it was discovered that they were
buried with gold. He had their jewelry melted down
and sent back to Spain. But it still wasn't enough. So
Pizarro's men forced the Inca people to work harder in
the gold mines. 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.
He turned the Inca people into slaves and they died by
the thousands from harsh work and disease.
Excerpted from Dead End in Norvelt
by Jack Gantos. Copyright © 2011 by Jack Gantos.
Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.