BUD, NOT BUDDY. CHRISTOPHER PAUL CURTIS. WINNER OF THE NEWBERY MEDAL. Chapter 1. HERE WE GO AGAIN. We were all standing in line. #—Instructional Guide: Bud, Not Buddy. Introduction. How to Use This Literature Guide(cont.) Vocabulary. Each teacher overview page has definitions. Credits: Cover: Jacket cover for BUD, NOT BUDDY by Christopher Paul Curtis. Used by permission of Random. House Children's Books, a division of Random.
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BUD, NOT BUDDY CHRISTOPHER PAUL CURTIS WINNER OF THE NEWBERY MEDAL Chapter 1 HERE WE GO AGAIN. We were all standing in line waiting. noncommercial purpose, except it may not be posted online without permission. BOOK SUMMARY: Ten-year-old Bud, a motherless boy living in Flint, Michigan. Bud, Not Buddy: End of Unit Test. Part 1: Vocabulary A. Choose the word from the box above to replace the underlined words. telegraph depression devoured.
He started huffing and puffing with his eyes bucking out of his head and his chest going up and down so hard that it looked like some kind of big animal was inside of him trying to bust out. This was my chance to get under the bed and pull the covers down so they couldn't see me.
Amos ran over to her son and fell on her knees. She put her arms around his shoulders. Teddy boy, are you all right? Amos and me could both see a perfect print in the shape of my hand welted up on Todd's blubbery cheek. With one quick snatch she had me from under the bed and out on the floor laying down next to Todd. This is how you choose to repay me? Not only have you struck him, you have provoked his asthma!
I was just trying to help. It seemed like he knew some of the same things I know, the things I think of all the time and try to remember so I don't make the same mistake more than seven or eight times. Todd had done that. But this wasn't really a good test because Mrs. Amos had her ears set to believe anything Todd said.
In her eyes Todd's mouth was a prayer book. But I can't blame Todd for lying like that, having someone who likes you so much that they think everything you say is the truth has got to be a liar's paradise, that might feel so good it could make you want to quit lying. But maybe not, 'cause Todd hadn't quit lying since the second I came to his house. What had really happened was that I woke up from a good sleep because it felt like a steam locomotive had jumped the tracks and chug-chug-chugged its way straight into my nose.
When I'd jerked up in bed and opened my eyes Todd was standing next to me with a yellow pencil in his hand. He was looking at it like it was a thermometer and said, "Wow!
You got all the way up to R! The whole room smelled like the rubber from the eraser and I was winking and blinking my left eye because it felt like something had poked the back of my eyeball. Todd laughed. I just might enjoy your stay here. Who knows what other things you could be number one in, Buddy?
I didn't care that Todd Amos was twelve years old, I didn't care that he was twice as big as me, and I didn't care that his mother was being paid to take care of me. I wasn't about to let anybody call me Buddy and stick a pencil up my nose all the way to the R.
I swung as hard as I could at Todd's big balloon head. Somewhere between the time I threw my punch and the time it landed my fist came open and when my hand landed it made a pop like a. Todd fell on the floor like he'd been coldcocked. He sputtered and muttered and felt the spot where I'd slapped him.
Then a big smile came on his face and he stood up and started walking real slow toward where I was on the bed. He untied his robe and dropped it on the floor like he was getting ready to do some hard work. I jumped to the floor and got my fists up. Todd might've been a lot bigger than me but he'd better be ready, this wasn't going to be a bird's nest sitting on the ground for him. He could kiss my wrist if he thought I was going to let him whip me up without a good fight.
Being this brave was kind of stupid. Even though Todd was a puffy, rich old mama's boy who wore a robe and slippers he could hit like a mule and it wasn't too long before I'd decided enough was enough. But the story that Mrs.
Amos was hearing from her lying son was only that Todd had tried to wake me up so I could go to the bathroom. Amos hated bed wetters more than anything in the world and my bed had a sticky, hot, smelly rubber baby sheet on it.
She'd said it wasn't anything personal and after I had proved myself for two or three months I could get a proper cloth sheet but until then she had to protect her mattress. She pulled Todd to his feet and led him to the door. She looked over at me. Who knows what you would be capable of while we slept?
I plugged the right side of my nose and tried real hard to blow the smell of rubber out of the left side. The key jiggled in the lock again. This time when the door opened Mr.
Amos was standing with Mrs. He was carrying my suitcase. Uh-oh, they'd looked inside. I could tell because the twine that held it together was tied in a kind of knot that I didn't know.
This was wrong. They'd promised they'd keep it safe and not look in it. They'd laughed at me when I made them promise: Amos said, "I am not the least bit surprised at your show of ingratitude.
Lord knows I have been stung by my own people before. But take a good look at me because I am one person who is totally fed up with you and your ilk. I do not have time to put up with the foolishness of those members of our race who do not want to be uplifted. I am a woman of my word, though, and you shall not spend one night in my house.
Amos will show you to the shed tonight and you can come back in tomorrow for breakfast before you go. I do hope your conscience plagues you because you may have ruined things for many others. I do not know if I shall ever be able to help another child in need, I do know I shall not allow vermin to attack my poor baby in his own house. Shucks, she talked strange like this and she wasn't even a librarian.
I only halfway listened to what Mrs. Amos was saying, I was too busy keeping my eye on my suitcase wondering if they'd stolen anything from it. And thinking about getting even. When I thought she was done talking I reached my hand out for my suitcase but she told Mr. Amos, "Oh, no.
He is far too attached to those treasures to go anywhere without them. Amos was one of those grown-ups who could always think of one more thing to say. Before you retire to the shed you shall go to Todd and apologize or I shall be forced to give you the strapping of your life.
Amos's hand. She didn't have to worry, I'd apologize. One beating from these Amoses was enough for me. She grabbed my arm. Amos walked out of the room with my suitcase, and Mrs. Amos pulled me down the hall to Todd's room.
We stood outside the door listening to Todd groan. When Mr. Amos came back, my suitcase was gone. He'd been so quick that I knew my bag couldn't be too far away. She tapped on Todd's door and said, "Teddy, may we come in? Finally he said, "Yes, Mother'-choke He scooched up to the headboard and wrapped his arms around his head.
Amos gave me a shake and said, "Well? I aimed at Todd first. I know you were only trying to help and I'm very sorry for what I did. I'm sorry that I got you out of your sleep. Amos was going to be the hardest because just like her ears were set to believe everything that came out of Todd's lips they were set not to believe anything I said. And if I didn't lie good enough she was going to use that strap on me. These Amoses might look like a bunch of cream puffs but if she was anything like Todd I bet she could pack a real wallop.
Amos, I'm so grateful for all of your help. And I'm really, really sorry" I looked up and could see she needed more. Please don't call the Home, please don't send me back. I stopped talking and gave Mrs. Amos a chance to jump right in. She held her hand up in my face and said, "Enough. Amos, give him the blanket and pillow off the bed he was in and put him in the shed. The last kid who got put in there got stung so bad he was swollen up as big as a whale when we got him out in the morning.
All that's left is that big puddle of his blood on the floor. Isn't that right, Mother? Amos said, "Now, Teddy, hush up, you'll just tire yourself out more. As I followed Mr. Amos I kept a shaip eye out for my suitcase. When we got to the kitchen the first thing I saw was that there was a double- barreled shotgun leaning against the side of the icebox.
I didn't have time to wonder why they'd be so scared they'd keep a big gun like that out in the open because I spotted my suitcase slid way under the kitchen table! I didn't let Mr. Amos know I'd seen it, but it did make me get a lot calmer. We went out of the back kitchen door and down the steps into the dark. We walked around to the back of the shed and he put a key in a padlock. A chain rattled, the lock came off and the door creaked open.
Even though it was nighttime there was a whole different, scarier kind of dark in the shed. A colder dark with more grays and more shadows. A old smell leaked out and it seemed like it was the perfect smell that all this gray would have.
Amos nudged me and I took a baby step into the shed. He could kiss my wrist if he thought I was going to beg him and say things like "I'll do anything you folks ask me if you don't lock me up in here all alone. I stood a little bit inside and looked around. Right under the window was a pile of stacked wood. There were a bunch of dusty spiderwebs in front of the little window and someone had pasted old yellow newspapers over the glass so the kids who got locked in here couldn't peek out.
Amos handed me the blanket and pillow and gave me another nudge. I took two more baby steps in. I looked down at the floor. If I was like a normal kid I would've busted out crying, but I just stood there breathing hard. It was a good thing I'd bit my tongue, because I came real close to saying those stupid begging words to Mr. Right in the middle of the floor there was a big black stain in the dirt! They really were going to make me sleep in a shed with a patch of blood from that kid who had disappeared out of here a couple of weeks ago!
The floor went completely black when Mr. Amos pulled the door shut. I couldn't see it now, but I'd re-memorized the exact shape the stain was in. The padlock snapped shut with the loudest click I'd ever heard. It was so loud that it sounded like there were six scared people locked up in the shed. I closed my eyes and thought real hard about making my breathing slow down. Pretty soon it sounded like the five other breathers in the shed had left. I was still scared but now it was that get-real excited-and-want-to-move- around kind of scared.
It didn't take too long for my eyes to get used to the dark. There was a gray gas can in one corner next to a bunch of gray rakes and a pile of gray rags, and a gray tire next to some gray fishing poles. Maybe Mr. Amos had only pretended to lock the door.
I reached my hand toward the gray doorknob and quick as that I went from kind of calm to being in that stand-in-one-place-with-spit-drooling-down-the- front-of-y our- shirt kind of scared. Halfway up the door were three little flat monster heads guarding the doorknob.
Each head had two little round eyes staring right at me. The eyes were the only thing in the shed that weren't gray. They were a bright yellow with a big black spot right in the middle. I dropped my blanket and pillow and back-stepped until my legs hit the woodpile behind me. From all the fast breathing going on you'da thought the five other scared people had come back and brought a couple of scared friends with them.
Each head had a wide-open mouth with a sharp set of pointy teeth and lips smiling back ready to bite. It felt like the shed was getting smaller and smaller and the little mouths were getting closer and closer.
Then I knew what I was looking at. The doorknob guards were three dried-out fish heads that someone had nailed to the door. I ran over to the pile of rags and poked at one of them with my shoe to make sure there weren't any rats or centipedes hiding under it, then I picked it up and hung it over the fish heads so I couldn't see them and they couldn't see me. I picked up my blanket and pillow and had to decide what was the best way to sleep.
I knew the door was no good, I'da bet all sorts of bugs and roaches were crawling around. I remember what happened to my best friend, Bugs, when a cockroach crawled in his ear one night at the Home. Four grown folks had held Bugs down whilst they tried to pull it out with a pair of tweezers but the only thing that they did was pull the roach's back legs off. When they were digging around in Bugs's ears with the tweezers you'd've thought they were pulling his legs off, not some cockroach's, I'd never heard a kid scream that loud.
After about fifteen minutes of Bugs screaming the joint down they said they were going to have to take him to the emergency room to get the roach out.
It was almost morning when Bugs got back. Everyone was asleep except me. I waited until they put him in his bed and turned off the lights. I said, "Did they get it out?
Yeah, they got him. I said, "Loud how? What'd he say? My legs! Why have they done this to my legs? I'd bet a thousand dollars that there were roaches on the floor of this shed, just waiting to crawl in someone's ear. And I'd bet those Amoses wouldn't' ve even tried to pull the roach out, and who knows how long I'd've had to listen to some terrified roach screaming his head off right up against my eardrum? I spread the blanket on top of the woodpile and climbed up on it.
This put me so I was even with the window. I took a piece of bark and brushed all the spiderwebs from in front of the window, then I put my hand on the glass to see if the newspaper was pasted on from the inside or the outside.
I touched paper. I spread my fingers and my hand looked like a yellow-jacket bumblebee, bright yellow with black stripes. This was a great place to have shadow puppets so I made my hand be a wolf and a dog and a duck. After while that got to be pretty boring so I scraped at the paper with my fingernails so I could see outside, but I like to keep my nails bit down real low and the paper didn't budge. I took out my jack knife and tried scraping the newspaper with it.
The paper peeled away in little curly yellow strips like that stuff rich people throw on New Year's Eve. I finally got a hole big enough to look out and mashed my eye up against the glass. I could see the back of the Amos house real clean. There was a light on. That had to be Mr. Amos's bedroom. The little bit of light that came through the hole in the paper made me get calm enough that I could lay my head on my pillow and take a nap.
The next thing I noticed made me wish I'd stayed asleep. Up at the very top of the shed was the biggest vampire bat you'd ever see! He was hanging upside down asleep, but the smell of me rising up to him would probably wake him up at any minute! I reached over to the window and tried to slide it open. It budged an inch.
I rolled off the woodpile and crawled toward the door with the fish head guards. I reached my hand up and the doorknob turned!
Amos was trying to help me! But after the door opened a crack the padlock and chain on the outside held it tight. I looked back up into the rafters to see if the bat had woke up.
He was still sound asleep. Just like there's a time that a smart person knows enough is enough, there's a time when you know you've got to fight. I wasn't about to let this vampire suck my blood dry without a war, he could kiss my wrist if he thought that was going to happen. I got up off my knees and picked up the gray rake. I walked over to the woodpile cool as a cucumber.
But inside, every part of my guts was shaking. I stood up on the woodpile and held the rake like it was a Louisville Slugger. I eyed where the bat was sleeping and revved the rake like I was going to hit a four-hundred-foot home run. Shucks, I couldn't remember for sure if you killed a vampire by driving a stake in its heart or by shooting it with a silver bullet!
If I was wrong and didn't kill the bat right away I was going to be trapped in the shed with a vampire who was probably going to be real upset that someone had woke him up by whacking him with a rake.
I took my jackknife out of my pocket and pulled the blade open. That way if I didn't kill him with the rake and it came down to the two of us tussling on the floor maybe a silver blade in his heart would be just as good as a silver bullet. Unless that was what you had to do with werewolves. I raised the rake over my head again, closed my eyes and swung it like I was Paul Bunyan chopping down a tree with one blow.
I felt the rake jerk a little when it hit the bat and I opened my eyes just in time to see the vampire get cut right in half. I was kind of surprised it didn't scream or cry or say, "Curses, you got me! The next sound I heard was even worse than if the vampire had said, "Aha, you doggone kid, that hurt, but now I get my revenge!
All of a sudden it felt like someone had stuck a red-hot nail right into my left cheek. My hand reached up to grab my cheek and I felt something creepy and prickly there. I brought my hand back down and it was holding the biggest, maddest hornet I'd ever seen. I squeezed my hand shut to crush it but it got in another sting on my palm. What I'd thought was a vampire bat hanging on the ceiling was really a hornets' nest and now there were about six thousand hornets flying around in the tiny shed and each and every one of them was looking for me!
Another fire-nail went into my knee and a second one went into my sock. Maybe this was why the other kid that they'd found in here had been as big as a whale, he was swollen up from all the hornet stings!
I dropped my shoulder down and charged at the door with all my might. The door banged against the lock but didn't budge a inch. All that happened was the rag I'd covered the fish heads with came off and I got bounced back and landed square on the floor. I jumped up again. This time when I charged at the door I put my hand out like Paul Robeson running down the football field. This wasn't a real good idea, I forgot all about the fish-head door guards. My fingers went right into the mouth of the biggest one and his little needle teeth cut me like a razor.
I pulled my hand back and screamed. Another hornet buzzed into my ear and it felt like someone had poured hot wax right down into my brain. The only thing I could think to do was jump on the woodpile and bust the glass out of the window. I grabbed the handles of the window and gave them one more jerk. I guess being scared gives you a lot of strength because this time the window flew open with a loud bang.
Three hornets found me at the same time and all four of us fell out of the window. As soon as we hit the ground I rolled as far away from the shed as I could go. I smacked and whacked the hornets that had taken a ride on me and just laid there until I could catch my breath. After while the stings and the fish-guard bite quit hurting so much.
I started getting madder and madder. I was mad at the Amoses, but most of all I was mad at me for believing there really was a vampire in the shed and for getting trapped like this where there wasn't anybody who cared what happened to me. I simmered down and started thinking about getting even. I wondered how hard I'd have to pull the trigger in that double-barrel shotgun for it to go off. I sneaked up the back porch steps to get inside the house. It slid open with just a couple of squeaks, then I was inside the Amos house crouched down like a cat burglar, Quick as a rabbit I looked under the table to see if they'd moved my suitcase.
It was still there, I got a whole lot calmer when I picked it up and it was the right weight, I didn't think they'd taken anything out of it. I couldn't be sure until I looked inside but I could do that later. I took in a deep breath and looked over at the icebox to see if the shotgun was still there.
I let all the air out in a big puff when I saw it. Shucks, you'd think that with the Amoses being so doggone mean they'd worry about leaving a big old gun like that out in the open. What if one of their visitors got real mad at them about something? I unlocked the back door and set my suitcase on the first step of the porch, so I could make a quick getaway after I was through paying these Amoses back. I opened the screen door real quiet and went back into the house.
Fair is fair. The Amoses deserved what they were going to get. I can't all the way blame Todd for giving me trouble, though. If I had a regular home with a mother and father I wouldn't be too happy about other kids living in my house either. Being unhappy about it is one thing, but torturing the kids who are there even though they don't want to be is another. It was my job to make sure other kids who didn't know where their mothers and fathers were didn't have to put up with Todd. My heart started jumping around in my stomach as soon as I reached out for the shotgun.
It was a lot longer and heavier than I thought it would be. I lifted it and felt how solid the smooth brown wood was against my shoulder. With it up close to my face like this I could smell the gray metal of the barrel and the gun oil Mr. Amos used on it. I aimed the gun at the stove and pretended I was shooting at a elephant or a dragon or a tiger, or best of all, Todd! I imagined how it would feel to creep up to his bed while he was sleeping and put the shotgun barrel right in his nose.
After that I'd have to do some quick moving to get the grown-up Amoses. Unless they were real sound sleepers the shotgun going off in Todd's room would give them a clue that something was going on. I lowered the gun. These things were just too dangerous to play with or to take chances with, that's why the first part of my revenge plan was to get this gun out of the way. If something went wrong and the Amoses woke up I didn't want them rushing down to the kitchen to get the gun.
I knew they'd shoot me in a flash and tell the Home it was an accident. I took the gun outside and put it on the back porch in a corner where they wouldn't be able to see it until daytime. I felt a lot better when it was out of my hands. When I was back in the kitchen I started opening cupboards looking for the drinking glasses. The first one I opened had the jelly jar they'd given me to drink out of at suppertime.
I walked over to the sink and turned on one of the spigots. These Amoses had hot water running right into the house! I let it run for a second to warm up and put a dishrag in the bottom of the sink so the splashing wasn't too loud. When the water was good and hot I stuck the jelly jar underneath until it was filled to the brim.
I started down the hall. Todd's door came open easy as anything. I tiptoed over to his bed. He was deep asleep and his hands were crossed on his chest like he was ready for the graveyard. I dipped my middle finger in the water. It felt like the perfect temperature. I held my breath and picked up one of Todd's chubby hands.
One of the older boys at the Home told me if you dipped someone's hand in a warm glass of water whilst they're asleep they don't have any choice but to pee the bed. It's something about chemistry and biology making some valve in your guts open up and I started to dip Todd's fingers in the water.
But I couldn't dip more than two fingers at a time. Todd's bed stayed as dry as the desert. I tried holding Todd's hand flat and pouring water over it but he still didn't wet the bed. Finally I decided to just pour the water on his pajama pants. I pulled the blanket and sheet down and emptied the jar.
His face twitched a couple of times and for a minute it looked like his eyes were going to come open but they stayed shut. He smiled and the warm water from the jelly jar opened that little valve up and I tiptoed out of the room and down the hall and out the door. Every time my heart beat I could feel the blood pushing hot and hard on the inside of my sting spots and the bite on my hand.
But I couldn't let that slow me down, I had to get out of this neighborhood as quick as I could. I knew a nervous-looking, stung-up kid with blood dripping from a fish-head bite and carrying a old raggedy suitcase didn't look like he belonged around here.
The only hope I had was the north side library. If I got there maybe Miss Hill would be able to help me, maybe she'd understand and would be able to tell me what to do. And for now I could sneak into the library's basement to sleep. It was a lot later than I'd ever been up before and I was kind of scared of the cops catching me.
I had to be real careful, even if it was the middle of the night, even if I was crouching down, sneaking along the street like Pretty Boy Floyd. At the library I walked past a row of giant Christmas trees that were planted on the side of the building. There was a door on the side with a light burning above it so I kept walking in the shadows made by the big trees.
When I got to the back windows, I almost busted out crying. Somebody had gone and put big metal bars on the windows. Even though I knew it was useless I tried tugging at the bars but they were the real McCoy, solid steel.
I headed back to the Christmas trees. They were low enough to the ground that no one could see me unless they were really looking, so I started opening my suitcase. Most folks don't have sense enough to carry a blanket around with them, but you never know when you might be sleeping under a Christmas tree at the library so I always keep mine handy.
I untied the strange knots that the Amoses had put in my twine and opened the suitcase. I could tell right away that someone had been fumbling through my things. First off, whenever I put the blanket in, I always fold it so that it stops all the other things from banging up against each other, but those doggone Amoses had just stuffed it in without paying no mind to what it was mashing up against.
I lifted the blanket out and saw that everything else was still there. You might be able to say that the Amoses were some mean old nosy folks, but you couldn't call them thieves. I picked up the old tobacco bag that I keep my rocks in.
I could tell by the way the drawstring was pulled that the Amoses had been poking through this too. I jiggled it up and down in my hand a couple of times and it felt like none of the rocks was missing but I opened it to count them anyway. None of them was gone.
Next I pulled Momma's picture out of the envelope I kept it in and held it so the light from the Library's side door would shine down on it. It looked like the Amoses hadn't hurt it. This was the only picture of Momma in the world. Underneath the sign, between two big wagon wheels, was Momma. She was about as old as I am now and was looking down and frowning.
I can't understand why she was so unhappy, this park looked like the kind of place where you could have a lot of fun. In the picture Momma was sitting on a real live little midget horse. It looked tired and dragged out like those big workhorses do, but it had a teeny-tiny body with a big sag where most horses have a straight back. Momma was sitting right in the middle of the horse's back, riding him sidesaddle, except there wasn't any saddle so I guess you have to say she was riding him side-sag.
She had two six-shooter pistols in her hands and the way her face looked you could tell she wished she could've emptied them on somebody. And I know who that somebody was. Momma told me it was her father, my granddad. He'd gone and ruined everybody's fun that day by getting in a big fight with my mother about the gigantic white twenty-five-gallon Texas cowboy hat that she was wearing. Momma used to tell me, "That hardheaded man insisted, insisted mind you, that I wear that horrible hat.
Momma told me that some man used to drag the midget horse all through her neighborhood with a camera and if your momma or daddy signed a piece of paper he'd take some pictures of you, then come back in a couple of weeks so you could download them. Momma wasn't looking like she had rocks in her jaw because the hat was so fake that a real cowboy would've laughed you out of town for wearing it, she was mad because the hat was so dirty. When she used to tell me about it her eyes would get big and bunny, like the whole thing happened the day before yesterday instead of all those years ago.
She'd start moving around our apartment real quick, picking things up and putting them back in the exact same spot. Why, the thing was positively alive with germs! Who knows what type of people had worn it? To this day I cannot understand why, but he insisted, insisted Me and Momma having the same conversations lots of times is one of the main things I can remember about her now. Maybe that's because when she'd tell me these things she used to squeeze my arms and look right hard in my face to make sure I was listening, but maybe I remember them because those arm- squeezing, face-looking times were the only times that things slowed down a little bit when Momma was around.
Everything moved very, very fast when Momma was near, she was like a tornado, never resting, always looking around us, never standing still. The only time stuff didn't blow around when she was near was when she'd squeeze my arms and tell me things over and over and over and over.
She had four favorite things to tell me, one of them was about the picture and another one was about my name. She'd say, "Bud is your name and don't you ever let anyone call you anything outside of that either.
I knew what I was doing, Buddy is a dog's name or a name that someone's going to use on you if they're being false-friendly. Your name is Bud, period. A flower-in- waiting. Waiting for just the right warmth and care to open up.
It's a little fist of love waiting to unfold and be seen by the world. And that's you. She'd tell me, "These things I'm going to explain to you later will be a great help for you. I should've known then that I was in for a lot of trouble.
It's funny how now that I'm ten years old and just about a man I can see how Momma was so wrong. Even if I was too young back then I could've rememorized them and used them when I did need help, like right now. She was also wrong when she thought I'd understand that nonsense about doors closing and opening all by themselves. Back then it really scared me because I couldn't see what one door closing had to do with another one opening unless there was a ghost involved. All her talk made me start jamming a chair up against my closet door at night.
But now that I'm almost grown I see Momma wasn't talking about doors opening to let ghosts into your bedroom, she meant doors like the door at the Home closing leading to the door at the Amoses' opening and the door in the shed opening leading to me sleeping under a tree getting ready to open the next door.
I checked out the other things in my suitcase and they seemed OK. I felt a lot better. Right now I was too tired to think anymore so I closed my suitcase, put the proper knots back in the twine, crawled under the Christmas tree and wrapped myself in the blanket.
I'd have to wake up real early if I wanted to get to the mission in time for breakfast, if you were one minute late they wouldn't let you in for food. My eyes opened and I could see the sun behind the branch of a Christmas tree. I jumped up, folded my blanket inside my suitcase, hid it and started running the six or seven blocks down to the mission. I turned the corner and said, "Whew! I started walking along the line.
The end was a lot farther away than I thought. The line turned all the way around two corners, then crossed over one street before I saw the last person. I walked up to get behind him. He said, "Line's closed. These here fouls are the last ones. I said, "But sir I' He said, "But nothing. Line's closed. These here folks are the last ones. If I didn't get any food now I'd have to steal something out of someone's garbage or I wouldn't be able to eat until the mission opened for supper.
The line closes at seven o'clock. How's it fair to these people who been here since five o'clock that you can sleep until" — he looked at his wristwatch— "until seven-fifteen, then come busting down here expecting to eat? You think you got some kind of special privilege just 'cause you're skinny and raggedy? Look in the line, there's lots of folks look just like you, you ain't the worst. Now get out of here before 1 get rough with you.
I said. Uh-oh, here we go again. He said. You rotten kids today don't listen to no one, but I'm a show you something that'll improve your hearing. I was wrong when I said being hungry for a day is about as bad as it can get, being hungry plus having a big knot on your head from a black leather strap would be even worse.
I backed away but only got two steps before I felt a giant warm hand wrap around my neck from behind. I looked up to see whose doggone hand was so doggone big and why they'd put it around my neck.
A very tall, square-shaped man in old blue overalls looked down at me and said, "Clarence, what took you so long? I walked over to where she was and she gave me a good hard smack on the head.
Shucks, for someone who was just pretending to be my momma she sure did slap me a good one. I said, "Ow! When the overall man got back in line I said, "Thank you, sir, I really tried to get. She looked at the people direct behind us and said, "Mercy, when they get to be this age I was grateful to these people, but I wished they'd quit popping me in the head, and it seems like with all the names in the world they could've come up with a better one for me than Clarence. I stood in line with my pretend family for a long, long time.
Everybody was very quiet about standing in line, even my pretend brother and sister and all the other kids. When we finally got around the last comer and could see the door and folks going in it seemed like a bubble busted and people started laughing and talking.
The main thing people were talking about was the great big sign that was hanging over the building. It showed a gigantic picture of a family of four rich white people sitting in a car driving somewhere.
You could tell it was a family 'cause they all looked exactly alike. The only difference amongst them was that the daddy had a big head and a hat and the momma had the same head with a woman's hat and the girl had two big yellow pigtails coming out from above her ears.
They all had big shiny teeth and big shiny eyes and big shiny cheeks and big shiny smiles. Shucks, you'd need to squint your eyes if that shiny family drove anywhere near you.
You could tell they were rich 'cause the car looked like it had room for eight or nine more people in it and 'cause they had movie star clothes on. The woman was wearing a coat with a hunk of fur around the neck and the man was wearing a suit and a tie and the kids looked like they were wearing ten-dollar- apiece jackets. My pretend daddy read it and said, "Uh-uh-uh, well, you got to give them credit, you wouldn't expect that they'd have the nerve to come down here and tell the truth.
The first thing you noticed when you got inside was how big the place was, and how many people were in it and how quiet it was.
The only sound you could hear was when someone scraped a spoon across the bottom of their bowl or pulled a chair in or put one back or when the people in front of you dragged their feet on the floor moving up to where they were spooning out the food. After we'd picked up our spoons and bowls a lady dug a big mess of oatmeal out of a giant pot and swopped it down into our bowls. She smiled and said, "I hope you enjoy? Then a man put two pieces of bread and a apple and a big glass of milk on your tray and said, "Please read the signs to your children.
Thank you. My pretend daddy read the signs to my pretend brother and sister and we all sat at a long table with strangers on both sides of us. The oatmeal was delicious! I poured some of my milk into it so it wouldn't be so lumpy and mixed it all together. My pretend mother opened her pocketbook and took out a little brown envelope.
She reached inside of it and sprinkled something on my pretend brother's and sister's oatmeal, then said to them, "I know that's not as much as you normally get, but I wanted to ask you if you minded sharing some with Clarence. My pretend mother said, "Good," and emptied the rest of the envelope over my oatmeal.
Brown sugar! Shucks, I didn't even mind them calling me Clarence anymore. I said "Thank you, Momma, ma'am. After we'd finished all our food we put our bowls up and I thanked my pretend family again, I asked them, "Are you going to be coming back for supper?
But you make sure you get here plenty early, you hear? I watched them walking away. My pretend brother looked back at me and stuck out his tongue, then reached up and took my pretend mother's hand. I couldn't really blame him, I don't think I'd be real happy about sharing my brown sugar and my folks with any strange kids either.
The air in the library isn't like the air anywhere else, first it's always cooler than the air outside, it feels like you're walking into a cellar on a hot July day, even if you have to walk up a bunch of stairs to get into it. The next thing about the air in the library is that no other place smells anything like it.
If you close your eyes and try to pick out what it is that you're sniffing you're only going to get confused, because all the smells have blended together and turned themselves into a different one. As soon as I got into the library I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
I got a whiff of the leather on all the old books, a smell that got real strong if you picked one of them up and stuck your nose real close to it when you turned the pages. Then there was the smell of the cloth that covered the brand-new books, the books that made a splitting sound when you opened them. Then I could sniff the paper, that soft, powdery, drowsy smell that comes off the pages in little puffs when you're reading something or looking at some pictures, a kind of hypnotizing smell.
I think it's that smell that makes so many folks fall asleep in the library. You'll see someone turn a page and you can imagine a puff of page powder coming up really slow and easy until it starts piling on the person's eye- lashes, weighing their eyes down so much that they stay down a little longer after each blink and finally making them so heavy that they just don't come back up at all.
Then their mouths come open and their heads start bouncing up and down like they're bobbing in a big tub of water for apples and before you know it, That's the part that gets the librarians the maddest, they get real upset if folks start drooling in the books and, page powder or not, they don't want to hear no excuses, you gotta get out. Drooling in the books is even worse than laughing out loud in the library, and even though it might seem kind of mean, you can't really blame the librarians for tossing drooly folks out 'cause there's nothing worse than opening a book and having the pages all stuck together from somebody's dried-up slobber.
I opened my eyes to start looking for Miss Hill. She wasn't at the lending desk so I left my suitcase with the white lady there. I knew it would be safe. I walked between the stacks to see if Miss Hill was putting books up. Three doggone times I walked through the library, upstairs and down, and couldn't find her. I went back up to the librarian at the lending desk. I waited until she looked up at me. She smiled and said, "Yes? Would you like to retrieve your suitcase? I said, "Not yet, ma'am, could I ask you a question?
My goodness, hadn't you heard? It seems like the answer to "Haven't you heard" always has something to do with someone kicking the bucket. And not kicking the bucket in a calm, peaceful way like a heart attack at home in bed either, it usually is some kind of dying that will make your eyes buck out of your head when you hear about it, it's usually the kind of thing that will run you out of a room with your hands over your ears and your mouth wide open.
Something like hearing that your grandmother got her whole body pulled through the wringer on a washing machine, or something like hearing about a horse slipping on the ice and landing on some kid you went to school with. I answered, "No, ma'am," and got my stomach ready to hear about Miss Hill biting the dust in some way that was going to give me nightmares. The librarian said, "There's no need for you to look so stricken. It's not bad news, young man. Unless you had matrimonial plans concerning Miss Hill.
I said, "No, ma'am, I didn't plan that at all. Chariemae Miss Hill is currently living in Chicago, Illinois.
You mean she got married, ma'am? She thumbed through a couple of pages and said, "Here we are. Let's check the distance. She showed me how to find Chicago on the line that was running across the page and Flint on the line that was running down the page and then to look at the number that was writ where the two of them joined up.
It said She pulled a pencil out and said, "OK, this is how one figures the amount of time required to walk to Chicago. Now—" She pulled a third book out. Shucks, this is one of the bad things about talking to librarians, I asked one question and already she had us digging through three different books. She thumbed through the book until she said, "Aha, it says here that the average male human gait is five miles an hour.
OK, assuming that you could cover five miles an hour, all we have to do is divide two hundred seventy by five. Much too long to be practical. No, I'm afraid you'll simply have to wait until Mrs. Rollins comes back to Flint for a visit. Chicago might as well be a million miles away from Flint and Miss Hill might as well be a squashed, crunched-up mess in a washing machine when it came down to helping me now.
I thanked the librarian for the bad news and went to sit at one of the big heavy tables so I could think what to do next. Going back to the Home was out, it used to be that we'd get a new kid every once in a while, but lately it seems like there's a couple of new kids every day, mostly babies, and they're most always sick.
It's not like it was when I first got there, shucks, half the folks that run it don't even tell you their name and don't remember yours unless you're in trouble all the time or getting ready to move out. After while I got my suitcase and walked into the regular air and stinking smells of Flint. That library door closing after I walked out was the exact kind of door Momma had told me about.
I knew that since it had closed the next one was about to open. I went back under my tree and before I knew it I was asleep. As soon as the twig cracked my eyes snapped open and I was wide awake. I held my breath and kept as still as I could.
Whatever it was that was sneaking up on me knew I'd woked up 'cause it stopped moving and kept as still as it could too. Even though my head was still under my blanket, I could feel two eyes staring at me real hard, and I knew these weren't critter eyes, these eyes made the hair on the back of my neck raise up the way only human beings eyes can do. Without wiggling or jiggling around too much under my blanket I got my fingers wrapped around my jack- knife.
Right when I was ready to push the covers off of me and start running or stabbing, whoever it was that had been watching jumped right on top of me. I was as frapped as a roach under a dishrag! I tried to guess the exact spot that the person's heart was at, then pulled my knife back. A voice said, "If you ain't a kid called Bud from the Home I'm really sorry about jumping on you like this! When I tried to talk it felt like I had to suck all the air out of Flint, I finally got breathing right and said, "Doggone it, Bugs, it is me!
You nearly scared me to death! He said, "I'm sorry, Bud, I didn't mean to scare you, but everybody knows how you like to sleep with that knife open so I figured I'd best grab hold of you so's you wouldn't wake up slicing nobody. I asked, "How come you aren't back at the Home? I'm going back to riding the rails. When I heard about you beating that kid up so bad that you had to take off I figured it was time for me to get going too.
I thought you might be hanging around the library so I come down to see if you wanted to go with me. There's supposed to be a train leaving sometime tomorrow. Did you really beat that kid up in the foster home? How long's it take to get out west? Was he really two years older than you? When he wakes up, Bud sees a vampire bat sleeping upside down above him.
He decides he is not going to let this bat bite him, so he gets a rake and is about to take swing at it. While he's getting ready to hit the bat, Bud remembers the three hundred and twenty eighth rule of Bud Caldwell's Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself: when you make up your mind to do something, hurry up and do it… Bud swings and slices the bat in half but notices it sounds funny, like "paper rubbing together" 3.
Oh, Bud, that wasn't a bat; that was a hornets' nest. A buzzing sound erupts, and Bud feels a sting on his cheek. He reaches up and pulls off a hornet.
The hornet stings his palm when he tries to squish it. Bud gets stung all over his body and thinks this is probably why the last boy they locked in the shed was so swollen up. He tries the door but his finger gets bitten by a fish head.
To save himself, Bud breaks through the window and kills the last few hornets that are on him. After he calms down, Bud gets mad.