Ten-year-old Bud Caldwell is on the lam. Running from the barren, impersonal confines of a 1930s orphanage and a stupidly cruel and dysfunctional foster home, he is off on a search for his birth father.
All Bud has in the world he carries in a battered suitcase which he guards with his life. There is a picture of his mother, some stones she treasured, a blanket, and the only clue to his father, a blue flyer advertising Herman E. Calloway and the Dusky Devastators of the Depression, a jazz band working out of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Bud's journey is sometimes a matter of two steps forward and three steps back, but with the help of some new friends who pop up along the way, he finally arrives at Grand Calloway Station, home of the man he knows must be his father. What Bud finds there is not what he expected; in some ways, it is even better.
(The entire section is 157 words.)
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Chapter 1 Summary
Bud, Not Buddy is the story of a ten-year-old black boy who is trying to find his family in Flint, Michigan, during the Great Depression.
As the story opens, Bud is at the Home, a place for orphaned children. He and his friend Jerry stand in line as the caseworker enters. The woman stops in front of the two boys to say that each will be placed in foster care in different homes. Bud will stay with a family that has a son older than he is, and Jerry will live with a family that has three daughters.
This is not a new experience for Bud, and he dreads having to move from the Home yet again.
The caseworker reminds the boys that they are in the midst of a depression and that they should be thankful that these families will take them in. The boys gather their belongings. Bud, who narrates the story, remembers that this will be his third foster home. He does not struggle with tears as Jerry does; Bud, in fact, believes he has forgotten how to cry. Bud also has no illusions about his foster care situation. He knows he will have to prove himself to the older boy, who will probably want to fight him.
Bud is sensitive to the needs of others. He is worried about Jerry, who is only six, because his experience in the foster care system has taught him that moving around at six is hard. Bud has learned that life for a foster child is particularly difficult and that it is not uncommon to be hit or punched by foster family members.
Bud finds that humor helps him cope. Throughout the story, Bud will continue to look to his sense of humor to keep things in perspective.
Bud gathers his suitcase, something of which he takes special care: it hold his most precious belongings. Under the blanket inside, with his other “treasures,” there is a blue flyer that has information about Herman E. Calloway, a musician. Bud believes this flyer holds a clue about who his father is. He remembers that this paper upset his mother when she first found it, and it was not long after he found her dead in her bedroom.
Finally prepared, the two boys sit on the edge of a bed to wait, shoulders touching. Neither speaks; they each wait quietly to see what the future holds for them.
(The entire section is 405 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Bud’s time in his foster home has begun much as he predicted: the Amoses’ son, Todd, is beating Bud badly. When Mrs. Amos comes into the room, she watches as Todd changes his kicking foot. Instead of stopping him, she says his name softly. Todd goes through a sudden transformation and starts to pretend he is having an asthma attack.
Between breaths, Todd lies to his mother, saying that he had only tried to wake Bud to make sure he went to the bathroom—Mrs. Amos hates bed wetters. The mark of Bud’s palm across the side of Todd’s face is enough to prove to Mrs. Amos that Todd is the victim, despite the blood flowing from Bud’s nose. Bud realizes that Todd is a very good liar.
Bud starts mentally goes over the list he has made up to keep from repeating his mistakes. He calls it Bud Caldwell’s Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself. Todd seems to know Bud’s Rule 3, which is to make sure that your lie is simple enough to remember. Bud notes that it does not count for much because Mrs. Amos is bound to listen to anything Todd tells her anyway. Bud’s perception of Mrs. Amos is quite accurate; she does not consider what she has seen at all.
For a moment, Bud pauses to recall how the problem began. Bud had been sleeping when he felt a pain in his nose. He woke up to see Todd standing over him with a pencil in his hand, congratulating Bud because the pencil had gone up his nose to the R in Ticonderoga. Without thinking, Bud smacked Todd across the face. Todd, with a wicked gleam in his eyes and diabolical smile on his face, crossed the room to retaliate. Bud quickly concludes that being brave is great in principal, but because Todd hits like a mule, Bud tires quickly of being brave and curls himself into a small ball much like a turtle with his head tucked inside his shell. This was where Mrs. Amos walked in.
Mrs. Amos helps Todd to his feet and declares that Bud will not spend another night in their house. She soon comes back with Mr. Amos, who has Bud’s suitcase. This causes Bud to grow concerned: he can tell they have opened it because they retied it differently, and he fears something may be missing.
Mrs. Amos declares how awful Bud is. She warns that he may have ruined it for other potential foster children to stay with her. She promises to return Bud to the Home in the morning; he will spend the night...
(The entire section is 678 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
Bud is alone in the dark shed behind the Amoses’ house. Frightened, he tries to make out what is inside. He is sure he can see the glowing eyes of three “monsters” next to the shed’s door knob. In the limited light from the house, Bud is able to see that the creatures are really fish heads that have been nailed to the wall. He hangs an old rag over them so they cannot scare him.
Bud does not want to lay on the floor—he is sure there are bugs. He recalls a friend who had a cockroach stuck in his ear. Everyone tried to get it out while Bud’s friend screamed. Eventually, the people at the Home had to take the boy to the emergency room. This was when Bud’s friend, Bug, got his nickname.
Bud climbs on the woodpile and entertains himself with shadow puppets he can make in the dim light from the house. Then he curls up with the pillow and blanket and soon falls asleep. When Bud wakes a short time later, the lights in the Amoses’ house are off. It is even harder to see now. When Bud looks up, he sees an enormous vampire bat hanging from the ceiling.
Surveying the situation, Bud concedes that there is a time when a smart person knows there is no point in fighting and a time when fighting is absolutely necessary. Bud has no intention of letting a bat get him, so he looks around and decides a nearby rake will serve as a suitable weapon. Referring to Rule 328 ("once you’ve made up your mind to do something, get to it before you have the chance to talk yourself out of it"), Bud attacks.
Bud swings the rake like “Paul Bunyan swinging his axe.” He expects to hear howls of rage from his defeated foe. Instead he hears a loud sound like a buzz saw. The first sting in his cheek reveals the truth: He has not killed a vampire bat. He has disturbed a very large hornets’ nest—and they are far from happy. While they sting him repeatedly, Bud tries, unsuccessfully, to break down the shed’s door. In a panic, Bud changes direction and crashes through the shed’s window onto the ground outside, slapping himself and rolling away from his attackers.
Stung and sore, Bud becomes furious. He is mad not only at the Amoses but at himself for believing there was a bat in the shed and for getting stuck in such a predicament with no one who cares about him to help him out.
With the taste of anger in his mouth and thoughts of revenge in his head, Bud climbs the back steps to enter the...
(The entire section is 466 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
Bud re-enters the Amoses’ house to get revenge and to retrieve his suitcase. The back door is locked, so Bud checks and finds an unlocked window into the kitchen. First, he assures himself that his suitcase is there. Next, Bud finds the shotgun. Before he does anything else, he puts his suitcase on the top step outside so that he can make a swift escape if necessary.
Bud proceeds with his plan to punish the Amos family, but his sense of fair play will not allow him to blame Todd for resenting Bud’s presence in his house; Bud might resent someone else if he lived in a nice house and another kid came to stay. At the same time, Bud realizes there is a difference between being unhappy about sharing one’s personal space and torturing the kid who comes to stay.
Bud picks up the shotgun and imagines shooting an elephant or even Todd. He visualizes how it would feel to put the gun up against Todd’s nose. He knows he would have to act quickly to get away. Ironically, even as Bud reflects on these things, he knows the weapon is dangerous and must be hidden so no one gets hurt. He assumes that if he is caught in the house, he might need to worry about the Amoses using the gun on him. Bud decides to put the gun outside on the back porch where it will be hidden by the darkness until the sun comes up.
In the kitchen, Bud looks for a glass and fills it with warm water. One of the boys in the Home told Bud that if a person put someone’s hand in warm water while he was asleep, the sleeper would wet the bed. Bud quietly takes the glass to Todd’s room. The other boy does not wake, but Bud has a problem: Todd’s fingers are so big that Bud cannot get them into the glass, so he pours the water on Todd’s hand. Still nothing happens.
Finally Bud decides to pour the warm water on Todd’s pajama pants. Todd smiles and, finally, wets the bed. Bud laughs quietly then walks out of the house and picks up his suitcase, satisfied that he has exacted the perfect revenge because Mrs. Amos cannot stand bed-wetters. With that, Bud leaves the Amoses behind.
(The entire section is 397 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
Bud is running away from the Amoses. He calls it “being on the lam.” He is aware that he looks out of place, so he decides the safest thing to do is head for the library where Miss Hill, a librarian, might be able to help him. Bud plans to hide in the library’s basement until the building opens. However, when he arrives, he discovers that the windows are covered with bars. With no other options, Bud climbs beneath the low-lying limbs of one of the “Christmas trees” lining the property to stay out of sight.
Bud takes an inventory of his suitcase. The first item is his blanket: never knowing where one will need to sleep, the blanket is an important possession. Bud finds his rocks still in their tobacco bag and also his mother’s picture.
Bud studies the picture yet again, noticing that she was about his age when it was taken: she is posed on the back of a miniature pony dressed in cowboy garb, and she is very unhappy. She told Bud that her father—his grandfather—made her get that picture taken. Looking at that picture made Momma’s eyes get “big and burny.”
One thing Momma insisted on was that Bud knew his name: it was not, nor was it ever meant to be, “Buddy.” She had named him Bud because that was the part of a flower that had not opened yet, like a “flower-in-waiting” that would someday bloom—just like Bud.
Bud’s mom often told him not to worry about the details because she would tell him a lot of things when he got older. He realizes that his mom was not always right: now she is gone, and he figures he will never hear the other things she had promised to share with him.
Momma had also explained that when one door closed, another door would open somewhere else. He did not quite understand this at the time, thinking that if a door opened on its own there had to be a ghost involved. Since then—he is now at the advanced age of ten years—he has realized that she was trying to explain that if one situation did not work out, another opportunity would present itself.
Assured that nothing is missing from his suitcase, Bud snuggles into the blanket. If he wants breakfast at the mission, he has to be up early. If he is one minute late, they will not feed him.
(The entire section is 417 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
When Bud opens his eyes, the sun is shining and he realizes he has overslept. He runs several blocks to the mission, hoping he can still get in line for breakfast.
When he arrives, many people are there before him. When Bud tries to take his place with the others, the man at the end of the line tells the youngster he is too late. Bud tries several times to get him to change his mind, until the man threateningly takes out a black strap, indicating that if he will hit the boy if he does not leave. Bud knows that getting beaten up would be worse than being hungry, and he starts to leave.
Before Bud goes more than a step or two, someone behind him stops him with a firm hand and calls him Clarence. He is asked why he has taken so long. When Bud tries to correct the man about his identity, the man shakes him and asks again what delayed him. Then he tells Bud to take his place with his mom. Looking ahead in the line he sees a woman who calls Clarence over to join her and her two children.
When Bud takes his place, his “mother and father” scold and shake him up as if he is in trouble. Bud figures they do this so the other people who have been waiting so long to eat will not be angry that he is stepping in front of them. Even the two children make fun of him for getting in trouble as if this really was their brother.
Bud stands with his “family” for a long time. No one talks, and everyone waits patiently. The closer they get to the entrance, the more relaxed people become, and they start to chat with each other.
As Bud enters the building, he notices how large it is and how many people there are inside—however, it is also very quiet. The family is served oatmeal, bread, an apple, and some milk. The adults are asked to read the posted signs to the children. The signs ask everyone to refrain from smoking, to eat quickly and quietly, to be thoughtful of others and patient, and to clean up after eating. The last sign apologizes that the mission has no work to offer the unemployed.
Bud finds his meal delicious. It is especially nice when the woman takes a small envelope from her purse and splits the brown sugar in it three ways—after asking her own kids if they would mind sharing. They are not excited about it but say nothing.
When they have finished and clean up, the woman reminds Bud to get in line for dinner early. As the family walks away, their boy turns and...
(The entire section is 491 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
Bud enters the library hoping to find Miss Hill; perhaps she can help him. As always, he notices the smell of the library. It is hard to clearly identify the collection of fragrances that he detects because they are made up of an assortment of odors all mixed together. He closes his eyes and takes a breath: he smells the leather covers of old books, the cloth covers of new books (that creak when opened), and even the paper. Bud surmises that it must be all these scents mixed together that make it so easy for people to fall asleep in the library, which is almost as bad to do as laughing out loud.
Bud starts looking through the building for Miss Hill. He leaves his suitcase at the front desk for safekeeping then walks repeatedly down each aisle, but he cannot find her so he goes back to the lending desk to ask about his missing friend.
The librarian realizes that he must not have heard the news. (One of his rules suggests that “haven’t you heard?” asked by an adult usually means someone has kicked the bucket.) At his stricken look, the librarian smiles and explains that nothing bad has occurred. On the contrary, Miss Hill has married and is now living in Chicago. When Bud asks how far away this is and how long it would take him to get there, the librarian—using some books—does some math and explains it would take Bud fifty-four hours to walk from Flint, Michigan, to Chicago. She advises him that he should wait until Miss Hill, now Mrs. Rollins, comes back to town to visit.
Bud’s disappointment is obvious. He realizes that returning to the Home is out of the question. He does not want to return at all, but he also remembers how things have changed: when he first arrived at the Home, new kids rarely arrived, but now it is very crowded and new kids arrive and depart each day.
After a while, Bud retrieves his suitcase, leaves the library and its smells behind, and walks out into the regular, stinking air of Flint. When the door closes behind him, Bud is reminded of his mother's words about one door closing and another opening: he expects this is one of those situations. He figures he can anticipate another door opening soon.
Bud returns to the Christmas tree, climbs under the branches, and quickly falls asleep.
(The entire section is 410 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
Bud hears a stick snap and is worried that someone is sneaking up on him; he has been sleeping under a tree outside the library. A body crashes into him, but as they tussle, Bud realizes it is his friend Bugs.
Bud asks Bugs why he is not at the Home and Bugs explains that he has left the Home to ride the rails (railroad cars) and has come to see if Bud wants to accompany him. Bugs also asks for the details of Bud’s fight at and flight from the Amos household. Bugs declares Bud is a hero!
As they talk, Bugs explains what it is like to travel by train. Bud believes riding the rails is a fine idea, so they agree to travel together. They spit in their palms and shake hands, sealing the deal and their brotherhood.
The boys go to the mission to find out where they can catch the train. They are directed to a nearby city called Hooverville, but no one is exactly sure where it is. The boys decide to try to find it by following the rails outside of Flint. The smell of food cooking and music playing lead them to the “camp.” There are shacks made of wood, cardboard, and cloth; food is cooking in one pot and clothes are washing in another. Off to the side a third pot is boiling; a small group of White people are sitting around it.
Bugs explains this is a “cardboard jungle,” a place where people stop after traveling the rails to eat and get cleaned up. If they went to town first, they would be chased away. Both boys are nervous about entering unasked, but Bud loses a coin toss so he walks into the camp to question its inhabitants.
Bud is told he is in Hooverville, named for President Hoover, and that there are many such places—all called Hooverville—across the nation for those struggling to survive the depression. The camps are mostly made up of men and boys, but there are a few women and girls. The people around the larger fire welcome the boys, encouraging them to eat and rest in exchange for helping with clean up later.
The boys enjoy a delicious meal. Afterward they go down to the water to wash the dishes (tin cans and old spoons). Bud meets Deza Malone, who tells him she does not think he is old or experienced enough to ride the rails. Deza is sorry that Bud has lost his mom. Bud explains that his mom told him that no matter what happened, she would always be with him. Deza observes that Bud seems to carry his family around in his suitcase, which he cannot deny....
(The entire section is 846 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
Bud has arrived at the mission in time to eat after leaving Hooverville. His “family” from the previous day is not there.
When he finishes breakfast, Bud waits under his tree. When the library opens, Bud goes to the librarian he spoke to the day before and asks to borrow a pencil, paper, and the atlas that will help him calculate the distance from one city to another. While they are speaking, the librarian mentions that she remembers when Bud and his mom used to visit the library years before. She gives him the atlas he has requested and tells him that she will have a surprise for him when he returns the atlas.
Bud uses the book, does a little math, and calculates the distance between Flint and Grand Rapids, where he believes his father lives. He estimates that it will take twenty-four hours for him to walk to Grand Rapids: an entire day and a night on the road. He decides to begin his trip after dark.
When Bud returns the atlas to the librarian, she hands him a new book to read on the Civil War; she remembers that he used to check out many books on the subject. The volume she gives him is beautiful, and Bud likes it so much that he reads it the entire day—so long, in fact, that he misses dinner. When he is aware of the passage of time, the library is ready to close.
When Bud gives the book back, the librarian offers him a sandwich. Bud returns to his tree to wait to begin his trip, and he eats the sandwich. Then he starts his journey to Grand Rapids.
Bud thinks ideas are funny little things that start like seeds: they are tiny but grow into something enormous. He compares the seed to the idea that Herman E. Calloway is his father. It all started very small in response to Billy Burns, the biggest bully at the Home. Billy made fun of the boys in his room, saying that none of them even knew who their parents were. Bud refutes the comment by saying that he not only knew his mother but that they lived together for years. Then Billy ridicules Bud for not knowing who his father is. Based on the flyers, Bud fills in some missing information and says that Herman is his dad and he plays a big violin. Somehow, this little thought has become a giant one: an idea that Bud has accepted as truth.
When he thinks about the contents of his suitcase, Bud knows they are treasures and very important. He knows his mother had planned to explain—gently—what they all meant when he was...
(The entire section is 485 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
As Bud walks to Grand Rapids, he comes to Flint’s town limits. On one side, the sign invites people to come back to Flint soon; on the other side, it welcomes people entering Flint. This amuses Bud. For a short while, he jumps in and out of town by crossing and recrossing the boundary line.
When he grows bored, Bud decides to start walking again. He quickly notices that the country sounds very different from the city. Where Flint was filled with the blasting of car horns and trucks without mufflers, his ears are filled now with a blasting silence broken only by bugs, frogs, and an occasional yowling cat. He imagines that here the creatures in the grass and bushes play hide-and-seek; when caught, they are eaten. The idea makes the solitary youngster look at his journey in a new light.
Bud is nervous about the country sounds, and now he is very much aware of the cars that pass on the road. When he starts out, the sound of an approaching vehicle drives him into hiding until he is alone again. After a time, the boy becomes less careful about showing himself. Drivers passing him do not stop but continue on their way. At one point, however, an automobile passes him, and when the driver catches sight of Bud, he slows and then puts the car in reverse.
Bud has decided to hide even as the driver gets out and whistles several times to attract his attention. Eventually the man, dressed in what seems to be a soldier’s hat, talks to Bud and encourages him to come out. Bud resists.
The driver explains that seeing a brown-skinned youngster on his way to Owosso, Michigan, at two-thirty in the morning made him stop because he is somewhere he should not be. In fact, the owner of the car suggests that even he, an adult, should not be there.
A new thought occurs to this traveling visitor—he tells Bud that he figures the boy might be hungry. That is all the youngster needs to hear. When food is mentioned, he starts to cautiously speak. The idea of a baloney sandwich and red pop (soda) are more than he can resist. He asks the man to leave the food and drink by the road but is refused. The food can be his if Bud shows his face.
Bud comes out of hiding. When he sees the sandwich bag and the brilliant red of the pop in the bottle, he walks to the man as if hypnotized. On closer inspection, Bud realizes that what he thought was a soldier’s hat is actually that of a chauffeur.
(The entire section is 809 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
Buddy tries to drive away, but the car chugs and dies. The driver asks Bud to lower the window so they can speak. Because he is a respectful young man, Bud complies. The car’s owner inquires as to why the boy is taking the vehicle. Bud explains that he knows a vampire when he sees one: the man is carrying containers of blood in the back seat.
The man laughs to himself and then explains that he could not possibly be a vampire. He asks Bud if he has ever seen a vampire drive a car. The youngster considers this, and while he is not completely certain, he feels safe enough to unlock the car door. The blood in the back seat is for the hospital in Flint, where someone is having an operation, and the driver is deeply concerned about getting it there.
The driver introduces himself as Mr. Lewis. He fulfills his end of the deal and feeds Bud because he has come out of hiding. Dinner consists of red pop, a sandwich, and an apple; Bud is delighted. He listens carefully to everything Mr. Lewis says until the man has to assure him that he is joking so Bud will not take everything he says so seriously. When Mr. Lewis asks his passenger if he wants to nap, the youngster figures if he pretends to do so, his companion will stop asking questions. Before the boy knows it, however, he has really fallen asleep.
The next thing Bud knows, a woman's voice is calling his name, trying to wake him. One of his rules is that if you wake and do not know where you are, it is a good idea to pretend to sleep. He is thankful that he does so because Mr. Lewis and the woman are speaking. She is concerned that Bud does not seem to have been taken care of—he is unhealthily skinny. Mr. Lewis starts to talk about Herman E. Calloway, Bud’s “father,” and the boy is happy to listen for what he may be able to find out.
When breakfast is mentioned, Bud pretending he has just woken up. Mr. Lewis introduces the woman as his daughter, Mrs. Sleet. She provides Bud with a change of clothes from some things her son has outgrown. (Bud is glad to wear long pants: no more knickers!) Then she invites him to join the family for breakfast.
Bud meets Kim and Scott, Mr. Lewis’s grandchildren. Kim asks a lot of questions, but Scott is a little more grown up and chides his sister for badgering their guest. Mr. Lewis enters with Mrs. Sleet, and it is soon obvious that Bud’s new protector jokes with absolutely everyone. Although some of...
(The entire section is 526 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
Bud and Lefty Lewis say their farewells to the Sleet family. Lefty informs Bud that on the previous evening when the boy had fallen asleep in the car, Lefty sent a telegram to Bud’s father so he would know his son was safe and on his way home.
Bud is relatively sure that this turn of events has confused Herman E. Calloway as much as Bud himself. Lefty has errands to run, however, so they head toward Grand Rapids. Suddenly a siren sounds behind them and they see flashing lights: the police are pulling Lefty over. Bud is sure the law has caught up with him. There is a box on the seat between them, and Lefty quickly instructs Bud to place it under the seat.
Lefty leaves the car to speak to the policeman, who insists on searching the car. Meanwhile, Bud sits nervously inside, trying to ascertain what chance of success he might have if he tries to run. Lefty closes the trunk and returns, and the police officer asks about Bud’s suitcase; he assumes Bud is Lefty’s grandson. Lefty does not deny the comment and explains that he is bringing the youngster home to his family after a visit in Flint. The law enforcement officer explains that the authorities are on the lookout for labor organizers, who are causing “a lot of trouble in the factories” in Flint. The officer then lets them continue their trip.
As they drive, Bud receives a lesson regarding the need for unions to protect workers and the resistance of company management. The box contains flyers encouraging Pullman porters (who work on the railroad) to attend a meeting with the intent of organizing a union. Lefty makes Bud promise not to whisper a word of what he has learned to anyone.
Once again, as Lefty drives, Bud falls asleep. When he awakes, they are in Grand Rapids and quickly pull up in front of The Log Cabin, the nightclub where Herman E. Calloway and the Nubian Knights of the New Deal are scheduled to perform. Because Lefty is unaware of the uncertain nature of the relationship between Calloway and Bud, the youngster knows the two men should not speak to each other. He pretends to go inside and let his father know he has arrived. Bud enters the building, then comes back out without speaking to anyone. He reports that his father is happy to have him home. Bud offers Lefty his thanks and collects his suitcase, then the two say goodbye.
Once again Bud enters the nightclub, studying the six men gathered there. One man sits...
(The entire section is 565 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
When Bud announces to a room full of people at the club that Herman E. Calloway is his father, everyone becomes very quiet. The younger men in the room think this is very funny, but they are afraid to laugh.
Jimmy is the one who breaks the silence: “Hold on, now, is your name Bud?” Bud answers in the affirmative, and Jimmy makes the connection between this and the telegram that arrived the day before. However, Herman wants no part of this situation, and he scolds Bud a little:
First off, don’t be coming in here accusing folks of being your father, and second off, where is your mother?
Bud is sad that his “father” acts like he does not already know what happened to his mother. Bud quietly relates to the men that his mother is dead, having passed on four years ago. Herman is sorry to hear this but is ready to ship him back to where he came from. Jimmy interrupts the conversation to be realistic about this new situation. He asks Bud about other relatives—an aunt or sister or grandparent—but Bud’s answer is the same: he has no one in the world. When the conversation turns to the orphanage, Bud’s answers become mixed up and evasive.
Jimmy sees that the conversation with Bud is not making any headway, and he asks him to step aside and allow him to privately speak to Herman. When they return, Herman reminds Jimmy, “Don’t forget, this is your little red wagon, you pull it if you want.” Jimmy agrees and calls Bud back over. He makes a deal with the boy. Jimmy is going to feed Bud, but in exchange, Bud must be completely honest with him. With a strong handshake, as his mother had taught him, Bud agrees.
As he reflects on the brief meeting he has had with his father, Bud is sorry that the man is so old. He would have preferred that one of the other younger men be his dad.
Jimmy introduces himself and then the other members of the band to Bud Caldwell. Because they are done practicing for the day, it is time to pack up, and one of the men enlists Bud’s help. He is happy to comply. All the men are very nice. Casually, The Thug tells Bud that maybe he should have been friendlier to Herman: the next time he sees the older man, The Thug suggests that Bud run up to Herman, plant a big kiss on the old man’s bald head, and call him Daddy or Poppa. Thug says this will solve the problem. Bud is too smart to fall for this advice and...
(The entire section is 647 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
Bud and the rest of the band go into a restaurant. Bud sees that it is really the living room of a house that his been transformed into an dining area with the addition of folding chairs and card tables. There is a line of people waiting to be seated, but Calloway’s entourage excuses itself, passes the line, and finds the table where Calloway is already seated. The smells that assault Bud remind him of all of his favorite foods cooked in one pot. It is no surprise to him that there is a line of folks waiting to be fed. He believes, "This must be exactly how heaven smells!"
Mr. Jimmy and a woman are sitting with Herman E. Calloway. Although Steady Eddie notes that there is another table “RESERVED NBC” (for Nobody But Calloway), Mr. Jimmy waves Bud over to join them—much to Bud’s discomfort. Calloway intimidates him and the boy would rather eat with the band, but this cannot be avoided. As he approaches the group, Mr. Jimmy introduces the woman as Miss Thomas, the band’s “vocal stylist.” Seeing the youngster’s confusion, Miss Thomas explains that she sings with the band. Just as his mother raised him, Bud extends his hand and speaks politely to Miss Thomas, who finds his gentlemanly manners a pleasant surprise.
It is quickly apparent by Miss Thomas’s outrage over Bud’s hornet stings and news of his imprisonment in the shed that she is someone who might care about what happens to him. Miss Thomas is irritated that none of the band members noticed the boy’s injuries, and she listens carefully as Bud describes what happened at the Amos’s house. During the conversation, Herman E. Calloway is not very sympathetic. Miss Thomas continues asking questions, and the truth of Bud’s life at the Home and the loss of his mother four years before are revealed. When asked about his father,
I pointed dead at Herman E. Calloway’s big belly again and said, “That’s him right there.”
Trying not to smile at this outlandish notion, the vocalist reminds her young friend that pointing is not polite. The boy apologizes to her and to Mr. Calloway. Miss Thomas decides a change of topic is appropriate so she invites Bud to sit with them and eat a good dinner. Calloway chooses not to remain; he goes to sit with the band and makes a sarcastic comment about “his son” at the other table. Meanwhile, Tyla comes over to take their order and is also impressed by...
(The entire section is 868 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
Bud rides with Miss Thomas to a big house that she calls "Grand Calloway Station." Although he is still embarrassed about crying at the restaurant, Bud knows that he is going to have to talk again sooner or later, so he asks about the house's name. Kindly, Miss Thomas explains:
there were so many different people in and out of here at so many different hours of the day and night that it reminded [Herman Calloway] of that train station in New York City, Grand Central Station. The name kind of stuck.
Inside, Miss Thomas takes Bud upstairs to the room where he will be sleeping. The room has a bed and a window on one side; two little doors, which are obviously closets, are on the other. In the space between the doors is a chair and table with a mirror—the kind that women use to apply makeup. Miss Thomas comments that they are going to have to ask Mr. Calloway about where Bud can put his belongings. The closets are filled with "old things...girls' clothes and toys," which need to be cleared out. When Bud asks if the girl whose room this is will be upset to find him sleeping in her bed, Miss Thomas pauses a moment before replying:
No, Bud, I don't think you have to worry about that, she's gone.
Bud is apprehensive when he is left alone in the room because in his young mind, when adults say someone is "gone," they mean "dead." He is not at all comfortable with the idea of sleeping in a little dead girl's room. Before long, however, he hears Miss Thomas and Mr. Calloway arguing loudly in the hall. Suddenly, his bedroom door bangs open and Herman Calloway comes rushing in. The disagreeable bandleader goes over to the closet doors and locks them with a key, whispering ominously to Bud as he passes him:
I'm going to find out what your game is and...you're going back where you belong.
Mr. Calloway then exits the room, but he returns immediately to issue one more threat, this time telling the boy that he had better not do any "snooping around" in the room because there are "little secret bells all over everything" that will go off if anything is stolen. Bud is reminded of the humiliation he and the other children from the Home experienced when they were taken swimming at the YMCA. The white lifeguard there told them that because of problems with "you children" urinating in the pool, a...
(The entire section is 602 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
When Bud awakens the next morning, he finds himself beneath the covers. His clothes are stacked in a neat pile nearby, the way his Momma used to fold them. He realizes that Miss Thomas must have come by during the night, undressed him, and put him in bed. Bud dresses quickly. Drawn by the sound of laughter and talking emanating from the kitchen, he tiptoes quietly down the stairs. When he gets to the kitchen door, he overhears Miss Thomas telling Herman E. Calloway:
You have no idea how bad those orphanages can be...you'll take care of any stray dog wandering through this neighborhood, but when it comes to a child all of a sudden you have no sympathy.
Mr. Calloway replies caustically that he is going to "find out what the real story is in Flint," and Miss Thomas says:
That's fine, I believe the child...until we've heard otherwise from Flint, he's staying right here.
Not wanting to be caught eavesdropping, Bud hurries soundlessly back upstairs. He loudly washes up in the bathroom and clumps down the hall and back down the steps as if he has just awakened. When he enters the kitchen, everyone has looks on their faces "like they hadn't been talking about [him] at all."
Bud says "good morning." His greeting is heartily returned by everyone except Mr. Calloway, who gets up from the table and goes outside, using the excuse that he needs to work on his car. In his absence, Miss Thomas, Steady Eddie, and Mr. Jimmy tease the boy good-naturedly for sleeping in so long; it is after noon, and lunch will be ready soon. Miss Thomas then tells Bud that she and Mr. Calloway and the band discussed his situation "for a long time" the night before. They have decided that, though they need to talk to some people in Flint before any arrangements are finalized, they would like Bud to stay at Grand Calloway Station with them "for a while."
Bud's gigantic smile signals his delighted assent, but Miss Thomas cautions him that he will have "a lot of chores and things to take care of." He will be expected to "pull [his] own weight [around here] the best [he] can." Among his hardest assignments will be to practice patience, especially as it pertains to Mr. Calloway. Despite Bud's frail build, Miss Thomas has no doubt that he is physically strong enough to do the work that will be required of him. She also recognizes that he is uncommonly...
(The entire section is 684 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
While the band prepares to rehearse, Bud works with the mop, pretending that it is the underwater boat in the book he erroneously remembers as Twenty Thousand Leaks Under the Sea. The boy knows that Herman E. Calloway is trying to "work [him] like a dog," but Bud is used to hard labor. The old man's efforts are falling far short in wearing him down.
Bud's attention is suddenly diverted by someone shouting out, "One, two, one two three!" The Thug begins brushing his drum sticks on the cymbals, making a sound "like a soft rain...commencing to fall." Dirty Deed joins in, making the piano match the "rain pats" the Thug is creating. The combined sound is like
what Niagara Falls must sound like...big bright drops of water splashing up and over, over and up.
Steady Eddie starts snapping his fingers, then puts his sax to his lips and makes it talk. His instrument makes the most beautiful sound Bud has ever heard; the notes swirl and float over and above the rest of the "storm of music."
Bud is so mesmerized by the band's music that he does not even hear Miss Thomas, Mr. Jimmy, and Herman E. Calloway come up behind him. The vocalist and Mr. Jimmy compliment Bud on the cleaning he is doing. Mr. Calloway lets out a grunt as the three head up to the stage. Bud at first is inclined to acknowledge them, but ends up saying nothing, because it somehow seems that
talking [would be] wrong what with all these wonderful sounds...coming from the people on the stage.
Mr. Jimmy picks up his trumpet and joins in the impromptu session with the other musicians. Miss Thomas sits on a stool, closes her eyes, and bobs her head to the beat, while Mr. Calloway takes his giant fiddle, putting one hand near its top and using his other hand to pull at the strings. All of the instruments blend together, and Bud cannot tell which is his favorite. Then Miss Thomas begins to sing, and the boy wonders why Herman E. Calloway takes central billing in the band's many names. It seems clear to Bud that the music revolves around the talented woman vocalist. Miss Thomas is so good that
she [doesn't] even have to sing real words, mostly she [is] saying things like "La da de da de da da, ha whee a ho, ha whee a ho, ha whee a day...."
All the other instruments try to break into the...
(The entire section is 544 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
Bud has been living with the band for just about a week, but already he is going on his third road trip with them. This time, they are headed for a small town called Mecosta, an hour and a half north of Grand Rapids. Herman Calloway and Mr. Jimmy are riding in one car with the instruments, while Bud is in the other car with the rest of the musicians. For this gig, Miss Thomas has stayed behind at Grand Calloway Station.
On the ride up, the band members engage in one of their favorite pastimes—"teasing each other and talking about Herman E. Calloway behind his back." The focus of their good-natured gibes on this trip is Dirty Deed, who is the only white member of the band. Bud learns that Mr. Calloway "always keep[s] one white guy in the band." Negroes are not allowed to own real estate in many places during this time, so the band leader puts his properties in Dirty Deed's name. In addition, many white people would not hire the group if they knew they were a Negro band, so Dirty Deed often makes the initial arrangements. Invariably, once people hear the musicians play, people are so impressed with the musicians' skill that the color of their skin is no longer an issue.
The performance goes well, and Bud gets to sleep onstage that night to guard the instruments. In the morning, Mr. Calloway wants to spend some time with an acquaintance before departing, so Mr. Jimmy instructs the boy to assist Calloway and to ride home with him later. Bud is not looking forward to spending "a whole hour and a half trapped in a car" with the ill-tempered band leader. Sure enough, the experience starts off inauspiciously when, before getting in the car, Herman E. Calloway chooses a nondescript rock on the ground with his shoe and orders the boy to pick it up for him. Overcome with curiosity, Bud asks, with unintended bluntness, "What in Sam Hill are you going to do with a doggone rock?" The old man just utters tersely, as he puts the key in the ignition of the car, "Bad habit."
A short time later, Mr. Calloway leans over and opens the glove box of the car, showing Bud a collection of rocks, each with a city and date written on it. Intrigued, Bud tells the band leader that he has rocks "with writing and numbers on them too." Mr. Calloway responds absently and without interest, and the boy thinks he does not believe him. Climbing into the back seat, he takes two of his rocks from his sax case and hides them in his hands for the...
(The entire section is 639 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary
After learning Bud's mother's name, Herman E. Calloway locks himself in his room. Mr. Jimmy and Miss Thomas continue to question Bud in the kitchen, asking him how long ago his mother passed away, and what she looked like. Bud tells them that she died peacefully at home after a short illness four years ago, when he was six. He tries to describe her physical characteristics, but falls short in his attempt. Instead, he runs upstairs to get the photograph of her that he keeps in his sax case.
When he gets to his room, Bud is surprised to find Mr. Calloway sitting there at the dressing table, holding his face in his hands, sobbing. The boy goes quietly over to the place near the bed where he keeps all of his important possessions and takes the envelope with his Momma's picture in it. Herman Calloway does not notice. As Bud passes by the man on the way back out of the room, he reflects that babies cry all the time, but that when an adult is moved to tears:
you got a whole 'nother story...you know you're square in the middle of one of those boiling tragedies.
Even though he realizes that the old man is crying "'cause he found out the two of [them] are kin," Bud cannot help but feel sorry for him. He walks over and puts his hand on Mr. Calloway's back. The distraught figure flinches, then looks at him and mumbles incoherently, calling him "Buddy," to which the child responds, not unkindly, "It's Bud, sir, not Buddy."
When Mr. Calloway covers his face and "[breaks] down all over again," Bud reaches out to pat his shoulder, then leaves the room. He runs back downstairs where Mr. Jimmy and Miss Thomas are waiting. Bud puts his Momma's picture in the center of the table. Both adults examine the photograph closely, then Mr. Jimmy says, "Uh, uh, uh, that definitely is Angela Janet Calloway."
Automatically, Bud corrects him, declaring, "her name's Caldwell, not Calloway." An amazing thought occurs to him then, and he excitedly exclaims:
That means that's not some little dead girl's room I'm sleeping in, that's my Momma's room!
With painful realization, But asks poignantly:
How come Herman E. Calloway never called on me and my mother? All he'd've had to do was call on us one time and I know she wouldn't have been so sad.
Miss Thomas explains earnestly that...
(The entire section is 991 words.)