Chapter 12 Summary

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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 tapping on the drums while a second polishes his trumpet. Another man is telling a story that Bud is certain is an exaggeration—a trait Bud recognizes in himself. With each similarity he sees, the boy is certain this man is his father, and he begins walking to the stranger who has his back to Bud. He feels need to see his dad’s face. His first response is one of extreme surprise. “My dad’s face was old.”

Bud does not lose any time explaining his presence, announcing to the men that he is there to meet his father...for the very first time. Dry-eyed because he “no longer knows how to cry,” Bud bravely faces Herman E. Calloway and declares that he is his father.

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Chapter 11 Summary


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