Chapter 18 Summary

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 639

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 remainder of the trip home.

When they arrive at Grand Calloway Station, Bud shows Mr. Calloway the stones, but to his consternation, the old man examines them, then angrily accuses him of stealing them from the house. Witnessing the confrontation, Mr. Jimmy tactfully intervenes. Squatting down so that he can look the child in the eye, he quietly asks, "Son, where'd you find these? Just tell the truth." Bud swears that he did not steal the rocks, but that he got them from his Momma. Both men seem astonished by this assertion. Mr. Jimmy asks the boy what his mother's name was, and when Bud replies, "Angela Janet Caldwell," Mr. Calloway's pipe drops out of his mouth and he stumbles blindly away toward the house.

Bud is certain then that the band leader is the one who has been lying, and he exclaims triumphantly, "I knew it! I knew he was my father!" Mr. Jimmy, however, corrects him, stating firmly that Mr. Calloway is not his father. Angela Janet is the old man's daughter's name, which would mean that Herman E. Calloway is most probably Bud's grandfather.

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