The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 Chapter 14 Summary
by Christopher Paul Curtis

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Chapter 14 Summary

Kenny spends the next few days in a state of shocked lethargy. Byron has made him promise not to tell anyone what happened at Collier's Landing, and the family simply assumes that Kenny's weakness and malaise is just a reaction to the heat. On Sunday, when Joey leaves for church, Kenny says good-bye to her and notices that she is wearing "little lacy white socks and her shiny, shiny black shoes." He then goes outside and sits under a tree; he is just dozing off when he hears a sound "like a far-off thunderstorm coming," followed by an eerie silence. Dad and Byron look out from inside the house, wondering what has caused the noise, but Kenny, too tired to even be curious, leans back against the tree and closes his eyes. He is about to fall asleep again when he hears Momma scream; a neighbor has just stopped by and reported that a bomb has been dropped on Joey's church.

Kenny stands in the house in a daze as the rest of the family leaves precipitously for the church. He goes to the porch and sees all the neighbors racing down the street, and he automatically follows. When Kenny arrives at the church, he sees surreal images of his family holding onto each other outside the ruined building and a man carrying a little girl in his arms; it looks like the man has been painting "with red, red paint." Kenny notices in particular that the girl is wearing "black shiny, shiny shoes." As he wanders into the church itself, he is surprised that no one stops him, and he catches glimpses of confusion and carnage all around him, smoke and billowing dust obscuring "Bibles and coloring books thrown all over the place." Kenny comes upon a "shiny, shiny black shoe lying halfway underneath some concrete," and as he reaches down to pick it up, he envisions the Wool Pooh hanging onto the other end of it. Kenny gives the shoe a desperate tug and it pops loose from a frilly white sock; in a panic, he slips unnoticed out of the church, past "people lying around in little balls on the grass crying and twitching...squeezing each other and shaking." Hoping that the Wool Pooh is not following him, Kenny walks quickly and quietly back to Grandma Sands's house.

When Kenny gets back to his room, he sits on his bed and examines the torn shoe he has brought with him. He believes it is Joey's and that she is dead, and he tries to remember if he had been mean to her that morning. Kenny is surprised when Joey appears before him, demanding to know how he has gotten home so fast and why he changed his clothes; Kenny refuses to...

(The entire section is 713 words.)