The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

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Chapter 15 Summary

Joey does not know what a close call she had when her church was bombed in Birmingham, and the Watsons all return to Flint before she has a chance to find out. Momma and Dad are most worried about Kenny, who continues to exhibit signs of shock. They do not know that he almost died at Collier's Landing. Although they suspect that he might have seen something in the aftermath of the bombing at the church, they are not sure because he insists that he only left Grandma Sands's house that day to tell them Joey was all right.

Kenny has been disappearing for long periods of time, and no one knows where he goes. He has been hiding behind the couch, in the quiet, dark area that Byron used to call the "World-Famous Watson Pet Hospital." Over the years, if something bad happened to one of the many pets in the household, the afflicted animal would "crawl in that space, and wait to see if they were going to get better." Like a wounded creature, Kenny holes up behind the couch, waiting to see if "magic powers" will come to him and either heal him or let him die. When Kenny comes out to be with the family, Momma tries to get him to play with Rufus and Cody, Byron, or Joetta, but he is just not interested. He spends more and more of his time in the Watson Pet Hospital, even sleeping there at night.

Byron finally figures out where Kenny is hiding, and he is remarkably sensitive about giving his little brother the privacy he craves. Kenny knows that Byron has told Momma and Dad where he is because sometimes they sit on the couch and talk about things like "what a nice kid" Kenny is, as if they had practiced what to say. Byron begins sleeping on the couch at night, and during the day he discreetly tries to coax Kenny into taking part in activities such as watching TV with him. One day, Byron pops his head over the back of the couch and insists that Kenny accompany him upstairs to the bathroom, where he proudly shows him a single, long hair growing from his chin. Impressed, Kenny leans into the mirror to see if anything is growing on his own face, but when he sees his sad visage, it is as if floodgates open, and he begins to cry uncontrollably. Byron sits with Kenny on the floor, and Kenny sobs for a long time. When he can speak again, he asks Byron why people would want to hurt little kids like they did at the Birmingham church. After thinking seriously about what he is going to say, Byron asserts that he believes such people "let hate eat them up and turn them into monsters." Kenny tells Byron that he did go into the church and saw two of the little girls who had been killed. He confesses that he is "real, real ashamed of [him]self" because when he thought the Wool Pooh had gotten Joey, he left her instead of fighting for her, like Byron had fought for Kenny at Collier's Landing.

Byron reminds Kenny that Joey believes that he led her away from the church that day,...

(The entire section is 831 words.)