The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 Chapter 3 Summary
by Christopher Paul Curtis

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Chapter 3 Summary

Kenny plans to stay as far away as possible from the new boy, Rufus, but things do not work out that way. The principal seats Rufus next to him in the classroom, and Kenny is worried because he thinks the kids, instead of focusing their cruelty on the new boy, will now pick on both of them—and do so twice as much. Even though Kenny does not talk much to him, Rufus keeps "jabbering away at [him] all through class" and follows him out to lunch as well. Rufus has apparently forgotten to bring something to eat, so Kenny gives him one of his peanut butter sandwiches; Rufus gobbles down half of it and folds the other half carefully back in its wrapper. Rufus then asks Kenny about his lazy eye, but his tone is different from that of the other kids, who only bring the subject up torment him. Rufus asks out of simple curiosity and concern. He then sees a squirrel sitting in a tree across the street and marvels at how fat it is. In Arkansas, where he is from, Rufus would have shot the squirrel, which would have provided a delicious meal for his family. Kenny has a hard time believing that Rufus really knows how to shoot a gun, but Rufus's brother, Cody, joins them and confirms that it is true. Kenny notices that Rufus gives the other half of the sandwich to Cody and guesses that Cody forgot his lunch, too.

Rufus begins coming over to Kenny's house in the evenings, and their favorite thing to do is play with Kenny's little plastic dinosaurs. Kenny does not mind because Rufus does not cheat or try to steal his toys. The only other boy Kenny used to play dinosaurs with was L.J. Jones, who had pilfered from his collection constantly. One day, L.J. had suggested to Kenny that they have a huge dinosaur war and tricked him into bringing out his entire collection, which was against Momma's rules. Kenny and L.J. had had a great time annihilating the monsters with pretend atomic bombs. When the carnage was complete, L.J. had told Kenny that the dinosaurs would have to be buried in the ground because they were now radioactive, and he and Kenny had dug three big holes and put the defunct creatures in them. L.J. had then distracted Kenny, taking him to see an older classmate's secret fort, and it was not until Kenny was in bed that night that he remembered the buried dinosaurs. Sneaking out of the house, he went down to the dinosaur graves, only to find them empty. Kenny realized that L.J. had tricked him out of nearly his whole dinosaur collection; he never played with him again.

Kenny is wrong when he assumes that he will be teased even more than before if he hangs around with Rufus....

(The entire section is 731 words.)