The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

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Chapter 6 Summary

When Momma asks Byron and Kenny to go to Mitchell's store to get some milk, bread, and tomato paste for her, Byron predictably complains, but Momma makes him go with Kenny anyway. As the boys are leaving, Byron asks for money to pay for the groceries but Momma tells him to just sign for them. Byron immediately concludes that the family is on welfare. Momma tells him that although the family has received government aid in the past, they do not now. The Watsons have simply negotiated an arrangement with Mr. Mitchell to pay their monthly grocery bill all at once, on payday. Byron does not quite believe Momma, and he continues to carp about how embarrassed he will be to sign for welfare food at Mr. Mitchell's store. Momma, angry at Byron's malingering and snobbish attitude, puts her foot down and threatens dire consequences if the boys do not leave immediately. Byron pouts all the way to the store, and when he and Kenny have gathered the groceries, he makes Kenny stand in the checkout line alone to sign for them. When Kenny tells Mr. Mitchell that he needs to put the food on the welfare list, Mr. Mitchell laughs and tells him exactly what Momma had said, that signing for the food just means that their father is going to pay for it all at once instead of a little at a time. Byron, who is listening to Mr. Mitchell from the magazine section, believes what the store owner says even though he had not believed Momma. The information is like a revelation to him, and it is full of possibilities; Byron laments that they had had a chance to get "a bagful of free food" just for signing and that all they had gotten were the three items Momma had requested.

A week later, Kenny is walking down the alley behind Mitchell's store when he is almost hit in the head by a Swedish Creme cookie. Byron then drops out of a green apple tree, holding a big bag of cookies and a green apple. To Kenny's surprise, his brother offers him some cookies. He looks to see if there are bugs on them or something, but they are clean. Kenny is still suspicious because Byron is being "too nice," but then he notices that there is a crumpled-up Swedish Cremes bag on the ground and realizes that Byron has already eaten a bag and a half of the delicacies by himself. Kenny suddenly understands that Byron has gotten the cookies from Mitchell's store by signing for them without Momma or Dad's permission, and Kenny cannot...

(The entire section is 670 words.)