HERE WE GO AGAIN.
We were all standing in line waiting for breakfast when one of the caseworkers came in and tap-tap-tapped down the line. Uh-oh, this meant bad news, either they'd found a foster home for somebody or somebody was about to be paddled. All the kids watched the woman as she moved along the line, her high-heeled shoes sounding like little firecrackers going off on the wooden floor.
Shoot! She stopped at me and said, "Are you Buddy Caldwell?"
I said, "It's Bud, not Buddy, ma'am."
She put her hand on my shoulder and took me out of line. Then she pulled Jerry, one of the littler boys, over. "Aren't you Jerry Clark?" He nodded.
"Boys, good news! Now that the school year has ended, you both have been accepted in new temporary-care homes starting this afternoon!"
Jerry asked me the same thing I was thinking. "Together?"
She said, "why, no. Jerry, you'll be in a family with three little girls--"
Jerry looked like he'd just found out that they were going to dip him in a pot of boiling milk.
"-- and Bud--" She looked at some papers she was holding. "Oh, yes, the Amos's, you'll be with Mr. and Mrs. Amos and their son, who's twelve years old, that makes him just two years older than you, doesn't it, Bud?"
She said, "I'm sure you'll both be very happy."
Me and Jerry looked at each other.
The woman said "Now, now, boys, no need to look so glum. I know you don't know what it means, but there is a depression going on all over this country. People can't find jobs and these are very, very difficult times for everybody. We've been lucky enough to find two wonderful families to open their doors for you. I think it's best that we show our new foster families that we're very--"
She dragged out the word very, waiting for us to finish the sentence.
Jerry said, "Cheerful, helpful and grateful." I moved my lips and mumbled.
She smiled and said, "Unfortunately you won't have time for breakfast. I'll have a couple of pieces of fruit put in a bag. In the meantime got to the sleep room and strip your beds and gather all of your things."
Here we go again. I felt that I as walking in my sleep as I followed Jerry back to the room where all of the boys' beds were jim-jammed together. This was the third foster home I was going to and I'm used to packing up and leaving, but it still surprises me that there are always a few seconds, right after they tell you you've got to go, when my nose gets all runny and my throat all choky and eyes get all stingy. But the tears coming out doesn't happen to me anymore. I don't know when it first happened, but it seems like my eyes don't cry no more.
Jerry sat on his bed and I could tell that he was losing the fight not to cry. Tears were popping out of his eyes and slipping down his cheeks.
I sat down next to him and said, "I know being in a house with three girls sounds terrible, Jerry, but it's a lot better than being with a boy who's a couple of years older than you. I'm the one who's going to have problems. A older boy is going to want to fight, but those little girls are going to treat you real good. They're going to treat you like some kind of special pet or something."
Jerry said, "You really think so?"
I said, "I'd trade you in a minute. The worst thing that is going to happen to you is that they are going to make you play house a lot. They'll probably make you be the baby and will hug you and do this kind of junk to you." I tickled Jerry under his chin and said, "Ga-ga, goo-goo, baby-waby."
Jerry couldn't help but smile. I said, "You're going to be great."
Excerpted from Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis Copyright© 1999 by Christopher Paul Curtis. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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