Jerry looked like he wasn't so scared anymore so I went over to my bed and started getting ready.
Even though it was me that was in a lot of trouble I couldn't help but feel sorry for Jerry. Not only because he was going to have to live around three girls, but also because being six is a real tough age to be at. Most folks think you start being a real adult when you're fifteen or sixteen years old, but that's not true, it really starts when you're around six.
It's at six that grown folks don't think you're a cute little kid anymore, they talk to you and expect that you understand everything that they mean. And you'd best understand too, if you aren't looking for some real trouble, 'cause its around six that grown folks stop giving you little swats and taps and jump clean up to giving you slugs that'll knock you right down and have you seeing stars in the middle of the day. The first foster home I was in taught me that real quick.
Six is a bad time too 'cause that's when some real scary things start to happen to your body, it's around then that your teeth start coming a-loose in your mouth.
You wake up one morning and it seems like your tongue is the first one to notice that something strange is going on, ' cause as soon as you get up there it is pushing and rubbing up against one of your front teeth and I'll be doggoned if that tooth isn't the littlest bit wiggly.
At first you think it's kind of funny, but the tooth keeps getting looser and looser and one day, in the middle of pushing the tooth back and forth and squinching your eyes shut, you pull it clean out. It's the scariest thing you can think of 'cause you lose control of your tongue at the same time and no matter how hard you try to stop it, it won't leave the new hole in your mouth alone, it keeps digging around in the spot where the tooth used to be.
You tell some adult about what's happening but all they do is say it's normal. You can't be too sure, though, 'cause it shakes you up a whole lot more than grown folks think it does when perfectly good parts of your body commence to loosening up and falling off of you.
Unless you're as stupid as a lamppost you've got to wonder what's coming off next, your arm? Your leg? Your neck? Every morning when you wake up it seems a lot of your parts aren't stuck on as good as they used to be.
Six is real tough. That's how old I was when I came to live here in the Home. That's how old I was when Momma died.
I folded the blanket and sheet and set them back on the mattress. Then I reached under the bed to get my suitcase. Most of the kids in the Home keep their things in a paper or cloth sack, but not me. I have my own suitcase.
I set it on the mattress and untied the twine that held it together. I did what I do every night before I go to sleep. I checked to make sure that everything was there. The way there're more and more kids coming into the Home every day, I had to be sure no one had run off with any of my things.
First I pulled my blanket out and saw that everything was where it was supposed to be. At the bottom of my suitcase were my flyers. I took the blue flyer out and looked at it again.
The paper was starting to wear out from me looking at it so much but I liked to check if there was anything that I hadn't noticed before. It was like something was telling me there was a message for me on this flyer but I didn't have the decoder ring to read what was.
Across the top of the flyer writ in big black letters were the words LIMITED ENGAGEMENT, then in little letters it said, "Direct from an S.R.O. engagement in New York City." Underneath that in big letters again it said, "Herman E. Calloway and the Ducky Devastators of the Depression!!!!!!"
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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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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