Summary: Chapter 5

Bud realizes he has to get far away as quickly as possible. He heads to the north side library. His plan is to sleep in the basement, and ask Mrs. Hill, the librarian, for help in the morning. But he discovers bars across the basement windows. 

Bud sits under a row of giant Christmas-like trees planted near the library. He opens his suitcase and examines its contents to make sure it’s all still there. He takes out the picture of Momma, his only picture of her. She’s sitting on a midget horse, wearing a “twenty-five-gallon Texas cowboy hat.” Momma used to tell Bud stories about that picture, and about the hat, and how it must have been crawling with bugs. Bud’s grandfather, Momma would tell him, insisted that she wear the hat.

One of Momma’s other favorite stories was about Bud’s name, that it didn’t have a “dy” at the end of it. Then, she’d make sure Bud knew what a bud was, “a flower-to-be.”

Momma had always reassured Bud that she had lots to tell him when he got older, things that would help him. She wanted him to always remember that no matter how bad things might get, when “one door closes, don’t worry, because another door opens.” Now that he’s “almost grown,” Bud realizes that she wasn’t talking about ghosts opening and closing doors. She was talking about doors like the Home closing, leading to the Amoses door opening, and to the shed door opening, and “to me sleeping under a tree getting ready to open the next door.” Bud, though, wishes his momma had told him all the things she said he was too young to hear. Now that she’s gone, it’s too late.

Bud closes his suitcase and falls asleep under a tree. He plans to join the food line at the mission first thing in the morning.

Summary: Chapter 6

In the morning, Bud joins the food line, but a man approaches and tells him it’s closed. Bud prepares to make up a sad story to convince the man to let him into the line, but the man pulls a black leather strap out of his pocket. Just as Bud is backing away, hands grab his neck from behind, and a voice asks, “Clarence, what took you so long?” This man, who has seen Bud’s predicament, tells Bud to get in line “with his momma.” Apparently, the woman calling to Bud, “you get over here right now,” is Bud’s “momma.” Two young children stand next to her.

Bud stands in line with who he calls his “pretend family.” People are talking about the big sign near the building. On it, a family of four white people wearing fancy clothes and obviously rich, are sitting in a car big enough for eight or nine passengers. The sign reads, “There’s no place like America today.” Bud’s pretend dad comments, “Well … you wouldn’t expect that they’d have the nerve to come down here and tell the truth!”

Inside the building, a lady spoons oatmeal into their bowls, and Bud’s pretend Momma shares their packet of brown sugar with him. By now, Bud is going along with the charade, and says, “Thank you, Momma, ma’am.” She tells him they won’t be coming there for dinner, but would be returning in the morning, and she says he’d better get to the mission early next time. As the pretend family is leaving, Bud’s pretend brother turns around and sticks out his tongue at Bud.

Analysis: Chapters 5–6

Safety is a major concern of Bud’s in Chapter 5. Bud’s first thought after leaving the Amoses is that he must quickly put distance between himself and their home. That he knows how to get to the library indicates that he has been there before and that he considers it a safe haven. Mrs. Hill, who is somebody he knows and trusts, will be able to help him. The reader doesn’t know if the last time Bud was at the library was with his mother, four years prior, or if he’d been there since, but he clearly didn’t expect to find the windows barred. With the library locked and the windows barred, Bud takes refuge under the Christmas-like trees nearby.

Bud’s suitcase is emerging as a powerful symbol in his journey to find his family. Once Bud is settled under the trees, the significance of his suitcase is again emphasized, for upon opening it Bud immediately notices that the Amoses have tampered with his belongings. The reader can assume that this is not the first time Bud has encountered such invasions of privacy. It is ironic that Bud opens his suitcase under a “Christmas tree,” which symbolizes family togetherness and belonging. Inside Bud's suitcase are the few possessions he has that connect him to his family.

Bud carries powerful memories of his mother represented by the items in his suitcase. Later events in the story are foreshadowed when Bud pulls out the photograph of her as a young child on a horse, taken by his grandfather. The reader also learns the significance of his name when Bud reminisces about the stories his mother has told him. A bud, “a flower-to-be,” emerges as a significant symbol of Bud’s coming of age. Here, Bud also introduces the reader to one of the central motifs in his story, that of doors opening and closing. His memories, as well as the wisdom passed down by his mother before she passed away, let ten-year-old Bud feel safe as he falls asleep under the Christmas trees.

Bud chooses survival over distrust of adults when he lets his pretend family adopt him in the food line. He makes a split-second decision and accepts the help of these pretend parents whose own place in line may have been at risk if their ruse was discovered. By “adopting” Bud, the family demonstrates care and concern for him. The family sits down together to eat their oatmeal, and the mother teaches her own two children a lesson in sharing when she gives Bud some of their treasured brown sugar. Bud is beginning to learn that some adults can be trusted, though he’s also perceptive enough to understand his pretend brother’s resentment.