Summary: Chapter 9

Bud is in time for breakfast, but his pretend family isn’t there. After breakfast, he goes to the library. The librarian recognizes Bud from when his mother used to come in. Bud looks in the book indicating mileage and determines that Flint and Grand Rapids are 120 miles apart. He divides 120 by 5 and calculates it will be a 24-hour walk.

The librarian gives Bud a picture book about the Civil War. He spends the whole day reading. On his way out, the librarian gives Bud a cheese sandwich, which he eats under the tree.

Bud thinks about how ideas are like seeds, and before you know it, they’ve grown into something much bigger than you’ve imagined they could. The seed of an idea that Herman Calloway was his father had started back at the Home, when Billy Burns, the resident bully, bet Bud a nickel he didn’t know where his dad was. It dawned on Bud that there must be a reason Momma kept those flyers. Now the idea was no longer just a seed, it had “sneaked itself into being a mighty maple tree.” Bud plans to walk clear across Michigan. 

Summary: Chapter 10

Bud heads out of Flint, into the countryside, on his way to Grand Rapids. Twenty-four hours of walking now seems like a very long time. He ducks into the bushes every time a car comes until he’s too tired to bother. Most people ignore him anyhow, except the man who puts his car in reverse, stops, gets out, and heads into the bushes to find Bud. Bud knows he’s not a cop because every cop he’s ever come across is white. 

The man draws Bud out from his hiding place by offering him a baloney sandwich and a bottle of pop. He explains that he stopped given that “a young, brown-skinned boy walking along the road just outside of Owosso, Michigan, at two-thirty in the morning is definitely not where he ought to be. In fact, what is definite is that neither one of us should be out this time of night.” 

The man asks Bud his name: “Bud, not Buddy.” Bud tells him that he’s run away from home. He figures that telling the man that his home is in Grand Rapids is the perfect lie. Maybe the man would put him on a bus back home, and he wouldn’t have to do any more “doggone walking.” Turns out, the man is from Grand Rapids and will be returning there tomorrow. He explains to Bud that it’s lucky he saw him and stopped. A sign, he says, used to hang here saying, “To Our Negro Friends Who Are Passing Through, Kindly Don’t Let the Sun Set on Your Rear End in Owosso!” 

The man leads Bud to his car, where a box labeled “Urgent: Contains Human Blood” sits on the front passenger seat. Bud panics. Surely this man is a vampire! He locks the man out of his own car, scrambles behind the steering wheel, puts the car in gear, and takes off down the road, with the man running hard after him.

Summary: Chapter 11

The car stalls. The man catches up to Bud and makes him roll down the window. Bud confronts the man about the blood. He tells Bud that he’s taking it to Hurley Hospital in Flint. Bud’s not thrilled about driving all the way back to Flint on the road he has just walked. He wonders if he’s ever going to escape Flint. 

Bud unlocks the car door and lets the man in. Bud tells him that his mother is dead and that he stays with his daddy, Herman E. Calloway, in Grand Rapids. Surprised, the man says that everybody in Grand Rapids knows Bud’s father. 

The man introduces himself. He’s Mr. Lewis, but people call him Lefty, Lefty Lewis. After a while, Bud falls asleep in the car. 

Bud, who’s now lying in a bed, awakens to a woman’s voice. “Bud. Wake up, Bud.” But he feigns sleep as he listens to Lefty Lewis and his daughter talk. This is Number 29 of his rules:

When You Wake Up and Don’t Know For Sure Where You’re At and There’s A Bunch of People Standing Around You, It’s Best to Pretend You’re Still Asleep Until You Can Figure Out What’s Going On and What You Should Do.

Mr. Lewis says that the Mrs. Calloway he knew about passed away a long time ago. Perhaps there were other Mrs. Calloway’s? They also discuss the possibility that Bud might have brothers and sisters. Mr. Lewis says that Bud has a sister, but “she’d have to be his half-sister, she must be full-grown by now.”  

The woman shakes Bud, who stops pretending he’s asleep, and introduces herself. She’s Mr. Lewis’ daughter, Mrs. Sleet. Her first name is Nina. She tells him that when he comes down to breakfast, he can meet Scott and Kim, Mr. Lewis’ grandkids. Bud washes up and puts on the clean clothes Mrs. Sleet has laid out for him. He follows the smell of pancakes and toast downstairs.

Kim, Scott, and Bud talk while waiting for breakfast. When Scott asks Bud why he ran away, Bud, not wanting to lie to another kid, explains that he left because he didn’t like where he was, and that his momma died suddenly after she got sick. Mr. Lewis and Mrs. Sleet join them at the table. Bud learns that Mr. Sleet is at work, traveling the country on trains as a red-cap, a Pullman porter. 

The family says grace. Back at the Home, silence was required while eating, but not at this house. They talked the whole way through breakfast, Mr. Lewis in particular laughing and teasing his daughter and grandchildren.

Analysis: Chapters 9–11

Demonstrating his resourcefulness, Bud heads back to the library after breakfast at the mission to gather information about his next steps. The librarian recognizes him, which suggests that the library was a special place for Bud and his mother. It’s also a place where he feels safe enough to spend the day reading. The librarian proves to be another adult Bud will encounter on his journey who is willing to help him.

As Bud sets out on his walk from Flint to Grand Rapids, a fear greater than that of the night and its noises is the fear of getting caught and sent back to either the Home or the Amoses. When a man pulls over and heads into the bushes to find Bud, Bud knows he isn’t a cop because he’s not white, which indicates that the profession of police officer was racially segregated at the time. The conversation between Bud and the man demonstrates Bud’s attempt to outwit an adult, but the man proves he’s a worthy match when he offers Bud food and drink to coax him out of hiding. The man’s concern about “a young, brown-skinned boy” out on the road in the middle of the night reveals the racial prejudices in their environment.

Bud’s vivid imagination is on display when he sees the box in the car labeled “Urgent: Contains Human Blood” and his panic leads to a cascading series of events. What follows is the comically absurd scene of Bud behind the wheel, driving the man’s car down the road, with its owner running frantically behind. Trusting this man leads to the discovery that Mr. Lewis knows Bud’s father, Herman E. Calloway: “[E]verybody in Grand Rapids does.” Bud is speechless, a state the reader will seldom see him in and proof of the import of this news.

The Rules that Bud lives by emerge yet again when he awakens at the Lewis’ home. Implementing Rule Number 29 serves him well, for while feigning sleep, he overhears talk about how Mrs. Calloway has passed away, and how Bud has a sister, or half-sister. After being awakened by Mrs. Sleet, Bud follows the smell of pancakes down the stairs, reinforcing a motif of home that Curtis has woven throughout Bud’s story.

When he joins the Sleet family for breakfast, Bud experiences the dynamics of a family who clearly care for each other, and seem to genuinely care for him, too. Bud realizes he cannot lie to the other children. Though Bud’s Rules are designed for “Making a Better Liar of Yourself,” it’s one thing to lie to an adult, and an entirely different matter to lie to another child, or someone equal to himself. He opens up to Kim and Scott, similar to how he had trusted Deza with the truth. Bud’s experience of this meal, in such a warm and welcoming home, is a stark contrast to his experience of meals at the Home where silence was required. Bud is amazed by the amount of talking, and in the brief time he spends with them, he feels a part of their family.