Summary: Chapter 12

After breakfast, Mr. Lewis shows Bud the telegram he had sent to Bud’s father, Herman E. Calloway, to let him know Bud was safe. He had sent the telegram to the Log Cabin, the club that Calloway owns. The telegram said that Mr. Lewis would deliver Bud home by 8 p.m. Wednesday. 

Bud spends the day driving around Flint accompanying Mr. Lewis on his errands. At the end of the day, a Flint police car, lights flashing, stops Mr. Lewis. Lefty tells Bud to quickly take the box next to him and put it under the car seat. Mr. Lewis exits his car, and the police look in his trunk. Then, peering into the car, the policeman asks what’s in the suitcase. Lefty explains they’re Bud’s things, and he’s taking Bud, his grandson, home to Grand Rapids. The cop tells Lefty he sees the family resemblance. He explains that there’s been labor trouble at the factories, and they’ve been stopping cars they don’t recognize. With a warning to drive carefully, the cop lets them go.

Mr. Lewis pulls back onto the highway, toward Grand Rapids. He tells Bud about the contents of the box. He is bringing flyers to a meeting of the newly formed Grand Rapids branch of the brotherhood of Pullman Porters. Mr. Lewis describes the sit-down strike that people are planning. The people who own the factories and railroads are scared.  

Bud soon falls sound asleep in the car, and the next thing he knows, they have arrived at the Log Cabin. Mr. Lewis agrees to give Bud five minutes to talk with his dad alone, and Bud leaves his suitcase with him. Lefty promises not to look inside it.  Bud heads toward the door, which must be, he thinks, one of the doors that Momma talks about. But inside the first set of doors is another set of regular doors that would lead inside. So, instead of going through the second set of doors, Bud waits in the foyer, in the dark. 

After five minutes, Bud turns around and comes back out. He tells Mr. Lewis that everything’s fine and that his dad isn’t very mad, and really busy. Mr. Lewis gives Bud some parting advice, telling him that a young Negro boy shouldn’t be traveling across Michigan all by himself. He tells Bud, “There’re folks in this state that make your average Ku Kluxer look like John Brown.” He says Bud should sit tight, but if he gets the urge to travel, he can ask for Lefty Lewis at the train station. They say their goodbyes. 

This time, Bud opens both sets of doors and enters the Log Cabin. He sees six men, one of them white, sitting in a circle on a stage. Bud listens as the men talk back and forth. Herman Calloway’s lying and exaggerating skills are all the proof Bud needs that he is his father, because Bud excels at those same skills, too.  

Bud listens as Calloway tells about his one middleweight bout and explains why he quit fighting after it. Bud realizes that Calloway is repeating, nearly verbatim, the same thought Bud had when Todd Amos was beating up on him. Calloway says, “There comes a time when you’re doing something and you realize it just doesn’t make any sense to keep on doing it, you ain’t being a quitter, it’s just that the good Lord has seen fit to give you the sense to know, you understand, enough is enough.”  Bud thinks, “Only two folks with the same blood would think them just alike!” 

A man with a horn named Jimmy sees Bud and asks if Miss Thomas sent him. Bud notices that his dad’s face is old. Bud tells them he’s here to meet his father for the first time. Bud points at Herman E. Callaway and says, “You know it’s you.” Then, he follows up that declaration with an emphatic, “I know it’s you.”

Analysis: Chapter 12

It is ironic that, though Bud has never been closer to finding his father, Herman E. Calloway, he drives around Flint all day with Mr. Lewis. Flint is exactly where Bud would rather not be, given he ran from there to escape the Home and the Amoses. However, Mr. Lewis has sent word to Calloway’s club, the Log Cabin in Grand Rapids, so Bud imagines that his father is expecting him, and trusts that Mr. Lewis will deliver him there as promised in the telegram.

The encounter with the police officer illustrates the trust that is building between Bud and Lefty Lewis. When the police pull them over on their way out of Flint, Bud likely thinks it’s over. He wants to put Rule No. 8 into play and make a break for it, but, in a move somewhat out of character, he actually listens to Mr. Lewis and does what he’s told. Meanwhile, Bud makes it clear he isn’t totally trusting of adults and still has a back-up plan to escape, should circumstances warrant it. Mr. Lewis, though, seems quite adept at doing what the reader knows Bud admires: being able to talk yourself out of a bad situation. Similarly to what the pretend father had done back in Chapter 6, Mr. Lewis adopts Bud, temporarily, as his pretend grandson, and thereby proves his trustworthiness. The cop falls for it, even admitting (ironically) that he can see the family resemblance, and lets them go.

Bud agrees to leave his suitcase in the car while he goes into the Log Cabin, and Mr. Lewis again shows his integrity by agreeing not to look inside it. But Bud, ever resourceful and clever, doesn’t want Mr. Lewis to know that Herman E. Calloway has no idea who he is. He tricks Mr. Lewis by walking into the dark foyer of the Log Cabin, waiting a few minutes, and then re-emerging to tell Lewis that all’s well. When they part, Lefty Lewis reminds Bud that the racial tensions in Michigan present real danger for Black people, an underlying theme throughout Curtis’ book.

Back in the Log Cabin, Bud observes while still intently looking for clues that Calloway is his father. Although Calloway seems too old, everything about him seems to convince Bud that they are related, including the way Calloway thinks, as exemplified in his comments about fighting that Bud thinks are so similar to his own ideas. Even though he feels this doubt, Bud resolves himself, “But . . . there was just too much proof that this was my father!” The intensity of this moment is clear when Bud reminds the reader of the strength he’s displayed throughout the book so far.