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Authors: Sharon Draper

Fire from the Rock

BOOK: Fire from the Rock
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Table of Contents
“Are they gonna shut down our schools and make us all go to school with the white kids?” Reggie asked. He sounded concerned. “I like the fact that Dunbar and Mann are just for the colored kids! They don't want us and we don't need them.”
“No, Mr. Birmingham,” said Miss Washington. “This process may take years. Next week we will start the selection process for those of you who might choose to be among the first, the proud, maybe even the famous. But it will not be easy. The white establishment does not want you there. It will be difficult, maybe even painful, and probably dangerous. I want you to go home tonight and talk to your parents. After much discussion and prayer, if you and your family want to be considered for this, I want you to let me know. We are slowly compiling a list of possible students to present to the school board. Only the best and the brightest will be chosen. Will you be among them?”
“I know I don't want to be on that list,” Sylvia heard Reggie say.
The bell rang then, and Sylvia exhaled as if she had been underwater. Integration! Here in Little Rock. Finally. And she and her friends could be the ones chosen to do it. What a terrible, horrible, wonderful decision this would be.
November Blues
Copper Sun
Romiette and Julio
We Beat the Street: How a Friendship Pact Led to Success
The Battle of Jericho
Double Dutch
Tears of a Tiger
Forged by Fire
Darkness Before Dawn
The Buried Bones Mystery
Lost in the Tunnel of Time
Shadows of Caesar's Creek
The Space Mission Adventure
The Backyard Animal Show
Stars and Sparks Onstage
Published by the Penguin Group
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Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in the United States of America by Dutton Children's Books,
a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2007
Published by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2008
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents are either the product
of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © Sharon M. Draper, 2007
All rights reserved
CIP Data is available.
eISBN : 978-1-440-65136-6

Ernest Green
Elizabeth Eckford
Jefferson Thomas
Terrence Roberts
Carlotta Walls
Minnijean Brown
Gloria Ray
Thelma Mothershed
Melba Patillo
and to Benita Zucker, my childhood friend.
“Fire came up from the rock and consumed the meat and the bread.”
not My word
like fire and like a hammer that smashes rock?”
Help! Mama, come quick! Donna Jean's been bit by a dog!” fifteen-year-old Sylvia Patterson screamed as she burst through the front door. Her hat had fallen off, she'd lost a snow boot someplace back on the sidewalk, and her breath escaped in short, harsh gasps. Sylvia had never been so scared in her life.
Her aunt Bessie hurried up the steps behind her, struggling with the weight of the sobbing, shrieking eight-year-old in her arms. She paused on the porch to adjust the child's weight and to try to quiet her a bit.
child. It's gonna be all right. Your mama's gonna make it all better real soon. We're at your house now. That's a girl. Be brave now.
Donna Jean's tears turned into big gulps as she realized she was home, but as soon as she saw her mother running to the door, she started wailing again.
“Oh, my Lord! How did this happen?” The girls' mother looked upset, but her movements were surprisingly calm. She took the little girl into her arms and cuddled her as she rushed the child into the house and set her gently on the sofa. Rust-colored blood had stained her apron.
“It was one of Mr. Crandall's big old hound dogs, Mama! He came out of nowhere and just grabbed her leg!” Sylvia cried.
“Run go get me some soap and water, towels from the bathroom, some rubbing alcohol, a bottle of iodine, and the box of gauze strips, Sylvie,” her mother said calmly. Sylvia darted off quickly to obey, partly from fear, and partly from not wanting to miss one second of this horrible drama that was unfolding in her living room. When she dashed back her mother was cooing to the little girl, “It's all right, baby. It's just a little scratch,” but her forehead had wrinkled into a frown as she examined
Donna Jean's leg.
“How did this happen, Bessie?” Mrs. Patterson asked her sister.
Aunt Bessie sighed deeply as she took the alcohol and bandages from the still-trembling Sylvia. “I feel like it's my fault, Leola, but how was I to know that Crandall's fool dogs were loose? The girls were just waiting for me by the fence, and the dog tore around the corner like a train off the track. He wrapped his jaws around her leg before I could turn around. Oh, Lord.” She put her head in her hands.
Every colored person in Little Rock, Arkansas, knew all about the Crandall family and their vicious dogs. Mr. Crandall—the owner of a local barbershop, and surely the meanest man in the county—had trained his dogs to attack Negroes. Sometimes he conveniently forgot to tie them up. All his friends probably thought it was really funny, but all the colored people thought it was terrifying. Last year at least five people—all of them Negroes—had been bitten by one of his dogs.
Crandall's wife, Eileen, was known as the most vocal segregationist in town. She and her friends—all of whom wore cat-eye-shaped glasses, Sylvia had noticed—protested vocally when the buses, the police force, and the university had been integrated. They had recently formed something called The Mothers' Coalition to prepare for protesting against possible school integration.
The Crandalls had two teenaged children—a thick-shouldered, crew-cut-wearing son named Johnny, who was an outstanding player on the Central High football team, and a thin, pale daughter named Callie, who mirrored her mother in looks and attitude.
Sylvia and the rest of her friends walked to school the long way rather than go past the Crandalls' house.
Aunt Bessie should have known better!
Sylvia thought angrily. She bit her lip, frustrated with herself as well.
I should have known better, too.
With its peeling yellow paint and the sagging front porch, the Crandall house looked dingy, but Mr. Crandall made it just plain frightening. His hair was greased back, and his eyes, even at a distance, looked dark and fierce. The local children whispered that he could cast spells with those eyes.
Even though Mr. Crandall seemed to wear the same pair of work pants every day, he was known throughout Little Rock for his highly polished, chestnut-brown, double-laced oxford shoes with metal taps on the toes and the heels. Folks said he special-ordered those shoes from Houston, Texas. In addition, he made a point of wearing a clean white dress shirt every day. His wife never ironed them, however. He always hired women like Aunt Bessie to do his shirts. Today she had taken twenty-five bright-white dress shirts to him, bleached and starched so well they looked like little soldiers.
Sylvia watched quietly while her mother worked on her sister, not sure if she should cry or throw up. She took deep breaths of the stuffy air in the living room, but she felt dizzy and enclosed.
“I just went to deliver his laundry,” Aunt Bessie said, weeping, as she helped her sister wash Donna Jean's wounds. Some of the water in the basin, tinged pink with DJ's blood, sloshed onto the carpet as DJ's mother squeezed out the washcloth.
“Why are you still doing laundry, anyway?” Sylvia's mother asked angrily. “You've got a successful beauty shop. You don't need to be doing this!”
Bessie nodded her head in agreement. “I know, I know. I shouldn't have taken the girls with me, but I'd promised them a treat—you know how much they love Mrs. Zucker's cookies.” Donna Jean had stopped screaming and only cried out when they touched a particularly tender area.
BOOK: Fire from the Rock
11.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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