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City Boy

City Boy

Does a kid growing up on the mean streets of Chicago have any future? Curtis asks himself this question every day. In his pursuit of the fine and good, his only companion is an equally street-smart dog.


When Curtis is caught in the middle of a gang war, he turns for refuge to an inner-city ministry operated by Youth Pastor Don Parker. However, there’s no place for Curtis’s companion, the faithful Bogie. Looking for a place to call home, Curtis ends up staying with a family in Wisconsin, but his past follows him. In this coming-of-age story, Curtis suffers loss and betrayal, yet finds the most important gift of all.


For Senior Hi Readers

  • Read an excerpt from City Boy

         I pushed through the swinging doors and stood just beyond them, wiping my hands on my apron. I wished my skin hadn’t turned red from hot, soapy water. I wished I could play a varsity sport. I wished . . .
       Taking a big breath, I walked over to the messy tables and started to stack dishes, trying not to make a noise. Maybe Lorelai wouldn’t notice...
       “... I’d like to see Europe,” I heard her saying. “Just think. The Louvre. Venice." Laughter. “The Acropolis. But I’ll probably end up with a scholarship to one of the schools in the East. That’s what my mom wants.”
       “But you want to go to college, don’t you?” one of the football players was asking.
       “Sure I do. But I’d like to take a year off first. Look around.”
       “Well, I had to go to Paris with my folks one year,” the girl nearest the window said. “The food was terrible and you couldn’t understand anyone. Filthy, too. I hate to travel.”
       I had a neat stack of dishes and balanced them against my chest on the way back to the dishwasher. When I came back into the dining room, the couples were leaving the cafe. None of them looked back on their way out. As they climbed into a shiny Firebird with mag wheels, I watched through the curved windows. Lorelei tossed her hair back and slipped gracefully in front with one of the lettermen. Then they drove off. Out of my life. Out of reach. 
    They passed the brownstone down the street. And the red Corvette parked outside.
       So. Lorenzo was at work. And someone else. A black stretch limo was parked right behind the Corvette.
       I was studying this new development when Hilda puffed up beside me.
       She clucked her tongue at the sight of the cars. “No good pusher scum. They wreck good
    neighborhoods,” she said spitting out the words. “This was a good neighborhood, fifteen, twenty years past. Good place to live. Now no good pusher scum make it no good. No good scum.”
       She looked at me.
       “You hungry?” Then, before I could answer, she said, “what am I thinking? Boys always hungry. Go get something to eat.”
       I went into the kitchen and made a baloney sandwich and a hot dog and a pile of french fries for myself. Carrying all this, I backed through the screen door that led to the alley behind the cafe. When I turned around, I was surprised to see a skinny black dog, forelegs balanced against the sides of a dumpster, digging for scraps. The screen door banged and he whirled around, alert, ready to run.
       For a second, we just looked at each other. I could see the intelligence in his eyes. He sized me up, wondering if he could trust me, waiting to see if I’d chase him off. And I studied him, wondering if he was friendly.
       His eyes flicked to my loaded plate. I saw his nose twitch.
       “Hey. You look pretty hungry,” I said softly. He looked back at my face. I really think he understood what I had said and that made me laugh.
       “Come on. I’ll share my baloney sandwich,” I said, sitting down on the back step. I broke off part of the sandwich and held it out to him. 
       I don’t know if he figured he could trust me or if he was just too hungry to hold out. Anyway, he stretched his head toward the bite of sandwich and wolfed it down. After that, he licked his chops and stared at the pile of french fries on my plate.
       I ended up giving him the rest of the baloney sandwich and half of my fries. After he wolfed that down, he begged for more, coming close to me and watching intently as I lifted each bite to my mouth.
       “Guess that wasn’t enough,” I said, wiping my hands on my apron. “Maybe Hilda will give you some scraps. Would you like some scraps?”
       He perked his ears and barked, as if to answer my question.
       “Think you’re smart, huh? Well, I think so, too. Wait. Stay.”
       He curled his tail and sat down. I grinned and went to find Hilda.
       “Hilda,” I called from the back. “Come here and see what I’ve found. I think you’ll like him.”
       She came puffing to the door, wiping her red hands on her apron. I pushed open the screen door for her and pointed at the black dog. She took one look and clucked her tongue.
       “He see some hard days,” she said.
       “We have any scraps for him?” I asked her. “He ate part of my lunch, but I don’t think it was enough.”
       “I see what I got. You wait.”
       I could hear her in the kitchen banging around.
       “Once you feed him, hard to get rid of him,” she called.
       “I guess so. But he’s smart. And I think he likes me.”
       “Hard to keep a dog in the city,” she said, coming back.
       I looked at the dog. He wore a collar but no tag. I wondered if he had been abandoned. The black dog was watching me, too, and thumped his tail.
       “Still. He looks very polite,” she added. “Here.”
       We put the plate of scraps -- sausages and ham -- down for him. He licked the plate clean in seconds and wagged his tail for more. Hilda shook her head.
       “He needs a good home,” she said. “You think to keep him, Curtis?”
       To be honest, I hadn’t thought of anything like that until that very instant. But I liked the idea.
       “Yeah,” I said. “I think I’ll keep him. If he wants to stay, that is.”
       She clucked her tongue again.
       “You can’t take care of him, Curtis. Think. You. Collecting cans just to eat. How you feed two mouths? I call the welfare office on your pop. No good man.”
       I knew Hilda was right. I couldn’t afford a dog. I barely had enough food for myself. And I knew my old man wouldn’t like it. But then, he didn’t like much of anything. 

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