Caleb Hudson sat in the back of the class trying to remain as quiet and unnoticeable as he could, which was a little difficult when he stood out like a dark hollyhock in a field of Easter lilies. He stared at the history book in front of him, remembering the words his dad said to him earlier that week, the same words he said to him every Monday morning before he headed to his Uncle Vern’s house in Charleston and then to his new school.
Each morning Caleb took the words in a different way. Some days, he figured that if he just behaved then the other students and his teacher would come to accept him. Other days, he was sure it meant that if he wanted to keep his skin intact he’d better be good or else. His dad said quite a bit with only a few words in his sing-song Gullah and Caleb had learned to figure out all the meanings he intended. Today he’d decided that it meant he was an example and he had to have the strength to fulfill that example. But Lordy it was hard. He was only ten after all.
The words, the scent of fish on his dad’s clothes, and the feel of his hand heavy on Caleb’s shoulder filled him with a renewed determination each Monday to make the walk from his home to his uncle’s house. He knew that his Uncle Vern had stuck his neck out to give him this chance to go to a good school and he knew that if wanted to get his dream to be like his hero Henry Flipper he’d have to stick it out. However, by midweek his determination usually started to waver underneath the silent condemnation of his classmates and teachers, and the not so silent harassment from James Littleton.