Excerpt from Chapter 11 Forged by Fire

Excerpt from Chapter 11
Forged By Fire
By Sharon Draper
Gerald felt sick. He knew he had to get help in a
hurry, but he didn’t know where to go, who to talk
to, or what he should do first. The bus dropped him
off in front of Hazelwood Middle School, where he
was in sixth grade. It stood empty and silent this
early in the morning. The dark upstairs windows
looked like huge, accusing eyes, staring at him. The
front door hadn’t been unlocked yet. Gerald sighed
and sat on the curb, hoping that a teacher or
counselor he knew and could trust would decide to
come to work early today.
He was hesitant to go the police.
What if they don’t believe me? he asked himself.
Will they believe a kid? I don’t really have any
proof. On TV, cops need hard evidence or the bad
guy gets away. What if I accuse Jordan of abuse or
something and they can’t prove it? He’ll be angry
and get even more violent and maybe hurt Angel
Gerald bowed his head and sighed in misery. He
barely noticed the silver Buick that stopped in front
of him.
“What’s up man? You look so down that curb
looks like up.” It was Robbie, the best basketball
player at Hazelwood Middle School. Gerald liked
Rob, who was always cracking jokes and acting silly.
“What you doin’ here so early?” Gerald asked.
“My dad drops me off every morning before he
goes to work. It’s a little early, but I finish up my
homework or go to sleep in the locker room. That
door is always open early. Want a doughnut?”
“Naw, man. I got a lot on my mind today.”
Rob’s dad, who was standing at the back of the
car getting Robbie’s bag and lunch out of the trunk,
glanced at Gerald with concern.
Gerald didn’t know Rob’s dad very well, but he
probably knew him better than any father of his
friends. Mr. Washington was active on the school
parent council and came to all of the basketball
games, track meets, and school plays. He and his
wife often had Rob’s friends to their home on
They had a finished rec room, a huge backyard, and
a refrigerator that always seemed to be wellstocked with essentials like pizza and ice cream and
soda pop. Gerald wasn’t sure if they were wealthy
or not, but they sure had lots of things that he and
Monique and Angel couldn’t afford. Gerald had
only been there once, and although he’d felt
uncomfortable at first, Rob’s family had made him
feel at home.
Mr. Washington touched Gerald on the shoulder.
“You all right, son?” he asked with genuine concern.
Gerald had planned to shrug, laugh, and head to
the gym with Rob. But the touch of Rob’s father’s
hand on his shoulder seemed to let everything
come loose. He tried to hold them back, but tears
or fear and worry began to escape from his tightly
clenched eyes.
Embarrassed, he sniffed and lowered his head.
Rob’s father motioned for his son to go on into the
building and squatted on the curb next to Gerald.
“Let’s go get something to eat, Gerald,” he said
quietly. He offered his hand. Gerald sighed, wiped his
eyes on his coat sleeve, took the offered hand, and got
in the car.
Mr. Washington asked no questions at first. At
McDonald’s he ordered a cup of coffee and a hot
chocolate, got extra cream and sugar for both, and
steered Gerald to a booth near the back. Gerald
sipped the cocoa gratefully, the warmth of it
relaxing him. He thought of Aunt Queen, who
loved her black coffee every morning. He knew that
Queen would have liked Rob’s dad. She approved of
black men in blue suits who had jobs in offices
downtown. Mr. Washington had called his office from
a pay phone, so he casually read the morning paper
while Gerald sat silently, trying to figure out where to
Discussion Questions
1. What is a role model?
2. What words can you use to describe Mr.
Washington? Defend your answer with
specific details from the reading.
3. Why do you think Gerald felt he could
confide in Mr. Washington?
4. What do you predict will happen next?

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