Only a person who has taught in the inner-city schools is able to create a fictional yet realistic account of the life of a youngster struggling to find himself in this environment.
John Chipley, whom the boys fondly have dubbed Mr. Chip, taught in Memphis inner-city schools for over fifteen years. In retirement, he offers weekly volunteer sessions that focus on encouraging boys to read. This is a lofty goal, for the boys live in homes and neighborhood environments not structured to develop reading skills or dreams of career advancement. Mr. Chip's goal surpasses development of reading ability to encourage the boys to enjoy this privilege.
Chipley is formally prepared to teach, for he holds both Bachelor and Master of Education degrees. However, the most memorable aspect of his classroom presence is his heart. He cares deeply about each one of his students and is there for them both now and in the future. Through the persona of Little A, Chipley gives the boys a fictional character with whom they can identify. Little A's life style echoes theirs. While reading this series of books, the boys witness someone they can relate to. Little A is a wonderful fictional character full of wisdom, character, adventure, and confidence.
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Little A and Ku-jaa
By John Chipley
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2016 John Chipley
All rights reserved.
As I start my story, you need to know I wasn't a good student, academically. Don't get me wrong, I tried to make good grades. I was always polite to my teachers and had lots of friends. However, while being nice and polite is important, it didn't help me on my test scores.
My teacher, Ms. Carter, gave me all kinds of aptitude tests to see if I were brain dead, lazy, or just stupid. But no one seemed to be able to figure out my problem. All I knew was I hated taking tests, and my test scores were always bad. Now you know I wasn't 'Mr. Smart Guy.' NO, I was just Little A. But all that didn't bother me the way it seemed to bother my mom. Mom wanted me to be President of the United States. I just laughed and said, "Mom, not every boy can be a race horse. Some of us, I guess, were designed to plow fields." However, Mom did not appreciate my humor or agree with my logic.
However, the truth was, I did want to be a racehorse, but I just couldn't be one. I prayed every night for God to make me smart, but nothing changed. Finally, I decided I was what God wanted me to be. After all, who was I to question God?
There had to be a way for me to deal with the way I was. My teacher, Ms. Carter, always told our class, "Where there is a will, there is a way."
I already had the will, I just needed to find the way.
As it turned out, the way came in the form of a small girl about my age. Her name was Ku-jaa.
Ku-jaa was my age, but she was one-hundred years older than me. I know this sounds crazy, like a riddle or a trick, but it's neither. Ku-jaa was both thirteen and one hundred and thirteen. She lived behind my school, deep in the woods, real deep.
In a way, this story is more about Kujaa than about me. I'm in the story, but I'm also the storyteller.CHAPTER 2
It's like a Secret
It was the first week of school. I saw Ku-jaa for the first time on a fall Friday afternoon while walking home from school. Like a homeless person, she was pushing a grocery cart down Tillman Street. She was coming in my direction. Her cart was full of stuff, not groceries, just stuff. I saw old clothes, a radio, a pillow, doll babies, a blanket, and lots of books. She was coming in my direction at a slow pace, as if she didn't have anywhere to go.
She was looking down at the sidewalk as she made her way along Tillman Street, and didn't see me coming. I stopped, stepped to one side, and let her pass. After she had passed, she stopped and looked back at me.
"Thank you," she said. "I wasn't watching where I was going."
Then she turned and slowly continued on her way. She looked tired or maybe sick. I ran after her and asked if she were okay.
She asked, "Are you going to rob me?"
"NO!!!" I replied. "You just looked as if you needed some help."
"My name is Ku-jaa," she said, "what's yours?"
"Abraham, Abraham Anderson, but everyone just calls me Little A."
There was this long pause. Then she asked, "What year is it?"
I thought that was a strange question, but I told her it is 2016. She smiled and started to laugh. She said, "You are very smart for a young boy."
I could see something strange about her and also something different. Then, like a soldier, she stood up straight, brushed off her old dress, and smiled from ear to ear. She shouted with excitement, "You have to be kidding me. You mean you are Abraham Anderson, PRESIDENT Abraham Anderson!"
I replied, "Well, yeah, I'm Abraham Anderson, but I'm not the president of anything."
Ku-jaa just stood there. "Little A," she said, "I've got to tell you something, but you're not going to understand. It's like a secret, but it's not. And I promise you it's true! Little A, one day, you will be President of the United States. And you and I will ---------------."
------------- Then she abruptly stopped talking.
"I can't tell you the other part, it wouldn't be fair."
Then she did a silly little bow, smiled, and said, "Have a good day, Mr. President."
Then she turned and continued pushing her cart down the sidewalk. Suddenly, just as before, she stopped.
"Oh, and one more thing, Little A. Just so you know I'm not crazy, today you will receive $5.32."
When she said that, I knew she was crazy. I started laughing out loud and thanked her. Ku-jaa also laughed, but it was a different type of laugh. It was as if she knew something I didn't know. I stood there for a few minutes, knowing she was just a little crazy. Then I waved good-bye and continued on my way. She was a funny little girl, but I enjoyed talking with her, even if she were a little Strange. Being strange doesn't make a person bad, just different. And I think being different can sometimes be both good and fun. Anyway, to me she looked as if she needed a friend, someone to talk to. Maybe I was that person.
When I got home, Mom was waiting for me on the front porch. She shouted for me to run down to the corner store, fast as I could. She gave me a ten dollar bill and told me to run. She was making a cake and needed more flour. I ran as fast as I could, bought the flour, and ran home.
Mom thanked me. Then she took the change I gave her and said, "Little A, you are always doing nice things to help me and I never give you a dime." Then she took all the change I gave her and returned it to me. "Thank you Little A. Thank you for always helping me when I need it."
I took the money, thought about what Ku-jaa said, and quickly laid the money out on top of the kitchen table. I thought to myself, this can't be $5.32. It's impossible!
When I counted the money, it was $5.50. I started laughing. I remembered Ku-jaa telling me I would get $5.32, not $5.50. I continued laughing at myself for believing what Ku-jaa told me. Mom heard me laughing and turned around to see what was so funny.
That was when she accidently bumped the kitchen table. Five coins fell off the table and dropped down the heater pipes in the kitchen floor. I could hear the coins rolling as they disappeared down the pipes, gone forever. I looked back up at the money left on the table.
There sat $5.32.
This time, I didn't laugh!! This laugh!!!CHAPTER 3
Ku-jaa told me that when I grew up, I would be President of the United States. She said it had to be a secret between the two of us. However, it was an easy secret to keep. After all, who would ever believe me if I did tell them? I was just a "C" student on a good day and attended a small inner-city school. Mom and I lived on her Social Security check and gifts from friends. Mom never finished grade school. She only got as far as the fifth grade. She told me she had to drop out of school to help support her family. She taught herself and loved reading. I didn't remember a night when Mom didn't read to me or have me read to her.
Mom made it very clear that I was going to finish school and go to college. She insisted that I read to her every night. It was hard, and at first, I didn't like reading. Then I began to enjoy it. We didn't have a TV, computer, or much of anything. But we had library books, lots and lots of library books.
All those books took the place of a TV. We were the only family in our neighborhood that didn't have a TV. I wanted a TV real bad, but Mom wouldn't buy one. She told me we couldn't afford a TV. And besides, she always said, "Presidents don't sit around watching junk TV. Presidents read and learn. Presidents have to be smart."
We read every night. Mom knew that one day I would become someone important, and reading books every night was going to make it happen. However, what she didn't know was, according to Ku-jaa, I really was going to become President. But Ku-jaa was just a little crazy, and I liked her craziness.
I still wondered how Ku-jaa knew the exact amount of money I was going to get? How did she know I was even going to get any money?
My next move was obvious. I had to find Ku-jaa. I needed to know how she knew the future, MY future. Or was the $5.32 just a trick?CHAPTER 4
From that day on I watched every person I passed on Tillman Street. I asked every homeless person I saw if they had seen a girl with a shopping cart. But no one had seen her. No one, that is, but me.
Early one Saturday morning while I was still sound asleep, George woke up and put his cold wet snotty dog nose against my nose.
When I opened my eyes, we were nose to nose and snot to snot. George was trying to tell me something and I knew what it was. He knew where Ku-jaa was!!!!
Dogs, like George, can smell people blocks away, long before a person can see them.
I saw it in his eyes. I smelled it on his doggie breath. Plus, he always made a funny sounding bark when he was trying to tell me something. He had a special bark for the mailman, another bark for the garbage men, a bark for strangers, and a happy bark for my friends. He was telling me to get out of bed and follow him.
I wiped his dog snot off my nose, jumped out of bed, and pulled my clothes on as fast as a fireman going to a fire. As soon as I opened my bedroom door, George ran over to the front door and sat there wagging his tail. His tail was going so fast I thought he was going to hurt himself. He looked over at me as if I weren't moving fast enough. I yelled for him to slow down. I needed four legs to go any faster.
It was early, and Mom was still asleep. I knew not to wake her up this early on Saturday morning, so I left her a note on the kitchen table telling her that I would be home by noon. Then George and I quietly eased out the front door and cautiously made our way over to Tillman Street. George was now starting to run at full dog speed, and I was trying my best just to keep up. George was an old dog, and I was a young boy, but I still couldn't keep up with him. At his fast pace I didn't know how much longer I could keep going. Yet, I knew he was onto something BIG, and I wasn't about to miss anything. I somehow knew he was taking me to Ku-jaa, and, in a way, he was. He was taking me to her smell.
He took me to an old grocery cart. It was parked leaning against the graffiti wall on Tillman Street. George was going crazy with excitement. He wouldn't stop barking. I knew Ku-jaa's scent had to be all over that cart, but where was Ku-jaa?
In the movies, the boy always tells his dog to find someone who is lost. The boy would command his dog, "Old Yeller, go boy," and Old Yeller would take off and save the day. But George wasn't that kind of dog. He wasn't a movie star type dog, but he was still a smart dog. So, I said to myself, why not give it a try. I looked down at George and spoke in a very commanding movie star type voice, "GO FIND HER, GEORGE, GO BOY, GO!"
But old George just sat there. He didn't move. He just wagged his tail and sat there looking up at me as if I were big-time crazy. I laughed out loud. I told George I just had to try. I looked down at George and said, "It's O.K. boy, I still love you."
George once again tilted his head, as if he were trying to understand what I was saying. Then, suddenly, George just took off running at full speed. He ran directly into the woods next to Tillman Street and the graffiti wall. He turned and ran into the woods behind the school, and just kept running.
I called for George to stop, to come back!!! You see, I wasn't allowed to go into the woods behind the school. Mom told me to NEVER go into the woods behind the school! She told me that a boy, AJ, from our apartments, was dragged into the woods years ago and never found. A teacher saw a boy and heard him crying for help, but he disappeared into the darkness of the woods.
The police searched every square inch of the woods, but they were never able to find the boy. After that, Mom made me promise never to go into those woods. I think every mom in the neighborhood made her child make the same promise. From the day AJ disappeared, the woods behind the school were void of children. To everyone, the woods became evil. No one went into those woods again, no one!
During school on stormy days, if the classroom windows were open and the room quiet, I could sometimes hear what sounded like a boy crying. I wasn't the only student who heard it. Lots of my friends heard it.
Our teacher told us that the sound was just the wind blowing through the tree branches, but none of us believed her. Too many kids heard it, too many.CHAPTER 5
On that Saturday morning I didn't want to go into the woods, but George just took off running and wouldn't come back. I stood there on Tillman Street calling for him to come back, but he wouldn't, so I had to follow him. I took off chasing after him. I ran at full speed until I finally had to slow down and start walking from exhaustion.
George stopped and gave me time to catch up. I walked over to old George and sat on the ground next to him, exhausted. As soon as I sat on the ground, the woods started to change. George gave me this funny dog look, and I gave him my crazy boy look. Just then the trees started shaking and growing darker. Suddenly, a wild wind began to blow. George and I were caught in the middle of a terrible storm.
George crawled over to where I was sitting and curled up on my lap. We held onto each other as the woods around us shook every bone in our bodies. George put one paw over both his eyes and ears, and hung on to me with another for dear life. I didn't know what was happening, but I knew it wasn't good. Just then, as fast as it started, the shaking stopped.
That was when I saw a path, a path that wasn't there before the storm. The path went deep into the woods, real deep! I looked over at George, and George looked up at me. Then he cocked his head to one side, as if he were once again trying to tell me he didn't want to go. I told him it was our only hope of getting home, for there was no other path.
We both stood up and looked down that long and narrow path. Then we both started running. The further we went the more the path become invisible. We continued to run until I suddenly saw the end of the darkness. I could see it in the distance, like the end of a summer rain storm. As we came to the end and stepped through the curtain of darkness, we stepped into this world of bright light. Right in front of us stood Ku-jaa. She was just standing there with her arms crossed as if she were expecting us.
"Ku-jaa?" I asked.
She replied. "What's wrong, little boy, haven't you seen a girl before?"
I just stood there staring at her. Then I asked her, "Are you the same girl I met on Tillman Street?"
She laughed and said, "Yeah, I'm the same Ku-jaa." I didn't know what to think, but I knew I had found Ku-jaa. She looked different. She was all dressed up as if she knew I was coming. Then she called both George and me by name. She remembered us! Then she told me something that scared me. She said, "Little A, you just stepped out of your world and into mine. You are now standing in the year 2116!"CHAPTER 6
Ku-jaa said, "Little A, I'm going to tell you something that will be hard for you to understand, and I don't want it to scare you. Remember when I told you about the future, about you becoming President?"
I told her, "Yeah."
"Well," she said, "the reason I knew what was going to happen in the future was because I live in the future. Just now, when you stepped out of the darkness and into the light, you also stepped into the future. It's not like heaven or anything like that. It's more like another time zone, a very big time zone."
"My world is over one hundred years ahead of your world. Little A, I know everything that is going to happen over the next one hundred years, and I have already told you one thing. I probably shouldn't have done that!"
After Ku-jaa finished talking, we just stood there staring at each other for a long time. Then I broke the long silence.
"Ku-jaa, how can you be so much older than I am and still be my age? How can you just walk into my world? And what do you do when you are in my world?"
"STOP! Slow down, slow down," Ku-jaa shouted. "You are full of questions. Please, give me time to answer one question before you ask another."
Ku-jaa paused for a few minutes, then said, "Little A, what time is it?"
I thought that was a strange question to ask. However, I looked at my watch. "It's 9:30," I replied.
Then she asked me, "What time is it right now in, say, Hawaii?"
"Hawaii?" I replied. "I'm not sure, but I think it's maybe 4:30 in the morning."
Ku-jaa then asked, "How can it be 9:30 where you are and 4:30 in Hawaii at the same time? Shouldn't it be the same time everywhere?"
I told Ku-jaa, "It has to do with the rotation of the Earth around the Sun."
"Correct," she said. "Little A, you are very smart! My world, Little A, also rotates. However, it is rotating much faster than your world. While we are standing here talking, I am one hundred years ahead of you, not older than you. You see, Little A, time is just a number. If you called someone in Hawaii, you would talk to them as if you were both in the same time zone, but you're not, you're five hours ahead. The same thing is true with you and me, only I am one hundred years ahead of you, not just a few hours. Little A, when you stepped into the light, you also stepped into the future. You are only the second person to have made it.
How did you do it? How did you find the path that led to the future?"
Excerpted from Little A and Ku-jaa by John Chipley. Copyright © 2016 John Chipley. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
It's like a Secret, 4,
Mr. President, 11,
The Woods, 14,
The Light, 22,
The Future, 26,
The Life-Coin, 37,
The Bathroom, 40,
Try Again, 45,
Two Worlds, 66,