Escaping Katrina Chapter 3 -- a story by Colin Kelly


Chapter 3

I slept during the drive the rest of the way to Houston. Lincoln shook me and had a hard time getting me to wake up when we were pulling in to park. “Cody Williams, we’re here in Houston, wake up, boy!” I finally woke up after he repeated this several times.

We got off the bus, and Lillian gave us each a form that had our name and the other information she had asked us for when we first got on the bus. We got in a line and it moved pretty fast, and then we were in the Astrodome. It was huge! I stuck with Lincoln, and soon we were at a processing table. Lincoln had taken my form, and he gave his and mine to the lady. “We’re together, I know his Granny, and he’s gonna stay with me.”

“That’s fine, Mr. Carter.” She turned to me, “That’s okay with you, Cody?”

“Yes, ma’am. But I also want to try to find my Granny. Her name is Lebois, That’s spelled L-E-B-O-I-S, Elizabeth Lebois. She was supposed to be taken to the Astrodome or the Convention Center, but I was taken to the Convention Center. It was awful there and I never had a chance to look for her.”

The woman filled out a form. “We have a database with the names of everyone who came here, even if they already left. I’ll check after my shift is over, and I’ll find you and let you know if I’ve located your Granny.” She handed each of us a small plastic envelope with a slip of paper inside with our names and two numbers. It was like a necklace, and we put them on around our necks.

“This is where you will stay. The rows are the first number, then your cots are the second number. This key is for the locker at the end of your cot. Each locker has a different key, so make sure you don’t lose it. You can put your possessions in the locker, just be sure to keep it locked and keep the key with you at all times.”

Lincoln looked at her. “I’m looking for my family. Last name’s same as me, Carter. Common name, so my grandson’s name is Arnold, his wife’s name is Patrice, they have three kids, Lincoln, like me, and Jordan, and Kendal. Then my cousin’s with them, his name is Stanley, and his wife is Shirley, their baby boy with them is Danny.” The lady wrote all of that down, and I noticed she wrote Lincoln’s cot number on the form.

She told us about security, about keeping our possessions in our lockers or with us at all times again, where to go to get meals, where the bathrooms and shower rooms were, and then handed us each a sheet of paper that had all of this information and another with a couple of maps showing where things were in the Astrodome.

We started out to find our cots. Suddenly there was a yell, and we turned to see what was going on. A heavy set woman was running our way.

Lincoln must have recognized her. “Oh, praise Holy God! It’s Patrice! Patrice! Here! Over here!”

That last part wasn’t necessary, ‘cause the woman was heading directly for Lincoln. She ran right at him and almost knocked him down, then grabbed him and they hugged, then she kissed Lincoln over and over and cried and cried, and I noticed that Lincoln’s eyes were leaking a bit too.

After a few minutes Lincoln grabbed my arm and pulled me to them. “Patrice, this is Cody Williams. I’m watching after him. He’s a nice boy, you be nice to him, understand?” He smiled at Patrice, then at me.

Patrice pulled away from Lincoln, and grabbed me in a huge hug and burst into tears again! I looked over at Lincoln, and he just grinned a raised his eyebrows in a sort of shrug.

“Patrice, don’t damage Cody Williams, girl! You shed many more tears on him he won’t have to shower for a week!”

She let me go, but not after planting a huge kiss on my cheek. “Glad ta meetchya, Cody Williams! Welcome to beautiful downtown Houston, Texas! Lots better’n home right now, I’m thinkin’!” She started laughing, really loud.

I smiled at her. “Nice to meet you, Patrice.”

“Now Patrice, where’s everyone else? Where’s Arnold, and the kids, and Stanley and his’n?”

“We’re all just over there. She waved her hand vaguely pointing in about three or four different directions. “They’re all at the commissary feedin’ themselves. I finished and comin’ back saw you! We thought you were dead!” With that she burst into tears again. I figured she’d pretty much dehydrate herself if she kept crying like this.

“Stop the waterworks, girl! Me and Cody Williams are going to check our bunks and then go to that commissary so I can find the rest of ‘em.”

So Patrice came with us and we found our cots, they were okay with sheets and a blanket and a pillow, and a plastic bin with a lock, which was chained to the head end of the cot. I sat on my cot and it was pretty comfortable. I checked that my key opened my locker, and I put my backpack in it and locked it and checked that the lock kept it closed and secure.

We went to the commissary and there was another reunion between Lincoln and the rest of his family, and I was introduced as Cody Williams to each one individually. I was called ‘Cody Williams’ more than a half-dozen times. Lincoln’s son was Arnold, he seemed very quiet, and Patrice was his wife who did enough talking for both herself and Arnold and maybe the rest of the family. She was funny. The oldest boy was Kendal who looked about my age, next was Jason who looked to be 9 or 10, and finally there was ‘little Lincoln’ who was named after his grandfather and who looked maybe 3 or 4. Stanley was a big man with a shaved head. His wife Shirley was almost as big with a corn-row hairdo died maroon. Danny was probably about 2 years old and was very shy, hiding behind his mother as I was introduced. Patrice asked us if we were hungry, but both Lincoln and I said we were still full from our breakfast at the McDonald’s.

Kendal was kind of a quiet boy who also seemed shy. He had the darkest eyes I’d ever seen, and his skin was so black it was shiny. The rest of his family, like Lincoln, were more a coffee-and-cream color.

Kendal pulled me aside. “It’s embarrassing the way they go on.”

“What with all everyone’s been through I guess it’s natural to be excited and emotional when you find your relatives. I’m looking for my Granny, and I’ll probably be just like your family when I find her.” I laughed.

Kendal giggled and stared at me. “Your name is Cody Williams. But why’s Gramps always call you by your full name?”

“I asked him that, and he said he just liked the sound of ‘Cody Williams’ together. I like your grandfather a lot. He really helped me when I got to the New Orleans Convention Center.”

“Yeah, he’s that kind of person, helping anyone he thinks needs help. He knows good people when he meets them. I love him a lot.”

I was staring into his eyes. It almost felt like I could fall into them.



“What are you staring at me for?”

I was embarrassed. “Uh, sorry, it’s just that you have fantastic eyes. They are like so dark…” I stopped, and I guess I blushed because Kendal laughed. “Uh, sorry about saying that.”

“You’re funny. You blush nice, too, your cheeks and ears turn so red. It’s okay if you want to look at me and my eyes. I don’t mind. I like looking at you, too. You’re different. I’ve never known anyone with red hair before. You look cute with your red hair. Uh, sorry about saying that.” We looked at each other and burst into laughter.

“Well, you can look at me all you want. Especially since you think I’m cute. No one’s ever told me that before.”

Kendal was blushing. Even through his dark color I could see the reddish blush in his cheeks. I laughed. “And you’re cute too, Kendal!” He blushed even more, looked down at the floor, giggling.

Kendal looked up. “Let me show you around. Then we can go somewhere quiet and relax.” I noticed that his family seemed to be in deep conversation. “Daddy, we’re going to take a walk around so I can show Cody what’s where.”

“Okay, you stay outta trouble, hear?” His father burst into laughter, and turned to Lincoln. “Place is so tight with security the kids can run around anywhere and I’m not worrying.”

“We’ll be back in a while. See you later.”

Kendal grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the commissary. He took a deep breath, then looked at me and smiled. “Okay. Let me show you around.”

So Kendal showed me where each of the men’s bathrooms was, where each of the men’s shower rooms was, which ones were usually less crowded, places where you could get water or lemonade or coffee any time of day or night, the other three commissaries, how the one where I met him was usually the least crowded, what commissary food was good and what food was pretty awful, how to get a pass to walk outside, where the first aid stations were, where there was some exercise equipment if I ever felt like using it, where there were computers where you could send email, and lots more.

Kendal and I walked through the huge space of the Astrodome. We talked about ourselves and what our lives had been like in New Orleans. I found out he was 15, same as me, where he went to school, what he liked to do. He learned the same things about me. Kendal was smart. He did really well in school. He liked lots of the same things that I liked, like reading and computers and playing games on his PSP. He said he was shy, and didn’t make friends easily. But in about an hour or so we had become friends. Good friends. Best friends. I was starting to like Kendal a lot, maybe more than any other kid I’d known.

The Astrodome was really well organized. Kendal told me how the State of Texas and the Red Cross had done a great job setting up places for thousands of us refugees from Katrina to stay. We got passes and walked outside, but it was really hot and humid so we came back in right away and turned in our passes.

“Now let me show you my secret place!” Kendal grabbed my hand and pulled me to a corner near the back end of one of the shower rooms, then he pushed his way past where the end of a closed section of bleachers and the wall of the shower room met. It was a tight fit for him, and a tighter fit for me since I wasn’t skinny like Kendal. I made it, but I hurt in a couple of places.

Kendal continued to pull me further along, and now there wasn’t much light. We squeezed our way past a big stack of wood pallets, then we walked into what was like a little room. There was a small window high up on the wall so there was light. I saw that there were a bunch of blankets and pillows laid out on the floor like some kind of couch, sort of like one of those futon things. There was a locker, like the ones at the cots. And there was one of those desk lamps that you can bend to aim the light wherever you want it to shine. Kendal turned and looked at me with a huge smile on his face.

“Jeez, Kendal, this is awesome. Where did you get all this stuff? Does anybody know about this?”

“I met a kid when we got here. His name’s Lisle. He showed me this place, and when his folks left to go to Oklahoma to stay with relatives, he said it was mine! It’s totally private, and no one else ever comes here. It’s nice and cool, one of the big air conditioner ducts is up there.” He pointed up to the roof way above our heads. “People can’t see us or hear us. It’s like a perfect hideout”

“What do you do here?”

“Mostly just be by myself. You’re never alone in the Astrodome. It’s spooky always having strangers around. I’ve got some books here, in the locker, and I just lay around mostly.” He grinned at me, and blushed, and looked down at the floor.

“Well, I think it’s totally neat! Thanks for showing me, and sharing your secret place with me!”

“You’re welcome, Cody. Well, sit down, take a load off.”

I laughed. “Take a load off? What’s that mean?”

“Yeah, take a load off. That’s one of Gramps’ favorite things to say. I guess it means that you need to go on a diet and to save your poor feet you should sit down.” He started laughing.

“Hey, I don’t need to go on a diet! I’m not skinny, but I’m not fat. I’m just right. Now you, you’re way too skinny for a guy your age. You need to put on some weight, my friend!”

Kendal looked at me. “You said ‘my friend’. Do you mean that?”

“I do. I like talking with you, I like your sense of humor. I want to be your friend.”

He grinned, then put right hand on my shoulder. “Me too. I want to be your friend, Cody.”

We fist-bumped, and smiled at each other.

“Friends. Best friends.”

“Yes. Me and you, Kendal and Cody. Best friends.”


Chapter 2 Story Index Chapter 4


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