“So, here we are, best friends, and I don’t know anything about you except who your Gramps is, and I met your parents and your brothers, and your... aunt and uncle?”
“Yes, Aunt Shirley and Uncle Stanley. And Danny, who’s about the shyest kid I’ve ever met. But what about you, Cody? I don’t know anything about you. Tell me yourself, and then I’ll tell you more about myself.”
We talked about our lives. I told him about what happened to my folks, moving to New Orleans to live with Granny, how we got separated, and how I was looking for her. We talked about school, too, which schools we went to, what classes we liked, that sort of thing. I was surprised that Kendal was interested in science and math classes.
“So, Kendal, you’re a nerd geek type?”
“Yup. I got a straight A average, since first grade, I do! I got teased a lot because I’m so into studying and reading all the time. Unfortunately, I was a teacher’s pet in most of my classes, too. Try to live that down! How about you?”
“Yeah, I like school, a lot. I’m really interested in computers, and programming. My high school has a...” I paused for a moment. I didn’t know if my high school was flooded out, or when I’d be able to go back to school. “...it had a big computer lab in the basement. But that’s probably all flooded out now.”
Kendal looked thoughtful. “I guess the same thing’s true about my school. But maybe not, it’s up on a hill so maybe it didn’t get flooded. If it did, the science labs will be gone for sure, they were on the first floor.”
We sat quietly for a few minutes, each lost in our thoughts about what might have happened to our schools, our homes, our friends. Finally, Kendal broke the silence.
“You like Sci Fi, Cody?”
“Yeah, a lot. Why?”
Kendal unlocked and opened the locker. I looked inside, and found a bunch of science fiction books. “Wow! That’s neat!”
“You want to read one?”
“Yeah! What’s this, here.” I pulled out a thick paperback book, ‘Frek and the Elixir’ by Rudy Rucker. “Is this any good?”
“That’s my favorite book of all time. Go ahead and read it. I think you’ll love it!”
I sat down on the mattress made of blankets and leaned against the pillows and opened the book. Kendal sat next to me with a book and put on his glasses, and we both started reading.
We must have fallen asleep, because I woke with Kendal shaking my shoulder.
“Wake up Cody! Time to eat!”
I stretched and rolled my shoulders to get out the stiffness, then mumbled, “I don’ wanta get up.”
Kendal laughed, then shook my shoulder again, harder and longer this time. “Cody, you have any idea how long we’ve been sleeping?”
“I guess like a few minutes?”
“It’s almost six-o-clock-in-the-p-of-m!”
I sat up and looked down at him. “No way!”
“Yes, way! Look!”
He twisted his left wrist so I could see his watch. It read 5:57.
“Your folks must be wondering where you are! Will you be in trouble?”
“No, I usually wander around or go outside or come here most of the time. They expect me to be gone.”
“Well, I hope Lincoln isn’t worried that I’ve been kidnapped or ran off or something.”
“Lincoln… oh, you mean my grandpa, not my little brother. Well, let’s get up and get out of here and see if we can find them in the commissary for dinner and grandpa can see that you’re alive. Plus I’m hungry!”
“I am too. I could eat a horse!”
“Oh, yuck, that sounds awful!”
We laughed, then got up and put our books in the locker. Getting out of Kendal’s secret place was harder for me. It seemed either the space between the bleachers and the wall had gotten smaller or I’d gotten fatter, and I got kinda stuck but Kendal prodded and pushed me and I finally squeezed through.
Lincoln and Kendal’s family and his cousins were in the commissary at one table. They had saved us a couple of seats.
Patrice looked at us. “You’ns are both a mess. Where you boys been? You been gone a whole lot of time. Been readin’ those science fictional books or playing those space games again, Kendal? You warpin’ poor Cody’s brain with all that stuff?” She burst into laughter, and so did everyone else at the table. I was blushing. I could tell because my ears were hot and they get hot and red when I’m blushing.
“Mama, we were reading then fell asleep. Both of us were tired, ‘specially Cody ‘cause he just got here from that long bus ride with Grandpa.”
“Well, if you’re gonna be eatin’ you better get goin’ or it’s all gonna be gone! You’re too skinny as it is. You need some meat on them bones, boy!”
“Yes, mama. We’re gonna get our dinner now.”
Kendal grabbed my arm and dragged me off toward the food line. “Don’t mind mama, she’s just always looking after me. Hey, look, they have fried chicken! My favorite!”
We grabbed our trays and got our food and returned to the table. I had to tell my life story again. Everyone seemed sad about my mom and dad, and they hoped I would find Granny, and they were totally nice and friendly. It was like I had become a member of their family.
Lincoln was saying he wanted to move him and me to cots next to his family, but Arnold told him they were all in use and that no one would be willing to trade. Kendal looked up. “Hey, grandpa, how about I swap with you. That way you can be with the rest of the family and Cody and I can talk and play games on my PSP. Okay?”
Of course, Patrice had to put in her two cents worth. “Yeah, and then you can start warpin’ poor Cody’s brain again with all that stuff you read!” She burst into laughter, then the whole family did, then Kendal and I did too. People at other tables looked around to see who was finding something to laugh about, and a few gave us dirty looks. That’s when I realized that there wasn’t much laughter among all the other people in the Astrodome. Most of them were pretty glum, they had probably lost their homes and everything in them, maybe their pets, and maybe family members and friends too. No jobs, no money, nothing to laugh about. I felt embarrassed and sad.
“Well, Kendal, that there is a mighty fine idea. You are the smart one in this family.” Lincoln looked at Patrice and grinned. “Not sure where you got your smarts, though!” Everyone burst out laughing, and for once Patrice was the one who blushed!
“Thanks, Grandpa! We’ll move my stuff right now! Can you help us?”
“Sure thing, grandson. Let’s get it done. I’ve got a lot of jawing to do with your daddy and mama and cousins about what we’re gonna do next.”
We got up and emptied out the stuff in Kendal’s locker. I was surprised that he had so much, and I asked him about that.
“We got out right away when the mayor said we should evacuate. So we took lots of the furniture and appliances and TV and stereo and stuff like that from home to one of those locker places over in Lafayette, and packed what we’d need to live on in the SUV, and joined up with my aunt and uncle and drove here to Houston. When we got here they had just opened the Astrodome, so we were able to move in here and find cots so we can be all together. My folks want to stay here for a while until they figure out what to do. I took my laptop, my PSP and some of my games, and books to read, and school books and stuff. And clothes, of course.”
“Wow, you’re lucky you could bring all that stuff with you. I have my laptop computer and some books and a few clothes and pictures of Granny and my folks and some of my friends. It’s all crammed into my backpack.”
Lincoln and I helped Kendal carry his stuff and we set him up in what had been Lincoln’s cot and locker. He and Lincoln exchanged locker keys, and Lincoln took his small handful of clothes.
“Grandpa, we have to tell the Red Cross people that we moved. Let’s go over there now. You can drop off your clothes on the way.”
“Okay, let’s do it! You comin’ too, Cody Williams?”
I grinned at Lincoln, still calling me ‘Cody Williams’. “Yeah, and I can check if they found out anything about my Granny.”
When we got to the check-in table the same lady we had talked to this morning was at one end of the table where there were a couple of chairs set next to her at the end. “Cody? Is that Cody Williams?”
“Yes, ma’am.” I walked over to her, and Lincoln and Kendal went to someone else to tell about their swapping cots and lockers.
“Sit down, please, Cody.”
I sat down. “Ma’am, did you find out anything about my Granny?”
She looked at me and reached out and took my hands in hers. I knew instantly that it was going to be bad news and the tears started flowing down my cheeks.
“Your Granny passed away the day she was rescued, September second. She had a heart attack, and even if she had been in a hospital she would have passed.”
I pulled my hands back and covered my eyes, and began crying.
“I’m so sorry, Cody. There was nothing anyone could do. The report I have says she passed in her sleep, so she didn’t have any pain. I’m sure she’s in heaven looking down and helping to protect you.”
I sobbed out a “Thank you ma’am” and continued to cry.
Kendal and Lincoln saw that I was crying. Kendal rushed over, kneeled on the floor in front of me, and took me in his arms. I buried my face in his shoulder and continued to cry.
I heard the Red Cross lady explain about Granny. Lincoln put his hands on my shoulders and started softly massaging them. “We’ll take care of you, Cody Williams. You just cry and be sad for your Granny.”
We stayed like this for a few minutes, then I took some deep, shuddering breaths and sort of regained myself. “Thank you, Kendal, Lincoln. I don’t know what I’d do without you and your family. I’m so scared about what’s going to end up happening to me!”
“The Carters are going to take care of you, you never mind about nothing! If we have to we’ll adopt you.”
That made me burst into tears again. These people, who I didn’t even know until yesterday and today, were willing to take me in and even adopt me into their family. I hugged Kendal, then stood and hugged Lincoln and cried into his chest.
Patrice came running up. I don’t know how she knew something sad had happened, but it was like a magnet for her! “What’s happened, why is Cody cry’in?”
“Cody’s Granny passed away, Mama.”
With that Patrice burst into tears, and pulled me away from Lincoln and hugged me tight to her ample bosom. She sobbed, “Oh, you poor, poor dear boy! Why can’t God keep things good for such a nice young boy? Oh, that’s so sad! Kendal, you have to look after Cody, hear me? Anything happen to this boy, I’ll beat your black butt until it’s red! Understand? He only has us now, and you’re the closest to him, so it’s your responsibility! He’s your brother, now, understand?”
She pushed me away and into Kendal’s arms. By now I’d stopped crying, but it still felt good to be held by him.
|Chapter 3||Story Index||Chapter 5|
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