Escaping Katrina Chapter 6 -- a story by Colin Kelly


Chapter 6

Kendal grinned at me. “Gee, Cody, that sounds great. We’ll have our own apartment with grandpa, and go to school, and see new places, and all be together, and, and, and…” He’d run out of things to say.

I looked at Kendal and smiled. “That sounds fantastic! Amazing! Brilliant!” I leaned back and looked out the window. “Arnold, what way are you going to drive to California?”

“Well, first we’re drivin’ back to Baton Rouge so you can see your Granny’s grave, and to our storage locker in Lafayette. Then we’re headin’ west toward El Paso then Tucson, and L.A., then north to Concord. We plan it’ll take us six days. We’re gonna stop for the night in Beaumont, Sonora, that’s between Houston and El Paso, then we’ll stop in El Paso, and Tucson, and L.A., then on in to Concord. I already made reservations with Travelodge for three rooms in each place.”

“But... going to Baton Rouge is so far out of your way. You don’t really need to do that for me. I have Granny’s picture....”

“Cody, we’re going to Baton Rouge, and it’s not that far because we need to go to Lafayette to get our clothes out of our storage locker anyway. Baton Rouge is less than an hour’s drive from Lafayette. You need to see your Granny’s grave, and we’ll all send up some prayers for her. Stanley will be goin’ to the storage locker in Lafayette to pick up the clothes, we’ll meet up and drive on to Beaumont and stay there tonight.”

I felt like I had to pull my own weight. “Arnold, I want to help out with the rooms and food and gas. And the rent for the apartment. I have some money.”

“Now, Cody, I won’t hear nothing about you giving me any money. You’re part of our family now. I’m not charging Kendal or his brothers for anything, and you neither. Money is just no problem. Stanley and I work for refineries, we both have high pay jobs. I expect we’ll be able to get good jobs in California. Evan says there’s lots of refineries near Concord. Now, you okay with that, Cody?”

“I guess so. Just seems that you’re doing so much for me, and…” I started to cry.

Kendal hugged me, and whispered “Don’t cry, Cody.”

“I can’t help it. You’re all so nice to me and without really knowing me. Kendal, without you and your family I don’t know what I’d’ve done!”

Patrice turned around from the front seat. “We really do know you, Cody. You’re a nice, sweet boy. Kendal likes you. Lincoln has good premonitions about people, jus’ like I’ve got good premonitions about weather. He’s taken a strong likin’ to you and the rest of us like you too. That’s plenty enough for us to know. You’re part of our family now. You just stop worrying yourself, hear?”

Once again I was overwhelmed by Kendal’s family. I was part of this family. I dried my tears, grinned at Kendal, and leaned back and closed my eyes and went to sleep.

I woke up with Kendal shaking my shoulder. It seemed it was always Kendal having to shake my shoulder to wake me. “Wake up, Cody. Time for lunch.” I looked up, then saw we were stopped in front of a Subway sandwich shop in Lafayette. We piled out and had sandwiches and sodas for lunch, then after getting gas Lincoln joined us and we continued on our way to Baton Rouge while Stanley and Shirley went to the storage locker.

I was pretty emotional when we got to St. Christopher’s Cemetery. There was an attendant who looked up Granny on his list, and gave us a little map showing where her grave was located. It was in a beautiful spot, with weeping willow trees that had branches drooping over her grave so it was nice and shaded. There was a little plaque with her name, Elizabeth Anne Lebois, and the dates: January 27, 1922 / September 2, 2005 on the gravestone, which was flat on the ground. There were some flowers someone had put in a little urn that was in the ground in back of her gravestone. They were peonies, Granny’s favorite flower. I’m not religious, but I prayed for Granny along with Kendal and his parents. I knew she was in heaven because she was such a sweet, kind person. I could picture her up there painting pictures of the angels. Lincoln said some nice words about Granny, about how he had met her at the senior center and things that he remembered about her, like her sense of humor and how she was always willing to help people in need. I shed some tears, and so did Patrice and Kendal.

We drove back to Lafayette, and I don’t think anyone in the car said anything for the hour it took. I know I was lost in thought, thinking about Granny and all of the things we did together. I thought about Mr. and Ms. Luciana, and made and made a mental reminder to try to locate them to let them know about Granny when I got to California.

When we got to the storage locker place, Lincoln left us to rejoin Stanley and Shirley in their SUV, and we headed west to Beaumont. I fell asleep almost immediately, and again woke up with Kendal shaking my shoulder. I guess he had that figured out too, because he started giggling, and pretty soon we were both laughing. That got little Lincoln laughing too, and Patrice turned around and looked at us.

“You two are crazy, you know that? I jus’ don’t understand boys at all, I guess.” Then she started laughing too, and finally Arnold joined in. If anyone looked at us driving down the freeway and all of us laughing our heads off, they would have thought we were all crazy. I think our crazy laughter was because of all the tensions from Katrina and having to evacuate from New Orleans, and for me what happened to Granny.

The next day we drove from Beaumont to Sonora, Texas and checked into another Travelodge motel for the night. We went to a barbeque place for dinner, and it was real good. Kendal and I shared a room with Lincoln. He took one bed and Kendal and I took the other. We were both tired. I learned that even though you’re not doing anything but sitting, traveling is very tiring. We got up in the morning, showered, and went to the motel cafe for breakfast. This became our days and nights. Different places for eating, stopping for gas, stopping at rest areas, and always a Travelodge for sleeping.

I decided that Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California too, at least until we got near Los Angeles, were all dry and mostly boring to look at. L.A. was interesting, a huge city that seemed to go on forever and forever. But we didn’t stop longer than one night. All of us were eager to get to our new home.

The drive from L.A., once we got out of the city, went into mountains and passed Magic Mountain, a huge amusement park. Maybe someday we’d be able to come back here! After an hour or so we went through some other cities, then high mountains, then we drove down a long hill and were out of the mountains into a flat valley that seemed to go on forever in every direction. We were driving by huge farms for hours. At one point Patrice hollered for us to close the windows.

“Hurry, hurry! There’s manure, close the windows!” We closed the windows, and Arnold turned off the outside vent, but we could still smell it a little as we drove past a huge cattle feedlot. Arnold told us they bring cattle here to fatten them up before they’re shipped to slaughterhouses where they’re turned into steaks and hamburger. The idea creeped me out. I’d rather not think about where my meat comes from.

About three hours after the feedlot we got to where it was cities again. Arnold said we were in Livermore, southeast of San Francisco. Kendal said he didn’t like liver, ‘specially if there was more of it, and everyone laughed at Kendal’s silly joke about that city’s name. In about another hour we were pulling into the driveway at Arnold’s cousin’s house in Concord.

“Okay, everyone out! We’re at Evan’s house!” Arnold honked the horn, and a man, Evan I assumed, came out and smiled at us, followed by a woman, two boys, and a girl. They helped us out of the car, and led us into the house. It was a really nice house, two stories, with a nice front yard with grass and some trees and lots of flowers. While we were standing outside Stanley pulled into the driveway, and they all piled out.

Jason kept stretching. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so sore all over in my life.” I had to agree with him, my body was sore all over too.

Everyone was introduced around, I think mainly for Jason, Kendal, and me ‘cause we didn’t know any of his cousins. Barbara was Evan’s wife and she said they were barbequing steaks for dinner, and asked each of us how we wanted ours cooked.

One of their boys, Larry, was 14 and said that he had just started his freshman year in high school. He took Kendal and me into his bedroom, and told his 10 year-old brother Dana to take a hike when he and Jason tried to join us, and closed the door.

“Sorry about that, I figured you’d want to chill and not have a couple of hyper 10 year-olds hangin’ with us. Dana’s really all right, just that he kinda takes over when he’s around.” He looked at Kendal, then at me, “You two don’t look like you’re related!” and burst into laughter.

I grinned at his joke. Then I told Larry my story, about living in Oak Park and my folks being killed, about moving in with Granny in New Orleans, about where I went to school, about Hurricane Katrina, about being rescued, about Granny dying, about being taken in by Lincoln and his family. Kendal told about how his family had unofficially adopted me, how they were going to make it official, and how I was now his brother.

Larry looked at me. “Shit, man, what a suck of a life you’ve had. You’re here now, and sounds like you’re going to be taken good care of by Kendal and his family. You guys’ll be going to Clayton Valley high, same as me. It’s a great school, I’m sure you’ll like it. But the football team sucks this year. They were good last year, got into the playoffs. I don’t know what happened this year. I guess it was that there were a lot of seniors on last year’s team and they graduated. Whatever.

“When you move into the apartment it’s only a few blocks to school. I have to take the bus, it’s too far to walk from here and I don’t like riding my bike.” We continued talking about the high school, what the kids were like, what subjects we liked and didn’t like, what music and movies and TV shows we liked, what sports we played, what sports teams we followed, what video games we played, what kind of computers, what there was to do in Concord, what San Francisco was like, what brands of clothes we liked, if we had girlfriends, what our schools had been like in New Orleans, what New Orleans was like before the hurricane and what we did there for fun, all the normal sorts of stuff teen guys talk about.

Barbara called us to dinner. We ate in their back yard. It was huge! Their gas grill barbeque was the biggest I’d ever seen, and there was even an outdoor sink and a refrigerator. They had a huge table with benches that had room for all 15 of us. The steaks were great, and they had baked potatoes and corn on the cob and salad.

During dinner Evan and Barbara talked about the apartment building. They had completely remodeled it, and they had bought furniture and bedding and towels and everything we’d need for us so we could move right in to our three apartments. The apartment building was across the street from a supermarket and stores, close to the high school, and there was a big shopping mall not too far away. There were bus lines and the Bay Area Rapid Transit trains for getting around, and it was mostly flat for riding our bikes.

After dinner we were all tired. Arnold said it was time to get to our apartments and get some sleep, our first time sleeping in our new home.

In our new home. My new home, too. As I lay in my new bed next to Kendal in his, in our bedroom, me and my new brother’s bedroom, I thought about how my life had been changed, about my folks, about Granny, about Lincoln and escaping from the awful destruction caused by hurricane Katrina, about Kendal and his family, and about moving to California. I was starting a new life, a new school, new friends. And most important of all, I had a new brother, Kendal, sleeping in the bed across from mine. As I fell asleep I was smiling, thinking about my new future, and how interesting it was going to be and how much fun I was going to have.

— End —

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