Lincoln was talking to the Red Cross lady. “What about a funeral for Cody’s granny?”
“Mr. Carter, I’m afraid that’s already been done. There are so many people who’ve passed away that her body was transferred to Baton Rouge and buried in a cemetery there. I’ve written down the information for you.” She handed Lincoln a piece of paper, and he looked at it, then turned to me.
“Cody, your Granny’s been buried at St. Christopher’s Cemetery in Baton Rouge. It says here she had a Catholic ceremony. Is she Catholic?”
I sniffled, then answered Lincoln. “Yes, she’s Catholic. I’m glad she’s in a Catholic Cemetery.”
“We’ll take you there, Cody, to see her grave. That way you can say some prayers for her and say your goodbyes.”
“Thank you. I’d like that.”
Lincoln turned back to the Red Cross lady.
“What can we do about Cody, ma’am?”
“Well, it depends on whether he has any relatives who can take him in. Cody, where are your relatives?”
I told her that Granny had been my only relative.
She looked at me for a few seconds, then at Lincoln. “Well, Mr. Carter, it depends on whether you’re going to take custody of Cody in Texas or wait until you move back to Louisiana or to somewhere else. You should decide on where you’re going to settle, because if you are appointed his guardian or foster parent, or anyone else in your family is, you’ll have to stay in that state. States are very possessive about turning children over to someone for guardianship or foster parenthood. By rights that should probably be done in Louisiana, but I’m no lawyer. I think Louisiana is going to have a lot of problems like Cody’s on their hands, so maybe they won’t try to get involved if you can get another state to handle his case. You know, talking about lawyers, you should get one when you settle down so everything will be done correctly and legally.”
Lincoln nodded. “We’re gonna be meeting together to decide what to do. I don’t think we can move back to New Orleans, much as I want to, ‘cause it just ain’t gonna be fixed up for folks to live in for some long time in my opinion. But whatever we do, we’re gonna want to adopt him into our family. And thanks for the advice, ma’am.”
Kendal, Lincoln, Patrice, and I walked back to my cot.
“You sure you gonna be okay, Cody? You need me to stay with you for a while?”
“Thanks, Patrice, but I think having Kendal here is enough. I just want to lie down and think for a while.”
“Cody Williams, you know we’re here for you and we’re willin’ to take you with us wherever we go, like you had been our own son, and Kendal is your brother. Jus’ remember that, okay?”
“Thanks, Lincoln. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.”
I could feel a tear running down my cheek, and Kendal wiping it away with his finger. “Don’t cry, Cody. If you cry any more I’ll start crying, then mama will start crying, and what a mess that’ll be!”
I grinned a little. It felt good, despite how sad I felt about Granny. Kendal grinned, and Patrice, maybe because she’d rather cry than anything, shook her head and grabbed Lincoln and dragged him away toward the rest of the family’s cots.
I lay down on my cot. “Your mother is strange, Kendal. Nice strange, but strange. I’ve never seen anyone who cries so much.”
“Yeah, that’s for sure! You okay, Cody? Can I get you anything? You need to cry it out some more?”
“No, I’m okay. I just need to think for a while. I’d like you to stay here, though, in Lincoln’s cot, your cot now, if you don’t mind.”
“I sure don’t mind at all. Hey, we’re brothers now!”
With that, Kendal lay down on his cot. I looked over at him and smiled. I looked up at the ceiling of the Astrodome, hundreds of feet above us. I thought about Granny, and my parents. That had been my entire family, my entire background. And now there was only me left. I took a deep breath, and thought about Lincoln and Kendal and their family. They offered to be my family. Amazing! They are black Americans, I’m a white American. They were forced out of their homes and had nothing like most of the thousands of other people in the Astrodome. But what was important to them was family, and they were offering to let me join them and become a member of their family. Tears were flowing down my cheeks, but I wasn’t crying because I was sad, it was because I was happy. Happy and amazed that these fantastic people were willing to take me in. They didn’t know me, anything about me, or even if I was a good kid or not. But they seemed to read me and make up their minds about me real quick. Just like I’d read them, especially Lincoln, and made up my mind about them real quick.
Then there was the boy on the next cot. Kendal. Now I was Kendal’s brother, and he was the brother I’d never had. Amazing! I turned onto my side so I was looking over at him. He was facing me, smiling, and that made me smile too. Finally, I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.
When I woke up it was early morning, very early. The Astrodome was quiet except for the sounds from the air ducts which muted the sounds of snoring from some of the sleeping people. I was still lying on my side, facing Kendal across the gap between our cots. He was asleep. I thought about how safe I felt, knowing that Kendal was my brother, and Lincoln and their whole family, all of them, were my family now. I fell back into a deep sleep. But I knew that these thoughts that I had in the few seconds I was awake would remain with me for the rest of my life.
I felt my shoulder being shaken and squeezed. I opened my eyes, and looked across at Kendal.
“Wake up, sleepyhead!”
I smiled. “Okay, okay. I’m awake.”
We got up. I really needed a shower. I should have taken one yesterday when Lincoln and I arrived at the Astrodome, but I’d been busy doing other things and hadn’t even thought about it.
“Where do we go to shower?”
“Grab some clean clothes, and I’ll show you.”
Kendal led me to the one of the men’s showers. It was the one next to his secret place. The shower room had towels, soap, and shampoo. It felt so great taking a shower. I thought about it. It had been over a week since the last time I’d taken a shower. We finished, and went over to the sink area where they had toiletry kits with a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, and a comb. I was able to brush my teeth. It had been almost as long since I’d done that, and I felt embarrassed that my breath must have been pretty rank. I put on some deodorant, clean clothes, and combed my hair.
Kendal was looking at me. “You look a lot better this morning, Cody,”
“It’s just because I’m clean. For the first time since Katrina hit.”
Kendal and I took our toiletry kits and dirty clothes back to our lockers, then went looking for Kendal’s family. They were in the commissary where we had eaten dinner.
“Mornin’, boys! My, don’t you look nice, Cody!”
I smiled at Patrice. “Thanks, it feels real good to be clean.”
“Well, you two go get yourselves some breakfast. Then we’ll tell you what we’re goin’ to be doing today.”
Breakfast was good. There were scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, and waffles with syrup. Kendal and I asked for double helpings of everything and got them, with a smile and an “Enjoy your breakfasts, boys” from the servers. Sometimes there are advantages when you’re a kid!
When we were finished eating, Kendal turned to his folks and asked, “Okay, what are we doing today?”
Arnold answered him. “Your mama’s got one of her premonitions. Last couple of nights she dreamed one of her dreams again. The one about a hurricane in New Orleans. To me and your grandpa that means there’s another hurricane comin’ and comin’ soon. We’ve talked it over and decided we’re going to California to stay with your cousin Evan and his family. We called them this morning, and even though we woke ‘em up ‘cause we forgot about the time difference, they said they had just fixed up that small apartment house they bought and there’s apartments to put us all up. And Evan will help us find jobs.”
Kendal looked shocked. “You mean we’re moving away from New Orleans? That we’re not going back?”
Lincoln answered those questions. “Yeah, Kendal. That what we mean. It’s gonna take years to clean up and rebuild New Orleans, and we can’t afford to wait for that. Maybe someday we’ll be able to go back, but for now we’re gonna become Californians.”
“But where will I go to school? And what about my friends, will I ever see them again?”
“You’ll go to school in California. And I’m sure you’ll be able to locate your friends, but it may take some time ‘cause they’re in the same situation we’re in.”
“But daddy, what about Cody?”
“Cody’s comin’ with us.” Arnold turned to me. “If he wants to. Do you want to come with us, Cody?”
“Yes, sir, I do. Thank you. But what about your houses in New Orleans? “
“We all rent, I’ve got a rented house, and Stanley and Lincoln have apartments. We’re not leaving much, just a couple of pieces of old furniture and some old stuff that’s probably just junk now. All that can be replaced. That sound okay to everybody?”
Everyone said “Yes!” and nodded their heads in agreement.
“Well, then, it’s settled! Let’s get packed. I want to get going in 30 minutes so everybody get the car loaded.”
It took us less than a half hour to gather all of our stuff and meet at the desk where we’d checked in. That had been only yesterday, but to me it seemed to have been days ago. We checked out, and Arnold told them where we were going. The lady at the desk told us she hoped that everything worked out for us.
It was about ten o’clock when we got into Arnold’s SUV. I thought it would be crowded, but I found out that Stanley had his own SUV. He took Kendal’s Gramps and Jason in addition to Shirley and Danny. With five in each SUV it was comfortable. After we got started I whispered to Kendal.
“What did your father mean when he said your mother had a premonition?”
“Daddy thinks my mama’s psychic. She can feel storms and hurricanes when they are on their way. I don’t think it’s psychic. I think she’s sensitive to changes in the weather, like high and low pressure.”
“And she thinks there’s gonna be another hurricane?”
“Yes, in a couple of weeks. That’s why daddy and grandpa and uncle Stanley want to get out now and go to California.”
“Where in California?”
“Concord. That’s a town somewhere near San Francisco. Daddy’s cousin Evan lives there, and he bought a small apartment house that he just finished refurbishing. Daddy, what’s Evan’s apartment building like?”
“Well, course I haven’t seen it, but there’s six apartments with two bedrooms each and three apartments with three bedrooms each. It was a mess when he bought it, and no one was living there, and he got it really cheap. He and Barbara spent a lotta time fixing it up, did lots of the work themselves. And now it’s all finished. Since no one’s living in it yet, we can move right in. We decided your mama and I and your brothers will have one of the three bedroom apartments, there’s a two bedroom apartment for Stanley and his family, and a two bedroom one for Lionel and you and Cody. You’ll have to share a bedroom, but your mama said you’d be happy about that. Is that okay?”
Kendal and I both enthusiastically said ‘Yes!’ at exactly the same time. We busted up laughing. When we quieted down Arnold continued with his description.
“Evan said you’ll be able to go to school near the apartment, there’s a high school in walking distance. Your mama’s gonna be happy because she can walk to the stores, there’s a shopping center practically right across the street. As soon as we get jobs we’re gonna start paying Evan for the rent. He said Stanley and me should be able to get jobs in the refineries out there right away.”
|Chapter 4||Story Index||Chapter 6|
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