Grandmas coming! said Kerry Patterson. I love it when she comes to our house.
No, Kerry, his mother replied. Youre seven years old now. Youre such a big boy that you can stay over at grandmas for the weekend.
Really? Can I go to the zoo and eat ice cream and everything?
Yes, Kerry. Grandmothers are allowed to give their grandsons all kinds of treats. Were going to drive to her house on Friday afternoon, right after daddy gets home from work.
Kerry loved his mommy and daddy, and he loved Grandma Jenkins too, in a very special way. His Grandpa was already in Heaven, and Kerry prayed for him whenever he remembered to.
He did pray that night, right before his mother tucked him into bed.
The next day was Wednesday. Second grade was especially fun that day, because the class took a field trip to the petting zoo at Kennedy Park.
Since it was May, the weather was warm and the sky was clear. All around the park many-colored flowers bloomed. Kerry and his best friend Xavier Rojas spent most of the time feeding the baby goats, buying twenty five cent food cups with the quarters their mothers had given them. Xavier even sneaked in a flower he picked, and a goat ate it up right away.
Afterwards they ran to the playground, where their teacher, Miss Clark, watched them. The boys tried every swing and slide in the whole playground. They even tried to climb the tall eucalyptus trees at the edge of the park, but Miss Clark shouted and told them to come down.
But the whole time he was at the park, Kerry thought about going to his grandmothers house. Grandma Jenkins lived fifty miles away, in San Diego, where there is one of the largest and most famous zoos in the world. Grandma Jenkins liked to take him places. Kerry had been to the San Diego Zoo two times before.
Now that he was seven, Kerry planned to spend the entire day at the zoo, eating lunch at their outdoor cafe and even skipping his usual afternoon nap. That way, he would have enough time to see all of the animals. If he was lucky, they might get to the lions in time to watch them being fed.
Kerrys mother always said that his grandmother liked to spoil him, and Kerry knew it was true, because she loved him so much. If he wanted to stay all day, he was sure she would let him.
The last time he was there, he and Grandma had just missed the lions feeding time, but they were close enough to hear them roaring. It was one of the most exciting things Kerry could remember. He only wished that his father had been there too, but Mr. Patterson was a salesman for a computer company, and many times he had to go away on business trips.
* * *
Kerrys grandmother, Mary Ann Jenkins, lived in a ranch style house in the countryside a few miles east of San Diego. She owned an entire acre, with a wide lawn in front and fruit trees planted in the back.
Some of her neighbors had even bigger lots, ten acres or more, and they kept horses, llamas, and many other animals.
Since her husband Timothy had died, Mary Ann lived there alone. She always looked forwards to visits from her family. Her daughter Patricia Patterson and grandson Kerry lived closest, so she saw them more often than her three other grown children.
On Friday, Patricia and her husband Robert would be driving out with Kerry. The adults would sleep over, and head home Saturday morning. Kerry would get to stay all weekend.
Mary Ann planned to drive Kerry home Sunday evening, so he could get plenty of rest in his own familiar room. After all, he had school the next day.
She had a long white Cadillac that her husband bought a long time ago, almost thirty years before Kerry was born. It still ran well, because her husband had been a mechanic, and taken very good care of it.
Mary Ann liked to stop by the Gas N Save store near her house, where her street met a highway that lead towards the mountains east of the city. She would fill up the Cadillac, because old cars like that need a lot of gas. She would also buy three California Lottery tickets.
Each ticket cost one dollar, and she had very small (one in eighteen million!) chance of winning the big prize. The big prize was a lot of money, several million dollars, and sometimes even more. She had been buying these tickets for more than twenty years, and she had never won that prize. No one she knew had won it either, but five years before, a man who lived only a mile away from her had gotten it.
Mary Ann still hoped to win someday. Twice every week, on Wednesday and Sunday, she bought her three tickets, and she always wrote down the very same numbers. That night she would watch the Lotto drawing on TV, to see if her numbers were picked.
* * *
On Friday, Kerry was so excited he could hardly pay attention in class. Miss Clark knew he was going away to his grandmothers house, so she tried to be patient with him.
Xavier was excited too. His grandmother Rosa lived in East Los Angeles. This was much closer to his own home, so he got to see her almost every week. His father had grown up there.
Xavier had an older brother named Roberto, and a little sister named Selina. He and Kerry liked to tease Selina sometimes, even though they knew they really shouldnt.
Kerry told Xavier, I used to wish I had a little brother or sister, but now that I see how much Selina bugs you, Im glad I have my mommy and daddy all to myself.
Xavier was looking forwards to a summer trip his family would be taking. They were going down to Mexico to see his other grandparents. The only thing he didnt like was that he would be stuck in the car with Selina for such a long time. He whispered to Kerry, Some day Selina will grow up and get married, and then shell move into her own house, and have lots of babies. Then shell be bothering some other guy instead of me!
When Kerry heard this he laughed out loud. Miss Clark heard him, and since he had interrupted the class, told him he would have to stay an extra ten minutes after school. Kerry did not tell her it was Xavier Rojas that had made him laugh.
When school was over Kerry said goodbye to Xavier. Since Kerry lived right across the street from the school, his mother usually walked over to get him.
Kerry did not want to stay late, and he especially didnt want his mother to see him there after class was over. But he knew the class rules, and he told himself that, no matter what funny thing Xavier told him, next time he wouldnt laugh so loud.
Miss Clark gave him a book to read. It was called Treasure Island, and it was about a boy who was captured by pirates. Kerry read the book covers, then skipped through the pages and looked at all the pictures. It seemed very exciting, and as he read he started to imagine that he was that boy.
He was so interested that he didnt even notice when his mother came in to get him. Miss Clark whispered for her to be quiet, and pointed to where Kerry was reading.
Kerrys mother promised to buy him his own copy of Treasure Island, the same short one for children with lots of pictures.
* * *
Kerrys father called and told his family that he was going to be getting home late, because he had a sales meeting and his boss liked to talk a lot.
Kerrys mother went ahead and fixed dinner, and covered up one plate for her husband. As soon as Kerry finished eating, he went to his room and helped pick out some things to bring to his grandmothers house.
He reminded his mother to pack his swimming trunks, since Grandma Jenkins had a swimming pool in back of her house. Then he told her all about what happened when he was there last time, and had gotten up early in the morning, and saw a real coyote drinking out to the pool.
Kerrys father got home at seven oclock, and ate his dinner quickly. Then they took everything out to the car and drove away.
Before they got on the freeway, Kerrys mother explained that shed found out how much he liked Treasure Island. They turned into a shopping center, and Mr. Patterson ran into the Toys R Us store and bought a copy. He told Kerry, You can read this story while you are at your grandmothers, instead of watching TV all the time. You can finish it during summer vacation.
Kerry read a few pages in the car, then he looked out the window as his father drove towards San Diego. Sometimes he fell asleep in the car, but not when he was on his way to Grandma Jenkins house.
It took a long time to drive to San Diego because it was Friday evening, and millions of people were going home from work. Kerry knew that some of those cars held lucky kids who were also on their way to their grandmothers houses.
One time the car swerved, and Kerry looked up quickly.
Sorry, honey, his father was telling his mother. I just cant keep my mind off this business situation.
After nine oclock it got dark, and since he couldnt see much, Kerry finally did fall asleep.
They got to Grandma Jenkins house at ten oclock. She fixed them a snack, then put Kerry in a spare bedroom, and his parents in the room across the hallway.
Kerry fell asleep right away, and dreamed about roaring lions.
* * *
When Kerry woke up he saw that it was already light outside. He could smell something delicious, so he dressed himself and ran to the kitchen. There, he saw his mother and grandmother fixing his favorite breakfast, French toast with butter and maple syrup.
Today Kerry and I are going to drive up to Lake Elsinore, Grandma Jenkins said. My bridge partner Elise Wilson and her husband Mike have a cabin up there. Mr. Wilson said Kerry and I could use it today.
Really? Kerry said. Can we go on a boat too?
Yes, Kerry, I asked and Elise gave me the key for their boat shed. I think I can still handle an outboard.
Kerry did not remember, but his parents did, that Mr. Jenkins used to have a cabin and boat at Lake Elsinore too. When Mrs. Patterson was a little girl, she had gone boating there.
As a little girl, Kerrys mother had thought that boating was mostly for boys. But when she tried it, she had a fun time. Now she was glad that Kerry could try it also.
Kerry thought for a minute. Can we try fishing too? he asked.
I dont have the equipment any more, Grandma Jenkins said. But Ill tell you what, if we meet any of my old friends up there, maybe I can get one of the guys to let you try making a few casts.
Great! Kerry shouted.
He was so excited that none of the grownups reminded him not to shout at the kitchen table. He wasnt even homesick when his parents got in the car and drove back home.
* * *
Kerry had a wonderful afternoon at Lake Elsinore. They did meet an old man who was going fishing, and he let Kerry try it too. He had fun, but did not catch any fish.
Meanwhile Grandma Jenkins unlocked the Wilsons boat shed and got out their motorboat. She made Kerry wear a bright orange life preserver.
He thought it looked stupid, and told her it was only for babies who did not know how to swim. But she insisted, and once he had it on he soon forgot about it.
Once they got out into the lake she let him steer the boat for a while. Maybe next year youll be old enough to do some water skiing, she told him.
They stopped in the middle of the lake, turned off the outboard motor, and just drifted for a while.
Kerry looked up and saw a large bird circling overhead. Whats that? he asked.
Grandma Jenkins looked up. My eyes arent what they used to be, she said. It might be a hark, or an eagle, or a vulture. Heck, it might even be a condor.
Really? Kerry exclaimed. We just studied about condors in class!
When we learned about endangered species, he added.
I think theres a pair of binoculars in the tool chest, she told him. I know Mr. Wilson used to keep some in there.
Kerry jumped up to look. But he forgot he was on a boat.
He stepped all the way across the boat, and up onto the white, fiberglass seat near the front. The boat tipped, and he fell right into the water.
He didnt have time to take a breath, and it was dark under the water. Kerry tried to shout for help, but only bubbles came out, and then he swallowed a mouthful of cold water.
He became very frightened.
A moment later he popped up into the sunlight, held up by the life preserver he was wearing. He spit out the water and coughed a few times. Then Grandma Jenkins helped him climb back into the boat. He was all wet, but otherwise okay.
When he finally got out the binoculars, the bird was gone.
Maybe wed better go in now, Grandma Jenkins said. We have a long day coming up at the zoo tomorrow.
Kerry did not complain or argue with her.
* * *
On Sunday morning Kerry and his grandmother had waffles for breakfast. They ate in the den, where there was an old TV set. It looked more like a piece of furniture to Kerry, because it was huge, almost square like a cabinet, and had wood on the sides.
There was a man on TV who was talking loudly, and walking back and forth all the time. He kept saying things about the Bible, and Kerry realized that the man must be in a church, even though he was acting way more excited than the priest did at his own church.
The man started asking for money, and Grandma Jenkins turned off the TV. She said, If I win tonight, Ill send you a share, okay?
Sometimes Kerry saw people talk to the TV like that, even though they must have known that the people on the shows could not hear them. But he really wondered why Grandma talked when the TV was already turned off.
Then he remembered Xavier telling him how old people acted weird sometimes, but he did not think his grandmother was weird!
Time to get going, Grandma Jenkins said. You want to see all of the animals this time, right?
Well, its one of the biggest zoos in the whole world, so well need plenty of time for that.
* * *
Kerry remembered the San Diego Zoo very well, even though he had not been there since he was six years old. Also, he had kept the guide book hed gotten the last time, and read it many times.
On the way there he reminded Grandma Jenkins all about the different animals they would see.
Even though they arrived at nine oclock, they still had to wait in line for a few minutes to get in. Grandma Jenkins was going to pay with a credit card, but after she looked all through her purse, she remembered that she had left it on top of her dresser, back at home. Luckily she also had some cash, enough so they could both get in.
Kerry reminded her about seeing the lions, so they walked there first and looked at the feeding schedule.
Their next feeding is at two oclock, she told Kerry.
They walked around the Zoo for many hours. Kerry saw animals that came out only at night, in a special dark building that fooled them into thinking it was night time.
When his legs got tired they rode the tram, and listened to the tour guide explain more things than Kerry could remember.
He asked his grandmother so many questions that they went to the gift shop, where she bought him a new guide book, much larger than the one he already owned.
A big book for a big boy, she told him. Then she looked at her watch. Its almost two, she said. Wed better get over to the lion habitat.
They hurried to the lions area. Just as before, Kerry could hear them roaring. There was already a crowd, so he pushed between peoples legs until he was closer, right up against the fence.
When he saw the lions, the keeper was throwing them big chunks of red, raw meat. The lions must have been especially hungry that day, because they all pounced on the meat and began ripping it up with their long, sharp teeth.
Suddenly Kerry felt sick. It reminded him of the time hed stayed up too late, and sneaked out from his room, to the living room where his father was watching TV. It turned out to be a horror movie, playing on a cable channel Kerry wasnt even supposed to watch.
That time, he felt so sick that his mother told his father not to punish him.
Now, he looked around for Grandma Jenkins, but he could not see her in the crowd. So many people had pushed up against the fence that he couldnt squeeze through their legs any more either.
So he had to stay there, and even though he covered up his eyes, he could still hear the lions growling and tearing up the pieces of meat.
When they were done feeding, most of the people walked away, and Grandma Jenkins saw him standing by the fence. She grabbed his hand and told him how worried she had been, which only made him feel worse.
Lets get something for lunch, she told him. Maybe a chocolate milkshake will cheer you up.
I dont feel like eating anything, Grandma Kerry told her, and he really meant it.
* * *
Grandma Jenkins told Kerry that it usually took an hour to drive home from the Zoo. That was because on weekends the roads werent so busy, and they could avoid traffic jams.
But this Sunday, for some reason, the freeways were crowded. It took them almost two hours to cross the city.
Kerry had been very excited all day, and now he was tired. He might have fallen asleep in the car, but he was also getting very hungry.
He started to complain. Grandma Jenkins told him that it wasnt much farther, and that she really wanted to get home. Then she would cook him a big dinner.
Kerry replied, But Grandma, it might take you a long time to cook dinner, and I want to eat something right away!
Then he saw where they were, just coming up to the Gas N Save on the highway corner. I want to get a hot dog from the store! Theyre my favorites!
Grandma Jenkins told him no, and he became very upset.
Kerry threw a loud temper tantrum, even kicking the back of the drivers seat where his grandmother was sitting. His mother had told him several times that this was not allowed, and even dangerous, but he was so upset he did it anyway.
She slammed on the brakes, and turned the car into the parking lot of the store. She stopped so fast that the wheels raised a cloud of dust.
Okay Kerry, his grandmother said, Ill run in and get you a hot dog. Come to think of it, I havent bought my Sunday Lotto tickets yet. My goodness, its almost too late already.
She ran into the store, and Kerry followed her. Since he was very hungry, he picked out a jumbo sized hot dog with cheese and chili topping.
Grandma Jenkins looked in her purse and frowned. It looks like I spent most of my money at the Zoo, she said. I forgot that I loaned twenty dollars to Elise on Friday. I only have five dollars left.
The jumbo hot dog, with toppings, cost two dollars and fifty cents.
Grandma Jenkins realized that she would not have enough money to buy the jumbo hot dog plus her usual three Lotto tickets. She asked Kerry if he would take a regular hot dog instead, because that kind was on sale for a dollar fifty.
Kerry was still in a bad mood, and he started to scream and stamp his feet, right in the middle of the store. The clerk, a friendly young man from Pakistan, frowned at them. Kerry saw this, but he didnt care. Finally his grandmother gave up and bought him the jumbo size.
He went back to the car, and climbed into the wide, empty back seat to eat it.
Meanwhile, Grandma Jenkins bought two Lotto tickets with the last of her money. She wrote down her regular numbers, leaving out only the third set.
She came back to the car wearing such a frown that Kerry felt sorry he had acted so bad. He though about apologizing, but before he could say anything, he heard the sound of sirens coming up the highway.
He put down the hot dog and jumped out of the car. A fire truck came racing up the highway from the direction of the city. It passed the store, then turned south at the next road. Kerry could just barely see it through the brush as it pulled up at a large house.
A minute later an ambulance came along, and it stopped at the same house. Kerry wondered what had happened. Nothing else happened, so he climbed back into the car and finished eating his hot dog.
When they got back on the road, Grandma Jenkins didnt look angry any more. You know what they say, she said, not really looking at Kerry. As long as youve got your health, youve got everything.
Kerry understood her words, but he didnt get it anyway, so he decided to figure it out later. They were back at the house in a couple of minutes.
As soon as he got in the front door, Kerry ran straight through the house to the sliding door by the pool, and looked out through the glass, hoping to catch any coyotes that might have come to drink.
He didnt see one, but he did see a skinny, black bird with long legs and tail feathers. It ran back and forth along the concrete pool deck, picking at the ground. Kerry knew about crows from seeing them in his neighborhood, and this was a different kind of bird.
He ran into the kitchen. You know all about birds, Grandma. Whats that one in the back yard? He led her to the sliding door.
Thats a roadrunner, Kerry, she told him. They live in the desert, and I guess sometimes they come this far west. Ive been meaning to tell my friends about it, because I know one lady who is a bird watcher.
Wow! Kerry shouted. First a coyote and then a roadrunner! Do you have Tasmanian Devils in your yard too?
Grandma Jenkins laughed. Sorry, Kerry, but I dont think so.
* * *
They had home made spaghetti for dinner that night. Kerry ate three helpings. Even Grandma Jenkins ate a lot, so there werent any leftovers at all.
After she did the dishes, Grandma Jenkins turned on the TV set in the den. A game show was just ending, and then the Sunday evening Lotto drawing came on.
Kerry had seen Xaviers mother buy Lotto tickets sometimes, but his own mother had told him once that it was a waste of money.
He didnt quite understand how it worked, but he knew that lots of people were watching this show, hoping that they would be the one to get millions of dollars this time.
Weird grownup stuff, he said to himself, and went to play with the G.I. Joe set that his grandmother kept in the closet of his spare bedroom. Later, he planned to read Treasure Island, but not until right before bed time.
While he was playing Kerry heard the phone ring, and his grandmother talking to somebody. Then she turned up the sound on the TV set. A man was saying some numbers.
Suddenly he heard a terrible noise. It sounded so awful he flinched, and put his head down and covered his ears. Grandma Jenkins was screaming!
Kerry thought of the rescue shows he had seen on TV, and the time the policeman talked to his class, earlier that year. He realized that his grandmother might be hurt, or sick, and then he would have to call 911. Maybe the very same firemen and ambulance he had seen from the Gas N Save would have to come to their house.
Kerry ran towards the den. As he left his room he heard another awful sound. There was a loud bang, and then the sharp noise of breaking glass. He thought that a bad guy might be in the house. The guy might even be shooting at them!
He stopped running and dropped to the floor. Then, pretending he was G.I. Joe himself, he crawled carefully up the hallway. He got to the entrance to the den room and listened carefully.
Nothing was moving inside. He wished he had a gun, or even a baseball bat. Then he reminded himself that he was really just seven, and could not stop a grownup bad guy. He got so scared he started to cry.
When he stopped, he thought he could hear somebody else crying too. It sounded a lot like his friend Xaviers sister, Selina, after they had teased her so much she started to cry.
But Selina was far away, and the only girl in the house was his grandmother, even if she was kind of old. He listened carefully, but didnt hear anything that sounded like a burglar or any other bad guy.
Kerry stood up and looked into the den. The TV screen was smashed, and there was broken glass all over the rug in front of it. Grandma Jenkins was sitting on the couch with her hands in front of her face. Her fingers were all wet, and even though it was a little dark in the room, he could tell that she was crying.
Grandma, are you okay? he asked.
She did not look up at him, but just shook her head without saying anything.
Are you sick? Should I call 911? he asked her quietly.
Finally she looked at him. One lousy hot dog, she said. You kids are always so hungry.
Kerry didnt understand. But you only ate spaghetti. He patted his own stomach. See? I was the only one who ate a hot dog, and Im just fine.
She sighed. Its okay, Kerry. Ill be fine too. She looked at the TV. Oh, no. Please be careful! Dont step on any broken glass.
She took his hand and brought him into the kitchen, where they sat down at the table.
What happened? Kerry asked, his voice filled with concern.
Grandma Jenkins smiled in a funny way. I almost missed the Lotto drawing tonight, she said. Actually I wish I had. You see, my number came up tonight. If I had played all three of my usual numbers, I would have won sixteen million dollars tonight.
Why didnt you?
She looked at him for a long time, and Kerry knew he was old enough to understand whatever she might tell him, even if she didnt think he was. He sat up straighter and tried to look confident.
She sighed again. I only had five dollars left from the Zoo. I bought you a jumbo hot dog instead of my usual three Lotto tickets, with the same numbers Ive been playing for twenty years. It was that third ticket, the one I didnt get, that was the winner tonight.
Wow. Sorry I got hungry, Grandma. Its just that the lions, well, you know . . .
I know, Kerry. Then she laughed. Did you know I just got a phone call?
Oh, yeah, I heard you on the phone right before you turned up the TV.
That was Elise Wilson, the lady who owns the boat we were on yesterday. Remember the ambulance we saw this afternoon, that went to that big house on the other side of the highway?
Kerry nodded. That was cool. I just hope nobody got messed up too bad or anything.
Im afraid somebody was. That house belonged to a guy who won the Lotto five years ago. I never met him, but he used to work with Mike Wilson. Of course he quit his job, and he had that big house built. But then he started to drink a lot, and he got very sick from it.
Kerry knew about drinking alcohol from talking about it in class, and also hed seen Xaviers uncle get very drunk one Saturday while he was at their house. Xaviers father got angry and had kicked the man right out of the house.
Kerry even saw how it made people sick, because the man had barfed all over the sidewalk. It was the most grossed-out thing he had ever seen, at least until this very Sunday, when he watched the lions eating.
Grandma Jenkins said, Dont worry, Kerry, I dont drink like that. Id like to think I wouldnt either, even if I had nothing do and millions of dollars to spend.
She stood up. Come here, wont you?
Kerry came around the table and she gave him a big hug.
Youre my special boy, you know that? You and all of my family.
Just a minute, Grandma.
Kerry ran to his room and grabbed his copy of Treasure Island. He brought it back to the kitchen and handed it to his grandmother.
See, Grandma? This book is all about brave people, and how they found real treasure. The boy comes back with a bunch of gold, and he gives most of it to his mother. So maybe theres better ways for you to get money.
Grandma Jenkins hugged him again. Your father told me hes about to make a very large computer sale. But I think Ive already found my treasure.