Grandpa always told the truth.
|Grandpa knew everything. That’s why I always went to him for help. Schoolwork, advice about girls, fixing cars, didn’t matter – he always had an answer and the answer was always solid as a rock.
History, too. One day we were reading the paper together and saw a story about a skull at Alcatraz. It had surfaced in a narrow strip of sand while they were shoring up a cliff on the west side of the island. The newspaper story was full of speculation that the skull was all that was left of a prisoner who tried to break out, unable to face a long sentence. “Maybe it was Al Capone,” I said to Grandpa.
“Nah, he got sick and they shipped him somewhere else,” Grandpa said. “Might be Theodore Cole or Ralph Roe, though. They tried in 1937, December. Bay like ice water, but not many sharks – that’s a myth. Hypothermia sets in when your core body temperature goes below about 95. The Bay temp in December is in the 40’s – you wouldn’t last long and you’d have to be tough. Yeah, Teddy Cole and Ralph Roe --never seen again.”
I asked Grandpa why Alcatraz wasn’t still a prison. “Got too expensive to run,” he said. “And it wasn’t always a prison. Had a big lighthouse once. Then it was a military fort in the 1850’s.” He was like a walking encyclopedia. I asked him if many guys tried to break out. “More than the government wanted to admit,” he said. “They liked to pretend The Rock was escape proof.”
“Well, it was for those two guys,” I said. “You know, Cole and Roe.”
Grandpa looked at me over the top of his glasses and paused a long time. Then he said, “Actually, there were three of us.”
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