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Chapter Six Hundred and Fifty - Is it only Tuesday? (part four)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FIFTY

(part four)

“Do they want to watch?” Honey asked.

“You’d be surprised,” the attendant said.

“We can wait for you,” Jacob said.

“Nah,” she said. “Go ahead.”

They continued into the auditorium. The auditorium doors were wide open with two large industrial fans in the door. Because the building catered to people in wheelchairs, this space did not have seats. Face mask clad residents were situated six feet from each other. At the front of the auditorium, there was a long table where Steve Roper was waiting for them. Separated by six feet, the floor captains sat around the table. Chairs sat on the other side of the table. Seeing that Honey was in her wheelchair, Steve got up to move a chair. There was a board covered with cork behind the table.

MJ helped Honey to the table and sat down next to her. Jacob took the last empty chair.

“Thanks for having us,” Jacob said.

“I’m the first floor captain,” the man on the end said. “I was elected by the first floor residents.”

“What’s your name?” Honey asked.

“Oh, sorry,” the man grinned. “I’m nervous. I’m Jerry Jason Jones. People call me ‘Triple J’ but you can call me ‘Jerry.’”

“I’m Jake,” Jacob said. “This is my sister, Honey, and her husband, MJ.”

Jacob nodded to the woman sitting next to Jerry.

“I’m Cassidy Calum,” she said. Her face flushed red. “I’m the second floor captain.”

“Nice to meet you,” Jacob said.

“I’m Aaron Zelig,” said the man sitting next to her. He was small with the characteristic high voice of someone with Osteogenesis Imperfecta or “brittle bone disease.” “Third floor captain. I was elected to lead this meeting.”

“Hi Aaron,” Jacob said. “What can we do for you?”

“We have a list of requests,” Aaron said.

Aaron cleared his throat and looked at Cassidy and Jerry. They nodded to him.

“Lay it on us,” MJ said.

“Oh, oh, okay,” Aaron said. “We wrote them on the board. You just have to turn it over.”

MJ jumped up and turned the board over showing a white board. He stood in front of the board reading the list.

“MJ,” Honey said.

“Uh-huh,” MJ said.

“MJ,” Honey repeated. “Move your ass.”

MJ jerked around to look at her.

“We can’t see through you,” Jacob said.

“Oh, oh, right,” MJ said.

He slunk away from the board and sat down. The board said:

  1. Ventilation
  2. Vaccine
  3. Exercise
  4. Internet

“So you probably know what each of these means,” Aaron said. “But let me go through it quickly. We want to know if we can increase the ventilation. At least on the third floor, we’re worried that if one person gets sick, we’ll all get sick.”

Cassidy and Jerry nodded indicating that this was the issue on their floor.

“Do you want to talk about them as we go?” Jacob asked.

“Sure,” Aaron said.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Fifty - Is it only Tuesday? (part three)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FIFTY

(part three)

Tuesday morning —8:27 a.m.

“Jake had drop off this morning,” Honey said to MJ. She was sitting in her wheelchair. “He’ll be here.”

Shaking his head, MJ blew out a breath.

“Why are you so nervous?” Honey asked.

“Global pandemic?” MJ shook his head again. “Responsibility for everyone in our building?”

“Everything’s been fine,” Honey said. “So far, everyone’s taken the whole thing in stride.”

“Then why did they call this meeting with us today?” MJ asked.

“There’s Jake,” Honey said. She waved to Jacob as he pulled up. “I think we’ll find out in a minute.”

“Steve’s inside?” Jacob asked as he approached.

“He’s checking in with the nurses,” Honey said with a nod.

Honey and MJ turned with Jacob and started inside the building they owned together with Steve Roper. Originally the apartment building Jill had lived in, Jacob, Honey, and MJ had converted it for wheelchair bound people. They had a full time nursing staff which was managed by Steve Roper. Jacob took care of repairs and Honey helped run the building along with some amazing residents and staff. The building had been at full occupancy since a few weeks after it opened and had remained full since then. Overall, the residents seemed to love living there.

During the pandemic, they had increased security, passed out masks, and taught virus safety. They’d put stickers on the floor of the elevator and installed spit guards for the stations where the attendants worked. They’d even created a testing station so that anyone who needed a Covid-19 test could get one. So far, no one in the building had been sick. The people who lived here were some of the most vulnerable people in Denver.

“Nice wheels,” Jacob said about the wheelchair Honey was in.

“Yesterday wore me out,” Honey said. “Maggie was so excited from school that it took forever to get her to settle down.”

“Not enough sleep,” MJ said.

Jacob nodded.

“Do we have an agenda?” Jacob asked.

MJ and Honey shook their heads.

“Should be interesting,” Jacob said as he opened the glass door.

Honey wheeled inside the building with MJ right behind her. Jacob followed up. The lobby was absolutely silent and still. They continued past the pool and weight room, both empty and silent. Honey stopped at the desk.

“Where is everyone?” Honey asked.

“The state closed everything,” the wheelchair bound attendant said. “It’s one of the things on the agenda to talk to you about.”

She smiled at them.

“I need to take your temperature,” she said, holding out an infrared thermometer.

Since she was in a wheelchair, she did Honey’s first. Jacob crouched down so that his forehead was at her level. Unable to crouch do to the amputation of his lower calf, MJ bent over. They were all within the normal range of temperatures.

“You can head on back,” she said. “I need to lock up.”

“Everyone’s at the meeting?” MJ asked.

“We can let only let a few residents go. You know, for safety,” the wheelchair bound attendant said as she came out from behind the counter. “But the meeting is broadcast on the inner-building network and recorded for later. If people want to watch, they can.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Fifty - Is it only Tuesday? (part two)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FIFTY

(part two)

Jill stuck her head in the apartment.

“Would you mind putting Katy’s hair up again?” Jill asked. “She said that it’s too hot to have it down.”

“Not a problem,” Sandy said.

“Do you think it’s time to c-u-t it?” Jill asked.

“No!” Katy said, stubbornly.

“For this morning?” Sandy snorted. “I think we just muddle through.”

Sandy held out the cup of coffee to Jill, who swallowed it down.

“Thanks,” Jill said. “I need to get back.”

Sandy nodded.

“Come on, Katy,” Sandy said. “Let’s see about your hair.”

“Can I have some animal pancakes, too?” Katy asked.

“Of course,” Sandy said. As they past the kitchen, Sandy leaned into say, “Katy’s here too.”

“Got it,” Charlie said from his position at the grill.

The deafening sound of a hair dryer came from Noelle’s room. Sandy ushered Katy into her bedroom.

“Mommy and I washed my hair last night,” Katy said. “I like how soft it is after the conditioner.”

Katy petted her hair while Sandy grinned at the adorable child.

“I’m glad you didn’t brush it today,” Sandy said.

“Don’t tell Mommy, but me too,” Katy said with a grin.

“Are the boys less crazy today?” Sandy asked.

“They are excited to play with their friends,” Katy said. “They are being good.”

Sandy’s attention was on Katy’s hair so she didn’t respond.

“Who knew they had friends?” Katy sniggered.

Sandy smiled at Katy’s back.

“I’m glad it’s going better,” Sandy said. “We’re all pretty grumpy here this morning.”

“How come?” Katy asked.

“Stayed up too late,” Sandy said. “First day of school is fun, but the second day is a chore.”

Katy nodded.

“Mommy made us go to bed extra early,” Katy said. “I was really tired so I made the boys tired.”

“Your mommy is a smart cookie,” Sandy said.

Katy giggled.

“My mommy is no kind of cookie,” Katy said brightly.

Sandy kissed the top of Katy’s hair.

“You’re all set,” Sandy said.

Katy spun in place to give Sandy a big hug. The little girl ran out of the room and went to the kitchen.

“Do you still have time for me?” Noelle asked, her voice teary.

“Always,” Sandy said.

“Good,” Noelle said.

Noelle went to stand with her back to Sandy.

“Katy said that it’s hot at the school,” Sandy said. “Do you want curls? It’s long enough now that I can put it up in a cute way.”

“Yes, put it up,” Noelle said. “But we have PE today. We’re going to learn a game called ‘La Crosse.’”

“I’ll make sure it stays up,” Sandy said.

“Good,” Noelle said.

Quickly and efficiently, Sandy put Noelle’s hair in a chignon.

“Stay there,” Sandy said.

Sandy went into her bathroom for hairspray. When she returned, Noelle was putting on some colored lip gloss in the full length mirror.

“How is it to have Teddy home?” Sandy asked.

Noelle responded with a wide smile.

“Good,” Sandy said. “Close your eyes.”

Sandy sprayed the hairspray until she was sure that Noelle’s hair wasn’t going to move today.

“You look very beautiful,” Sandy said. “Come on, we just have time for some pancakes.”

Noelle gave Sandy a beautiful straight toothed smile. Together, they went out to the table where the boys and Katy were already eating. Finally awake, everyone laughed their way through breakfast.

Sandy stood at the door and said good-bye to each of them. Sighing to herself, she got on with her busy day.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Fifty - Is it only Tuesday? (part one)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FIFTY

(part one)

Tuesday morning —7:00 a.m.

“What do you mean?” Nash whined. “We have to go back?”

Grabbing a handful of his covers, he rolled over in bed. Teddy looked at Sandy and groaned from his bed. Sandy chuckled at them. Sandy held a sleepy Rachel in her arms.

“I told you that you shouldn’t have stayed up so late,” Sandy said.

Very quietly, the bathroom door closed.

“Crap,” Nash moaned. “Now I can’t get up. Noelle’s in the bathroom.”

“She’ll be out soon enough,” Sandy said. “You can always use mine.”

“Where’s Dad?” Nash asked.

“He’s at work,” Sandy said. “Lipson is up and running with four job sites.”

“What about job sharing?” Teddy asked.

“They are still job sharing,” Sandy said. “That’s why he’s in the office. They have a meeting with the board and a whole bunch of stuff.”

The room was absolutely still. The only sound Sandy heard was the boys breathing deeply.

Get up!” Sandy yelled. “Now!

His eyes half open, Charlie came down the hallway. He tucked into Sandy’s room to use the bathroom. When Sandy looked back into the boys’ room, Teddy and Nash were sitting on the side of the bed. The water turned on for Noelle’s shower. Sensing movement, Charlie came out of Sandy’s room and stumbled back to his closet to get dressed.

When she looked back into the boys’ room, they were back in bed with the covers over their heads. The water turned off in the shower.

“Noelle’s done showering,” Sandy said. “I will not tell you again! Get up!”

Teddy sat up in bed. A moment later, the lock clicked and Nash fell out of bed and into the bathroom.

“How was yesterday, Teddy?” Sandy asked.

“Good,” Teddy said, his voice in a lower octave than it had been when he’d left. “I really missed everyone when we were in Egypt.”

“It must have been fun,” Sandy said.

“Lockdown is lockdown,” Teddy said. “If I were here, I’d have seen my friends, Noelle, everyone. But there? It was just our family. Don’t get me wrong, I like my sister and brother and even the new babies. I just. . .”

“Is it too hard to move back and forth between families now?” Sandy asked.

“Oh,” Teddy sighed. “I don’t know. If I stay here all the time, I won’t be a part of the little ones lives. That would be really hard. But then, I’d get to spend more time with you and everyone I love. Not that I don’t love them. It’s just. . .”

Teddy shook his head. Nash came out of the bathroom with his hair wet. He started getting dressed. The boys had played in the SwimSpa until nearly midnight. They’d showered before bed, so Sandy was willing to let them slide on showering this morning.

“Go ahead,” Sandy said.

Teddy got up and went into the bathroom. She turned to see Charlie heading into the kitchen to start their breakfast.

“Where’s Rachel?” Noelle asked from her room.

“Here,” Rachel said against Sandy’s chest.

“She bathed with me,” Sandy said.

“Okay, I’ll get her dressed,” Noelle said. “Can you do my hair again?”

“Can you dry it?” Sandy asked.

“Sure,” Noelle said. “With the one that straightens my hair like we practiced?”

“Yes,” Sandy said.

“Got it,” Noelle said.

Sandy set Rachel down and the child stumbled sleepily into the room she now shared with Noelle. Sandy continued down the hallway and into the living room. Charlie handed her a cup of coffee from the pot that had just finished brewing. Sandy was taking her first sip when there was a knock on their apartment door.

Jill stuck her head in the apartment.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Forty-nine - Now. What?

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FORTY-NINE

Monday morning —11:02 a.m.

After breastfeeding and burping Grace, Valerie set the tiny infant down in the crib. Mike peaked into their bedroom to see if Valerie was free.

“She’s asleep,” Valerie said.

“Breakfast?” Mike asked.

“I’m okay,” Valerie said. “I had something with Jackie and Eddie before they went to school.”

“Pregnancy pounds?” Mike asked.

Valerie snorted a laugh.

“I didn’t gain any weight this time,” Valerie said. “I mean I gained what I’d lost with my insanity after Eddie. I’m lucky that I don’t carry weight.”

“And you workout so much,” Mike said with a sigh.

“What?” Valerie asked, squinting at him.

“I guess I was hoping for a month of bacon and pastries,” Mike said.

Valerie laughed.

“You know, Jake’s still weighing me,” Valerie said.

“Yes!” Mike said. “Bacon and pastries!”

While Valerie laughed, Mike opened the door to their apartment. He was gone only a second before returning with warm chocolate croissants, a plate stacked with bacon, and a thermos of tea. Valerie gave a soft cheer and a fingertip clap. Mike set the tray at their small dining table. He got up and made Valerie a mix of psyllium husk for her bowels. She drank it down while he grabbed plates.

Mike set the plates down. He piled his plate with bacon and some pastries. He made her a plate with less of everything. She reached over to take a piece of bacon from the mound on his plate.

“You can always get more,” Mike said.

Chewing a piece of bacon, Valerie nodded. She swallowed.

“We need to talk about everything,” Valerie said.

“Yes, our children have been in school for two hours,” Mike said. “Time to talk about what’s next.”

Valerie grinned at him, and he smirked. When she didn’t say anything, he said, “So?”

“Oh, sorry,” Valerie said. “I was wondering what you were going to say about what was next for you.”

“Oh,” Mike said. “Nothing, really. Or nothing special. Noelle did a massive clean-up before she went back to school. She got Charlie and Nash to move things so we could clean the floor. I hardly recognize the place.”

Mike shrugged.

“I have a couple of commissions, but mostly I’m just painting,” Mike said. “Playing with the kids. Hanging out with everyone. Helping Delphie.”

“We’re moving toward Harvest Day,” Valerie said, her eyes gleaming. She gave a little clap.

“Delphie said something about doing it in waves,” Mike said. “We have so many gardens this year. The backyard, the gardens by the school, the greenhouses. . . Across the street. She planted LaTonya’s house or Tanesha’s house — whatever — and Tanesha’s grandmother’s house. Oh, Rodney and his guys have gardens too.”

Mike shook his head.

“It’s a lot,” Mike said.

Valerie nodded.

“Rodney’s guys are going to do some of the work,” Mike said. “A couple of them want to make things from the garden — jams, candles, breads, stuff they can sell at farmer’s markets or over the Internet. They have agreed to use this year as practice in exchange for Delphie’s recipes and help.”

“Delphie still wants to give everything away?” Valerie asked.

“Too many hungry people,” Mike said with a nod. “That’s what’s going on here. I mean, there’s no way to know how the kids are going to fit in at school.”

“I’m sure they’ll be fine,” Valerie said. “They love school.”

Mike nodded.

“What’s next for you?” Mike asked.

“Well,” Valerie sighed. “I am under contract for a couple of movies and an animated feature but everything’s still shut down. There are a couple of groups that have pulled off Covid safety, but mostly everything is shut down.”

“There’s no work for you?” Mike asked.

Valerie nodded.

“Jen arranged for me to do the audio work here in town,” Valerie said. “But, again, we have to wait until a recording studio opens up. Jeraine said I could use the equipment downstairs but. . . I don’t know. It seems like a big risk.”

Valerie sighed.

“Jake told me that that guy from the casinos said that. . .” Mike started.

“That’s complicated,” Valerie said.

Mike nodded and continued, “. . . the problem with the movies is funding. No one knows if we’re heading into a depression. People are truly scared. It was just a bit ago that the entire system came down. No one knows if it’s strong enough to hold through the pandemic or if it’s all coming apart.”

“Movies float on a sea of money,” Valerie said.

Mike nodded.

“We have to make our own decisions,” Mike said. “Do what’s best for us and our family. At least until this thing is over.”

Valerie looked down at her plate. Mike silently waited for her to respond.

“I feel. . .” Valerie said. She looked up at Mike. “I’ve been working so much the last few years.”

Mike nodded.

“We’ve been all over the world for movies,” Valerie said. “Some of those will come out in the next year or so. I’m still cast for Marvel so that will happen. And. . .”

Valerie wrinkled her nose.

“I’m not sure I want to work as much,” Valerie said. “It’s been really nice to be home. I, personally, have been involved with everyone’s lives. It’s been great, really great. I was gone such a long time and then we’ve been back and forth and everywhere. This is the first time that I’ve been home, just home, for an extended period of time. It’s been great.”

Valerie nodded.

“I don’t want to give up everything I’ve worked for,” Valerie said. “I’m just not sure what’s next.”

Mike shrugged.

“Sounds like we don’t have to decide right away,” Mike said.

“One thing,” Valerie said. “If we’re going to stay, we should talk to Jake about getting a bigger place. This apartment was perfect for you alone. It was great for you and me. But now? We have three kids! We need more space.”

“I’m sure he has a plan,” Mike said.

“Probably,” Valerie nodded.

Neither one of them said anything for a long moment. Valerie sighed.

“Would you mind if we just stayed here until. . .”Valerie’s voice died out because she wasn’t sure how long they’d be there.

“Until a vaccine or the pandemic ends or the economy picks up or. . .?” Mike asked. “Absolutely. Let’s just hang out. If we get sick of it, we can do something else.”

Valerie gave him one of her beautiful movie star smiled.

“Sounds perfect,” Valerie said.

“It does,” Mike said. “To me too.”

“Do you think. . .?” Valerie started and then shook her head. “My mother used to say, ‘It’s no good giving voice to fears.’ I’m so afraid that everything’s going to come apart completely. I want someone to tell me that it won’t. Even if they lie!”

“I think we all feel that way,” Mike said. “Or everyone I talk to, even the kids. We want to know that things will continue on, that we’ll be okay, but. . .”

“There’s no way to know,” Valerie said.

“Our longing for certainty makes us vulnerable to the people who will lie to us, tell us anything for their own gain,” Mike said. “My mom is beside herself. She says this happened in Russia. People are desperate so they believe anything.”

Valerie sighed.

“We have to hold onto hope,” Mike said. “We need to be hopeful.”

“Even if we fake it,” Valerie nodded. “That should be our new thing.”

“What?” Mike asked.

“Strengthening our hope,” Valerie said. “Building hope in everyone we know.”

Mike nodded.

“Speaking of that,” Valerie said, with a sigh. “We need to either share Grace with the men outside or take the money from the tabloids.”

“For charity?” Mike asked.

“For the food shelters,” Valerie said. “To bring awareness that people are going without right now. I wonder if. . .”

Valerie tapped her finger to her lip.

“What?” Mike asked.

“Oh nothing,” Valerie smiled. “I like it. Hope is our new mission.”

Mike gave her a quizzical look but eventually nodded.

“You’re not. . .” Mike started. “I mean, you remember that we can’t get people together or. . .”

Valerie smiled.

“You’re not going to tell me?” Mike asked.

“I’ll tell you,” Valerie said. “I just have to think it through more.”

She yawned.

“Let’s just leave this stuff and nap for a while,” Mike said.

“Grace will be awake soon,” Valerie said.

Mike stood and held out his hand. They walked to the bed where they both fell into a dreamless sleep.

~~~~~~~~

Monday midday —11:32 a.m.

“Okay, I’m back,” Honey said, scooting into her seat.

Honey and Jill were using the room in the basement that they’d set up for the kids online school. It was equipped with their fastest internet and newest computers. They were able to sit side by side, six feet apart, with the computers in front of each of them. There were two HEPA fans blowing as well. Since the Castle hadn’t had outside guest in months, they had decided to treat each other as if they were in the same “pod.” This meant that they didn’t have to wear masks around each other and could eat together indoors.

“I logged you in,” Jill said.

“Thanks,” Honey said, frantically typing into the computer in front of her.

“Are you okay?” Jill asked.

Jill pulled a Bluetooth earbud out of her ear in order to hear Honey.

“Oh, you know,” Honey said.

“What?” Jill asked.

Honey sighed.

“I need a day off,” Honey whispered. “I was upstairs staring at the wall. I mean, no work? No kids? It’s. . .”

“Weird?” Jill said. “Wonderful?”

Honey nodded. Jill stuck her earbud back in her ear. For a moment, the women focused on listening to the start of their classes. A few minutes later, Honey glanced at Jill.

“Nice hair,” Honey whispered.

“Sandy did it this morning,” Jill said. “Your hair is so beautiful — long, pink cast, and curly!”

“The curly surprises me too,” Honey said. “I just never had it long enough to have any wave.”

“So lovely,” Jill said.

The women fell silent as they listened to their teachers. The hour slipped away.

Jill took off her head set first. Jill’s movement caught Honey’s attention. She took off her headset.

“What do you have next?” Jill asked.

“Another class, you?” Honey asked.

“Same,” Jill said. “Mine are packed together on the same day. I guess that’s what people wanted.”

“Mine’s the same, too,” Honey said.

Honey reached out to grab Jill’s hand.

“I’m so glad to be here with you,” Honey said. “I don’t know what I would have done without you these last months, especially when MJ was gone.”

Honey shook her head.

“I feel the same way,” Jill said. “I don’t know what I would have done without you. You’ve been like bedrock for all of us.”

“We’re so lucky,” Honey said.

Jill nodded and smiled.

“I was going to make some tea and get us some water,” Jill said. “Can I get you anything?”

“I brought these,” Honey said.

She turned in her seat to open her backpack. Inside, there was a metal tin, like the ones used by Sandy for cookies.

“Sandy made these for us,” Honey said. She worked to open the tin. It was hard for Honey, but not impossible like it was.

“Are they. . .?” Jill asked.

“They are,” Honey said.

“Mexican wedding cookies,” Jill and Honey said together.

Jill mock swooned.

“Coffee then?” Jill asked.

“Please,” Honey said. “I need to use the toilet.”

“Do you need help?” Jill asked.

“I can get there,” Honey said.

“Your walking is incredible,” Jill said.

“Let’s see if I make it out of the basement,” Honey said with a snort. “MJ said he’d come to get me.”

Jill grinned. Honey got up. They swiftly went through their break. When they settled in, they had fresh coffee and wonderful cookies.

“Ready?” Jill asked, blowing out a bit of powdered sugar.

Honey pointed to her screen. Her next class had already started. Jill grinned at Honey and logged into her next class.

~~~~~~~~

Monday midday —12:02 p.m.

“We asked everyone to stop today and noon. . .” Jacob started.

He was standing on an enormous excavator in the middle of one of the two sites that had continued working through the pandemic. He’d been wearing a face mask up until the moment he began speaking.

“I wanted to let you know that we’re in negotiations to get the vaccines as soon as they are approved,” Jacob said. “Or, I should say, we’re on the list after doctors. They think it will either be early next year or December. Until then, we wear our masks.”

“And afterward!” someone yelled from the back.

“For a while, at least,” Jacob said.

He turned over his wrist to look at his watch. Seeing the time, he nodded. Bambi climbed on top of the excavator as did Aden.

“We wanted to let you know that, as of 12 noon, our fourth site is up and running!” Jacob said.

The men and women cheered.

“We wanted to take a minute to thank each of you for hanging in there this year,” Bambi said. She spoke loud enough through her mask that everyone heard her.

“Without injury or illness!” Jacob said with a cheer.

Everyone cheered.

“You have shown up, worked hard, been flexible around job sharing, and. . . well. . .” Feeling emotional, Aden stopped talking. He pulled off his mask and covered his eyes.

“You are heroes to us,” Jacob said.

Jacob looked at Aden, but Aden was too overcome.

“There’s a little something in your paycheck this week to say ‘Thanks,’” Jacob said.

“It’s not a lot, so don’t get too excited,” Bambi said with a laugh.

Shaking his head at Bambi, Jacob grinned.

“You are the lifeblood of this company,” Aden said, having gotten himself together. “We bought lunch for you and the other original site.”

Everyone cheered again.

“We wanted to say ‘Thank you,’” Jacob said. “Did you take your kids back at the Marlowe School?”

The crowd cheered.

“We were just there,” Jacob said. “The classrooms are quiet and everything is going well.”

Everyone cheered again.

“We want to let you know that we’ve been told that vaccines are coming and we are one of the first in line,” Jacob said. “We’ve weathered a storm that has killed many, many people. Thank you.”

Jacob waited for the cheering to die down.

“My dad’s at the new sites today,” Jacob said. “He’s doing well, overall. We’re going to be harvesting the gardens in the next week or so, so we’ll have some fresh vegetables for you. If you need help harvesting, just let us know. Aden has some teenagers that need something to do.”

Everyone laughed.

“If you want to shift to a new team or working on the other sites is better for you,” Bambi said. “Give us a week and we’ll work it out. But do — give us a week. They are just getting their feet under them.”

“Okay, we won’t keep you,” Aden said. “Just a thanks. Your team leaders will have your lunches. Take an hour and revel in this truth — we worked our asses off, but we made it.”

Everyone cheered again.

“Team leads, see me!” Bambi said.

After putting back on his face mask, Jacob climbed down off the excavator. Aden climbed down after him. Seeing that Jacob had his face mask on, Aden put on his face mask.

“Shall we?” Jacob asked.

Aden took one look at the site and nodded. They got into Aden’s sedan and drove to meet Tres at the other site to tell them the good news.

~~~~~~~~

Monday afternoon —2:00 p.m.

Delphie stood in the middle of the gardens they’d started just a few months ago. The plants were loaded with fresh vegetables and fruit. They’d used windmills to keep the squirrels and other animals off the beds so they’d lost almost nothing. This garden burst with goodness.

Delphie looked up when she heard the door to the Marlowe School slam open. The teenagers fell out of the building a flood of water out of a loch. The boys chased each other across the grass that she and Jacob had planted after they’d put these boxes in.

She sighed.

The Marlowe School stood like the proud old lady she was. From the back, where she was standing, she could see the new playground and the outdoor classroom. The new playground that Jacob had built was complete with its own sand pit and places to put toys to clean. The grass started at the edge of the playground and went to the raised beds. The grassy space was large enough that the kids could learn La Cross or play soccer or even American Football. The gardens began at the edge of the fence.

Delphie waved, and the teenagers ran toward her. Mike pulled up and got out of his Bronco. He took out two round tipped shovels and carried them toward her. Delphie grinned at Mike and turned back to the children. Noelle was running with her friends Hope and Joy. Charlie and Tink were together. Nash and Teddy. Even Wanda was there!

When the children arrived, Delphie cleared her throat.

“Okay, I think you all know who I am,” Delphie said.

“Delphie!” the teenagers yelled.

Ivy went to Delphie’s side to give her a sideway hug. Delphie grinned at the child.

“The State has recommended adding more physical activity to your schedule,” Delphie said. “We’re going to teach you running, walking, lifting weights — exercise you can do as you grow up. You know, Jake’s recruiting people for a La Crosse team.”

“Basketball,” Charlie said with a nod. “We’re putting in a court on the other side of the building.”

“Afternoon shade,” Delphie nodded.

“Football, too?” L’Ron asked.

“If you’d like,” Mike said. “We’re going to do an ice hockey clinic since so many of your parents play.”

The boys grinned. The girls looked nervous.

“Today, we’re going to get you started taking care of these vegetable gardens,” Delphie said. “Most of you were here when we put them in. Now you’ll get to take care of the plants and the harvest. We’re going to make some things from them. And. . . Well, we’re going to have fun.”

Unsure of what to say, the kids jostled each other.

“Okay,” Mike said. “I need you to put yourselves into teams of five. We’ll give each team a bed and help you work through what needs to happen.”

“Will we plant for the winter?” Noelle asked.

“We will,” Mike said.

“Can we work the bees?” Wanda asked.

“Let’s make that a team,” Delphie said.

“Aww,” a few kids said.

“Okay, let’s see how many kids want to be involved,” Delphie said.

“What about those beds?” a young man Delphie recognized but couldn’t place.

“Those are assigned to other people,” Mike said. “We can help if they need help, but we’ll let them take care of their own plots.”

To Delphie’s surprise, the teenagers easily sorted themselves into groups. They were so happy to be together that Delphie had no problem with them listening. In less than a half hour, the kids were working to pull weeds, tie up limbs, and harvest anything that was ready.

Delphie caught Mike’s eye. Mike gave her a thumbs up. Delphie lit her smoker and pulled her hood on. She led a team of mostly girls over to work with the beehives.

Everyone had a good time.

Denver Cereal continues next week...


Chapter Six Hundred and Forty-nine - Now. What? (part six)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FORTY-NINE

(part six)

Monday afternoon —2:00 p.m.

Delphie stood in the middle of the gardens they’d started just a few months ago. The plants were loaded with fresh vegetables and fruit. They’d used windmills to keep the squirrels and other animals off the beds so they’d lost almost nothing. This garden burst with goodness.

Delphie looked up when she heard the door to the Marlowe School slam open. The teenagers fell out of the building a flood of water out of a loch. The boys chased each other across the grass that she and Jacob had planted after they’d put these boxes in.

She sighed.

The Marlowe School stood like the proud old lady she was. From the back, where she was standing, she could see the new playground and the outdoor classroom. The new playground that Jacob had built was complete with its own sand pit and places to put toys to clean. The grass started at the edge of the playground and went to the raised beds. The grassy space was large enough that the kids could learn La Cross or play soccer or even American Football. The gardens began at the edge of the fence.

Delphie waved, and the teenagers ran toward her. Mike pulled up and got out of his Bronco. He took out two round tipped shovels and carried them toward her. Delphie grinned at Mike and turned back to the children. Noelle was running with her friends Hope and Joy. Charlie and Tink were together. Nash and Teddy. Even Wanda was there!

When the children arrived, Delphie cleared her throat.

“Okay, I think you all know who I am,” Delphie said.

“Delphie!” the teenagers yelled.

Ivy went to Delphie’s side to give her a sideway hug. Delphie grinned at the child.

“The State has recommended adding more physical activity to your schedule,” Delphie said. “We’re going to teach you running, walking, lifting weights — exercise you can do as you grow up. You know, Jake’s recruiting people for a La Crosse team.”

“Basketball,” Charlie said with a nod. “We’re putting in a court on the other side of the building.”

“Afternoon shade,” Delphie nodded.

“Football, too?” L’Ron asked.

“If you’d like,” Mike said. “We’re going to do an ice hockey clinic since so many of your parents play.”

The boys grinned. The girls looked nervous.

“Today, we’re going to get you started taking care of these vegetable gardens,” Delphie said. “Most of you were here when we put them in. Now you’ll get to take care of the plants and the harvest. We’re going to make some things from them. And. . . Well, we’re going to have fun.”

Unsure of what to say, the kids jostled each other.

“Okay,” Mike said. “I need you to put yourselves into teams of five. We’ll give each team a bed and help you work through what needs to happen.”

“Will we plant for the winter?” Noelle asked.

“We will,” Mike said.

“Can we work the bees?” Wanda asked.

“Let’s make that a team,” Delphie said.

“Aww,” a few kids said.

“Okay, let’s see how many kids want to be involved,” Delphie said.

“What about those beds?” a young man Delphie recognized but couldn’t place.

“Those are assigned to other people,” Mike said. “We can help if they need help, but we’ll let them take care of their own plots.”

To Delphie’s surprise, the teenagers easily sorted themselves into groups. They were so happy to be together that Delphie had no problem with them listening. In less than a half hour, the kids were working to pull weeds, tie up limbs, and harvest anything that was ready.

Delphie caught Mike’s eye. Mike gave her a thumbs up. Delphie lit her smoker and pulled her hood on. She led a team of mostly girls over to work with the beehives.

Everyone had a good time.

Denver Cereal continues on Monday...


Chapter Six Hundred and Forty-nine - Now. What? (part five)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FORTY-NINE

(part five)

Monday midday —12:02 p.m.

“We asked everyone to stop today and noon. . .” Jacob started.

He was standing on an enormous excavator in the middle of one of the two sites that had continued working through the pandemic. He’d been wearing a face mask up until the moment he began speaking.

“I wanted to let you know that we’re in negotiations to get the vaccines as soon as they are approved,” Jacob said. “Or, I should say, we’re on the list after doctors. They think it will either be early next year or December. Until then, we wear our masks.”

“And afterward!” someone yelled from the back.

“For a while, at least,” Jacob said.

He turned over his wrist to look at his watch. Seeing the time, he nodded. Bambi climbed on top of the excavator as did Aden.

“We wanted to let you know that, as of 12 noon, our fourth site is up and running!” Jacob said.

The men and women cheered.

“We wanted to take a minute to thank each of you for hanging in there this year,” Bambi said. She spoke loud enough through her mask that everyone heard her.

“Without injury or illness!” Jacob said with a cheer.

Everyone cheered.

“You have shown up, worked hard, been flexible around job sharing, and. . . well. . .” Feeling emotional, Aden stopped talking. He pulled off his mask and covered his eyes.

“You are heroes to us,” Jacob said.

Jacob looked at Aden, but Aden was too overcome.

“There’s a little something in your paycheck this week to say ‘Thanks,’” Jacob said.

“It’s not a lot, so don’t get too excited,” Bambi said with a laugh.

Shaking his head at Bambi, Jacob grinned.

“You are the lifeblood of this company,” Aden said, having gotten himself together. “We bought lunch for you and the other original site.”

Everyone cheered again.

“We wanted to say ‘Thank you,’” Jacob said. “Did you take your kids back at the Marlowe School?”

The crowd cheered.

“We were just there,” Jacob said. “The classrooms are quiet and everything is going well.”

Everyone cheered again.

“We want to let you know that we’ve been told that vaccines are coming and we are one of the first in line,” Jacob said. “We’ve weathered a storm that has killed many, many people. Thank you.”

Jacob waited for the cheering to die down.

“My dad’s at the new sites today,” Jacob said. “He’s doing well, overall. We’re going to be harvesting the gardens in the next week or so, so we’ll have some fresh vegetables for you. If you need help harvesting, just let us know. Aden has some teenagers that need something to do.”

Everyone laughed.

“If you want to shift to a new team or working on the other sites is better for you,” Bambi said. “Give us a week and we’ll work it out. But do — give us a week. They are just getting their feet under them.”

“Okay, we won’t keep you,” Aden said. “Just a thanks. Your team leaders will have your lunches. Take an hour and revel in this truth — we worked our asses off, but we made it.”

Everyone cheered again.

“Team leads, see me!” Bambi said.

After putting back on his face mask, Jacob climbed down off the excavator. Aden climbed down after him. Seeing that Jacob had his face mask on, Aden put on his face mask.

“Shall we?” Jacob asked.

Aden took one look at the site and nodded. They got into Aden’s sedan and drove to meet Tres at the other site to tell them the good news.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Forty-nine - Now. What? (part four)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FORTY-NINE

(part four)

Monday midday —11:32 a.m.

“Okay, I’m back,” Honey said, scooting into her seat.

Honey and Jill were using the room in the basement that they’d set up for the kids online school. It was equipped with their fastest internet and newest computers. They were able to sit side by side, six feet apart, with the computers in front of each of them. There were two HEPA fans blowing as well. Since the Castle hadn’t had outside guest in months, they had decided to treat each other as if they were in the same “pod.” This meant that they didn’t have to wear masks around each other and could eat together indoors.

“I logged you in,” Jill said.

“Thanks,” Honey said, frantically typing into the computer in front of her.

“Are you okay?” Jill asked.

Jill pulled a Bluetooth earbud out of her ear in order to hear Honey.

“Oh, you know,” Honey said.

“What?” Jill asked.

Honey sighed.

“I need a day off,” Honey whispered. “I was upstairs staring at the wall. I mean, no work? No kids? It’s. . .”

“Weird?” Jill said. “Wonderful?”

Honey nodded. Jill stuck her earbud back in her ear. For a moment, the women focused on listening to the start of their classes. A few minutes later, Honey glanced at Jill.

“Nice hair,” Honey whispered.

“Sandy did it this morning,” Jill said. “Your hair is so beautiful — long, pink cast, and curly!”

“The curly surprises me too,” Honey said. “I just never had it long enough to have any wave.”

“So lovely,” Jill said.

The women fell silent as they listened to their teachers. The hour slipped away.

Jill took off her head set first. Jill’s movement caught Honey’s attention. She took off her headset.

“What do you have next?” Jill asked.

“Another class, you?” Honey asked.

“Same,” Jill said. “Mine are packed together on the same day. I guess that’s what people wanted.”

“Mine’s the same, too,” Honey said.

Honey reached out to grab Jill’s hand.

“I’m so glad to be here with you,” Honey said. “I don’t know what I would have done without you these last months, especially when MJ was gone.”

Honey shook her head.

“I feel the same way,” Jill said. “I don’t know what I would have done without you. You’ve been like bedrock for all of us.”

“We’re so lucky,” Honey said.

Jill nodded and smiled.

“I was going to make some tea and get us some water,” Jill said. “Can I get you anything?”

“I brought these,” Honey said.

She turned in her seat to open her backpack. Inside, there was a metal tin, like the ones used by Sandy for cookies.

“Sandy made these for us,” Honey said. She worked to open the tin. It was hard for Honey, but not impossible like it was.

“Are they. . .?” Jill asked.

“They are,” Honey said.

“Mexican wedding cookies,” Jill and Honey said together.

Jill mock swooned.

“Coffee then?” Jill asked.

“Please,” Honey said. “I need to use the toilet.”

“Do you need help?” Jill asked.

“I can get there,” Honey said.

“Your walking is incredible,” Jill said.

“Let’s see if I make it out of the basement,” Honey said with a snort. “MJ said he’d come to get me.”

Jill grinned. Honey got up. They swiftly went through their break. When they settled in, they had fresh coffee and wonderful cookies.

“Ready?” Jill asked, blowing out a bit of powdered sugar.

Honey pointed to her screen. Her next class had already started. Jill grinned at Honey and logged into her next class.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Forty-nine - Now. What? (part three)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FORTY-NINE

(part three)

“I don’t want to give up everything I’ve worked for,” Valerie said. “I’m just not sure what’s next.”

Mike shrugged.

“Sounds like we don’t have to decide right away,” Mike said.

“One thing,” Valerie said. “If we’re going to stay, we should talk to Jake about getting a bigger place. This apartment was perfect for you alone. It was great for you and me. But now? We have three kids! We need more space.”

“I’m sure he has a plan,” Mike said.

“Probably,” Valerie nodded.

Neither one of them said anything for a long moment. Valerie sighed.

“Would you mind if we just stayed here until. . .”Valerie’s voice died out because she wasn’t sure how long they’d be there.

“Until a vaccine or the pandemic ends or the economy picks up or. . .?” Mike asked. “Absolutely. Let’s just hang out. If we get sick of it, we can do something else.”

Valerie gave him one of her beautiful movie star smiled.

“Sounds perfect,” Valerie said.

“It does,” Mike said. “To me too.”

“Do you think. . .?” Valerie started and then shook her head. “My mother used to say, ‘It’s no good giving voice to fears.’ I’m so afraid that everything’s going to come apart completely. I want someone to tell me that it won’t. Even if they lie!”

“I think we all feel that way,” Mike said. “Or everyone I talk to, even the kids. We want to know that things will continue on, that we’ll be okay, but. . .”

“There’s no way to know,” Valerie said.

“Our longing for certainty makes us vulnerable to the people who will lie to us, tell us anything for their own gain,” Mike said. “My mom is beside herself. She says this happened in Russia. People are desperate so they believe anything.”

Valerie sighed.

“We have to hold onto hope,” Mike said. “We need to be hopeful.”

“Even if we fake it,” Valerie nodded. “That should be our new thing.”

“What?” Mike asked.

“Strengthening our hope,” Valerie said. “Building hope in everyone we know.”

Mike nodded.

“Speaking of that,” Valerie said, with a sigh. “We need to either share Grace with the men outside or take the money from the tabloids.”

“For charity?” Mike asked.

“For the food shelters,” Valerie said. “To bring awareness that people are going without right now. I wonder if. . .”

Valerie tapped her finger to her lip.

“What?” Mike asked.

“Oh nothing,” Valerie smiled. “I like it. Hope is our new mission.”

Mike gave her a quizzical look but eventually nodded.

“You’re not. . .” Mike started. “I mean, you remember that we can’t get people together or. . .”

Valerie smiled.

“You’re not going to tell me?” Mike asked.

“I’ll tell you,” Valerie said. “I just have to think it through more.”

She yawned.

“Let’s just leave this stuff and nap for a while,” Mike said.

“Grace will be awake soon,” Valerie said.

Mike stood and held out his hand. They walked to the bed where they both fell into a dreamless sleep.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Forty-nine - Now. What? (part two)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FORTY-NINE

(part two)

“It’s a lot,” Mike said.

Valerie nodded.

“Rodney’s guys are going to do some of the work,” Mike said. “A couple of them want to make things from the garden — jams, candles, breads, stuff they can sell at farmer’s markets or over the Internet. They have agreed to use this year as practice in exchange for Delphie’s recipes and help.”

“Delphie still wants to give everything away?” Valerie asked.

“Too many hungry people,” Mike said with a nod. “That’s what’s going on here. I mean, there’s no way to know how the kids are going to fit in at school.”

“I’m sure they’ll be fine,” Valerie said. “They love school.”

Mike nodded.

“What’s next for you?” Mike asked.

“Well,” Valerie sighed. “I am under contract for a couple of movies and an animated feature but everything’s still shut down. There are a couple of groups that have pulled off Covid safety, but mostly everything is shut down.”

“There’s no work for you?” Mike asked.

Valerie nodded.

“Jen arranged for me to do the audio work here in town,” Valerie said. “But, again, we have to wait until a recording studio opens up. Jeraine said I could use the equipment downstairs but. . . I don’t know. It seems like a big risk.”

Valerie sighed.

“Jake told me that that guy from the casinos said that. . .” Mike started.

“That’s complicated,” Valerie said.

Mike nodded and continued, “. . . the problem with the movies is funding. No one knows if we’re heading into a depression. People are truly scared. It was just a bit ago that the entire system came down. No one knows if it’s strong enough to hold through the pandemic or if it’s all coming apart.”

“Movies float on a sea of money,” Valerie said.

Mike nodded.

“We have to make our own decisions,” Mike said. “Do what’s best for us and our family. At least until this thing is over.”

Valerie looked down at her plate. Mike silently waited for her to respond.

“I feel. . .” Valerie said. She looked up at Mike. “I’ve been working so much the last few years.”

Mike nodded.

“We’ve been all over the world for movies,” Valerie said. “Some of those will come out in the next year or so. I’m still cast for Marvel so that will happen. And. . .”

Valerie wrinkled her nose.

“I’m not sure I want to work as much,” Valerie said. “It’s been really nice to be home. I, personally, have been involved with everyone’s lives. It’s been great, really great. I was gone such a long time and then we’ve been back and forth and everywhere. This is the first time that I’ve been home, just home, for an extended period of time. It’s been great.”

Valerie nodded.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...