Chapter Six Hundred and Sixty-eight - Prophesy? You've got to be f***ing kidding me! (part five)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SIXTY-EIGHT

(part five)

Nine hours later

Monday night — 9:15 p.m.

Nelson groaned when he stepped out of the taxi.

“You okay?” the cab driver asked in French.

“Just old,” Nelson replied in French.

The cab driver was from French speaking Ivory Coast.

“What does that mean about me?” the cab driver laughed.

“Bonne nuit!” Nelson said.

Nelson grinned at the man and stepped back. The cab driver waved to Nelson and headed toward Sixteenth Avenue. Sighing at his own fatigue, Nelson started down the path to his home. His mind was bleary from the long day on his feet. His boss, Ava O’Malley, and the rest of the team had presented their evidence to the DA’s office in a crazy and complicated crime involving finger bones and casinos.

He was just glad to be home.

As he reached the door, he noticed a small someone was sitting on the bench outside the front door. He folded back his left wrist and a thin red knife slid into his hand from his wrist.

“Show yourself,” Nelson said.

The person stood up and turned toward Nelson.

“Jill!” Nelson said, pressing the knife back into the holder. “Please, come inside. Why aren’t you inside?”

“I was too angry,” Jill said, through her face mask. “I wanted some time to collect my thoughts.”

“Angry?” Nelson checked that his face mask was in place as he neared the door. He stuck his key into the lock. He turned his head to her. “Why are you angry?”

“Oh, just something about a prophesy and the French asshole who hasn’t said even one word about it,” Jill glared at him.

“Prophesy?” Nelson asked. He lifted his shoulder in a shrug. “Please. Come inside. We’ll figure out whatever this is. If you wish to kill me when we’re done, I won’t fight you. I’m way too tired for that.”

Nelson gestured to the door. Glaring at Nelson, Jill went inside. The house was dark and silent.

“Everyone is already asleep. Let’s go down to the big kitchen,” Nelson said. “I’ll make us some tea and we can talk.”

Jill sniffed at him and walked down the stairs to the large open kitchen. Jill took a seat at the table while Nelson made a pot of mint tea.

“Would you like something to eat?” Nelson said. “I find myself to be peckish.”

Jill reached out and touched his arm. She shook her head.

“No Covid?” Nelson asked. “That’s good to know.

Nelson quickly made himself a sandwich from left over salmon and grabbed a tin of cookies.

“Chocolate chip,” Nelson said setting down the tin. “I do have a secret stash of croissants. Would you like one?”

Jill shook her head.

“Why were you so late?” Jill asked.

“We just finished this big and super stupid case,” Nelson said. “We presented all day and most of the night to the district attorney and then the state attorney. They are trying to figure out how to prosecute and who’s going to do it.”

“Is this the one where Ava was shot?” Jill asked.

“We call it ‘Freddie the Freeloader,’” Nelson said with a nod. He took a bite of his sandwich. “We finished it a while ago but the DA wanted to wait until Ava was back to talk about prosecution for the case at large. Are you sure you don’t want some? It’s perfect.”

Jill looked at him for a long moment.

“I know that you don’t eat when you’re angry,” Nelson said. He gestured to the bread. “I made this bread from my family’s sourdough. It’s. . . mmm. There’s more salmon. Looks like Heather made it. She has some Olympian magic with fish. I have no idea what she does but it’s magical.”

“Sure,” Jill said. “I could use some magic.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...

Curious about Freddie the Freeloader? This is a new Seth and Ava novella coming out December 7, 2021. Here's the link or it's available everywhere you buy books. I can't give you a discount because it's in pre-order. Sorry.


Chapter Six Hundred and Sixty-eight - Prophesy? You've got to be f***ing kidding me! (part four)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SIXTY-EIGHT

(part four)

“Come with me,” Ms. Palio said.

“Why?” Katy asked.

“We are going to work on your defenses,” Ms. Palio said.

“They’re just kids,” Hecate said.

“These men will kill them whether they are children or not,” Ms. Palio said. “We have to make sure that your minds do not let them in, not matter what.”

Katy and Paddie slumped along after Ms. Palio. Hecate and Perses whispered back and forth behind them. When they reached the auditorium, Ms. Palio turned to them.

“I want to see your defenses,” Ms. Palio said.

Paddie went to pull out the Sword of Truth.

“No,” Ms. Palio said. “I know that you are the bearer of a great magical sword. You must be able to do this without the sword. The sword can only assist you. It cannot fully protect you unless you know what you’re doing.”

Paddie gave Ms. Palio a nervous nod. Katy flicked an energy buzz toward Ms. Palio. The Titan absorbed the energy.

“Nice,” Ms. Palio said. “Thanks. You’ve now diminished your power while giving me energy.”

Katy scowled at Ms. Palio and began chewing on her lip.

Hecate and Perses spoke with Ms. Palio for a long moment. The principal nodded.

“I apologize,” Ms. Palio said. “I hadn’t realize that you’ve not actually been trained by anyone other than humans.”

Katy and Paddie nodded.

“That ends today,” Ms. Palio said. “My niece, brother-in-law, and I will undertake your training from this moment further. You will meet with us here every break, every school day. We will speak with your parents to figure a way to work on the weekends.”

“But my dad. . .” Paddie said.

“You’ll continue working with your fathers,” Ms. Palio said. “You will need to do all of this and keep up with your schooling. Can you do that?”

“We can try,” Katy said, meekly.

“That’s all I ask, my dear,” Ms. Palio said. “Let’s get started.”

For the next fifteen minutes, Ms. Palio tested Paddie and Katy’s psychic capacities to protect themselves. When they were done, the children felt like they had run in circles for hours.

“You did very well,” Ms. Palio said, dropping them off at their classrooms.

Katy gave Paddie a tired look and Paddie nodded. The children went back into their classroom for the rest of the afternoon.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Sixty-eight - Prophesy? You've got to be f***ing kidding me! (part three)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SIXTY-EIGHT

(part three)

Hecate opened her hand in the direct of Ms. Palio, and Ms. Palio was wearing full modern body armor as well.

“Thanks,” Ms. Palio said.

Paddie moved to pull out the Sword of Truth. The moment his hand touched the sword, the men seemed to hear the sword’s call. They turned toward where Paddie and Katy were standing. Their menacing, angry faces would have terrified any normal children.

But Paddie and Katy simply got into position.

“You do not belong here,” Ms. Palio said. “Your problems are long over. Be gone.”

With all of her Titan power, she was unable to make the apparitions leave the grounds of the school.

“Dad,” Hecate said under his breath.

Perses the Titan of Destruction appeared. He looked at the apparitions of the Templars and scowled.

“Get into the building,” Perses said.

“But. . .!” Paddie started to protest.

“You see two men here, right?” Perses asked.

Hecate and Ms. Palio nodded along with Katy and Paddie.

“There are thousands here,” Perses said. “It’s a trick.”

Perses wrapped his arms around Katy and Paddie. They were standing in the middle of the Marlowe School.

“They don’t seem able to get inside,” Ms. Palio said.

“It’s a very long story involving the spirits of hundreds of children. . .”

“And us!” Katy said.

Paddie nodded.

“Jacob has made the building impenetrable to spirits and magic of any kind,” Perses said. To Ms. Palio, he said,“I believe you’ve strengthened the charms on the building, s.”

“Why are we able to get inside?” Hecate asked.

“You are my kin,” Perses said.

Perses turned and knelt down to Paddie and Katy.

“You little ones are once again in grave danger,” Perses said. “These Templars do not wish to be disbanded. They do not want their hoard found. They do not wish to fade into history.”

Katy looked up at Hecate and Ms. Palio. They nodded in agreement with Perses.

“They need your swords and will stop at nothing to get them,” Perses said.

“Same shit, different day,” Paddie said with an exaggerated shrug.

Katy nodded in agreement with Paddie.

Perses grinned at the children.

“You will be safe here,” Perses said. “But don’t take any risks.”

“I’m bored,” Katy said.

“What if you’re not?” Paddie asked. “I mean think about it. Those scary smelly guys could make you feel that way and then. . .”

Paddie’s blue eyes got very big. Katy shivered. After a moment, she nodded.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Sixty-eight - Prophesy? You've got to be f***ing kidding me! (part two)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SIXTY-EIGHT

(part two)

“Hecate!” Ms. Palio, the principal of the Marlowe School, said as she walked around the corner. “To what do we owe this pleasure?”

“Auntie,” Hecate said. “How lovely to see you!”

The two Titans hugged. Ms. Palio was the sister of Hecate’s mother Asteria, who was currently trapped in the form of Cleo the cat.

Ms. Palio looked at Katy.

“What are you up to young lady?” Ms. Palio asked Katy.

Still unsure, Paddie stayed in front of Katy.

“Why?” Paddie asked defiantly.

“That’s the Sword of Truth, isn’t it?” Ms. Palio asked.

The principal gestured to what looked like a wooden sword on a belt at Paddie’s side.

“What if it is?” Paddie asked. He stuck his chin out defiantly.

“They are so cute,” Hecate said.

Ms. Palio grinned and nodded before turning to look at Hecate.

“Why are you here, niece?” Ms. Palio asked.

“I was instructed to keep an eye on Katy,” Hecate said.

“Why me?” Katy asked. “I haven’t done anything.”

“Uh-huh,” Hecate said with a grin. “Katy gets bored. She decides that she and her friend should have an adventure which leave her and the boy are vulnerable to be pulled into conflicts for the swords.”

“What?” Paddie asked, doing his best to look offended. “When did we ever?”

“Fairy war?” Hecate asked. “Remember when the fairies were trying to steal the Sword of Truth? How about the time you were in the middle of a big fairy fight when Katy’s mom was having her twins? That’s not to mention all of the bs with the Templars. . .”

“Oh, Gods, is that heating up again?” Ms. Palio shook her head. “Are the Templars back?”

“Our friend is trying to end them,” Katy said, mustering all of her courage to talk back to an adult she didn’t know well. “He’s the last Grand Master.”

“Guy Semaines,” Hecate said.

“The prophesy,” Ms. Palio said.

“His name is Nelson Weeks,” Paddie said. Shaking his head, he said, “You’ve got it all wrong. We’re not doing anything and. . .”

Two apparition’s men appeared in the middle of the playground. Their vapor bodies wore the historic costumes of the Templars. Their clothing was covered in splatters of blood and mud. Playing children ran right through the men. The men were clearly looking for someone.

“Shit,” Hecate said.

Hecate snapped her fingers. She was wearing complete modern body armor.

“Nice,” Ms. Palio said. “Where’d you get that?”

“It’s who you know, Auntie,” Hecate said with a laugh.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Sixty-eight - Prophesy? You've got to be f***ing kidding me! (part one)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SIXTY-EIGHT

(part one)

Monday morning — 12:15 p.m.

Katy couldn’t help it.

She was bored.

Life had gone from heartbreaking not-being-able-to-see-Paddie to fun play-at-home to exciting back-to-school to dreary boring-winter. Katy sighed at looked out the window. The snow was gently wafting down.

“Okay,” the teacher said. “Why don’t we head outside for a bit?”

“But it’s ’nowing,” the kid whose nose was always stuffed up said.

“We’ll be okay,” the teacher said. “Let’s put our warm clothing on.”

Katy could tell that the teacher was putting on a brave face for the class. The teacher was worried that it would be too cold for her students.

“Can’t wait,” Katy said, hopping to her feet.

Katy started pulling on all of her outdoor gear. With Katy’s movement, the rest of the class started to pull on their outdoor gear. The teacher checked to see that everyone had on their wool caps and face masks before sending them to walk quietly to the outdoors.

Katy watched the teacher turn on the UV lights, open the windows, turn on the fan, and then head to the teacher’s hang-out-place. With the teacher out of the way, Katy went to find Paddie.

Paddie’s class had break time when Katy’s class had break. Katy waited for Paddie to pull on all of his gear and head out into the hall.

She fell in next to him as they walked quietly to the door. Once at the door, the classes screamed like banshees and ran out into the cool midday. The recess monitor and the volunteer parents were watching the children for signs of being too cold, but most of the kids were so happy to be able to play and be loud that no child complained.

Katy and Paddie slipped to the side to avoid the monitor and parents.

“What’s going on?” Paddie asked.

“Bored,” Katy said looking down.

“What do you want to do?” Paddie asked.

Katy looked up at her best friend. Even with his facemask covering his mouth and nose, she could tell that he was up for an adventure too.

“I don’t know,” Katy said with a shrug.

“You wanna. . .” Paddie said.

Hecate appeared next to Paddie. She looked from Katy to Paddie.

“What are you two planning?” Hecate asked.

“Why are you here?” Paddie asked defensively.

He instinctively pushed Katy behind him and put his hand on the Sword of Truth.

“Now, now, young human,” Hecate said. “I mean you harm. I am here because my niece, Mistress Katy, is bored. A bored niece is a dangerous niece.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Sixty-six & Sixty-seven - The Devil is in the details (and them some)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SIXTY-SIX

“Did you see that?” Jacob asked.

He pointed to something in the distance.

“What?” Mike asked.

Delphie squinted at Jacob. They were standing in the main Castle kitchen.

“It’s Chapter ‘666’,” Jacob said. “You know — the mark of the beast.”

“I thought that was 616,” Mike said. “You know, if you translate the Greek into Latin and then Hebrew and. . .”

Jacob and Delphie gawked at Mike.

“What?” Mike asked.

“How could you possibly know that?” Jacob asked.

“Hey, I’m not an idiot,” Mike said.

“No one said you were,” Delphie said. “We’re curious. How you learned this information?”

“Oh,” Mike said, tapping his chin. “How do I know that?”

Mike thought for a moment before shaking his head.

“When I was held in the caves, you know, in Afghanistan?” Mike asked.

“You were held in caves in Afghanistan?” Jacob asked, sarcastically.

“Now you’re just being rude,” Mike said with an exaggerated sniff.

They laughed.

“Sorry, I couldn’t resist,” Jacob said. “You were saying?”

“One gentleman was from somewhere. . .” Mike said. “Israel? Egypt? I’m not sure. Ethiopia. That’s it. He was from Ethiopia. Looking at mineral contracts. Got picked up and. . .”

Mike winced.

“Anyway, he went bonkers,” Mike said. “The pressure was too much for him. He started ranting about the end days. This was a particular thread that he went on and on about. If you translate the Greek into Hebrew, you get ‘666.’ If you translate the other way, you get ‘616.’”

Mike looked from Delphie to Jacob. He nodded at their baffled looks.

“Anyway, it was his rant,” Mike said. “I didn’t realize I’d paid so much attention to what he was saying. I guess it just kind of got in.”

Delphie opened her mouth to say something.

“Oh, and they found a parchment that clearly said ‘616’ on it,” Mike said. “Or at least that’s what the head of the group that held us said. He and the head of the people holding us argued about it for days.”

Mike shrugged.

“Before you ask, he died,” Mike said. “I’m not actually sure how or where. I either don’t remember or I don’t know. He was just gone. Poof.”

Delphie and Jacob watched Mike for a long moment to see if he was done talking. He gave them a slight grin.

“What do you want to do?” Jacob asked.

“About what?” Delphie asked. “Mike’s friend?”

“He wasn’t really a friend,” Mike said. “He was just someone who was there.”

“The ‘666’ thing,” Jacob said.

“I think we just move on,” Delphie said.

“Move on?” Mike asked.

“We leave those who believe to believe what they will,” Delphie said. “We’re living our lives. What matters to us is what we believe.”

“Do you believe?” Jacob asked.

“In what?” Delphie asked.

“The whole ‘666’ thing,” Mike said.

“Oh,” Delphie said. “In order to believe in the ‘666’ thing, as you say, I’d have to believe that there was a Devil waiting to judge us, torture us for eternity — all of that.”

Jacob and Mike watched Delphie closely.

“And?” Jacob asked, finally.

Delphie gave him a tired nod.

“There was a culture called the Minoans,” Delphie said. “They built an entire culture from the island of Crete, in the Mediterranean. They developed about 3500 BC, you know, the same time that Neith hotep and Narmer were combining Lower and Upper Egypt and the beginning of the Pharaohs in Egypt. Anyway, the Minoans were an amazing culture — art, culture, great food, indoor plumbing. . .”

“Indoor plumbing?” Jacob asked.

“Both for waste and for water delivery to every home,” Delphie said with a nod. “Just think of it. For thousands of years, people just poured their waste onto the streets of London or Paris when in 3000 BC, there was already indoor plumbing.”

“Mind blown,” Mike said, softly.

“The Minoans disappeared around 1000 BC,” Delphie said with a nod. “It was a big mystery. ‘Where did they go?’ ‘How did this great civilization fall?’”

“Like the Anasazi,” Mike said. “You know, Meza Verde in Southwest Colorado?”

“Sort of,” Delphie said. “But we do know that the Anasazi wandered off to join the Pueblo people. The climate changed and they were pushed them out of their mud cliff homes.”

“How do you know this?” Mike asked.

“When I worked at the store? You know, pre-Covid? I had a client who was a geneticist,” Delphie said. “This is her work. It’s pretty fascinating. I was able to help her figure out where to focus.”

Delphie scowled.

“I wonder how she’s doing,” Delphie said. She turned on the electric kettle for tea.

“You were telling us about the Minoans?” Jacob asked.

“Oh, right,” Delphie said. “Devil, burning in hell. . . So, this great civilization was wiped out by a huge volcanic explosion on a nearby island — Theta, it was called. It’s called ‘Santorini’ now. It’s only 62 miles away from Crete. Anyway, it’s a huge caldera with three or four active volcanos and it all blew. It was a ‘7’ on the volcanic explosion scale. 8 is the maximum. A ‘7’ is considered a ‘Super-Colossal’ explosion. In other words, it would have the effect of many, many nuclear bombs.”

Delphie made the sound “Pequew” and gestured with her hands as if there was an explosion.

“The lava, smoke, fire, and of course, the eventual tsunami, destroyed the Minoans,” Delphie said with a nod. “My ancestral knowledge tells me that this idea of a ‘Devil’ and ‘burning in hell’ come from the destruction of the Minoans. You see, everyone in the Mediterranean would have been affected by this explosion and. . .”

Delphie took a breath for emphasis.

“The end of this amazing culture,” Delphie said. “The Minoans had trade routes all through the Mediterranean. One day, they are buying and sell. One day, they are gone in fire and water.”

Delphie nodded.

“Very biblical,” Delphie said. “Very ‘burn in hell.’ Don’t you think?”

“So, the Devil is a Minoan?” Jacob asked.

“The Devil is an ancestral memory of the destruction of a peak civilization,” Delphie said. “So is his fire and all of that.”

Delphie looked at Jacob and at Mike.

“Clear as mud?” Delphie asked.

Jacob and Mike nodded.

“Think of it this way,” Delphie said. “The genetics of the Minoans are very similar to the genetics now found in modern-day Europe. Inside of every European — which is also a lot of us — there’s a genetic memory of this huge explosion of fire, ash, brimstone, pumice. . . followed by a tsunami. We make stories of the things we remember. The Devil, his fire and all of that, are a pretty good story.”

“But not true?” Mike asked.

“Of course not,” Delphie said. “How self-absorbed do we have to be to believe that all of our actions are monitored by someone who wants to torture us for infinity? What did he do before we crawled out of Africa? I mean, really — did he keep ‘bad’ dinosaurs or soft shelled organisms or. . .”

Delphie shrugged and walked off. Mike looked at Jacob and he shrugged.

“What do you want to do?” Mike asked.

“Let’s just move on,” Jacob said. “We’ll end Chapter 666 with this conversation and move on. Certainly, there’s plenty going on. Who’s going to care?”

Mike nodded.

“Do you think we should tell the others?” Mike asked.

“I don’t know why,” Jacob said. He put his hand on Mike’s shoulder. “Let it go. No one cares about the chapter number.”

“Then why are we moving on?” Mike asked. “We could. . . I don’t know, make an entire play. We have teenagers and. . .”

Jacob sighed.

“You know what — you’re right,” Mike said with a nod.

“Finally,” Jacob said.

“I don’t know why I’m arguing,” Mike said. “I never pay any attention to the Chapter number. I’m just here — living my life, you know?”

“My point,” Jacob said.

“Cereal?” Mike asked.

“I wanted to look up the stuff that Delphie was talking about,” Jacob said. “You know, the Minoans. Did you know what she meant by Narmer and. . . what was the name?”

“Neith hotep,” Mike said. “Nope, I’ve never heard of them.”

“First Pharoahs,” Jacob said. “That’s what she said. It never occurred to me that there weren’t Pharaohs in Egypt. You know? Weren’t there always Pharaohs in Egypt? I guess not.”

Jacob shrugged.

“How about this — I’ll pour, and you can look it up,” Mike said. “Read it to me and I’ll learn, too.”

“Good thinking,” Jacob said with a grin.

They spent the next hour reading about the Minoans and eating cereal. After two bowls of cereal, they got up and got back to their own lives.

And that was the end of this weird Chapter 666.

~~~~~~~~

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SIXTY-SEVEN

Seven weeks later

Monday early morning — 5:15 a.m.

Lipson Construction

As they always did after Harvest Weekend, the weeks began to blur together. They had their first snow. Jacob and Blane were teaching the teenagers, including Noelle, how to shovel snow. The children were actually enjoying being school — masks and all. All parents were back at work. Valerie and Mike and their children had returned to Los Angeles for the People’s Choice Awards.

This morning, the employee owners of Lipson Construction were called into a video call before the sites officially opened. The men and women who turned on the equipment were following along by telephone.

“Okay,” Jacob said.

Jacob’s face was in profile.

“The camera is. . .” Aden said, pointing to the webcam on his computer.

Aden, Jacob, Tres, and Sam were in the offices of Lipson Construction.

“Thanks,” Jacob said, turning to the camera. “Good morning everyone!”

Turning to Aden, he asked, “Are they all here?”

Aden nodded.

“Okay,” Jacob said. “I just got off the telephone with the governor. Because we are essential workers, he is willing to let us vaccinate our entire crew including the non-owners.”

No one said anything. Jacob squinted into the camera.

“Is the audio on?” Jacob asked.

“What do we know about these vaccines?” a woman asked. “I’ve heard some really creepy stuff about them.”

“We know that they are safe based on the trials,” Aden said. “Thousands of people have taken them and the vaccine appears to have worked really well.”

“How do you know?” a man asked.

“I read the scientific paper,” Aden said with a nod. “You can too. We’ll send it around to you.”

“What you might not know. . .” Tres’s head appeared sideways. “. . . is that thousands of the vaccine have been given out in other countries already. The vaccination project is worldwide.”

“Isn’t the technology new?” a younger man asked.

“New to us,” Jacob said. “They’ve been working on it for decades — three, I think. Our friend Tanesha talked to the scientist who invented the technology. The science is sound.”

“And it works!” Sam’s voice could be heard in the room.

“Dad, why don’t you take my place?” Jacob asked.

Jacob moved away from the camera so that Sam could be seen.

“Delphie and I have been in a vaccine trial,” Sam said. “We are both well. I had some side effects after getting my vaccine, but Delphie didn’t have any. They thought maybe I had side effects because I’d already been so sick with Covid.”

Sam gave a sincere nod to the camera.

“I know that people are saying that this is sickness is not a big deal,” Sam said. “But I’ll tell you — I nearly died. I’m in great health. Outside of being older, I don’t fit into any category of pre-existing conditions. If Jake hadn’t seen me fall, I would be dead. If I hadn’t been able to get treatment, I’d be dead. And even with all of the help — acupuncture, all of your prayers and support, medications, hospital stays, everything — I still have effects from the virus. You don’t want to get this thing. Trust me.”

Sam stepped away from the camera.

“It looks like the vaccine is going to be two doses — one initial dose and then another four weeks later,” Jacob said. “Most of us have the Hep B vaccine so we know what this is all about.”

Most heads nodded up and down.

“Tres?” Jacob nodded to Tres Sierra.

“Here’s the thing,” Tres said. “Sam was in the hospital for almost a month. He needed treatment for an addition two months. While the insurance paid for everything, it was expensive. Really expensive.”

“If we all get vaccinated, we’re all protected,” Aden said. “If we aren’t all vaccinated, then we’re all at risk.”

“Why is that?” a man asked.

“Because the virus is airborne,” Jacob said. “You breathe it in.”

“If we get the vaccine, can we take off these horrible masks?” a woman asked.

“Hopefully,” Jacob said. “It depends on what happens to the virus.”

“What’s that mean?” another man asked.

“Viruses are living things,” Jacob said. “I think of them like bindweed. If you spray for bindweed, you may kill it where you’re spraying but. . .”

“It’s going to pop up somewhere else,” a woman said with a laugh.

A short lived laugh went through the crowd.

“Our friend Tanesha says that the virus can mutate,” Jacob said. “That means that it can get easier to catch and it could become more deadly.”

“Just awful,” Sam said.

“You are owners now,” Tres said. “You need to know that if a bunch of us get the virus, we can easily bankrupt our insurance plan. That will mean larger premiums in the future. The bottom line is this: without the vaccine, this virus has the potential to bankrupt the entire company.”

Tres let the silence linger and then said, “Let me say that again — this virus has the potential to bankrupt the entire company.”

“What do we do?” Jerry Siegle asked.

“We get the vaccine,” Bambi said. “We all agree here and now that we’re all going to get the vaccine.”

“What if we don’t want to?” a woman asked. “I heard that the vaccine was made from dead babies.”

The woman shivered.

“Then we’ll buy out your shares,” Sam said. “We’re in the ground, people. We deal with the world of excrement and pee.”

“And?” someone asked.

“The virus can be spread by feces and pee,” Aden said. “Our masks and social distancing has protected us so far. There’s no way to know what will happen next year.”

“I want to know what Delphie says,” an older woman said. “She’s never been wrong. Not in my experience. She was right about the masks, hand washing, and social distance. Hell, my grands go to the Marlowe School and she set up the schedule and the cleaning and everything that’s keeping our kids safe. What does Delphie say about this whole thing?”

“She says that we’re just at the beginning of this pandemic,” Aden said. “Those who take care by getting the vaccine, wearing masks, washing their hands, social distancing — they will survive it. But we need to remember that the flu that killed so many people in 1918 is still around. We just call it ‘Influenza A’ and get it in our yearly flu vaccine.”

“Our best chance at surviving — as a company and as individuals — is by taking the vaccine,” Jacob said. “Delphie was very clear.”

No one said anything for a long time.

“Fuck it,” one of the new site managers said. “I’ve got three kids. My wife’s working online now. Maybe some of you can afford to be sick, but we can’t afford for me to be sick. And, I know that I can quit. But I get a really good private school for my kids for pennies, childcare for the baby, and free healthcare for the whole family.”

“Good healthcare, too,” a woman said. “I don’t know anyone who’s been denied something they need.”

“I even got a check for the profits this year,” he said. “Because-a Jake. If he tells me I need to take a vaccine? I don’t give a shit what anyone else says; I’m going to pick a shoulder and get the vaccine. I expect everyone who works on my team to do the same — especially if your choice is a vaccine or a new job.”

“Here! Here!” D’Shawn and Pete said in unison.

“I move that all Lipson employees are vaccinated,” Bambi said.

“Or they leave,” the newest owner said. “Hey, I may have only been here a year, but I know a good thing when I’ve got it. My friends aren’t working. My best friend from the last place has had to foreclose on his house. But, I’m here working like it’s normal time, not pandemic time. My family is safe. My kids are in school. So, Jake tells me I need a vaccine, I’m going to ask for one for my wife and my kids.”

“We haven’t received authorization for partners and wives, yet,” Jacob said. “But I’ll make a point of asking.”

“Get Val to ask,” a woman who’d worked at Lipson since nearly the beginning. “Doesn’t she have the voice?”

Jake gave her a vague look.

“She’s in LA,” Aden said. “People’s Choice Awards.”

“There are telephones there,” Bambi said.

“Let’s vote on this first,” Jacob said. “You vote by raising your hand. It’s a button on the bottom.”

“All those in favor of a mandatory vaccine policy for all Lipson Construction owners and employees, raise your hand,” Aden said.

“Nearly everyone has pressed the ‘raise hand’ button,” Aden said. “We’ve marked down those who have not. Sam will circle back with you to see what you’d like to do.”

“Thank you everyone,” Jacob said. “I think we’ll get the vaccine in a week or two. I’ll let you know. We’ll set up clinics at the site to make sure that everyone gets a shot.”

“I have to tell you that we’re very lucky to have the vaccine,” Tres said. “Jake’s worked tirelessly to make sure that everyone stays safe and alive in this pandemic. So far, we’ve had no cases — except for Sam and a couple of others early on. We just have to stay the course and we’ll survive the pandemic.”

“A few construction companies have closed,” Jerry said.

“Exactly,” Tres said.

“Thank you for coming!” Jacob said. “We’ll be in touch!”

The call ended. Aden, Jacob, Tres, and Sam just looked at each other for a long minute.

“What do you think?” Aden asked.

“I think it went really well,” Sam said.

“There were a bunch of people who didn’t vote for the vaccine,” Aden said.

“Two of them are immunocompromised,” Tres said.

“Organ transplants,” Jacob said.

“The rest are probably in a similar boat,” Sam said. “We won’t know until we talk to them.”

“I wonder if Tanesha would talk to them,” Jacob said.

“Good thinking,” Tres said. “I’ll call her.”

Jacob nodded to Tres.

“Good work everyone,” Jacob said. “This pandemic has not been easy. We’ve made it so far. I’m proud of all of us.”

“I’m proud of us too,” Aden said. “You think we’ll make it through this?”

“I do,” Sam said, before Jacob could answer. “I really do.”

The men looked at each other for a long moment.

“Did you know that there was like two feet of brimstone that smothered everything. . .” Jacob started.

“Are you still talking about the Minoans?” Tres asked with a groan.

Jacob nodded and everyone laughed.

Denver Cereal continues next week...

 


Chapter Six Hundred and Sixty-seven - The Devil is in the details and then some (part three)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SIXTY-SEVEN

(part three)

“I even got a check for the profits this year,” he said. “Because-a Jake. If he tells me I need to take a vaccine? I don’t give a shit what anyone else says; I’m going to pick a shoulder and get the vaccine. I expect everyone who works on my team to do the same — especially if your choice is a vaccine or a new job.”

“Here! Here!” D’Shawn and Pete said in unison.

“I move that all Lipson employees are vaccinated,” Bambi said.

“Or they leave,” the newest owner said. “Hey, I may have only been here a year, but I know a good thing when I’ve got it. My friends aren’t working. My best friend from the last place has had to foreclose on his house. But, I’m here working like it’s normal time, not pandemic time. My family is safe. My kids are in school. So, Jake tells me I need a vaccine, I’m going to ask for one for my wife and my kids.”

“We haven’t received authorization for partners and wives, yet,” Jacob said. “But I’ll make a point of asking.”

“Get Val to ask,” a woman who’d worked at Lipson since nearly the beginning. “Doesn’t she have the voice?”

Jake gave her a vague look.

“She’s in LA,” Aden said. “People’s Choice Awards.”

“There are telephones there,” Bambi said.

“Let’s vote on this first,” Jacob said. “You vote by raising your hand. It’s a button on the bottom.”

“All those in favor of a mandatory vaccine policy for all Lipson Construction owners and employees, raise your hand,” Aden said.

“Nearly everyone has pressed the ‘raise hand’ button,” Aden said. “We’ve marked down those who have not. Sam will circle back with you to see what you’d like to do.”

“Thank you everyone,” Jacob said. “I think we’ll get the vaccine in a week or two. I’ll let you know. We’ll set up clinics at the site to make sure that everyone gets a shot.”

“I have to tell you that we’re very lucky to have the vaccine,” Tres said. “Jake’s worked tirelessly to make sure that everyone stays safe and alive in this pandemic. So far, we’ve had no cases — except for Sam and a couple of others early on. We just have to stay the course and we’ll survive the pandemic.”

“A few construction companies have closed,” Jerry said.

“Exactly,” Tres said.

“Thank you for coming!” Jacob said. “We’ll be in touch!”

The call ended. Aden, Jacob, Tres, and Sam just looked at each other for a long minute.

“What do you think?” Aden asked.

“I think it went really well,” Sam said.

“There were a bunch of people who didn’t vote for the vaccine,” Aden said.

“Two of them are immunocompromised,” Tres said.

“Organ transplants,” Jacob said.

“The rest are probably in a similar boat,” Sam said. “We won’t know until we talk to them.”

“I wonder if Tanesha would talk to them,” Jacob said.

“Good thinking,” Tres said. “I’ll call her.”

Jacob nodded to Tres.

“Good work everyone,” Jacob said. “This pandemic has not been easy. We’ve made it so far. I’m proud of all of us.”

“I’m proud of us too,” Aden said. “You think we’ll make it through this?”

“I do,” Sam said, before Jacob could answer. “I really do.”

The men looked at each other for a long moment.

“Did you know that there was like two feet of brimstone that smothered everything. . .” Jacob started.

“Are you still talking about the Minoans?” Tres asked with a groan.

Jacob nodded and everyone laughed.

Denver Cereal continues on Monday...


Chapter Six Hundred and Sixty-seven - The Devil is in the details and then some (part two)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SIXTY-SEVEN

(part two)

“Here’s the thing,” Tres said. “Sam was in the hospital for almost a month. He needed treatment for an addition two months. While the insurance paid for everything, it was expensive. Really expensive.”

“If we all get vaccinated, we’re all protected,” Aden said. “If we aren’t all vaccinated, then we’re all at risk.”

“Why is that?” a man asked.

“Because the virus is airborne,” Jacob said. “You breathe it in.”

“If we get the vaccine, can we take off these horrible masks?” a woman asked.

“Hopefully,” Jacob said. “It depends on what happens to the virus.”

“What’s that mean?” another man asked.

“Viruses are living things,” Jacob said. “I think of them like bindweed. If you spray for bindweed, you may kill it where you’re spraying but. . .”

“It’s going to pop up somewhere else,” a woman said with a laugh.

A short lived laugh went through the crowd.

“Our friend Tanesha says that the virus can mutate,” Jacob said. “That means that it can get easier to catch and it could become more deadly.”

“Just awful,” Sam said.

“You are owners now,” Tres said. “You need to know that if a bunch of us get the virus, we can easily bankrupt our insurance plan. That will mean larger premiums in the future. The bottom line is this: without the vaccine, this virus has the potential to bankrupt the entire company.”

Tres let the silence linger and then said, “Let me say that again — this virus has the potential to bankrupt the entire company.”

“What do we do?” Jerry Siegle asked.

“We get the vaccine,” Bambi said. “We all agree here and now that we’re all going to get the vaccine.”

“What if we don’t want to?” a woman asked. “I heard that the vaccine was made from dead babies.”

The woman shivered.

“Then we’ll buy out your shares,” Sam said. “We’re in the ground, people. We deal with the world of excrement and pee.”

“And?” someone asked.

“The virus can be spread by feces and pee,” Aden said. “Our masks and social distancing has protected us so far. There’s no way to know what will happen next year.”

“I want to know what Delphie says,” an older woman said. “She’s never been wrong. Not in my experience. She was right about the masks, hand washing, and social distance. Hell, my grands go to the Marlowe School and she set up the schedule and the cleaning and everything that’s keeping our kids safe. What does Delphie say about this whole thing?”

“She says that we’re just at the beginning of this pandemic,” Aden said. “Those who take care by getting the vaccine, wearing masks, washing their hands, social distancing — they will survive it. But we need to remember that the flu that killed so many people in 1918 is still around. We just call it ‘Influenza A’ and get it in our yearly flu vaccine.”

“Our best chance at surviving — as a company and as individuals — is by taking the vaccine,” Jacob said. “Delphie was very clear.”

No one said anything for a long time.

“Fuck it,” one of the new site managers said. “I’ve got three kids. My wife’s working online now. Maybe some of you can afford to be sick, but we can’t afford for me to be sick. And, I know that I can quit. But I get a really good private school for my kids for pennies, childcare for the baby, and free healthcare for the whole family.”

“Good healthcare, too,” a woman said. “I don’t know anyone who’s been denied something they need.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Sixty-seven - The Devil is in the details and then some (part one)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SIXTY-SEVEN

(part one)

Seven weeks later

Monday early morning — 5:15 a.m.

Lipson Construction

As they always did after Harvest Weekend, the weeks began to blur together. They had their first snow. Jacob and Blane were teaching the teenagers, including Noelle, how to shovel snow. The children were actually enjoying being school — masks and all. All parents were back at work. Valerie and Mike and their children had returned to Los Angeles for the People’s Choice Awards.

This morning, the employee owners of Lipson Construction were called into a video call before the sites officially opened. The men and women who turned on the equipment were following along by telephone.

“Okay,” Jacob said.

Jacob’s face was in profile.

“The camera is. . .” Aden said, pointing to the webcam on his computer.

Aden, Jacob, Tres, and Sam were in the offices of Lipson Construction.

“Thanks,” Jacob said, turning to the camera. “Good morning everyone!”

Turning to Aden, he asked, “Are they all here?”

Aden nodded.

“Okay,” Jacob said. “I just got off the telephone with the governor. Because we are essential workers, he is willing to let us vaccinate our entire crew including the non-owners.”

No one said anything. Jacob squinted into the camera.

“Is the audio on?” Jacob asked.

“What do we know about these vaccines?” a woman asked. “I’ve heard some really creepy stuff about them.”

“We know that they are safe based on the trials,” Aden said. “Thousands of people have taken them and the vaccine appears to have worked really well.”

“How do you know?” a man asked.

“I read the scientific paper,” Aden said with a nod. “You can too. We’ll send it around to you.”

“What you might not know. . .” Tres’s head appeared sideways. “. . . is that thousands of the vaccine have been given out in other countries already. The vaccination project is worldwide.”

“Isn’t the technology new?” a younger man asked.

“New to us,” Jacob said. “They’ve been working on it for decades — three, I think. Our friend Tanesha talked to the scientist who invented the technology. The science is sound.”

“And it works!” Sam’s voice could be heard in the room.

“Dad, why don’t you take my place?” Jacob asked.

Jacob moved away from the camera so that Sam could be seen.

“Delphie and I have been in a vaccine trial,” Sam said. “We are both well. I had some side effects after getting my vaccine, but Delphie didn’t have any. They thought maybe I had side effects because I’d already been so sick with Covid.”

Sam gave a sincere nod to the camera.

“I know that people are saying that this is sickness is not a big deal,” Sam said. “But I’ll tell you — I nearly died. I’m in great health. Outside of being older, I don’t fit into any category of pre-existing conditions. If Jake hadn’t seen me fall, I would be dead. If I hadn’t been able to get treatment, I’d be dead. And even with all of the help — acupuncture, all of your prayers and support, medications, hospital stays, everything — I still have effects from the virus. You don’t want to get this thing. Trust me.”

Sam stepped away from the camera.

“It looks like the vaccine is going to be two doses — one initial dose and then another four weeks later,” Jacob said. “Most of us have the Hep B vaccine so we know what this is all about.”

Most heads nodded up and down.

“Tres?” Jacob nodded to Tres Sierra.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...

 


Chapter Six Hundred and Sixty-six - The Devil is in the details (part three)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SIXTY-SIX

(part three)

Delphie took a breath for emphasis.

“The end of this amazing culture,” Delphie said. “The Minoans had trade routes all through the Mediterranean. One day, they are buying and sell. One day, they are gone in fire and water.”

Delphie nodded.

“Very biblical,” Delphie said. “Very ‘burn in hell.’ Don’t you think?”

“So, the Devil is a Minoan?” Jacob asked.

“The Devil is an ancestral memory of the destruction of a peak civilization,” Delphie said. “So is his fire and all of that.”

Delphie looked at Jacob and at Mike.

“Clear as mud?” Delphie asked.

Jacob and Mike nodded.

“Think of it this way,” Delphie said. “The genetics of the Minoans are very similar to the genetics now found in modern-day Europe. Inside of every European — which is also a lot of us — there’s a genetic memory of this huge explosion of fire, ash, brimstone, pumice. . . followed by a tsunami. We make stories of the things we remember but don't understand. The Devil, his fire and all of that, are a pretty good story.”

“But not true?” Mike asked.

“Of course not,” Delphie said. “How self-absorbed do we have to be to believe that all of our actions are monitored by someone who wants to torture us for infinity? What did he do before we crawled out of Africa? I mean, really — did he keep ‘bad’ dinosaurs or soft shelled organisms or. . .”

Delphie shrugged and walked off. Mike looked at Jacob and he shrugged.

“What do you want to do?” Mike asked.

“Let’s just move on,” Jacob said. “We’ll end Chapter 666 with this conversation and move on. Certainly, there’s plenty going on. Who’s going to care?”

Mike nodded.

“Do you think we should tell the others?” Mike asked.

“I don’t know why,” Jacob said. He put his hand on Mike’s shoulder. “Let it go. No one cares about the chapter number.”

“Then why are we moving on?” Mike asked. “We could. . . I don’t know, make an entire play. We have teenagers and. . .”

Jacob sighed.

“You know what — you’re right,” Mike said with a nod.

“Finally,” Jacob said.

“I don’t know why I’m arguing,” Mike said. “I never pay any attention to the Chapter number. I’m just here — living my life, you know?”

“My point,” Jacob said.

“Cereal?” Mike asked.

“I wanted to look up the stuff that Delphie was talking about,” Jacob said. “You know, the Minoans. Did you know what she meant by Narmer and. . . what was the name?”

“Neith hotep,” Mike said. “Nope, I’ve never heard of them.”

“First Pharoahs,” Jacob said. “That’s what she said. It never occurred to me that there weren’t Pharaohs in Egypt. You know? Weren’t there always Pharaohs in Egypt? I guess not.”

Jacob shrugged.

“How about this — I’ll pour, and you can look it up,” Mike said. “Read it to me and I’ll learn, too.”

“Good thinking,” Jacob said with a grin.

They spent the next hour reading about the Minoans and eating cereal. After two bowls of cereal, they got up and got back to their own lives.

And that was the end of this weird Chapter 666.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...