Chapter Six Hundred and Forty-three - Neighbors

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FORTY-THREE

Saturday morning — 10:10 a.m.

Noelle and Nash stood outside the Castle’s next door neighbor’s house. Noelle glanced back at Sandy, who was standing on the sidewalk with the support of two canes. Sandy waved Noelle on. Noelle visibly sighed.

The girl knocked on their next door neighbor’s door.

“I hear someone,” Nash whispered to Noelle.

Noelle nodded. The children backed up on the porch until they were about six feet from the door. The door opened a crack.

“Hi, I’m Noelle and this is Nash,” Noelle said.

“I don’t want anything,” a voice said.

Two dark eyes peered out at the children. Even though they were dismissed, the door didn’t close.

“We’re not selling anything,” Nash said.

“We wanted to check that you were doing okay,” Noelle said. “With the pandemic going on, we are going around checking on our neighbors to see if anyone needs anything.”

“That’s nice of you,” the voice said.

“You probably know Mr. Matchel,” Nash said.

“That old coot,” the voice said. “I know him enough to stay as far away as possible.”

The voice chuckled which led to a deep cough. Nash looked at Noelle, and she glanced at Sandy.

“He collapsed yesterday,” Nash continued. “So we thought we’d check on everyone in our area to see if they were okay or if they needed anything.”

“We brought some facemasks in case you don’t have any,” Noelle said.

A thin, wrinkled brown hand stretched out from behind the door. Noelle placed the masks into the hand and the hand retreated. There was another cough.

“You sound like you’re a little sick,” Noelle said.

“It’s not Covid,” the voice said. “I have some lung problems from before this wretched thing started.”

“Our uncle is an acupuncturist,” Noelle said. She gestured toward the back of the Castle. “He’s setting up his office at the house.”

“I can’t afford nothing,” the voice said. “No payments from disability lately.”

“That’s okay,” Nash said. “He’s giving away treatments to neighbors. He wants to see everyone once alone and then, if you can, do it as a group. If not, you can see him privately.”

The brown eyes blinked and then blinked again. The door opened a little wider.

“Are you for real?” the voice asked.

The children nodded.

“We’ve also been growing seedlings,” Noelle said. “Tomatoes, beans, stuff like that.”

“I noticed them greenhouses,” the voice said.

“We can help you plant your garden,” Nash said.

“Why’re you helping me?” the voice asked. “You haven’t helped before.”

“We had school and stuff before,” Noelle said. “We didn’t have time to help. Now, we don’t have school or work. Our parents thought that since we have time, we could help our neighbors instead.”

“Plus, Mr. Matchel being so sick,” Nash said with a nod of his head. “He reminded us that people might need help.”

“And this uncle of yours?” the voice asked.

“Blane?” Nash asked. “Blane Lipson.”

“Your uncle is Blane Lipson?” the voice asked. “I know him.”

“Good,” Noelle said. “Then you should come.”

Noelle held out the business card that Ivy had painstakingly written out phone numbers and the offer of free treatments.

“I’d need help getting there,” the voice said with a sigh.

“That’s okay,” Nash said. “I can come over and help you get there.”

The dark eyes blinked and blinked again.

“I seen some activity right there,” the voice said.

“Do you know Jeraine?” Noelle asked.

“The R&B singer?” the voice asked. “Dr. Bumpy’s child?”

Noelle nodded.

“What about him?” the voice asked.

“He’s going to be having concerts in the ballroom,” Noelle said.

“That old speak-easy?” the voice chuckled.

Noelle and Nash nodded in unison.

“They can’t have people, you know,” Noelle said. “But they are going to be lots of big names.”

“He said that anyone could listen to them practice,” Nash said.

“They’re broadcasting over the internet,” Noelle said.

“I’d have to feel a whole lot better to do that,” the voice said.

Nash and Noelle nodded.

“Do you have enough food?” Nash asked.

“They stopped meals,” Noelle said.

“I. . .” the voice said with a sigh.

The door swung open. Nash and Noelle saw a small elderly woman on the other side. She wore a brown housecoat with blue roses on it. The house was dark. Even though it was cold outside, they could feel the chill coming from inside the house. She had a scarf tied tight around her head.

“I could very much use some help,” the voice said. “I don’t know why but they turned off my power. I haven’t been getting meals. I. . .”

A fat tear ran down the woman’s face.

“I’m Virginia Sage,” the woman said. “Folks have always called me ‘Ginny.’”

The woman nodded.

“Would you mind very much if I went with you now?” Ginny asked. “I’m very cold.”

“Of course,” Nash said. “But you have to wear a facemask.”

With Noelle’s help, the woman tied on a face mask. Nash held out his elbow. Together, Nash, Noelle, and Ginny made slow progress down Ginny’s walk and to the sidewalk.

“Is anyone else in your house?” Noelle asked.

“Not anymore,” Ginny said. “My grankids used to come over every afternoon, but since this thing, I. . .”

Ginny sighed.

“I haven’t seen anyone in at least a month,” Ginny said. She patted Nash’s hand. “I really appreciate the help.”

Nash stood a little taller. Noelle ran ahead to open the metal gate. Sandy led them along the sidewalk, past the paparazzi, and into the Castle grounds.

“Why are they always here?” Ginny asked.

“Valerie Lipson lives with us,” Noelle said.

“Of course she does,” Ginny said.

They got halfway down the driveway when Sam came out of the house.

“Ginny?” Sam asked.

Seeing Sam, Ginny seemed to brighten a bit.

“Sam,” Ginny said. “These kids said it would be okay if I came over.”

“She doesn’t have heat or food,” Noelle said.

“Please,” Sam said, taking Ginny’s other side.

“We’re going around the back because she said she’d like to see Blane,” Noelle said.

“He’ll be delighted,” Sam said. “Now, I had the Covid, so we have to go slow.”

“That’s okay, Big Sam,” Ginny said. “I can’t go very fast anymore either.”

They shuffled along until they got around the house.

“Can I really listen to music in the old speakeasy?” Ginny asked.

“Absolutely,” Sam said. “But let’s get you warm, fed, and stuck with needles first.”

Ginny gave Nash and Noelle a genuine smile.

“Thank you, children,” Ginny said.

Nash and Noelle left Ginny at the edge of the deck. They watched while Sam and Ginny headed up to Blane’s new offices in the medical suite. Sandy caught up with Nash and Noelle.

“Ready to visit someone else?” Sandy asked.

“How did Charlie and Tink do?” Noelle asked.

“Ivy and Teddy?” Nash asked.

“They are still out there,” Sandy said. “Let’s grab another stack of masks and try another door.”

Nodding, Noelle and Nash followed Sandy to the stack of masks and back out to the neighborhood.

“That was really good,” Noelle said with a smile.

“Ginny?” Sandy asked.

Noelle nodded.

“It was good,” Sandy said.

Grinning, they continued down the sidewalk to check on the next neighbor.

~~~~~~~~

Saturday morning — 11:47 a.m.

Marlowe School

“Hey!” Jacob yelled.

He waved his arms and the equipment truck stopped.

“We want to dig up this yard,” Jacob said.

“For raised beds,” Florence, the equipment driver, said from the passenger side of the vehicle.

“Right,” Jacob said.

“Any infrastructure?” Florence asked.

“We did ‘Call before you dig.’ There’s nothing here.” Jacob pointed behind the truck. “Plumbing is right behind you.”

An SUV full of Lipson Construction employees went around the truck.

“Where do you want us?” the SUV driver asked.

“The boundary is marked with wooden stakes,” Jacob pointed.

The SUV sped off. They reached the edge of the road, went over the curb, and drove to a wooden stake in the road.

“You have to go around,” Jacob said. “Through the fast food restaurants parking lots and then onto the dirt.”

“You sure we have permission to be on that lot?” the truck driver asked.

“Val owns it,” Jacob said. “Mom bought this entire lot when it came available. She thought we might need it for new offices.”

Jacob shrugged. The truck driver nodded, rolled up his window, and started the journey through the fast food restaurant parking lot. Another equipment moving tractor trailer arrived and followed the other truck. A truck carrying wooden planks took the rear.

Valerie and Sam drove up. They waved at Jacob and followed the tractor trailers to park on the edge of the lot. Jacob walked to where Valerie and Sam parked. Everyone was greeting each other with waves and elbow bumps. Some of the people here hadn’t worked in a while. Even with the facemasks and social distancing, they were happy to be able to work.

“Okay,” Jacob said. “The city came out and marked the boundary of this lot.”

Jacob pointed to the wooden stakes along the property lines. Sam took a ball of twine from his pocket and began linking the stakes with the twine.

“We want to fit as many raised beds as possible in this space,” Jacob said. “Anyone built a raised bed before?”

Jacob’s hand went up but no one else’s did.

“Okay,” Jacob said. “They’re not that hard. I’ll show you how and you can build them at home.”

Someone cheered and everyone laughed.

“I have a team of carpenters working at the school,” Jacob said. “If I’m not here and you get stuck, any of them can help. I have my phone so you can call or text me. We’re trying to get the school ready to re-open so I’d prefer if they stayed working. But this is important too.”

Everyone nodded.

“We expect that we may have a few non-Lipson people wander over,” Jacob said. “Dad has money to pay people if they want to work. Does anyone have a problem with that?”

Jacob grinned when, to a person, everyone shook their heads.

“Thanks,” Jacob said. “When we can, we like to give people work.”

“Wha-ter-you doin’ wid dis lot?” Trevor, one of the equipment drivers, asked.

Trevor had a long career as an alcoholic. He’d lost all of his teeth by the time he had cleaned up enough to get a job at Lipson Construction. In the years he’d worked there, he’d never replaced his front teeth. He said it reminded him of where he didn’t want to go back to.

“Glad you asked,” Val said. “We’re going to build an infant care facility. We just submitted a set of plans to build the infant care facility and expand the school through the city. Due to Covid, they are understandably behind. So, we’ll see what we need to do.”

“Why do we need more space at the school?” a woman’s voice came from the back.

“We need to manage Covid social distancing,” Valerie said. “Plus, we’re growing so fast that we will need more space soon anyway. While the kids aren’t here, we thought we’d get something going.”

Everyone nodded. The Marlowe School was daycare and school for all Lipson Employees. It was a perk that led to employee loyalty. Lately, the Marlowe School had been winning awards for excellence in education. People who had had their kids in private school had moved them into the Marlowe School.

“Until we’re able to get the school sorted out, we can’t let kids back,” Jacob said.

“Are we close?” the same woman asked.

“Yes,” Jacob said. “The HVAC guys started work last week. They’ve got another week. We’re building out new classrooms and working on plans for the new addition for classrooms.”

“Basically, all of this land will either be school or gardens,” Valerie said.

Everyone nodded.

“Remember, Dad had Covid,” Jacob said. “If Big Sam can get it, any of us can. So keep your distance. The plumbers will be here in a few minutes. They’ll set up a mobile handwashing station. We have extra masks if anyone needs them.”

When no one said anything, Jacob looked at his father.

“Let’s get to work,” Sam croaked.

Everyone cheered and got to work. They unloaded the large equipment. The drivers turned on the machines and went out to join the other workers who were listening to Valerie lay out the field. Valerie had a map of what they thought might give them the most gardening space.

The rest was almost anticlimactic. The large equipment cleared the field. The Lipson Construction employees got to work with their shovels. Two of the women began building the frame for the raised beds. Within a half hour, a crowd began to grow. Lipson Construction employees passed out facemasks and shovels. Soon, raised beds were popping up all over the once empty field.

Then the plumbers arrived. They took two employees and some of the neighbors to dig trenches. Water pipes were laid across the field from the Marlowe school. By the time the water was flowing, all of the raised beds were built.

In order to comply with the city, Jacob’s team of carpenters made quick work of building a fence around the new gardens.

“Tomorrow, we plant,” Valerie said with a grin.

“And run a lottery for half of these spots,” Jacob said.

“Did you put up the flyers?” Valerie asked.

Jacob gestured to Charlie and Tink who were running toward them.

“Good,” Valerie said with a grin.

With that, they packed up and left the site.

~~~~~~~~

Saturday morning — 12:07 p.m.

Nelson was standing in the middle of the medical offices looking at all of the people sitting there. The teens and tweens had gone through their street and checked in on other elderly people that Delphie knew. When there was a swarm, Blane had called Nelson to ask if he’d be willing to assist him with assessing everyone’s medical needs. Nelson had dressed in scrubs and headed over.

He heard a woman clear her throat behind him.

“If you can take a seat, we’ll get to you as soon as possible,” Nelson said.

He turned around to see an oddly familiar small dark skinned woman wearing scrubs and a lab coat. The woman looked embarrassed.

“My dad sent me over,” she said in a soft voice. “I brought the supplies you requested, and. . . um. . .”

Nelson gave her a long look.

“I’m Jeraine’s sister,” she said. “La Tonya La. . . uh. . . Smith. I. . . um. . .”

“You’re a medical doctor,” Nelson said.

She nodded.

“I haven’t worked since. . .” La Tonya said.

Nelson nodded that he knew what had happened. She looked relieved at not having to explain herself.

“I brought my kids,” La Tonya said. “The elderly white lady in the back said that she’d be happy to take care of them. I recognized her as a friend of my mom’s but I’m. . .”

La Tonya waved her hand around her head to indicate that she was a little spacey now.

“Flowery skirt?” Nelson said. “Red hair?”

La Tonya nodded.

“That’s Delphie,” Nelson said. His eyes sparkled. “Mask up, doctor. We can really use your help.”

He gestured toward a sink with a shelf of N95 masks, hand sanitizer, and supplies in the corner. La Tonya went to the supply. She washed her hands, put on a mask, and grabbed a handful of latex gloves, which she stuffed into her pocket. She put on a pair of purple latex gloves.

“Who are these people?” La Tonya asked.

“Neighbors,” Nelson said. “Blane’s doing acupuncture in that room. You and I are checking for the obvious signs of Covid — you know the symptoms to check for?”

“Dad said that you’d help me,” La Tonya said. Looking terrified, she shook her head “no.” “You’re an ER doc?”

“I have been,” Nelson said. “I do mostly forensic science at the Denver Crime Lab now. But I still have admitting privileges at Denver Health. If we need to get these dears to the hospital, we can admit together.”

La Tonya nodded. Nelson pulled a laminated sheet out of his pocket.

“Memorize these,” Nelson said. “The biggest one is temperature. As far as we can tell, nearly everyone who has this crappy disease eventually gets a temperature over 100 degrees.”

“Oh, temperature,” La Tonya said. She gave him a shy smile. “That makes sense.”

“Would you mind checking everyone’s temperature?” Nelson asked. “We only have one so you have to disinfect it after everyone.”

He set a handful of alcohol swabs into her hand.

“I can do that.” La Tonya nodded.

“Tanesha and Fin will be here after their shift,” Nelson said.

“Miss T will be here?” La Tonya visibly brightened.

“Around three,” Nelson said. “We’ll have fun.”

La Tonya gave him what he thought was a real smile. He was struck by how beautiful she was and how deeply sad.

“Hey, everyone!” Nelson said, loudly.

The chatting neighbors fell silent.

“This is Dr. Bumpy’s daughter,” Nelson said. “She is also a medical doctor and the daughter of the amazing Nurse Dionne. She is also Jeraine’s sister which makes her family to me. So be nice. You may call her, Dr. Smith. We are lucky to have her.”

The elderly women sitting six feet apart along the wall clapped for La Tonya. Nelson shrugged.

“There you go,” Nelson said.

La Tonya chuckled. Nelson put a forehead thermometer in her hand and she got to work. Nelson watched her for a moment and then dug into the supplies La Tonya had brought. Finding an IV kit and a bag of saline, he said a quick prayer for Dr. Bumpy and went to put it into Ginny Sage.

Denver Cereal continues next week...


Chapter Six Hundred and Forty-three - Neighbors (part six)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FORTY-THREE

(part six)

Saturday morning — 12:07 p.m.

Nelson was standing in the middle of the medical offices looking at all of the people sitting there. The teens and tweens had gone through their street and checked in on other elderly people that Delphie knew. When there was a swarm, Blane had called Nelson to ask if he’d be willing to assist him with assessing everyone’s medical needs. Nelson had dressed in scrubs and headed over.

He heard a woman clear her throat behind him.

“If you can take a seat, we’ll get to you as soon as possible,” Nelson said.

He turned around to see an oddly familiar small dark skinned woman wearing scrubs and a lab coat. The woman looked embarrassed.

“My dad sent me over,” she said in a soft voice. “I brought the supplies you requested, and. . . um. . .”

Nelson gave her a long look.

“I’m Jeraine’s sister,” she said. “La Tonya La. . . uh. . . Smith. I. . . um. . .”

“You’re a medical doctor,” Nelson said.

She nodded.

“I haven’t worked since. . .” La Tonya said.

Nelson nodded that he knew what had happened. She looked relieved at not having to explain herself.

“I brought my kids,” La Tonya said. “The elderly white lady in the back said that she’d be happy to take care of them. I recognized her as a friend of my mom’s but I’m. . .”

La Tonya waved her hand around her head to indicate that she was a little spacey now.

“Flowery skirt?” Nelson said. “Red hair?”

La Tonya nodded.

“That’s Delphie,” Nelson said. His eyes sparkled. “Mask up, doctor. We can really use your help.”

He gestured toward a sink with a shelf of N95 masks, hand sanitizer, and supplies in the corner. La Tonya went to the supply. She washed her hands, put on a mask, and grabbed a handful of latex gloves, which she stuffed into her pocket. She put on a pair of purple latex gloves.

“Who are these people?” La Tonya asked.

“Neighbors,” Nelson said. “Blane’s doing acupuncture in that room. You and I are checking for the obvious signs of Covid — you know the symptoms to check for?”

“Dad said that you’d help me,” La Tonya said. Looking terrified, she shook her head “no.” “You’re an ER doc?”

“I have been,” Nelson said. “I do mostly forensic science at the Denver Crime Lab now. But I still have admitting privileges at Denver Health. If we need to get these dears to the hospital, we can admit together.”

La Tonya nodded. Nelson pulled a laminated sheet out of his pocket.

“Memorize these,” Nelson said. “The biggest one is temperature. As far as we can tell, nearly everyone who has this crappy disease eventually gets a temperature over 100 degrees.”

“Oh, temperature,” La Tonya said. She gave him a shy smile. “That makes sense.”

“Would you mind checking everyone’s temperature?” Nelson asked. “We only have one so you have to disinfect it after everyone.”

He set a handful of alcohol swabs into her hand.

“I can do that.” La Tonya nodded.

“Tanesha and Fin will be here after their shift,” Nelson said.

“Miss T will be here?” La Tonya visibly brightened.

“Around three,” Nelson said. “We’ll have fun.”

La Tonya gave him what he thought was a real smile. He was struck by how beautiful she was and how deeply sad.

“Hey, everyone!” Nelson said, loudly.

The chatting neighbors fell silent.

“This is Dr. Bumpy’s daughter,” Nelson said. “She is also a medical doctor and the daughter of the amazing Nurse Dionne. She is also Jeraine’s sister which makes her family to me. So be nice. You may call her, Dr. Smith. We are lucky to have her.”

The elderly women sitting six feet apart along the wall clapped for La Tonya. Nelson shrugged.

“There you go,” Nelson said.

La Tonya chuckled. Nelson put a forehead thermometer in her hand and she got to work. Nelson watched her for a moment and then dug into the supplies La Tonya had brought. Finding an IV kit and a bag of saline, he said a quick prayer for Dr. Bumpy and went to put it into Ginny Sage.

Denver Cereal continues on Monday...


Chapter Six Hundred and Forty-three - Neighbors (part five)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FORTY-THREE

(part five)

“Wha-ter-you doin’ wid dis lot?” Trevor, one of the equipment drivers, asked.

Trevor had a long career as an alcoholic. He’d lost all of his teeth by the time he had cleaned up enough to get a job at Lipson Construction. In the years he’d worked there, he’d never replaced his front teeth. He said it reminded him of where he didn’t want to go back to.

“Glad you asked,” Val said. “We’re going to build an infant care facility. We just submitted a set of plans to build the infant care facility and expand the school through the city. Due to Covid, they are understandably behind. So, we’ll see what we need to do.”

“Why do we need more space at the school?” a woman’s voice came from the back.

“We need to manage Covid social distancing,” Valerie said. “Plus, we’re growing so fast that we will need more space soon anyway. While the kids aren’t here, we thought we’d get something going.”

Everyone nodded. The Marlowe School was daycare and school for all Lipson Employees. It was a perk that led to employee loyalty. Lately, the Marlowe School had been winning awards for excellence in education. People who had had their kids in private school had moved them into the Marlowe School.

“Until we’re able to get the school sorted out, we can’t let kids back,” Jacob said.

“Are we close?” the same woman asked.

“Yes,” Jacob said. “The HVAC guys started work last week. They’ve got another week. We’re building out new classrooms and working on plans for the new addition for classrooms.”

“Basically, all of this land will either be school or gardens,” Valerie said.

Everyone nodded.

“Remember, Dad had Covid,” Jacob said. “If Big Sam can get it, any of us can. So keep your distance. The plumbers will be here in a few minutes. They’ll set up a mobile handwashing station. We have extra masks if anyone needs them.”

When no one said anything, Jacob looked at his father.

“Let’s get to work,” Sam croaked.

Everyone cheered and got to work. They unloaded the large equipment. The drivers turned on the machines and went out to join the other workers who were listening to Valerie lay out the field. Valerie had a map of what they thought might give them the most gardening space.

The rest was almost anticlimactic. The large equipment cleared the field. The Lipson Construction employees got to work with their shovels. Two of the women began building the frame for the raised beds. Within a half hour, a crowd began to grow. Lipson Construction employees passed out facemasks and shovels. Soon, raised beds were popping up all over the once empty field.

Then the plumbers arrived. They took two employees and some of the neighbors to dig trenches. Water pipes were laid across the field from the Marlowe school. By the time the water was flowing, all of the raised beds were built.

In order to comply with the city, Jacob’s team of carpenters made quick work of building a fence around the new gardens.

“Tomorrow, we plant,” Valerie said with a grin.

“And run a lottery for half of these spots,” Jacob said.

“Did you put up the flyers?” Valerie asked.

Jacob gestured to Charlie and Tink who were running toward them.

“Good,” Valerie said with a grin.

With that, they packed up and left the site.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...

 


Chapter Six Hundred and Forty-three - Neighbors (part four)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FORTY-THREE

(part four)

Saturday morning — 11:47 a.m.

Marlowe School

“Hey!” Jacob yelled.

He waved his arms and the equipment truck stopped.

“We want to dig up this yard,” Jacob said.

“For raised beds,” Florence, the equipment driver, said from the passenger side of the vehicle.

“Right,” Jacob said.

“Any infrastructure?” Florence asked.

“We did ‘Call before you dig.’ There’s nothing here.” Jacob pointed behind the truck. “Plumbing is right behind you.”

An SUV full of Lipson Construction employees went around the truck.

“Where do you want us?” the SUV driver asked.

“The boundary is marked with wooden stakes,” Jacob pointed.

The SUV sped off. They reached the edge of the road, went over the curb, and drove to a wooden stake in the road.

“You have to go around,” Jacob said. “Through the fast food restaurants parking lots and then onto the dirt.”

“You sure we have permission to be on that lot?” the truck driver asked.

“Val owns it,” Jacob said. “Mom bought this entire lot when it came available. She thought we might need it for new offices.”

Jacob shrugged. The truck driver nodded, rolled up his window, and started the journey through the fast food restaurant parking lot. Another equipment moving tractor trailer arrived and followed the other truck. A truck carrying wooden planks took the rear.

Valerie and Sam drove up. They waved at Jacob and followed the tractor trailers to park on the edge of the lot. Jacob walked to where Valerie and Sam parked. Everyone was greeting each other with waves and elbow bumps. Some of the people here hadn’t worked in a while. Even with the facemasks and social distancing, they were happy to be able to work.

“Okay,” Jacob said. “The city came out and marked the boundary of this lot.”

Jacob pointed to the wooden stakes along the property lines. Sam took a ball of twine from his pocket and began linking the stakes with the twine.

“We want to fit as many raised beds as possible in this space,” Jacob said. “Anyone built a raised bed before?”

Jacob’s hand went up but no one else’s did.

“Okay,” Jacob said. “They’re not that hard. I’ll show you how and you can build them at home.”

Someone cheered, and everyone laughed.

“I have a team of carpenters working at the school,” Jacob said. “If I’m not here and you get stuck, any of them can help. I have my phone so you can call or text me. We’re trying to get the school ready to re-open so I’d prefer if they stayed working. But this is important too.”

Everyone nodded.

“We expect that we may have a few non-Lipson people wander over,” Jacob said. “Dad has money to pay people if they want to work. Does anyone have a problem with that?”

Jacob grinned when, to a person, everyone shook their heads.

“Thanks,” Jacob said. “When we can, we like to give people work.”

“Wha-ter-you doin’ wid dis lot?” Trevor, one of the equipment drivers, asked.

Trevor had a long career as an alcoholic. He’d lost all of his teeth by the time he had cleaned up enough to get a job at Lipson Construction. In the years he’d worked there, he’d never replaced his front teeth. He said it reminded him of where he didn’t want to go back to.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Forty-three - Neighbors (part three)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FORTY-THREE

(part three)

“Would you mind very much if I went with you now?” Ginny asked. “I’m very cold.”

“Of course,” Nash said. “But you have to wear a facemask.”

With Noelle’s help, the woman tied on a face mask. Nash held out his elbow. Together, Nash, Noelle, and Ginny made slow progress down Ginny’s walk and to the sidewalk.

“Is anyone else in your house?” Noelle asked.

“Not anymore,” Ginny said. “My grankids used to come over every afternoon, but since this thing, I. . .”

Ginny sighed.

“I haven’t seen anyone in at least a month,” Ginny said. She patted Nash’s hand. “I really appreciate the help.”

Nash stood a little taller. Noelle ran ahead to open the metal gate. Sandy led them along the sidewalk, past the paparazzi, and into the Castle grounds.

“Why are they always here?” Ginny asked.

“Valerie Lipson lives with us,” Noelle said.

“Of course she does,” Ginny said.

They got halfway down the driveway when Sam came out of the house.

“Ginny?” Sam asked.

Seeing Sam, Ginny seemed to brighten a bit.

“Sam,” Ginny said. “These kids said it would be okay if I came over.”

“She doesn’t have heat or food,” Noelle said.

“Please,” Sam said, taking Ginny’s other side.

“We’re going around the back because she said she’d like to see Blane,” Noelle said.

“He’ll be delighted,” Sam said. “Now, I had the Covid, so we have to go slow.”

“That’s okay, Big Sam,” Ginny said. “I can’t go very fast anymore either.”

They shuffled along until they got around the house.

“Can I really listen to music in the old speakeasy?” Ginny asked.

“Absolutely,” Sam said. “But let’s get you warm, fed, and stuck with needles first.”

Ginny gave Nash and Noelle a genuine smile.

“Thank you, children,” Ginny said.

Nash and Noelle left Ginny at the edge of the deck. They watched while Sam and Ginny headed up to Blane’s new offices in the medical suite. Sandy caught up with Nash and Noelle.

“Ready to visit someone else?” Sandy asked.

“How did Charlie and Tink do?” Noelle asked.

“Ivy and Teddy?” Nash asked.

“They are still out there,” Sandy said. “Let’s grab another stack of masks and try another door.”

Nodding, Noelle and Nash followed Sandy to the stack of masks and back out to the neighborhood.

“That was really good,” Noelle said with a smile.

“Ginny?” Sandy asked.

Noelle nodded.

“It was good,” Sandy said.

Grinning, they continued down the sidewalk to check on the next neighbor.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Forty-three - Neighbors (part two)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FORTY-THREE

(part two)

“We can help you plant your garden,” Nash said.

“Why’re you helping me?” the voice asked. “You haven’t helped before.”

“We had school and stuff before,” Noelle said. “We didn’t have time to help. Now, we don’t have school or work. Our parents thought that since we have time, we could help our neighbors instead.”

“Plus, Mr. Matchel being so sick,” Nash said with a nod of his head. “He reminded us that people might need help.”

“And this uncle of yours?” the voice asked.

“Blane?” Nash asked. “Blane Lipson.”

“Your uncle is Blane Lipson?” the voice asked. “I know him.”

“Good,” Noelle said. “Then you should come.”

Noelle held out the business card that Ivy had painstakingly written out phone numbers and the offer of free treatments.

“I’d need help getting there,” the voice said with a sigh.

“That’s okay,” Nash said. “I can come over and help you get there.”

The dark eyes blinked and blinked again.

“I seen some activity right there,” the voice said.

“Do you know Jeraine?” Noelle asked.

“The R&B singer?” the voice asked. “Dr. Bumpy’s child?”

Noelle nodded.

“What about him?” the voice asked.

“He’s going to be having concerts in the ballroom,” Noelle said.

“That old speak-easy?” the voice chuckled.

Noelle and Nash nodded in unison.

“They can’t have people, you know,” Noelle said. “But they are going to be lots of big names.”

“He said that anyone could listen to them practice,” Nash said.

“They’re broadcasting over the internet,” Noelle said.

“I’d have to feel a whole lot better to do that,” the voice said.

Nash and Noelle nodded.

“Do you have enough food?” Nash asked.

“They stopped meals,” Noelle said.

“I. . .” the voice said with a sigh.

The door swung open. Nash and Noelle saw a small elderly woman on the other side. She wore a brown housecoat with blue roses on it. The house was dark. Even though it was cold outside, they could feel the chill coming from inside the house. She had a scarf tied tight around her head.

“I could very much use some help,” the voice said. “I don’t know why but they turned off my power. I haven’t been getting meals. I. . .”

A fat tear ran down the woman’s face.

“I’m Virginia Sage,” the woman said. “Folks have always called me ‘Ginny.’”

The woman nodded.

“Would you mind very much if I went with you now?” Ginny asked. “I’m very cold.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Forty-three - Neighbors (part one)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FORTY-THREE

(part one)

Saturday morning — 10:10 a.m.

Noelle and Nash stood outside the Castle’s next door neighbor’s house. Noelle glanced back at Sandy, who was standing on the sidewalk with the support of two canes. Sandy waved Noelle on. Noelle visibly sighed.

The girl knocked on their next door neighbor’s door.

“I hear someone,” Nash whispered to Noelle.

Noelle nodded. The children backed up on the porch until they were about six feet from the door. The door opened a crack.

“Hi, I’m Noelle and this is Nash,” Noelle said.

“I don’t want anything,” a voice said.

Two dark eyes peered out at the children. Even though they were dismissed, the door didn’t close.

“We’re not selling anything,” Nash said.

“We wanted to check that you were doing okay,” Noelle said. “With the pandemic going on, we are going around checking on our neighbors to see if anyone needs anything.”

“That’s nice of you,” the voice said.

“You probably know Mr. Matchel,” Nash said.

“That old coot,” the voice said. “I know him enough to stay as far away as possible.”

The voice chuckled which led to a deep cough. Nash looked at Noelle, and she glanced at Sandy.

“He collapsed yesterday,” Nash continued. “So we thought we’d check on everyone in our area to see if they were okay or if they needed anything.”

“We brought some facemasks in case you don’t have any,” Noelle said.

A thin, wrinkled brown hand stretched out from behind the door. Noelle placed the masks into the hand and the hand retreated. There was another cough.

“You sound like you’re a little sick,” Noelle said.

“It’s not Covid,” the voice said. “I have some lung problems from before this wretched thing started.”

“Our uncle is an acupuncturist,” Noelle said. She gestured toward the back of the Castle. “He’s setting up his office at the house.”

“I can’t afford nothing,” the voice said. “No payments from disability lately.”

“That’s okay,” Nash said. “He’s giving away treatments to neighbors. He wants to see everyone once alone and then, if you can, do it as a group. If not, you can see him privately.”

The brown eyes blinked and then blinked again. The door opened a little wider.

“Are you for real?” the voice asked.

The children nodded.

“We’ve also been growing seedlings,” Noelle said. “Tomatoes, beans, stuff like that.”

“I noticed them greenhouses,” the voice said.

“We can help you plant your garden,” Nash said.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Forty-two - Covid is a family problem

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FORTY-TWO

“This morning,” Tanesha said. “About a half-hour ago. The paramedics said that she likely had a heart attack brought on by Covid. According to her mom, she had at least three positive Covid tests. Her mother’s very angry with her for not taking care of her Covid. But you know, Annette believed Covid was a hoax.”

“That’s awful,” Jeraine said. “Where’s Jabari?”

“He’s at home,” Tanesha said. “I already told him.”

Jeraine nodded.

“How is he?” Jacob asked.

“Philosophical,” Tanesha said with a grin. “That kid. . .”

“You should watch him,” Mike said. “It catches up with kids. It was a while before Meg or I really realized that our parents were dead, or supposed to be dead.”

“Good point,” Tanesha said with a nod.

“Annette’s mother asked if you’d go to the funeral and bring Jabari,” Tanesha said.

“We can figure it out,” Mike said. “No point messing up today.”

Jeraine nodded and closed his eyes. He sighed.

“I guess I can’t believe it,” Jeraine said. “That’s she’s gone. She has been such a pain for such a long time that. . .”

“I doubt the pain is over,” Tanesha said.

Jeraine nodded. Each lost in their own thoughts, they stood together in silence. Jammy rushed through the door from the backyard.

“Jeraine?” Jammy said, concern was apparent on his face. “I just got the word that Annette has died.”

“Miss T just told me,” Jeraine said.

“I’m so sorry,” Jammy said.

Jeraine looked at Tanesha, and she turned to Jammy.

“Jabari had Covid when he got home from her house,” Tanesha said. “When I spoke to her about it, she said that her son wasn’t a ‘sissy’ and that she didn’t care about ‘no virus.’ So, it isn’t a surprise to us that she’s died in this way. It’s just very sad.”

“You want to talk to the press?” Jammy asked.

“I think we need to,” Tanesha said. “I’m in the hospitals five days a week. People are dying. We need to use every opportunity to let people know that this thing is real and deadly.”

“I’ll set it up,” Jammy said. He hugged Jeraine. “You okay?”

“Too bright out there for me out there,” Jeraine said. “Jake brought me to a cooler place. Miss T brought my meds.”

“Let’s wait until you’re set,” Jammy said. “Sam’s ready to open the ballroom. Would you like to come out?”

Jeraine looked at Tanesha. She gave him a soft smile.

“Let’s not give up today,” Mike said.

“Good thinking,” Tanesha said. “Come on.”

Jeraine got up and followed Tanesha into the living room.

“First,” Tanesha said.

She took Jacob’s sunglasses off Jeraine’s face and gave them to Jacob. She took out sunglasses popular in the 1920s.

“Your dad sent these over,” Tanesha said.

She put them on Jeraine.

“Looking good,” Mike said.

They each checked their facemasks before heading out into the yard.

~~~~~~~~

Friday morning — 10:01 a.m.

“What do you see?” Katy whispered to Paddie.

Taller than Katy, Paddie stood on his tiptoes to look out the window of Jill’s office.

“They are still out there,” Paddie said with a nod.

Katy scowled.

“Don’t worry,” Paddie said. “They won’t notice. They’re doing what they’re doing.”

“My daddy’s out there?” Katy asked.

Paddie stood on his tiptoes again. He nodded.

“He notices everything,” Katy said.

Paddie turned around to look at his best friend. Katy crossed her arms and scowled.

“Are you okay?” Paddie asked.

“No,” Katy said. “We have to get out of here!”

“Why?” Jill asked.

Katy and Paddie gasped in unison. They looked very guilty.

“Katy?” Jill asked. She knelt down to her daughter. “Are you needing an adventure?”

“We’re worried about our horses,” Paddie said, instantly caving to pressure.

Katy gave him a hard look but Paddie shrugged.

“She saved me when I was sick,” Paddie said. “I could have died!”

Katy’s eyes filled with tears, and the children hugged. Moved by the children, Jill picked up Katy and Paddie.

“Oh Mommy,” Katy said, as she cried into her mother’s shoulder.

Jill let Katy cry for a while before kissing Katy’s forehead and set her on the couch. She kissed Paddie and set him on the couch.

“Now,” Jill said. “Why are you worried about the horses?”

“We don’t know if they got sick!” Katy said. “They can’t wear masks!”

“And a lot of people aren’t as careful as us,” Paddie said.

“They don’t know about bones and crypts and plagues and. . .” The air crackled with Katy’s anxiety. “They’ll get our horses sick.”

“They’re horses!” Paddie said. “I don’t want my horse to be as sick as I was!”

“Well, you bring up a valid point,” Jill said.

“We’re really careful with Sarah and Buster,” Paddie said. “We wash our hands and make sure to wear our masks and. . .”

“We don’t want the dogs to get sick!” Katy said.

They looked so worried that Jill gave them a soft smile.

“I’ll tell you what,” Jill said. “Why don’t we go see our horses? Your daddy is working on the house, so he can’t go. But I know that Paddie’s Auntie Alex and her team are here. She can probably spare someone to help us. Should I call?”

Nodding, Paddie jumped up and down. Katy thought for a minute.

“Do we have to bring the other kids?” Katy asked.

“I was thinking that we would,” Jill said. “Would that be a big deal?”

Adorably, Katy tapped her lip while she thought about it.

“I think everyone wants to break out of here,” Jill said.

“Just the middle-big kids?” Katy asked.

“If you’d like,” Jill said. “Máire and Joey have horses, or they share horses like we do. I’m not sure. I don’t know if Jackie and Eddy have been riding, but I bet they’d want to go.”

“We’ll help!” Katy said brightly.

“Sounds good,” Jill said. “Maybe we can stop for some fancy food on our way home? We can get it to-go.”

“Like we used to?” Katy asked.

Jill nodded. Katy cheered so Paddie joined her. Katy and Paddie ran out of Jill’s office to tell everyone.

Jill remembered that Athena had been working with Heather on something Olympian. She bet that Athena could teach their kids a thing or two about horses. Smiling to herself, Jill began to make calls.

~~~~~~~~

Friday afternoon — 4:35 p.m.

Nelson got off the 15 Colfax bus at Race Street and started toward their new home. When Ava and her team had a case, they worked long hours, sometimes all night. They were between cases due to Covid, so everyone left early. Nelson loved getting home early now that he had such a great home filled with so many people that he loved.

He took a deep breath. The days were getting longer and the weather was moving into summer warm. Tulips and daffodils lined his walk to their new home. He smiled.

He would check in on his father this evening before heading home. It was his turn to make dinner so he imagined himself grilling up some burgers for everyone on his new gas grill in their new gorgeous patio.

For the first time, in a very, very long time, he was truly happy.

Grinning under his N-95 mask, he continued down the sidewalk. His eyes noticed the burgeoning spring while his mind planned out what he’d do when he got home. When he turned back to the sidewalk, he saw what looked like a pile of clothing. He squinted, and then scowled.

“That’s. . .”

Nelson ran toward the pile of clothing while digging in his bag for a phone. He dropped down next to the body of his elderly next door neighbor, Mr. Matchel. Nelson touched the elderly man’s shoulder and Mr. Matchel groaned.

“Oh my God,” Nelson said, blowing out a breath. “You’re alive.”

“Hey!” Blane yelled from the front lawn of the Castle.

The paparazzi turned to take photos. Blane and Jacob ran across the street to where Nelson knelt.

“It’s Mr. Matchel,” Nelson said. “Our next door neighbor.”

“Let’s get him inside,” Blane said.

Before Nelson could move, Jacob picked up the elderly man and jogged down the path to the patio behind the house. Jacob set the elderly man on a bench and helped him sit up.

“What. . .?” Heather asked after sliding open the glass door to the patio.

“Go back inside,” Nelson said. “This is Covid.”

“I’m immortal?” Heather shrugged.

The men stared at her for a moment. She nodded.

“Maybe you should go inside while I figure this out,” Heather said.

Because she’d promised to always wear one, Heather grabbed a mask and went outside. The men went inside and stood next to the sliding glass window.

“Mr. Matchel?” Heather asked. She put her hand on his shoulder. “Mr. Matchel.”

The man’s eyes fluttered open. He looked up at her.

“We found you on the sidewalk,” Heather said.

“Need. . .” the elderly man said, “. . . help.”

“Are you ill?” Heather asked.

“Ask him to take a full breath!” Nelson yelled from inside the house.

“Can you take a full breath?” Heather asked.

The elderly man took a shaky breath. Heather looked at Nelson. Blane was starting outside. But Heather shook her head at him.

“When was the last time you ate?” Heather asked.

“They stopped my meals,” Mr. Matchel said. “I ran out of food a couple weeks ago. You kids told me that if I ever needed help. . . Took me a time to. . .”

“Do you think you need a hospital?” Heather asked.

“I don’t know,” Mr. Matchel said. “I was surprised at how weak I’ve become. I never would have thought that I. . .”

The elderly man closed his eyes and sighed. A tear rolled down his face.

“I’m going to put this mask on you,” Heather said. She opened her hand and a face mask appeared. “Nelson and Blane can’t get Covid. So I don’t want any argument from you.”

The man gave a vague nod. She put the mask over his face. Heather gestured for Nelson to come out. Blane said something to Jacob, and Jacob went into the kitchen. Blane and Nelson went out together. Blane grabbed the man’s right wrist to take his Chinese medicine pulses, while Nelson used an infrared thermometer to take the man’s temperature.

“99,” Nelson said. “High, but that could be from dehydration. What do you think?”

“His immune system is fighting something,” Blane said. “He is very weak. We should treat him as infected until we can check.”

Nelson nodded. Jacob appeared with a cup of warm broth. Everyone but Heather backed up. Heather placed her hand on the man’s shoulder.

“Let’s see how you do with some broth,” Heather said.

The elderly man nodded. He took off the mask and drank the broth. Heather waited to see his effect. She shook his head.

“He’s too weak,” Heather said. “The broth is running right through him.”

Blane and Jacob shared a look.

“What?” Nelson asked.

“We need to bring him to the Castle medical offices,” Blane said.

“He’s too weak,” Nelson said. “Can’t we put him in your office?”

Blane and Jacob looked at each other again. Jacob nodded.

“Yes,” Jacob said.

“What the fuck is it with you two?” Nelson asked irritably. “I thought I’d have trouble with Tres, but he’s open and honest — clear even — compared to the two of you lovebirds.”

“Sorry,” Blane said. “We’ve worked together for a long time. We’ve had many years of long conversation about me using the medical offices for my practice.”

“I told him this very thing this morning,” Jacob said.

“While we were moving me into my office,” Blane said.

“This morning,” Jacob said.

“Did you finish?” Nelson asked.

“Moving in?” Blane asked.

Jacob vehemently shook his head.

“No,” Blane said. “In the words of Jacob, ‘Damn, you have a lot of crap.’”

“So we can move him to your office?” Nelson asked, trying to hide his exasperation.

“Yes,” Blane said.

“Let’s,” Jacob said.

When they turned back to look at Mr. Matchel, he was gone. Heather was sitting in his place.

“I moved him into Blane’s office,” Heather said, mildly. “He needed a bath and some clean clothing, which has been taken care of by my associates. He is sleeping quietly.”

Heather smiled at the men.

“I am a goddess,” Heather said. “So I’ll tell you — this man is exhausted. He’s been without any form of nutrition for a long time. He hasn’t had company or interaction either. He’s been stuck in his house without any assistance while the entire world closed down. He’s terrified that he will die and no one will know. He is hungry, tired, dirty, distraught, and very alone.”

Heather stood up.

“He is now a part of our family,” Heather said, standing up. “And, we need to think about every single one of our neighbors because it’s very possible that there are more people in Mr. Matchel’s situation.”

She went into the house.

“Covid?” Nelson croaked.

“I don’t know,” Heather said. “Jill’s out with the kids. I sent her a text. She’ll stop here when they get back.”

Heather gave the men a nod and went back into the house. The men watched her go.

“I’m not making dinner,” Heather said.

Jacob laughed. Nelson trotted into the house after Heather. Blane nodded to Jacob and followed them inside.

~~~~~~~~~

Friday evening — 9:47 p.m.

Tanesha finished her swim and floated back to the seats at the rear of the Swim spa. She was just pulling off her goggles when a towel appeared.

“Thanks,” Tanesha said. “Hang on.”

“I’ll be right here,” Delphie said.

“Good, I wanted to talk to you,” Tanesha said.

Tanesha stood to make her way out of the small pool.

“Oh?” Delphie looked surprised. “I wanted to talk with you.”

Tanesha came down from the edge of the pool and took the towel from Delphie.

“How was your swim?” Delphie asked.

“Good,” Tanesha said. “I want to get one of these, but we can’t afford it after all the house stuff.”

“Valerie doesn’t mind you using this one,” Delphie said.

“She’s lovely,” Tanesha said. “Plus, Jer’s downstairs in that ballroom testing the sound speakers. This gives me something to do. Can you hear them in the house?”

“No,” Delphie said.

“I guess that makes sense,” Tanesha said. She pulled the towel around her and tucked the ends into the wrap. “There’s a whole lot of dirt between the ballroom and the house.”

Delphie nodded.

“You want to go first?” Tanesha asked.

“I was hoping to speak with you about the woman you call ‘Gran,’” Delphie said.

“You mean my non-grandmother?” Tanesha asked. “Brr, can we go inside?”

“Absolutely,” Delphie said.

Tanesha pulled off her swimming cap as they walked through the door to the kitchen.

“I warmed up some dinner for you,” Delphie said.

“Uh oh,” Tanesha said. “Trying to soften the blow.”

Delphie gave Tanesha a soft smile.

“I guess so,” Delphie said.

“How bad is it?” Tanesha asked.

“She only has a day or so left,” Delphie said. “I was hoping to talk to Fin about having her partner return, but I never seem to catch him.”

“They’re having some drama at home,” Tanesha said. “He’s either working in the hospital with me or dealing with bullshit at home. That’s why Abi’s not around.”

Delphie nodded.

“Could you ask him?” Delphie asked.

“I will as soon as we’re done,” Tanesha said.

“Good,” Delphie said. “How is Jabari?”

“You know how Jabari is because he’s here with Maggie and Mack,” Tanesha said.

“Yes, I guess I do,” Delphie said. “It’s a shame about Annette.”

“It really is,” Tanesha said. “I will never understand why people throw their lives away out of stubbornness.”

Delphie nodded. Tanesha poked around on her plate before taking a bite. Realizing she was starving, she started eating in earnest.

“What did you want to talk to me about?” Delphie asked.

“Oh, right,” Tanesha said. “Sorry. This pasta is really good.”

“I’m glad your house is still coming for dinner,” Delphie said. “Nelson made steak and Blane made this pasta. He made the sauce from scratch.”

“I was at the hospital,” Tanesha shrugged. “This is wonderful. I’m so lucky.”

“We all are,” Delphie nodded.

“Did Jer eat?” Tanesha asked.

“That’s why everyone came over,” Delphie said. “His dad and Seth came to. We had dinner and then they went to. . . what do they call it?”

“Jam,” Tanesha said.

“Like apricot,” Delphie said.

Delpie’s eyes danced with laughter. Tanesha grinned. She set her fork down.

“Listen, I wondered if you would like to participate in a vaccine trial,” Tanesha said.

“What’s that?” Delphie asked.

“A vaccine?” Tanesha asked.

“No, I have had all of my vaccines,” Delphie said. “I’m on the Lipson Construction insurance. They send out a nurse to all of the sites. Sam has them stop here so that we all get our vaccines. The spouses who don’t work at Lipson come by here too. It’s kind of a party.”

Tanesha nodded. She’d been to one of these vaccine parties.

“Is this ‘trial’ like that?” Delphie asked. “Does it have a judge? They don’t like me too much.”

“Judges?” Tanesha asked.

“I know too much about them,” Delphie said.

“I bet,” Tanesha said. “This would be a chance to try out the Covid-19 vaccines.”

“Oh,” Delphie said.

“I was asked by my supervisor,” Tanesha said. “He asked if I knew anyone who’d had a stroke.”

“You haven’t had a stroke,” Delphie said.

“Yes, but I am brown,” Tanesha said.

Scowling, Delphie nodded.

“I’m not brown,” Delphie said. She raised her forearm. Seeing Tanesha’s scowl, Delphie asked, “What are you saying? You have to be really plain because I don’t know anything about science.”

“I’m saying this — people who’ve had strokes are getting really sick with this stupid virus,” Tanesha said. “If you can try out the vaccine, they will be able to see if it helps people like you.”

“Oh,” Delphie said. “I want to help.”

“I knew you did,” Tanesha said.

“We should ask Jake too,” Delphie said.

Jacob appeared in the kitchen.

“What are we asking me?” Jacob asked.

“If you’d be a part of a vaccine trial,” Tanesha said.

“You don’t have any immunity because of your new body,” Delphie said.

“You don’t have to convince me,” Jacob said. “Sign me up. In fact, sign Blane up too.”

“What are you signing me up for?” Blane asked as he turned into the kitchen.

“Vaccine trial,” Jacob said.

“I’m in,” Blane said.

“Where do we go?” Jacob asked.

Tanesha grinned.

“What?” Blane asked.

“We’ve been having a tough time finding people,” Tanesha said. “It’s great that you guys want to help.”

“If you need people, I bet everyone here would sign up,” Delphie said. “Maybe Val can do one of those public service things.”

“Or Jer,” Tanesha said.

“What am I doing?” Jeraine asked as he came out of the stairwell to the ballroom. Seth O’Malley and Bumpy Wilson followed behind him.

“Vaccine trial,” Tanesha said.

“I’m in,” Bumpy said. “You need more bodies?”

“It’s not my study, but sure,” Tanesha said.

“You can count on Dionne and your parents.” Bumpy nodded. “Those boys out on your dad’s ranch.”

“I’m in,” Seth said. “Ava and her team will join too.”

Tanesha grinned.

“This is really great,” Tanesha said. “I’ll have them call you.”

Bumpy and Seth said their goodbyes and went home. Blane left, and Jacob went upstairs. Jeraine went to check on Jabari. Soon, it was Delphie and Tanesha again.

“You were going to call Fin?” Delphie asked.

“Fin,” Tanesha said to the air. “My gran’s dying. . . Can you send her partner to see her to say goodbye?”

The elderly fairy appeared in the kitchen.

“Hello, Ladies,” the fairy said.

She held out her arms and hugged Tanesha tight.

“Gran’s in the hospice wing of the assisted living facility,” Tanesha said.

The fairy nodded and disappeared.

“I guess that’s that,” Delphie said.

Tanesha grinned at the woman. Impulsively, Tanesha leaned over to kiss Delphie’s cheek.

“What’s that for?” Delphie asked.

“You’re the heart of this family,” Tanesha said.

“I like that,” Delphie said.

“Come on, Jer,” Tanesha said.

Jeraine coming back from check in on Jabari.

“Let’s go home,” Tanesha said.

Jeraine and Tanesha walked hand-in-hand out of the Castle. Delphie sat at the table for another moment before turning off the lights and going to bed.

Denver Cereal continues next week...

 


Chapter Six Hundred and Forty-two - Covid is a family problem (part six)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FORTY-TWO

(part six)

“What’s that?” Delphie asked.

“A vaccine?” Tanesha asked.

“No, I have had all of my vaccines,” Delphie said. “I’m on the Lipson Construction insurance. They send out a nurse to all of the sites. Sam has them stop here so that we all get our vaccines. The spouses who don’t work at Lipson come by here too. It’s kind of a party.”

Tanesha nodded. She’d been to one of these vaccine parties.

“Is this ‘trial’ like that?” Delphie asked. “Does it have a judge? They don’t like me too much.”

“Judges?” Tanesha asked.

“I know too much about them,” Delphie said.

“I bet,” Tanesha said. “This would be a chance to try out the Covid-19 vaccines.”

“Oh,” Delphie said.

“I was asked by my supervisor,” Tanesha said. “He asked if I knew anyone who’d had a stroke.”

“You haven’t had a stroke,” Delphie said.

“Yes, but I am brown,” Tanesha said.

Scowling, Delphie nodded.

“I’m not brown,” Delphie said. She raised her forearm. Seeing Tanesha’s scowl, Delphie asked, “What are you saying? You have to be really plain because I don’t know anything about science.”

“I’m saying this — people who’ve had strokes are getting really sick with this stupid virus,” Tanesha said. “If you can try out the vaccine, they will be able to see if it helps people like you.”

“Oh,” Delphie said. “I want to help.”

“I knew you did,” Tanesha said.

“We should ask Jake too,” Delphie said.

Jacob appeared in the kitchen.

“What are we asking me?” Jacob asked.

“If you’d be a part of a vaccine trial,” Tanesha said.

“You don’t have any immunity because of your new body,” Delphie said.

“You don’t have to convince me,” Jacob said. “Sign me up. In fact, sign Blane up too.”

“What are you signing me up for?” Blane asked as he turned into the kitchen.

“Vaccine trial,” Jacob said.

“I’m in,” Blane said.

“Where do we go?” Jacob asked.

Tanesha grinned.

“What?” Blane asked.

“We’ve been having a tough time finding people,” Tanesha said. “It’s great that you guys want to help.”

“If you need people, I bet everyone here would sign up,” Delphie said. “Maybe Val can do one of those public service things.”

“Or Jer,” Tanesha said.

“What am I doing?” Jeraine asked as he came out of the stairwell to the ballroom. Seth O’Malley and Bumpy Wilson followed behind him.

“Vaccine trial,” Tanesha said.

“I’m in,” Bumpy said. “You need more bodies?”

“It’s not my study, but sure,” Tanesha said.

“You can count on Dionne and your parents.” Bumpy nodded. “Those boys out on your dad’s ranch.”

“I’m in,” Seth said. “Ava and her team will join too.”

Tanesha grinned.

“This is really great,” Tanesha said. “I’ll have them call you.”

Bumpy and Seth said their goodbyes and went home. Blane left, and Jacob went upstairs. Jeraine went to check on Jabari. Soon, it was Delphie and Tanesha again.

“You were going to call Fin?” Delphie asked.

“Fin,” Tanesha said to the air. “My gran’s dying. . . Can you send her partner to see her to say goodbye?”

The elderly fairy appeared in the kitchen.

“Hello, Ladies,” the fairy said.

She held out her arms and hugged Tanesha tight.

“Gran’s in the hospice wing of the assisted living facility,” Tanesha said.

The fairy nodded and disappeared.

“I guess that’s that,” Delphie said.

Tanesha grinned at the woman. Impulsively, Tanesha leaned over to kiss Delphie’s cheek.

“What’s that for?” Delphie asked.

“You’re the heart of this family,” Tanesha said.

“I like that,” Delphie said.

“Come on, Jer,” Tanesha said.

Jeraine coming back from check in on Jabari.

“Let’s go home,” Tanesha said.

Jeraine and Tanesha walked hand-in-hand out of the Castle. Delphie sat at the table for another moment before turning off the lights and going to bed.

Denver Cereal continues on Monday...


Chapter Six Hundred and Forty-two - Covid is a family problem (part five)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FORTY-TWO

(part five)

Friday evening — 9:47 p.m.

Tanesha finished her swim and floated back to the seats at the rear of the Swim spa. She was just pulling off her goggles when a towel appeared.

“Thanks,” Tanesha said. “Hang on.”

“I’ll be right here,” Delphie said.

“Good, I wanted to talk to you,” Tanesha said.

Tanesha stood to make her way out of the small pool.

“Oh?” Delphie looked surprised. “I wanted to talk with you.”

Tanesha came down from the edge of the pool and took the towel from Delphie.

“How was your swim?” Delphie asked.

“Good,” Tanesha said. “I want to get one of these, but we can’t afford it after all the house stuff.”

“Valerie doesn’t mind you using this one,” Delphie said.

“She’s lovely,” Tanesha said. “Plus, Jer’s downstairs in that ballroom testing the sound speakers. This gives me something to do. Can you hear them in the house?”

“No,” Delphie said.

“I guess that makes sense,” Tanesha said. She pulled the towel around her and tucked the ends into the wrap. “There’s a whole lot of dirt between the ballroom and the house.”

Delphie nodded.

“You want to go first?” Tanesha asked.

“I was hoping to speak with you about the woman you call ‘Gran,’” Delphie said.

“You mean my non-grandmother?” Tanesha asked. “Brr, can we go inside?”

“Absolutely,” Delphie said.

Tanesha pulled off her swimming cap as they walked through the door to the kitchen.

“I warmed up some dinner for you,” Delphie said.

“Uh oh,” Tanesha said. “Trying to soften the blow.”

Delphie gave Tanesha a soft smile.

“I guess so,” Delphie said.

“How bad is it?” Tanesha asked.

“She only has a day or so left,” Delphie said. “I was hoping to talk to Fin about having her partner return, but I never seem to catch him.”

“They’re having some drama at home,” Tanesha said. “He’s either working in the hospital with me or dealing with bullshit at home. That’s why Abi’s not around.”

Delphie nodded.

“Could you ask him?” Delphie asked.

“I will as soon as we’re done,” Tanesha said.

“Good,” Delphie said. “How is Jabari?”

“You know how Jabari is because he’s here with Maggie and Mack,” Tanesha said.

“Yes, I guess I do,” Delphie said. “It’s a shame about Annette.”

“It really is,” Tanesha said. “I will never understand why people throw their lives away out of stubbornness.”

Delphie nodded. Tanesha poked around on her plate before taking a bite. Realizing she was starving, she started eating in earnest.

“What did you want to talk to me about?” Delphie asked.

“Oh, right,” Tanesha said. “Sorry. This pasta is really good.”

“I’m glad your house is still coming for dinner,” Delphie said. “Nelson made steak and Blane made this pasta. He made the sauce from scratch.”

“I was at the hospital,” Tanesha shrugged. “This is wonderful. I’m so lucky.”

“We all are,” Delphie nodded.

“Did Jer eat?” Tanesha asked.

“That’s why everyone came over,” Delphie said. “His dad and Seth came to. We had dinner and then they went to. . . what do they call it?”

“Jam,” Tanesha said.

“Like apricot,” Delphie said.

Delpie’s eyes danced with laughter. Tanesha grinned. She set her fork down.

“Listen, I wondered if you would like to participate in a vaccine trial,” Tanesha said.

“What’s that?” Delphie asked.

“A vaccine?” Tanesha asked.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...