CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-THREE
“Sleep?” Helen asked. “What’s that?”
Sam and Tres both nodded.
“Do we know if there’s a way to do this safely?” Sam asked.
Helen gave him a long look.
“I don’t,” Helen said. “I feel ridiculous saying this. I mean, I’ve never. . .”
“Delphie says that it’s all about airflow,” Sam said. “She doesn’t know how to do it but she says that’s what we need to work on.”
“Air flow?” Helen asked. “You mean like air filters?”
Sam and Tres shrugged.
“All of our systems are new,” Helen said. “Do you think they’ll work?”
“No idea,” Tres said.
“Do we have any air people on staff?” Helen asked.
“We have a building maintenance crew,” Sam said. “They take care of all of our buildings.”
“Uh. . .” Tres said. “Give me a sec.”
Tres shook his head.
“We need someone who can design airflow through the classrooms,” Tres said. “We have people who can maintain them.”
“Shit,” Helen said.
“Now, now,” Sam said. “I’ve hired a lot of people in my time. Let me make some calls.”
“Jill’s an interior designer,” Tres said. “Or she’s in school.”
“Great point,” Sam said. “She’ll know someone.”
“Give us an hour,” Tres said. “We’ll find someone to do it.”
“What’s next?” Sam asked.
“There’s something that I hesitate to bring up,” Helen said. “I mean, it’s not such an issue for our people, but really needs to be. . .”
“We’re here to help,” Sam said. “What do you need?”
“Food,” Helen said. “The school is near a few lower income places. People aren’t working because of the pandemic. And. . .”
“You want to put together a food bank?” Tres asked.
“We can do that,” Sam said. “Easy. In a month or so, we could probably fill one from the greenhouses Delphie built.”
“She’s amazing,” Helen said.
“What’s next?” Sam asked.
“I think that’s it,” Helen said.
“You don’t look like that’s it,” Sam said.
“We can’t know what you need if you don’t tell us,” Tres said.
“I. . .” Helen said. “I hate to ask because we have this new building and it’s so much bigger than the last one and we have extra space still and . . .”
“And?” Sam asked.
“We need more space,” Helen said. “I was going to ask Jake if he could buy the lot next to the school and. . .”
“Jake and I own it,” Sam said with a nod. “It was something Celia bought along with the land the school’s on. You think we should look at doing an expansion?”
“I do,” Helen said. “What’s happening with the old building?”
“It’s empty,” Tres said. “We still own it as part of the foundation. Jake doesn’t want to sell it. So we’re looking for alternative uses. Why?”
“We may need it for day care,” Helen said. “Little kids. I mean, babies. Maybe for low income families.”
“Okay,” Sam said.
“I don’t know how this fits with our mission because it’s not Lipson people,” Helen said. “But we are a state registered school and a day care and. . .”
“Why don’t we take a look at it?” Sam asked. “If there’s a charter, it was likely written by me or Celia. Not the greatest minds in the world. We have lawyers and friends who are lawyers and lawyer friends.”
Sam nodded mostly to assure Helen that they were there to help.
“I’ll talk to Jake,” Tres said.
“What’s next?” Sam asked.
“That’s the top of the list,” Helen said.
“We’ll get to work,” Sam said and clicked off the call.
Tres raised a hand in goodbye and disappeared. A little shell shocked by the speed of the meeting, Helen waited a beat before ending the meeting and getting on with her day.
Monday mid-day — 12:20 p.m.
“We put this system in a year. . .” Orin Olathe said.
“Two,” Jacob said.
“That’s right,” Orin said.
Orin stopped walked and looked up at the Marlowe School building. They were standing in the parking lot. Jacob wore a face mask when Orin had arrived. They’d had a long talk about face masks as Orin hadn’t ever seen one before. He reluctantly took one from Jacob and put it one.
“This thing,” Orin pointed to his face mask, “it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.”
“We’re going to be wearing them for a while,” Jacob said.
“Jeez,” Orin said. “Really?”
“Really,” Jacob said.
Orin didn’t say respond. They walked all the way to the entrance where Helen Siegle was standing.
“You know, the TV says this virus thing is a hoax,” Orin said to Jacob.
“The TV says that my sister, Val, isn’t married to Mike,” Jacob said with a shrug.
Orin didn’t respond. They were standing in the hallway waiting for Helen to get her keys before Orin said, “Jeez, I know Val and Mike. They’re definitely married.”
“Yep,” Jacob said.
With that, Orin turned his attention to the building. Helen returned with the keys to all of the mechanics of the school.
“So Jake ’n me were saying that we put in this system two years ago,” Orin said to Helen.
“Brand new,” Orin said. “Everything. New from scratch.”
“Wha-r-we-thinkin’ we need to do now?” Orin asked.
“We need to create more airflow in the classrooms,” Jacob said.
“You got airflow in classrooms,” Orin said.
“We need to test the airflow in the classrooms,” Helen said. “We also need to upgrade the filtration system so that we catch anything that might be an issue.”
Orin nodded. Helen and Jacob waited while Orin looked around at the airflow in the hallway. They followed him into the first classroom off the office. He looked at the ceiling and then at the floor.
“Babies?” Orin pointed.
Helen nodded as he walked past. They followed him in to the infant and toddler child care area. He stared at the ceiling and looked at the walls. After a minute, he looked down at his feet. After a moment, he looked at Jacob.
“You’re saying that this virus is real,” Orin said to Jacob.
“My father had it,” Jacob said.
“Sam?” Orin asked.
“It nearly killed him,” Jacob said.
“Big Sam Lipson?” Orin asked. “Why. . . He’s no weakling.”
“No, he’s not,” Jacob said.
Helen just tried to stay out of it.
“You think this virus is in the air?” Orin asked.
“It’s airbourne,” Helen said, forgetting that she was staying out of it. “That’s what the scientists tell us.”
Orin gave her a long look before glancing at Jacob.
“My crews not working,” Orin said. “We definitely could use the work. And, if what you’re saying is true, and I’ve never known you to lie, then this could be a big deal for our company because there’s got to be lots of buildings that’s going to need this.”
“It’s why I called you,” Jacob said. “I thought you could become the expert.”
Orin’s face flushed and he nodded.
“I’m not gonna say that we don’t need the help,” Orin said. “My guys are at home; some of them are desperate for work.”
“I know,” Jacob said. “We’re job sharing at Lipson and it’s a mess.”
Orin looked down for a long moment before he nodded again.
“Can you help us?” Helen asked.
“I don’t know nothing about no virus,” Orin said. “But I know filtration. If this thing’s in the air, then what you need is airflow. Even something like a fan will get you there, but since these are kids, we should figure out something good. We don’t want our kids getting sick.”
“We don’t want that,” Helen said.
“But I’m no good at the science,” Orin said.
“I can handle the science,” Helen said.
“What ’r you going to do, Jake?” Orin asked as a joke.
“I’m going to keep track of the results so that when we’re done, you can share them with the school districts,” Jacob said.
Orin’s pale face flushed again. This time his eyes welled with tears.
“You’d do that for me?” Orin asked.
“Absolutely,” Jacob said. “I’ll also pay you.”
Orin nodded. Without any warning, he was on the move. Helen and Jacob hurried after him.
“We’ve got two choices — well, three,” Orin said. “The cheapest is to just turn on the building fans. Between the attic fan and the system, there would be ample air movement. Most of the classrooms have double hung windows. You fixed all those windows?”
Orin looked at Jacob, who nodded.
“There’s your airflow,” Orin said with a nod. “’Cept in winter, of course.”
“As you know, there are dead spots in the system,” Helen said.
“I remember that we put those in the filing area and the offices,” Orin said.
“So papers didn’t fly around,” Helen said.
“Good point,” Orin said. “The fans and windows are your cheapest option.”
“What else?” Helen asked.
“You can create airflow by having a temperature difference,” Orin said. “Hot air is always going to want to move to colder air. You could heat the hallways and leave the rooms fairly cool. With the room doors open just a crack, the air would move from the hallway into the room. As long as you create the temperature difference, the air keeps moving.”
“That’s interesting,” Helen said.
“They do this in Japan during the flu season,” Orin said. “I bet they’re doing this right now.”
“What’s the third?” Jacob asked.
“The third is what we have in the infant and toddler area,” Orin said. “More air intakes and out takes. Better air exchange. We can change to higher grade filters, if you want. But we’re pretty close there in the baby area.”
“We’re going to have to reduce our class size,” Helen said. “So we’ll have to get those unused areas of the school up and running.”
“We just have to turn on that area,” Jacob said with a nod. “Everything is already set up.”
“Why don’t we run some tests?” Orin nodded. “We’ll go through the building, room by room, and let you know what we have in each room. We can decide what you want to do then.”
“That’s possible?” Helen asked.
“Of course it is,” Orin said. “I just have to make a few calls. We’ll be underway in an hour or so.”
“Sounds like we know where to start,” Jacob said with a nod.
Nodding, Orin adjusted his face mask.
“Where do I get some more of these masks?” Orin asked.
“I have them in my truck,” Jacob said. “We have a team at Lipson that is making them by the hundreds. I have about twenty-five for your team.”
“Delphie?” Orin asked.
“As always,” Jacob said.
Orin nodded to Jacob and took out his phone. Helen and Jacob gave each other a long look and got out of the way.
Monday afternoon — 2:35 p.m.
“Hello?” a man’s voice came from the side door of the Castle.
“Can someone go see who. . .” Jeraine looked up from where he was making frosting to see Max Hargreaves. “Hey Max.”
Jeraine was teaching how to make a cake to the group of teens who lived in the Castle. Charlie, Tink, Nash, Teddy, Noelle, and Ivy were leaning on the counter watching Jeraine.
“Sorry,” Max said. “I just came in. Was that rude?”
Max wore a face mask that matched his brown suit which matched his brown eyes. He was very handsome.
“Not at all,” Noelle said from her position across the kitchen counter. “We’re busy all day doing things.”
“Learning things,” Charlie corrected.
“Right,” Noelle said with a grin. “We’re learning how to make a cake.”
Noelle leaned back to show her small cakes. Max noticed that every child had a cake in front of them.
“We’re learning life things,” Teddy said. “We’re going to O’Malley’s this afternoon to practice our swimming.”
“Five,” Jeraine said.
“This is really organized,” Max said, almost to himself.
“Jill and Sandy,” Jeraine said. “Everyone has something that they know really well. I’m teaching guitar and cake making.”
“Jake’s been teaching me carpentry,” Nash said.
“I’ve been learning Spanish,” Noelle said.
“Me too,” Tink said.
“I’ve been working on divination with Delphie,” Ivy said, shyly. “And I’m learning how to knit.”
“Oh, we’re all learning to knit too,” Tink said.
All of the teens nodded.
“When the Fey kids were here, they learned to knit too,” Ivy said.
“Why?” Max asked.
“They get to spend time with Dephie,” Jeraine said at the same time Noelle said, “They made something for their parents.”
“Sounds good to me,” Max said.
“Your teacher, Steve, comes every other day to help with martial arts,” Charlie said.
“Nice of him,” Max said.
“If you hang around any longer, you’ll be teaching soon too,” Jeraine said with a laugh.
“What does Fin teach?” Max asked with a knowing grin.
“History,” Charlie said. “He has a remarkable knowledge of world history.”
“Going back before the European glaciers melted,” Noelle said.
“It’s cool,” Nash said.
“Sounds like I should come to that class,” Max said.
The children nodded.
“Most of us manage to make his class,” Jeraine said. “It’s fascinating. Since he’s a. . .”
“Fairy,” Noelle whispered.
“He can show us what it looked like,” Jeraine said. “I have a much better understanding of. . . really everything.”
“We’ve been working on pandemics,” Tink said.
“Now that I should listen in on,” Max said.
“I’m sure you’re welcome,” Jeraine said. “His dad loves Alex.”
“So I’ve heard,” Max said with a grin.
“We moved it to dinner time so everyone could learn,” Noelle said.
“Dinner time?” Max asked.
“Six,” Charlie said. “Tonight, he’s going to show us the black plague.”
Max nodded but didn’t say anything.
“This is almost done,” Jeraine said. To the kids, he asked, “How do we know it’s done?”
“Oh, sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt, but I came to get my kids? Alex’s twins?” Max asked. “I think they were with Val and Mike.”
“Val and Mike are at the hospital,” Noelle said.
“She’s having her baby today,” Ivy said.
“Oh,” Max looked a little worried. “Any idea where my kids are?”
“Beau and Chase are out in the greenhouses with Delphie,” Jeraine said. “Máire and Joey are upstairs in the loft.”
Max started toward the back door.
“But the toddlers. . .” Jeraine said.
“The Wild Bunch are playing on the grass,” Charlie said.
“This is their loud and messy time,” Noelle said with a nod.
“If you want to protect your suit, you might want to go out the side door and follow the driveway to the greenhouses,” Jeraine said.
“Why aren’t my kids with the Wild Bunch?” Max asked.
“Chase doesn’t like how loud it gets,” Noelle said. “He gets overwhelmed with the kids get crazy.”
“Val’s been reading him books during the loud time,” Ivy said. “Such a sweet boy.”
Max gave Ivy a worried nod.
“Beau loves to play with the kids, but he’s helping Chase today,” Teddy said.
“Do you think there’s something wrong with Chase?” Max asked looking at Jeraine.
“Not a chance,” Noelle said.
“We had a lot of kids,” Jeraine said. “I think he wasn’t used to it. He doesn’t go to day care?”
Max shook his head.
“John’s siblings take care of the kids,” Max said.
“Then that’s it,” Jeraine said.
“Have they been okay here?” Max asked.
“Hey, Max,” Honey said, coming from her apartment.
“Honey!” Max said.
He held out his arms to hug her. She offered him an elbow which he touched her elbow in return.
“Why don’t I show you the way to where your boys are?” Honey asked. “We can talk on the way.”
“Sounds good,” Max said. “Nice to see all of you. Teddy, do you want to come home with me?”
“Dad’s in Egypt,” Teddy said. “My brother and sister are at my grandparents.”
“He lives here,” Noelle said with a nod.
“Yes, I see that,” Max said. He turned to Honey. “Lead on.”
“Okay, how do we know that the frosting is done?” Jeraine asked.
Grinning, Max and Honey moved into the Castle living room.
“I wanted to talk to you about Beau,” Honey said.
“Yeah?” Max asked.
“He had a few problems early on here,” Honey said.
“What happened?” Max’s anxiety rose.
“He had some spills from his diapers,” Honey said. “He was so embarrassed that my daughter found him crying.”
“Poor Beau,” Max said. “He’s such a little guy.”
“My daughter, Maggie, and Heather’s son, Mack, brought Beau to me,” Honey said. “I was able to get him cleaned up. The three of them played. They’ve become fast friends.”
Max looked relieved.
“I wanted to show you some tricks that I use for Maggie,” Honey said. “I mean, she doesn’t use a diaper much anymore, but when she was Beau’s age, she was tiny. Would you like me to show you?”
“Please,” Max said.
Honey gave him a thumbs up. They went into her apartment where she showed him what she did for Beau.
“You should also know,” Honey said.
With his suit jacket off, his sleeves rolled up, and his tie tucked into his shirt, Max was in the middle of practicing the diaper tricks Honey had showed him.
“Yeah?” Max asked.
“Beau’s grown a bit while he’s been here,” Honey said.
“Huh,” Max said. “How’s that?”
He held up the diaper for Honey to see.
“Nice!” Honey said. “It makes a lot more sense when you’re working with a kid.”
“A wiggly, giggly kid?” Max asked.
“There’s that, too,” Honey said with a smile. “Shall we go find your boys?”
Denver Cereal continues next week...