CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and TWENTY-FOUR
Thursday mid-day — 12:37 p.m.
“Hey,” Jacob said in a soft voice to Jill’s back.
Jill turned to look at him. She was standing in the loft nursery and holding Bidzil, Margaret Peaches’ young son. He was sleepily drinking a bottle of what looked like milk.
“How is he?” Jacob asked.
“A lot better,” Jill said. “Few more days and he’ll be ready to join the others playing.”
“Good,” Jacob said. “What does he have?”
“Parasite,” Jill said. “Particularly nasty one. Dr. Bumpy thought we might have been too late to help him, but he’s responded really well to the treatment.”
“And to your cuddles,” Jacob said.
“It’s nice to have an easy-going child,” Jill said with a grin.
“You mean one that can’t move things with their minds?” Jacob asked with a laugh.
“That, too,” Jill said. She glanced up and grinned at him. “Let me set him down. He’s ready to nap a bit.”
Jill set the child down in a crib and they left the room. Jacob migrated after Jill as she walked toward their small kitchen.
“I saw our boys on the way up,” Jacob said. “Is Katy in her room?”
“She doesn’t want to leave Paddie alone,” Jill said. “Have you eaten?”
Jacob shook his head.
“How’s Paddie?” Jacob asked.
“Much better,” Jill said. “I have an appointment to take him and Jabari to see Dr. Bumpy this afternoon.”
“For a test?” Jacob asked.
“I guess so,” Jill said with a shrug. “I don’t really know how that works. Dr. Bumpy was following Jabari, Paddie, and Connor. John was Julie’s doctor. I think John took care of Paddie and Connor because they’re his nephews.”
“He’s a nice guy,” Jacob said.
“Great doctor,” Jill said. “That’s what Dr. Bumpy says too.”
“Any idea what’s going on in the backyard?” Jacob asked.
“Delphie had a meltdown this morning,” Jill said. “Sandwich? Warmed up soup? Fast food on the way back? Delphie casserole?”
“No,” Jacob said. He closed his eyes and put his hand up like he was protecting his head. “No Delphie casserole. No.”
“I was checking to see if you were listening,” Jill said.
Jacob grinned and leaned over to kiss her. They kissed. He stroked her face.
“I wish. . .” Jill whispered.
“Me too,” Jacob said, with a sigh.
“Too much work,” Jill said.
“Too many people, everywhere,” Jacob said. “Have the teenagers started to clone? When I left the house this morning, there were half of the kids who are here now.”
“Fey Team kids,” Jill said. “Once we had Joey and Máire, they started arriving. They always knew that Teddy lived here. So they knew where to go. Charlie’s done a great job keeping the teens moving in the same direction. He’s. . .amazing. The teens are reading books and talking, mostly. In the afternoon, they play competitive video games.”
“That’s bound to get them fighting,” Jacob said.
“Charlie won’t tolerate it,” Jill said. “If you fight, you can’t play. If you can’t get along, you go home. His rules. So far, it’s worked out great because no one wants to go home.
Jacob nodded. They fell silent as Jill made him a sandwich. She set out some peeled carrots for him to eat while she finished the sandwich.
“Delphie was due for a meltdown,” Jacob said. “Mom and Dad always grounded her. Kept her on an even keel. Since Dad’s sick, it was only a matter of time. Any idea what sparked it?”
“She wanted to get some things done in the backyard,” Jill said.
“Ah,” Jacob said. “I wonder why she didn’t talk to me.”
“She said that you were too busy with work to deal with an old woman’s issues,” Jill said.
“Really,” Jacob said as a statement. “That’s worse than I thought. She was. . . pretty upset?”
“What happened?” Jacob asked.
“Tanesha found her crying in the hallway in the basement. Tanesha called her parents, who came right over,” Jill said. “I mean, like, they were here in fifteen minutes or something. You know how Delphie helped Yvonne when she was trapped. I guess, Rodney told someone that she’d saved his life when he was in prison. They told me that they would show up for Delphie anytime, anywhere.”
“Wow,” Jacob said.
“I know,” Jill said. “Yvonne took Delphie into the dining room. She fed Delphie tea and those breakfast cookies she likes until Delphie was coherent. Delphie had given Charlie this crazy map.”
“I’ve seen those,” Jacob said.
“I bet,” Jill said. “Anyway, Yvonne took Delphie. Rodney got Charlie to tell him what he remembered of what she wanted. Rodney drew it up and they got started with what they could do.”
“I saw some of the Lipson guys out there,” Jacob said. “Jeraine’s out there too.”
“Rodney thinks he’s lazy,” Jill said.
“Compared to Rodney, everyone is lazy,” Jacob said.
Jacob bit into his sandwich. He smiled at her. She’d made the sandwich exactly the way he liked it. She nodded in acknowledgement.
“Are you heading back to Lipson?” Jill asked.
His mouth full, Jacob shook his head. He gestured to the backyard.
“You’re going to help out back?” Jill asked.
“I think so?” Jacob said with a shrug. “I thought maybe I could figure out what’s going on and then look for Delphie.”
“That’s a good idea,” Jill said. “She’s asked me when you’ll be home three times, maybe four. She keeps saying that you and she made this house and. . .”
“She doesn’t want to make me mad,” Jacob said with a smile.
He swallowed down a glass of water that she’d set out for him.
“That’s what she always says,” Jacob said. “Do you know where she is now?”
“With Val,” Jill said. She looked at her watch. “I think they are feeding the little kids.”
Jacob nodded. He moved away and then swept her into his arms. He kissed her hard. She giggled.
“What do I owe this pleasure?” she asked.
“Just love you,” Jacob said. “You’ve given so much in the last few days, flexed with school, and the kids, and the ever growing population of people.”
He kissed her again.
“It’s not easy,” Jacob said. “I appreciate it. Makes me love you even more.”
She smiled and kissed him. He let her go and sped out of the loft to look for Delphie.
She smiled at his back. When the door closed, she went to check on Katy and get Paddie ready for his doctor’s appointment.
Thursday mid-day — 1:37 p.m.
After a long heartfelt conversation involving with Delphie, Jacob went out to the backyard. When he was younger, he would have just asserted his authority. After years at Lipson Construction, he’d learned that everything and everyone had its own logic and rhythm.
He found Rodney and spoke to him about what was going on. He then spoke to the heads of the groups of people working.
Delphie had finally decided that she wanted greenhouses and a chicken run. Because no one was quite sure about the greenhouses, they’d focused on building a chicken coop and run. They were nearly finished with a grand castle for a whole flock of chickens.
The only problem was that they’d built it in the middle of the yard.
With a little nudging, they moved the chicken run to the quiet side yard of the medical offices, an optimal location in the quiet side yard.
“It’s almost as if this spot was set up for chickens,” one of the men said with a smile.
“Imagine that,” Jacob said with a grin.
Jacob left Rodney to sort out introducing the arriving chickens to each other and into their new home.
Jacob turned his attention to the new effort to build greenhouses. Delphie had drawn a map to have them run along the edge of the driveway. Believing that Delphie knew best, Rodney had copied her suggestion.
Of course, the sun ran from east to west and the house was east facing. In Delphie’s configuration, only one of her greenhouses would get full sun. The other two would be in shaded by the first greenhouse. It was the kind of thing that Jacob changed without thinking.
One thing the helpers didn’t know was that Jacob had been accumulating old single paned windows for years. He and Delphie had gone back and forth about the greenhouses since the time that he’d poured the cement for this driveway. He’d been waiting for Delphie to decide that she needed them. After the first whisper of the pandemic, Jacob moved the old windows and salvaged wood to the area between the Mike’s studio, aka the garage, and the new restroom.
Before Jacob arrived, a few of the teenagers, led by Jeraine, were diligently working to make Delphie’s plan happen. Luckily, they hadn’t gotten too far because Jacob arrived.
Jacob led them through his plan for the greenhouses. Under his guidance, everyone got to work.
While the early spring day was by no means warm, they were working in the sun. After a while, the young men stripped off their shirts. A few of the young women stripped to their sports bras.
The warm sun and clear vision made for a happy crew. After a while, Jeraine began to singing his own songs to himself. Completely indifferent to Jeraine’s fame, the teens sang along with him in joyful bliss.
“Hey!” Tres yelled over the happy ruckus. “Jake!”
Jacob looked up from where he was installing an old window into the greenhouse.
“There’s a lady over there screaming,” Tres said.
Jacob looked at Tres and then out to the street where a few paparazzi were milling around.
Jacob looked at Tres and shrugged. Tres pointed to a small black sedan.
Inside, a woman seemed to be screaming and crying.
“Jeraine!” Jacob yelled.
Caught up in his song, Jeraine didn’t respond until one of the teens touched his shoulder. He looked at the girl, who pointed at Jacob.
Jeraine looked up at Jacob.
“Someone’s here to see you,” Jacob said, pointing at the vehicle.
“Hey, that’s J’Ron and Kallyn,” Hope, one of the Fey Team teens, said.
The teens looked up to see their friends.
“Why is their mom screaming?” Tink asked.
“She’s a big fan of Jeraine’s,” Joy, the identical twin of Hope, said. “She always plays him in the car.”
“And at home,” Hope added.
Jeraine scowled at the girls. He grabbed his shirt and started walking to the fence.
“You could come.” Jeraine threw the words to where Jacob and Tres were standing and laughing at him.
Still laughing, Jacob and Tres followed Jeraine to the fence. The closer Jeraine got to the fence, the more excited the woman became. Tres and Jacob openly laughed at Jeraine.
“Ma’am?” Jeraine asked through the gate.
The woman fell still. She pointed to herself.
“Is there something I can help with?” Jeraine asked.
The woman began to cry. Jacob opened the gate and went to the vehicle. Realizing the woman was too upset to open the locks, Jacob flicked his hand and the vehicle’s locks opened. The kids fell out of the vehicle like balls out of the back of a truck.
“Masks!” Tres said as the kids started across the driveway to see the other teens.
The children skid to a stop and pulled cloth masks out of their pocket. They put on their masks on and then ran to their friends.
Jeraine gestured with his head for Jacob and Tres to stand with him. They moved to the driver’s seat where the woman was sobbing. Jacob opened the driver’s side door. Tres helped Jeraine pull her out of the vehicle.
The woman threw her arms around Jeraine.
And the paparazzi’s camera’s started whirring.
Tres and Jacob tried to surround Jeraine and the woman but the paparazzo were more aggressive. Hearing running, Jacob looked up.
The teens were running in their direction. They made a circle around Jeraine and the woman as they shuffled beyond the fence. They got the woman inside the fence and toward the back of the house.
“What are those vultures rabid about this time?” Fin asked as he and Tanesha walked toward the Castle from where the bus had let them off on Eighteenth Street.
“A woman is crying over Jeraine,” Tanesha said.
“Why?” Fin asked.
“He’s a huge star,” Tanesha said. “This happens a lot. Women love him.”
“Jeraine?” Fin asked with a snort of a laugh. “Our Jeraine?”
Tanesha grinned. They walked along the fence until they reached the door.
“There is a small child in the back of that vehicle,” Fin said.
“I’ll get him,” Tanesha said.
“Why?” Fin asked.
Tanesha just laughed at Fin. He gave her his “I am a Prince” shake of his head which made her laugh even harder. She reached in the back sleep and took the sleeping boy out of the vehicle. The child was wrapped in a soft wool blanket. She held his face away from the cameras.
“Can you. . .?” Tanesha asked Fin. She gestured to the paparazzi. “But! Don’t break their cameras this time. Just the pictures of me and any of the child.”
“Tsk,” Fin said. “Would I do that to these fine fellows?”
Tanesha grinned at him. They went in the gate and down the driveway.
“Where’s Jeraine?” Tanesha asked.
“They went inside with a fan of his,” Tres said. “She was hysterical. We took her inside to have a glass of water.”
Tanesha nodded to Tres and started toward the side door.
“What is going on here?” Fin asked, gesturing to the greenhouse project.
“Jake’s building greenhouses,” Tres said. “You know, to grow food.”
“Why?” Fin asked.
Tanesha shook her head at Fin’s ridiculousness and went inside.
“Come on, man,” Tres said. “You could help.”
“I am a Prince!” Fin said. “Plus, I am tired.”
“I get it,” Tres said. “It’s too hard for you.”
Fin growled at Tres. Tres gestured for Fin to go work on the greenhouses.
“Where is my descendant, Jacob?” Fin asked, his Isle of Man distinctive and loud.
Grinning, Tres followed Fin toward the greenhouse.
Thursday afternoon — 2:12 p.m.
Tanesha carried the small child into the house. Once in the door, she set down her backpack while holding the. . . She leaned back to see if it was a girl or a boy and saw a little boy looking up at her.
“Hello,” Tanesha said.
The child slowly closed and opened his eyes before snuggling against her. Smiling, Tanesha followed the noise to where Jeraine was speaking to someone. Jill had her hand on the woman’s shoulder. She carried the boy into the kitchen.
The woman was so upset that she was nearly incoherent.
Tanesha looked at Jill, and she shook her head. The woman wasn’t infected. Tanesha nodded.
Tanesha put her hand on the woman’s arm. Jill retreated.
“Quanshay?” Tanesha asked.
Hearing her own name, the woman stopped talking and crying. She blinked at Jeraine and then looked at Tanesha.
“Miss T?” Quanshay asked.
“I found your son,” Tanesha said. “He was waiting of you in the car.”
Quanshay took the boy from Tanesha. For a moment, the mother and child snuggled each other.
“Mama, can I go play?” the boy asked.
“Yes, you may,” Quanshay said. “But you need your mask.”
“Okay, Mama,” the boy said.
He kissed his mother and put on his mask. She gave the child an extra squeeze and set him down. He stood next to his mom for a moment before being absorbed into the group of children playing in the living room. They watched the child disappear.
“What’s going on?” Tanesha asked. “We saw you crying and then hug Jeraine. That’s so unlike you.”
“I know,” Quanshay said with a nod.
Tanesha gestured for Jeraine and Jacob to leave. They slipped out the back. Tanesha She turned on the pot and grabbed a tin of cookies. She guided Quanshay to the picnic table on the deck overlooking the Castle backyard. She made sure to sit six feet away from Quanshay.
“You’re wearing scrubs,” Quanshay said.
“Fin and I are working at the hospitals,” Tanesha said. “They just need help getting through this wave.”
“Stupid virus,” Quanshay said, adjusting her mask. “Can you believe these fools?”
“I cannot,” Tanesha said. “If you saw what the hospitals are like now. . . It’s just tomfoolery.”
“What happened today?” Tanesha asked.
Tanesha looked up to see Valerie bring out a pot of tea. Valerie set the pot and two mugs down before returning to the house.
“That was Valerie Lipson,” Quanshay said, quietly. “She lives here too?”
“She’s here for now,” Tanesha said. “She’s due in a month or so. After she has the baby, she may leave for a film or whatever. I guess it depends on what happens with the virus.”
Quanshay nodded. Tanesha opened the tin of cookies.
“Cookies!” Nash said appearing from nowhere.
“You don’t like these,” Tanesha said. “Ginger molasses.”
Nash stopped for a moment and then shrugged. He grabbed a handful and disappeared.
“Teenage boys like locusts,” Tanesha said in soft tones to Quanshay. “Please. Have a cookie before the teens multiply.”
Quanshay took out a cookie. Tanesha poured the tea. For a moment, they ate cookies and drank their tea. Quanshay sighed.
“The kids wanted to come here,” Quanshay said. “You know, their friends are here. I. . .” Royce has been home a lot this year. When he’s home, everything works. It’s easy. I sleep well. The kids are happy. We have great days. But he’s been gone a long time this time. I. . .”
Quanshay’s husband, Chief Petty Officer Royce Putnam, was a member of the Fey Team.
“It’s exhausting to hold the line by yourself,” Tanesha said.
“With teens?” Quanshay asked.
“Parents,” Tanesha said. “You were talking about parents, right?”
“That, too.” Quanshay said with a rueful laugh.
“What happened today?” Tanesha asked again.
“I talking to them when we drove up,” Quanshay said. “You know how it is — wear your mask, don’t show your ass, follow the house rules, don’t break anything, these are still white people. . . You know.”
“I sure do,” Tanesha nodded.
“Then I look over and I see Jeraine standing there with his shirt off,” Quanshay said. “I. . . I had that poster when I was in high school. You know the one with his thumb in the front of his shorts pulling them down just low enough to see a little hair; looking so fine. I looked over and saw him standing next to that greenhouse. I remembered all the hope and joy of that time in my life and now with everything and. . . I just lost it.”
Quanshay snuck a glance at Tanesha and saw only compassion in her eyes.
Denver Cereal continues next week...
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