Chapter Six Hundred and Twenty-Four: Getting ready
Chapter Six Hundred and Twenty-Six: The picture of the pandemic

Chapter Six Hundred and Twenty-Five: Every living thing has friends


Quanshay snuck a glance at Tanesha and saw only compassion in her eyes.

“I haven’t been sleeping,” Quanshay said. “That’s the truth of it. We had to close our nail business and I owe all this money to John Drayson and Royce is gone and we’re going to have to close the nail salon for good and then what? I mean, how we going to pay rent if we can’t work? And this virus is going to kill us all. And the kids are either screaming at each other or screaming at me. . .”

Quanshay began to cry. Tanesha reached out to Quanshay so that her hand touched the upset young woman’s shoulder. They sat like that for a long moment.

“Quanshay?” Honey asked from the kitchen door.

“Oh, Honey,” Quanshay said. She glanced at Tanesha. “Honey’s a Fey wife.”

Tanesha nodded. Quanshay looked at Honey

“I forgot that you lived here,” Quanshay said.

“My father’s partner owns this home,” Honey said. “MJ and I moved in right after we were married.”

Honey gave Tanesha a concerned look.

“She needs rest,” Tanesha said. “Quiet.”

“Why don’t you come with me?” Honey asked. “We have an extra bedroom. You can get some rest and quiet.”

“Isn’t Hermes in there?” Tanesha asked.

“Charlie moved him somewhere else,” Honey said. “Maggie and I would love to have you stay with us, Quanshay. From one Fey family to another, you are most welcome.”

Quanshay looked at Tanesha.

“Will you tell my children where I am?” Quanshay asked Tanesha. “If they decide they want to see me.”

“Of course,” Tanesha said.

She nodded to encourage Quanshay. Tanesha hugged her.

“You’re walking pretty good now,” Quanshay said to Honey as they walked away.

Honey’s response was lost as the women walked away. Tanesha sat at the table for a long moment.

“Did you figure out what was going on?” Jeraine asked.

“She’s tired,” Tanesha said. “Overwrought. She just needs some sleep.”

Jeraine took a cookie and ate it.

“Did you have a poster of you without your top and pulling your pants down with your thumb?” Tanesha asked.

Jeraine thought for a moment and then shrugged.

“I am very sexy,” Jeraine said without a hint of self-modesty.

Tanesha laughed. He held out his arms. She got up and hugged him.

“Why did you ask about the poster?” Jeraine asked.

“She had one,” Tanesha said.

“Ah,” Jeraine said. “When you have all of this. . .” He waved his hands across his body. “The women go crazy.”

He looked at Tanesha, and they both laughed.

“I’m going for a swim,” Tanesha said. “You?”

“I’m still helping Jake,” Jeraine said. “Your dad’s here. Still.”

“Mom?” Tanesha asked.

“She and Delphie went off with Maresol,” Jeraine said.

Nodding, Tanesha sighed.

“You’d better get swimming before your time is gone,” Jeraine said.

She pulled down her mask to kiss him.

“How did Jabari do at the doctor?” Tanesha asked, pulling up her mask.

“Dr. Bumpy wants him to isolate for another week, but he thought the virus had passed,” Jeraine said. “No fever. He seems fine.”

Tanesha gave Jeraine a distracted nod.

“Where is he now?” Tanesha asked.

“He’s outside with Maggie and Mack,” Jeraine said. “They are playing isolation. It’s really cute. You go swim. I’ll watch him. We’re okay.”

Tanesha nodded. He pushed her on her way. She went into the downstairs bathroom and changed.

This virus was exhausting and disheartening. Everyone seemed at a breaking point. But Tanesha knew in her heart that they were just getting started with it. She felt lucky that she had so much support from people who loved her.

She wondered how long it would last. Shaking her head at her own gloom, she left the bathroom to go for a swim.


Friday morning — 5:12 a.m.

Jacob was standing on the deck drinking a cup of warm tea when he felt more than saw a shadow by the chicken coop. Curious, Jacob went down the deck steps to the grass. He walked across the frost crisp grass to where someone in a hospital gown was standing.

“Gandy?” Jacob asked to the naked backside of Gando Peaches.

Gando jerked around in place. His eyebrows dropped in a scowl as he looked at Jacob.

“Wha. . .?” Gando asked. “I. . .”

Remembering his mask, Jacob reached into his pocket and put the cloth mask on. Gando’s eyes watched Jacob’s movements. Gando blinked.

“I don’t have one of those,” Gando said.

Jacob took another mask out of his pocket and held it out to Gando. The man looked at Jacob’s hand for a long moment before taking the mask. They waited a few seconds while Gando put on the mask. Jacob waited for Gando to say something. A few curious chickens peered out of the coop to see what was going on.

“Where am I?” Gando asked.

“You’re standing in the backyard of my mother’s old place,” Jacob said. “You remember. We call it the ‘Castle’?”

“That burned out shack you lived in when you were in high school?” Gando asked, looking around at the back of the building.

“You used to come through here when you were on leave,” Jacob said.

Gando nodded.

“How do I know you?” Gando asked.

“I was in the state meet that your little sister ran in. You sat next to my mom and Delphie in the bleachers? Remember? Delphie’s an oracle,” Jacob said. “They told you to stop by when you were in town. I met you when you came to the house. I do remodeling and contracting for Max and John? I am married to Jill Roper?”

“That fast chick from East High,” Gando nodded. “She blew my sister out of the water at that meet. Roper’s little sister.”

Jacob nodded.

“How did I get here?” Gando asked.

“Your partner, Hecate, brought you,” Jacob said.

Gando gave Jacob a vague nod.

“I hear the truth in your words,” Gando said with a shake of his head. “I have no memory of anyone named ‘Hecate.’”

“She’s a Titan,” Jacob said. “Very beautiful. Powerful.”

“I’m partnered with a Titan?” Gando asked with a laugh. “You mean, like ancestors to the Greek Gods?”

Jacob gave him a slight nod.

“Aren’t they dead?” Gando asked. Answering his own question, he said, “No, I know they aren’t dead.”

Gando put his hand on his chest.

“What’s the last thing you remember?” Jacob asked.

“I woke up and heard the chickens,” Gando said. “New flock?”

“They combined five chickens from two separate flocks yesterday,” Jacob said. “This is a new flock of ten.”

“They are unsure,” Gando said. “Calling for their friends.”

“Chickens have friends?” Jacob asked.

“Every living thing has friends,” Gando said. He was silent for a moment. “These chickens. . . They were prepared to be separated. They don’t mind being here. Listen. . .”

For a moment, the men listened to the sounds of the chickens in their new roost. Gando looked at Jacob.

“Whoever combined the birds. . .” Gando said.

“Rodney Smith,” Jacob said.

“. . .did a good job of it,” Gando said. “Do I know Rodney Smith?”

“You’ve met him,” Jacob said. “His wife is a child of. . .”

“Urial,” Gando said. “I remember her. Yvonne. She has a daughter. Tanesha?”

“Married to the R and B star, Jeraine?” Jacob asked.

“We used to listen to him in Iraq,” Gando said with a slight nod. “Basic. You built that office of Alex’s?”

“Twice.” Jacob nodded.

“I’ve spent nights on that floor,” Gando said. “Warm, safe, secure, talking about nothing.”

Jacob nodded.

“What do you remember before waking up this morning?” Jacob asked.

“Oh memory,” Gando said. He smiled at Jacob. “As a shaman, I see time, experience, memory like a river. I remember everything and nothing.”

“You don’t remember anything before waking up this morning?” Jacob asked.

Gando grinned.

“You’ve spent a lot of time with Delphie, the true oracle,” Gando said.

“I have,” Jacob said.

“I know what you’re asking,” Gando said. “I remember Roper. Mike. Mike Roper. I remember coming here on the wings of an enormous bird. I remember. . . what am I sick with?”

“Coronavirus,” Jacob said. “New one.”

“The people are suffering,” Gando nodded. “I sense that Ooljee is here. Her brother, too.”

Gando looked at Jacob.

“Why am I here?” Gando asked.

“My wife and her family. . .” Jacob started.

“Roper,” Gando said. He nodded and then looked at Jacob again. “I have always knows this about Roper.”

Gando nodded and turned his attention back to the chickens. Jacob waited a long moment for Gando to say something else. When he didn’t, Jacob put his hand on Gando’s shoulder. Gando turned and looked at Jacob as if he were seeing Jacob for the first time.

“Gandy?” Jacob asked.

Gando shook himself head to toe and then weaved. Jacob stabilized him with a hand.

“Could you lead me back to my bed?” Gando asked. “You are. . .?”

“Marlowe,” Jacob said.

“Jake, I know him. Jake Marlowe,” Gando said, almost to himself. “I feel a fatigue that. . . Where is my beloved? I miss her desperately.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t know,” Jacob said. “She’s gone somewhere beyond this world for fear of being charged with causing this pandemic.”

“Pandemic,” Gando nodded. “Yes, that’s what this is.”

“Let’s get you back in bed,” Jacob said.

Gando’s knees gave out. Jacob put his arm around Gando and helped him across the grass and up the wooden stairs. They passed the hot tub and went into the medical offices. The nurse was sound asleep in a chair between Julie Hargreaves bed and an empty bed.

Jacob loudly cleared his throat. She jumped up and took the other side of Gando. Jacob left her to get him settled in his bed.

“Hey Marlowe,” Gando croaked as Jacob walked away.

Jacob turned around to look at him.

“Thanks,” Gando said.

Jacob lifted a hand in waving but saw that Gando’s eyes had closed. He nodded to the nurse and left the medical offices. He hustled back to the loft where he changed his clothing and went in to see Jill. She was asleep.

“Sorry to wake you,” Jacob said. “Would you mind checking me?”

“Of course,” Jill said, sitting up.

“I saw Gando,” Jacob said, his voice fast and anxious. “He was standing outside the chickens. He said they called to him and then he needed help back to the medical offices and. . .”

“You’re okay,” Jill said. “He must be a lot better.”

“I guess so,” Jacob said. “He seemed really out of it.”

“Understandable,” Jill said.

She kissed him, and he smiled.

“Why are you up so early?” Jill asked.

“I wanted to make a dent into the greenhouses before the helpers arrived,” Jacob said.

“Good thinking,” Jill said.

“I have to be at Lipson this afternoon,” Jacob said.

“Sounds like a busy day,” Jill said.

“We’re finishing our first week of job sharing,” Jacob said. “There’s a site manager meeting and I need to check in with quotes and. . .”

He sighed.

“Go back to sleep,” he said. “I’ll be outside when you get up.”

She nodded and lay back down. He pulled on clean clothing and went outside to start working on the greenhouses.


Friday morning — 8:15 a.m.

“Jake?” Delphie called.

Jacob looked up from where he was building the wooden structure for the third greenhouse.

“Here!” Jacob waved.

Delphie came over to where he was working. Having worked alone all morning, Jacob took a clean mask from his pocket and put it on as Delphie approached.

“I. . . um. . . well. . .” Delphie said.

Jacob stood up and hugged Delphie tight.

“You do not owe an apology,” Jacob said, softly. “We’re all at our wits end without dad.”

Delphie cried into Jacob’s shoulder for a moment before she mastered herself. He pulled back to a safe six feet away.

“I am your servant,” Jacob said. He gestured to the garden and the house. “You should know that by now.”

“But you’re married now and have kids and. . .” Delphie sighed. “I’m out of my mind.”

“Yes, I know,” Jacob said. “Me too.”

They would have hugged again, but they nodded instead.

“Don’t suffer,” Jacob said.

Delphie looked shocked and hurt.

“Please,” Jacob said. “You are so good at suffering that you don’t even notice when you’re doing it. I see it. Val, Mike, Jill, Yvonne, Rodney — we all see you suffering.”

Delphie’s hand went to her heart.

“Just tell me what you need and I’ll make it happen,” Jacob said. “You have to know by now that I will move heaven and earth for you.”

Delphie gave him a slight nod. Her eyes welled with tears and her mouth opened and closed. Jacob gave her a nod in silent communication. To give her some emotional space, he turned his attention to the greenhouses.

“What do you think?” Jacob asked.

“You’ve finished two?” Delphie asked.

“I’ve been saving windows for years,” Jacob said. “The first was mostly done last night, and I put the other one together this morning. I’m just working on the third.”

“Where will everyone park?” Delphie asked, her voice rising with anxiety. “They’ll be so angry with me for taking up all this space and. . .”

Jacob shook his head so violently that she stopped talking.

“I bought the lot next us,” Jacob said.

“Last year,” Delphie said.

“Nearly three years ago,” Jacob said. “Everyone’s parked there now.”

The land that the Castle sat on was about three feet above the lot just to the south. Long before Delphie and Celia had moved here, someone had laid a thick layer of concrete on the slope between the properties. Delphie looked down to see everyone’s cars.

“When I finish here, I’ll build some stairs down,” Jacob said. “The fence guys will be here today to add onto this one. There’s a couple of ways they can do it. It will be interesting to see what they do.”

Delphie nodded.

“I talked to the store and they said that it wouldn’t affect them to have the fence there,” Jacob said.

“We just have to move their trash and recycling,” Delphie said as if she were waking up from a dream.

“Exactly,” Jacob said. “Val asked for stairs so she doesn’t have to go out to the street with the kids.”

Delphie nodded. She looked up at Jacob.

“You have it all worked out,” Delphie said.

“I do my best, ma’am,” Jacob said.

Delphie grinned at the sarcastic come back he used to say in high school. He grinned.

“You’re my. . .” he started.

“I’m your Delphie,” she said at the same time.

He smiled.

“The one question we have is whether we want to replace this wood shingles with brick,” Jacob said.

Delphie nodded.

“Oh, Jacob, what do you think I should do?” Jacob said in a ridiculous imitation of Delphie.

“When are the brickies coming?” Delphie asked with a grin.

“Brickies!” Jacob said with glee.

“That’s what they are called, right?” Delphie asked. “I thought that’s what you called them.”

“I do,” Jacob said. “And yes, your boyfriend Ramon will be here this morning.”

“Finally,” Delphie said flippantly. “What’s the point of having a boyfriend if he’s never around?”

Jacob burst out laughing. Her eyes sparkled with glee.

“I expect you to be finished with this by breakfast,” she said with a pretend sniff.

Jacob stopped moving. He looked up and then tipped his head to the side.

“What is it?” Delphie asked.

Valerie came running out of the house screaming: “Dad’s coming home!”

Jacob and Delphie hugged again. Valerie threw herself onto them. The three hugged each other for a long time.

“I’ll go get him,” Jacob said.

“I’ll go,” Delphie said.

“I’ll go,” Valerie said.

“I’m leaving,” Mike said.

They turned to look at Mike, who was walking toward them. It made a lot of sense for Mike to pick up Sam because Mike couldn’t get sick.

“You don’t mind?” Delphie asked.

“You’re my Delphie too,” Mike said.

He walked passed them, slid down the cement edge from the Castle to where the cars were parked, and drove away.

“Come on, Delphie,” Valerie said. “Let’s have some tea and get ready for Dad.”

“What did John tell you?” Delphie asked.

“Dr. Drayson said that Dad was being discharged,” Valerie said. “He was still sick and would need to be monitored but he didn’t need a hospital anymore.”

Valerie smiled bright and big.

“He said that we were doing such a great job with Julie and Gandy that he was sure we could care for Dad,” Valerie said.

Delphie started to laugh and Jacob followed. Valerie couldn’t help to join in. They laughed insanely for a few minutes and then hugged each other again.

“I’ll go tell the nurse,” Valerie said running across the yard.

“I’d better get Sam’s things ready,” Delphie said.

In a few minutes, Jacob was alone with the greenhouse again. Shrugging, he went back to work.

Denver Cereal continues next week...



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