Previous month:
January 2021
Next month:
March 2021

February 2021

Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-three - It's a matter of air flow (entire)

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.”

Helen nodded.

“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.

Helen nodded.

“Brand new,” Orin said. “Everything. New from scratch.”

Helen nodded.

“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.

Max grinned.

“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.”

Teddy shrugged.

“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.”

Honey nodded.

“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...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-three - It's a matter of air flow (part six)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-THREE

(part six)

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.”

Teddy shrugged.

“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.”

Honey nodded.

“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 on Monday...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-three - It's a matter of air flow (part five)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-THREE

(part five)

“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.

Max grinned.

“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.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-three - It's a matter of air flow (part four)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-THREE

(part four)

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.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-three - It's a matter of air flow (part three)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-THREE

(part three)

“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.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-three - It's a matter of air flow (part two)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-THREE

(part two)

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.

Helen nodded.

“Brand new,” Orin said. “Everything. New from scratch.”

Helen nodded.

“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.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-three - It's a matter of air flow (part one)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-THREE

(part one)

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.”

Helen nodded.

“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.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-two: Can you call those assholes?

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-TWO

Monday early-morning — 3:21 a.m.

“Hey,” Jacob said in a soft voice.

Jill was sitting in their reclining love seat near the windows. He could just see the top of her head over the cushion. When he came around the loveseat, he saw that Jill an arm over Katy and another over Paddie. The children’s faces were tucked up between the couch and her body.

Jill opened her eyes when Jacob touched her knee. She gave him a lovely smile which his body responded to immediately. Grinning at his lust, she glanced from side to side. He gave a nod to acknowledge the children.

“What’s happened?” Jill whispered.

“I’ve been waiting for a call from the governor,” Jacob said.

Jill nodded as if that was obvious. He looked a little embarrassed but continued.

“He just called,” Jacob said. “We have funding for ‘at least’ one of the projects, possibly all of them.”

“But he’s not sure?” Jill asked.

“He’s only sure about the one,” Jacob said. “We should know more by the end of today.”

“What does that mean?” Jill asked.

“He wants us to get the first project up and running,” Jacob said. “He said that it will show people that we can do the project ‘safely and efficiently even in a pandemic.’ He wants to tour the site by no later than this afternoon.”

“Yikes,” Jill said. “What will you do?”

“I’ll call Aden,” Jacob said. “But. . .”

“His hands are full with all of this job share stuff,” Jill said.

“Exactly,” Jacob said. “Do you know if Blane and Heather are in the new house?”

“They finished moving in last night,” Jill said. “After dinner with the Templars.”

Jacob gave a worried nod. His eyes drifted across the street. He wondered if he should interrupt Blane now that his dreams had come true.

“You were working on this,” Jill said.

Jacob’s eyes flicked back to her. She nodded.

“You should call him,” Jill said.

“Who?” Jacob asked.

“Blane,” Jill said. “He’s waiting for your call.”

“But. . .” Jacob said.

“He’s your friend and cousin,” Jill said. “He’d want you to call.”

Jacob gave her a worried nod. He and Blane had gotten close after Enrique was out of Blane’s life. In all of their years together, Blane hadn’t had a love relationship. As happy as he was for Blane, he worried about what that meant for him.

“You’re being silly,” Jill said.

He scowled rather than admit that she was right.

“What happened here?” Jacob nodded toward Paddie and Katy.

“Their friends went home,” Jill said. “Paddie has been so sick that he and Katy haven’t been able to play with their friends. He’s ready to play now, and they’ve gone home.”

“And Katy?” Jacob asked, reaching out to smooth his precious daughter’s hair.

“Our daughter will never miss a chance to participate in a meltdown,” Jill said.

Jacob grinned.

“How is Julie?” Jacob asked.

“She went home today with Connor,” Jill said. “We thought that it was a good chance for her to see if how she does at home. She called around dinner time and said that she is okay. Cian sent that boy Hermes over with dinner. You remember him?”

Jacob nodded.

“Hermes is staying with her,” Jill said. “Samantha home back last night; Erin, too. Julie thinks that she’ll be okay.”

“Paddie?” Jacob asked.

“He’s going to stay here until she has a chance to get settled,” Jill said. “Colin will be home in next day or so. When they’re settled, Paddie will go home.”

“Or not,” Jacob said.

“Does it matter?” Jill asked.

“Not to me,” Jacob said.

Jill nodded.

“All of the kids are gone?” Jacob asked.

“The visitors,” Jill said. “Most of them. Beau and Chase are asleep with our boys.”

“I saw Max,” Jacob said. “He returned from Washington this afternoon. He said that he would be home mid-day and pick them up. I guess, Wyatt’s been working like a madman.”

“John, too,” Jill said. “Alex and John’s kids are staying with Val and Mike.”

“Cian came to pick up his own kids?” Jacob asked, allowing his judgement to seep into his voice.

“Hey, Ooljee said that she wanted to be here,” Jill said responding to his judgement. “She said that she bugged him mercilessly so that they could come here. He didn’t know that his son was sick because he’d been with his grandparents.”

“You’re right,” Jacob said. “I shouldn’t judge.”

He nodded and looked away from her.

“They did have fun, didn’t they?” Jacob asked.

“They did,” Jill said. “It’s been really fun.”

Jacob grinned.

“You’ll have to open the Marlowe School,” Jill said, almost to herself.

Jacob nodded. He looked away and then back at Jill.

“I have so much to do,” he said. “All I want to do is crawl onto the couch with you and the kids.”

Jill gave him a soft smile.

“I’d like that too,” Jill said.

Jacob looked away again.

“This pandemic is going to ask a lot of us,” Jacob said. “We’ve already been stretched in ways we never would have expected. There’s no way to know what’s going to happen next.”

“That always seems to be the case,” Jill said. “Just a few years ago, I could have never in my wildest dreams imagined the life we have now.”

Jacob smiled.

“We’ll be okay,” Jill said.

Jacob gave her a worried nod.

“I should go,” Jacob said.

“Call Blane,” Jill said.

“Go to bed,” Jacob said.

Jill grinned at him.

“Good plan,” Jill said. “Can you. . .?”

Jacob picked up Katy. Sound asleep, Katy nestled into him. Jill held out Paddie and Jacob took the child from her. Jill got up.

“Actually. . .” Jill pointed to the small restroom out here.

Jacob nodded. Jill slipped into the restroom. Jacob carried Paddie and Katy to Katy’s room. Jill returned in time to slipped Katy into her bed while Jacob was changing Paddie. Jill put Paddie into his bed. The children settled in to the warm quiet of their familiar beds.

Jill kissed Jacob as he pulled the door to Katy’s room closed.

“Good luck today,” Jill said. “Remember, you’ll be called to do things that you cannot imagine doing.”

“Delphie?” Jacob asked.

“You,” Jill said. She kissed him again. “We’ll be fine.”

“Thanks for taking care of everything that matters,” Jacob said.

She gave him a soft smile. He stroked her cheek and turned to leave. He looked back when he reached the door. She was just moving into their bedroom.

Smiling to himself, he left the loft and dialed Blane. He was halfway down the stairs when Blane picked up.

“Where are you?” Jacob asked.

“Waiting for you in the kitchen,” Blane said with a laugh.

“What?” Jacob asked.

Jacob made it down the stairs. He saw Blane standing in the kitchen making coffee. Jacob hugged him.

“How did you know?” Jacob asked.

“I know the man,” Blane said with a grin.

“Delphie?” Jacob asked.

“No, actually,” Blane said. “I just. . . I don’t know, I knew you’d get something going.”

Jacob laughed.

“We need to go,” Jacob said. “The governor thinks that we can get the funding for the other two sites, but only if we get this one up and running today. He wants to tour it with the press so he can show how Colorado gets things done safely.”

“Then let’s get it up and running,” Blane said.

“I have to call. . .” Jacob started.

Aden came into the kitchen. Jacob’s mouth fell open. Laughing, Blane held out an arm and the men hugged.

“How. . .?” Jacob asked.

“We moved back last night,” Aden said. “I thought it was foolish, but Sandy wanted to be with her friends and the kids. Plus, that Quanshay did her toes. Sandy’s been very upset about her ‘ugly toes.’”

The men gave each other baffled shakes of the head. Aden shrugged.

“What can I say?” Aden said with a shrug. “I’d do anything for her.”

Aden smiled and put his hand on Jacob’s, “And you.”

Aden looked at Blane.

“What’s next?” Aden asked.

“The governor wants us to get a site up and running. He wants to show it off today,” Blane said. “If we can get the site up and running, then he thinks that he can get the money flowing.”

“Let’s get a site up,” Aden said.

“Aren’t you too busy with. . .?” Jacob started.

“Bambi and Honey have that,” Aden said. “Let’s call Rodney and see if he can get his people going.”

“Between his team and DeShawn, Jason, and Pete, we’ll have people on site in an hour or so,” Blane said. “We should call Mark.”

“He and his team are subbing in with Honey,” Jacob said.

“At his insistence,” Aden said.

“At least we don’t have to listen to him complain,” Blane said.

“Speak for yourself,” Jacob said. “Okay, I’ll call Rodney. Blane, can you contact the equipment guys? We need to move everything to the new site.”

“They’ll complain,” Blane said.

“Everyone has a complaint,” Jacob said. “It’s tough, stressful times.”

Blane nodded and started dialing.

“Me?” Aden asked.

“We need the entire executive team,” Jacob said. “Contracting, evaluation, those guys in. . . what do you call it? Your new group?”

“Carbon neutral,” Aden said.

“Can I help son?” Sam’s scratched and breathy voice came from behind them.

Shocked, the men turned to look at Jacob’s dad. Jacob’s eyes welled with tears.

“Dad,” Jacob said.

“I’m not at my full strength son, but I can certainly make phone calls,” Sam said.

“Great,” Aden said. He put a cell phone into Sam’s hand. “Can you call those assholes in. . .”

“Scheduling?” Sam said with a cough-like laugh. “Of course.”

“We need a schedule for this project,” Jacob said, over Blane talking into his cell phone. “We weren’t supposed to start it for three months.”

“Got it,” Sam croaked.

Jacob guided his father into a chair at the kitchen table. The men set to work. By the time the sun was rising, equipment was moving toward the new site and the building crew were on site, ready to build out the buildings needed to get the project going. Rodney and the other site managers had set up a rotation of their people. With luck, by mid-day, they would the site would be ready for review.

“You know what the governor said?” Jacob asked in a quiet moment. Aden, Blane, and Sam turned to look at him. “He said that he could give us this work because of our mask policy. Crazy. These masks are putting people to work.”

“People wearing the mask,” Aden said.

“Delphie was right,” Blane said.

“As usual,” Aden said.

“You boys have done a great job,” Sam said.

The men stopped what they were doing to look at Sam. Sam nodded in agreement to his statement. They all grinned.

“We’re not there yet,” Jacob said.

They got back to work.

~~~~~~~~~~

Monday morning — 8:07 a.m.

“You have to press. . .” Tres Sierra pointed to a button on the computer.

“This one?” Sam Lipson asked.

Sam’s pointer finger was out and hovering. Tres nodded. Sam pressed the button and suddenly a woman’s face appeared on the screen. She looked surprised. Her face broke into a wide smile, but she shook her head.

“You have to turn on the. . .” Tres said.

Sam hit the button to turn off the mute.

“Sam!” Helen Seigle, chief executive of the Marlowe School, said. “You are a sight for sore eyes!”

“Helen!” Sam replied.

“It’s great to see you,” Helen said. “How are you feeling?”

“Better,” Sam said. “I still get waves of exhaustion. The fatigue is. . .”

Sam shook his head. Helen nodded in empathy.

“But the docs say that the virus is gone,” Sam said. “I still wear a mask when people are around or they wear them around me.”

Sam gestured to Tres, who was out of the picture.

“I’m here with Tres,” Sam said. “We’re at their new house. It’s gorgeous. You should see it.”

Helen’s smile faded.

“Listen, as nice as it is to see you, I was waiting for Val,” Helen said. “We have to figure out what to do with the kids. Jacob said that they are going to open three more sites which means that. . .”

“A lot of kids will be at home by themselves,” Sam said with a nod.

“Exactly,” Helen said. “Is Val around?”

“She and Mike went to the hospital,” Sam said.

“Is she in labor?” Helen asked.

“Her doctor wants to induce labor,” Sam said. “Something, something. I’m sorry I never can keep it all straight.”

Sam looked at Tres, who was setting up his laptop.

“Do you know?” Sam asked.

Tres shook his head.

“Tres doesn’t know either,” Sam said.

“I hate to wait,” Helen said, “but if Val’s in labor, I totally understand.”

“Oh, sorry,” Sam said. “You have me and Tres. We’re taking over for Val until she can come back. She wanted me to assure you that she was still in charge.”

Helen laughed.

“Jake’s up to his eyeballs in worksites and the state funding and all the insanity that goes with that,” Sam took a wheezing breath. “So you have me.”

“And me!” Tres’s voice came from the room.

Helen looked at little worried but she nodded.

“So you have us,” Sam said.

Tres face appeared in the computer video call.

“Helen,” Tres said. “I’m here to talk about financing. We clearly need to make changes.”

“We do,” Helen said.

“That costs money,” Tres said. “Even if we do it ourselves.”

“Got it,” Helen said.

“Why don’t you tell us what you’re thinking?” Sam asked.

“I know it’s a pain, but since it’s our first meeting in our new positions, I wonder if you could give us an overview of what’s going on,” Tres added.

“I know that I should know this but what do you do, Tres?” Helen asked.

“I’m the CFO of Lipson,” Tres said. “Jake asked me to manage the Marlowe School fund a few years ago. You know, when he was hit with the pipe wrench and all of that?”

Looking worried, Helen nodded.

“I have all of your figures,” Tres said. “I can also give you a report on how the larger fund is doing.”

“Okay,” Helen said, drawing out the word.

“And I’m Sam Lipson,” Sam said, with a snort of a laugh which turned into a brief cough.

Helen grinned at Sam.

“Okay,” Helen said. “Here’s our an overview of our problem — we have kids who have needs, educationally or emotionally, and we have parents who need childcare.”

“And hope,” Sam said. “You probably heard but the Castle here was full of kids from that military team that MJ’s on. It was crazy. But we were happy to do it because their parents were so stressed.”

“I saw that picture of the woman and Jeraine,” Helen said.

“Jeraine taught the kids guitar to the kids who wanted to learn every afternoon,” Sam said.

“They weren’t any good but they had fun,” Tres added.

Helen smiled.

“We have a lot of our own kids,” Helen said. “Plus as a state childcare provider, I wouldn’t be surprised if people want to bring their kids to us.”

“The daycares are closed,” Tres said in agreement.

“Jake asked me to ask you,” Sam said. He put on his reading glasses and lifted up a piece of paper. “The state has mandated that schools and daycares are closed. But since we’re private, we have a little wiggle room. Do you know what that is?”

Sam looked up.

“The district said that if a school figure out a way to do it safely, then it’s okay to be open,” Helen said. “We have to protect our teachers and our students.”

“Oh,” Sam said. “I didn’t realize that was the level of what we’re dealing with.”

“It’s a lot to deal with,” Helen said. “We have people who want to work but they need a place to help with their kids. We can’t be open as a school because it’s not safe.”

“We shouldn’t be open if the kids or the teachers aren’t safe,” Sam said.

“Of course,” Helen said. “I’m told that I need to take care of kids so that all these workers can work at the same time I’m told to stay closed. It makes me crazy.”

“I bet,” Tres said.

“Jerry said that you weren’t sleeping,” Sam nodded.

“Sleep?” Helen asked. “What’s that?”

Denver Cereal continues on Monday...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-two: Can you call those assholes? (part six)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-TWO

(part six)

“Why don’t you tell us what you’re thinking?” Sam asked.

“I know it’s a pain, but since it’s our first meeting in our new positions, I wonder if you could give us an overview of what’s going on,” Tres added.

“I know that I should know this but what do you do, Tres?” Helen asked.

“I’m the CFO of Lipson,” Tres said. “Jake asked me to manage the Marlowe School fund a few years ago. You know, when he was hit with the pipe wrench and all of that?”

Looking worried, Helen nodded.

“I have all of your figures,” Tres said. “I can also give you a report on how the larger fund is doing.”

“Okay,” Helen said, drawing out the word.

“And I’m Sam Lipson,” Sam said, with a snort of a laugh which turned into a brief cough.

Helen grinned at Sam.

“Okay,” Helen said. “Here’s our an overview of our problem — we have kids who have needs, educationally or emotionally, and we have parents who need childcare.”

“And hope,” Sam said. “You probably heard but the Castle here was full of kids from that military team that MJ’s on. It was crazy. But we were happy to do it because their parents were so stressed.”

“I saw that picture of the woman and Jeraine,” Helen said.

“Jeraine taught the kids guitar to the kids who wanted to learn every afternoon,” Sam said.

“They weren’t any good but they had fun,” Tres added.

Helen smiled.

“We have a lot of our own kids,” Helen said. “Plus as a state childcare provider, I wouldn’t be surprised if people want to bring their kids to us.”

“The daycares are closed,” Tres said in agreement.

“Jake asked me to ask you,” Sam said. He put on his reading glasses and lifted up a piece of paper. “The state has mandated that schools and daycares are closed. But since we’re private, we have a little wiggle room. Do you know what that is?”

Sam looked up.

“The district said that if a school figure out a way to do it safely, then it’s okay to be open,” Helen said. “We have to protect our teachers and our students.”

“Oh,” Sam said. “I didn’t realize that was the level of what we’re dealing with.”

“It’s a lot to deal with,” Helen said. “We have people who want to work but they need a place to help with their kids. We can’t be open as a school because it’s not safe.”

“We shouldn’t be open if the kids or the teachers aren’t safe,” Sam said.

“Of course,” Helen said. “I’m told that I need to take care of kids so that all these workers can work at the same time I’m told to stay closed. It makes me crazy.”

“I bet,” Tres said.

“Jerry said that you weren’t sleeping,” Sam nodded.

“Sleep?” Helen asked. “What’s that?”

Denver Cereal continues on Monday...


Chapter Six Hundred and Thirty-two: Can you call those assholes? (part five)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-TWO

(part five)

Monday morning — 8:07 a.m.

“You have to press. . .” Tres Sierra pointed to a button on the computer.

“This one?” Sam Lipson asked.

Sam’s pointer finger was out and hovering. Tres nodded. Sam pressed the button and suddenly a woman’s face appeared on the screen. She looked surprised. Her face broke into a wide smile, but she shook her head.

“You have to turn on the. . .” Tres said.

Sam hit the button to turn off the mute.

“Sam!” Helen Seigle, chief executive of the Marlowe School, said. “You are a sight for sore eyes!”

“Helen!” Sam replied.

“It’s great to see you,” Helen said. “How are you feeling?”

“Better,” Sam said. “I still get waves of exhaustion. The fatigue is. . .”

Sam shook his head. Helen nodded in empathy.

“But the docs say that the virus is gone,” Sam said. “I still wear a mask when people are around or they wear them around me.”

Sam gestured to Tres, who was out of the picture.

“I’m here with Tres,” Sam said. “We’re at their new house. It’s gorgeous. You should see it.”

Helen’s smile faded.

“Listen, as nice as it is to see you, I was waiting for Val,” Helen said. “We have to figure out what to do with the kids. Jacob said that they are going to open three more sites which means that. . .”

“A lot of kids will be at home by themselves,” Sam said with a nod.

“Exactly,” Helen said. “Is Val around?”

“She and Mike went to the hospital,” Sam said.

“Is she in labor?” Helen asked.

“Her doctor wants to induce labor,” Sam said. “Something, something. I’m sorry I never can keep it all straight.”

Sam looked at Tres, who was setting up his laptop.

“Do you know?” Sam asked.

Tres shook his head.

“Tres doesn’t know either,” Sam said.

“I hate to wait,” Helen said, “but if Val’s in labor, I totally understand.”

“Oh, sorry,” Sam said. “You have me and Tres. We’re taking over for Val until she can come back. She wanted me to assure you that she was still in charge.”

Helen laughed.

“Jake’s up to his eyeballs in worksites and the state funding and all the insanity that goes with that,” Sam took a wheezing breath. “So you have me.”

“And me!” Tres’s voice came from the room.

Helen looked at little worried but she nodded.

“So you have us,” Sam said.

Tres face appeared in the computer video call.

“Helen,” Tres said. “I’m here to talk about financing. We clearly need to make changes.”

“We do,” Helen said.

“That costs money,” Tres said. “Even if we do it ourselves.”

“Got it,” Helen said.

“Why don’t you tell us what you’re thinking?” Sam asked.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...