CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FORTY-FIVE
Monday morning — 8:37 a.m.
“Is that everything?” Sam asked.
Delphie went from one greenhouse to another. She looked at him and shook her head. There were three large flatbed trucks full of small plants.
“I can’t find the. . .” Delphie said.
“I put them in the cab of my truck and Jake,” Sam said with a smile. “You told me that the sweet peas were too sensitive to the cold to be in the bed of the truck.”
“Oh, that’s right,” Delphie said, looking relieved. “You said that. Sorry, I just get it stuck in my head that we’re missing something and. . .”
Delphie shook her head. Sam grinned.
“Are we ready?” Jacob asked.
He came out of the Castle with three thick tarps. He helped Sam put on over the plants in the back of Sam’s truck and then went to put them in the back of the two other trucks.
“We’re bringing the kids, right?” Delphie asked. “Isn’t that what we said?”
“They are just inside the door,” Jacob said. “Jill’s got masks on all of them. Honey’s working on outdoor clothing. Heather’s got shoes. And. . .”
“Sandy’s taking care of potty breaks,” Delphie nodded. “Good.”
“What’s got you today?” Sam asked. Putting his arms around Delphie, he added, “You don’t seem like yourself.”
“Oh,” Delphie sighed. “Just a plan coming together, you know? I see it so perfectly in my head and then the execution is. . . When I was younger, it was all a part of the adventure. Now, it’s more like. . . I don’t know, I guess it’s just not as fun.”
“You’ve gotten perfectionistic in your old age,” Sam said, kissing her nose.
“Gotten?” Jacob laughed as he walked toward them.
“Are you going to be warm enough?” Sandy asked.
Sandy brought Delphie her wool jacket. Sam helped Delphie put it on.
“Are the kids ready?” Delphie asked, her eyebrows pinched together with worry.
“They are so excited,” Sandy said. “You should see them. Did you hear what Máire and Joey’s mom is bringing?”
Delphie shook her head.
“We’re going to have fun,” Sandy said.
Using a cane, Sandy went to where the children were being loaded into SUVs.
“Every vehicle has at least one crying child,” Sandy yelled back to Sam and Delphie. “Mission accomplished!”
Sandy gave them two thumbs up and got into the driver’s seat of a vehicle. Tanesha’s father, Rodney, came out of the Castle to Sam and Delphie.
“I have extra masks,” Rodney said. “Here’s your tea.”
Rodney gave Delphie a travel mug. Delphie smelled it.
“Is Yvonne here?” Delphie asked, brightening at the idea that her friend was here.
“Maresol, too,” Rodney said.
He nodded his head toward where his wife, Yvonne, and their friend, Maresol Trafoya, were coming out of the Castle.
“Is there room for us in your truck?” Yvonne asked.
“Nelson’s here with Ava’s new SUV.” Maresol gestured to where Nelson was sitting in an SUV on the street.
“You go ahead,” Sam said.
“You don’t think I should go with you?” Delphie asked.
“I sure don’t,” Sam said. “This is just a fun thing to do. We’re doing it because. . .”
“. . . we grew all of those seedlings,” Delphie said. “Taking care of all of those kids. It was a good thing to do as this is a good thing to do.”
“I forgot to tell the other kids,” Delphie said.
“No, you didn’t,” Sam said. “They are meeting us there. All of the kids who grew all of these seedlings will be there to help plant them into the garden boxes. We’ve saved back what we like to grow here in our garden and the Hargreaves. When we’re done at the lot, we’ll come back here for a barbecue and planting the rest. Everything’s perfect.”
“Everything’s perfect,” Delphie repeated as if by rote.
“Go,” Sam said. “Have fun with your friends.”
A car pulled up and La Tonya’s kids poured out of her sedan. They rolled like water into one of the waiting SUVs. La Tonya got out of the driver’s seat and went to the passenger’s seat where Nelson was waiting.
“What are they doing?” Delphie asked.
“They thought that they’d go, take some temperatures, pass out some masks,” Sam said. “It seemed like a good chance to engage people who might not have had any services. Nelson’s co-worker Leslie is also a doctor. John Drayson got a doc and a couple of nurses to join them.”
“Help them stay well,” Delphie said with a nod.
“Isn’t that what this project is all about?” Sam asked.
Nodding, Delphie grinned.
“Come on!” Yvonne called to Delphie.
Delphie gave Sam one last look and trotted over to her friend. Yvonne took Delphie’s elbow and they went to where Nelson waited for them. When Delphie and Yvonne got into the vehicle, Delphie squealed. Her friend, Dionne, was waiting there for her.
Sam watched as the women talked all at the same time. Nelson pulled out.
“Ready?” Jacob asked.
“Charlie’s going with you,” Jacob said.
“I can drive myself!” Sam said. “I’m not sick anymore.”
“Okay,” Jacob said. “Should we just leave Charlie here?”
Sam gave Jacob a frustrated look and stormed over to the driver’s seat of the truck. He opened the door to find Charlie sitting there.
“Can I drive? I want to get my driver’s license this year and. . .” Charlie’s voice came from inside the cab of the truck.
Sam shot Jacob a look, and Jacob grinned at his father. Shaking his head, Sam went around the truck and got into the passenger seat of the truck. Rodney started his truck. Jacob ran to the third truck and got in the driver’s seat. Sam and Charlie left the parking lot first. Rodney followed them, and Jacob came third.
The day of planting had begun!
In a mini-parade, they drove through the Denver and out on Colorado Boulevard until they reached the Marlowe School near I-70.
“Look,” Charlie pointed to the SUV that Nelson was driving.
“Getting coffee,” Sam said.
“I hope that I still have my same friends when I’m their age,” Charlie said. “What you and Delphie do, the way you live, is wonderful.”
“Keep your eyes on the road,” Sam said gruffly.
Charlie flicked his eyes to Sam, and they both started laughing.
“Uh oh,” Sam said.
Up ahead, they saw an angry man wearing a mask and wagging his finger at Valerie. Never one to back down, Valerie was arguing back with him. The man kept shaking his head and wagging his finger at her.
“Who’s that?” Charlie asked.
“Inspector,” Sam said. “Radow. He’s an underground inspector so I’m not sure why he’s here. Can you drop me?”
“And park by myself?” Charlie’s voice rose in panic.
“No,” Sam said. “You’re right. Let’s park and go see what’s up his rear.”
“Poop?” Charlie asked.
Sam laughed. With Sam’s coaching, Charlie managed to park the truck on the edge of the payment within the confines of an actual parking spot. Charlie cheered, and Sam clapped. Together, they got out of the truck and went to where Valerie and the inspector were drawing a crowd.
“Finally,” Inspector Barry Radow said, gesturing to Sam. “What the fuck is this?”
“Garden plots?” Sam asked. “You grow things in them?”
“He’s upset about the fence,” Valerie said to Sam.
“I’m not upset about the fence,” Barry Radow said. “I’m not upset about anything! My boss however is very upset. And I have to come out here, in the middle of this deadly plague no less, and deal with one more Lipson Construction cock up. And that makes me really upset!”
He gestured to Valerie.
“She only has plans for the new facility,” Barry Radow said. “Where are the plans for this? And why isn’t the fence on the God damned property line?”
“Because we own the entire lot to the street,” Jacob said.
“Then put your little boxes on everything or nothing at all,” Barry Radow yelled.
“You heard the man,” Rodney said. “Jake? Seems like we need more garden beds.”
“Call your guys,” Jacob said. “We’ll pay ’em. And get the drivers here.”
“Wait, what?” Barry Radow asked.
“You said that it has to be all or nothing,” Rodney’s deep voice carried over the distance. “Look around you, man. Where are these people buying groceries? We have the land. We can grow some food for the people. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?”
“We are going to grow as much food as we can,” Valerie said. “Plus, we’re giving people something positive to focus on in order to get through this season.”
Barry Radow scowled at Valerie and then looked at Sam.
“You’all have lost your damn minds,” Barry Radow said.
“When is that news?” Sam laughed.
“Barry!” Delphie said coming across the dirt field. “So nice to see you.”
“Ma’am,” Barry said.
“Is there a problem here?” Delphie asked.
“All or nothing,” Barry said. “The rules are clear. This is either a growing space or a store front or a living space. It can’t be everything to everyone.”
“Will this affect our plans to expand the school or the new infant center?” Valerie asked.
“No,” Barry said irritably. “I told you that.”
“I was just making sure,” Valerie said with a grin.
“Perfect,” Jacob said. “You want to grab a shovel, Radow?”
The inspector looked at Jacob for a long moment.
“You’re not doing anything right now,” Jacob said.
The inspector shook his head at Jacob.
“I’ll give you tickets to see Jeraine play tonight,” Sam said.
Barry Radow’s eyes flicked to Sam.
“Bring your wife,” Valerie said.
“Is it safe?” Barry Radow asked.
“We think so,” Sam said. “There’s always a risk, but wear your mask. We’ll have airflow and there’ll only be a few people. Can you come tonight?”
Barry Radow nodded.
“Not one toe out of line,” Barry Radow said. “My boss drives by this lot every damned day. If you screw up. . .”
“Tell him to stop by,” Jacob said. “He can have a fresh cucumber or two.”
There was a noise and the sound of trucks pulling up.
“Oh look!” Valerie said.
They saw Alex Hargreaves get out of the back seat of a two door truck. She went around to help her twins out of the truck. Her husband, John Drayson, slid out of the driver’s seat. The children ran forward to greet their friends. The group of children drew children from the surrounding housing. Heather passed out masks while Jill and Sandy helped Delphie with the plants in the back of the truck.
A loud squeal of tires brought some of Alex Hargreaves military team. They brought their families and shovels. They also brought a barbecue and coolers filled with food.
Jacob took charge of creating new garden beds. Some of the military team went to work with him. When the heavy vehicles arrived, Lipson Construction employees got to work again.
Delphie was the garden designer so she worked with Valerie to set up the beds with the right amount of sun. An hour into being there, a truck with trees arrived.
“You need a wind break,” Alex Hargreaves said to Delphie. “Along the north edge of the property there. The wind blows up off the light rail tracks. We have a lot of trouble with that in Afghanistan so it’s something I noticed right off the bat.”
“What did you get?” Delphie asked, her excitement and curiosity peaked.
“Pomegranates,” Alex said. “They are bushes in our climate. So we got a few Arborvitae. They should disrupt the wind and not interfere with the light. Will they work?”
“Absolutely,” Delphie said with a grin. “Thank you.”
“We have pomegranate fields on our tribal land in Afghanistan,” Joey, Alex’s son, said.
“We have a supplier,” Alex said.
“Wonderful,” Delphie said. “That’s really wonderful.”
“How would you two like to help Beau and Chase plant their lavender?” Valerie said. “They are planting it all along the edge of the fence there. You can see Max there.”
Joey and Máire ran off to be with their cousins. Alex leaned over to speak quietly to John. He kissed her forehead and went to see what Nelson and the medical crew were up to. Alex gave a loud whistle and members of her team including her twin brother, Max, came in her direction. She pointed to the trees. The team got to work planting six Arborvitaes along the edge of the property with six pomegranates inside.
“Are you ready?” asked Valerie as she turned to look at Delphie.
Delphie gave her a slight nod.
“I’ve set up your friends with a set of beds and plants,” Valerie said.
Valerie and Delphie were momentarily distracted by a truck full of young men pulled up to the site. Jacob and the men spoke in fast Spanish before the men jumped out of the truck. The men grabbed shovels and went to where Rodney was mapping out the new beds.
“Look around,” Valerie said softly.
Garden beds were popping up on the side of the field closest to the street. The Fey Team kids and the children from the Castle were ready to plant in the beds that were already made. Adults and children from nearby apartment buildings were either checking in with the medical team or milling around Noelle to wait for the lottery for beds.
“Everything is coming together nicely,” Delphie said. “Are you ready to do the lottery?”
“Absolutely,” Valerie said.
Valerie and Delphie went to Noelle.
“I wrote everyone’s names down on the paper,” Noelle said, gesturing to her clipboard.
“This is your last chance,” Valerie yelled. “If you’d like a garden bed, then you need to be on this list!”
“Why’re you making those beds by the road?” someone in the back yelled.
“We were informed by the inspector that the lot couldn’t be multiple use,” Valerie said. “If we wanted garden beds here, then the whole lot had to be filled with them. So we’re finishing the job.”
“Are they worse? Dirty?” a woman near the front asked.
“No,” Delphie said. “They are the same.”
“Will there be water?” an elderly man asked. “I can’t bring it from my apartment.”
“Yes,” Valerie said. “I just. . .”
“I’ll go remind Jake,” Delphie said. “You get these people some land to plant on.”
“Can you put numbers by everyone’s names?” Valerie asked.
“Sure,” Noelle said and got to work.
While Noelle worked, Valerie told everyone that they needed to follow the rules, help each other out, and the usual mix of “Everyone’s success depends on everyone’s actions.” Noelle gave her the clipboard.
“Okay,” Valerie said. “I’m going to get a random number from this site. . .”
Valerie poked around on her phone before Noelle took the phone from her. Together, they found the random number site and began giving people garden beds. There were people cheering for their win. When they were done, there were only a few disappointed people left.
“We are building a community bed,” Valerie said. “We’ll supply the plants and we can all share it. Would you like that?”
“Now, if you’d like to get seeds, we’ll have them here,” Valerie said. “Right now, just hang out until we finish the rest of the beds.”
“Make sure to see our medical crew if you haven’t yet,” Noelle said.
The flood of people moved away from Valerie and Noelle.
“That was fun,” Noelle said.
“We were hoping that you would paint a mural on the shed,” Valerie said.
“Did they build the shed yet?” Noelle asked.
Valerie turned around to look.
“They’re just starting,” Valerie said.
“Great,” Noelle said. “I’ll get my paints.”
Noelle gave a little clap.
“Mooooommmm!” Noelle screamed and ran to find Sandy. “I need my paints!”
Valerie chuckled to herself. Feeling movement near her, she looked up to see Troy Olivas, one of Alex Hargreaves’ team, standing near her.
“You okay?” Troy asked.
“A little tired,” Valerie said.
“We’re setting up over there,” Troy said. “Why don’t you go sit down? Everything is happening. It’s. . .”
“Amazing,” Valerie said.
“It’s hope in action,” Troy said.
Valerie smiled. They walked over to where they’d laid grass mats over the dirt and set up folding chairs. Valerie took a seat under a shade umbrella. A few minutes later, Delphie sat down in a chair next to Valerie. Valerie reached over to hold Delphie’s hands.
“This is really beautiful,” Valerie said.
“You know what?” Delphie asked. “It really is.”
Dionne came over to sit next to Delphie and Yvonne followed. As the day warmed, they sat under the umbrella, talked, laughed, and watched it all happen.
By the end of the day, all of the plants were in. Seeds were planted.
They went home exhausted and deeply satisfied to have added a tiny bit of green hope into everyone’s lives.
Denver Cereal continues next week...
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.