CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FIFTY
Tuesday morning —7:00 a.m.
“What do you mean?” Nash whined. “We have to go back?”
Grabbing a handful of his covers, he rolled over in bed. Teddy looked at Sandy and groaned from his bed. Sandy chuckled at them. Sandy held a sleepy Rachel in her arms.
“I told you that you shouldn’t have stayed up so late,” Sandy said.
Very quietly, the bathroom door closed.
“Crap,” Nash moaned. “Now I can’t get up. Noelle’s in the bathroom.”
“She’ll be out soon enough,” Sandy said. “You can always use mine.”
“Where’s Dad?” Nash asked.
“He’s at work,” Sandy said. “Lipson is up and running with four job sites.”
“What about job sharing?” Teddy asked.
“They are still job sharing,” Sandy said. “That’s why he’s in the office. They have a meeting with the board and a whole bunch of stuff.”
The room was absolutely still. The only sound Sandy heard was the boys breathing deeply.
“Get up!” Sandy yelled. “Now!”
His eyes half open, Charlie came down the hallway. He tucked into Sandy’s room to use the bathroom. When Sandy looked back into the boys’ room, Teddy and Nash were sitting on the side of the bed. The water turned on for Noelle’s shower. Sensing movement, Charlie came out of Sandy’s room and stumbled back to his closet to get dressed.
When she looked back into the boys’ room, they were back in bed with the covers over their heads. The water turned off in the shower.
“Noelle’s done showering,” Sandy said. “I will not tell you again! Get up!”
Teddy sat up in bed. A moment later, the lock clicked and Nash fell out of bed and into the bathroom.
“How was yesterday, Teddy?” Sandy asked.
“Good,” Teddy said, his voice in a lower octave than it had been when he’d left. “I really missed everyone when we were in Egypt.”
“It must have been fun,” Sandy said.
“Lockdown is lockdown,” Teddy said. “If I were here, I’d have seen my friends, Noelle, everyone. But there? It was just our family. Don’t get me wrong, I like my sister and brother and even the new babies. I just. . .”
“Is it too hard to move back and forth between families now?” Sandy asked.
“Oh,” Teddy sighed. “I don’t know. If I stay here all the time, I won’t be a part of the little ones lives. That would be really hard. But then, I’d get to spend more time with you and everyone I love. Not that I don’t love them. It’s just. . .”
Teddy shook his head. Nash came out of the bathroom with his hair wet. He started getting dressed. The boys had played in the SwimSpa until nearly midnight. They’d showered before bed, so Sandy was willing to let them slide on showering this morning.
“Go ahead,” Sandy said.
Teddy got up and went into the bathroom. She turned to see Charlie heading into the kitchen to start their breakfast.
“Where’s Rachel?” Noelle asked from her room.
“Here,” Rachel said against Sandy’s chest.
“She bathed with me,” Sandy said.
“Okay, I’ll get her dressed,” Noelle said. “Can you do my hair again?”
“Can you dry it?” Sandy asked.
“Sure,” Noelle said. “With the one that straightens my hair like we practiced?”
“Yes,” Sandy said.
“Got it,” Noelle said.
Sandy set Rachel down and the child stumbled sleepily into the room she now shared with Noelle. Sandy continued down the hallway and into the living room. Charlie handed her a cup of coffee from the pot that had just finished brewing. Sandy was taking her first sip when there was a knock on their apartment door.
Jill stuck her head in the apartment.
“Would you mind putting Katy’s hair up again?” Jill asked. “She said that it’s too hot to have it down.”
“Not a problem,” Sandy said.
“Do you think it’s time to c-u-t it?” Jill asked.
“No!” Katy said, stubbornly.
“For this morning?” Sandy snorted. “I think we just muddle through.”
Sandy held out the cup of coffee to Jill, who swallowed it down.
“Thanks,” Jill said. “I need to get back.”
“Come on, Katy,” Sandy said. “Let’s see about your hair.”
“Can I have some animal pancakes, too?” Katy asked.
“Of course,” Sandy said. As they past the kitchen, Sandy leaned into say, “Katy’s here too.”
“Got it,” Charlie said from his position at the grill.
The deafening sound of a hair dryer came from Noelle’s room. Sandy ushered Katy into her bedroom.
“Mommy and I washed my hair last night,” Katy said. “I like how soft it is after the conditioner.”
Katy petted her hair while Sandy grinned at the adorable child.
“I’m glad you didn’t brush it today,” Sandy said.
“Don’t tell Mommy, but me too,” Katy said with a grin.
“Are the boys less crazy today?” Sandy asked.
“They are excited to play with their friends,” Katy said. “They are being good.”
Sandy’s attention was on Katy’s hair so she didn’t respond.
“Who knew they had friends?” Katy sniggered.
Sandy smiled at Katy’s back.
“I’m glad it’s going better,” Sandy said. “We’re all pretty grumpy here this morning.”
“How come?” Katy asked.
“Stayed up too late,” Sandy said. “First day of school is fun, but the second day is a chore.”
“Mommy made us go to bed extra early,” Katy said. “I was really tired so I made the boys tired.”
“Your mommy is a smart cookie,” Sandy said.
“My mommy is no kind of cookie,” Katy said brightly.
Sandy kissed the top of Katy’s hair.
“You’re all set,” Sandy said.
Katy spun in place to give Sandy a big hug. The little girl ran out of the room and went to the kitchen.
“Do you still have time for me?” Noelle asked, her voice teary.
“Always,” Sandy said.
“Good,” Noelle said.
Noelle went to stand with her back to Sandy.
“Katy said that it’s hot at the school,” Sandy said. “Do you want curls? It’s long enough now that I can put it up in a cute way.”
“Yes, put it up,” Noelle said. “But we have PE today. We’re going to learn a game called ‘La Crosse.’”
“I’ll make sure it stays up,” Sandy said.
“Good,” Noelle said.
Quickly and efficiently, Sandy put Noelle’s hair in a chignon.
“Stay there,” Sandy said.
Sandy went into her bathroom for hairspray. When she returned, Noelle was putting on some colored lip gloss in the full length mirror.
“How is it to have Teddy home?” Sandy asked.
Noelle responded with a wide smile.
“Good,” Sandy said. “Close your eyes.”
Sandy sprayed the hairspray until she was sure that Noelle’s hair wasn’t going to move today.
“You look very beautiful,” Sandy said. “Come on, we just have time for some pancakes.”
Noelle gave Sandy a beautiful straight toothed smile. Together, they went out to the table where the boys and Katy were already eating. Finally awake, everyone laughed their way through breakfast.
Sandy stood at the door and said good-bye to each of them. Sighing to herself, she got on with her busy day.
Tuesday morning —8:27 a.m.
“Jake had drop off this morning,” Honey said to MJ. She was sitting in her wheelchair. “He’ll be here.”
Shaking his head, MJ blew out a breath.
“Why are you so nervous?” Honey asked.
“Global pandemic?” MJ shook his head again. “Responsibility for everyone in our building?”
“Everything’s been fine,” Honey said. “So far, everyone’s taken the whole thing in stride.”
“Then why did they call this meeting with us today?” MJ asked.
“There’s Jake,” Honey said. She waved to Jacob as he pulled up. “I think we’ll find out in a minute.”
“Steve’s inside?” Jacob asked as he approached.
“He’s checking in with the nurses,” Honey said with a nod.
Honey and MJ turned with Jacob and started inside the building they owned together with Steve Roper. Originally the apartment building Jill had lived in, Jacob, Honey, and MJ had converted it for wheelchair bound people. They had a full time nursing staff which was managed by Steve Roper. Jacob took care of repairs and Honey helped run the building along with some amazing residents and staff. The building had been at full occupancy since a few weeks after it opened and had remained full since then. Overall, the residents seemed to love living there.
During the pandemic, they had increased security, passed out masks, and taught virus safety. They’d put stickers on the floor of the elevator and installed spit guards for the stations where the attendants worked. They’d even created a testing station so that anyone who needed a Covid-19 test could get one. So far, no one in the building had been sick. The people who lived here were some of the most vulnerable people in Denver.
“Nice wheels,” Jacob said about the wheelchair Honey was in.
“Yesterday wore me out,” Honey said. “Maggie was so excited from school that it took forever to get her to settle down.”
“Not enough sleep,” MJ said.
“Do we have an agenda?” Jacob asked.
MJ and Honey shook their heads.
“Should be interesting,” Jacob said as he opened the glass door.
Honey wheeled inside the building with MJ right behind her. Jacob followed up. The lobby was absolutely silent and still. They continued past the pool and weight room, both empty and silent. Honey stopped at the desk.
“Where is everyone?” Honey asked.
“The state closed everything,” the wheelchair bound attendant said. “It’s one of the things on the agenda to talk to you about.”
She smiled at them.
“I need to take your temperature,” she said, holding out an infrared thermometer.
Since she was in a wheelchair, she did Honey’s first. Jacob crouched down so that his forehead was at her level. Unable to crouch do to the amputation of his lower calf, MJ bent over. They were all within the normal range of temperatures.
“You can head on back,” she said. “I need to lock up.”
“Everyone’s at the meeting?” MJ asked.
“We can let only let a few residents go. You know, for safety,” the wheelchair bound attendant said as she came out from behind the counter. “But the meeting is broadcast on the inner-building network and recorded for later. If people want to watch, they can.”
“Do they want to watch?” Honey asked.
“You’d be surprised,” the attendant said.
“We can wait for you,” Jacob said.
“Nah,” she said. “Go ahead.”
They continued into the auditorium. The auditorium doors were wide open with two large industrial fans in the door. Because the building catered to people in wheelchairs, this space did not have seats. Face mask clad residents were situated six feet from each other. At the front of the auditorium, there was a long table where Steve Roper was waiting for them. Separated by six feet, the floor captains sat around the table. Chairs sat on the other side of the table. Seeing that Honey was in her wheelchair, Steve got up to move a chair. There was a board covered with cork behind the table.
MJ helped Honey to the table and sat down next to her. Jacob took the last empty chair.
“Thanks for having us,” Jacob said.
“I’m the first floor captain,” the man on the end said. “I was elected by the first floor residents.”
“What’s your name?” Honey asked.
“Oh, sorry,” the man grinned. “I’m nervous. I’m Jerry Jason Jones. People call me ‘Triple J’ but you can call me ‘Jerry.’”
“I’m Jake,” Jacob said. “This is my sister, Honey, and her husband, MJ.”
Jacob nodded to the woman sitting next to Jerry.
“I’m Cassidy Calum,” she said. Her face flushed red. “I’m the second floor captain.”
“Nice to meet you,” Jacob said.
“I’m Aaron Zelig,” said the man sitting next to her. He was small with the characteristic high voice of someone with Osteogenesis Imperfecta or “brittle bone disease.” “Third floor captain. I was elected to lead this meeting.”
“Hi Aaron,” Jacob said. “What can we do for you?”
“We have a list of requests,” Aaron said.
Aaron cleared his throat and looked at Cassidy and Jerry. They nodded to him.
“Lay it on us,” MJ said.
“Oh, oh, okay,” Aaron said. “We wrote them on the board. You just have to turn it over.”
MJ jumped up and turned the board over showing a white board. He stood in front of the board reading the list.
“MJ,” Honey said.
“Uh-huh,” MJ said.
“MJ,” Honey repeated. “Move your ass.”
MJ jerked around to look at her.
“We can’t see through you,” Jacob said.
“Oh, oh, right,” MJ said.
He slunk away from the board and sat down. The board said:
“So you probably know what each of these means,” Aaron said. “But let me go through it quickly. We want to know if we can increase the ventilation. At least on the third floor, we’re worried that if one person gets sick, we’ll all get sick.”
Cassidy and Jerry nodded indicating that this was the issue on their floor.
“Do you want to talk about them as we go?” Jacob asked.
“Sure,” Aaron said.
“We’ve been researching and studying ventilation for the school that my sister and I run,” Jacob said. “The biggest advantage that you have is that you can open your apartment to the outside air. Everyone has a patio.”
“Right, but some of us can’t open them ourselves,” Cassidy said.
“Or when we’re out on the patio, our neighbor is right there,” Aaron said.
“Good point,” Jacob said.
“We wondered about the filters?” As if she were asking a question, Cassidy’s voice rose at the end of her sentence.
“You mean will they keep the virus out?” Jacob asked. “No. Nothing we know of will do that so far. We know that the HEPA filters help. We have that on the air system for the building, but. . .”
Jacob got his cellphone out and set it on the table.
“Let me make a note that we should get an HEPA for every apartment,” Jacob said. “That just makes sense.”
“Some people are making them off a YouTube video,” Cassidy said.
“I’ve seen that,” Jacob said. “Heard good things about it, too.”
“There’s a guy on my floor. . .” Cassidy gestured to the audience. Someone in the back raised his hands in the air. “. . . who’s willing to make them for everyone. We just need help with supplies.”
“Done,” Jacob said.
“Oh, okay,” Aaron said. “The nurses said that there might be vaccines available soon. Since we’re not a nursing home, she wasn’t sure if we’d get the vaccine first.”
“We don’t want to be selfish. . .” Cassidy said.
“I don’t mind,” Jerry said.
Cassidy rolled her eyes at him and continued, “. . . but we’re a vulnerable population. We believe we should have the vaccine as soon as it’s available.”
“I agree,” Steve said. “I believe our entire nursing staff agrees, as well. I have put our staff on a list with the state so that the staff will be vaccinated as soon as possible.”
“I have a call into the state today,” Jacob said. “I’ll ask what we can do.”
“Good,” Aaron said. “We need to exercise. It’s one of the things that helps with our pain and depression. Right now, we’re trapped in our apartments, working our asses off, without any break. We need a break.”
“I didn’t realize you weren’t able to use the gym or the pool,” MJ said.
“Let’s figure something out,” Jacob said.
“It seems like a scheduling issue,” Honey said. “Why don’t I see what I can work out?”
“I’ll add it to my list to check with the state,” Jacob said.
The three floor captains nodded.
“We also don’t have any of our alternative health support,” Cassidy said. “No acupuncture clinics. No massage. It sounds silly but for some of us, these treatments are a key to living without pain.”
“They are lifesaving,” Aaron said.
“Good point,” Jacob said. “I’ll talk to Blane and see if he can come over or if he knows of someone. It also occurs to me that what we really need is some private outdoor space, for massage and acupuncture treatments, that doesn’t put people at risk. But I’ll talk to Blane and see what he says.”
“Good, that’s really good,” Cassidy said with a smile.
“Is the Internet still struggling?” Jacob asked. “We’ve upgraded twice since the pandemic started.”
“We think people are stealing our WiFi,” Aaron said.
A few people in the audience cheered as if to agree.
“It’s secured,” Jacob said.
“Not enough,” Aaron said. “Jerry came up with a plan to put separate internet on every floor with two WiFi boxes on each level. We think it will work better.”
“I’m a network engineer,” Jerry said.
“Sounds good to me,” Jacob said. “Just give me the details and we’ll work it out.”
“You don’t mind spending the money?” Aaron asked.
“Not at all,” Honey said. “You all have done the hard work of keeping yourselves and each other safe. If we can support that, then we’re going to do it.”
The residents in the audience cheered.
“Is there anything else?” Jacob asked.
“There’s a list of small things,” Aaron said. He gave a sheet of paper to Jacob.
“I’ll go through it,” Jacob said.
“We want you to know that we’re proud of you,” Honey said. “We’re getting through this terrible time. Together.”
“It’s been okay,” Cassidy said with a shrug. “I feel lucky to be here with some many people like me. And get the help I need from the nurses. I don’t know what I would have done if I was out in the world or stuck at my mom’s house.”
A few people in the audience cheered again.
“Well, let us know,” Jacob said. “I’m sorry to rush. But I have to head off for another meeting. This week is nutty for me. I think Honey and MJ can stay if you need something else.”
“We should have asked for more,” Cassidy said in a loud voice.
“You have our numbers?” Jacob asked.
Everyone nodded. The residents cheered as Jacob, Steve, Honey, and MJ left the auditorium. Honey felt like she should stay longer, chat more, but the pandemic made it too dangerous to hang out with anyone. They went through the lobby and to their vehicles.
“What do you think?” Jacob asked.
“It’s good,” Honey said.
“I like that they feel comfortable enough to ask us,” Steve said. “We should take that as a compliment.”
“Job well done,” Honey said with a nod.
“I agree,” Jacob said. He waved with the sheet of paper and got in his Lipson Construction truck.
“Would you like to do some thing or do you have to get to work?” Honey asked.
“I have to go,” MJ said. “I’m still doing physicals.”
“I have to get ready for the board meeting anyway,” Honey said with a nod.
MJ helped her into her van and waited until she was out of the parking lot. Honey continued on toward Lipson Construction and the board meeting. MJ got into his sedan and drove to the Factory, where he worked.
MJ was nearing the Factory when Honey called.
“Can you believe it’s only Tuesday?” Honey asked.
“No,” MJ said. “I cannot.”
Laughing, Honey rang off. MJ pulled into his parking spot with a grin on his face.
Denver Cereal continues next week...