Chapter Six Hundred and Fifty-five - Good morning (part five)
Chapter Six Hundred and Fifty-six - Early morning visit (part one)

Chapter Six Hundred and Fifty-five - Good morning

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and FIFTY-FIVE

Thursday morning — 5:17 a.m.

“Good morning,” Blane said as he came into the kitchen.

Heather got up from the table and hugged him. She pulled back to look into his face. His hair was wet from the shower. He was dressed and ready for a day in his clinic.

“How are you holding up?” Heather asked.

She put her hand on his forehead to check for fever.

“I’m okay,” Blane said. “A little tired. That dog. . . remind me, where did he come from?”

“Why?” Heather asked. “What did he do?”

“You didn’t notice?” Blane asked with a grin.

“Notice what?” Heather asked.

Blane chuckled. The electric kettle clicked off, and he poured water into the tea pot Heather had set out.

“Food?” Blane asked.

“I put a bagel in for you and one for me,” Heather said.

“Where is everyone?” Blane asked.

“Nelson’s already gone to work. Some video meeting with the FBI lab in Virginia,” Heather said. “Tres is sleeping in. He’s working on a proposal that he’s presenting to the owners meeting tomorrow night. I’m sure that you remember that our boys are at the Castle. I’m going to pick them up in a bit. Tanesha’s off today so they left after the show to spend a night in the mountains.”

“Give Jabari some time to unwind a bit,” Blane said. “That’s a good idea.”

“He’s so stoic,” Heather said. “It’s hard to ever know what’s going on with him. They wanted to give him a chance to talk about how he feels before the time passes.”

Blane nodded. He opened the refrigerator and took out the egg carton. He took out four blue eggs from Delphie’s happy chickens. He whipped them and put them into a pan to cook before turning around.

“What did the dog do?” Heather asked.

“He hogged up my side of the bed,” Blane said.

“He did?” Heather asked. “I thought that he was hogging up my side of the bed. I was attempting to be the goddess of love and let you sleep.”

Blane laughed. She grinned at his laugh.

“I’ll get a crate for him,” Heather said.

“You don’t think that he needs his own golden palace?” Blane asked.

Blane grabbed a handful of baby spinach and threw it into a pan.

“Golden palace?” Heather asked.

“Come on,” Blane said. “He’s Anubis, isn’t he?”

“He’s a dog,” Heather said with a shrug. “The boys and I went to adopt a dog and the boys picked this dog. No conspiracy. Just a dog.”

“You’re saying that the dog on the dog bed over there isn’t the God Anubis?” Blane asked.

The dark haired dog regally sat on his dog bed with his front ankles crossed.

“I’m not sure what you’re asking,” Heather asked.

Blane pointed at her with the spatula.

“You’re being intentionally vague,” Blane said.

“Am I?” Heather asked with a grin. “I’m just messing with you. As far as I know, he is just a dog. Hecate told me that Nelson thought the same thing.”

“Nelson’s smart,” Blane said.

“He’s a beautiful dog,” Heather said. She shrugged. “What would I know about an Egyptian god?”

“Hmm,” Blane said, scowling as he buttered the bagels.

“I swear to you,” Heather said. “We went to the Dumb Friend’s League. They couldn’t let us in because of Covid. We asked for a young dog for the boys. They brought out a few dogs and the boys liked this dog. He is beautiful, very sweet, kind.”

“Too beautiful to be in the pound,” Blane said.

“So there has to be a catch?” Heather asked.

“There just usually is,” Blane said. “You don’t think that your friend Loki set us up?”

“Loki?” Heather shook her head. “Loki hates dogs.”

“Exactly,” Blane said with a grin.

“You’re not making any sense,” Heather said.

Blane scowled at her, and she smiled back.

“What?” Heather asked. “We talked about it. Everyone said that they trusted me to pick a nice dog. This is a very nice dog. He’s even nice to Jeraine, who is not very comfortable around dogs. He’s less than a year old. He’s fixed. He is potty trained. He’s great.”

“What did they say his background was?” he asked. “Where he came from?”

He gave her a plate with eggs, spinach, and bagel.

“You know who we could ask. . .” Blane said.

“No,” Heather said. “He’s gone away with the others. There’s no need to. . .”

“Did someone call my name?” Ares, the God of War appeared in their kitchen.

Ares wore his “in-the-house” armor with sandals on his feet. His brown curly hair was long and a little wild. There were colorful flecks of paint throughout his hair. He held an oil paint brush in his paint stained hand. He actually smelled like he’d had a bath in the last month, which was a vast improvement over any other time they’d seen him.

“This is our new home,” Heather said to her grandfather. “And no one called you. Go away.”

“Yes, but your lovely partner. . .” Ares said. “Say — where is that hunky Templar?”

“At work,” Heather said. “No one called you.”

“But. . .” Ares said. “Your beloved husband has a question. Since I’m here. . .”

Heather’s eyes shot daggers at Blane, who shrugged.

“He is here now,” Blane said.

Shaking her head, Heather rolled her eyes at him.

“We’re wondering if this dog is the God Anubis,” Blane said.

Ares turned in place until his eyes fell upon the dog. For a moment, the dog and the Greek God seemed to take the measure of each other.

“That is an excellent question,” Ares said. “I heard that your Templar met a gorgon or three.”

Ares gave them a wide grin.

“They are wildly powerful,” Ares said. “Good fun too, if you catch them when they aren’t angry — which I admit is rare since the whole Medusa thing.”

“Dog,” Heather said.

“That is a dog,” Ares said. “I just saw Hynos and Thantos. They would never become dogs.”

“Anubis?” Blane asked.

“You know that we’re all the same, right?” Ares asked. “Different cultures. Different times. Same gods, different names.”

Shaking her head, Heather groaned.

“He doesn’t want a lecture,” Heather said.

“It’s nice to see you, grandfather,” Ares said. “I’m so glad that you are weathering this modern pandemic so well. Are you painting?”

Ares pointed to his cheek. Shaking her head, Heather got up. She kissed her grandfather’s cheek.

“How about you?” Ares asked raising his eyebrows.

“No,” Heather said. “You cannot seduce the men in my life.”

“You have so many human — men and women — in your life,” Ares said with a pout. “I have so very few.”

“I have to get to work,” Blane said, picking up the plates and carrying them to the kitchen.

“Yes, I am very busy too,” Ares said.

“So, Ares,” Blane said, “you confirm that this is a dog.”

“Among other things,” Ares said.

“What does that mean?” Blane asked.

“Nothing, nothing,” Ares said with a smile. “This creature will serve you, well as, be a companion to you when you run, a friend to my great-grandsons, play with the Templar, and even enjoy the company of that singer and his angelic wife.”

“Jeraine and Tanesha,” Heather said.

“Exactly,” Ares said. “Nothing to worry about. Now, I must be off. Feel free to continue to take from my wine cellar. Anything I have is yours for the taking.”

Ares gave Heather a hopeful smile.

“Nothing I have is yours for the taking,” Heather said.

“Sometimes, you can be so like your mother,” Ares said.

“Thank you,” Heather said. “Good luck painting. Don’t start any wars.”

“Only happy times, my dear,” Ares said.

Ares waved to Blane and disappeared.

“I wish I’d never. . .” Blane said.

“I heard that,” Ares voice echoed through the room.

Heather laughed.

“How is LaTonya?” Heather asked.

“Good, I think,” Blane said. “She seems to be enjoying being around clients; helping people. I think she’d rather be working as a psychiatrist, but she’s enjoying it for now. Her kids went to the Marlowe School today. Bumpy’s paying.”

“Good,” Heather said. “I’m glad.”

“I miss you being there,” Blane said wistfully.

“I do, too,” Heather said. “My guess is that LaTonya will move on soon. The boys are at the school every day. I can come back then.”

“Really?” Blane asked with a smile. “I’d like that.”

“Me, too,” Heather said with a smile. “I’ll walk you over.”

Blane grinned at her. She gestured to the dog and he came to her. Blane hooked a leash on the dog’s collar and they went back up the stairs. Heather put on her shoes and jacket. She waited until Blane was ready for work. They walked across the street to the Castle. They kissed at the bottom of the stairs to the medical offices.

“Have a great day,” Heather said.

Blane waved to Heather and went up the stairs. Heather went around to the back door of the kitchen and went inside. Compared to the quiet sanctuary of their house, the Castle was pure chaos. She found her boys eating cereal at the kitchen table with the other kids. Heather pitched in to get everyone off to school and work.

When the last person left, Delphie put her hand on Heather’s arm.

“What did you need?” Delphie asked.

“Would you mind checking our dog?” Heather asked, gesturing to where their new dog was playing with Buster and Sarah.

“I saw him last night,” Delphie said. “He’s a beautiful dog.”

“But just a dog,” Heather said.

“Nothing is ever ‘just’ anything,” Delphie said.

“Why is everyone so vague about this dog?” Heather asked.

Grinning, Delphie shrugged. Heather gave her a hard look.

“Let me be as clear as possible,” Delphie said. “The dog is just a dog until you need it to be something else.”

Heather scowled, and Delphie laughed.

“Come on,” Delphie said. “Let’s have some tea. We can talk about anything.”

Heather followed her into the kitchen. When the tea was ready, they went out to the garden and talked about Harvest this weekend.

~~~~~~~~

Thursday evening — 7:05 p.m.

“Hey!” Aden yelled over the chatting owners of Lipson Construction. “We’re ready to start.”

It took a few minutes, but everyone fell silent. They were seated under a giant tent. Each person was in a chair that was six feet from each other and they were all wearing face masks, which was why the men and women were talking so loud. There were giant fans blowing the air around. They had set up speakers so that everyone to hear what was being said. Bambi, Aden’s assistant, carried two wireless microphones in case people wanted to speak.

“Welcome!” Aden said.

Everyone cheered.

“I wanted to thank everyone for hanging in there,” Aden said. “I know that the masks are itchy and uncomfortable. . .”

“I don’t wanna die!” a young man yelled from somewhere in the middle.

Everyone laughed.

“I just appreciate everyone wearing masks and being careful,” Aden said. “As you know, outside of Sam Lipson, we’ve had zero infections. That’s a big deal as most of the other construction companies are either not open or filled with sick people. You should each be really proud of yourself.”

“Hey, you gonna make them vaccines mandatory?” a woman asked.

“We would never just make that decision,” Aden said. “We’ll make it together.”

“Out of curiosity, if the vaccines were available today, how many of you would get a vaccine?” Jacob asked.

Every hand went up.

“And my family,” Pete yelled.

Everyone cheered.

“I like it,” Jacob said.

“First order of business,” Aden said. “Sam Lipson has submitted his formal retirement.”

“Ahh,” there was a general sound of disappointment.

“His scare with Covid really got to him,” Jacob said. “He wants to retire while he’s healthy enough to enjoy it.”

“He promised that he would still be available if we need him,” Aden said.

“Especially in the next year or so as we work with the state to get our other business up and running,” Jacob said.

“And Jake?” someone yelled from the front.

“You can’t get rid of me,” Jacob said.

“He’s willing to help us out when we need him,” Aden said. “But he won’t be here every day soon. That will happen soon. I promised.”

Everyone laughed.

“As you likely know, the Marlowe School is up and running,” Aden said. “Jake and his team have improved the ventilation. With your help, we’ve developed more of the property so that our students have access to exercise in the air. We’ve been asked to build a swimming pool, but we’re not quite there yet.”

“We poured the basketball court last weekend,” Jerry yelled from the middle of the crowd.

“They will be playing basketball tomorrow,” Jacob said.

Everyone grinned.

“If you haven’t been to the school lately, we’d invited you to come this weekend,” Aden said. “We’re having an open house to show people what’s happening there. Jake?”

“I took over Valerie’s role as the family member head of the Marlowe School,” Jacob said. “As you likely know, Valerie set up a program where non-employees could pay to go to school there. Right now, we’ve allowed fifty children of military families to go to the school. Like us, people in the military are now essential workers. They need help with their child care. Tres is here to talk to you about the Marlowe School fund, but the income from these parents has allowed us to make substantial payments on the redevelopment of the school.”

Everyone seemed to have something to say. Aden let the general rumbling continue for a few minutes before bring their attention back.

“Okay, we asked you here because Tres has a proposition for you,” Aden said. “Tres?”

The owners cheered for Tres. Blushing, he waved them quiet.

“Okay,” Tres said. “First the Marlowe School Fun — as you may know, I took over the fun when Valerie took over as the head of the Marlowe School. I’ve been able to build up the fund so that the recent remodeling was easily affordable. In the last months, we’ve been able to hire more teachers so that we’re able to keep our class size down to help protect against the virus. I don’t need to tell you what a luxury it is for us to have our kids safe and in school.”

He saw a sea of nodding heads.

“We’ve been able to increase our enrollment of people paying for school as well as take on more state funded cases,” Tres said. “The state would like us to take more young children, but for now, we’ve been able to hold the line. Our charter is to care for Lipson Construction children. Everything else is extra. So far, that’s kept the state at bay.”

When no one said anything, he continued.

“Before all of this happened, Jake brought an article to my attention,” Tres said. “It said that research showed that companies do better when employees work four days a week. During this time of job sharing, we found that people worked effectively when they worked only four days a week. Aden asked me to work up the cost of having people work only four days a week. That’s four eight-hour shifts, not four ten hour shifts or whatever.”

Tres looked out into the audience to see that everyone seemed to be thinking about what he was saying. He pressed on.

“There are a lot of employees available right now because of the pandemic,” Tres said. “We can increase our work force so that we can keep the jobs going six days a week. It will cost more, but I believe that it will move us through the jobs more efficiently and in the end, wind up making us more money. I’ve done the math, in case anyone wants to look at it.”

A hand went up in the middle. Bambi rushed back to give them the microphone. A woman stood up.

“Will these new people be given the chance to buy shares?” the woman asked.

“We hadn’t thought of it,” Aden said. “Why?”

“I don’t like the idea of non-Lipson people buying shares,” she said. “Remember those jerks that had shares and ended up leaving?”

“How could I forget?” Aden nodded.

“I worked for them,” she said. “They were miserable to everyone.”

“We should have known about that,” Bambi said.

“I know,” she said. “But things were different then. No one talked about that kind of thing. Plus, they were owners and I was just an employee.”

“That’s awful,” Bambi said. She looked at Aden. “We can’t have that.”

“No one should have to deal with that,” Aden said.

“I didn’t bring it up to complain,” the woman said. “I just. . . you know, think that we should be cautious with new people. Make them work for us for a year before they can buy in. Once they buy in, they are permanent. You know?”

DeShawn stood up in the back.

“I agree with her,” DeShawn said.

Pete hit him lightly with the back of his hand and said, “I second that.”

“I second that,” DeShawn repeated what Pete had said.

“Then we have a motion,” Aden said. “New hires would have to work for the company for a year before they can buy in. All those in favor?”

A sea of hands shot up.

“Against,” Aden said.

No one raised a hand.

“What do you think about keeping the four day a week schedule?” Aden asked.

For a long moment, no one said anything. There was general whispering on one side of the room.

“We should try it before we make it permanent,” a man said from that side of the room. “Hire new people. Keep it in place for a year or so. See how it goes.”

“If it’s affordable and we’re still productive, then we vote to make it permanent,” Aden said.

Someone clapped and everyone joined in.

“We need to vote,” Tres said. “For the minutes. I second Aden’s proposal.”

A sea of hands went up.

“Then we’re in agreement,” Aden said. “If you know people who need work, are willing to wear masks, take Covid tests, and aren’t assholes — let them know that we’re hiring.”

People cheered.

“Okay,” Aden said. “I know everyone has a lot on their plates right now. I don’t want to keep you. Thanks for coming in, voting, and bring your ideas to us.”

“Who owns Lipson Construction?” Jacob asked.

“We own Lipson Construction,” the owner said.

Everyone cheered. For a moment, no one moved.

“See you tomorrow,” Aden said.

Everyone slowly moved out of the space.

“Nicely done,” Jacob said.

Aden nodded.

“Let’s go home,” Tres said.

“So, that dog?” Aden asked Tres as they walked out of the meeting area.

Jacob laughed.

Denver Cereal continues next week...

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