Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-two - A friend will cheer for you, grieve, and help. (part five)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-TWO

(part five)

“I’m happy to be relied upon but . . .” Blane said.

“No talking,” Heather said. “Just eat. I’ll tell you what Holmes Olivas said.”

She set down a plate of comfort food — mashed potatoes, meatloaf, a pile of warmed vegetables, and a salad.

“I have cake when you’re done,” Heather said.

“Happy two years, Charlie,” Blane said, looking up to the ceiling as if Charlie was there.

He pointed to the ceiling. The fluffy white clouds had disrupted the previous blue ceiling. There were cherubs and birds and . . .

“Mike finished the ceiling,” Blane said.

“He says he has more to do,” Heather said with a shrug. “I think it’s very beautiful.”

Blane nodded. He took off his facemask and ate in earnest.

“Oh my God,” Blane said. “This is perfect. Are there more potatoes?”

Nodding, Heather got up to get him some.

“Don’t tell him that I told you, but Jeraine made this for you,” Heather said. “He knew that this was your favorite comfort food.”

“He knew I’d be in rough shape?” Blane asked.

“I don’t think you have to be an oracle to know that this pandemic is wearing at you,” Heather said.

“I love my new treatment rooms,” Blane said.

“In the Castle?” Heather asked.

Blane nodded.

“It’s a great space,” Blane said. “That’s not to mention that it’s nice to be at the Castle. When I’m not working, I can either read or hang out with Delphie or just sit on the bench and watch the garden grow.”

Blane nodded.

“I guess it’s kind of cold now,” Blane said.

“You have warm clothing,” Heather said.

“That I do,” Blane said. “I’ll tell you — after a night surrounded by people on ventilators, it feels like a luxury just to breathe. And, then breathe again.”

Blane shrugged and took the warmed mashed potatoes from Heather. He took a few bites and set it down.

“What happened tonight?” Heather asked.

“Oh,” Blane shrugged. “It’s not like tonight was any different than any day in the last year.”

Heather waited while Blane collected his thoughts. When Blane finished his mashed potatoes, Heather got up to bring him a slice of cake.

“There was a protest outside the hospital,” Blane said. “I had to push my way past the angry protest. People punched me. Spit on me. If I still had AIDS, they easily could have killed me. As it is . . . Well, I said that already. The horrible outside the hospital are not match for the horrors inside.”

“I . . .” Blane dropped his head as a tear fell from his eyes.

Heather went around the table to sit next to Blane. She stroked his back for a few minutes until he felt stronger.

“I’m sure you want to know about Julie,” Blane said.

“Sure,” Heather said. “But mostly, I want to know how you are.”

Blane nodded.

“Julie is really sick,” Blane said. “She’s in the ICU with organ failure. I don’t know how she got so sick so fast. This virus just sucks. Just sucks. I mean, she’s been fine. John told me that this is how the disease progresses in some people. They are fine for weeks or months after being sick. Then something happens.”

Blane sighed.

“And, she’s definitely getting the best help possible,” Blane said. “But it’s going to be quite a journey back.”

“Did you treat her?” Heather asked.

Blane nodded.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-two - A friend will cheer for you, grieve, and help. (part four)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-TWO

(part four)

Tuesday evening — 9:35 p.m.

“You missed dinner,” Heather said, when Blane came down the stairs to the main kitchen area.

Blane puffed his cheeks out in a breath and shook his head. He didn’t move to take off his mask. Instead, he opened the sliding door and went back to sit at the table.

“I feel contagious,” Blane said.

“Immortal,” Heather said pointing to herself.

Blane gave a tired nod.

“It was my winning point in the ‘Who will wait up for him?’ battle between Nelson and I,” Heather said.

Blane looked up. After a long moment, he laughed.

“Really?” Blane asked.

“No,” Heather said. “Nelson is sequestered with his father and a bunch of ‘the Greeks’ as Nash calls them. They are talking about the prophecy and the Templar hoard. If you head up there, you might ‘get’ to meet a gorgon.”

“I feel really thick,” Blane looked up at her, “but what’s a gorgon?”

“Good question,” Heather said. “Let’s get you some food.”

“Did you . . .?” Blane asked.

“Jeraine,” Heather said. “It was Charlie’s two year sobriety party tonight. Jeraine made a real feast. Sandy made a cake. Jacob set up a projector so that when Sissy called everyone could see her. It was really nice.”

“Wow, two years,” Blane said. “That’s huge.”

“Charlie asked after you,” Heather said. “He feels like you are an integral part in his recovery. Especially the early days. He told everyone about a time that you strapped him to the table to keep him there.”

“I’ll never admit to it,” Blane said with a grin.

Nodding, Heather smiled at him.

“You have the best way to make me feel better,” Blane said. “I . . .”

He sighed.

“I’m grateful,” Blane said, after a few minutes.

“How many years have you been sober?” Heather asked.

“Uh,” Blane looked off into the near distance.

“Very funny,” Heather said. “I know that you know by the hour.”

Blane laughed. Heather went into their new kitchen to put together his dinner.

“Fourteen years, twenty-four days, and . . .” Blane looked at his watch. “Twelve hours. That’s completely clean. I started trying to get clean a couple years earlier.”

“Do you still want to use?” Heather asked.

“Sometimes,” Blane said. “Actually, a lot of that faded when we had Mack.”

“He’s an amazing child,” Heather said.

“I think that it’s you,” Blane said. “One thing about drugs and alcohol is that they love you and are with you, no matter where you are or what you’re doing or what time it is. Drugs were my best-friend in the middle of the night and eased any embarrassment or anxiety mid-day. That’s faded since I’ve known you. Especially since you’ve been a goddess.”

Watching her warm up his food, Blane was quiet for a long minute.

“I can’t believe you’re up trying to help me,” Blane said. “You were up early with the boys. You must be exhausted.”

“I’m tired,” Heather said. “I love spending time with you. It’s a real treat for me.”

“We have a lot less time together than we used to,” Blane said, nodding.

“We have two kids and all of this,” Heather said.

“Not to mention all of the drama of a quest and Olympia and my work and a pandemic,” Blane said.

He dramatically fell forward until his forehead rested on the table.

“I don’t know if I’m going to survive this pandemic,” Blane said into the table.

“It’s a lot to deal with,” Heather said. “So many people are relying on you.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-two - A friend will cheer for you, grieve, and help. (part three)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-TWO

(part three)

“Some days, it’s both,” Charlie said with a nod.

They drove a long in silence.

“Did Jake get the vaccines?” Charlie asked.

“Next week,” Aden said.

“And everyone’s going to take them?” Charlie asked.

“Or stay home,” Aden said. “I know that there’s a lot in the press about how people don’t want the vaccines. I haven’t seen it. We all know someone who has died of this disease. In Colorado, the number one group of people who’ve died have been construction workers.”

“Really?” Charlie asked.

“The largest category is underground workers,” Aden said.

“Damn,” Charlie said. “How many people have been sick at Lipson?”

“None,” Aden said. “I mean, except Sam and others before we know what we were dealing with. We’re the only crew in Denver that hasn’t lost a large number of people. It’s. . .”

“Freaky?” Charlie asked.

“To say the least,” Aden said. “Jake prefers us to say that we’ve been ‘lucky,’ but the truth is that everyone from top to bottom has worked hard to make it happen. From masks to handwashing, we’ve all done our part.”

“That’s great leadership,” Charlie said.

“We’ve been very lucky,” Aden said.

Charlie laughed. They drove in silence until they pulled up to the York Street House. Aden parked on the street.

“Why am I here?” Charlie asked. “You never said.”

Aden turned off the vehicle and turned to look at Charlie.

“What’s today’s date?” Aden asked.

“I don’t know,” Charlie said. “I’m not any good at that. You know that I. . .”

“Happy two clears clean, Charlie,” Aden said.

“What?” Charlie asked. His mouth dropped open and he gawked at Aden.

“It’s been two years since you were high last,” Aden said.

Charlie mouthed the words.

“Really?” Charlie asked.

“Unless you got high or drunk and I don’t know about it,” Aden said.

Charlie thought for a moment before shaking his head.

“I can’t believe it,” Charlie said, softly. “When people ask me, I just say that I’m new to the program because I still feel new to the program.”

Aden nodded.

“Come on,” Aden said. “Sandy made your favorite cake. You can pick up your chip. Your sisters asked me to take lots of pictures and a video for Sissy. Nash and Teddy would be here but I made them go to the art museum.”

"Nash has his 'self improvement project,'" Charlie said. "He's not going to miss the art museum."

"I had to pay him to not come," Aden said. "Real. Money."

Charlie nodded and moved to get out of the sedan. Aden got out of the passenger side. He went to the back to get the cake and a mask for Charlie. As he walked around, he noticed that Charlie was crying. Aden put the cake on the roof of the car and opened the door. Leaning down, he hugged Charlie.

“I just. . . I just. . .” Charlie said.

“I know,” Aden said. “And, you’ve worked really hard for this. No one can ever take it away from you. . .”

“Unless you give it away,” Aden and Charlie said in unison.

Charlie swiped at his eyes and got out of the car.

“I don’t know what your future holds,” Aden said. “Next year, you might be in college somewhere else. But for as long as you’re here with us, we’re never going to miss an opportunity to tell you how incredibly proud we are of you. We have a special dinner tonight with everyone to celebrate, too.”

Nodding, Charlie jammed his hands into his pockets. Aden retrieved the cake, closed the passenger door, and walked with Charlie into the Alcoholics Anonymous house where Charlie had first utter the words : “I’m Charlie. I’m an addict" and meant it.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow....

 


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-two - A friend will cheer for you, grieve, and help. (part two)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-TWO

(part two)

Tuesday afternoon — 2:45 p.m.

Charlie, Nash, Noelle, Tink, and Ivy fell out of the Marlowe School at the same time. The older kids had an early day on Tuesdays so that they could work on their individual study project. As a group, they rotated through study projects depending on their individual interests. This week, they were focusing on art due to Noelle’s interesting in the topic.

Tink had gotten her driver’s license and was prepared to drive them in Heather’s car to the Denver Art Museum where they were studying a series of Western Painters. Noelle wanted to learn about painting what she called “Big Sky.” Mike was meeting them there.

When they reached the parking lot, Aden was there waiting.

“Daddy!” Noelle said. She ran to him for a hug. “What are you doing here?”

Nash gave his father a one armed hug and then got into Heather’s car. He didn’t want to give his father a reason for him not to miss the museum. He was learning a lot about fine art from Mike for his “become a better man” project and didn’t want to miss this.

“I’m here for Charlie,” Aden said.

“Me?” Charlie looked up at him and shrugged. “What did I do?”

“We need to hit a meeting,” Aden said.

“I’ve been going to the teen meeting online,” Charlie said.

“We’re going in person today,” Aden said.

Charlie looked at Tink. She gave him a soft smile and a nod.

“You hate the art part anyway,” Tink said softly.

“You’re sure?” Charlie asked.

Tink nodded.

“I’ll see you at home,” Charlie said and went with Aden.

Charlie got into the passenger seat of Aden’s new hybrid sedan. He slumped down on his spine so that his face was at the same level as his jacket.

“Do you have a clean mask?” Aden asked.

Charlie shook his head.

“I have some in the glove box,” Aden said.

Charlie didn’t move. Aden started the sedan and drove out of the Marlowe School parking lot. They drove for a few minutes in silence.

“What’s wrong?” Aden asked.

“Why do I have to go?” Charlie whined. “I haven’t done anything wrong. I’ve been working the steps with my online group. I go to meetings at least once a day, sometimes twice. I’m doing everything my sponsor says — eating right, getting good sleep. I even gave up the apartment with Tink because he thought that it was a distraction from my sobriety.”

In the realm of teenager sighs, Charlie let out a legendary teenager sigh.

Aden glanced at him and chuckled.

“That was whiney even for you,” Aden said.

“I noticed half way through but figured I’d finish strong,” Charlie said with a laugh.

Aden smiled.

“Are you struggling?” Charlie asked.

“With my sobriety?” Aden asked. “No more than usual. I was having a tough time around the time that Sandy fell down the stairs. Her injuries and surgeries and recovery and all of that — it really put everything in perspective for me.”

“How so?” Charlie asked.

“We all suffer, I guess,” Aden said. “I want to use because that’s what I want to do. It’s not my right to blow up my life, my family, the company. It’s just willfulness. Life is hard enough without adding my stubborn selfishness to it.”

“That’s not exactly surrender,” Charlie said.

“I’ve told you before,” Aden said. “For me, sobriety is one part surrender to life and another part a battle of my petty wants.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-two - A friend will cheer for you, grieve, and help. (part one)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-TWO

(part one)

Tuesday afternoon — 2:45 p.m.

“Jill?” Colin Hargreaves nearly screamed into the telephone.

The sound of a helicopter boomed in the background of the call. Jill was standing in the hallway of the Art Institute. She’d stepped out of a class to return his urgent text.

“I got your 911 text, Colin,” Jill said. “You sound really freaked out. What’s going on?”

“Julie collapsed,” Colin said. “She was running errand and collapsed in the car.”

“Oh no!” Jill said.

“She was at a stoplight,” Colin said. “The guy in the car behind her noticed that she had pass out and called the paramedics. He stayed with her until they arrived.”

“Where is she now?” Jill asked.

“She’s with John,” Colin said. “She must have known that was sick because she was holding John’s card when she passed out. The guy called the number and . . .”

“So, she’s at Denver Health,” Jill said. “That’s good.”

“Yea,” Colin said. “John called me because . . . because . . .”

“What’s going on?” Jill asked.

“She’s in organ failure,” Colin said. “She . . . she . . . Covid . . . and I . . .”

“Breathe,” Alex Hargreaves’ voice came over the phone in the background. “Breathe. She’s in the best hands. You know that. Breathe.”

“Jill?” a man’s voice asked on the phone.

“Yes?” Jill asked.

“This is Art Rasmussen,” he said. “We’ve met a few times.”

“Sasha’s daddy,” Jill said.

“Yes, I am that,” he said. “Listen, we’re in North Dakota today.”

“Okay,” Jill said.

“Colin needs you to pick up his kids from the Marlowe School,” Art said.

“Done,” Jill said. “I’ll bring them home. They can stay with us for as long as they need.”

There were voices in the background, but Jill couldn’t make out what they were saying.

“We understand that Julie was there?” Art asked. “At the Castle?”

“She and Paddie were pretty sick,” Jill said.

“We need to get Paddie checked,” Art said. “Also, would you mind doing me a tremendous favor?”

“Sure,” Jill said. “I’m happy to help if I can.”

“We need Blane,” Art said. “Julie likes him and says that he really helped her when she was sick. She’s asking for him. None of us has a working phone number for him.”

“That’s easy,” Jill said. “I’ll call Blane and pick up the kids. I’ll have Blane check Paddie and we’ll take him to Dr. Bumpy if he seems off. Otherwise, we’ll keep them with us until Julie is better or Colin is home.”

“Perfect,” Art said. “Thank you.”

“Absolutely,” Jill said. “Should I talk to Colin again?”

“I think conversation is more than he can do right now,” Art said.

“I understand,” Jill said. “Don’t worry about a thing. We’ve got this.”

“Thank you,” Art said.

The line went dead. Jill looked at her phone and then tucked it into the back pocket of her jeans. She wondered if she should call Jacob, and then remembered that he was in the middle of what he called Lipson Construction “stuff.” She checked her watch to see when the kids would get out of school. Nodding to herself, she had enough time to finish this class. So, she called and left a message for Blane before she returned to her classroom.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-one - Out of the mouths of babes

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-ONE

Chapter 671

Tuesday midday — 12:45 p.m.

“Can I ask you something?” Holmes Olivas asked Sandy.

He was lying back with his neck resting on the edge of her sink while Sandy was washing his hair. They were in the back of Sandy’s hair salon.

“’Member how you said that I could ask you anything and you would always be honest with me?” Holmes asked.

“Yes,” Sandy said.

“You said that we were connected because of what happened to us,” Holmes said. “And that we have a deep bond that can never be broken.”

“I believe that,” Sandy said. “Do you?”

Holmes nodded.

“But we also agreed that I wouldn’t keep secrets from your dad,” Sandy said.

If you thought I was in danger,” Holmes said.

“Only then,” Sandy said. “Are you in danger?”

“No more than usual,” Holmes said. He gave her a saucy wink.

His blue eyes looked incredibly blue over his blue face mask.

Sandy gave him a soft smile. When she had met him, he had been a small undernourished boy who’d been horrifically abused. His mother had just been killed by the man he’d thought was his father, the man that he’d been named after until his recent name change. He and his brother had just moved to Denver. Alex Hargreaves had asked Sandy if she could try to connect with the boy. Alex felt that Sandy’s recovery from her traumatic past might help Holmes find his way through this new life. In the meantime, Holmes had grown into a lovely, charming, tall boy who was sometimes too bright for his own good.

Holmes’ eyes squinted as if he were smiling.

“What’s up?” Sandy asked.

“Heather is the demi-god Hedone, right?” Holmes asked.

“She has become a full goddess,” Sandy said. “It’s complicated but that’s where things stand. Basically, her father went insane while looking for her mother. He has now retired and retreated with her mother to a romantic island somewhere.”

“Huh,” Holmes said. “Uh, don’t be mad but I listened to your conversation.”

“Oh?” Sandy asked.

“I didn’t mean to,” Holmes said. “I finished an exam early so I just came over. I thought we could eat something if you weren’t busy.”

“Makes sense,” Sandy said.

“You’re not mad that I listened in?” Holmes asked.

“Not particularly,” Sandy said. “Nothing I do is that confidential. Plus you know everyone anyway.”

“Valerie is a siren,” Holmes said. “Delphie is an oracle. Tanesha glows and Jill radiates power.”

Holmes shrugged.

“I don’t know why Tanesha and Jill do that,” Holmes said.

“You should ask them,” Sandy said. “I know that they will tell you all about it if you ask.”

“Okay.” Holmes nodded. “I will.”

“Did you hear something that you’d like to talk about?” Sandy asked.

She finished rinsing the conditioner from his hair. She wrapped his head in a towel and helped him sit up. They walked together to the station she was working at. Because of Covid-19, they were alone in the salon. Sandy was, of course, also wearing a face mask.

“Um, yeah,” Holmes said.

Sandy started combing through his curly dishwater blond hair. Like most people, his hair had grown long over the “stay at home.” It was now past his shoulders. After a few minutes, she leaned to the side.

“What’s going on?” Sandy asked.

“It has to do with. . .” Holmes caught Sandy’s eyes in the mirror, “. . .you-know-who.”

Sandy nodded.

“Do you want to leave this long or cut it?” Sandy asked. “Your dad said something about college interviews?”

“No one cares about my hair,” Holmes said. “He just wants me to cut it. He thinks I look like I’m a hippie.”

“What do you want?” Sandy asked.

The boy thought for a long moment before saying.

“You can tell me,” Sandy said.

“I think he’s right, but I don’t want him to win,” Holmes said.

“Fair enough,” Sandy said. “Why don’t we split the difference? We can take most of this length off so it looks a little more professional. You can slick it back or come let me do it when you have your interviews.”

“Sounds perfect!” Holmes said.

“Highlights?” Sandy asked. “Your brother had purple this time.”

“I don’t know,” Holmes said. “You think it will make me more attractive to. . . you know, those guys?”

“Pedophiles?” Sandy asked. She shook her head. Intentionally putting her hand over the top of his shoulder to ground him, she said, “No. This is your body. This is your hair. You can do what you want with it. And if anyone gives you any trouble, what do you do?”

“I call Auntie Alex,” Holmes said with a nod. “Anywhere in the world and she’ll come home and kick their ass so hard they’ll wish they didn’t have an ass.”

Sandy laughed.

“That sounds like Alex,” Sandy said. “Why don’t you let me do this? I think you’ll be pleased.”

Holmes nodded, and Sandy got to work.

“You can talk while I work,” Sandy said.

“Oh, right,” Holmes said. He swallowed hard. “When I lived with dickface. . . Do you mind if I use that word? It’s kind of a swear word.”

“I’ve heard worse,” Sandy said with a laugh.

“Oh, okay,” Holmes said. “Mom and me and Hermes lived with dickface. He wanted so bad to be as smart as my dad, you know, Troy?”

“I do know your father,” Sandy said.

“Right,” Holmes said. “Okay. The only way he could be smart like my dad was to make all of us do the work. Because he was lazy as fuck.”

“What do you mean?” Sandy asked never taking her eyes off his hair.

“I mean, well, okay. . .” Holmes scowled. “You won’t make fun of me?”

“I would never make fun of you,” Sandy said.

“Well, I’m kinda smart too,” Holmes said. “I mean, Hermes is too, but he’s, you know, a different kind of smart from me and dad.”

“Hermes has the soul of an artist,” Sandy said.

“With the mind of a genius,” Holmes said with a grin. “Dad thinks that he’s going to be an architect, but I think he’ll do something literary like write books or poems or maybe paint. He did some painting with Mike when we were there. It’s really good. Oh, I shouldn’t have told you. That was a secret.”

“I won’t tell a soul.” Sandy said with a smile.

There was no one in the world that Holmes loved more than his younger brother.

“He made a painting for dad for Christmas,” Holmes said. “It’s at Mike’s studio so dad won’t see it.”

“I might take a peek then,” Sandy said.

“You should,” Holmes said. “Dad’s going to like it so much that he’ll cry.”

Sandy couldn’t help but smile at the sweet boy.

“You were telling me something about living with your uncle,” Sandy said, after a few minutes of silence.

“Oh, I know,” Holmes said with a sigh. “I was avoiding it.”

“Well don’t,” Sandy said. “We have this private time so we can talk.”

Holmes sighed.

“He made me learn Ancient Greek, Latin, and a bunch of other languages so that I could translate these ancient texts that his freak father owned,” Holmes said.

“Why?” Sandy asked with a shrug.

“I’m not really sure,” Holmes said. “He liked to show off and quote these old texts as if he had translated them himself, but it was me.”

“Of course it was,” Sandy said with a shake of his head. “Why shouldn’t he take all the credit for your work?”

“Right,” Holmes said. “But what I wanted to say is this — you’re missing a line of that prophecy.”

“What?” Sandy asked.

“I mean, that’s what made me start listening,” Holmes said. “I heard Heather speaking Ancient Greek. I don’t think I remembered that I knew that prophecy until she spoke it. But she left out a verse.”

Still focused on the boy’s hair, Sandy didn’t respond. Hermes touched Sandy’s hand.

“Oh, sorry,” Sandy said. “I kind of wheeled out there with my anger at your stupid uncle.”

“Heh,” Holmes said. “I do that.”

“I know you do,” Sandy said. “You’re saying that you translated this prophecy and there’s a verse missing. The one they think is about Katy and Paddie?”

Holmes nodded.

“And I think it is about Katy and Paddie,” Holmes said. “And the Vanquisher is a great blade, but the Sword of Truth is truly the greatest blade ever made, at least that’s what the ancient Greeks thought. Of course, Perses had the Vanquisher made and also told the world it was destroyed. At the time of the prophecy, the Vanquisher was considered to have been destroyed in the Titan purge.”

Sandy stopped cutting and looked at Holmes in the mirror.

“I don’t know anything about what you’re saying,” Sandy said. “Would you mind if I asked Heather to help?”

Holmes thought for a moment and then shook his head.

“She might want to bring a few of her friends,” Sandy said.

“They won’t hurt me or want. . . you know,” Holmes said.

“If they do, they’ll have to deal with me,” Sandy said.

She leaned back into her best martial arts stance. She was so small and fierce that Holmes laughed. She smiled.

“They do this think they call ‘walking time.’ So the moment I ask for them, they kind of pop in,” Sandy said. “Some people don’t like it. Freaks them out.”

“Whatever,” Holmes said. “It’s not going to be the worst thing that happened to me.”

“Hold you breath,” Sandy said.

Holmes nodded.

“Heather, I need you,” Sandy said.

Heather appeared a second afterward.

“Shit, that’s crazy!” Holmes said.

His bright eyes and laugh indicate his irrepressible joy for life. Heather looked at him and then back at Sandy. She scowled and opened her mouth.

“He says there’s a verse of the prophecy left out,” Sandy said.

Heather turned to Holmes.

“This is very important,” Heather said. “Can you explain it to me?”

Holmes opened his mouth to start and Heather shook her head.

“Would you mind if I touch you?” Heather asked.

Holmes shook his head. Heather reached out to hold his nearest hand. For Holmes’ part, he was flooded with a sense of peace and love. Tears fell from his eyes at the sheer joy of being so loved. The feeling lingered for weeks after this experience. He would later attribute this moment to changing his life forever. But right now, he simply enjoyed the sensation.

After a moment, Heather shifted away.

“Hecate,” Heather said. “Perses.”

The Titans appeared. Perses had Cleo the cat on his shoulders.

“Hey!” Sandy said. “You can’t treat my cat like that!”

“We thought you might want the whole family,” Hecate said.

Sandy pulled the cat from Perses’ arms. She walked away from them talking to her cat.

“This is Holmes Olivas,” Heather said. “Holmes, I’d like you to meet Hecate and Perses. I believe that you know who they are.”

Still high from his experience of being touched by the goddess of love, he just waved at them.

“He says that there is another verse to the prophecy,” Heather said in Ancient Greek.

“You’re being rather rude,” Perses said, in English.

“He speaks it fluently,” Heather said. “He’s Troy Olivas’ eldest son, raised for his first years by his uncle, Homer. I believe you had some interactions with him.”

“Horrible man,” Hecate said. “Rotten to the core. I bet he made you learn the language so that he could get credit for all of those translations.”

“Exactly,” Heather said. “He abused his children horrifically.”

“Oh no!” Hecate said. Without asking, she touched Holmes’ hand. “I’m so sorry. If he were alive, I would smite him for you. Since he is gone, I can assure you that he will never return.”

Overwhelmed, Holmes began to weep.

“Cleo wants to be out here with you,” Sandy said. She pointed to Perses and squinted, “You be nice.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Perses said, taking the cat from Sandy.

Cleo climbed up onto Perses’ shoulders as if the Titan was wearing a feline shawl.

“What did you do?” Sandy asked. She knelt down to Holmes. “This is a child. He looked bigger and older, more mature, but he . . .”

“We understand,” Hecate said. “No one in this world understands his experience, your experience, more than I do. You have my power.”

“I don’t know what that means, but okay,” Sandy said. “His father will be furious that his son is so upset.”

“Human life is very hard,” Hecate said. “If you’re telling me that some human man is going to be mad at me, it sounds like Tuesday.”

Hecate shrugged.

“It is Tuesday,” Sandy said. She pushed Perses out of her way. “I’m working on his hair.”

“Don’t let us concern you,” Perses said.

“This is Perses,” Sandy said nodding to the Titan. “Holmes Olivas.”

“I’ve seen you before,” Holmes said. “You’re a friend of my Auntie Alex’s, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” Perses said. “She’s gotten me out of a number of tight spots. You should know — in my day, we put pedophiles behind huge boulders and force them to spend eternity pushing the rock up the hill only for it to roll to the bottom. The man who hurt you was a monster.”

“Thank you, I think,” Holmes said with a slight nod.

With Perses words, Holmes seemed to relax in a way Sandy hadn’t seen previously. She looked from Perses to Holmes.

“What?” Perses asked.

Sandy just shook her head and kept working on Holmes’ hair. After a moment she said, “I have to get some color from the back. I’m trusting you to be nice.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Perses and Hecate said in near unison.

Cleo the cat meowed, and Heather rolled her eyes.

“Tell us what you know,” Heather said in Ancient Greek.

“Where did you find this prophecy?” Hecate asked in Ancient Greek.

“It was a parchment,” Holmes said in the same language. “I think that it was some kind of historic record of the person who asked the question. He was a politician of some kind, from some other region.”

“What did he ask?” Perses asked in Ancient Greek.

“Who will stop these greedy assholes? Or something like that,” Holmes said. “They didn’t say specifically ‘assholes,’ but it was a Greek swearword for scum.”

Perses said a word, and Holmes nodded. Apollo arrived.

“Fuck,” Holmes said.

“Were you invited?” Sandy asked as she came out of the back with a rolling cart with two bowls of dye and aluminum foil wraps.

“I am a God, human,” Apollo said.

“You watch yourself! I will put you over my knee,” Perses said.

Apollo’s head jerked to Perses. He laughed, and they hugged.

“I apologize,” Hecate said. “I invited him. His temple was near the Oracles. He’s spent a lot of time in Delphi. I wasn’t sure if we’d need his assistance. But since he’s being an ass.”

“No, I’m okay,” Holmes said. “I was just surprised when he appeared. Sandy warned me but . . .”

“It’s freaky,” Sandy said.

“Well, young gentleman, my Uncle and Aunt are much more powerful than I am,” Apollo said. “They have sworn to protect you. You are safe.”

“Okay,” Holmes said.

“Now, why am I here?” Apollo asked.

“Our young friend found the written record of the prophecy,” Perses said. “From what I gather, he overheard Hedone speaking the prophecy and realized immediately that it was flawed.”

“It’s missing some of it,” Holmes said.

“Go ahead,” Apollo said.

Holmes gave him a hard look.

“I don’t take orders from you,” Holmes said.

Hecate and Heather laughed openly at the shocked look on Apollo’s face. Holmes was grinning by the time they stopped laughing.

“Okay,” Holmes said.

“Wait,” Perses said. “How do you remember this?”

“I remember everything I see,” Holmes said. “Anything I’ve ever read. I can mimic anything I’ve seen.”

“Let the boy speak,” Heather said.

“The prophecy goes like this: ‘There will be a female child — not an average child, but a female child, none the less — many, many oracles from now. She will rise from the greatest house of the great houses. Her champion will place everything on the line for her. The greatest blade will guide this small hand, to the smallest blade, where the finest cut will change the fate of those strive for power and gold over true greatness.’”

Holmes repeated the prophecy in English. No one said anything for a long moment.

“They took out all of the identifying information,” Hecate said. “I bet . . .”

She looked at Heather, who nodded.

“We are all here,” Sandy said in English. “You may as well tell us.”

“Yes, I’m sorry,” Hecate said in English. “You are right. I was thinking that by taking these pieces off the prophecy, someone could use it to control people.”

“She’s avoiding saying that they killed all of the female children in the area. Hung them up so that their blood reddened the streets,” Apollo said. “That’s the legacy of this prophecy. By removing details, they were able to terrorize the region for a very long time.”

“Shit,” Holmes said.

“I need to put him under the dryer,” Sandy said. “You are welcome to stay or go terrorize someone else for a while.”

“I like this one,” Apollo said about Sandy.

“Don’t . . .,” Heather started.

Apollo went to hug Sandy and she kneed him in the groin. He grunted.

“Don’t touch me,” Sandy said.

Holmes’ eyes went big, and he tried not to laugh.

“She doesn’t like to be touched,” Heather said.

“I see that,” Apollo said. “Please accept my sincere apologies.”

Scowling at Apollo, Sandy led Holmes to the dryers and stuck him under. Holmes was done under the dryers by the time the Gods and Titans had disappeared.

“Where’d they go?” Holmes asked.

“I never know,” Sandy said. “What you did there was super brave. I’m proud of you. You turned a horrible experience into something that will truly help people.”

“People?” Holmes asked. “They aren’t people.”

“No, they aren’t,” Sandy said. “But the world is full of people. The Vanquisher is said to be able to destroy the world. That’s what we’re talking about here. You were super brave and really helped.”

Nodding, Holmes blushed.

Sandy took him back to wash out the dye. She dried and styled his hair, and then showed him how to slick it back if he wanted to. The entire rest of the time, Holmes’ cheeks held a little bit of blush in them. He waved to Sandy from the door.

Shaking her head at her weird life, Sandy went to the back to clean up and get ready for the next client.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...

 


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-one - Out of the mouths of babes (part six)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-ONE

(part six)

“It’s missing some of it,” Holmes said.

“Go ahead,” Apollo said.

Holmes gave him a hard look.

“I don’t take orders from you,” Holmes said.

Hecate and Heather laughed openly at the shocked look on Apollo’s face. Holmes was grinning by the time they stopped laughing.

“Okay,” Holmes said.

“Wait,” Perses said. “How do you remember this?”

“I remember everything I see,” Holmes said. “Anything I’ve ever read. I can mimic anything I’ve seen.”

“Let the boy speak,” Heather said.

“The prophecy goes like this: ‘There will be a female child — not an average child, but a female child, none the less — many, many oracles from now. She will rise from the greatest house of the great houses. Her champion will place everything on the line for her. The greatest blade will guide this small hand, to the smallest blade, where the finest cut will change the fate of those strive for power and gold over true greatness.’”

Holmes repeated the prophecy in English. No one said anything for a long moment.

“They took out all of the identifying information,” Hecate said. “I bet . . .”

She looked at Heather, who nodded.

“We are all here,” Sandy said in English. “You may as well tell us.”

“Yes, I’m sorry,” Hecate said in English. “You are right. I was thinking that by taking these pieces off the prophecy, someone could use it to control people.”

“She’s avoiding saying that they killed all of the female children in the area. Hung them up so that their blood reddened the streets,” Apollo said. “That’s the legacy of this prophecy. By removing details, they were able to terrorize the region for a very long time.”

“Shit,” Holmes said.

“I need to put him under the dryer,” Sandy said. “You are welcome to stay or go terrorize someone else for a while.”

“I like this one,” Apollo said about Sandy.

“Don’t . . .,” Heather started.

Apollo went to hug Sandy and she kneed him in the groin. He grunted.

“Don’t touch me,” Sandy said.

Holmes’ eyes went big, and he tried not to laugh.

“She doesn’t like to be touched,” Heather said.

“I see that,” Apollo said. “Please accept my sincere apologies.”

Scowling at Apollo, Sandy led Holmes to the dryers and stuck him under. Holmes was done under the dryers by the time the Gods and Titans had disappeared.

“Where’d they go?” Holmes asked.

“I never know,” Sandy said. “What you did there was super brave. I’m proud of you. You turned a horrible experience into something that will truly help people.”

“People?” Holmes asked. “They aren’t people.”

“No, they aren’t,” Sandy said. “But the world is full of people. The Vanquisher is said to be able to destroy the world. That’s what we’re talking about here. You were super brave and really helped.”

Nodding, Holmes blushed.

Sandy took him back to wash out the dye. She dried and styled his hair, and then showed him how to slick it back if he wanted to. The entire rest of the time, Holmes’ cheeks held a little bit of blush in them. He waved to Sandy from the door.

Shaking her head at her weird life, Sandy went to the back to clean up and get ready for the next client.

Denver Cereal continues on Monday...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-one - Out of the mouths of babes (part five)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-ONE

(part five)

“I don’t know what that means, but okay,” Sandy said. “His father will be furious that his son is so upset.”

“Human life is very hard,” Hecate said. “If you’re telling me that some human man is going to be mad at me, it sounds like Tuesday.”

Hecate shrugged.

“It is Tuesday,” Sandy said. She pushed Perses out of her way. “I’m working on his hair.”

“Don’t let us concern you,” Perses said.

“This is Perses,” Sandy said nodding to the Titan. “Holmes Olivas.”

“I’ve seen you before,” Holmes said. “You’re a friend of my Auntie Alex’s, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” Perses said. “She’s gotten me out of a number of tight spots. You should know — in my day, we put pedophiles behind huge boulders and force them to spend eternity pushing the rock up the hill only for it to roll to the bottom. The man who hurt you was a monster..”

“Thank you, I think,” Holmes said with a slight nod.

With Perses words, Holmes seemed to relax in a way Sandy hadn’t seen previously. She looked from Perses to Holmes.

“What?” Perses asked.

Sandy just shook her head and kept working on Holmes’ hair. After a moment she said, “I have to get some color from the back. I’m trusting you to be nice.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Perses and Hecate said in near unison.

Cleo the cat meowed, and Heather rolled her eyes.

“Tell us what you know,” Heather said in Ancient Greek.

“Where did you find this prophecy?” Hecate asked in Ancient Greek.

“It was a parchment,” Holmes said in the same language. “I think that it was some kind of historic record of the person who asked the question. He was a politician of some kind, from some other region.”

“What did he ask?” Perses asked in Ancient Greek.

“Who will stop these greedy assholes? Or something like that,” Holmes said. “They didn’t say specifically ‘assholes,’ but it was a Greek swearword for scum.”

Perses said a word, and Holmes nodded. Apollo arrived.

“Fuck,” Holmes said.

“Were you invited?” Sandy asked as she came out of the back with a rolling cart with two bowls of dye and aluminum foil wraps.

“I am a God, human,” Apollo said.

“You watch yourself! I will put you over my knee,” Perses said.

Apollo’s head jerked to Perses. He laughed, and they hugged.

“I apologize,” Hecate said. “I invited him. His temple was near the Oracles. He’s spent a lot of time in Delphi. I wasn’t sure if we’d need his assistance. But since he’s being an ass.”

“No, I’m okay,” Holmes said. “I was just surprised when he appeared. Sandy warned me but . . .”

“It’s freaky,” Sandy said.

“Well, young gentleman, my Uncle and Aunt are much more powerful than I am,” Apollo said. “They have sworn to protect you. You are safe.”

“Okay,” Holmes said.

“Now, why am I here?” Apollo asked.

“Our young friend found the written record of the prophecy,” Perses said. “From what I gather, he overheard Hedone speaking the prophecy and realized immediately that it was flawed.”

“It’s missing some of it,” Holmes said.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-one - Out of the mouths of babes (part four)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-ONE

(part four)

“They do this think they call ‘walking time.’ So the moment I ask for them, they kind of pop in,” Sandy said. “Some people don’t like it. Freaks them out.”

“Whatever,” Holmes said. “It’s not going to be the worst thing that happened to me.”

“Hold you breath,” Sandy said.

Holmes nodded.

“Heather, I need you,” Sandy said.

Heather appeared a second afterward.

“Shit, that’s crazy!” Holmes said.

His bright eyes and laugh indicate his irrepressible joy for life. Heather looked at him and then back at Sandy. She scowled and opened her mouth.

“He says there’s a verse of the prophecy left out,” Sandy said.

Heather turned to Holmes.

“This is very important,” Heather said. “Can you explain it to me?”

Holmes opened his mouth to start and Heather shook her head.

“Would you mind if I touch you?” Heather asked.

Holmes shook his head. Heather reached out to hold his nearest hand. For Holmes’ part, he was flooded with a sense of peace and love. Tears fell from his eyes at the sheer joy of being so loved. The feeling lingered for weeks after this experience. He would later attribute this moment to changing his life forever. But right now, he simply enjoyed the sensation.

After a moment, Heather shifted away.

“Hecate,” Heather said. “Perses.”

The Titans appeared. Perses had Cleo the cat on his shoulders.

“Hey!” Sandy said. “You can’t treat my cat like that!”

“We thought you might want the whole family,” Hecate said.

Sandy pulled the cat from Perses’ arms. She walked away from them talking to her cat.

“This is Holmes Olivas,” Heather said. “Holmes, I’d like you to meet Hecate and Perses. I believe that you know who they are.”

Still high from his experience of being touched by the goddess of love, he just waved at them.

“He says that there is another verse to the prophecy,” Heather said in Ancient Greek.

“You’re being rather rude,” Perses said, in English.

“He speaks it fluently,” Heather said. “He’s Troy Olivas’ eldest son, raised for his first years by his uncle, Homer. I believe you had some interactions with him.”

“Horrible man,” Hecate said. “Rotten to the core. I bet he made you learn the language so that he could get credit for all of those translations.”

“Exactly,” Heather said. “He abused his children horrifically.”

“Oh no!” Hecate said. Without asking, she touched Holmes’ hand. “I’m so sorry. If he were alive, I would smite him for you. Since he is gone, I can assure you that he will never return.”

Overwhelmed, Holmes began to weep.

“Cleo wants to be out here with you,” Sandy said. She pointed to Perses and squinted, “You be nice.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Perses said, taking the cat from Sandy.

Cleo climbed up onto Perses’ shoulders as if the Titan was wearing a feline shawl.

“What did you do?” Sandy asked. She knelt down to Holmes. “This is a child. He looked bigger and older, more mature, but he . . .”

“We understand,” Hecate said. “No one in this world understands his experience, your experience, more than I do. You have my power.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...


Chapter Six Hundred and Seventy-one - Out of the mouths of babes (part three)

CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SEVENTY-ONE

(part three)

“I won’t tell a soul.” Sandy said with a smile.

There was no one in the world that Holmes loved more than his younger brother.

“He made a painting for dad for Christmas,” Holmes said. “It’s at Mike’s studio so dad won’t see it.”

“I might take a peek then,” Sandy said.

“You should,” Holmes said. “Dad’s going to like it so much that he’ll cry.”

Sandy couldn’t help but smile at the sweet boy.

“You were telling me something about living with your uncle,” Sandy said, after a few minutes of silence.

“Oh, I know,” Holmes said with a sigh. “I was avoiding it.”

“Well don’t,” Sandy said. “We have this private time so we can talk.”

Holmes sighed.

“He made me learn Ancient Greek, Latin, and a bunch of other languages so that I could translate these ancient texts that his freak father owned,” Holmes said.

“Why?” Sandy asked with a shrug.

“I’m not really sure,” Holmes said. “He liked to show off and quote these old texts as if he had translated them himself, but it was me.”

“Of course it was,” Sandy said with a shake of his head. “Why shouldn’t he take all the credit for your work?”

“Right,” Holmes said. “But what I wanted to say is this — you’re missing a line of that prophecy.”

“What?” Sandy asked.

“I mean, that’s what made me start listening,” Holmes said. “I heard Heather speaking Ancient Greek. I don’t think I remembered that I knew that prophecy until she spoke it. But she left out a verse.”

Still focused on the boy’s hair, Sandy didn’t respond. Hermes touched Sandy’s hand.

“Oh, sorry,” Sandy said. “I kind of wheeled out there with my anger at your stupid uncle.”

“Heh,” Holmes said. “I do that.”

“I know you do,” Sandy said. “You’re saying that you translated this prophecy and there’s a verse missing. The one they think is about Katy and Paddie?”

Holmes nodded.

“And I think it is about Katy and Paddie,” Holmes said. “And the Vanquisher is a great blade, but the Sword of Truth is truly the greatest blade ever made, at least that’s what the ancient Greeks thought. Of course, Perses had the Vanquisher made and also told the world it was destroyed. At the time of the prophecy, the Vanquisher was considered to have been destroyed in the Titan purge.”

Sandy stopped cutting and looked at Holmes in the mirror.

“I don’t know anything about what you’re saying,” Sandy said. “Would you mind if I asked Heather to help?”

Holmes thought for a moment and then shook his head.

“She might want to bring a few of her friends,” Sandy said.

“They won’t hurt me or want. . . you know,” Holmes said.

“If they do, they’ll have to deal with me,” Sandy said.

She leaned back into her best martial arts stance. She was so small and fierce that Holmes laughed. She smiled.

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow...