Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred and Eighty : Something new


Monday afternoon — 3:15 p.m. PT

Las Vegas, Colorado

“Brrring!” Jeraine’s cell phone rang.

Jeraine’s agent, James “Jammy” Schmidt V, picked it up. Jeraine watched Jammy talk to another African-American artist. Jeraine’s phone started ringing off the hook within thirty seconds of the new casino announcing that they’d signed a contract with Jeraine. At first, it was mostly artists calling to congratulate Jeraine. Their agents followed up with official calls. The agency that represented a large number of famous artists already had agents on the plane to meet with them.

It was overwhelming.

Jeraine was having an “iffy” head day so Jammy was taking the calls. Jeraine sat in this hard kitchen chair watching Jammy. He was sitting at the kitchen table of the casino’s brand new condos that he was given …

His brain fritzed.

Hecate set a glass of water next to him and took his hand.

“You’re panicking,” Hecate said. “Let’s breathe and calm down a bit.”

Jeraine gave her a wide eyes look. She nodded, and his head mimicked her gesture.

“Dream c-c-c …” Jeraine dropped his forehead onto the table. The table was deliciously cool and seemed to ease the pain.

“Drink your water,” Hecate said. She patted her hand on the table.

He looked up at her. She nodded. A little frightened of the power that came off this woman, he drank the water. She got up and filled the glass again. He drank it again.

“It’s terrifying when our dreams come true,” Hecate said as she sat down.

“Look like come … true,” Jeraine said.

“Well, yes,” Hecate said. “It does look like your dreams are coming true.”

Hecate nodded. His head still down on the table, he nodded. He pointed to her.

“You do this?” Jeraine asked.

“No,” Hecate said with a laugh. “You did this.”

Jeraine’s index finger pointed to himself.

“You’ve mended bridges,” Hecate said. “Over your long career, you’ve given a lot of people their first breaks. I think everyone has watched you rebuild your life with Tanesha and start a new kind of career. Your hard work is its own kind of magic. You’ve created that magic through changing your life, taking responsibility, and generally reforming your life.”

Jeraine responded to her words with a groan.

“Let’s walk through it,” Hecate said. “Just pretend you’re talking to Tanesha. Visualize her face. See her hair, her lips, her lovely, bright eyes, that beautiful skin.”

“Okay,” Jeraine said. “Hi Miss T.”

“What happened today?” Hecate asked in an imitation of Tanesha’s voice.

Jeraine rotated his head to be sure it wasn’t Tanesha. Grinning, Hecate shrugged. Jeraine put his head back on the table.

“We went to breakfast with Jeannie,” Jeraine said. “Her name is Jeanie Jeanson or it was before she got married. I thought you’d laugh when you heard her two Jeans. She was even wearing jeans!”

Jeraine grinned at the floor. He turned his head to look at Hecate.

“Tanesha loves that kind of stuff,” Jeraine said. “People with two first names – Craig Scott, Shirley Jacob – that kind of thing. And her wearing jeans. She’ll laugh.”

Hecate gave him a big smile. Still imitating Tanesha’s voice, she said, “How was Jeanie Jeanson?”

“She was lovely. Truly love. I was surprised, you know because she married that jerk. But she had this joyful energy,” Jeraine said. “She took my elbow, and we walked into the restaurant together. She was really big — you know, loud voice and big words and gestures and stuff — outside and before we were escorted to our table. Once we got there, she was all business. I was … Uh … I don’t know if I should say this.”

He turned his head to look at her.

“Say what?” Hecate asked.

“Well, she acted like such a ditz when we were going inside and then she was brutally smart and nice,” Jeraine said.

“She was smart and nice,” Hecate said.

“You don’t think Tanesha would say that people can be smart and big?” Jeraine asked.

“I think Tanesha will know what you mean and appreciate hearing about it,” Hedone said in her own voice. “Especially since you really liked Smart Jeanie. She treated you like you were smart, a real professional, which was refreshing. You and she talked back and forth until Jammy took over the business talk.”

“Hmm,” Jeraine said with a nod. “I didn’t realize that she had already talked to Jammy’s friend Matt. Do we know his last name?”

“Are you asking me or Tanesha?” Hecate asked.

“You,” Jeraine said. “I don’t know it so it’s unlikely that Tanesha would.”

“She could have looked it up,” Hecate said.

“She’s in school,” Jeraine said. “That takes up most of her brain. It’s hard stuff. She doesn’t have time or space to look up other stuff.”

Hecate nodded. Jeraine forgot what they were talking about so he fell silent.

“Fromm,” Hecate said.

“Fromm what?” Jeraine asked.

“Matt and Helen’s last name,” Hecate said.

“How did you know?” Jeraine asked.

Hecate pointed to an advertisement that said: “Helen Fromm for mayor, Working for the people of Las Vegas since 2006.” She put her hand on his shoulder. He looked up at the ad and shook his head.

“That’s her last name,” Jeraine said.

“Oh,” Hecate said. “How do you know?”

“His name is Matt, short for Matthew,” Jeraine said.

“So?” Hecate asked.

“He was a disciple of Jesus,” Jeraine said. “Fromm is a Jewish name.”

Hecate shook her head.

“What?” Jeraine asked.

“I keep forgetting,” Hecate said with a shrug. “Jesus, Moses. It all runs together for me.”

“I bet,” Jeraine said.

His head returned to the table.

“Matt’s last name is Fromm,” Jammy said from the living room. “His father was Jewish. His mother Christian. For the Orthodox, Matt’s not Jewish because his mother wasn’t born Jewish. She converted before she married his father. Her father’s name was Matthew. That’s how you end up with Jewish boy named ‘Matt’.”

Jeraine laughed when he saw Hecate’s pinched face. Jammy turned to look at what Jeraine was laughing at.

“She can’t keep Jesus or Moses …”

“Buddha, Confucius, Muhammed …” Hecate lifted a shoulder in a shrug.

“Is your mother a ‘real’ Jew?” Jeraine asked.

“Yes,” Jammy said with a shake of his head. “All the way back to Moses.”

Jammy grinned at Hecate. She shrugged. Jeraine’s phone rang, and Jammy picked it up. They smiled at Jammy

“We were practicing talking to Tanesha,” Hecate said. “So you talked to Matt Fromm.”

“Yea, right,” Jeraine said, his forehead pressed against the table again. “Jeanie and Matt are going to produce my shows together in some kind of arrangement between the casinos. People can get casino deals at both places or whatever.”

“But the shows are still at the new casino?” Hedone asked in Tanesha’s voice. “Matt’s place?”

“We think so,” Jeraine said. “Jeanie wants to create a festival with shows at her casino and Matt’s at the very least. Or something. I didn’t get the details. Did you?”

“I don’t think there were details,” Hecate said. “It just sounded like Jeanie had thought a lot about what she wanted her empire to look like. Letting you go and build a show somewhere else is really a factor of the mess in Jeanie’s life. In a year or so, when she’s got everything sorted out, she’s going to do bigger things.”

“Which she wants me to be a part of,” Jeraine said.

“Yes, she does,” Hecate said.

“We toured the space — Matt’s space at his casino,” Jeraine said, skipping ahead. “It’s just an empty space. I gave him my sketches, you know, the ones Jill helped me with. He had a lot of questions. I thought that you could help me, Miss T. I don’t want to screw it up.”

“Oh, Jeraine, you won’t screw it up,” Hecate said in Tanesha’s voice.

“See, that’s not something Tanesha would say,” Jeraine said.

“What would she say?” Hecate asked.

“She’d say, ‘You’d better not screw up,’” Jeraine said. “Or something like that.”

“How do you feel when she says that?” Hecate asked.

“Like she’s speaking the truth,” Jeraine said with a laugh.

Hecate smiled.

“So how did you end up in this apartment?” Hecate asked.

“Condo,” Jeraine said. “They are called condominiums.”

“What’s the difference?” Hecate asked.

“Who knows?” Jeraine asked. “I just couldn’t believe that they gave this to us. Jeanie and Matt gave me this condo as a ‘sorry for the hassle’ present. Jammy says that this thing is worth at least a million cash.”

Hecate had no grasp of money so she shrugged.

“What’s the condo like?” Hecate asked in Tanesha’s voice.

“It’s got a nice master bedroom,” Jeraine said. “There’s two extra bedrooms — one for Jabari and another for guests or whoever. It’s right on the strip but high enough to be really quiet. There’s this gorgeous view of the mountains. So pretty. You’ll love it.”

Hecate smiled at Jeraine.

“What?” he asked.

“It is nice,” Hecate said with a nod. “You forgot the gym.”

“24 hour spa,” Jeraine said.

“That’s free for you,” Hecate said.

Jeraine nodded.

“So what’s the problem?” Hecate asked.

“I just lost everything. Like a minute ago,” Jeraine said. “All of the sudden. I mean it wasn’t all of the sudden it just felt that way to me. And now …”

“If you accumulate all of this, it might go away,” Hecate said.

“Exactly,” Jeraine said.

“It is the nature of things,” Hecate said. “The moon sends the tides far inland and also out into the deep sea.”

“Things come and go,” Jeraine said.

“Exactly,” Hecate said. “Why not enjoy it while it’s here?”

Jeraine rotated his head to look at her. She nodded.

“You’re not going to say that whole — ‘Human life is so short that you can’t fathom the ebb and flow of life’?”

“I wasn’t planning on it,” Hecate said. “Should I?”

Jeraine sat up. He looked at Jammy.

“It does sound pretty good, doesn’t it?” Jeraine asked.

“I think so,” Hecate said.

The phone to the condo rang. Hecate got up to answer it. She spoke for a minute or so before bringing the phone over to Jeraine.

“It’s Tanesha,” Hecate said. “She said that she tried to call you but your phone was busy. She got the condo number from her friend, Jeanie Jeanson, who wears jeans.”

Jeraine chuckled and took the phone.

“Just tell her like you told me,” Hecate whispered.

Which is exactly what Jeraine did.


Monday afternoon — 4:25 p.m.

Deckers, Colorado

Jacob woke up with a start. Unsure of where he was, he sat up. He recognized the bedroom of his cabin. He saw Sarah lying on the bed next to him. He reached over to stroke her yellow fur. She opened her eyes and then closed them again.

Smiling at her, he got up from the bed and went to check the refrigerator.

To his surprise, the refrigerator was stocked with food. There was firewood in the fire pit and stacked next to the fireplace.

There was nothing that he had to do.

Nothing he had to do.


The nothingness was like a chasm opening up in front of him. He’d been running so long, pressing so hard for such a long time that the nothingness felt bleak.

“What the hell am I going to do with myself?” Jacob asked.

He stood in kitchen area staring at the fireplace for a long moment before noticing that there was a gift bag on the kitchen counter. He took out a card with his name in Jill’s tight handwriting.

“My darling Jacob,

I thought this was a crazy idea when Valerie suggested it. It was only when Blane talked to me about how you seemed to be drifting.

I guess I thought that after so many years of being so directed that you deserved some time drifting. I told him that I wasn’t concerned.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed how you were very slowly, but surely becoming depressed. It wasn’t until Katy said something about you’re being irritable and down that I agreed with Blane and Valerie.

I am sure you hate being there are this moment.

I’m sure you feel betrayed by all of us. Or at least, I would.

Please know that we will miss you, desperately. The kids are going to hate having you gone.

I have to love you enough to let you go to find yourself again. If you decided to come home right now, I would understand.

It just seems like you’ve spent so much time filling everyone’s needs that you’ve lost track of what you need and want.

That’s just not okay with me.

Promise me that you’ll give this break a try. Give yourself some days to sleep, wander the mountains, go fishing, breathe the mountain air — then see what comes up.

The kids and I will be here when you’re ready to talk about it. We’ll be here when you’re ready to come home.

Love you,


He sighed and read the letter again.

Maybe he needed to give this idea that he was depressed some consideration. He looked into the bag and saw one of the big journals he preferred. There was even the pen he loved. Jill had included drawings from the twins and a short story Katy had written for him. She’s stuck a small tin of what was left of Sandy’s mouthwatering butter cookies.

Taking a cookie out of the tin, he decided to leave Katy’s story for later.

He took out the journal and set it on the counter.

“In Deckers,” he wrote. “Forced time off and the date.”

He took a breath and started to write. His hand flew over the page. He wrote and wrote and wrote until his hand cramped. He shook out his hand and kept writing. He lost track of what he was writing. He just wrote.

Sarah shook her head in such a way that her ear flopping made a loud noise and the tags on her collar jingled. He looked up.

Day had turned to night. Sarah needed dinner and a walk. He set the journal on the counter. He would go through what he wrote tonight to see if there was something he needed to focus on. For now, it was time to get out of the cabin.

He grabbed Sarah’s leash, and headed out into dim light of dusk in the mountains.


Monday evening — 6:05 p.m. MT

Denver, Colorado

“It sounds pretty good,” Heather said from the small bathroom off the room.

Heather was running a bubble bath for Sandy.

“It does,” Tanesha said as she sat down on Sandy’s bed. “Jeraine’s excited, but wary.”

“That makes sense,” Heather said. “And how are you?”

“Eh,” Tanesha said with a shrug. “I have to see it happen before I start cheering.”

“As always,” Heather said.

Nodding, Tanesha held up a smoothie for Sandy to drink. She positioned the straw in Sandy’s mouth so that Sandy could drink. Jill was in class so Heather and Tanesha came over to give Aden a break. They were charged by Maresol to help Sandy have dinner and help her clean up.

“You must be exhausted after last night,” Tanesha said to Sandy.

Sandy nodded.

“I really hated having a wired jaw,” Tanesha said.

Sandy nodded again and gestured to her heart. She pointed to the tablet on the table.

“Is that it?” Heather asked from the bathroom. “The video?”

Sandy nodded.

“I want to see it,” Heather said.

Sandy coughed. Tanesha took the smoothie away. Tanesha wiped the smoothie off her friend’s face. Tanesha looked at the cup and saw that Sandy had finished most of it.

“You must be hungry,” Tanesha said.

Sandy nodded and said, “Ppp-zzzaa.”

“You’re hungry for pizza?” Tanesha asked.

Sandy nodded.

“Totally sucks,” Tanesha said. “When do you see the doc again?”

Sandy held up a single finger on her left hand and said, “wee-kk.”

“Sucks,” Tanesha said. “Would you like more smoothie?”

Sandy shook her head with certainty. Tanesha smiled.

“There is only so much smoothie a girl can stand,” Heather said from the bathroom.

“You seem good,” Tanesha said. “Really good.”

Sandy nodded.

“Come on,” Tanesha said. “Let’s get you into the bath.”

With Heather’s help, Tanesha helped Sandy out of bed. They made the painful and slow journey across the few feet of hardwood floor to get into the tile bathroom. Heather wrapped Sandy’s knee, calf, and foot in plastic. They wrapped her hands. Using great care, and a tiny bit of magic that no one would ever mention, they got Sandy into the bath without getting her casts wet.

Sandy groaned with delight.

“W-rr-mm,” Sandy said.

“Would you like a bit of privacy?” Tanesha asked.

Sandy shook her head. She gestured into the room.

“Want to watch the video together?” Heather asked.

Sandy nodded. Heather got up and got the tablet.

“Have you watched it again?” Tanesha asked.

Sandy shook her head. She gestured to Tanesha and Heather.

“You waited for us?” Tanesha asked.

Sandy nodded. Tanesha leaned down to kiss Sandy’s cheek. Heather set up the tablet so that they could all watch.

While Sandy soaked some of her pain away, they watched Seth, Alex, and Vince go into the booby trapped side-tunnel to the Salt Tunnel. They paused the video to help Sandy to the toilet. After cleaning up, they helped change her clothing and get her back into bed. Once settled, they watched to the end.

“Wow!” Tanesha said. “Just wow!”

She put her arms around her friend.

“You really did something big,” Tanesha said.

Sandy nodded and patted her heart.

“I bet it feels good,” Heather said. “We’re proud of you!”

Sandy made a soft smile.

“Let’s get you your meds,” Tanesha said.

Heather doled out Sandy’s pain meds. Exhausted by the visit, Sandy dropped off to sleep. Tanesha and Heather stayed with Sandy until Noelle came to relieve them. They hugged Noelle and headed out to the car.

“That was just …” Tanesha said.

“Fucking amazing,” Heather said with a nod. “Amazing.”

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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