CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-EIGHT
Saturday morning — 8:15 a.m.
“But we’ll be there all week!” Nash complained.
“Yes, imagine how horrible it would be to drill more than one well,” Jacob said.
He pushed on the boy’s head. Nash swatted at his hand. Nash and Charlie were helping Jacob sort through their camping gear from the storage room in the basement.
“It’s not Paris,” Charlie said, mildly.
“Yeah!” Nash said angrily. “It’s not like we’re going to Paris!”
“We’re going to the Navajo reservation to help some good people get water,” Jacob said. “But if you’d rather stay here and work on a Lipson crew, I’d totally understand.”
Nash grumbled. He grabbed the heavy large tent and carried out of the basement.
“He’s upset because he thought he was going to see Nadia this week,” Charlie said.
“I probably should tell him that she’s coming,” Jacob said.
“She is?” Charlie asked.
“She offered to relieve a doctor at the clinic,” Jacob said. “As you can imagine, he was delighted to have a few days off. Nelson thinks he can get away on Wednesday. Blane’s bringing his needles. M.J. and Tanesha are going to help too. I think Alex’s husband is coming. Her nephew and niece. We hope to relieve some of the congestion in the clinic there. In fact, if you want to observe, it’s a pretty good chance to see what every specialty does. I bet they could use your help too. Tink’s too.”
Nodding, Charlie grinned. He and Tink just started working on their Certified Medical Assistant degree at night. They were already volunteering a few hours at the free clinic Tanesha was working at. Jacob pointed to a large cooler.
“Can you bring that up to the girlfriends?” Jacob said.
“The girlfriends?” Charlie asked with a laugh.
“Jill, Tanesha, Heather, your sister?” Jacob asked.
“I know who they are,” Charlie said. “I just didn’t know anyone called them that besides me.”
Jacob grinned. Charlie picked up the cooler and started out of the room.
“They’re going to ask you where the little ones are,” Jacob said.
Charlie turned to look at him.
“Inside the cooler,” Jacob said. “We have two more of big ones.”
“Come back,” Jacob said. “Don’t let them send you somewhere else.”
Teddy showed up at the door.
“How do the sleeping bags look?” Jacob said.
“Mrs. Valerie is washing a couple of them,” Teddy said. “You know we have a bunch of these at my Dad’s house. Alex’s too.”
“Your Dad’s bringing what they have,” Jacob said. “He and your siblings are coming for a few days. Your sister didn’t tell you?”
“She’s not talking to me,” Teddy said with a shrug.
“Ah, yes,” Jacob said. “I’m sure that will teach you a lesson.”
Grinning, Teddy grabbed another armload of sleeping bags and carried them to the laundry room. Nash appeared in the doorway.
“Could I just go to Paris?” Nash asked. “Maybe New York?”
“What did your mom and dad say?” Jacob asked.
Nash slumped into himself.
“Nadia has arranged to be there with us,” Jacob said. “She and the rest of the medical crew are taking over the clinic there to give the medical staff some relief.”
“Oh,” Nash said. He flushed red and looked down. When he looked up, he had tears in his eyes. “I don’t know if I …”
Jacob hugged the boy.
“You’ll be great,” Jacob said. “We’re going to go, dig a few wells for some nice people, camp out, eat some great food. We’ll have a great time. You know Margaret Peaches, don’t you?”
“She’s already there,” Jacob said. “She, Cian, and their daughter are there getting everything ready for us. We’re going to stay on some of their land. Cian says it’s like heaven on earth.”
“But I don’t know how to dig a well,” Nash said.
“You know how to show up and work,” Jacob said. “You’ll learn the rest.”
“Is my dad coming too?” Nash asked.
“He’s coming today to help us get set up,” Jacob said. “He has to go back to work on Tuesday. If we’re still working and happy next weekend, he’ll come down on Saturday. You don’t go back to school until Tuesday.”
Nodding at the information, Nash darkened.
“These people don’t have water,” Jacob said. “Imagine what that would be like.”
“Awful,” Nash said. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand.
“We can go down there, bring some equipment, and remedy that situation,” Jacob said. “If we’re lucky, we’ll dig a well a day. If not, we’ll at least get water to Margaret’s grandparents. And, we’ll go back again when we can.”
Nash looked up at Jacob.
“We’re going to have a blast,” Jacob said. “I promise.”
Nash nodded. Jacob pointed to the five-two person tents hanging on hooks along the wall. Nash pulled the tents down and went upstairs.
Jacob watched Nash head out the door. Charlie appeared in the door.
“They want the other coolers,” Charlie said.
Grinning, Jacob pointed him toward the other coolers. The boy picked up two coolers and started out of the room. Jacob called him back.
“Tell Abi that there’s still an entire deer in the freezer,” Jacob said.
Charlie shook his head.
“She’s talking to the girlfriends about going hunting,” Jacob said. “We can bring the deer. We have some fly-fishing planned, but no hunting on the reservation this time of year. Tell her all of that.”
Charlie nodded and left.
“Jake!” Valerie’s voice came to him in the storage room at the same time that Tink showed up.
“Any ideas?” Jacob asked Tink.
“She wants to talk to you,” Tink said with a shrug. “She sent me here to bring you to her.”
Seeing Teddy in the hallway, Jacob pointed Teddy into the storage room. He went to the laundry room.
“Yes?” Jacob asked.
Valerie was standing next to the two big washing machines. She had her son, Eddie, was strapped onto her back in a baby backpack and her daughter, Jackie, was sitting on the folding table. Tink came in behind Jacob. She was folding towels on the folding table in the corner.
“Jackie tells me that the kids have been sleeping together every night,” Valerie said.
“Many of them,” Jacob said. “Not all of them, of course.”
“Should they sleep together on the trip?” Valerie asked.
Jacob squinted at her.
“How would I know?” Jacob asked, irritably.
Valerie grinned at him, and he smiled at her.
“What do you really want?” Jacob asked.
“I …” Valerie looked at him. “I was standing her telling Tink about the camping trips we took as kids and how I would get really scared but you were super fierce and protective and …”
“And?” Jacob asked.
“I realized I could call you in here,” Valerie said. She shrugged. “I haven’t been around in a long time.”
Jacob went to his sister and kissed her cheek.
“Are we almost ready?” Valerie asked.
“Another hour,” Jacob said. “If we don’t go into major meltdown mode.”
“Don’t have a meltdown Jacob,” Valerie said, in a pleading voice. “Use your words.”
He gave her an exasperated look at left the room. From the storage room, he could hear her yelling “use your words.”
“What in the world?” Jeraine asked as he came out of the apartment they were staying in.
Jeraine was carrying two backpacks stuffed with gear and sleeping bags.
“She misses me,” Jacob said.
“Do you need an extra sleeping bag?” Jeraine asked. “We have an extra bag and a one-man tent.”
“If you can give it to Nash, that would be great,” Jacob said.
“Sure thing,” Jeraine said. “I’ll drop these off and get what we have.”
Jacob watched Jeraine head up the stairs and went back into the storage area. The teenagers had nearly cleared out all of their camping gear. He grinned.
They were going to have a great time.
Saturday morning — 10:15 a.m.
Blane kissed Heather’s cheek, and she stroked his face.
“Drive safely,” Heather said, softly.
“I will,” Blane said. He couldn’t keep himself from asking again. “You’re sure this is okay?”
Blane was hot and tired. Angry with himself for even attempting to have a relationship with Nelson, he needed some time to think everything through. Also, he truly hated all of the chaos and drama involved in getting these family trips underway. These teenagers were getting on his last nerve. He dared not say anything or have Jacob laugh at him. Jacob and Aden loved the chaos. But Blane was ill suited to chaos and drama.
“Absolutely,” Heather said. “You have a lot to think about. This is a long drive. The two things are a good fit. If you get tired of being alone, I can join you or any of …”
Heather gestured to the teenagers. Nash was pushing Charlie, and Charlie was laughing. Tink rolled her eyes at the boys. Noelle was obsessing about her paint in the back of Aden’s SUV.
“Leave it!” Aden ordered.
“What if I need …?” Noelle asked for the hundredth time.
Katy and Paddie skipped past while Jacob struggled by carrying the twins in two car seats. Sandy dropped Maggie into Heather’s arms before going to referee in the escalating fight between Noelle and her father. Honey wheeled out from the house. She zoomed to her van currently filled with coolers and full backpacks.
Jeraine was standing just outside the chaos looking stunned by the activity and noise.
“Man up, buttercup.” M.J. shot Jeraine the dig Jeraine usually said to him.
M.J. bumped Jeraine’s shoulder as he passed. M.J. was carrying a heavy duffle bag. He dropped it in the back of the SUV Blane was driving and turned again to Jeraine.
“Are you coming?” M.J. asked Jeraine.
This seemed to shake Jeraine out of his shock. He jogged to Honey’s van.
“The usual chaos,” Blane said.
“I’m sure we’ll have enough of chaos this week.” Heather raised her eyebrows at Blane.
“I don’t want to …” Blane started.
“We’ll be fine,” Heather said. “If we’re not, I’ll use the walky talky to let you know. Easy.”
He leaned forward and they hugged. Heather gave him a little wave and went to her Subaru where Jill was in the driver’s seat. Blane watched Heather greet Tanesha before the women got into the stationwagon. Tink stepped in after Tanesha. Carrying Rachel Ann, Sandy was the last to join them.
As the gear driver, Blane waited to leave until everyone was underway. Honey was the first person out of the parking lot. Jill followed in the Subaru. Noelle ran out from Aden’s SUV. She ran around Mike as he came out of the Castle carrying his children. Valerie was right behind Mike. Because Valerie had been gone, they were leisurely driving to New Mexico together as a family in her mother’s old diesel Mercedes. Mike waved to Blane as they left the parking lot. Jacob, with Katy, Paddie, and a host of infants, followed Mike.
Noelle ran out of the Castle toward Blane’s SUV. Blane hopped out of the driver’s seat to grab another plastic storage container filled with pastels and colored pencils from Noelle. She followed him to the SUV to put her pad of paper inside. He put her colors and paper near the driver’s seat so that nothing could happen to them.
“Come on!” Charlie yelled to Noelle.
She ran to Aden’s SUV. There was much groaning but she was soon seat belted inside. Aden started out of the Castle parking lot. Blane checked the straps on the carrier on top of the SUV. He made sure the bicycles were locked into the rack on the roof. He did one last check around the vehicle before he got back in the driver’s seat.
Nelson was sitting in the passenger’s seat.
“What do you want?” Blane asked, irritably.
“I’m going with you,” Nelson said.
“What about ‘Don’t call me’?” Blane asked. “I thought you didn’t ever want to see me again.”
Nelson looked at Blane for a moment.
“I’m not a fucking Greek God,” Blane said. “I don’t fucking innately understand your human frailties.”
His rage rising, Blane pointed his index finger at Nelson.
“And this is not a game,” Blane said. “I have young children who were wondering why Uncle Nelson stormed out of their lives. My life is not conducive the push-pull of teenage girls.”
Nelson watched Blane.
“Who the fuck do you think you are?” Blane asked. “Get the fuck out of the car!”
“No,” Nelson said.
“Someone was mean to you. Big fucking deal!” Blane said. “Years ago. And you’re out of here. It wasn’t even me! I wasn’t the one who was cruel to you. But I’m the one you never, ever want to see again! Me! Well, guess what? The feeling’s mutual. Get the fuck out of the car!”
Nelson didn’t move. Blane shook with fury. He opened his mouth to yell some more, but futility overwhelmed him. His rage drained out of him as hopelessness overwhelmed him.
“Go,” Blane said.
Nelson didn’t respond. Blane shook his head and grabbed the steering wheel to keep from falling over.
“Fine,” Blane said through his teeth. “If you have something to say, say it and be gone.”
“You have a right to be mad,” Nelson said.
Blane snorted at Nelson.
“I have a right to need space,” Nelson said. “To feel things strongly. To react! You know, I might be a scientist but I am not an automaton.”
“No one asked you to be an automaton,” Blane said. “You don’t need my permission to feel whatever the fuck you want to feel. You’re allowed.”
“Then why are you so angry?” Nelson asked.
Blane tried to take a few deep breathes to calm himself. Instead, he hit the wheel with his hand.
“You begged me to start this thing with you. For years. Since that night at the Church,” Blane said. “ ‘Come on, Blane.’ ‘Don’t be afraid.’ ‘We can do this.’ ‘I love you, love Heather, love the kids.’ ‘We’re good together, Blane.’ ‘We owe it to ourselves to at least try.’ Or the kicker — ‘What could possibly happen?’”
Blane glared at Nelson.
“Then something happens,” Blane said. “And you’re out. No conversation. No honoring of the commitment you begged for. Nothing. Just bam, you’re gone. You don’t ever want to see me again.”
Blane leaned over Nelson and flicked open the lever on the passenger door. The passenger door swung open.
“I don’t have time for liars,” Blane said. “Now, please. You wanted out. You wanted no contact. Get out. Go live your life. Leave me the fuck alone!”
Nelson sighed. He shifted from looking at Blane to looking out of the windscreen. The sound of the traffic on Colfax Boulevard echoed through the vehicle. Nelson turned to Blane.
“You’re right,” Nelson said evenly. “I was exhausted, over wrought, completely out there on the skinny branches.”
“Why?” Blane asked. “That’s what I don’t get. Why didn’t you talk to me? Trust me to stand up for you, to want work it out?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Nelson said. “I am a part of a Federal case to take down a major crime family. I’ve been working on this project off and on for six months or more. I haven’t had a lot of sleep because I’ve been in meetings then …”
“Then?” Blane asked.
“Then my dream man comes over to my home and we were up… almost all night,” Nelson said. “I … Anything I say will sound like an excuse. But I will tell you — this thing with Junior is a big fucking deal to me. It might not be severe, unadulterated trauma. That’s true, but it changed my life…”
Nelson shook his head. Not able to meet Blane’s eyes, Nelson stayed focused out the front windscreen.
“It’s like one moment, I was one person,” Nelson said. “The next moment, I was someone else, all because of something Junior said.”
“Junior?” Blane asked.
“M.J.” Nelson said. “Michael Scully, Junior. We used to call him ‘Junior.’”
Blane shook his head and looked away.
“Why …?” Blane started.
“My soul was … broken,” Nelson said. “I don’t think I even realized it until …”
Nelson stopped talking. He turned to Blane.
“Until?” Blane asked.
“Hedone,” Nelson said.
“Apples?” Blane asked.
“What is the deal with those apples?” Nelson asked.
“They are infused with love,” Blane said. “They heal, on the inside.”
“Amazing,” Nelson said.
Not one to let things go, Blane scowled.
“So, that’s it?” Blane asked. “You’ve had some apples and, like some reverse fucking Snow White, you’re okay?”
“No,” Nelson said. “No.”
“Then what?” Blane asked.
Nelson didn’t respond for a moment.
“I’m sorry,” Nelson said. “When I think through what it must have been like for you, I …”
“I should not have run off,” Nelson said. “I …”
Nelson gave a sad chuckle.
“I’ve learned that running away has caused most of my suffering,” Nelson said.
“And that means?” Blane asked.
“I ran away when Michael’s mother taunted me about being gay,” Nelson said. “My dad and my grandmother were arguing. My grandmother hit me and his mother was calling me a ‘faggot’ and my father was screaming and …”
Nelson sighed. Sorrow came off the young man in waves. He looked over at Blane.
“My father has always known that I was gay,” Nelson said. “Said it was something that runs in our family.”
“He doesn’t have a problem with it?” Blane asked. “With you.”
Nelson shook his head.
“He’s been trying to set me up,” Nelson said. Blane raised his eyebrows. “With you. He’s one of your acupuncture clients. Said he’s been trying to set us up for years.”
“Your father is sees me for acupuncture?” Blane asked. “You’re sure?”
“What is your father’s name?” Blane asked.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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