Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal : Chapter Fifty-Seven : Apes don't like snow


Sunday morning – 5:20 A.M.

Valerie couldn’t help but smirk. From a block away, she saw Jill and Jacob. As if they were tragic lovers waiting for the train that would separate them for life, they clung to each other. Valerie pulled her old Mustang up to the curb in next to them. Valerie’s arrival, and Jacob’s imminent departure, launched the lovers into full lip-locked make-out mode. Finally, one last kiss, and Jacob was in the car. Jill waved to Valerie. Laughing, Valerie waved back.

“Ok, it’s not that funny,” Jacob said.

“It’s pretty funny, little brother. How was last night?”

Making her way to Lipson construction headquarters, Valerie continued up Welton. They were just turning right on Broadway when Jacob said:


“Took you a while to respond,” Valerie laughed.

“It’s weird, you know. We’ve been together for a while. It’s not our first night… but…. It’s like every thing is different.”


“Yeah. More solid. More real.”

“I felt like that after Mike and I got married. I felt like I’d reached a kind of bedrock. A foundation, you know?” Stopping at the light at Colfax, Valerie turned to look at Jacob. “I think that’s some of why we had so much trouble. That bedrock is addictive. But when things shifted for us, I…. I guess I wanted it back and….”

Valerie put the car in gear and drove through the light. She was silent through their short drive on Broadway. Turning right onto Eighth Avenue, she finished her statement.

“I guess I realized that it was there all the time,” Valerie said.

“That’s a lovely thought,” Jacob said.

“I thought for a long time that ‘true love’ was a curse Mom and Dad put on us. Just because it’s true love doesn’t mean it’s not work. It just means you don’t really have a choice to go find another person like a new pair of shoes. In the last months…. Well, really seeing you and Jill, I realize how lucky we are.”

“We’re lucky in our curse?” Jacob laughed.

“Something like that.” Driving the Eight Avenue curve to Kalamath Street, Valerie asked, “Are you ready for today?”

“We signaled a big fat fuck you to the bank yesterday by not responding. Our credit line is canceled. They called the debt last night.”

“Sounds so ominous.”

“No company has ever done this. At least any company that we can find a record for. We have to do it right. I don’t have the option to not be ready.”

“And if this doesn’t work?”

Jacob shrugged.

“We’ll figure something out,” Valerie said. “You’ll figure something out.”

“I’m glad you’re here and… participating… working.”

“I’m in Denver until January. I’m happy to help. I’ve had the greatest time, really. It’s like….”

“An old pair of shoes?”

Pulling into the parking lot of Lipson Construction, Valerie laughed.

“Who has old shoes?”


Sunday morning – 5:45 A.M.

Jacob stuck his head in the conference room where Blane had set up breakfast for everyone. Valerie and Sam were drinking coffee near a corner of the room. Tres and Aden were eating at the table. The venture capitalist was due at six o’clock.

“Tres,” Jacob said. “Can you spare a minute?”

Blane caught Jacob’s eye and Jacob smiled in return. Tres got up from his chair to follow Jacob into his office.

“What’s going on, Jake?”

“I need to know why you were so hard on Heather yesterday,” Jacob said. “I wasn’t there but I’ve heard that you really went after her.”

“I…. Oh,” Tres said. “Yeah, I wasn’t nice.”

“Do you know her?”

“I met her yesterday,” Tres said. “At your wedding. I mean, she sat next to me at the reception. She was assigned next to me… by Valerie.”

“Heather is Blane’s wife.”

“Blane is gay, Jake. You know that. He can’t be married to her. He just can’t be.”

“Why?” Jacob asked. “Their relationship has nothing to do with you.”

Tres flushed and looked away from Jacob. When he looked back, he was chewing on his lip for moral support.

“How much trouble am I in?” Tres asked.

“Quite a bit,” Jacob said. “You know how harassment is treated here.”

“Immediate termination,” Tres said. “Are you firing me?”

“I don’t have any interest in firing you, Tres. I have a big interest in making sure that a pregnant woman isn’t abused by a Lipson employee at a social gathering. If you had acted like that here, or at a site, you’d be gone. Why did you do it?”

“Well….” Tres plopped down in a chair near Jacob’s desk. “Honestly?”

“That’s a good place to start.”

“I don’t know,” Tres said. “She’s gorgeous, you know. I’m sitting there next to this gorgeous woman and I notice she has a wedding ring. I think , ‘Of course she does.’ I mean she’s pregnant and all. She’s safe for me, you know.”


“Well, I don’t have to think about asking her out, or being smooth, or whatever. I can enjoy her company. I’m not very good at all that dating stuff, you know.”

“It’s a construction thing, I think.” Jacob leaned against the edge of his desk.

“Yeah, we’re never around women,” Tres said. “Heather… I…. We talked and laughed for a couple hours. She’s really funny. Blane came over a few times to check on her, but I didn’t think any thing about it. She’s a friend of your wife’s. I thought he was… doing his Blane thing. You know? The last time he came over, she said something about going home with the husband. And I….”

“Lost your fucking mind?”

“Well… yeah,” Tres said. “I’m furious with myself. I totally fucked up. I knew that at the time, but I couldn’t stop myself. I….”

“Being mean to girls we’re attracted to doesn’t work, Tres. Didn’t work in forth grade, doesn’t work now.”

“Attracted to? She’s… yeah,” Tres said.

“You need to apologize to Blane. A real apology. Heather doesn’t want to have anything to do with you, which is understandable. You already know you owe her an apology.”

“Yeah. But how can they be married?”

“It works for them, Tres. Blane’s happier than I’ve ever known him to be. They’re both really happy.”

Tres nodded.

“I am sorry, Jake. I didn’t mean to make a scene at your reception. I… I’m not sure what happened.”

“You’re ten years old?”

“I haven’t had that much Captain Crunch since I was ten years old,” Tres said.

“Go talk to Blane. We have a long day. We can’t have any friction between us. Deal with it now.”

Nodding, Tres left the room. Jacob followed him to the conference room where he watched Tres ask Blane if he could talk to him. Sitting down next to Valerie, Jacob longed for the quiet, sandy beach he had planned for his honeymoon.

“You’d never let someone else take care of this,” Celia said from across the room. “This is your deal, your baby, your chance to make history.”

Jacob nodded. Valerie waved her hand in front of Jacob’s face. Leaning into him, she whispered:


“Nah. You?”

“Excited,” Valerie said. “Dad too. What did Mom say?”

“That she loves you,” Jacob said.

“Of course.”

Tres came back into the conference room. Sitting back down next to Aden, he nodded to Jacob.

“Right this way,” they heard Blane from outside the conference room. “We’re just having a bite to eat. Won’t you join us?”

Jacob let out a breath. Show time.


Sunday afternoon – 1 P.M.

“So I said I would,” Sandy said to Jill.

Knowing better than to make a scene, Jill beamed. They were walking behind Noelle, Nash and Katy at the Denver Zoo. Katy ran off to see the penguins with Noelle right on her heels. There was snow on the ground, but the day was bright and warm.

“What about the kids?” Jill asked

“I love these kids as if they were my own,” Sandy said. “It’s like my little brother and sister were practice for these guys. I don’t know how the next couple of months will go.”

“Since you work so much?”

“Yeah, I’m scheduled every day for the next six weeks. I’m off on Thanksgiving but that’s it,” Sandy said. “Everyone wants the perfect hair for their holiday parties.”

“We’ve been invited to a dozen, at least,” Jill said.

“Another round of charity events,” Sandy said. “It’s been a weird year. Can you believe that in January you were married to Trevor?”

Jill gave a dramatic shudder. They laughed.

“Do you think you and Jacob will have kids soon?”

“I don’t know,” Jill said. “Seeing Heather….”

“How happy and supported she is? Unlike when you had Katy?”

“Yeah, it gives me the urge. But Katy was so upset about Bree and Becky on Halloween. We decided to wait a while so she could just adjust to all these changes.”

“Probably smart,” Sandy said.

Katy ran back to Jill for a hug then took off to catch up with Nash at the Bear Mountain.

“What about you, Sandy? You could have kids. Aden is a great father.”

“Thinking about spending my life with him is enough to adjust to,” Sandy said.

Jill laughed.

“I’m not opposed to the idea,” Sandy said. “I’m just….”


“I don’t know if I’d be a great mother. I like kids. Took care of my brother and sister when they were babies, but…. Well, you know what they say about people like me.”

“Oh whatever,” Jill said. “Just because there’s some statistic that people who were abused can become abusers, doesn’t mean it has to be that way, Sandy. I mean really, who have you ever hurt?”

“There are a few people on my list that I’d like to hurt.” Sandy’s face went dark. “Like the sperm donor.”

“He’s an asshole.”

“I wanted to hurt Trevor, but I guess your Dad got to him first.” Sandy laughed.

“Do you think he’s my father? You mean like my real father?” Jill asked.

“Your mother calls him ‘your Papa’,” Sandy said.

“I need to spend more time with her, but I haven’t had a Mom since I was ten years old. I don’t really know how to… do it.”

“She’s coming over for dinner tonight right?”

Jill nodded.

“Just enjoy it,” Sandy said. “I bet she feels uncomfortable too. It’s a lot of pressure after all those years in quiet Costa Rica.”

Jill nodded. Crying, Katy ran back to Jill and threw herself into Jill’s arms.

“What’s a matter, Katy-baby?” Jill asked.

“Apes don’t like snow,” Katy said in Jill’s ear.

While Jill held Katy tight, Sandy watched a group of boys approach Nash. The boys seemed to argue, then one of the boy’s pushed Nash. Then pushed him again!

As Sandy ran to him, Nash fell onto the ground. Sandy helped Nash up.

“You stupid jerk,” Noelle yelled at the boy. “Who do you think you are? You can’t push my brother around?”

The boys laughed at Noelle. With one arm around Nash, Sandy grabbed Noelle’s arm. She dragged them away from the jeering boys.

“I was thinking about getting some cocoa,” Jill said.

“Cocoa sounds perfect,” Sandy replied. Turning to Nash, she asked, “What was that?”

Angry, Nash shook his head and looked down. When he slumped into himself, Noelle shrugged.

“I didn’t hear them,” Noelle said. “There’s a new boy in Nash’s class that’s a real bully. He’s mean and he gets all the boys to gang up on other kids. Girls too. I don’t like him at all. Like not even one little bit.”

“We’ll get some cocoa and non-Dad approved snacks then see the other side of the zoo,” Sandy said.

Nash brightened at the idea of snacks. Jill put Katy down so that she could run off with Noelle to the snack area.

“Nash?” Jill asked. “My brother Mike knows exactly how to handle boys like that. Would you like me to ask him to teach you?”

Nash’s head jerked up to look at Jill. Hope flashed across his face. He nodded.

“I bet we could track him down today,” Jill said. “He could meet us here at the zoo, even. Would you like that?”

Nash nodded.

“Great,” Jill said. She held the door for Nash. As they walked through it, she said, “I was bullied for a lot of years. I know how awful it feels. But there is nothing wrong with you. I would tell you if there was. There’s something wrong with them.”

Nash threw himself into her arms. Jill held him.

“Nash! They have brownies!” Noelle yelled.

With smile of gratitude to Jill, Nash ran off to meet his sister. Sandy and Jill shared a look of understanding. Sandy followed the kids to pay while Jill called Mike. Hopefully they wouldn’t see the little bullies again.

At least until Mike arrived.


Sunday afternoon – 3:30 P.M.

Standing in the wheelchair accessible stall, MJ began the chant.

“Two lines, two lines, two lines.”

He peered into the beige plastic apparatus. Honey was sitting on the toilet.

“You’re sure we have to do this right this moment,” she said.

“Why wait? Plus you said they’d already been here,” MJ said. Gesturing with the pee stick, he continued, “You’re over the hard part of your day. I have to leave for a trip on Tuesday. I figure if this test is positive, we’ll go to the doctor tomorrow and see what’s what. We don’t really know if we can keep the baby, if there is one because of all the meds you’ve been on. I mean, maybe it makes the baby sick or ill or…. We don’t know about the Crohn’s either. I talked to Steve and he said that his sister Cindy, well and Delphie of course, are working on good recipes for you.”

“MJ,” Honey said.

“I know you didn’t like some of the things she made for you, but it’s still nice of her to try. Delphie froze all that food from their garden. They’ve found some really great stuff too. Or at least I’ve thought it was great. And you beat the infection. And you haven’t had a flare up in a….”

“MJ,” Honey said.

“…while. I mean, I know it’s been really hard. And I travel a lot, but you’ve been so happy the last month or so. Working with Bambi and having Steve help you. Steve told me that Leslie is thinking about staying home when the baby comes. That means he’ll be available to help even after his baby ….”

“MJ!” Honey yelled.

“What? Why are you yelling?”

Honey pointed to the beige plastic stick. MJ looked at the pee stick in his hands. Yelping with joy, he lifted Honey from the commode. She laughed as he danced around the bathroom with her in his arms. With great intensity, he kissed her lips. Helping her back into her motorized wheelchair, the pee stick, with it’s two pink lines, fell. Honey caught it before it hit the ground.

With any luck, they were going to have a baby.

~~~~~~~ Sunday evening – 5:17 P.M.

They had expected one venture capitalist. A friend of his mother’s. His buddy who split his season tickets with Jacob.

Five suits arrived.

It seems thatthis friend of his mother’s had Twittered that he was going to look at a construction company, and four of his venture capitalist friends wanted to take a look. Of course they weren’t looking to invest in Lipson Construction. They wanted to play with the construction equipment. It was Sunday after all.

Well, one guy wanted to meet Valerie. He’d followed Valerie around all day like a love sick puppy dog.

Jacob rested his head on his desk. He was bone tired and nervous at the same time. The investors – four men and a woman – were nice people, really smart, and knew business. In between sites, they asked him solid questions about Lipson construction. He felt like he had spent the day defending a Ph.D. thesis in front of business experts.

Aden came through with flying colors. The VCs, that’s what they liked to be called, loved the idea that he started at Lipson as a day laborer. More than once, they commented on the rapport Aden had with the employees. The VCs liked Tres too. And of course, Sam charmed them completely.

They left the real grilling for Jacob.

And now Jacob waited. The VCs had been in the conference room for over an hour. Every once and a while, he heard them laugh. He looked up as Aden came in the door.

“How are the kids?”

“Good.” Aden plopped down in an armchair opposite Jacob’s desk. “They spent the afternoon at the zoo. Everyone’s waiting for us at the Castle.”


“Well, the family,” Aden said.

Jacob nodded. Valerie wandered in the room and sat down next to Aden.

“How’s Mike?” Jacob asked.

“Excited. He and Colin are going to start a little martial arts school for kids,” Valerie said. “Colin’s been working with Katy and Paddie. Aden agreed to let Nash and Noelle join. I guess Honey wants to learn what she can do. Jill and the girls are probably in. Anyway, it’s not for money, just for the chance to do it.”

“Sounds fun,” Jacob said.

“Oh, Mike volunteered you to help too,” Valerie said. “So it’s you and Colin and Mike. I guess Colin has a couple other kids in mind too. There’s a boy living with Alex that’s Nash’s age. Teddy, I think his name is. Does Nash know Teddy?”

Aden shook his head.

“He’s their pilot’s kid,” Jacob said.

“Right, Teddy is Zack Jakkman’s son.” Valerie laughed. “I don’t remember Zack but I guess he has quite a reputation. Anyway, everyone’s waiting for us for dinner.”

“I’ve heard,” Jacob said.

Sam came in the office with cold bottles of water for everyone.

“Delphie made her eggplant pasta,” Sam said.

“Oh, that’s so good!” Aden said. “I’m starved.”

Jacob took a package of Nutter Butter cookies and set them on the desk. Valerie and Aden were grabbing cookies when Tres came in.

“They’re close,” Tres said. “That’s what they said.”

“Hey, Tres,” Blane came through the door after him. “Thanks for the roses. Heather said they’re gorgeous. She said you had the snow shoveled?”

“I arranged for a service to clear your snow this winter,” Tres said. “With the baby on the way, you don’t need to worry about snow.”

“That’s very thoughtful of you,” Blane said. “I’ve been so sick that Heather shovels the snow.”

“I thought that might be the case,” Tres said. “And it’s the least I can do. I’m really sorry for being such an asshole.”

“Yeah, thanks for that too.” Blane smiled.

Blane walked over to the desk for some cookies. He held the package out for Tres to get some. Sam gave them each a bottle of water.

Jacob put his forehead on his desk.

“Are you all right?” Sam asked. “How’s your heart?”

“Just tired, Dad,” Jacob said. “I may miss pasta for a long nap.”

“I’ll go check again,” Tres said.

Tres was walking to the door when Celia’s VC friend stuck his head in the door.

“We’re ready to talk to you.”

Denver Cereal continues next week….


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