Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Denver Cereal : Chapter Sixty-Five : Make it go away

CHAPTER SIXTY-FIVE

Saturday - 7 A.M.

Driving Aden’s SAAB sedan, Sandy breezed down I-70 and moved into the right lane to get on Sixth Avenue. Last night, Aden had whisked her up to Sam’s mountain cabin near Deckers. They had the most romantic night of Sandy’s entire life. He brought champagne for her, strawberries, and a picnic dinner of cold chicken, salad and pie.

They never got around to eating. Sandy wasn’t sure what she liked more – the hours of lovemaking or the feeling of being loved despite everything he knew about her.

Somewhere around three in the morning, Aden had dragged her out under the stars. It was cold, really cold. Aden wrapped them in flannel sheets and down blankets then lit a bright fire in the fire pit. They lay watching the bright winter sky. Thinking back, it seemed like they were quiet for at least an hour. It was like sitting in the very back row of an infinite church dome. Neither of them wanted to break the humbling power of the universe with words.

Sandy sighed. Of course, she had to work today. She was on countdown mode. She had to work today, tomorrow, the next three days. Of course, she was taking Christmas off then working every day until New Year’s Eve. How many days was that? Slowing at the light on Sixth Avenue and Kalamath, she counted with her fingers. Eleven long days then she was done with the holiday grind.

At least today would be fun. Once every five weeks, she cut the hair, beards, and brows of MJ’s military team. Alex Hargreaves and her twin, Max, were the last to come in. When they were done, they usually took Sandy out and amused her over dinner. It was one of her favorite work days. At least twelve men, sometimes their wives, then ending with the twins. That was a very good day.

Pulling into the parking lot, Sandy saw Seth O’Malley standing near the front of her shop. She waved at him. He scowled at her while she parked. Sandy was too happy to wonder what would make Seth scowl.

“Hey!” Sandy hugged her Godfather. “Here for a trim?”

“No, Sandy,” Seth said. “Let’s go inside.”

Sandy used her key to open the salon. She flipped the ‘open’ sign over, turned on the coffee pot then set her stuff at her station. Seth followed her past five other stations to her workspace.

“Where’s Norsen?”

“He stayed in Deckers. Today’s the solstice. Jacob and Jill went to drum in the sun at Red Rocks. Jacob’s Dad, Delphie… well a bunch of them plus with Aden’s kids, and Katy and Paddie Hargreaves. The Lipson’s have an all day board meeting. Jill’s taking the kids to Decker’s and Aden’s taking her car to the meeting. Everyone’s going up there tonight. Why?”

“Just making conversation,” Seth said. “Working on my compassionate side.”

Sandy laughed.

“Nice ring,” Seth said.

“Can you believe it? He still wants to marry me – even AFTER I told him everything.” Sandy beamed at Seth. “That’s why you’re here right? To find out if I told him.”

She patted the chair. Seth sat down. Working with practiced ease, she flipped a plastic cover over him and began trimming his hair. Seth fell silent while her scissors did their quick work. She had just turned on her electric razor when he said:

“I have some bad news.”

“Yeah?”

“That group? The one that’s looking into your… I mean the prick?”

“Yeah?” Sandy said. “Lean your head forward so I can get the back.”

Seth tipped his head forward. Sandy heard him say something but couldn’t make it out over the noise of the razor.

“What?”

“Something happened in China. I don’t know what,” Seth said. “They want you to come in today to work with them. Today.”

“That’s interesting,” Sandy laughed. “I have a whole day scheduled. They can’t just tell me I need to cancel people. Not this close to Christmas!”

Seth grabbed Sandy’s hand.

“I’m here to take you in,” Seth said. “I was told to arrest you if I had to.”

“Tell them you didn’t see me,” Sandy said. “Would you like a shave? You’re pretty rough this morning.”

“Sure,” Seth said. “You want a black and white to come up to the door and drag you out of here? This is an international investigation. Everyone and their fucking brother is involved – FBI, DHS, CIA, Military, even the U-fucking-N. Denver PD is just doing what we can to keep in the game.”

Sandy grimaced at herself in the mirror. Humming a toneless tune, she lathered Seth then gave him an old school shave – straight razor and all. Her Dad had used a straight razor and taught her how when she started cutting hair. She shaved him every day the last year of his life.

The straight razor was her most popular service for men. Men also had to stop talking until she was done. She took her time with Seth while she gathered her thoughts. She gave him a warm moist towel when she was done.

“I’d make it go away if I could. I tried,” Seth said. “I can’t.”

“So it’s fuck you to my customers? I….” Sandy shook her head. “I’m not going to do that.”

“You have to,” Seth said.

“Jill and Aden can’t help me today!”

Sandy shook her head. She used her hair dryer to blow the hair off Seth’s clothing.

“I’m here,” Seth said. “I’ll help.”

“I know, Seth. I know,” she said. “You’re all set.”

“I’ll cuff you if I have to, Sandy,” Seth said.

“Some help,” Sandy nodded.

“I’ll help you do what’s hard, not ignore what you have to do. I wouldn’t be your friend, your Godfather, if I just let you blow this off.”

“I need to wait for the receptionist to come in at nine,” Sandy said. “She can cancel my day. In fact, I’m surprised my first client isn’t here. Wait here. I’ll get ready to go.”

Sandy went to the restroom near the back of the salon. When she opened the restroom door, her mind filled with a weird white noise. She wasn’t angry or sad. She felt like she was in a bubble. She made a note to ask Jill if this is what Jill felt like when she blanked out. Sandy checked her make up, drank a glass of water, and stalled for time.

While the white noise roared in Sandy’s brain, Sandy watched: the receptionist was chat with Seth; the receptionist giggle that Sandy’s stomach flu MUST mean she was pregnant; the salon’s music came on mid-song as a stylist came in the back; customers walked into the waiting area; Sandy walked with Seth out to his car.

The first sound she understood was Seth saying:

“Let’s take Norsen’s fancy car.”

Then, like a tidal wave, Sandy’s grief and anger hit her. Seth grabbed her as she bent over in pain. He took the keys from her hand then negotiated her into the car. With her knees pressed against her eyes, Sandy balled up into herself and wept.

Unsure of what to do, Seth drove to LaMar’s donuts. Leaving Sandy, he bought them coffee and half a dozen donuts.

By the time he returned, she’d unwound the tight knot of her body. Her tears had slowed. Sandy smiled when he gave her a cup of coffee, prepared how she liked it, and her cinnamon cake donuts.

“Why is it that when everything is perfect, this crap comes back?” Sandy asked.

“I don’t know, Sandy. Maybe because we never made it go away,” Seth said. “Let’s do that now.”

“Okay.”

~~~~~~~~

Saturday morning – 8:30 A.M.

Jacob sat down at the head of the table. Aden sat at his right and Sam sat at his left. Valerie took the chair next to Sam and Blane took the chair next to Aden. Tres sat next to Blane. There were four laptops set up, one for each venture capitalist. The venture capitalists called Lipson construction and were available via their webcams.

“I bring this meeting to order,” Jacob said. “Please say your names.”

Even though this was a moment Jacob had seen in a premonition, his heart raced with anxiety. Today, they would finalize the plans for the sale of Lipson Construction to its employees. Or not. The last barrier, the injunction set in place by the lawsuit brought by the last board members, was lifted yesterday at four o’clock.

“We have one agenda item,” Jacob said.

“Why do you look so dour?” His mother’s venture capitalist friend said from Hawaii. “You got the injunction lifted, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” Jacob said.

“What’s the problem, Jake?” The woman from New York City said.

“Good question,” Jacob said. “Any problems or issues we need to talk about?”

“I have one,” Valerie said. “I don’t think our employees are ready to become owners. I mean, I can barely keep up in these meetings – financial this, contract that, this other thing, SOP, whatever.”

“I’m glad you brought that up, Val,” the venture capitalist from Wisconsin who had a crush on Val said. “Oh, you don’t mind if I call you Val do you? I can call you Valerie or Miss Lipson or Mrs. Roper or….”

“Val’s fine.” Valerie smiled to calm the man. “Why is it good that I brought up…?”

“Oh right,” he said. “We agree with you, Val. We think you need to train the employees to be owners. Anything else is suicide.”

“How are we going to do that?” Sam asked. “And when?”

“Saturdays through the month of January and into February if you need to,” Celia’s friend said. “Tres can run a class on spreadsheets. Jake can run a class on company management. Sam can run one on company culture and employee practices. Val should do customer service.”

“It’s a good idea,” Sam said. “A really good idea. We don’t work on Saturdays in the winter.”

“We can’t really afford to pay them to not work,” Tres said. “Four days and more than four thousand employees? No way we can do that.”

“I don’t think you’ll need to pay them,” the last venture capitalist piped up from New Orleans. “In some ways, it’s a test. Who do you want to own the company? Really motivated people. What’s a day to them? They’re not working anyway.”

“I feel uncomfortable asking people…” Jacob started.

“You’re giving people a chance of a lifetime,” the woman from New York said. “When will these people ever get a chance to profit from their labor like this? It’s all right to ask for something in return.”

“I put it to a vote,” Tres said. “I move that we set up a training schedule for Lipson employees. They must take the classes prior to being able to purchase stake in Lipson construction.”

“What if we give them shares in the company as payment for the classes?” Jacob asked.

Valerie, Sam, Blane and Tres groaned.

“We are not giving away this company,” his mother’s friend said. “Steady as she goes, Jacob. We’re on course. Let’s just stay the course.”

“I second Tres’s motion,” Valerie said. “I think we should set up a training schedule. Really, how many companies have tried to sell to employees then fallen on their faces? We want the company to be successful, really successful.”

“Strong leadership,” the man who had a crush on Valerie said. “You have strong leadership. We need strong share holders.”

“Aden?” Jacob asked.

“Honestly? It sounds like a great idea to me,” Aden said. “I know that I learned a lot by going to school. And the MBA? It’s helped me make decisions in every area of my life. Cost/Risk analysis kind of thing. What’s your hold up?”

“I don’t want to take advantage of people,” Jacob said.

Everyone laughed.

“Why is that funny?” Jacob asked.

“You’re giving the employees a chance to own their company,” Tres said. “That’s a generous gift.”

“We have a vote,” Jacob said. “Employees must attend training courses prior to purchase.”

“Aye,” the board said.

“Jacob?” Sam asked.

“I guess so.”

“There’s just one more issue then…” Celia’s friend said from Hawaii.

“What’s that?” Jacob asked.

“I move to begin the sale of Lipson Construction to her employees based on the plan we’ve worked through, including the new requirement for education.”

“I second that motion,” the woman from New York said. ”Jake?”

Jacob took a breath. Everyone looked at him. Letting out his breath, he said:

“We need a hundred percent consensus. Members of the Lipson Construction board, shall we being the sale of Lipson Construction to the employees based on the plan we finalized?”

~~~~~~~~

Saturday – 9:30 A.M.

Seth pulled off Sixth Avenue at Kipling. He turned into the Federal Center and stopped at the guard station. They waited only a moment before the guard let them through.

“They’re waiting for you,” the guard said. “Have a nice day.”

Sandy was so nervous she was sure she must be shaking. Flipping down the sunshade, she checked herself in the mirror. She didn’t look as terrified as she felt. As Seth pulled into a parking spot, she wiped the last of her tear mussed mascara. When she pushed the sunshade back, she saw MJ standing in front of the car. He smiled at her. Getting out of the car, she hugged MJ.

“Do you work here?” she asked.

“Hi Seth,” MJ shook Seth’s hand. “Yep, I work here sometimes. I’m stationed at Buckley but we keep an office here.”

“Where do we go?” Seth asked.

“I can show you,” MJ said. “Just come with me.”

“I’m sorry about your hair cut,” Sandy said. “I can squeeze you in later this week.”

“Oh, no big deal,” MJ said. “I have to work anyway.”

“How do you know this guy, Sandy?” Seth asked.

“He lives in Jill’s house. He’s married to Jake’s step-sister,” Sandy said. “Plus, we went to high school together.”

“That will make things easier,” Seth said.

“Easier?”

MJ held the door open for Sandy. Entering the building, they showed their IDs to the front desk.

“See you later MJ,” Sandy said. “And let me know when you can make it.”

MJ’s eyes puzzled at Sandy. He looked at Seth.

“Sandy, honey, Sergeant Scully is a part of that team I was telling you about,” Seth said.

“WHAT?” Sandy gasped with horror. “How long have you known… about me?”

MJ’s burrow furrowed, his eyes expressed concern, when he opened his mouth, he stuttered.

“S-S-Sandy, i-i-i-t… w-w-w-e thought you’d w-w-want a f-f-friendly f-f-f-ace.”

Alex Hargreaves touched Sandy’s arm. Seeing her Sandy threw herself into Alex’s arms.

“It’s all right, Sandy. You’re all right.”

~~~~~~~~

Saturday – 9:30 A.M.

Lipson Construction

“We’ve sent a case of champagne to each of the sites. The boxes have your name on it, Jake. You’ll have to get out there and tell your staff yourself,” the man from Wisconsin said.

The entire board was giddy with excitement. They’d been laughing since they took the vote.

“We’re on our way,” Aden said. “We’ll go as a team.”

“Congratulations gentlemen and Valerie,” the woman from New York said. “You’re making history! We’ll talk next week about the classes.”

“Great. Thanks!” Jacob said.

“Son, you have to call the meeting,” Sam said.

“Oh right, this meeting is adjourned.”

<

p align=”center”>~~~~~~~~ Saturday – 10:25 A.M. Colorado Federal Center, Denver

“Now I know what you are thinking,” Tanesha said to the security guard at the front desk. “One little black woman? What could she do? But I tell you, my friend is being held hostage here. And if I don’t see her soon, I’m going to have this place crawling with reporters and worse – more black people.”

“Ma’am, you can see that I’m black,” the security guard said.

“Only on the outside,” Tanesha sniffed. “Right now, you are keeping me from my friend. That makes you all kinds of evil.”

The security guard’s face was set somewhere between amused and annoyed.

“You don’t believe me?” Tanesha continued. “I will call my family. They will come out here and then we’ll see how black you are!”

“It’s really not necessary to pull the black card, ma’am,” the security guard said. “Why don’t you wait over there?”

“I will not be pushed around,” Tanesha said. “You’ll just shuffle me over there then forget all about me.”

“No ma’am, I think it’s going to take a bit more than space to forget about you,” the security guard said. “My great-grandmother was a slave!”

“My great-grandmother AND great-grandfather were slaves!” Tanesha sniffed.

When the security guard laughed, Tanesha laughed.

“I’m really worried about my friend,” Tanesha said. “Jill is stuck in the mountains without a car….”

“And Heather’s husband got sick after the big meeting. Yes, you’ve said that already. Twice.” The security guard answered a phone on his desk. Setting down the receiver, he said, “They’re coming down to get you.”

“Oh,” Tanesha blushed. “Really?”

“Yes,” the security guard said. “They expected you. That’s why you got through the gate.”

“Oh, I thought it was because I was so charming.”

The security guard laughed.

“What’s your name?” Tanesha said.

“Mason. Mason Dixon,” the security guard said.

“That is NOT your name.”

“It’s not,” he said. “You’re Tanesha Smith. Yes?”

Tanesha nodded.

“Why did they make Sandy come here?”

“I don’t have any idea,” the security guard said. “I know she’s all right though.”

“How did they know to expect me?”

“All telephone calls are monitored here.”

“Oh,” Tanesha said. Looking up at the video monitor, she waved then said, “Sorry about calling you…uh.. names.”

The security guard laughed.

“I’ll go sit over there,” Tanesha said.

“Good idea.”

Denver Cereal continues next week….

~~~~~~~~

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