Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal : Chapter Forty-Eight : still a chance


Tuesday morning, 12:12 AM

MJ woke with a start when someone touched his shoulder. He had been sitting in a chair beside Honey’s bed. Raising his head, he saw a man move along the opposite side of her bed. Because Honey’s wasn’t supposed to survive the night, Sam had forced the crowd of friends and family, even Honey’s mother, to give MJ this time alone with her. Bleary eyed from sorrow and lack of sleep, MJ squinted to make out the man’s face.



“Sorry, you guys look a lot a like,” MJ said.

“We do. Especially in the middle of the night to a heart broken person,” Blane said. He picked up Honey’s wrist. “I’m sorry I startled you.”

“What are you doing?” MJ asked.

“Taking her pulses,” Blane said. “Honey is my patient. I’ve been treating her with acupuncture since she arrived at Craig Hospital. They were awesome at Craig, very open to having me help, but they aren’t as excited about acupuncture here in the Swedish ICU. My roommate is distracting the nurse.”

“You were treating Honey?” MJ asked.

“I helped her get some mobility back in her fingers. We worked on this infection and all of her inflammation. I think the acupuncture helped strengthen her, but….” Blane said. “Pardon me.”

He moved in front of MJ to take a pulse from the hand that MJ had been holding. MJ leaned back into his chair.

“I had some acupuncture when I was recovering,” MJ said.

“Honey told me that,” Blane said. “I’d be happy to work with you, if you’d like. I see other people on your team.”

MJ nodded. He knew that his teammates talked about seeing an acupuncturist. Particularly the LC and a few of the guys who’d been hostages. It never occurred to him that he could get acupuncture too.

“How is she?”

“What do the doctors say?”

“She won’t make the night.” MJ coughed to cover his out of control emotions. “She’s dying.”

Blane nodded.

“She’s very weak,” Blane said. “I’ll do what I can. Why aren’t you in bed with her?”

“In bed with her?” MJ asked.

“She’s tiny. She barely fills up a quarter of the bed,” Blane said. “She needs love.”

“Love?” MJ parroted.

“Love is the most powerful force on this planet,” Blane said. “She needs your love. It just might make a difference.”

Not sure how to respond, MJ nodded.

“How about this? I’ll treat you and Honey while I’m here. I can help you get in bed with her before I go.”

“Help Honey,” MJ said. “I can wait.”

“Honey needs your strength,” Blane said. “Let’s make sure she has it.”

MJ nodded.

Humming, Blane put acupuncture needles into Honey. He took MJ’s pulses, then placed a few needles into him.

“You’re exhausted,” Blane said to MJ.

“I didn’t sleep much Saturday. Nerves. We didn’t sleep last night. Wedding night.” MJ shrugged. “Then all of this. I… I don’t want to lose her.”

“I never tolerate a doctor’s hex,” Blane said.

“Baring a miracle,” MJ said. “That’s what they said.”

Blane pulled the needles from Honey, then MJ. He helped MJ out of his prosthesis, then into the bed next to Honey.

“Put your hand over her heart,” Blane said.

MJ curled on his side around Honey’s form. He put his left hand over her heart.

“I gave you a calming treatment so you should be very mellow,” Blane said. “Some people see things after this treatment, especially if they’ve seen death before.”


“Spirits, stuff like that.”

“Good to know,” MJ said. “What do I do now?”

“Love her,” Blane said. “Just love her.”

“I always have.”


“It’s time,” Delphie said.

Having just finishing a bowl of Captain Crunch at the Castle’s main kitchen table, Jacob’s head jerked from Jill to Delphie. . His face flushed. The psychic stood at the door of the room.

“What happened?” Jill asked.

“Honey is transitioning, Jill,” Delphie said. “We’re going to assist her if we can.”

“What does that mean?” Jill asked.

“When someone is near death, their essence moves into a transitional space,” Delphie said. “By focusing on that person or that soul, we can help to ease the transition.”

“But you said she had a chance!”

Jill’s voice was full of indignation but her eyes filled with sorrow. As a way of channeling her sadness, she picked up their empty cereal bowls.

“When a person is in transition, Jill, they haven’t left yet,” Jacob said. He took the bowls from her and set them in the kitchen sink. “By focusing on the person, we can also give them the strength they need to stay or to leave in peace. Delphie and Val did this for me when I was… in between.”

“If Val can help, then I can help.” Her sadness turning to defiance, Jill’s jaw set firm. “Val’s not a psychic or whatever.”

“Val’s trained,” Delphie said.

“I can do this.” Jill hands went to her hips. “Katy maybe get some psychic whatever from Jacob, but everything else comes from me.”

“I’m just not prepared for an amateur,” Delphie said.

“Get prepared.”

Jacob laughed. Jill looked from a laughing Jacob to a beaming Delphie.

“I was testing your desire,” Delphie said. “It’s hard work, harder than it looks, and not very glamorous.”

“I like waiting tables! How glamorous is that!”

“We’re wasting time,” Jacob said. “Did you set up the room?”

Delphie nodded.

“Jill, would you mind if Katy joined us?” Jacob asked. “Even asleep, she can help.”

“I’ll get her.” Jill’s defiance never waning, she added, “But I’m still helping!”

“Where’s Dad?” Jacob asked.

“He’s waiting for us in the room,” Delphie said. “I hope I didn’t offend you, Jill, or….”

“You’d really offend me if you didn’t let me help.”

“Good.” Delphie hugged Jill. “Go with her, Jacob, so she doesn’t get lost.”

“Lost?” Jill said.

“We do this in a room off the tunnels,” Jacob said. “It’s a part of the Castle. We just get there through the tunnels.”

“I’ll meet you there,” Delphie said.

“Mommy!” Jill’s baby monitor squawked. In a sing-song calling voice, Katy called, “Mommy.”

Jill and Jacob ran the stairs to their attic apartment. They found Katy waiting for them on the other side of the door. She held her arms up for Jill to pick her up.

“I wanna help,” Katy said.

A quick potty stop and they were off through the Castle to the tunnels.


With his hand over Honey’s heart, MJ poured all of his love into her. He didn’t notice Blane leaving or the nurse returning to check on Honey. His sole focus was Honey and his love for her. Unbidden, his mind drifted to the day he met her.

She was nine years old, a mere child to his mature fifteen years. His sister and Honey had been planting strawberries in his mother’s backyard. They were covered in dirt, and giddy with the idea of fresh warm strawberries. There was a smudge of dirt under her pale blue left eye like eye black on a football player. She was adorable.

MJ smiled. He was in charge that day and his sister had not ask permission to have a guest. In his mind, his ears filled with his sister’s rapid excuses:

“But Honey has just started going to school with me. Today. And don’t tell Mom. And her new step-dad bought the strawberries. And don’t tell Mom. And they are going to grow. And we’ll share with you. And don’t tell Mom. And….”

His eyes focused on this tiny elfin creature. This Honey.

Honey couldn’t read. She could barely sign her name. She didn’t know anything about math or science. All she had was this idea that she had a chance at a

decent life.

A tiny chance, but a chance none the less.

In this moment, lying next to his beloved, MJ realized that his whole world revolved around her.

Overcome with sorrow, MJ wept.

Why had he waited so very long? His very soul begged her to hang on. Yet under his hand, he felt her drifting away.


As they worked their way through the Castle, Jill tried to prepare herself for Delphie’s chambers. Her mind filled with images of the torch-lit catacombs from Charmed. Delphie’s chambers must be dark, with a black light, candles with wax dipping on the floor, and pagan or devil symbols chalked all over the room. Following Jacob into a hallway off the tunnels, she pressed Katy’s head into her shoulder to protect her against anything scary. Jacob held two wooden swinging doors open and…

Jill stood in on the edge of a light and airy chapel. There was an enormous bouquet of purple and yellow spring flowers at the alter. A cross hung on the wall as well as other religious and spiritual symbols. She didn’t know all of them, but she made out a statue of Buddha and one of the multi-armed Shiva. Behind a few statues, she saw Saint Brigid, Jill’s confirmation saint. There was a Star of David beside a Wiccan Pentagram. There was something that looked like a moon and a star next to a kind of druidical obelisk. Each symbol, including the cross had a lit white pillar candle in front of it. The stations of the cross were represented in rectangle stained glass near the ceiling.

Stepping into the room, Jill felt a rush of joy. She stifled her urge to giggle.

“It’s nice. Isn’t it?” Jacob asked. “It was the original Castle chapel.”

“Are we underground?” Jill asked.

“About half,” Sam said. “From the garden, the stained glass is about a foot off the ground. We haven’t figured a way in from the house.”

“It’s gorgeous,” Jill said. “Where do we go?”

Delphie pointed to an area where padded floor chairs and mediation pillows where set in a circle. Jacob took a sleepy Katy from her arms so that Jill could sit down on a meditation pillow. He passed Katy back into her arms. Katy snuggled into Jill shoulder and fell asleep again.

While the others picked a chair or a pad, Jill felt a wave of panic. What if she couldn’t help? What if she screwed the whole thing up? She almost said something when Sam said:

“Valerie? Are you there?”

“Mike and I are here, Dad.” Val’s voice came in over the speaker of Sam’s cell phone. “We’re ready when you are.”

Just knowing her brother was there helped Jill relax. Even over the phone, Mike would make everything all right.

“Delphie? Would you mind giving Jill and Mike instructions?”

“The instructions are easy. In practice, it can be much harder,” Delphie said. “You just think about Honey.”

“Think about Honey?” Jill asked.

“Prayers are thoughts,” Delphie said. “Right?”

“Then what?” Mike asked through the speaker.

“You try to keep your attention on Honey. It can be a memory of her or the essence of her or….” Delphie scanned Jill’s confused face. “Or just send her your love.”

“Can I pray the rosary for her?” Jill asked.

“The rosary! Of course,” Delphie said. “Sam, can you get….?”

Sam gave Jill a rosary set made from beautiful blue stones.

“Are we ready?” Delphie asked.

“Jill?” Mike’s voice came over the phone. “It’s twenty mysteries, one Our Father, three Hail Marys and what?”

“One Glory be to the Father,” Jill said.

“Got it.”

“Let’s begin,” Delphie said.

Closing her eyes, Jill began to pray the rosary for Honey Lipson with all her heart and soul.


Honey was slipping away.

And there was nothing MJ could do about it.

In despair, he looked over Honey’s shoulder to see a familiar woman. Her sandy hair and creamy skin gave her the look of an angel. She stood near the chair he had vacated. Noticing his attention, she smiled at him.

“I know you,” MJ said.

“Yes,” the woman replied.

“You were in Iraq,” he said. “You told me to tourniquet my leg. I never believed that I did that myself. I always figured someone else did it. But you ordered me to do it. You made me do it.”

“For Honey,” the woman said. “Honey loves you.”

“Are you taking her from me?”

“She was supposed to transition tonight,” the woman said. “But someone has intervened on your behalf.”

“On my behalf?” MJ asked. “What do you mean?”

“Honey has been given a chance. However, Honey’s chance depends on your choice and commitment.”

“Anything,” MJ said.

“Before you say that you must understand the choice. If you decide to maket his choice, you and Honey’s souls will be linked. What will be good for you, will be good for her. What will be bad for you, will be bad for her. You will no longer be separate individuals, but two souls joined possibly forever.”


“You’ll give up your independence and your freedom. Honey’s well-being will bring your well-being.” The woman smiled a familiar smile. She definitely looked like someone he knew. “We’re not sure you’re willing to make this kind of sacrifice. You have to choose. Honey must also choose.”


“Keep your separateness or join your soul with Honey.”

“What did Honey say?” MJ asked.

“Honey has to make her choice regardless of what you choose or do not choose. You must choose regardless of Honey’s choice.”

MJ’s mind whirled.

Honey didn’t want to even marry him. There was no way she’d give up her independence for anyone or anything. Why would she choose to live in her paralyzed form? No way. She hated what she’d become. She’d never choose to stay with him over her independence. Death would give her freedom from what the broken body she hated. A wave of futility overcame him.

“Don’t choose based on what Honey may or may not do, MJ,” the woman said. “You decide based on what you, and only you, want. No ego. This must be a free choice. Choose to join or remain separate.”

“I’ve never thought about it before. Can I have a minute?”

“No, Honey is out of time,” the woman said. “You’re out of minutes, moments and seconds. If you won’t choose, you’re choosing to stay separate. You’re simply afraid to make the commitment.”

MJ nodded. He cuddled back around Honey. He pressed his nose into her hair. He had washed her hair just a few hours ago. Her beautiful blonde hair with it’s new haircut still smelled like the honeymoon suite’s shampoo.

“I choose…..”

The Denver Cereal will continue next week….


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