Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter Forty-Seven : Even the slightest chance...


Monday morning, 5:45 AM

“Did we get married yesterday?”

MJ touched the gold band on Honey’s finger then tugged on his matching gold band. They were sitting in the back of a limousine on their way to Craig Hospital. They had been so caught up in each other that this was their first moment to talk.

“We did.” Honey knew that MJ’s Traumatic Brain Injury would mean that he wouldn’t remember their wedding. “Your team took a video. One of the guys says they captured the satellite for you.”

“Great!” MJ clapped his hands at the news. “I feel like we have a great time last night.”

“Oh yeah.” Honey leaned over to kiss his lips. “You were on fire, amazing.”

“Did we sleep at all?” MJ asked.

“Not yet,” Honey said. “You kept saying we have….”

“Plenty of time to sleep today,” he said. “I remember saying that, just not if we slept or not.”

“Do you remember saying that I was incredible?” Honey asked.

He shook his head.

“Since you don’t remember our wedding night….”

“Some, not much.”

“…you’ll have to see how incredible I actually am when this surgery is over.”

“Why wait?” MJ moved to test out the works in the back of the limo.

“We’re almost there,” Honey said.

He flopped back against the limo backseat like a frustrated teenager. Honey laughed.

“Just as well, I feel kind of sore and spent.” MJ joined her laughter.

“Me too,” Honey said.

“What was the best part of our wedding?”

“For me?” she asked.

He nodded.

“When you fell to your knees to say your vows while looking into my eyes,” Honey said. “You took my hands then repeated the priest’s words. You didn’t get up until after you kissed me and we were pronounced husband and wife.”

“I’m so romantic.” MJ kissed her. “Did you say a priest?”

“Your Lieutenant Colonel asked their family priest to marry us,” Honey said. “We agreed to go to classes then get married inside the church in a full mass.”

“Was yesterday legal?”

“Yep,” Honey said.

“We got the license on Saturday.” MJ’s smile seemed to radiate from his very being. “I remember that.”

Honey laughed. The limo slowed at the entrance to Craig Hospital.

“Carry me in?” Honey asked.

“Of course,” MJ said. “I’ll be here to carry you home too.”

MJ slipped out of the limousine. Reaching into the backseat, he lifted Honey into his arms.

“You can watch our wedding while you wait,” Honey said. “Jake said he’d bring a laptop so you can watch it.”

“I’m more interested in a video from last night,” he said in her ear to avoid the nurses hearing.

“No video from last night,” Honey laughed.

“Too bad.”

With much fuss and celebration, the nurses and doctors greeted Honey and MJ. MJ’s team set up a web broadcast so Honey’s friends at the hospital could watch the wedding. Staff and patients in every corridor had congratulations or applause for them. MJ set Honey into a wheelchair then dropped to his knees.

“You’ll come back to me?” He whispered.

She kissed him.

“We’ll just be a half hour or so,” the nurse said. “If you’d like to wait here, we’ll come and get you. You may walk with us to the hospital where she’ll have her surgery.”

MJ nodded. Honey turned in her chair to wave good-bye. Back in her hospital room, the nurses helped her clean up and change into a hospital gown. The nurses pressed her for details of the wedding, her new haircut, her dress and of course their wedding night. Honey laughed, told little stories, but kept the big details close to her heart. They were almost done when her psychotherapist arrived. The nurses left her for a few minutes while she talked to her therapist.

“Did you tell him?” Her therapist asked.

“No,” she said. “Even the slightest chance is still a chance.”

“Celia’s advice,” her therapist said.

“It’s gotten me this far.” Honey smiled to assure her therapist.

“The wedding was gorgeous. And the night?”

“Best night of my entire life.”

“Let’s get your husband and go over to Swedish. Are you sure you don’t want him to know?”

“Please don’t tell him. Not until there’s no chance at all.”



When Jill picked her up, the toddler thumped on Jill’s chest with her fists. They were standing in the early morning dark waving good-bye to an equally screaming and crying Paddie.

“Paddie’s Mommy and Daddy want to spend some time with him,” Jill said. “They miss him like we missed him all summer.”

“But he’ll be at school. Right?”

“Not today. He’s going to spend the day with his Mommy,” Jacob said. “You start at the new school today.”

“Paddie will be there, right?” Katy’s dark eyes were pools of sorrow.

“I’m not sure, Katy-baby,” Jill said. “He’s younger than you and in a different grade. Plus, you don’t go to Catholic school anymore.”

Katy dissolved into uncontrolled tears. With Jacob’s help, Jill was able to get her back inside. Sitting in Celia’s old rocking chair near the front windows of the

Castle, Jill rocked Katy on her lap. Katy cried as if a lifetime of sorrow and pain needed to be expressed in this one moment.

Having never witnessed a full Katy melt down, Jacob was at a complete loss of how to help. When he attempted to intervene, Katy screeched and cried harder. His heart told him that his family needed him, but the clock ticked toward the new day at Lipson Construction. He had never felt the ripping pain of wanting to be with those he loved and having to be at work.

“There’s nothing you can do,” Jill said. “She has to get through this.”

“I’ll meet you at the school?”

“Why don’t I call you?” Jill asked. Over Katy’s head, Jill mouthed, “What about Paddie?”

Jacob lifted his shoulders in a shrug. The Marlowe school was only for Lipson Construction employees. Jill smiled in an attempt to wipe the panicked and overwhelmed look from his face.

“Daddy’s has to go, Katy-baby,” Jill said.

Jacob leaned in to kiss Katy’s cheek. Katy jerked away so he kissed her hair.

“Can you say Goodbye and I love you?” Jill asked.

“Bye Daddy,” Katy said into Jill’s chest.

“I love you?”

Katy began weeping again. Jill mouthed that she was sorry over Katy’s head. Jacob tried for nonchalant, but he was a little wounded by Katy’s outburst. They kissed over Katy’s head and he went into the Castle.

“Katy?” Sam asked as Jacob entered the main Castle kitchen

Jacob nodded. He followed Sam through the Castle.

“Feel like you were punched in the chest?”

Jacob nodded. They went through the side door to Sam’s Lipson Construction truck.

“Ask Aden about daughters. They slay you every single time. Except, of course, your sister. She was perfect in every way.”

Jacob burst out laughing.

“Your mother used to say that it’s a test to see if you’re strong enough to handle their pain and rage.” Starting his truck, Sam added, “It’s a hard part of being a father.”

Jacob nodded.

“LaMar’s?” Sam asked.

“Donuts make this feeling of futile helplessness go away?” Jacob asked.

“Not at all,” Sam said. “But the crash from the sugar high is a good excuse for feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck.”

Jacob laughed.


“What was the best part of last night?” MJ asked Honey.

She was nestled on his lap while they waited for the surgical team to call them. Honey’s mother, friends and family had agreed to let MJ and Honey have this time together. The Craig Hospital nurses were talking with the surgical team. They had already talked to an anesthesiologist and signed the forms. Without thinking, MJ witnessed Honey’s ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ form.

“For me?”

MJ nodded.

“Your mouth,” Honey said in his ear. He flushed. “You said the most wonderful things to me. Kind things. Loving things. You gave me an inside peek to your self and your life. I haven’t had that before. It was… wonderful. Then you told me that you wanted to give me my body back.”

“And did I?”

“Oh yeah,” Honey said. “You said that because I was now paralyzed my body was brand new, virginal, and we had to break it in.”

“Did we?”

“Oh yeah,” Honey said. “And what you can do with that glorious mouth of yours?”

MJ laughed at her overdramatic shiver. They kissed.

“You’ve learned a few things,” Honey said.

MJ blushed. Seeing the surgical team coming toward them, Honey turned MJ’s head to look at her.

“I hope you remember this. I want to thank you for everything. You’ve made life worth living. You’re the very best thing that’s ever happened to me. You make me grateful that all of this happened. You make my entire being long to see you, touch you, and kiss you one more time.”

“Ready Honey?” Her surgeon said. He held a hand out to shake MJ’s hand.

Honey nodded. MJ stood to place Honey on a stretcher. Holding her hand, he walked with her to the painted line where he had to stay. She signaled him to her.

“I love you,” she said.

Before he could respond, she was gone.


Monday afternoon, 12:30 PM

“I’m sorry,” Jill said. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Trevor’s wife would like to take the plea today,” Samantha Hargreaves said.

They were whispering back and forth to each other in the lobby of the District Attorney’s office.

“Everyone told me that she was going to trial. ‘Get ready for a long trial, Jill.’ That’s what everyone, including you, has said since day one.”

“She seems to have changed her mind,” Samantha said.

“I have to rush around, find emergency child care, and race down here because the special one ‘changed her mind’? Why does she get the power to ruin my life again!?!”

Jill’s anger was apparent. Samantha squeezed Jill’s hand.

“My daughter is having a very difficult day. Who cares about that? The priority is that Trevor’s wife has changed her mind.”

“You and Katy were the victims in most of the charges against her. What you say matters, Jill. They’re going to tell you what they’ve offered and you have a chance to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ If you say yes, they will recommend sentencing to the judge. If you say no, then they go back to negotiations.”

“What about Honey?” Jill asked. “Honey is the one who’s paralyzed.”

“I’m not sure,” Samantha said. “They’ve tried to get in touch with Honey but she’s unavailable. You may have to decide without her.”

“Honey’s having surgery today,” Jill said.

“I’m not supposed to know this, but Tiffanie went to see her oldest daughter this morning. The District Attorney received a call from her attorney about five minutes after Tiffanie left,” Samantha said. “It’s a complete reversal. The DA wanted to wait a day to see if she’d change her mind, but she’s adamant. Trevor’s wife wants to sign the papers today.”

“What happens if Honey dies?” Jill asked.

“Her sister is charged with aggravated assault, reduced from attempted murder,” Samantha said. Shifting her long auburn curls over her shoulder, she leaned closer to Jill. “If Honey dies? All pleas are off. She’ll go down for murder. There’s a tape of the entire assault including her ‘die bitch die’ statement later. No question about it. With the assaults against you, the kidnapping charges, extortion, she’ll get the death penalty.”

“No.” Jill stood up from her seat. “That’s my answer. You can tell them that I won’t take the plea today. Not today. Not until Honey is out of surgery and….”

Jill dropped to her seat. Her eyes were huge and filled with tears.

“Honey was so beautiful yesterday, so happy. Is Honey going to die?”

“I think we can assume that Tiffanie told her oldest daughter that Honey was going to die today,” Samantha said. “Have you heard anything from the hospital?”

Jill shook her head.

“Oh God, how awful,” Samantha said.


“I’m sorry, sir,” the surgeon said. “There was always a small chance that we would be able to do anything.”

“What do you mean?” MJ asked.

MJ heard this weird ringing in his ears as if bombs were going off all round him. He could see the surgeon’s lips move and hear the words but nothing the man said made any sense.

“I apologize for making you go through this again,” MJ’s teammate Sergeant Margaret Peaches said. The small woman moved in between MJ and the surgeon. “We were under the impression that this was a fairly routine surgery.”

“No,” the surgeon said. “Honey has a deep infection. We’ve been attempting to fight it with antibiotics, but her entire abdominal wall is… for lack of a better word, mush. The infection has spread to her remaining organs. We cleaned up what we could but anything more would be cruel. We’ve done our best to make her comfortable.”

“I think what is confusing to us, sir, is that she seemed fine yesterday and the day before that.”

“I’m not sure how she’s made it this long,” the surgeon said. “She must have been incredibly driven.”

“Was Mrs. Scully aware of her risks?” Sergeant Peaches asked.

“Honey knew what was going on with her. She knew there was a small chance that she would survive the surgery today.”

“Even the smallest chance is a chance,” MJ mumbled.

“That’s what she said.” The surgeon gave MJ a puzzled look. “Listen, I’ll let you know when you can see her. As I said, we’ve done our best to make her comfortable. We must expect that she will slip away in the next twenty-four hours.”

MJ choked, coughed then nodded. Like a man in a trance, he walked past Honey’s Lipson Construction friends, her mother and little sisters, his sister and Honey’s father Sam to an empty chair in a quiet corner. Sergeant Peaches followed him then sat down next to him.

“Honey’s going to die,” MJ said. “She….”

“What would Honey say, Scully?” Sergeant Peaches asked.

“She would say that even the smallest chance is still a chance. Her entire life has been built on the smallest chance: she had a tiny chance of graduating from high school; a sliver of a chance to not be a criminal like her sister and father; the itsy-bitsy chance to live a decent life like regular people. She created an amazing life out of the smallest chance,” MJ said into his hands. His sister sat next to him. Putting her arms over his neck, she rested her head on his shoulder.

“Then we have to be strong for Honey,” Sergeant Peaches said.

“I’ve never been as strong as Honey,” MJ said. “She’s a pillar.”

“You will be today,” Sergeant Peaches said.

Sergeant Peaches stood and walked toward the nurse’s station. While she was gone, Tiffanie came over to hug MJ. Sam stood next to MJ in silent support.

When Sergeant Peaches returned, the everyone in the waiting room had heard the news. The small woman moved through the crowd of stunned people to MJ.

“Get up. We’ve go thirty minutes until we can visit Honey,” Sergeant Peaches held up her wristwatch. The stopwatch was counting down thirty minutes. “We’re going running.”

Lost inside his head, MJ nodded at his teammate. Sergeant Peaches helped him to his feet then led him through the hospital. Together, they began jogging.

“I don’t have my running leg on,” MJ said.

“Welcome back, Sergeant Scully,” his friend and team partner Margaret said. “You’ve run plenty on that leg. Let’s go another ten minutes then head back.”

“Why are we running?”

“Honey needs you to be present,” Margaret said. “You were completely checked out. I know you haven’t slept, and this is awful news, but….”

“WHY DIDN’T SHE TELL ME!?!” Flooded with rage, MJ screamed at the top of his lungs. “FUCK!”

Saying nothing, Margaret kept running by his side. A Navajo, Margaret never understood to her mercurial partner. For a beligaana, he was only a little crazy, which she thought was pretty good. In this moment, she knew she had to keep him running. They ran another ten minutes then turned back toward the hospital.

“What am I going to do?” MJ said when the hospital came into view.

“You’re going to go in there and give her every chance. You must stay present,” Margaret said. “What do you need to do?”

“Take breaks every couple hours to eat, run, and drink water,” MJ said.

“That’s great because a lot of people want to see her,” Margaret said. “What else?”

“Make sure someone supportive to me is with me at all times,” MJ said. “The LC set up a schedule. You’ll be here for another hour then Raz comes.”

“The team is scheduled around the clock all week,” Margaret said. “Your sister? Brother?”

“They will want to be with me too,” MJ said. “Maybe I’ll ask them to help with food and stuff.”

“Good plan,” Margaret said. “Anything else?”

“Pray,” MJ said. “Ask everyone to pray. Can you have one of those healing things done?”

“I can ask,” Margaret said in a tone that made him laugh. “Yeah, can you do this beligaana a traditional four day sing?”

MJ laughed. Nearing the hospital entrance, he slowed to a walk.

“Thanks,” MJ said.

“Let’s do this thing,” Margaret said. “When Honey’s better? We should get that tattooed.”


“Even the smallest chance is still a chance,” Margaret said.

MJ nodded. Walking into the hospital, he felt ready to deal with whatever happened today. Refusing to look at the sorrow filled waiting room, he went up to the counter to ask for Honey. The nurses escorted him and Sergeant Peaches back to recovery where Honey waited for him.


Monday evening, 6:30 PM

“How did it go?” Sandy asked Aden as he walked into her condo. As she had every Monday all summer, she had picked up Noel and Nash from school then spent the afternoon helping with homework and making dinner.

Aden fell onto the living room floor. Laughing, Nash and Noelle fell on him to squish and hug him.

“I can’t remember why I wanted to run Lipson Construction,” Aden said.

Sandy laughed.

“Well, Mr. President, we have roasted chicken for dinner.”

“And a PIE for our special GUY!” Noelle said somewhere between a screech and a scream.

“We made it together,” Nash said.

Sitting up, Aden put on arm around each child. He kissed each of their cheeks then laughed.

“What?” Sandy asked.

“I’m just happy,” Aden said.

He held out his hands for Sandy to pull him up. When she took his hands, he pulled her down to the floor. While Sandy laughed, Noel and Nash piled on top of her. Aden kissed Sandy’s forehead.

“Wow, that chicken smells great,” he said. “I’m starving and I can’t get up.”

The kids and Sandy helped an over dramatic Aden to his feet. He hugged all of them together.

“Go get washed for dinner,” Aden said.

Sandy lifted her arms around his neck when he pulled her toward him.

“God, you smell great,” he said.

“Congratulations on your first day as boss,” she said.

“I never could have done all of this without you, Sandy,” Aden said. “Thank you.”

They kissed.

“Ok, ew,” Nash said coming from the bathroom. “I think I’m going to throw up.”

Laughing, Aden went to wash up. The little family settled around Sandy’s dining room table.

“Do you have to work tonight?” Sandy asked.

Aden nodded.

“We still have homework, Daddy,” Noelle said. “We’ll keep you company.”

Aden’s face broke into a smile.

“What?” Sandy asked.

“Just a man who has everything he ever wanted,” Aden said.

“Sandy? Can you take us to school tomorrow?” Nash asked.

“Why?” Aden asked.

“Sandy’s a MILF,” Nash said. “All the guys said so when she picked me up.”

Sandy blushed.

“What’s that?” Noelle asked.

“I had to Google it too. It means…”

“Nash!” Aden interrupted.

“Dad, I’m twelve years old. I’m supposed to be obsessed with computers, video games and….”

“Nash,” Aden said. “Sandy, you don’t have to….”

“Pleeeeeeeeezzzzzzeee,” Nash asked.

Laughing, Sandy said, “Sure.”


Monday night, 11:30 PM

“Hey,” Jill said.

She’d woken up when he got up. Thinking he was using the bathroom, she fell back asleep. An hour later, she realized he hadn’t come back to bed. Taking Katy’s baby monitor with her, she wandered through their home then through most of the Castle until she found him in the rooms they hoped Honey would live in.

“Sorry.” He came over to give her a kiss. “I didn’t mean to wake you. I was feeling restless and figured I needed to….”

“Sort out a mess,” They said together.

“It feels really good that you know that about me,” he said.

“Why are you here? I thought they were pretty sure Honey wouldn’t survive the night,” Jill said.

“They are.” He scratched his head. “I can’t make up my mind whether we should put the smaller room here or put the master bedroom here. What would you do?”

“Jacob, Honey is dying.”

Jacob wrapped her in his arms.

“Even the slightest chance is still a chance,” he said.

Denver Cereal continues next week….


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