Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter One Hundred and Eighty-One : Stuck


Friday morning – 10:45 A.M.

“You’re saying you’ll sell me this house for what you paid for it,” Jeraine’s eyes scanned Jacob’s face. They were standing in the middle of the kitchen of the little house in Five Points. “And you got it for fifteen thousand under the bank’s asking price.”

“They want me to buy a larger building,” Jacob said. “I’d need to move it so… I haven’t decided.”

Jeraine’s eyebrows went up.

“He thinks you’re trying to cheat him,” Tanesha said. “Cocaine. It’s rotted your brain, Jer.”

“Come on.” Trying to keep from laughing, Jill took Tanesha’s arm. “Let’s check out the backyard.”

The women laughed their way out of the house.

“Why would I cheat you?” Jacob asked.

“Why wouldn’t you?” Jeraine asked. “You’re a rich white man. I’m a dumb n…”

“Jake?” a woman’s voice came from the front of the house.

“We’re in here,” Jacob said.

Jeraine turned toward the front door. A middle aged woman in a flowery dress came in the house. He knew he’d met her somewhere before.

“You’re right,” Delphie said. “There’s an ugly darkness here.”

She smiled at him as if she’d known Jeraine all his life.

“Are you ready to get to work?” Delphie asked.

“We have some b-dness to work out,” Jeraine sniffed at the funny white woman.

“I liked you a lot better when you were Jermaine,” Delphie laughed.

Puzzled, Jeraine looked down at the silly woman. It wasn’t until Jacob looked away to keep from laughing that he remembered how he knew Delphie.

“The girls are in the garden?” Delphie asked.

Jacob nodded.

“I’ll go out while you finish your important business.”

Delphie gave a little wave and laughed her way out to the backyard. They heard Tanesha and Jill laugh.

“Relay,” Jeraine said. “Second leg. And that’s your Mom’s best friend. She used to make us…”

“Brownies,” Jacob said.

“Joystick Jake.” Nodding, Jeraine put his hands on his hips.

“Nympho Jer,” Jacob said.

“Hey,” Jeraine said. “You were just as bad as me.”

“I wasn’t married,” Jacob said.

“True dat,” Jeraine opened his mouth to explain. Seeing the look on Jacob’s face, he closed his mouth.

“Tanesha is my family now,” Jacob raised his eyebrows at Jeraine.

“Got it,” Jeraine said. “And I’m doing my best.”

“This is her house,” Jacob said.

“Everything I have is hers,” Jeraine cleared his throat. “I always wanted her to come home.”

“You’re still talking?” Tanesha walked in from the back.

Jeraine and Jacob looked at her.

“Let me clear this up,” Tanesha said. “His dick is bigger than yours, Jeraine.”

“How would you know?” Jeraine asked.

“Joystick Jake has a reputation.” Tanesha laughed. “Pay the man so we can get on with it.”

“Get on with what?” Jeraine asked.

“We’re going to clear the dark funk out of this place,” Tanesha said. “Rodney’s coming by to help. Delphie was just telling us how to do it.”

“If you’re going to live here, you have to help,” Jill gave him a laughing smile.

“Otherwise the good energy will reject you,” Tanesha said.

“And my small dick?” Jeraine asked.

“That’s it,” Tanesha looked him up and down before laughing.

“You have to own the house before we can clean it,” Delphie said. “Jake doesn’t really care if you buy it or not. He got it for Tanesha. But in order for us to make it yours, you need to make the commitment to own it.”

“What is she talking about?” Jeraine asked.

“Commitment,” Jacob said. “Can you commit to this house?”

“I don’t know what that means,” Jeraine looked at Jacob then Tanesha. Panic rose through his core. He rubbed his lips together to keep from saying something he knew Tanesha would think was crazy. His eyes sought a way out of the small kitchen. “What are you asking?”

Jill stood in front of him. She put her hands on his chest and looked up at him. Offended by her touch, he grabbed her hands and looked down at her.

“Listen to your soul,” she said.

His eyes locked on hers. Thoughts and images flashed through his mind. After a few moments, he took a breath and she stepped back. Tanesha took her arm. Jill gave her an ‘it’s done’ nod.

“How much did you say it was?” Jeraine asked.

“It was listed for fifty thousand,” Jacob said. “I got it for thirty-five.”

“Do you want a check or can I wire the money to you?” Jeraine asked.

“If we make it what you want, we’re talking about putting at least another hundred thousand into the house,” Jacob said. “Is that doable?”

“Oh sure,” Jeraine said. “You’ll bill me when we’re done or as we go.”

“You’ll be over market for this house and this neighborhood,” Jacob said.

“But you think I can get that music studio in the basement,” Jeraine said.

“Music studio?” Tanesha asked. “What?”

“I didn’t tell you?” Jeraine asked. “The basement is perfect for a studio. Come on. I’ll show you.”

Jeraine opened to the basement door and jogged down the steps. Jacob followed him.

“What did you do?” Tanesha whispered.

“He was stuck wanting to be famous,” Jill whispered. “I just caught him up to the present.”

“And commitment?”

“He wanted so badly to be successful, he couldn’t commit to his life for fear it would get in the way,” Jill said. “Like I said he was stuck.”

“Are you going to whisper up there forever or come and see?” Jeraine yelled from the basement.

“This is a good thing?” Tanesha whispered.

Jill nodded. Tanesha squeezed her arm.

“You girls go on,” Delphie said. “I’ll get set up here.”

Tanesha was on the basement stair landing when she heard Jeraine say the words she’d longed for:

“This is a great house.”

Smiling, she went to hear about his music studio.


Friday afternoon – 1:45 P.M.

Charlie swallowed hard. He was sitting in the administrative office of Denver Online High School. He had just finished his last assessment test and they were running his scores right now. If everything went well, he would meet with an advocate to plan his attack at finishing high school. He looked across the waiting room at Sandy. She gave him a soft smile and a nod.

Sandy thought it was all going to be all right.

He glanced at Teddy, Noelle and Nash. Squashed together on the couch, they were playing Angry Birds on Nash’s iPhone. Everyone was supposed to come to his meeting with the advocate but Sissy had to talk to the psychiatrist, La Tonya, they’d met last night. Anjelika was supposed to bring her when she was done. Aden was speaking with the school administrator about getting Charlie a try out for Basketball at East High School.

Everything depended on how he did on these last tests.

He’d really worked this summer. When he started, he worked hard so he could stay with Sandy and Aden. He did not want to go back on the streets. No way. No how. Plus, he made an agreement with Nash and Teddy. After a while, he found he actually liked his time with Anjelika.

He didn’t want to disappoint Anjelika by not getting into school.

His anxiety surprised him. Charlie Delgado had always been too cool to care about school. He was the Pan who did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. And he never wanted to go to school. He couldn’t figure out why he cared so much now.

He just did.

“Charlie?” a friendly looking woman asked.

“I’m Charlie,” he said.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sissy and Anjelika enter the waiting room.

“You’re all set,” the woman said.

“Yea!” Sissy ran in the room to hug him. She grunted with pain when he squeezed her. Nash and Teddy high fived each other and came to congratulate him. Noelle hugged him around the waist. Anjelika put her hands on his face, nodded, and smiled. He collapsed into Sandy’s arms.Adenpatted him on the back.

“Are you ready to get started?” the woman asked.

“I’m ready,” Charlie said.


Friday evening – 7:45 P.M.

Giggling, Katy ran as fast as she could. Paddie caught up to her and ran ahead. She followed him through the first floor of his Auntie Alex’s big house. Katy didn’t know why all these adults were here or why she’d been left here. She only knew she got to play with Paddie.

Paddie’s Auntie Samantha caught him and his Irish Uncle with a funny name caught her.

“Have you two been eating my cookies?” the Irish Uncle asked.

Katy and Paddie shook their heads.

“Why are your faces covered in powdered sugar?” Auntie Samantha asked.

“Our faces always look like this,” Paddie said.

Katy gave her most sincere nod.

“Is that the truth, Pádraig?” the Irish Uncle asked.

“I’m Paddie,” Paddie pointed to his chest. “Not that other name.”

“Well, if that’s the case, then you can have all the cookies you’d like,” the Irish Uncle laughed.

Katy and Paddie squealed. The adults put them down and Paddie took off toward the kitchen. Katy followed close behind. Once in the kitchen, Paddie grabbed another cookie and ran into the living room. Katy took a cookie and followed him. He was scooped up by his Auntie Alex.

“Your brother is almost here,” she said to Paddie. “Aren’t you excited?”

With his mouth full of cookie, Paddie nodded.

“Alex?” Paddie’s grandmother asked from the other room. “Can you bring Paddie? We need to get him dressed for pictures.”

Paddie gave Katy a panicked look as he disappeared into the other room.  Katy smiled. They were going to make him wear something horrible like an itchy sweater or something fancy to meet his new brother.

All of the adults were so busy worrying about Paddie’s new brother that they ignored her. That was all right with Katy. Seeing someone she wanted to talk to, she went over to the couch. She made the person sitting next to him feel like they had to pee. When that guy got up, she sat down.

“Hello Katy,” Paddie’s Grandfather said. “How are you tonight?”

“Good,” Katy said.

“Where’s Paddie?” Paddie’s Grandfather said.

“He has to wear an itchy sweater or something,” Katy said.

Paddie’s Grandfather laughed.

“We’re pretty excited to have a new member of the family,” Paddie’s Grandfather said.

“I’m going to have little brothers,” Katy said. “I’m pretty excited about that.”

“I bet,” Paddie’s Grandfather said. “Paddie will have a new brother tonight.”

Katy smiled. They sat watching the people laugh and talk for a few minutes.

“Well, I should probably go find Paddie,” Paddie’s Grandfather moved to get up.

“Um, I came over to talk to you,” Katy smiled to encourage him to talk to her.

“What can I do?” Paddie’s Grandfather asked.

“It’s about Paddie,” Katy said. “He’s not ever going to be a good soldier. He’s too soft inside.”

“He’s absolutely fearless,” Paddie’s Grandfather said. “I think…”

“That’s because of me,” Katy said. “I keep him out of danger.”

Paddie’s Grandfather turned to look at her.

“Paddie will go to war to make you happy,” Katy said. “But he will die inside doing it. He’s like your brother Cedric.”

“Cedric,” Paddie’s Grandfather said his brother’s name very slowly. “How…?”

“Paddie can stay home instead,” Katy said. “He can be a teacher like his Mommy or a scientist or…”

Katy shook her head.

“But not a soldier,” Katy said. “You were going to decide soon, weren’t you?”

“He’s three. It’s time for him to separate from his mother,” Paddie’s Grandfather said. “I thought he could…”

“He can’t,” Katy said. “It would hurt him, on the inside, hurt him bad.”

“But…?” Paddie’s Grandfather started.

“Katy! Katy! Katy!” Paddie yelled from the edge of the room. In a forest of adult legs, she couldn’t see him.

“I have to go,” Katy waved to Paddie’s Grandfather and ran toward Paddie’s voice.

Patrick Hargreaves watched the small girl thread her way through the adults. He heard Paddie laugh when she got there. Feeling someone near him, he looked up to see Delphie sit down.

“Unnerving, isn’t she?” Delphie asked.

“How old is she?” Patrick asked.

“She’ll be five in December,” Delphie said.

“Do her… capacities make her so…”

“Grown up?” Delphie smiled. “Some. She’s also been through an awful lot. She’s aged beyond her years. Her mother is adamant that she have a childhood, but some things can’t be made up. Katy is part child, part grandmother. A true oracle. What did she say?”

“She told me Paddie would never be a soldier,” Patrick said. Defending his position, he added, “But how would she know? She’s a child and Paddie is absolutely fearless.”

“That’s because Katy makes sure he’s never hurt,” Delphie said.

“That’s what she said,” Patrick said. “She said Paddie was like Cedric and…”

“Your brother came back fromVietnama changed man,” Delphie said. “He killed himself, didn’t he?”

“Cedric.” Patrick felt the overwhelming sense of sorrow and failure he felt every time he thought of his brother. “He couldn’t handle the… and…”

“You found him,” Delphie said.

“He disappeared. I looked everywhere and…” Patrick shook his head at the image of his brother’s dead body. “Is she right?”

“I’ve never known Katy to be wrong,” Delphie said. “She knows Paddie better than anyone in the world. Loves him completely. She’d know.”

“Is he gay?” Patrick asked.

“Was Cedric?”

“No but…”

“You of all people know that softness and gayness have nothing to do with each other.”

“Sure but… what good does it do him to baby him?”

“Isn’t that what your father said about Cedric?” Delphie gave Patrick a strong look.

Stunned, Patrick’s stared at her.

“He’s here!” Paddie’s Aunt Alex yelled.

The adults cheered.

“Raise a glass to welcome Connor Maxwell Alexander Hargreaves!” Paddie’s Uncle Max said.

“Welcome Connor Alexander Matthew Hargreaves,” Alex said.

The crowd of family laughed and cheered.

“I’ll get Katy,” Delphie moved to get up.

Patrick put his hand on her leg.

“I can save him?” Patrick asked. “Paddie, I mean.”

“If you let Paddie be himself,” Delphie said. “Of course.”

“Thank you,” Patrick nodded.

“It’s Katy, not me,” Delphie touched his face. “You’re a sweet man. You’ll do what’s right.”

Patrick nodded to Delphie. Lost in thought, he watched Delphie scoop up Katy. The child cried when she had to go. Crying, Paddie ran after her. Katy and Paddie hugged and Katy was gone. When Paddie turned, he saw his Grandfather watching him. In a move that he’d seen his brother do time and time again, Paddie tucked his tears away.

Patrick Hargreaves understood his grandson for the first time.

His mind replayed what he knew about Paddie. His first grandson was kind, funny, and… loving. He was just as likely to snuggle up as he was to play. Patrick nodded to himself. His job was to protect his grandson’s gentle nature.  He got up and went to Paddie.

“Come on, Paddie,” Patrick said. “I’ll take you to meet your new brother.”


Friday night — 9:45 P.M.

“How are you?” Schmidty asked. He leaned on her hospital bed.

“Tired, a little sore, but really good,” Lizzie said.

He kissed her face. They were alone for the first time since she’d gone into labor at noon. Her Dad, Sandy and Maresol had met them at the hospital around three. Colin and Julie got there closer to six. Together, they had coached, cheered, and loved Lizzie into bringing Connor into the world.

“How do you feel about…” Schmidty scanned her face. “Connor?”

“The moment the doctor set him in Julie’s arms,” Lizzie said. “I…”

Tears fell from her eyes. She shook her head slightly.

“That was really hard,” Schmidty said.

“No,” Lizzie said. “Beautiful. So beautiful. And all the people who came to see him, love him, celebrate him. They…”

Lizzie began to cry. Not sure what to do, Schmidty held her hand.

“You don’t want to give him to them,” Schmidty said.

“He belongs with them,” Lizzie said. “He’s their baby. I just got him this far. They will take him where he needs to go. I feel…”

Schmidty stroked her face.

“Like I witnessed a miracle,” she said. “Like something out of the bible. Like I was involved in something… huge.”

“So you’re still all right with letting them adopt him,” Schmidty said.

“I had him for them,” Lizzie said. “I thought it was true before, but I know it now. Julie’s with him, isn’t she?”

“She hasn’t left him since he was born,” Schmidty said. “Colin took Paddie to the Castle but he’s back. They’re just across the hall. The doctor says they’ll keep Connor overnight. Did you know she’s breast feeding?”

“Isn’t that cool? I didn’t think it was possible but…” Lizzie shrugged. “She’s been pumping for a month and taking some drug to help. I think they belong together.”

“Me too,” Schmidty said.

“How was it for you?” Lizzie asked.

“Amazing,” Schmidty said. “I feel exhausted and charged up at the same time.”

“I know what you mean,” Lizzie said.

“When you’re able, we’ll go back to the beach,” Schmidty said. “You’ll rest. I’ll work. And…”

“We’ll start a real relationship,” Lizzie had told him over and over again that when she had the baby, they would start a real relationship.

“I don’t know Lizzie,” Schmidty said. “I don’t think it gets more real than what we went through today.”

Lizzie beamed at him.

“You need to rest,” Schmidty said.

“I couldn’t have done this without you, Jammy,” Lizzie said.

“Thanks for including me,” Schmidty blushed. “It’s all I ever wanted – to be included in your life.”

“Me too,” Lizzie said.

Schmidty reached over and turned out the light.

The Denver Cereal will continue next week


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