Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter One Hundred and Seventy-Five : Circles


Monday evening — 6:35 P.M. MDT

“Okay Sissy,” Sandy pointed down the baking aisle of the Five Points Safeway. “Can you grab the ultrafine sugar? It’s next to…”

“I know where it is.” Still charged up from her dance practice, Sissy twirled down the wide aisle.

“Nash?” Sandy looked around for the boy. He ran over with a dozen eggs.

“You think we still have time?” Nash asked.

“What’s your watch say?” Sandy pointed to the countdown timer on his watch.

“Eleven minutes and four seconds,” Nash said. “That’s not enough…”

“We’d better hurry,” Sandy smiled. “Go get the ice cream while I look at the strawberries.”

Nash took off. Sissy came back with the sugar.

“What else do we need?” Sissy asked.

“Just a few more things,” Sandy said. “I appreciate your help.”

“I’m glad Teddy gets to come back,” Sissy said. “What did his Mom say?”

“Blah, blah, I don’t need to put up with his crap, blah, blah, I’m a drug addict not an alcoholic, blah, blah, blah,” Sandy rounded the corner to the fruit and vegetable section and stopped. “She seems to think it’s all right to be falling down drunk in front of Teddy. But he’s been living with our rules.”

“Children of addicts can’t be around drugs or alcohol. Period,” Sissy repeated. “Well, I don’t care what she says. If she was that drunk, Teddy shouldn’t be with her.”

“Right. I’ll tell you Teddy’s Dad is furious. I don’t think Teddy’s going to be forced to see her for a while.”

“Maybe when he’s older he’ll want to see her,” Sissy said.

“Maybe,” Sandy said. “I don’t see the strawberries. Do you?”

“Over here,” Sissy trotted over to the organic section. “Should I pick?”

“No, let me,” Sandy pushed the cart to the organic section. “Can you tell Nash I forgot whipped cream?”

Sandy was looking at the strawberries when Nash tossed the vanilla ice cream in the basket.

“Two Points!” Nash said. Sandy gave him a mock clap and he bowed.

“She forgot the whipped cream,” Sissy said.

“I didn’t,” Nash pulled the whipped cream out of his pocket. “Are you getting raspberries too?”

“Delphie doesn’t have enough?” Sandy set a plastic clamshell of strawberries in the cart and went to look at the others.

“She didn’t think so,” Nash said. “You want me to…?”

“No, I’d like to get them myself,” Sandy said.

“Why do you have to look at them yourself?” Sissy asked.

“I guess it’s something I got from Mom,” Sandy said. “You remember, Sis, we would go to all those fruit stands. She would chat and look at fruit. She always wanted to make sure she had exactly the right fruit for her pies.”

“Pies?” Sissy’s eyebrows went up with doubt. She trailed after Sandy as she pushed the cart to the front of the store to look at raspberries. Sissy repeated, “Pies?”

“Pies, torts, scones,” Sandy said. “You remember those amazing scones she would make.”

“Our Mom?” Sissy asked. “Patty?”

“Right, Patty,” Sandy grabbed a plastic clamshell of raspberries and turned it over. “Nash, I think we have enough chocolate, but would you mind…?”

“I’ll get more,” Nash said.

He was about ten feet away when she yelled:

”Nash!” He spun in place. Sandy yelled, ”You know what kind?”

“I know,” Nash said.

“Sandy, our Mom, Patty, she never baked anything,” Sissy said.

“Sure she did,” Sandy said. “She used to make these brownies for our birthdays.”

Sissy looked at Sandy like she’d lost her mind.

“Come on,” Sandy stopped turning over plastic clamshells of raspberries to look at Sissy. “You have to remember the brownies.”

“Our Mom never made anything,” Sissy said. “She barely cooked.”

Sandy stared at Sissy. Her ears heard the words Sissy was saying, but in her mind, she watched her Mom baking. Sandy shook her head.

“Sandy,” Sissy grabbed her arm. “Our Mom never celebrated our birthdays. She said it was a primitive ritual. You used to give us little gifts and bake us cakes and stuff. But Mom never did anything.”

While her body stood in the middle of the bustling Safeway, Sandy’s mind slipped away to…

…someone was singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her. She could smell the chocolate on the air. She felt warm and very loved. Looking up, she expected to see Patty but she saw…

“Mommy,” Sandy whispered.

“Sandy!” Sissy said. “Are you all right? You kind of blanked out and…”

Sandy nodded. Her eyes scanned Sissy’s face. Feeling a well of love for her sister, Sandy hugged Sissy.

“Now go scout the lines,” Sandy said.

Sissy ran to check which line was moving the fastest. For the briefest moment, Sandy’s mind returned to her Mommy.

“Thank you,” she whispered and ran to catch up with Sissy.


Monday evening  — 6:35 P.M. MDT

“Did you forget something?”

Assuming it was Jeraine, Tanesha opened the penthouse door. Jeraine’s mother stood on the other side of the door.

“Mrs. Wilson!” Tanesha smiled.

Jeraine’s mother gave Tanesha a beautiful smile and stepped into the penthouse. Even wearing jeans and a T-shirt, Mrs. Wilson had an air of dignity and class. Tanesha adored the woman.

“I thought you were Jer,” Tanesha said. “You just missed him. He went for a run.”

“I waited for him to leave,” Mrs. Wilson said.

“Come in,” Tanesha said.

“Lord have mercy, this place is awful,” Mrs. Wilson wandered through the penthouse. “You’re not going to live here, are you?”

“No,” Tanesha laughed.

“Good girl,” Mrs. Wilson said. “Is there a place we can talk?”

“There’s a balcony,” Tanesha said. “The traffic’s not too loud this time of day. Can I get you anything?”

“Is there anything here?” Mrs. Wilson asked.

“I bought some tea,” Tanesha laughed.

“I brought cookies,” Mrs. Wilson held out her arms. Tanesha hugged her. “I can’t tell you how delighted I was when Bumpy told me you might be back in Jeraine’s life.”

“You’re still not speaking with him?” Tanesha asked.

“No,” Mrs. Wilson raised her eyebrows in the universal ‘I’m still mad at my child’ look of mothers. “I am not.”

Tanesha moved toward the kitchen to make tea. Mrs. Wilson followed her and began opening cabinets.

“Alcohol, expensive alcohol, of course. You mind?” Mrs. Wilson held the bottle over the sink. Tanesha shook her head and Mrs. Wilson began emptying the bottles. “My son has to be the tackiest man on the planet. I’m surprised there’s not a huge picture of his genitals hanging on the wall.”

“I threw it out,” Tanesha said.

“Of course you did,” Mrs. Wilson said. She leaned her head out of a cabinet to look at Tanesha. The women laughed. “It’s really nice to see you, Miss T.”

“You too,” Tanesha said. “Why aren’t you talking to Jeraine?”

“Did he tell you about the last time he came to our home?” Mrs. Wilson asked. “Now how much Whey Powder does one man need?”

“He’s bulking up,” Tanesha said.

Mrs. Wilson laughed at the idea of her tall, muscular son needing to ‘bulk up.’ Tanesha finished making their tea about the time Mrs. Wilson finished her kitchen inspection. They carried their tea to the balcony on the West side of the building. They sat at a teak outdoor dining set. As if to welcome them, the clouds shifted to reveal the splendor of the Rocky Mountains.

“What did he do the last time he was at your home?” Tanesha asked.

“He was high,” Mrs. Wilson said. “He was cruel to his sister. Then he left with three girls from the neighborhood. Bumpy tried to speak with him, but he was too high to care.”

“When was this?”

“Maybe two weeks before he was arrested,” Mrs. Wilson said. “I told Seth not to bother with him, but that man cannot resist a lost cause. Now my son is home and… What’s he like?”

“He’s trying,” Tanesha said.

“Your patience no doubt,” Mrs. Wilson laughed.

“Well, that too,” Tanesha said. “What I meant is that he wants to redirect his life. He seems pretty serious about it. He went to rehab. I think he’s been clean since before prison. He’s not drinking. I don’t know why that stuff is here. I doubt he knows it’s here.”

“Who set up the apartment?”

Tanesha shrugged. Mrs. Wilson raised an eyebrow.

“Probably one of his ‘posse’,” Tanesha said.

“Posse?’ Mrs. Wilson laughed. “What is he? Butch Cassidy?”

“I haven’t met any of them,” Tanesha laughed.

“You’re wise beyond your years my dear.”

They laughed.

“All joking aside,” Tanesha said. “He quit the record company and seems pretty intent on going to med school.”

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” Mrs. Wilson said.

“Jeraine going to med school?” Tanesha asked. “Or me? I really want to be a doctor, not a nurse.”

“If I could have been a doctor, Tanesha, I would have.” Mrs. Wilson smiled. “I had two babies and Bumpy. Nursing school was enough. No, I wanted to talk to you about the record company.”

“What about them?”

“Jeraine ended his contract?”

Tanesha nodded.

“He’s looking for other representation?”

“I think he’s signed with Schmidty,” Tanesha said. “You know, Seth’s agent.”

“Jammy came by the office last week,” Mrs. Wilson said.

“Jammy,” Tanesha said. “That’s right. He was one of Bumpy’s Boys.”

Mrs. Wilson smiled at the memory of her husband’s little league team.

“I need to get serious with you,” Mrs. Wilson said. “And I need you to promise never to tell my son that we had this talk. Can you do that?”

Tanesha nodded.

“Have the music people come to ‘talk’ to you yet?” Mrs. Wilson asked.

Tanesha flushed.

“Were they cruel?”

Tanesha nodded. Mrs. Wilson looked away. Remembering she had the cookies, Mrs. Wilson opened her bag and pulled out a tin. She opened the tin and held it out. Tanesha gave a little clap for her favorite Ginger-Spice cookies. Mrs. Wilson smiled.

“What happened?” Mrs. Wilson asked.

“Some man came up after church. He said he wanted to talk to me,” Tanesha said. “He corralled me by the curb and said some horrible things.”

“That’s just the start,” Mrs. Wilson said. “When Bumpy left the music life, they came to my home and threatened me. They preyed on my every insecurity. I was ready to call the whole thing off but Bumpy…”

Mrs. Wilson gave a soft smile for her husband. Her eyes turned toward Tanesha.

“Are you ready to fight for his soul?”

“What?” Surprised, Tanesha fell back as if she’d been hit.

“These people will stop at nothing to have their money-maker back,” Mrs. Wilson said. “You, your friends, your family, you have to be prepared for them to come after you with every weapon they have. They will tie Jer up in court for years. They will humiliate you in the media. They will pursue any money he makes elsewhere. If all that fails, they will come after you.”


“You,” Mrs. Wilson said.

“What did they do to you?”

“Nothing I’d like to share,” Mrs. Wilson said. “And I didn’t have the kind of… There’s no way to say it delicately.”

“You mean because my Mom’s a prostitute and my Dad went to prison, I’m more vulnerable?”

Mrs. Wilson nodded.

“Jeez,” Tanesha said. “What do I do? What did you do?”

“We had enough money to stay home for a few years,” Mrs. Wilson said. “Bumpy went to medical school. We had the kids. There wasn’t anything to say about us. They eventually went away. Bumpy didn’t play again until Jer was three or four.”

“I want to move…”

“Yes, move out of this place as soon as possible,” Mrs. Wilson said. “Find some place quiet. Go to school. Come home. No drama.”

Tanesha nodded.

“Do you love my son?” Mrs. Wilson asked.

“That’s a loaded question for me,” Tanesha said. “I love the person he wants to be. I love the man I think he is, but all of this? I don’t love this house, his actions in the last ten years, that music life and all that comes with it. I don’t love that he has two kids he doesn’t know. Or that people climb all over him. It’s crazy.”

Mrs. Wilson gave Tanesha a kind smile.

“You remind me of myself,” Mrs. Wilson said.

“You’re a hero of mine,” Tanesha said. “I’ve seen Jer… all over the country, here. I’ve seen him high. I’ve seen him with other women. I…”

Tanesha shook her head.

“He finally came home for you,” Mrs. Wilson said. “That’s got to count for something.”

“But will he stay?” Tanesha asked. “Or will the drugs and the life call him back?”

“Only time will tell,” Mrs. Wilson said. “A lot of women would marry him, get pregnant, and get half.”

“I’m not a lot of women,” Tanesha shrugged.

Mrs. Wilson smiled.

“Do you know Valerie Lipson?” Tanesha asked.

“The movie star?” Mrs. Wilson shook her head. “I knew her mother and Sam, of course, but I’ve never met her.”

“She’s had a tough time with the press. I read the magazines for her so she knows what’s being said,” Tanesha said. “I’ll talk to her. Maybe she has some ideas.”

“Good thinking,” Mrs. Wilson said. “If you can keep the press at bay, you’re way ahead.”

Tanesha nodded.

“You asked what I did,” Mrs. Wilson said. “No one knows this.”

“I won’t tell anyone,” Tanesha said.

“I know,” Mrs. Wilson collected her thoughts for a moment. “Bumpy and I got married about three months before he quit the music life. We’d been around and around and around all of this junk you’re talking about. He said he wanted a different life. I felt like if I didn’t believe in the person he could be, then he would never be that person.”

Tanesha watched Jeraine’s mother’s face.

“Three months later, he came home and never left,” Mrs. Wilson said. “Being married changed him. Knowing I would take the risk to be with him changed him. We had our official ceremony a few months later.”

“I guess it’s not very liberated,” Mrs. Wilson turned to look at Tanesha. She smiled. “But every good man needs an even better woman to believe in him.”

“It’s the ‘believing in him’ thing that’s hard,” Tanesha said.

“You know what I think?” Mrs. Wilson looked deep into Tanesha’s eyes. “I think you should marry my son. The sooner the better.”

“What?” Tanesha asked. “I don’t even know if…”

“What chance are you going to have if you don’t take a leap of faith?” Mrs. Wilson asked. “What chance is he going to have if you won’t take that leap of faith?”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” Jeraine said.

Mrs. Wilson got to her feet and hugged her son.

“Oh Momma, I’m so sorry.”


Monday evening  — 5:35 P.M. PDT

“What trouble can I get in to?” Seth asked.

He and Schmidty were standing next to the limousine outside the Malibu Colony house.

“I’m supposed to stay with you every minute of every day,” Schmidty said.

“And you have,” Seth said. “You’re allowed a night off.”

“Dad was really specific,” Schmidty said. “Don’t leave O’Malley alone. If you do, he gets off track and then you’re screwed.”

“He was specific about the woman and the food too,” Seth said. “Was he right?”

“No but…”

“Don’t worry,” Seth said. “I’m going to go inside, eat some of the dinner that you ordered and go to bed. What could be off track about that?”

“Nothing but…”

“You’re flying to Denver,” Seth said. “Getting Lizzie and coming back. You’ll be back tomorrow before I have to go to the studio again. You can watch over me all day tomorrow.”

The young man looked away from him.

“Lizzie’s just sitting there,” Seth said. “She can just as easily sit here on the beach. There’s plenty for her to do here, plenty of food, and it gives you a chance to spend some actual time with her.”

“You’re okay with me spending time with your daughter?”

“You’re on the damned phone with her day and night,” Seth laughed. “Bring her here. You’ll be happier. She’ll be happier. And I’ll finish up with this movie.”

“You promise not to go anywhere?” Schmidty asked.

“I promise to go inside and not leave the house,” Seth said. “I’m not really getting around great. There’s no booze or junk food or anything that would send me down a forbidden path.”

“Just the piano,” Schmidty said. “You got that song from Jeraine.”

“I did,” Seth said. “I’ll finish it up in the next couple days and send it back to him. He knows I need a few days.”

“You’ve done it before?”

“A lot,” Seth said. “Jer has an idea. His Dad and I flesh it out. He puts another spin on it and it’s a hit.”

“You don’t get paid for that work?”

“I’m guessing you’ll work all that out,” Seth said.

“I’ll sign him tonight,” Schmidty said. “I’ll work it out but…”

“Go,” Seth said.

“What if you get in trouble here?” Schmidty asked.

“I’m capable of dialing 9-1-1,” Seth said. “Go.”

Schmidty nodded. He walked to the limousine. Before he slipped in he said, “Thanks.”

Seth raised a hand in ‘good-bye’ as the limousine pulled out. Leaning on his crutches, Seth waited less than five minutes before an unmarked police sedan pulled into the driveway. A moustached man about Seth’s age got out of the passenger seat of the sedan. He held a thick file in his hand. The younger driver was on the radio.

“Any trouble?” the LAPD detective asked.

Seth shook his head.

“Good,” the LAPD detective said. “Damn it’s good to see you Magic.”

The men shook hands.

“You too,” Seth said. “Dinosaurs like us are falling everywhere.”

“We’ve got to hang together,” The detective nodded. They waited another minute before the younger man got out of the driver’s seat and went to the trunk. He took a box from the trunk and walked toward them.

“Sorry,” the younger man said. “Dispatch was a little unclear on why we were in Malibu.”

“A man’s got to eat,” the older detective said.

“It’s an honor to meet you Detective O’Malley,” the younger man said. “When Hal told me we were coming to see Magic O’Malley, I thought he was joking. But here you are!”

“I only have tonight. Let’s see how far we get,” Seth nodded toward the house. “What do you have for me?”

“Nothing nice,” the older detective said as the three men went into the house.


Monday evening  — 8:35 P.M. MDT

An inexpensive rental car pulled up in front of the Castle and Teddy got out of the back. Before he could say ‘good-bye,’ the car sped down Race Street. The boy watched the car drive away. He looked so lost and alone that Delphie’s heart broke for him.

“Teddy!” Delphie yelled.

Teddy spun toward her voice. Seeing her, he waved.

“I’ll go get everyone,” Delphie said.

She turned to go inside.

“Mrs. Delphie?” Teddy asked. “Can you get the gate? I wasn’t here for this week’s new code.”

Laughing at herself, Delphie trotted across the driveway and let the boy in. She hugged him close. She felt Teddy’s body shake with sorrow and confusion.

“Don’t worry, Teddy,” Delphie said. “You belong with us for a while longer.”

“Teddy!” Charlie yelled from the side door of the Castle. “Hey everyone! Teddy’s here!”

Everyone who lived at the Castle came out to greet him. Noelle ran across the driveway to him. He let go of Delphie to hold her. Soon he was hugged and welcomed back into the Castle life. Aden took his bag from him then shoed Charlie, Nash, Noelle, Sissy,  upstairs for bed. Teddy had changed into his pajamas and was arguing with Charlie through the bathroom door when Sandy caught up with him.

“Are you all right?” Sandy asked.

“I am now. Thanks,” Teddy gave her a sweet smile. He turned to pound on the bathroom door. “I would be better if I could get in the bathroom.”

Chuckling, Sandy left him to the boys nightly struggle. The Denver Cereal will continue next week…


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