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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FOUR
Thursday morning — 6:15 a.m.
“Gentlemen,” Jacob said. This was his first meeting with them, so he made sure to look directly into each of their eyes. “We are about to engage in a long held Lipson Construction tradition.”
He scowled a bit and gave a solemn nod.
“Breakfast,” Jacob said. Seeing that he had their attention, he continued, “This is a time when we set aside any conflict or difficulty and focus on eating pancakes and enjoying each other’s company.”
When he looked up, he saw that the person across from him was about to complain.
“No,” Jacob said. He raised a finger. “This is a sacred time. We must dedicate ourselves to the task at hand — eating pancakes, eggs, and quite possibly a pork product. Your questions should be limited to which type of pancake — banana, blueberry, or plain old fashioned — you would like to have, which type of pork product — bacon, sausage links, or quite possibly ham — and, of course, how you would like to have your eggs made — scrambled, sunny side up, poached, or perhaps some other concoction.”
“I see the confusion in your eyes,” Jacob said. “You’re wondering why we would waste our time in this ritual when there is so much to do. Well, frankly, I understand your confusion. I once asked my father this very same question. You know what he said?”
Jacob fell silent as the waitress brought menus and filled their water glasses. He opened his mouth to continue, but the waitress came right back to fill his coffee cup with the hot nectar of the Gods. He waited until everyone had doctored their beverages before continuing.
“I asked my father why we spent our time in this ritual,” Jacob said to remind them what they were talking about. “He told me that to get along with people, you must create stress-free situations in which to build shared experiences. What could be better at doing that than sitting down for breakfast? Especially at a fine dining establishment like Pete’s Kitchen.”
“Truer words were never spoken,” Jacob said.
“Jacob? Son?” Sam asked as he neared the table. “Are you feeling all right?”
“Here is my father right now,” Jacob said. “Will you tell everyone why breakfast is important?”
“Uh,” Sam looked across the table at Jacob’s twins — Bladen and Tanner, “Uh…”
“Go ahead,” Jacob said. “We’re listening.”
Sam leaned over so he was speaking into Jacob’s ears.
“You realized they are babies, right?” Sam asked.
Jacob grinned, and Sam laughed. He pulled out a chair and sat down.
“Your father is right,” Sam said. “Breakfast can be the difference between a happy company and everything falling apart. At Lipson Construction, we get together for breakfast almost every day. We encourage all of the teams to follow suit. Most of them follow our lead. It helps people understand each other, especially with the teams of mixed types of people. Nothing is more important than getting along with others.”
Sam looked up to see the boys watching his face. He glanced at Jacob.
“That’s very…” Sam said.
“Unnerving,” Jacob said. “Yes.”
“They’re really listening,” Sam said.
“I know,” Jacob said.
Sam shuddered and Jacob smiled. The waitress came to get their order. The manager came by to ask about Jill and introduce himself to the twins. One of Jill’s waitress friends picked up Tanner to introduce him to everyone. Bladen watched the interaction with intent interest. She came right back to swap Tanner for Bladen. When Bladen returned, Tanner gave him a wide-eyed look. Jacob and Sam ordered.
Tanner pointed to Jacob and scowled.
“Bah,” Tanner said.
“You’re absolutely right,” Jacob said. “I do want bacon and not sausages.”
“Bah,” Bladen said.
“Good idea,” Jacob said. “I will order you a pancake.”
Bladen looked at Tanner and they looked back at Jacob. They gave him a grin.
“You know what they’re saying?” Sam whispered to Jacob.
“No idea,” Jacob said.
Sam laughed. He put his hand on Jacob’s shoulder.
“Thanks for inviting me to help you with your marriage class homework,” Sam said.
“This is their first Pete’s experience,” Jacob said. “You belong here.”
Sam laughed. When the waitress returned, he placed everyone’s breakfast order.
Thursday morning — 6:15 a.m.
“Katy-baby?” Jill opened the door to Katy’s room. “I thought you wanted to have special girls-only breakfast.”
Still under the covers, Katy lay on her side with her back toward the door.
“Katy?” Jill asked.
Katy rolled her shoulder and head toward the door. Her dark eyes blinked at Jill.
“What is it?” Jill fell to her knees next to Katy.
“Scooter isn’t feeling very well,” Katy said.
Jill noticed for the first time that Katy was wrapped around Scooter.
“Scooter?” Jill asked.
“Mommy.” Katy rolled back to look at her mother. “Scooter thinks it might be time to say ‘good-bye’, but he’s too sad to tell you himself. I was just telling him that you wouldn’t want him to hurt, but he…”
Katy sniffed back her tears. Her voice dropped to a whisper.
“He’s never really healed from the…”
“Serpent,” Jill said at the same time Katy said, “Bad man.”
“He doesn’t want me to tell you,” Katy said. She rolled over so that she was facing Scooter. “He doesn’t want to say good-bye.”
Jill went around Katy’s bed to the opposites side to see Scooter’s face.
“He’s scared, Mommy,” Katy said. “Really scared.”
Jill put her hands on Scooter’s face. In his kind face, she saw the puppy that was her bright light during a dark time in her life. She saw the friend who had been her playmate, running partner, and constant companion. Trevor, her abusive first husband, kept his own schedule. Scooter was Jill’s responsibility and her joy.
Scooter’s dark eyes looked into Jill’s. For a moment, they simply looked at each other. When Scooter looked away, Jill knew that he’d been holding on long past what was good for him. He held on to spend time with her and Katy.
Jill knew that his passing was to be expected. She knew that this was one of those moments when she should be an adult. But her heart spasmed with pain. She began to cry.
“He doesn’t want to leave us, Mommy,” Katy said. Jill looked up to see her daughter’s eyes peeking out over Scooter’s head. “He wants to stay here with us.”
“But he can’t do it anymore,” Jill said in a low voice.
She rubbed his ears and he licked her hand.
“He says you can send him on,” Katy said. “But…”
Her face wet with tears, Katy sniffed back her sorrow.
“I’m going to miss him so much,” Katy said.
“Me too,” Jill said.
“Besides Paddie, he’s been my best friend,” Katy said. “What am I going to do without him?”
Heartbroken, Jill looked down. She pressed the back of her hand to her forehead so that her arm covered her weeping eyes. Scooter nudged her hand with the tip of his nose until her hand flopped on his head. She rubbed his ears again.
“I don’t know, Katy,” Jill said. “I don’t know what we’re going to do without him. He’s been our dog friend for a very long time.”
“Uh huh,” Katy said.
“Sometimes…” Jill sighed and looked up. Katy lifted her head from behind Scooter. “Sometimes, when we love someone, we have to do what’s best for them, even if it doesn’t feel best for us.”
“But it’s not best for Scooter!” Katy said. “He’s going to miss us horribly. He’s so scared.”
“What does Daddy do when you’re scared?” Jill asked.
“He tells me that he’s big and strong and he’ll take care of me no matter what,” Katy said with a nod.
“We have to be strong for Scooter,” Jill said.
“Can you be strong for Scooter?” Jill asked.
“I can be strong for Scooter,” Katy said.
“Then we must release him,” Jill said.
“What does that mean?” Katy asked.
“We must release Scooter from our bond to him,” Jill said. “We must let him go so that he can be at rest. He loves you and me the very most out of anyone in the entire world.”
“What about Delphie?” Katy asked. “She saved Scooter so that I could meet him and he could be my friend.”
“You’re right,” Jill said. “I’ll go get…”
“Jill?” Delphie’s voice called from the entrance to their loft.
“We’re in here,” Jill said.
“She knew…” Katy said.
The child put her nose into the scruff of Scooter’s neck and hugged him close. Delphie came into the doorway.
“Scooter isn’t feeling well,” Jill said.
“He’s been hanging on for a while,” Delphie said. Tears began to fall down the kindly woman’s face. “Oh, Scooter.”
Delphie went around the bed to see the dog’s face.
“I was just telling Katy that we need to release him,” Jill said.
“It’s so hard to do when all we want to do is hold on tight,” Delphie said.
In an attempt to get herself together, Jill wiped her eyes. One glance at Katy’s crying face and Jill’s tears began to fall again.
“Should I call our vet?” Delphie asked.
“Mommy can do it,” Katy said. “Scooter wants her to.”
Delphie looked up at Jill and Jill gave her a slight nod.
“We have to release him first,” Jill said.
Nodding to herself, Delphie focused on Scooter. The Oracle put her hands on either side of Scooter’s face.
“My dear beloved friend,” Delphie whispered. “Thank you for all you’ve been and all you’ve done. You will live in my heart for the rest of my life. I release you.”
“Katy?” Jill asked.
Katy looked up at her mother again. Her eyes blinked and she put her head back down.
“I don’t want to,” Katy said.
“I didn’t want to either,” Delphie said. “But it’s what Scooter needs.”
“We have to love Scooter more than we love ourselves,” Jill said.
“Why?” Katy asked.
“Because we want him to stay with us, to be our friend no matter what,” Jill said. “But Scooter is…”
“In lots of pain,” Katy said. “Oh, Scooter.”
Jill sat down on the bed so that she could pet Scooter and soothe Katy. The little girl’s shoulders shook with sobs.
“But he’s so afraid to be away from us,” Katy said through her tears.
“It’s so painful for him to be here,” Delphie said.
“He doesn’t like to be alone,” Katy said.
“Can you imagine that our Scooter will be alone for long?” Jill said with a snort. “People and dogs will come from all over just to welcome him home.”
“Everybody loves Scooter,” Katy said in a soft, sad voice.
“He will be at peace,” Jill said. “I will not let him suffer in fear and loneliness. He will be free from all of that suffering when we release him.”
Katy gave a loud, moist sigh. She wrapped her arms around Scooters neck.
“I love you, Scooter,” Katy said.
“Thank him for being your friend,” Jill said.
“Thank you for being my good friend,” Katy said. “Especially when we moved to this house and met Daddy and all that scary stuff with our old-Daddy.”
Katy pressed her face into Scooter’s scruff and gave him a loud kiss.
“I release you from being my dog,” Katy said. “But you’ll always be my friend.”
Jill gave Katy a soft smile.
“Are you ready, Katy?” Jill asked. “When I do this Scooter will leave us really fast?”
“I’m ready Mommy,” Katy said. “You sure he won’t be scared and it won’t hurt?”
“He won’t be in pain,” Jill said.
She slipped off the bed and knelt down. Scooter lifted his head. He made a small sound, a kind of whimper, and Jill let out a soft sob.
Jill thought of all the times this little scruffy mutt had cheered her up and given her hope. She thought of the moment she saw him again — her old friend risen from the dead. She remembered the moment Katy met him and how they’d loved each other on the spot. She remembered how Scooter had attacked the serpent with no concern for himself. He’d only wanted to make certain Katy and Jill were safe.
She’d know he was in pain. She’d tried to save him. She knew now that the only real way to save him was to let him go. Sighing, she put her hands around his face.
His eyes locked on Jill’s.
“Precious Scooter,” Jill whispered. “I release you. You may go.”
Scooter seemed to smile. He took a slow breath, and then another. Her ears expected her friend to take another breath. When the breath didn’t come, Jill’s heart broke open.
“Scooter?” Jill said through her tears.
Scooter’s warmth was gone. Her friend had been released from his pain, suffering, and joy of this life. She looked at Katy. Her daughter was crying her heart out. Jill looked up at Delphie. The Oracle was leaning against the wall. She held her hand in front of her eyes while she cried.
Jill went to the bed and scooped up Katy. Delphie sat down next to them and leaned into Jill. Wrapped in their grief, they held onto each other.
Jill knew that her resilient daughter would get over losing Scooter. She knew that Delphie would pray for him every day for the rest of her life. It was going to take them a long time to get over losing Scooter.
Jill knew for herself that this very moment would mark her life. Everything else would be considered “After Scooter.” She’d never be the same.
Thursday afternoon — 2:15 p.m.
“Hi!” Blane said to Aden and Ivan from the white picket fence around Tanesha’s house. “Sorry about the mess.”
He held open the fence and Aden carefully pushed Ivan in his wheelchair down the brick path.
“We’re moving in,” Blane said. “Or moved in this morning. Jeraine left this morning for tour and we’re living here until he gets back in the fall.”
They got to the edge of the porch. Blane pointed to the right. The brick path continued around the house. Blane opened the gate to the backyard. Aden wheeled Ivan around the house to the back porch.
“Sandy’s was here this morning. Helping us move.” Blane kept talking to ease the tension. “Tanesha’s moved into the basement. Heather and I are taking the upstairs. Tink’s staying in the living room so I can treat people in this bedroom.”
Aden wheeled Ivan around the house to the back porch. A new ramp connected the path to the back porch, and another ramp connected the back porch to the house.
“Sam built these this morning,” Blane said.
“Why are you moving?” Ivan asked.
“We’re adding space onto our house,” Blane said. “We’ve been planning to do it for a while — years really. But since I was sick and in the hospital, it was too much for us to do. When Jeraine decided to go on tour…”
Tink opened the back door and helped them get Ivan inside.
“… everything worked out,” Blane said. “Tanesha needs to study for finals so I’m taking care of the house and her while Jeraine’s gone. By the time he’s back, our house should be done.”
Blane turned right.
“The room is right here,” Blane said.
Aden rolled Ivan into what had been the spare bedroom.
“Thank you for letting me treat you,” Blane said. “You’re the first person I’ve seen since getting out of the hospital.”
Clearly in pain, Ivan gave Blane a curt nod.
“What do I…?” Ivan asked.
“Why don’t you stay there?” Blane asked. “Aden, you can either wait here or outside.”
“I can help unpack,” Aden said.
“You don’t have to,” Blane said. “We just brought the bare minimum — clothing mostly.”
He gave Aden an odd smile.
“Oh,” Aden said and nodded.
“Oh?” Ivan looked up at Aden and then at Blane.
“The fairies will be here before Tanesha gets home from school,” Aden said. “If anything’s not done, they will fix it to Tanesha’s perfection.”
“Nice,” Ivan grinned.
“Tanesha hates it so they have to do it when she’s not here,” Blane said with a shrug. “I’m certainly not going to turn down their help. And, as I said, we’re mostly done anyway.”
He took one of Ivan’s wrists and began taking Ivan’s Chinese medicine pulse.
“Do you mind if Aden stays?” Blane asked.
“No,” Ivan said. “I may need help getting up there.”
“On the table?” Blane asked. “Let’s see if we get that far.”
He went around and took the pulse of Ivan’s other hand.
“How long are you staying?” Blane asked.
“Until Sunday,” Ivan said. “I’ve been receiving treatments from…”
“Yes, we spoke last night,” Blane said. “He gave me some suggestions about how I can facilitate your healing. Sissy’s, too.”
Blane stepped back and looked Ivan up and down. He scowled for a moment and then nodded.
“Have you had acupuncture before?” Blane asked.
“Yes,” Ivan said. “I never found it to be very helpful.”
“Yes,” Blane said. He continued to look at Ivan.
“Why is that?” Aden asked.
“Oh, sorry,” Blane said. “I’m trying to decide what to do first.”
“First?” Ivan asked.
“I’d like to see you at the very minimum, once a day,” Blane said with a nod. “Will that work?”
“Of course,” Ivan said. “If it helps.”
Blane nodded. He turned away and went to a shelf where boxes of his needles sat. He picked up a pack of needles and a sharps container. He set the sharps container on the treatment table and unpacked the needles.
“You have… um…” Blane looked up at the wall. “Sorry, I’m trying to find the right words for it. You have an energetic wall around a whole bunch of… garbage.”
Blane gave a nod and started putting in needles.
“Garbage?” Ivan asked.
“Experiences, pains,” Blane said. He was silent for a moment. “How did you hurt your leg?”
“Gulag,” Ivan said.
Blane nodded. He stuck a needle just under Ivan’s knee and one near his ankle.
“I have wound on back,” Ivan said.
“Your biggest wound is in your heart,” Blane said.
“What?” Ivan asked.
“This is taking a long time to heal, isn’t it?” Blane asked.
“I was stabbed a week ago,” Ivan said.
“Not a long time for normal people, but a long time for you,” Blane said.
“Da,” Ivan said.
“We will have to open this energy vault of yours,” Blane said. “We can do it a little bit at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed. Kind of siphon off the energy. Is that all right with you?”
“Will it make me better?” Ivan asked. “Healthy?”
“It will recharge your body’s ability to heal,” Blane said. “Can I take off your glasses ?”
Ivan glanced at the overhead light. Blane pointed to Aden. He went to shut off the lights. Ivan took off his glasses.
“Take a breath,” Blane said. Ivan took a breath, and Blane put a needle into the bridge of his nose. “Let it go.”
Ivan let out the breath.
“Another,” Blane said. Ivan took a breath, and Blane put a needle above the first. “Let it go.”
Ivan’s face flushed red.
“Are you ready?” Blane asked.
Ivan nodded. Without warning, Blane put in two needles in quick succession. Ivan gasped a breath. Blane looked at Aden.
“Take his hand,” Blane said.
Aden grabbed Ivan’s hand. Ivan looked up at Blane.
“You are safe here,” Blane said. “Let it go.”
Ivan crumpled forward and began to sob. Blane went to the shelf and picked up a box of tissues. He set them on the bed.
“Just remind him to let it go,” Blane said to Aden. “He needs to release this.”
“I’ll be back in a half hour with some tea,” Blane said.
Aden nodded in agreement. Blane put a firm hand on Ivan’s shoulder for support before leaving the room.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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