Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter Two-Hundred : He said


Saturday morning — 7:53 a.m.

Westword reporter, Barton Gaston, opened his car door in the King Soopers parking lot. With his eyes never leaving the four-plex across the street, he slipped into the driver’s seat. It wasn’t until he slammed his car door that he spilled his precious hot coffee all over himself.


He fumbled around in the trash on the back seat of his car until he found an old fast-food napkin to mop up the mess. His attention was so focused on the spill that he didn’t notice the car pull up across the street until the car door slammed.

“Well I’ll be God damned,” Barton said, as a man got out of the driver’s seat.

He grabbed his digital camera and began to snap photos. Across the street, the scene played out. Before the man was halfway up the walk, a beautiful woman opened the door in a lace negligee. Even from this distance, he could see how attractive she was, how gorgeous she must have been. Through the telephoto lens, he took in the numb look in her eyes and the lack of joy in her lovely smile. She smiled at the man and stepped back to let him into the apartment. Before she closed the door, her eyes scanned the yard.

Thinking she’d seen him, Barton ducked down behind the steering wheel. He counted down two full minutes on his digital Mickey Mouse watch before he dared to look. When he did, he saw what he’d seen the entire hour he’d waited – cars rushing pasted well cared for four-plex apartments. He took a drink from his coffee cup. Going through the photos, he realized he didn’t have a photo of the man’s face. He’d need that for anyone to believe him.

His source had told him the man stayed for at least an hour, sometimes two. Feeling safe, Barton got out of the car and walked down the block. When he was far enough away not to be noticed, he took a photo of the man’s car and made sure to get the license plate and the street sign in the frame. To be safe, he went around the block before getting in his car again.

Now he waited.

In two hours, he’d have the story of his life.


Saturday morning — 9:53 a.m.

“I need to speak with him.”

Aden heard a man speaking outside his office. Before his secretary could fend him off, the man leaned into Aden’s office. Aden blinked. Nate Zalofsky, the father of one of the blonde girls that had given Noelle such a hard time, was standing in his doorway. He was the only one of the three men who still worked at Lipson construction.

Aden got up from his desk.

“Have a minute?” Nate asked.

“Sure,” Aden said.

“Jake here?”

“Jake’s out checking sites today.”

“Where’s Sam?”

“He went to spend time with Celia,” Aden said. “He’s with her from ten to eleven every morning.”

“That’s right. I forgot,” Nate said. “Maybe I should come back.”

“Why don’t you tell me what’s on your mind?” Aden asked. “I can have my secretary sit in if you feel uncomfortable…”

“No, it’s better to talk in private.”

“All right,” Aden went to the door. His secretary raised an eyebrow to him. He nodded that he was all right and closed the door. “Have a seat.”

Aden went around the desk to his office chair.

“What can I do for you?”

“I know things haven’t been great between us,” Nate said. “I think you know that I’ve had a lot… on my mind since everything… happened.”

Aden watched the ordinarily glib man fumble for words.

“I know you could have easily fired me,” Nate said. “Without a job… I… We really appreciate Lipson hanging with me and us for this time. I guess you know my wife went to rehab. My wife and I went to counseling, the kids too. Lipson insurance is really great, really great.”

Aden glanced at the estimates on his desk. He had a more than a full day’s worth of work to finish. He was pretty sure he didn’t have time for this.

“And when Jake demoted me and sent me to work with Rodney,” Nate said. “I was mad, really mad, and I know you probably heard me say a few things about you.”

Aden nodded and glanced at his desk again. Sam would stop everything to talk to this man. Sam had done it for Aden more than once.

“I don’t know how Jake knew it, but it was the best thing for me,” Nate smiled. “Seeing those boys, young men I guess, fight for their jobs and their lives, sometimes, and get them back. It’s affected me, changed me. I find myself talking to people I wouldn’t have said a word to in the past. I mean I worked at Lipson for ten years and never spoke a word of Spanish. All of the sudden, Rodney’s pushing me out in the trenches with those young men.”

If Sam could make time to listen, Aden had time to listen. Aden felt pressure release from him.

“And now we’re taking on that big project by the airport,” Nate said. “Rodney tells everyone we’re building a new city from the underground up. He has this way of making everyone have ownership of the project. ‘How do you want your city to be built? Well, for today, this is your city,’ he says. He’s incredible. And I don’t know how we got into this project or how Sam and Jake are now running the whole thing but… It’s huge. Our team is combining with Bambi’s to deal with just the underground work.”

“You remember the whole Saint Jude thing and the state’s issues with Jacob. The state didn’t make it happen, but they didn’t block it. All of the construction companies agreed to it. That’s what I’m working on today. Our estimates compared to everyone’s bids. It’s going to be a wild winter and spring.”

“Especially when Jake is out with his kids,” Nate nodded.

Aden nodded. Nate fell silent.

“I’m sorry you’ve had so much trouble,” Aden said.

“No,” the man shook his head. “Don’t be sorry. This is the best thing that ever happened to me, to us. We’re… happy. My daughter, the one that’s Noelle’s age, came home last night with the best grades she’s ever had. She’s talking about going to college and becoming a microbiologist, a scientist, something other than being a model or one Hefner’s bimbos. So don’t you ever be sorry.”

“What’s going on, Nate?” Aden asked.

“I guess I’m rambling,” Nate said. “Sorry. Somehow it all fits. You know Honey’s going to be out right?”

“Honey’s baby is due in a month or so,” Aden said.

“I’m going to work with the girls,” Nate shook his head. “Sorry, old habit. That’s what I used to call Bambi and her team. I’m going to take over Honey’s duties while she’s off. Rodney’s hiring a new assistant. Honey should be back by the time things are really going. We’ll figure out if I go back with Rodney or step up to full site manager or whatever we need.”

“How do you feel about working with the girls?” Aden wondered if this was why Nate had come to talk to him.

“Women,” Nate said. “I worked with Honey and Bambi on Friday. Man, they work hard. It’s going to be fun, hard, but fun. And Bambi won’t let me work for her if I’m not fluent in Spanish, so I’m listening to the tapes in the car and my kids are helping me at home and…”

Nate’s voice drifted off. He looked at Aden and Aden nodded.

“So I mentioned my wife went to rehab right?”

Aden nodded.

“She, um, we had a real problem,” Nate said. “Alcohol and shopping were her things. She likes to go to those twelve-step programs. I mean, she’s still in treatment and therapy and stuff. Her therapist thought she’d get a lot out of going to those Alanon meetings. So she started going to the noon one downtown. She met your wife Sandy and Molly, Jake’s bookkeeper, Pete’s wife, and… Sandy does her hair right now and my daughter’s on special occasions.”

“What are we talking about Nate?”

“I don’t want you to think I’m ungrateful or that I’m still hanging out with those assholes and their stupid wives.” Nate’s face flushed with rage. He took a moment to calm himself. “I know Rodney says it doesn’t do any good to give up today’s joy for yesterday’s pain, but I’m so mad at myself for getting involved with them. If it was up to me, I’d never see them again but…”


“My oldest daughter is involved in the honor society and is about a month away from being announced as a Denver Deb.” Nate looked up to see if Aden knew what that was. Aden shook his head. “Debutante, Denver Debutante. She’s a straight A student, a member of the National Honor Society, and… everything. Before, when everything was awful, all I cared about was that she lettered in Field Hockey, got straight As, and all that crap. I never even knew my own daughter. She was like this foreign creature and…”

“And now?”

“She’s amazing,” Nate nodded. “We spend an hour together every day. It’s our therapy agreement. She doesn’t care that much about the Debutante thing but she’s put so much into it, she doesn’t want to back down now. She thinks it will help her get a scholarship to Harvard. That used to be really important to me too. Now, we’re looking at keeping her home for a year, maybe working at Lipson for experience and going on a trip to volunteer somewhere, or maybe right here in Denver. It’s funny. I used to think I could hardly wait for her to go, now that I spend time with her, I don’t want her to leave.”

The man looked up at Aden and blinked.

“Oh,” Aden said. “I get it. Even though, you, your daughter, and family have gone through this major transformation, you’re still in contact with the other two.”

Nate looked at little relieved.

“Are they planning something?

Nate nodded.


Nate nodded.

“At the new job site?”

Nate nodded.

“How big?”

“Big,” Nate said.


Saturday morning — 10:53 a.m.

When the salon’s front door buzzer rang, Sandy looked up from her client. She had one client sitting in the chair next to her while she trimmed this woman’s hair. Saturday was her busiest day. Her assistant ran to open the door for Sissy.

“Sissy!” Sandy said. To her client, she said, “My sister is here.”

“The ballerina?” her client asked. “I saw a picture of her dancing when Misty Copeland was here.”

“That’s my Sissy. I’ll be right back,” Sandy set down her scissors to meet Sissy near the door. Looking very anxious, Sissy was standing on one foot. Her bike leaned up against the window outside.

“Are you okay?” Sandy asked.

Sissy shook her head.

“What’s going on?” Sandy glanced around the room to make sure they weren’t heard.

“You have to tell me something,” Sissy bit her lip and nodded. “Tell me the truth. Promise me you’ll tell me the truth.”

“Of course,” Sandy hugged Sissy. “Anything.”

“Is Uncle Seth my guardian and not you and not Aden?” Sissy asked.

Sandy gave a kind of ‘I knew this would come up someday’ sigh.

“It’s complicated,” Sandy said.

“How so?” Sissy asked.

“When Dad died, he was angry with Mom,” Sandy said. “I guess we found out why a couple months ago right?”

Sissy nodded.

“He was afraid, and now we know rightly so, that you and Charlie wouldn’t be taken care of,” Sandy said. “But he couldn’t keep Mom from being your guardian because she gave birth to you.”

Sissy nodded.

“So he made his pension contingent on Seth being your guardian along with Mom,” Sandy said.

“Then how come we were always broke? How come Charlie was on the streets? How come everything was so horrible? How come we didn’t just live with him?”

The words spilled out of Sissy’s mouth so fast she had to stop to catch her breath. Sandy nodded as if she understood.

“Well?” Sissy asked.

“Oh, those were questions?” Sandy asked.

Sissy nodded.

“You rode over here to ask me that?”

Sissy nodded. Sandy sighed.

“The truth is that I don’t know,” Sandy said. “I don’t know how or why I could love you and Charlie so very much, and care so much about how you were and what you were doing, and even think I was paying for your ballet lessons and Charlie’s… whatever, and not know what was going on. Seth feels the same way.”

“Is he still my guardian?” Sissy asked.

“With me and Aden,” Sandy said. “He has to be your guardian for you to get that great insurance and Dad’s money.”


“Why Sis? Why are you asking now?”

“Because that lady? The one who came to dance with me? Misty? She said they want me to be in the American Ballet Company in New York but Seth won’t let them even ask.”

Sandy nodded.

“You knew about this?” Sissy’s voice raised and the women in the salon looked over at them.

“Listen Sis, I can’t do this now,” Sandy said.

“Fine,” Sissy stormed toward the door. Sandy grabbed her arm and turned her around to face her.

“Do you trust me?” Sandy asked.

Angry, Sissy wouldn’t look at her. Sandy gave her arm a little shake and Sissy looked at her. With tears in her eyes, Sissy nodded.

“Then meet me here at 6 tonight,” Sandy said. “We’ll get dinner and have lots and lots of time to talk through everything.”

Sissy nodded.

“Are you going to be all right today?” Sandy asked. “Do you want me to call someone?”

“No,” Sissy said. “Wanda and Tink are meeting me at Starbucks. We’re going to study. Can I have some money?”

Sandy went to her drawer and got a twenty dollar bill for Sissy. She held the money out to Sissy then pulled it back.

“Promise you won’t hurt yourself,” Sandy said. “Sacred sister promise?”

“Sacred sister promise,” Sissy nodded. “And I’ll be here at six. What about the others?”

“I’ll call Aden,” Sandy said. “Noelle is painting with Mike today at Lair O’ the Bear Open Space. You know they run all over the mountain. She’ll be sacked out this evening. Aden and the boys can do something boyish.”

“Okay,” Sissy smiled.

“Love you Sis,” Sandy said.

Sissy waved and went out of the salon. Chuckling, Sandy went back to her client.

“Sorry,” she said, as she picked up her scissors.

“Teenagers!” her client said. “Were we that bad?”

“Never!” the client in the next chair said.

They laughed. Smiling, Sandy went back to her day.


Saturday afternoon — 2:53 p.m.

The elevator to the penthouse rose from the garage and Tanesha closed her eyes in a silent prayer. She’d just been out in Aurora at the School of Medicine bookstore buying her I-could-feed-an-entire-family-on-the-cost-of-one-of-these books for school. Rodney, her Dad, had brought her a credit card yesterday and told her he would be ‘very disappointed’ if she didn’t use it. She, Heather, and Mack had gone to get her books.

Tanesha smiled. For each book Heather had calculated the number of expensive shoes they could buy. Two pairs each was her final determination. Heather made everything so fun.

As the elevator neared the penthouse, Tanesha’s anxiety rose. They were just leaving when the movie people and their scantily clad ‘girls’ and their assistants and their whatever else were coming in. As they had agreed, Tanesha let Jeraine deal with it. Having years of experience of Jeraine dealing with scantily clad women and drugs, she held her breath when the elevator doors opened.


She leaned forward to peek out. The apartment was silent. She took a step forward.

“You better step back, young lady,” an older man’s voice came from around the corner. “We’re not in the market for any of that today.”

Tanesha turned toward to voice. A tall, black man in his sixties or seventies wearing a cardigan sweater over a button down shirt walked toward her. Tanesha raised an eyebrow in challenge.

“I know who you are,” he smiled. “You’re Yvonne’s daughter.”

Tanesha’s eyebrows jerked up in surprise, then lowered with suspicion.

“She was one of mine,” the man said. Seeing Tanesha frown, he added, “Probationers. I was her probation officer. I never met your father, but you have her expressive face. That woman could say volumes with just one look.”

He laughed.

“I’m Bob,” he stuck his hand out to Tanesha.

“Tanesha,” she shook his hand.

“You live here,” he said.

“Sort of,” Tanesha said. “It’s Jeraine’s place. We live here until our house is done. Kind of renting from the IRS for now.”

He smiled.

“Sorry about all that,” Bob took the shopping bag from her. “I’m keeping the riff raff out of here.”

“Who are you?” Tanesha asked.

“I’m Bob,” he smiled as if he’d made a joke. “You know Jeraine is getting some… help from my friend Aden.”

“Aden is his interim sponsor until they either kill each other or Jeraine finds another.”

Bob laughed. Tanesha moved toward the kitchen to turn on the tea kettle.

“Why is that funny?” Tanesha asked.

“Aden,” Bob set her books on the kitchen table. “He must really like Jeraine.”

“I thought he was doing it because Sandy asked,” Tanesha said.

“Sponsor a man because his wife asked,” Bob shook his head. “No, it’s a sacred relationship. He wants to help Jeraine; I said I’m he’s not sure he can.”

“How did you end up here?” Tanesha asked.

“Jeraine called Aden this morning,” Bob said. “Probably right after you left. Aden called me. Of course, I know Bumpy. When I got here, there was all kinds of… nonsense going on.”

“Would you like some tea?” Tanesha pointed to her tea stash.

“Bless my soul, I haven’t seen that tea since I was a kid,” he said.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Tanesha said and took down two mugs.

“There were high, half naked girls hanging all over each other,” Bob shook his  head at the memory. “The place was rank with dope smoke.”

“What did you do with them?” Tanesha asked.

“I told them to leave,” Bob said. “I said they were distracting important business and they should take their party somewhere else. There was a lot of drama but I’ll tell you, a half hour after they left, the main movie guy thanked me. Once the party gets started no one wants to be the square who puts an end to it.”

Bob nodded to Tanesha as if she could understand that. She smiled.

“I’m supposed to tell you that Jeraine, and I quote, ‘Din’t do nothin’’”

“He sounds so ignorant sometimes,” Tanesha rolled her eyes.

“That’s what I told him,” Bob laughed. “I said, what are you ignorant? I’m not going to tell your wife something so stupid.”

Smiling, Tanesha poured water into his cup and hers. He picked up his mug to smell the tea.

“Wow, this does bring it back,” he said. “Of course, my Aunt June used to add brandy to my tea to help me sleep. I was three or four, but I did love that brandy.”

“We don’t have any alcohol,” Tanesha said. “Just tea.”

“There’s a bunch of food in the refrigerator,” Bob said. “The movie people had some caterers bring lunch. You can eat.”

“I’m okay,” Tanesha smiled.

“They’re hard at work,” Bob said. “Jeraine must be good because those movie people were a bunch of sass when they came in, but they’re doing what he says now.”

He took a drink of his tea and sighed. His eyes traveled Tanesha’s face and she smiled.

“I want to tell you about your Mom,” Bob said.

“All right.”

“The doctors will tell you she’s brain damaged or whatever,” Bob said. “And she has some problems. No question she has some problems. But Yvonne, she’s smart and strong – tougher than you’d ever know. Someday, he’s going to let her go and she’s going to come right out of this. You watch. I always said, she…”

Just then the elevator dinged. Bob set his tea on the counter and jogged from the kitchen.

“Not a chance,” she heard him say. “I said you aren’t coming in here with that.”

And she laughed.

The Denver Cereal will continue next week


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