Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Four Hundred and four : Gilded dust

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CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED and FOUR

Jacob rolled onto his side and reached for Jill. Finding the bed strangely soft and inviting, he fell back to sleep before his hand reached her side of the bed. He’d been exhausted for such a very long time. He fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

He woke next when a bright sunbeam fell across his face. He rolled onto his back. There was a funny metallic sound and he realized he wasn’t in his bed at the Castle. He turned onto his side to look at the bed. Naked, he seemed to be sleeping on a thick cotton mattress laid over an old-fashioned open spring bed frame. The cotton sheets were clean, white, and smelled of one part sunshine with a faint glow of bleach. He was covered in a thick down comforter in the same lovely condition.

The sleep pulled at him again and he was asleep.

“I simply refuse to believe that we will not get through this.”

Jacob startled awake. As if traveling on a speck of floating dust in the sunshine, Jill’s words filtered to him.

“Jill?” Jacob asked.

He’d been so comfortable that it hadn’t occurred to him that she wasn’t right next to him. He patted the space where she usually laid on the bed. The sheets were cool, if not cold. He sat up in bed.

“Jill?”

He scowled. The world around him was silent and almost too still.

Where was he? He threw off the down comforter and started to get up when, echoing through the dust, he heard:

“We can do this,” Jill’s voice said. “We’ve done it before.”

“Jill?”

“We can do this,” Sam’s voice said.

“Dad? What are we doing?” Jacob asked aloud.

“We can totally do this,” Heather’s voice carried a sparkle of golden light.

“Hedone,” Jacob whispered.

“Fuck yes,” Mike’s voice said.

“Mike?” Jacob’s voice fell.

“We can do this,” Valerie’s voice said.

“And Val?” Jacob asked. “Are we talking about your baby?”

“By heaven, by Olympia, by earth, and sun, we will sing our Jacob home,” Delphie’s voice said.

“Sing me home?” Jacob asked. He scowled. “What the hell?”

He rotated his legs off the bed. Half expecting to find that there was not a floor below him, he looked down at his feet. An old wide plank pine floor sat under the old-fashioned bed. He carefully slid his feet onto the floor. He walked to the half open door in front of him to find a modern bathroom. He made use of the facilities and came out of the bathroom.

He seemed to be in some kind of one room cabin. On instinct, he grabbed his jeans off the back of a heavily used rocking chair and pulled them on. He went to the fireplace where a nice ember had been banked deep in the coals. He spent a few minutes building a happy fire. The yellow light of the fire danced along the floor as he walked to a small kitchen along the wall. He filled a kettle from the tap and looked around for a stove. Finding none, he hung the kettle on a worn hook over the flame in the fireplace.

“Where am I?” Jacob asked.

He went to the pile of his clothing and pulled on a long sleeved T-shirt. He picked up a thick sweater and started to pull it on. He was holding it over his head when he stopped to look at it. His mother had finished this sweater for him just before she had died. He used to wear it almost every day in college. As he pulled his favorite sweater over his head, he marveled that it still fit.

“Not too shabby, Marlowe,” Jacob said patting his stomach, and then laughed at his own pride.

He went to the kitchen area to see if there was any food. Five beautiful golden apples sat on the counter. The kettle sounded. Going to the fireplace to retrieve the kettle, he discovered an iron pot filled with a mouthwatering stew sitting in the back of the fireplace. He lifted a metal spoon from the pot to smell the mixture — lamb, carrots, parsnip, and something he couldn’t identify. He had to swallow back his saliva. He was definitely going to have some of this stew.

The kettle burbled to remind him that he hadn’t made his tea. He put the stew pot back into the fireplace and carried the kettle to the kitchen. A sunbeam glanced off the apples and they glowed with golden wonder. He smiled. Taking out a mug, he dug around in the cabinets until he found bags of unknown tea. He smelled a bag. It smelled like something familiar.

He stared across the cabin for a moment.

The tea reminded him of Tanesha. This was Tanesha’s special tea. He smiled. Gilfand had told that while the tea tonified Tanesha’s power, it should strengthen him. Jacob yawned. He could use some strengthening.

He dropped the tea bag into a cup and poured the water over it. The smell reminded him of warm nights in the Castle with Jill and Katy before the boys had come.

He gasped.

“Jill?” Jacob asked aloud.

Once again, he wondered where he could possibly be.

He had never been a person who sought alone time. If he was at a cabin, Mike or Blane were usually there somewhere. More recently, Aden and his boys — Nash and Teddy — came with them to camp, fish, and hunt. Jacob thought for a moment. He couldn’t remember a time he’d been in the mountains when his father wasn’t somewhere nearby.

The iron pot over the fire made a bubbling sound and Jacob turned to look at it. It smelled amazing. Without thinking, he took out a bowl and went to the fireplace. In the process, he passed the apples again.

Jacob stopped short.

Something was definitely wrong. His mind blank, he stood still.

He looked at the inviting pot with its amazing aroma. He looked at the tea that smelled like Tanesha and remembered the warm nights filled with love. He looked at the apples. Taking a step, he set the bowl on the counter and picked up the tea. He drank it down in one gulp. Knowing that the power of the tea was in the repeat use of the bag, he poured more hot water over the same teabag. He drank it down and made another.

His body burned with heat. He grabbed an apple.

“Okay, Hedone,” Jacob whispered to the apple.

He ate the apple fast and then ate another. The dust in the air lit up around him as an errant sunbeam hit the windows.

“There you are,” Jacob said in a soft voice.

“I’m not there,” the Goddess said.

“Where is here?” Jacob asked.

“You are in a cabin built by love,” the Goddess said. “Every item was created by those who love you. The very structure was built on love — each beam, plank, and nail. The walls and roof are there for your protection to support you and hold you. You are surrounded by the love you’ve given and now can receive.”

“Where is Jill?” Jacob asked. His hand flew to his heart. “My children?”

“They are safe,” the Goddess said. “You are the one lost in time.”

“I am?”

“I will not be able to come again,” the Goddess said. “You must be on the watch. There are those who prefer that you stay lost. They can get into the cabin through the tiniest crack of insecurity in your walls. Don’t let them in. You must love wholly and receive love wholly to stay safe until you are able to return.”

“The stew,” Jacob said under his breath.

“Yes,” the Goddess said.

“Can I leave this place?” Jacob asked.

“Not without a guide,” the Goddess said. There was a sound somewhere a long way away. “I have done what I can.”

“But the guide!”

“You will have a brief moment when I go when you can call to you what will save you, guide you,” the Goddess said. “Listen to your heart. You know what you need. But choose wisely, and be certain it’s who you think it is before you let them inside.”

“When …?”

“Now.”

Jacob panicked. He knew the briefest moment was passing. He wanted Jill, his father, Blane, Mike … Who should he choose?

He felt the cloying press of the walls around him. Golden love was turning to codependent toxicity. The cabin was suddenly smaller and tighter. The golden sun outside was shifting to a dreary grey. He gasped for breath.

As he usually did when he felt this way, he made a loud whistle.

There was a snuffling sound at the door, and then a scratch. Remembering the Goddess’s words, he went to the door and looked out through the peephole.

There were two identical yellow female Labradors standing on the doorstep. They had the same collars with identical tags. Their eyes were the exactly same. Their ears looked alike.

“Now what?” Through the door, he said, “Sit!”

The dogs’ rumps dropped to the ground.

“Brilliant Marlowe,” Jacob said. “Shake.”

He peered through the hole again. The dog to his left raised her left paw. As if she were wet, the dog on the right shook her body back and forth. Jacob scowled.

“Up!” Jacob said.

The dog on the left went up on her back legs. The dog stood on all fours and panted.

“Around,” Jacob ordered.

The dog on the left turned in place.

“Down,” Jacob ordered.

Both dogs dropped to their bellies.

“Be gone, demon!” Jacob said and pointed to the dog on his left.

The dog on his left disappeared. His yellow Lab, Sarah, barked her “Let me in” bark, so he did. He bent down to pet her and she licked his face, ears, and throat.

“Aren’t you glad I never taught you any of those circus tricks?” Jacob asked with one last scratch of her ears.

Sarah barked. She started sniffing around the room. While he drank another cup of tea, she scampered from smell to smell, item to item until she stopped at the fireplace.

“Bark! Bark!” Sarah pointed her nose to the pot of stew.

“Yeah,” Jacob said. He gulped down the tea. “I don’t know what to do with it.”

Sarah knocked the pot and its contents tipped into the fire. What had looked like stew turned to ash in the warm fire. Sarah barked and wagged her tail.

“Good girl,” Jacob said with a grin.

Sarah jumped on the bed.

“Now that you mention it, I am tired,” Jacob said.

Sarah seemed to nod. He pulled off his clothing and got back into bed.

“Let’s go fishing when I wake up again,” Jacob said.

Sarah licked his face. Smiling, he fell back asleep.

~~~~~~~~

Thursday evening — 7:37 P.M.

Castle, Denver, Colorado

When Aden had arrived home, the Castle was in great disarray. Delphie had tried to organize everything but she had failed miserably. She was sitting in at the kitchen table crying hysterically. Jill and Heather were arguing over what the shaman had asked them to do. Mike was yelling like a mad man at the random people who were standing in the driveway. Teddy and Nash were cutting firewood in such a way that they were likely to lose a limb. After an aggressive run in with the paparazzi, Valerie was hiding downstairs. Sam, who rarely raised his voice, was yelling at a man Aden had never seen before.

Honey rolled in right after Aden. They stood together on the edge of the fray.

“Run away?” Honey asked in a wry voice.

“Rachel and Maggie are in there,” Aden said.

“Let’s grab them and run away,” Honey said with a laugh.

Aden was so surprised at the idea that he laughed aloud. By the time he had recovered himself, Honey was rolling into the kitchen.

“You organize; I’ll make it happen,” Honey said looking up at Aden.

“Any idea what’s going on?” Aden asked.

“Jake’s been sick,” Honey said with a shrug. “It looks to me like Ooljee’s grandparents have some idea how to help him.”

Honey pointed to medical offices stairway. Aden nodded. There was the sound of a mallet hitting a drum.

“If this is like the movies, they’re going to start drumming soon,” Honey said. “If the noise gets out, it will draw every crazy within miles.”

Aden nodded. His eyes flicked from thing to thing.

“You think Jake taught us everything so that we’d be able to do this now?” Aden asked Honey.

“I don’t think he’s that selfish,” Honey said.

Aden nodded.

“Ready, Boss?” Honey asked.

“Ready,” Aden said. “Most critical? Most urgent?”

“Delphie, paparazzi, noise, and your boys,” Honey said. “I’ll take care of Jill and Heather.”

“I need someone to figure out whose drumming, who’s supporting, and who’s on food, which’s on fire…” Aden said.

“Got it,” Honey said.

“Tell Mike to suck it up and help Teddy and Nash,” Aden said. “Tell him I said those exact words.”

“Done,” Honey said. “Call Bambi and Rodney. He and Akeem are drummers.”

“Good thinking,” Aden said. “Rodney can manage the drummers.”

“We have a bunch of Native Americans at Lipson,” Honey said. “A couple of them compete at Pow Wows as dancers and drummers. Bambi will know how to connect with them.”

“Got it,” Aden said.

“Your phone charged?” Honey asked.

Aden looked down at his phone and nodded.

“There’s a charger in the kitchen,” Honey said. “When it gets down to twenty percent plug it in.”

“Bambi added that app to my phone,” Aden said. “The one you wrote for her.

Honey smiled.

“There’s Sandy,” Honey pointed.

Sandy ran past them to where Jill and Heather were arguing.

“One less problem,” Honey rolled forward to the women. “Get going, Boss.”

Aden slipped into the room next to the main living room and started making phone calls. Ten minutes later, the Denver Police had cleared out the paparazzi, and Rodney, Akeem, and Bambi were on their way. When he came out, Valerie was helping Delphie upstairs to her apartment alter. Jill, Heather, and Sandy had enlisted someone whose name he didn’t know to help them ferry the water up to the deck. Mike was showing Teddy and Nash how to split wood. Sam was making his way up the medical office stairs, and Blane was pulling into the driveway.

The little blond woman in a wheel chair had turned chaos into a kind of melodic insanity. He smiled at her. Honey took the smile as great praise.

“What’s next, Boss?” Honey asked.

“We need a list of everyone who’s drumming,” Aden said.

“Got it,” Rodney said as he walked past with Akeem. “Where are they?”

“Driveway,” Honey said.

As Rodney walked away, he yelled to Aden.

“You need a sing organizer,” Rodney said. “It’s a profession.”

“Where would I find one of those?” Aden asked. “Yellow pages.”

“Ben,” Rodney said. He turned to look at Aden. Aden nodded that he knew who Ben was. Rodney gave Aden a supportive nod and went outside.

“We need to feed all of these people,” Aden said.

“Bambi’s really good at figuring out what people need,” Honey said with a nod. “She’s going to want toilets first.”

Aden nodded.

“Delphie?” Aden asked, as Valerie appeared from upstairs.

“Delphie’s down for the count,” Valerie said. “Jake’s in real danger and she’s… If she can get herself together, Jake needs her.”

Aden nodded.

“Do we know where the children are?” Aden asked.

“In the Chapel,” Valerie said. “Edie’s called in the Fairy Corps. The babies have almost too much care. Oh, she said to tell you that she created the sound bubble the you asked for.”

“Good,” Honey said.

“Gilfand and Abi are coming,” Valerie said.

“And we think that means?” Aden asked.

“Heaven and earth are shaking for our Jacob,” Honey said.

Sam Lipson strode through the kitchen to where they were standing. Valerie hugged him. Knowing it was what Aden needed, Sam gave him a report.

“We will be with Jake for the duration,” Sam said. “Some genetic line something or another. The shamans will fast, taking clean water only. They gave Jill and Heather instructions for that. Val, me, Blane — we are too keep up our strength, especially since Blane is just out of the hospital. We need cushions to sit and sleep on. We need …”

Sam looked up as Bambi walked in the door. He nodded to her.

“Looks like we’ll be just fine,” Sam put his hand on Aden’s arm. “You’ve got this, son. You’re the only one who can lead now, and I thank you for it.”

Aden allowed Sam to see the fear and insecurity in his eyes.

“A great leader draws good people to him,” Sam repeated what he’d said to Aden many times.

“Trust them,” Aden and Sam said together.

Sam nodded.

“Now, where is Delphie?” Sam asked. “I’d like to speak with her before we start.”

“Upstairs,” Valerie said. “She’s …”

“Aren’t we all?” Sam asked.

With one last nod, he turned in place, and went up the stairs. Aden put his hands on his hips and looked down at the floor.

“What’s next, Boss?” Honey asked.

Grinning, Aden nodded.

“We need a place to work,” Aden said. “Can we get someone to …”

He let out a breath and got to work.

~~~~~~~~

Thursday evening — 8:17 P.M.

“Have you seen Sarah?” Noelle asked Jill as they passed on the stairway to the Chapel.

“Sarah?” Jill asked as she trotted down the stairs. Jill stopped short.

“Tink and me …”

“Tink and I,” Jill corrected.

“Ivy too,” Noelle said, without missing a beat. “We’re on dog and cat detail. We can’t find Sarah.”

“Jake’s Labrador?” Jill asked. Her hand went to her chest. “Is she with Katy?”

Noelle shook her head. There was a sound upstairs and Jill looked. Jill’s face pinched with panic.

“Don’t worry,” Noelle said, to soothe Jill’s anxiety. “I’ll find her.”

Jill nodded to Noelle and continued down the stairs.

“Has she seen her?” Ivy asked Noelle from the top of the stairs.

Noelle shook her head. They walked to the main living room where Tink held Buster, the ugly dog, on a leash.

“Let’s take Buster for a walk,” Tink said. “When we get back, we’ll look for Sarah again.”

“But …” Noelle’s eyes welled with tears. “What if something happened to her?”

“Ivy?” Tink looked at the little girl. “Tell her what you told me.”

“You know I’ve been working on my … you know, and stuff,” Ivy said.

Noelle gave her a confused look and shook her head.

“Yeah, that’s even a sentence,” Tink said with a snort and a roll of her eyes. “Ivy’s been taking classes with Delphie and Edie.”

“With Katy,” Noelle said with a nod. “I’ve been to a few.”

“Ivy’s Delphie’s niece?” Tink asked in a tone that meant that Noelle should know something.

Noelle didn’t know what she meant.

“She’s saying I might be kinda psychic, maybe,” Ivy said. “Family tradition and all.”

“Are you?” Noelle asked with her characteristic directness.

“No,” Ivy said at the same time Tink said, “Yes.”

The girls looked at each other. Tink broke eye contact first.

“She always was,” Tink said. “She’d know where to find coupons for food or who’d give us money. Jeffy always said she was too.”

“Jeffy said that?” Ivy blushed at the mention of her dead friend’s name.

Tink nodded fiercely.

“Well, if Jeffy said it, it must be true,” Noelle said having no idea who Jeffy was or why they were talking about him.

The girls looked at her for a minute. They laughed.

“Tell her what you told me,” Tink said. “About Sarah.”

Noelle and Tink looked at Ivy. Mortified, Ivy looked down.

“Go ahead,” Tink said. She knocked Ivy with her shoulder.

“Jake’s like a really powerful … uh … being, right?” Ivy asked. “I mean he can move objects with his mind — that’s a really, really, really rare gift — and he knows the future and he …”

Noelle and Tink nodded in agreement.

“People like that draw strong helpers to them,” Ivy said. “It says that in a bunch of books.”

Ivy stopped talking. Noelle and Tink looked at her expectantly.

“And?” Noelle asked.

“Delphie told me that he had Sarah before Jill and Katy and the boys and everything,” Ivy said. “I just went and asked her to make sure.”

“You think Sarah’s with Jake?” Noelle asked.

Terrified, Ivy gulped. Noelle and Tink looked off into the distance for a moment.

“Sounds about right to me,” Tink said.

“Me, too,” Noelle said. “But we need to keep an eye out, just in case.”

“Why?” Ivy asked.

“Because we’re on dog and cat duty,” Noelle said. The full weight of this important responsibility reflected in her voice. “Sarah might need help or food or pets or something so she can help Jake.”

Tink and Ivy nodded.

“Come on,” Tink said. “Let’s take Buster for a walk. Sandy said he needs a few miles of walking. I thought we could walk up to the park and see if they’ve turned the fountains on yet.”

“I love the Thatcher Fountain,” Noelle said.

“I know you do,” Tink said, nodding.

“Then we take care of the cats,” Ivy said.

“Cats?” Noelle asked. “I thought there was just Cleo, my mom’s cat.”

“Doesn’t Aunt Delphie seem like a crazy cat lady?” Ivy asked in a quiet voice.

Tink and Noelle giggled and nodded.

“There’s got to be other cats here,” Ivy said. “Somewhere. Maybe a whole wing of cats. You never know.”

Laughing, Tink picked up Buster’s leash and they headed out for a walk.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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