Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Four Hundred and seven : In the bushes

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CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED and SEVEN

Authors note: Trigger warning.
This week, we are going to hear about Blane’s life.
As always, the details are shared for the purposes of telling the story.
These details are included not to aggrandize or glorify, but to look without fear at what happens to some children.
Still, it might be triggering to some people.
Please take care of yourself.

Thursday night — 10:24 p.m.

When Valerie looked at Blane, he knew exactly what she was thinking. He’d made her drink every form of noxious tea know to humankind. In the last month or so, he’d been working with her to support her pregnancy. Valerie had lost babies before. They were going to do everything possible to bring this baby to term. He’d even called his friend in Los Angeles. His friend had arrived on Mike and Valerie’s doorstep with a particularly awful, but effective tea. Blane grinned at Valerie when he took the tea from the grandmother.

He wished he’d been more cautious. Like something out of the Twilight Zone, his mind spun around and around for what felt like hours.

When the spinning stopped, he was lying some kind of plastic basket with a blanket wrapped tight around him. He was warm, full of something wonderful, and completely content. In fact, he was so happy that it took him a few minutes before he realized that he was an infant. He turned his head. Through blurry newborn eyes, he saw a girl standing on a box next to the plastic basket next to him. He didn’t know how he knew it was a girl. He just knew that she was as important to him as the child lying next to him. Even as an infant, he felt connected to the baby. When the girl left, baby Blane reached out his hand to the baby next to him. He didn’t know how, but he was sure the baby had reached for him, too.

Present day Blane smiled at the memory. Now he knew when he was born. And he knew the first time he’d seen Jacob.

His mind spun again. Around and around and around he went.

He landed in the bushes at Cheesman Park. He was young — eight or nine maybe. Last night, his evangelical Christian foster father came home raging drunk, again. Blane had awoken to the man stuffing a pillow into Blane’s mouth, again. The gay-bashing man violently raped Blane in the room next to where his gay-bashing evangelical Christian wife slept, again. When it was over, the man had returned to his wife, again. Blane had already told to his caseworker about his foster father’s actions. He’d already been called a liar. Blane know his only option was to leave. He had slipped out his window. He’d run as fast as he could possibly go while crying hysterically and bleeding. As if it were the Hilton, Blane had crawled into this bush and cried himself to sleep.

“What are you doing?” a boy’s voice came from outside the bush.

“Sleeping,” Blane said in return. “What are you doing?”

“Who me?” the boy said. “Nothing.”

The boy dove into the bushes where Blane had been sleeping.

“You don’t look so good,” the boy said.

“I don’t feel good,” Blane said.

“What happened to you?” the boy asked.

Blane had looked at the boy for a moment. The boy was about his age. He noticed that the boy sort of looked like him. He squinted at the boy.

“You can tell me,” the boy said. “I won’t think bad about you.”

“My foster dad … hurt me last night,” Blane said.

The boy gave Blane a long look before looking sad. For a moment, boy simply looked at Blane, and Blane looked back.

“You need a doctor,” the boy said.

The boy’s eyes were honest and kind. The boy nodded to encourage Blane. The boy held out his hand.

“Come on,” the boy said.

“Where are we going?” Blane asked.

“We’re going to the doctor,” the boy said. “I know where to go because I’m a boy scout.”

Blane gave a derisive snort.

“I know,” the boy said blushing. “My mom makes me go. It’s important to her, so I go. It’s mostly stupid and sometimes we get to go camping and stuff. That’s nice.”

The boy crawled out of the bushes. He held out his hands to Blane.

“Come on,” the boy said.

Blane had no idea why, but he took the boy’s hands and let him pull him from the bushes. The boy helped Blane to standing. Blane weaved and the boy put shoulder into Blane’s armpit and his arm around him.

“You’re cold,” the boy said.

The boy set Blane down on the ground. He took off his rain jacket and a thick, handmade sweater. He carefully helped Blane into the sweater and jacket. Blane tried to protest but was too weak to do much of anything. The boy whistled for a cab. Blane thought they were in trouble when the cab driver wouldn’t take them until they showed him money. The boy pulled a dirty wad of money out of his pocket, and the cab driver relented.

“Where’d you get that?” Blane asked when they were settled in the back.

“What?” the boy asked.

“The money?” Blane asked.

“I worked for it,” the boy said. “My parents own a construction company. My sister and I work there at night after school and on the weekends. I’ve been saving up.”

The boy nodded.

“What are you saving for?” Blane asked.

“Oh, nothing important,” the boy said. He patted Blane’s leg. “Don’t worry about a thing.”

That’s the last thing Blane remembered. The next thing he knew, he was waking up from surgery at Denver Health hospital. Someone had called Social Services, and his social worker’s boss was standing next to his bed. Somehow, someone had paid for everything not covered by Denver Health and social services. The social worker wanted to know who was paying for things for Blane. He tried to tell the social worker about the boy, but no one believed him, of course. At least, they weren’t sending him back to the same foster home. The wife thought Blane was a “devil” who brought out the worst in “people.”

A week or so later, Blane was released from the hospital. The hospital returned his old clothes — that were somehow miraculously clean — and the thick sweater and the boy’s rain jacket. The boy had put his gloves and hat in the pockets of the jacket. Tucked deep into the inside pocket, the boy had stuffed two twenty dollar bills and a note that said: “Keep these so you can always get away. Jake” Blane had grinned the whole way to his new group home.

His mind spun around and around again. He was looking out someone else’s eyes.

“Every single day for the last two and a half years you’ve said that you couldn’t wait to get your very own scooter,” a woman adult Blane knew to be Celia Marlowe yelled. “It’s been, ‘I want to work late.’ ‘Give me another shift.’ ‘Let me do it.’ ‘I need the money for my red scooter.’ ‘Red scooter. Red scooter. Red scooter.’ For two years!”

Blane knew from experience that Celia was slow to anger. Once she was angry, she was a force to be reckoned with.

“I decided that I wanted something else more,” the body Blane inhabited said.

“So you don’t have the money,” Celia Marlowe said with a sneer. “Or your jacket. Or your sweater. Do you have any idea how long it took to knit that sweater? The wool alone cost a minor fortune! And now it’s just gone?!”

“I don’t have the money or my jacket or my sweater that you worked so hard to knit for me. I’m very sorry.”

When Blane heard the boy’s voice, he knew he was inside of Jacob. He looked around. They were standing in a tiny kitchen in what looked like a small, worn, but well loved house. Blane felt Jake lift his shoulder in a shrug.

“Did you or did you not buy a scooter?” Celia Marlowe asked.

“I didn’t buy a scooter,” Jacob said. “And I don’t have the money or my jacket or my sweater anymore.”

“What do you mean you don’t have the money anymore?” Celia Marlowe asked. “What could you have possibly done with your sweater and jacket?”

“I don’t know what other way to say it,” Jacob said. “I don’t have the money anymore. I don’t have my sweater or jacket, either. I’m very sorry.”

“I trusted you to take one day off school to get what you have said that you wanted,” Celia Marlowe said. She threw her hands up in the air. “For years!”

“I know,” Jacob said. “I’m sorry I didn’t do what we had agreed that I would do.”

“And what did you do, young man?” Celia Marlowe asked.

Inside of Jacob, Blane felt well of emotions rise in the boy — Jacob’s strong and confusing attachment to Blane, Jacob’s desire that this boy be safe and well, and Jacob’s deep confusion about caring for someone he didn’t even know. More than anything, Jacob didn’t know what any of these feeling’s meant about him. Jacob was unable to put all of these confusing feelings into words. He shook his head.

“You are grounded, young man,” Celia Marlowe said. “For a month, at the very least. That’s extra chores, no going out, working for free at the company — the whole nine. For the next month, at the very least: you go to school, you go to work. That’s it. And I’m going to speak with your father.”

Celia pointed to Jacob.

“You’re in big trouble,” Celia Marlowe said.

“I know,” Jacob said. “If it matters at all, I am very sorry that I disappointed you.”

For what felt like a long, long time, Celia looked at Jacob. Blane felt Jacob’s shame for upsetting his mother and sure sense that she wouldn’t understand what had happened today. Celia pursed her eyebrows.

“Come here,” Celia Marlowe said.

She held out her arms and hugged Jacob tight.

“I love you, Mom,” Jacob said.

“I love you, too,” Celia said. After a minute, Celia added, “You’re still in big trouble.”

“I still love you,” Jacob said.

Celia held him a little tighter before pushing him away. For emphasis, Celia pretended to still be angry. She pointed to the bar counter.

“Do your homework,” Celia said.

Jacob pushed aside a stack of unopened mail and took his books out of his backpack. He read his book and filled in the worksheets while Celia cooked. More than an hour passed before Jacob looked up. Celia was standing at the stove trying to make something like a meal out of cheap hamburger and canned tomatoes.

“Mom?” Jacob asked.

“Mm-hm,” Celia said, scowling at the concoction in front of her.

“Is it possible that I have a twin?” Jacob asked.

“A twin?” Celia laughed. Turning to look at him, she scowled and added, “There’s not a chance in this world that you have a twin.”

“How do you know?” Jacob asked.

“I was there when you were born,” Celia said. “You came out of me. I’d know if there were two of you. Your father would, too.”

“Oh,” Jacob said.

A few moments passed before Celia stole a look at Jacob again.

“Why?” Celia asked.

“I saw a boy who looked just like me,” Jacob said. “I think he lives in Cheesman Park.”

“Did this boy steal your money?” Celia asked.

“No,” Jacob said with a hard shake of his head. “No way.”

They fell silent. When Sam Lipson came home, Celia launched into the whole story about how Jacob had money to buy his brand-new red scooter and Celia had let him have a day off school to buy the scooter on his own because he promised he was adult enough to handle it, and now Jacob was now home without the scooter or his jacket or his sweater and Jacob was not talking about how the money or his jacket or his sweater disappeared. Sam looked at Jacob before taking Celia into their bedroom. For what felt like forever, the hamburger and tomato food-like dinner bubbled on the stove and Celia and Sam’s voices murmured in the background. Sam came out of the bedroom and waved to Jacob to come with him. Celia went back to scowling at the hamburger and tomatoes.

Sam put his arm around Jacob and they went into the garage. Sitting across from his honest, hardworking father, Jacob was unable to keep the story to himself. Jacob spilled his guts about the boy who looked just like Jacob and was bleeding really bad and the cab driver and the hospital and his sweater and jacket and what his mother didn’t know, that he’d given the boy his hand knit hat and gloves. Sam listened to the entire thing without comment. When it was over, Sam hugged Jacob tight. Jacob sobbed into his father’s chest. When Jacob was done, Sam set him on his feet.

“You’re still grounded,” Sam said. “We must experience the consequences of our actions, even if our hearts and actions are in the right place.”

‘I understand,” Jacob said. “Are you going to tell Mom?”

“Why didn’t you?” Sam asked.

“It didn’t feel right,” Jacob said.

“It doesn’t feel right to me either,” Sam said. “How much did this boy look like you?”

“Same hair and eyes,” Jacob said. “He’s shorter than me and skinner. He looks kind of sick.”

Biting the inside of his bottom lip, Sam gave Jacob a sincere nod.

“Can we help him?” Jacob dared to asked.

“God willing,” Sam said.

From inside the house, Celia screamed: “Oh my God! Oh my God!” over and over again. Sam gave Jacob the “your mother needs me” look and left the garage. Jacob followed his father inside.

“We got the contract!” Celia yelled and danced around the kitchen. “We got the contract! We got the contract!”

Celia was so loud that Valerie came out to see what was going on. The hamburger and tomatoes dinner-like concoction began to burn on the stove.

“The one for DIA?” Sam asked.

“A woman owned company, Lipson Construction was awarded the contract for water, sewer, and roads for Denver’s new airport,” Celia read off a letter.

Inside Jacob, Blane watched the family celebrate.

After a moment, the world spun again. Around and around and around he went.

“Hey, asshole!” Jacob’s voice came from behind him.

Blane was standing on the edge of the road in Cheesman Park. He’d been living on the streets that last year or so. The group home leader had learned that Blane had gotten HIV from the evangelical foster father. There was no room for an HIV positive kid, even if the group house leader received six-hundred dollars a month for him. Blane was able to support himself by working in the park. He just had to be careful not to spread the virus. Really careful.

“Hey!” Jacob said. “I’m talking to you.”

He spun Blane around. Blane was still wearing the sweater and jacket Jacob had given him all those years ago.

“I don’t appreciate being called a fag!” Jacob said.

He pushed Blane’s chest. They were fourteen or fifteen now. Jacob was big, muscular, and strong, while Blane looked like a skeleton.

“Then stop being one,” Blane said with a smirk.

Blane was high from the heroin “bump” he’d just injected. He was completely out of reasons to care about much of anything, especially this spoiled rich kid.

“Everyone thinks I’m gay because you’re out here every day,” Jacob said.

He pushed Blane’s chest again. A car slowed down and the passenger window rolled down. A man wearing a gold wedding ring leaned over.

“How much for a twosome?” the man asked.

“Fuck off, granddad,” Jacob yelled at the man.

The man flipped them off and drove away. Jacob pushed Blane one more time and stomped away. Not an hour later, a tall blonde woman appeared out of nowhere. Blane was sitting under an evergreen smoking crack. The woman didn’t say a word to him. She grabbed him by the arm and stuffed him into a silver Mercedes Benz.

His mind began to spin again. Around and around and around and around his mind went until it jerked to a halt.

Blane was standing in the kitchen of the loft apartment he shared with Enrique Sierra. He was in the middle of making his signature dish — seared ginger-scallops over a bed of steamed asparagus and his special rice. A bottle of stupidly expensive red wine was breathing in a quiet corner of the kitchen and a loaf of sourdough bread was on its second rise in the oven.

Despite himself, present day Blane felt a wave of nostalgia for this life. He was a head chef at an overpriced restaurant. He was living with a man who was not just gorgeous, but smart and funny, too. Present day Blane also knew that Enrique was a mere two hours away from hearing from one of Blane’s oldest friends that Blane had been a prostitute. Blane was three days away from learning that Enrique had cheated on him their entire three and a half year relationship and that Blane now had Hepatitis C care of one of Enrique’s one nightstands. Blane was four days away from Enrique destroying this perfect life by telling everyone, including his boss and, for good measure, the owner of the restaurant, that Blane was HIV and Hepatitis C positive. Blane was less than a week away from being out on the streets, again.

At this moment, Blane was deliciously happy, confident, and in love.

“I think it’s kind of hot that you have a near identical twin,” Enrique said. He picked up an iced shrimp and dipped it into sauce. He made an appreciative sound. “I love that sauce. Someday I’m going to paint it on you.”

Blane grinned at the idea and went back to work.

“You won’t like him,” Blane said. “He’s very spoiled. He grew up with this amazing family who supported his every whim. He just got back from college in Maine — totally paid for by his parents, of course. No student loans for precious Jacob. He never had to work for a thing in his entire life. And his parents are fantastic. His mother was this amazing woman. There were thousands of people, like ten thousand, at her funeral.”

“Didn’t his mom take you in when you were homeless?” Enrique asked.

“Sure,” Blane said. “She took me into their Crestmoor mansion. I was her project. Let’s get this poor homeless boy off drugs. It was … weird.”

“Don’t you think you’re being a little harsh?” Enrique asked.

“Harsh?” Blane asked. “I was there to suit her enormous ego! And Jacob, well, you’d just have to meet him to know what an asshole he is.”

Enrique nodded and the doorbell rang. The party took off from there.

Blane mind began to spin again.

He replayed the scene in Enrique and his apartment over and over again. Each time he remembered this instance, he stabbed himself in the heart. How could he have been such a jerk? Shame and self-loathing swirled him around and around and around his mind went until it tossed him head first into the factual memory from the kitchen of the apartment Blane had shared with Enrique.

Blane was standing in the kitchen of the loft apartment he had shared with Enrique Sierra. He was in the middle of making his signature dish — seared ginger-scallops over a bed of steamed asparagus. His signature orzo bubbled on the stove. A bottle of stupidly expensive red wine was breathing in a quiet corner of the kitchen and a loaf of sourdough bread was on its second rise in the oven. At this moment, Blane was deliciously happy.

“I think it’s kind of hot that you have a near identical twin,” Enrique said. He picked up an iced shrimp and dipped it into sauce. He made an appreciative sound. “You think he’d ever join us?”

“No,” Blane said with a laugh. “He is very, very straight.

“Even if I painted him with this sauce?” Enrique asked.

Blane grinned at the idea and went back to work.

“I just think it would be a fun to be surrounded by you and your look-a-like.” Enrique wiggled his eyebrows.

The memory of Jacob confronting him in Cheesman Park flashed in front of his eyes. Blane blushed and focused on his work.

“I can see by your reaction that you would like that, too,” Enrique said.

“You won’t like him,” Blane said, trying to put Enrique off. Once Enrique, picked up an idea, he could have a singular focus. “He just got back from college in Maine. He’s kind of … spoiled mountain man now.”

“Didn’t his mom take you in when you were homeless?” Enrique asked.

“She did,” Blane said.

“Wouldn’t that make it better?” Enrique said. “Hey, I’ll even let him …

The doorbell rang.

“We are not done talking about this,” Enrique said. “Under every straight man lives a gay man wanting to come out. I’m sure this is true for your precious Jacob.”

The doorbell rang a second time. Enrique gave Blane a smoky look and went to answer the door.

Two hours later, Enrique found out that Blane had prostituted himself in Cheesman. He’d been so angry that he’d left the apartment with two of his friends, who’d invited him for a threesome.

Three days later, Blane found out from his HIV doctor that he developed Hepatitis C of the same genetic makeup as Enrique’s. Since Enrique was pouting at his friends’ house, Blane had gone to Enrique’s work where he witnessed with his own eyes Enrique being unfaithful to their relationship. When he confronted Enrique, he’d learned the entire truth. Reeling from the news, Blane had gone to the downtown Denver Pubic Library to read about Hepatitis C. By the time he’d returned to the apartment, his clothing was strewn all over their lawn. He’d been fired from his job and a repo man was waiting to take his car.

To shocked to do anything else, Blane stood in front of their home

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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