Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Denver Cereal - Chapter Two Hundred and Thirty-Five : Trouble

CHAPTER TWO HUNDRED and THIRTY-FIVE

Wednesday night — 11:59 p.m.

Aden grabbed the note pinned to his apartment door and stepped into the apartment. Seeing the gas fireplace on, he groaned. He figured the kids must have gotten up after Sandy went to bed. He took a couple steps to turn off the fireplace and realized he was standing in a sea of teenagers.

Aden peered around the room at what looked like a couple girls and a couple of boys. He tried to make out their hair color to see if these were his kids to be shooed off to bed or someone else’s kids sleeping over.

“Hi,” Sandy’s voice came from the couch in a loud whisper.

Not daring to move, for fear of stepping on someone, he glanced over to her. She got up and went around the sleeping kids. Taking his hand, she led him into the kitchen.

“Did you get the note?” she asked.

He held up the unopened note. She grinned at him.

“I thought I could read it inside,” he said.

She nodded.

“How did it go tonight?” she asked in a low tone.

He shook his head and pulled off his tie. She reached up on her tip toes and kissed him. He held her tight.

“How was tonight?” he asked.

“A lot has happened,” Sandy said. “Did you eat?”

As if he was thinking, he looked up at the ceiling and then shook his head. She smiled at him and leaned into the refrigerator. His eyes followed her efforts with keen interest.

“Oh, I saved you …” Sandy took out a portion of the chicken pot pie. “Honey made this for the kids. It’s your favorite. Should I warm it up a bit?”

He took the plate and fork from her and began eating. She smiled. After he’d had a few bites, he gestured with the fork for her to tell him about her night.

“On his way home from school, Charlie ran into a boy,” Sandy said. Aden scowled. “No, not one of those boys. Mike was with him, like we’d agreed. Tim, that’s the boy’s name; his sister is the girl who killed herself. He saw Charlie at the police station and wanted Charlie to tell him about what happened to his sister. I guess her family didn’t know much.”

Aden nodded.

“Honey made that outstanding pot pie. Delphie made the crust,” Sandy smiled. Aden nodded. “Tim and his parents came for dinner.”

Aden raised his eyebrows and nodded.

“Right,” Sandy said. “It was nice. They seemed relieved to have something else to think about. Anyway, it turns out that Tim and Sissy went to school in Westminster. They moved to town when all this happened and their daughter was in the hospital. Tim started online school. Then they sent their daughter to a program out of town. She was home on a break when she killed herself. Can you imagine?”

Aden shook his head.

“Anyway, Sissy was excited to see him.”

Aden furrowed his brow and gestured with his fork.

“Yes, he’s sleeping out there too,” Sandy said. “His parents … I can’t imagine what they’ve been through. Anyway, they seemed happy to see Tim make some friends. Normal, that’s what his mom kept saying; she was glad to ‘have a little normal in her life.’ I guess their whole world fell apart when this happened, and now that their daughter is dead … Everything’s kind of stopped for them. They seemed to feel relieved that things are moving, even a little bit.”

Aden took a drink of milk and said, “Did you go there?”

“Right,” Sandy said. “We did. It was a big deal because none of the girls have really said anything to the police and Charlie … well, I guess we just haven’t gotten there.”

“Sounds hard,” Aden said and took a bite.

“It was hard,” Sandy said. “Mike took Charlie so he’d have time to talk if he needed it. Charlie was so brave. Colin and Art came, mostly to support Charlie. They took a video so everything was on the up and up. Charlie went through finding their daughter. It was really hard for Tim’s parents. That’s why Tim’s here, to give them some time to work through it together.”

“Where did you go?” Aden asked.

“Fourteenth and Market on the Cherry Creek Trail,” Sandy said. “Can you believe it? Right in the middle of everything this horribleness goes on.”

Aden nodded.

“There’s cookies over there,” Sandy said. “We made cookies when we got back to calm everyone down a little.”

Aden smiled and opened the cookie jar.

“They found a stash of a bunch of stuff from the girls,” Sandy said. “It looks like there’s a lot of girls, so it was good that Colin and Art were there documenting everything. Now Homeland Security is involved. They won’t take over the case, but it brings in the Feds. Colin said he’d send the video to the FBI. I bet they’ll assign an agent.”

“That doesn’t sound like a good thing to me.”

“I don’t trust the cops on this case,” Sandy said. “I don’t know why. I just don’t.”

“You think their involved?”

“No,” Sandy said. “Not that. It just … Looking at everything Charlie found, I couldn’t help but wondering why these cops hadn’t done anything. I mean this has been going on for a long time – at least a year. They say they don’t know anything, but Tim’s parents were at a concert at the Pepsi Center. Their daughter went to a dance at East and then probably came down to get them. Charlie got her to the hospital. She was in such bad shape that her parents didn’t know she was there for three days. But, I mean the cops found their car in the Pepsi Center parking lot.”

“That’s not very far from Fourteenth and Market,” Aden said.

“Right. I’m not one to bag on the cops, but even I was like, ‘Come on guys!’”

Aden nodded.

“You should have seen Art’s face when he lifted this rock and saw all the trophies,” Sandy said. “If eyes were lasers, that detective would be missing a body part or two.”

Sandy took a bite of a cookie while she remembered.

“We got home and everyone was brave and happy,” Sandy said. “Heather stayed because Blane was with you?”

Aden nodded.

“As soon as they laid down, one by one, the kids lost it,” Sandy said. “Heather was so great with Tink and even Ivy. I tried to help Tim. When everyone was really asleep, Charlie was upset. I finally got him to sleep on the couch. I … I don’t know how they’re going to get through this.”

Sandy shook her head.

“It’s one thing to have to go through the assault,” Sandy said. “And then have to go through the process of getting better. Tink was probably beaten the worst. She still has a lot of physical healing to do. Well, I mean, Ivy has missing teeth and stuff too. After all of that, we ask these kids to relive it for these cops like, ‘Oh, it’s a school night come walk us through your worst horror.’ They all stand around watching. Just gross.”

Sandy shivered.

“Awful,” Aden said.

Sandy nodded.

“Are they going to school tomorrow?” Aden asked.

“I think they have to,” Sandy said. “We have to keep things as normal as possible.”

Aden nodded.

“I missed you,” Sandy said. “We could have used your … stability.”

“I wish I was here,” Aden said.

“How did it really go?” Sandy asked.

“Not great and okay,” Aden said. “I think we can see the fractures in the company and, I don’t know, maybe what’s going on in our country right now is playing out here. No one trusts anyone else. They’ve formed these little coalitions but they don’t trust each other. Everyone’s out for himself because he thinks the other guy is out for himself. It’s like the more opportunity they have, the more sure they’re being screwed out of something better.”

“I think that’s everywhere,” Sandy said. “It’s like shopping. Do I buy this now? Maybe I’m missing a coupon or the deal that the guy in front of me is getting, or there’s some insider thing. And even when I know I’ve gotten a pretty good deal, I feel like I’ve been cheated. It’s hard.”

“Right,” Aden said. “It feels like we’re all mice scrambling for crumbs.”

“We can’t even pick our meal,” Sandy nodded. “Just whatever falls from the table. It doesn’t feel good.”

“I guess that’s what gets to me,” Aden said. “I see being able to buy into Lipson as a way to get ahead and help my family. But the first thing people want to know is how they can get a better deal. A bunch of families pooled all of their money, like everybody and grandma gave money, to buy in. So the big question tonight for Sam was why did he gave them a better deal. I mean obviously they got a better deal because they own more shares. Sam was so mad that I thought he was going to stroke or something.”

Aden shook his head.

“I think we made progress,” Aden said. “But … Sam’s really discouraged. He wishes he’d closed the place rather than letting Jacob take it over and selling it.”

“I’m sure it’s just growing pains,” Sandy said.

“It’s hard to have these growing pains when we’re really in the middle of a crisis,” Aden said.

“Did they see that?”

“Yes,” Aden nodded. “They could tell we were in trouble. Just … there’s no easy fix and …”

Sandy reached up and kissed his lips. He smiled.

“You’ve had enough worry for the night,” Sandy said. “Let’s try to get some rest.”

“Would you like me to stay out here tonight?” Aden asked.

“No,” Sandy said. “I’ll stay. Heather’s here too.”

Aden nodded.

“Where’s Rachel?” Aden asked.

“I left her upstairs at Jill’s,” Sandy said. “She was asleep and I didn’t want to wake her. I’ll go up in a bit to see if she’d like to nurse. It’s our last few nights with Val.”

“You need your rest,” Aden said.

“We’ll get there,” Sandy said. “One step at a time.”

He smiled.

“With all these kids … I was thinking about making something yummy for breakfast,” Sandy said. “Are you due at start up?”

Aden nodded.

“Then off to bed with you!” Sandy said.

He leaned down to kiss her and she looked away. He laughed. He was almost out of the kitchen when he turned and looked at her.

“Love you,” he said.

“Go,” Sandy pointed.

He nodded and left for bed. Lost in thought, Sandy stood in the kitchen. She jerked to the present when she heard Aden’s shower water turn off. Nodding to herself, she got out the ingredients to make quiche.

~~~~~~~~

Wednesday night — 11:59 p.m.

Jacob lay on his back in the living area of the loft. Using his psychokinetic skill, he juggled an apple, one of Sarah’s mangy tennis balls, and a balled up piece of paper. Every once and a while, he’d reach up to grab the apple, take a bite, and return it to rotation in his juggling act.

“Jake?” Jill’s sleepy voice came as a whisper across the loft.

Everything fell out of the air. He managed to catch the apple.

“I’m here,” Jacob said and took a bite of the apple.

Jill’s head appeared over the couch. He smiled.

“I’m meditating,” he said.

“I thought I saw some things flying through the air,” Jill said.

“Oh?”

“Very funny,” Jill said. “Will you show me?”

Jacob lay back. Soon the ball of paper, Sarah’s mangy ball and the apple core were rotating through the air.

“Pretty exciting,” Jacob said.

“I thought you didn’t meditate,” Jill said.

“I did this as a kid,” Jacob said. “Mom said it counted so I thought I’d try it.”

“How was the meeting?”

“Awful,” Jacob said. “I should have stayed in Maine.”

“You’d be awfully lonely in Maine,” Jill smiled and crossed her arms over her expanded belly. “Katy would miss you so.”

“I wish I was more lonely here,” Jacob snarled.

Jill smiled and went to the kitchen. She returned with an apple. She waited until the apple core was near her to grab it. She tossed the apple into the mix. It dropped and then was caught by Jacob’s mind direction.

“Was it really that bad?” Jill asked.

“It was … honest,” Jacob said. “I don’t know why I thought we could protect our little company out of all this anger around now.”

“I can’t go to the grocery store without someone sneering at me,” Jill said. “I’m glad I’m not in school this semester.”

“I thought all this negativity would end when the election was over,” Jacob said. “Mercury went direct or whatever. But everyone was sure angry tonight.”

Jill came around and sat on the couch.

“Dad was furious,” Jacob said. “He actually said that he wished he had closed the company. I’ve never, ever heard him say something like that.”

“What did they say to that?”

“One of those jerks got right in his face and said that Dad should have closed the company instead of ripping off his employees for all those years.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah wow,” Jacob said. “You know we pay average or above salaries, have great benefits, promote from within regardless of gender or whatever, provide daycare for every employee’s child, and … Anyway, Bambi took the guy on. Aden told him that he should just quit if he felt ripped off. But Dad was just crushed. He’s worked so hard to be fair … “

“People feel like they’re being ripped off,” Jill said.

“Well … I was just sitting here trying to decide if I should close the company,” Jacob said. “I still own more than half the shares. What would you think about that?”

“I think it’s not something you should decide after one angry meeting,” Jill said.

“You know that whole Atlas Shrugged thing?” Jacob asked. “The hyper-responsible go on strike and let everyone else suffer.”

“Mmm,” Jill scowled.

“Maybe we should quit,” Jacob said. “We’d have to sell a few things to have income and, gosh, we could move to some beach and sleep for a month. You’d have the boys and we’d have time to enjoy them. I never feel like I get enough time with Katy.”

“You’d last a day, maybe two,” Jill said.

“It sounds really nice.”

“I want to get this straight,” Jill said. “You’re going to let this one singularly irritating site manager change the plans and vision you’ve worked on for over five years?”

“Uh … “

“Sounds like you’re easily manipulated,” Jill said.

“When you put it like that … “ Jacob said.

“Maybe I should wake Katy,” Jill said. “She found her pony bags tonight and remembered that she really wanted a pony.”

Jacob made a noise that was somewhere between a growl and a groan. Jill grabbed the piece of paper out of the air and sat back down on the couch. She unraveled the wad of paper to read it.

“These are the numbers for closing the company tomorrow,” Jill said. “You had Tres run the numbers?”

“I did,” Jacob said. “We’d have to sell a house or two, but I think we can pull it off.”

“What did Tres say?”

“He said I was an ass,” Jacob said.

“And your father? Aden?”

“I didn’t tell them,” Jacob said.

“That’s nice of you,” Jill said.

Jacob glanced at her and the ball fell on his forehead. The apple hit his chest.

“What’s going to happen to the site manager?” Jill asked.

“Aden told him to leave before he did any more damage,” Jacob said.

“Are you going to fire him?” Jill asked.

“Aden is going to meet with him after start tomorrow,” Jacob said. “I guess that’s today.”

“And fire him?” Jill asked.

“Probably not,” Jacob said.

“So … people can act out like crazy folks, cool off, and everything’s all right,” Jill said. “But you keep a permanent record?”

“Uh … maybe,” Jacob said. “I …

He was about to justify his position when he glanced at his face. She was scowling at him. He looked away.

“He’s going to get a note in his file,” Jacob said.

“Uh huh,” she said. “What’s this about?”

“I hate selfish people,” Jacob said.

“Hate?” Jill asked.

“Yes hate,” Jacob said. “Here we are, living in the great city, in this awesome time, in the amazing country, and all some people can do is whine about how they’re not getting what they should. They’ve won the lotto! You know what he said?”

“What?”

“He told Dad that he bet he didn’t pay any taxes,” Jacob said. “’Rich assholes like him just his kids starve,’ that’s what he said. Dad pays for all kinds of things for Lipson kids. Shit, I’ve supported that stupid school for years. I should just close it and then see what he thinks.”

“That would sure show him,” Jill said. “And since he goes to school there, I bet he’ll really pay the price for being a jackass.”

“He doesn’t go there,” Jacob said.

“Oh? Who does?” Jill asked.

Jacob glared at her.

“When Trevor and I went to counseling, the lady told us that anger was like a hot potato,” Jill said. “I’d get angry about something and throw my hot potato at Trevor. He didn’t want to sit with a hot potato so he’d throw it back. Anyway, our life didn’t exactly work like that but it seems to me that you’re making decisions based on someone else’s hot potato.”

“It pisses me off,” Jacob said.

“Okay,” Jill said.

“What you’re not going to defend him again?” Jacob asked.

Jill scowled at him.

“Sorry,” Jacob said. “I know you’re just trying to help.”

“What are you really mad about?” Jill asked.

Jacob looked away. The apple went around in a circle in the air.

“I can’t imagine anyone being mad at Dad,” Jacob said. “Or saying those awful things.”

“Sounds to me like the site manager was mad at himself,” Jill said. “He just took it out on your dad.”

“You mean like Katy and Paddie do? He’s not five!”

“Maybe you can add that hating the immature to your list,” Jill said.

Jacob didn’t say anything for a while. Jill crumpled the piece of paper and threw it at him. He added it to the rotation along with the nasty tennis ball. After a while, Jill got up and went back to bed.

About twenty minutes later, Jacob came to bed.

“Sorry,” he kissed her lips.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

“I just needed to think it through,” he said. “Thanks trying to help.”

“You going to fire the guy?” Jill asked.

“No, but I’m going to ask him about his kids,” Jacob said. “I bet something’s going on there to make him hurt so much.”

“Good thinking,” Jill said.

“Just because he says we’re jerks doesn’t mean we have to start acting like jerks,” Jacob said.

“There is that,” Jill said.

“You’re brilliant,” he said.

“You’re due at work in three hours,” Jill said. “The girls are going to be here for breast feeding in a half hour; you should sleep.”

Just then Katy cried out in her sleep. Jill got up to check on her. When she was done, Sandy was there to get Rachel for breastfeeding time. Jill went downstairs with her to join Honey and Val. When she got back in bed, Jacob was sound asleep.

~~~~~~~~

Wednesday morning — 6:19 p.m.

“So I need to ask you something, but I don’t want you to make fun of me,” Nash blocked Charlie’s entrance into their bathroom.

“I have to pee,” Charlie said.

Nash didn’t move out of the way.

“What?” Charlie asked.

“Did you … you know … with Ivy?” Nash asked.

“Did I what?” Charlie’s voice rose.

“Shhh,” Nash said. “Did you sleep with Ivy? Was she your girlfriend?

“No,” Charlie’s voice was indignant. “She’s a little kid. That’s just gross.”

“Good,” Nash moved to the side and Charlie went into the bathroom.

“At least I don’t think I did,” Charlie said from inside. “You know, it’s all kind of fuzzy. Maybe I did. Yeah, I’m sure I did.”

“She was a little kid!” Nash came flying into the bathroom.

Charlie laughed.

“Very funny,” Nash said.

“I thought so,” Charlie said.

“Stop talking and get dressed!” Sandy yelled from the front room.

“You won’t tell her I asked, will you?” Nash asked.

“Not a word,” Charlie smiled and got into the shower.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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