Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter Two Hundred and Thirty-Six : Something new


Wednesday morning — 9:19 a.m.

After getting everyone ready and out the door, Delphie had gone back to bed. The late nights and worry had left her feeling worn-out. And today she had to be on her game.

Ivy’s aunt was coming in a few hours.

Delphie heard the door to her apartment open and footsteps move across the living room. She sat up in bed.

“Sam?” Delphie asked before he entered the room.

“Sorry to wake you,” Sam said. “I know today’s a big day.”

“Did you come home to rest?” Delphie asked. “I don’t think you slept at all last night.”

Sam gave her a slight nod and sat down on the bed.

“I need to ask you something,” Sam said. “At least I think you’re the person to ask. I wasn’t sure this morning, but then we got started and I thought, ‘I should ask Delphie; she won’t mind.’ But then I see that you’re resting, as you should be after such a late night and today is such a big day. Plus, I know that I must have kept you awake with my tossing and turning and …”

Delphie put her hand on his leg and he stopped talking. He looked at her for a moment. They had what Delphie called “The Standard Agreement.” She agreed not to read his mind without permission and he agreed to ask when he wanted to know something. Of course, like most couples, she didn’t tell him when she was reading his entire essence and he expected her to tell him when there was something wrong.

They sized each other up.

“You have to ask,” Delphie said just because she knew she should.

He smiled at her deception.

“You’ve never asked me about the business,” Delphie said.

“I know,” Sam said. “I just … I miss Celia.”

Sam winced at his words. He closed his eyes to avoid seeing what he assumed he would – Delphie’s hurt.

“I miss her too,” Delphie said.

Sam opened his eyes to look at her.

“I loved her absolutely,” Delphie said. “I don’t mind that you did too. I would expect you to miss her because I do too.”

“You’re not offended?” Sam asked.

“No,” Delphie said. “I tell you that all the time, but you …”

“You’re not second best to her, you know,” Sam said. “Our life, this relationship, it’s different … Celia was … and we’re …”

“More like friends,” Delphie said. “I know.”

“I don’t ever want to diminish you or our life,” Sam said. “Because you mean the world to me. Our life is really wonderful. You make everything … work. I couldn’t do all of this without you.”

Delphie smiled.

“But you’re not Celia,” Sam said. “You’re softer, kinder, more fragile and less …”

“Bossy,” Delphie nodded.

“And right now …”

“You could use Celia’s help,” Delphie said.

Sam looked at Delphie with sorrow-filled eyes.

“I’m sorry for hurting you,” Sam said.

“You’re not,” Delphie said.

“I’m not?”

“You’re not hurting me at all,” Delphie said. “Now, let me freshen up a bit, and we’ll see what we can figure out.”

“You’re sure because …”

“I’m sure,” Delphie said. She got up and went into the bathroom. “You have to trust me more, Sam.”

“I’m … discombobulated,” Sam said.

Delphie washed her hands and came out.

“Did the kids get to school?” Sam asked because he knew he should.

“Did the sites open?” Delphie smiled.

“You’re right,” Sam said. “I’m off the point.”

Delphie went to her kitchenette. She filled her kettle and put it on the gas burner.

“What do you need to know from Celia?” Delphie asked.

“Celia … “ Sam started. He leaned close to Delphie. “Is she here?”

“She’s always around you or me,” Delphie said. “She only leaves to watch out for Katy or Jackie.”

“I guess I knew that,” Sam nodded.

“What’s going on Sam?” Delphie asked.

Just then the kettle squealed and Delphie got up to make tea. When she came back with two steaming mugs, Sam seemed to have made a decision.

“We started this business, this construction thing, together – Celia and I,” Sam said. “I wanted to be a carpenter. I’m a pretty good carpenter but … We would have starved. Celia taught me everything I know about running a business. Her family has successfully run businesses since … well, the beginning of time.”

Sam nodded. He looked up and took the mug of green tea Delphie offered him. She navigated them into her living area. He sat down on the couch and she took the soft chair she enjoyed. She had just sat down when Cleo, Sandy’s cat, scratched at her apartment door. She got up to let in the cat.

“What’s this?” Sam asked.

Cleo gave him a regal look and sauntered across the room.

“Miss Cleo comes in the mornings to sit on the window sill,” Delphie said.

Cleo looked at Delphie and jumped up onto the sunny window sill.

“That’s a good spot,” Sam said. “I might take it from her.”

Cleo gave a loud meow as if to complain and Delphie smiled.

“Can we talk about this in front of …?” Sam discretely pointed to Cleo.

Delphie smiled. With the cat in the room and his tea in his hand, Sam felt more grounded and whole.

“What is it that you want to know?” Delphie asked.

“Celia would know just what to do with this whole mess,” Sam said. “She’d have known what to say to those awful site managers last night. She’d have had just the solution to make everything better. Hell, she probably never would have gotten into this mess. But Jake and me, we’re …”

He fell forward with his elbows on his knees.

“We’re not Celia,” Sam said. “I can’t shake the feeling that this is the big test. We have to commit to being employee owned.”

“That’s why it has been presented to you,” Delphie said.

Sam looked at her for a moment.

“They want your little experiment to fail,” Delphie said.

“The old board members?” Sam asked.

Delphie nodded.

“They always have to be right,” Sam said.

Delphie nodded.

“I can feel it in my bones,” Sam said. “This is the moment that will either mean a long life to this company or the end of it. I don’t know what to do and …”

“Celia would,” Delphie nodded.

“She’d have told off that so-and-so site manager and … I don’t know what,” Sam said. “I feel beaten down. I want to crawl in a hole and hide.”

“You felt like that when Jake bought the company,” Delphie said.

“I hadn’t thought of it, but yeah,” Sam said.

“Well, that’s some of it,” Delphie said. “Decisions made in a moment of desperate grief carry that same quality.”

“That’s good,” Sam said. “Celia?”

“Me,” Delphie said.

“You are wise,” Sam smiled.

Delphie grinned.

“What would Celia make me do that I won’t want to do but is the exact right thing to do?” Sam asked.

“She would take the entire situation with the site to the employees,” Delphie said. “Celia was absolutely fearless. She believed secrets only aid existing power structures. She was hell bent on breaking those …

“Archaic misogynistic power structures,” Sam and Delphie said together.

“Yes,” Sam said. “I remember that.”

“She believes … “

Sam jerked at Delphie’s use of the present tense. Delphie gave him a slight nod.

“Celia believes in the goodness of people,” Delphie said.

Sam groaned.

“You know I’m right,” Delphie said. “She wouldn’t put up with this chaos and bullshit. She’d tell the site managers to bring it to their employees …”

“And fire anyone who didn’t,” Sam nodded. “Yes, that’s what she’d do.”

“Rather than put up with crap, she’d tell them to ask their employees what they wanted to do and bring the answers back to her. Employees are the true stakeholders of any company because their lives are on the line. They’re more invested in the company’s well being because of it.”

Delphie nodded.

“It sounds good to me,” Delphie said.

Sam gave her a long wry look and she grinned.

“What will happen if I do that?” Sam asked.

“You’re asking me?” Delphie asked. “It’s kind of close to me so I …”

“Oh come on,” Sam said. “You don’t give a crap about the company. You only get fuzzy over stuff you really care about like whether Ivy’s aunt is a decent person.”

“Valerie’s going to help me with that,” Delphie nodded.

“You’re avoiding my question,” Sam said.

“Because I think you should try it and learn for yourself,” Delphie said.

“Celia told you to say that,” Sam said.

Delphie smiled. He shook his head at her.

“What will happen?” Sam asked.

“You’ll find that your employees trust you,” Delphie said. “If Jake thinks the site should move, then it should move. Period. They don’t really care about the power politics. They want to make sure they have jobs tomorrow and the next day.”

Delphie’s eyes went vague for a moment.

“In fact, many of them do know something’s wrong,” Delphie said. “By asking them, you’ll give their worry form.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” Sam said.

“Think of it this way,” Delphie said. “Your site managers can leave at any time and get jobs anywhere in the country at the same or equal pay, right?”

Sam nodded.

“Most of your employees aren’t in that same position,” Delphie said. “For many of them, their job feeds their families. Their kids go to the Marlowe school. They need and value Lipson medical insurance. Their Lipson stock is the first big financial investment they’ve ever made. If the company folds, they’re the ones who have the most at stake.”

Cleo jumped down from the warm window sill onto Sam’s lap. She rubbed her head against his chest.

“You have to ask them,” Delphie said.

“How?” Sam’s big carpenter’s hand rubbed Cleo’s black and white head.

“Start with the site managers who support you like Bambi or Jerry or those kids talking Rodney’s place,” Delphie said.

“Jerry walked out of the meeting last night,” Sam said. “Said he was going to kill someone if he didn’t.”

“He’s a good person to ask then,” Delphie said. “Get the site managers to survey their crews. Tell Jake and Aden to talk to the other site managers. They have more pull with the younger employees.”

“If they won’t do it?” Sam asked.

“Get rid of them,” Delphie said. “Let them go somewhere where bosses are king and employees don’t matter. There’s lots of places like that.”

Sam nodded.

“I bet Honey would help you,” Delphie said.

“She’s on maternity leave,” Sam said. “I couldn’t …”

“She would tell you how the people who work for you need their jobs,” Delphie said. “Plus, she’s going stir crazy.”

“She is?”

“She’d be happier working a few hours a day,” Delphie nodded. “Between Rosa and I, we can watch Maggie.”

Sam nodded. Delphie got up to make more tea. They drank their tea in quiet company.

“Well, I need to go read Celia the funnies,” Sam said.

“She’d very much like that,” Delphie said.

Delphie got up to show him out. He kissed her and whispered “Thanks” in her ear before leaving. She smiled.

“Well Miss Cleo, what’s next?” Delphie asked.

Cleo meowed and sauntered into the bedroom. She heard the cat jump onto the bed.

“Good idea,” Delphie said.

She went back to bed.


Wednesday afternoon — 2:19 p.m.

“She’s not coming,” Ivy slunk away from the front windows of Heather and Blane’s home.

“She’s just late,” Heather said. “She’ll be here.”

“She called when she got stuck in traffic,” Delphie said. “She called when she got lost.”

“If you want to be somewhere, you just get there,” Ivy said. “You’re not late or …”

There was a knock on the door. Ivy’s eyes went big. She ran to Delphie and Delphie hugged her.

“I’ll get the door,” Valerie said. “Put her off her game.”

Heather nodded. Valerie opened the door to a medium sized thirty-year old woman. She had reddish hair, a pleasant face, and a tight military body. She was wearing an Air Force dress uniform. Seeing Valerie, she gaped.

“Hello?” Valerie smiled her brightest and most intimidating smile.

“Val! Um, Ms. Lipson, um,” Ivy’s aunt said. Her mouth moved up and down like a fish out of water.

Delphie edged Valerie out of the way.

“You!” Ivy’s aunt scowled. “I know you. You’re that psychic lady. And you’re Valerie Lipson and …

Ivy opened the door wider. Heather stood right behind the girl with her hands on her shoulders.

“I’m Ivy,” she said. “I mean Anna-Marie. But everyone calls me Ivy.”

“I’m Second Lieutenant Grace McDonald,” Ivy’s aunt said. “Most people call me Gracie.”

Ivy’s aunt stood very still. Her eyes scanned Ivy’s face. She glanced at Delphie.

“You were right,” she said.

“I was?” Delphie asked.

“You told me that my brother wouldn’t come home; that his child would suffer unspeakable horrors until she made her way home; and that I would make it back to love her all of my life,” Ivy’s aunt said. “I know we’re just meeting, Ivy, but I feel like I’ve known you all my life.”

Ivy glanced up at Heather and she squeezed Ivy’s shoulders.

“When Grannie was alive, we would read your letters together,” Ivy nodded. “You were Gran’s favorite child.”

“She was so angry with me for going into the military,” Ivy’s aunt said. “I never heard … not one word … and then … I thought you were in foster care and …”

Ivy’s aunt looked from Delphie to Valerie and then to Heather.

“Would you like to come in?” Heather asked.

Gracie took off her hat and stepped into Heather’s house. She looked at Valerie again.

“How did you get Valerie Lipson here to introduce you?” Gracie smiled at Ivy.

Unsure of whether to hug her aunt or not, Ivy moved closer to Heather.

“My good friend Delphie is Ivy’s aunt,” Valerie said. “We think.”

“You are?” Gracie asked.

“It’s definitely possible,” Delphie said. “People say we look a like.”

“I can see it,” Gracie said. “Did you know when I saw you?”

“Unless I saw you in the last couple of days, no, I didn’t know,” Delphie said.

“We think Mom was Delphie’s little sister,” Ivy said.

Gracie gave Delphie a long look before she nodded.

“I have this feeling that everything is going to work out really, really well,” Gracie smiled.

“Me too,” Delphie said.

“Aunt power!” Gracie raised her fist and the women laughed.

“My husband made a buttermilk chocolate cake for us,” Heather said. “And Val brought some of her awesome coffeecake. We have coffee. Would you like to come in?”

Heather made a vague wave toward the back of the house. They walked toward the den. Jackie, Mack, and Maggie were sleeping in cribs along the wall of the living room.

“Oh look at the babies!” Gracie said. She glanced at Heather, “Are they all yours?”

“No, just the one,” Heather smiled and gestured to Mack. “I’m prolific but not that much.”

“I didn’t know if you were fostering or …” Grace blushed.

“I’m babysitting Maggie,” Ivy stood a little taller at the mention of her responsibility.

“That’s very nice of you,” Gracie said.

“And this is Jackie,” Valerie went to where Jackie was sleeping.

“I guess I read that you had a baby,” Gracie said. “You and Sergeant Roper, right?”

“Mike,” Valerie said.

“The painter,” Gracie blushed. “I hate to say it but I think I’ve read everything there is to read about you.”

“I wonder why?” Valerie asked.

“Nice girl makes good,” Gracie said. “Meeting you … It’s like it’s meant to be.”

“It’s nice to meet you too,” Valerie smiled. “We’ve really enjoyed the chance to get to know Ivy a little bit. I’m glad you’ll be in the family.”

Grace smiled.

“Did you say that your husband baked a cake?” Gracie asked.

“He was a chef,” Heather said. “It’s kind of a long story.”

“I’m on emergency family leave, so I have time,” Gracie nodded.

They moved into the house to talk.


Wednesday afternoon — 3:49 p.m.

Heather pulled her Subaru into the dog park near the school. While they lived close enough to walk, Heather preferred to pick Tink up. Heather had this vague feeling that all this stuff with Charlie was going to pour over onto Tink. She wanted to make sure she would be there to help. She’d left everyone at her house to come get Tink.

Of course, Tink didn’t love the fact that Heather picked her up. As a compromise, they’d agreed to meet at the dog park a block away. Seeing Mike and the menagerie of Castle dogs, Heather got out of the car. She watched Charlie saunter toward the school. Tim Logan, the boy she’d met last night, skid his bike to a stop and started walking with Charlie.

Mike stopped with the dogs to chat with Heather. She was on her way to him when she noticed Charlie and Tim go into the school. A few seconds later, Tink came out. Tink was by herself because Sissy was at an all-day ballet training with some Russian somebody or another and Wanda was home sick. Tink jogged down the few steps. She had just made it past the red “E” when five boys surrounded her.

Heather couldn’t tell what was happening but Tink was upset. She tried to get out from the middle of them but a boy grabbed her arm. The boy put his face right near Tink’s and Tink closed her eyes. Even from a distance, Heather could see the boy making kissing lips to Tink. The boys around them were whistling and jeering at her.

Tink was crying.

Heather ran toward the entrance of the school. Mike and the dogs ran passed her. An SUV blocked their view and movement as it went past on the Esplanade. Heather had just caught up to Mike when they heard Tink yell, “Let go of me.”

The boy screamed and then screamed again.

The SUV moved out of the way. Tink was standing in the middle of the boys with a small personal taser. Her face was red with rage and wet with tears. The boys scooted back with their hands up.

“Get away from me!” Tink yelled.

The school security officer grabbed Tink’s arm and she tasered him. Heather had almost reached her when the second security guard tackled Tink and took her down to the ground.

The boy lay screaming just inches away.

“Knock it off,” Mike said to the boy. “You’re fine.”

Heather tapped the security guard with her foot.

“Get off my daughter,” Heather said. He looked up at her. “Now or I’m pressing charges.”

“I saw the whole thing,” said a young mother nearby. “You’re arresting the wrong person. That boy was sexually assaulting that young girl. He was groping her privates with his nasty hand and …”

Police cruisers came squealing to the front of the school. The boys were screaming that they ‘d been victimized by Tink. Other kids and parents voiced their opinions on what happened. When the boy who’d been tasered began to howl again, Scooter and Buster growled at him.

But all Heather cared about was Tink.

She kneeled down and rolled her over. Tink looked at Heather.

“I …” Tink started. Her eyebrows furrowed. She tried again. “I …”

Tink had a full blown seizure.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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