Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter Two Hundred and Thirty-two : It begins


Tuesday evening – 7:17 p.m.

“Tanesha!” Jill yelled when Tanesha came though the backdoor.

Standing near the door, Heather gave Tanesha a hug. Jill and Sandy met their friend near the deck. In order to celebrate meeting Ivy, and the possibility of her being Delphie’s niece, Honey and Valerie had put together an impromptu gathering while Jacob and the kids were running. As typical of Denver, the recent freezing weather had broken into an unseasonably warm fall day and night. They were barbequing in the backyard.

“What’s going on?” Tanesha asked. With her jaw still wired shut, her voice came out in low tones.

“How are you?” Jill asked.

“I don’t know Rapunzel, how did you get down from your lofty castle?” Tanesha asked.

“That’s a long story,” Jill smiled.

“Short version is that her husband’s freak out was unwarranted,” Sandy said.

“She’s a brood cow, like me,” Heather said.

The women laughed.

“I love my house,” Tanesha said. “I slept like a stone last night. First time since …”

She made a gesture which indicated finding her mom and almost getting raped and everything good and bad. She waved to Jeraine, who was talking to Mike near the grill.

“The boy is behaving,” Tanesha said.

“Why isn’t he at work?” Heather asked.

“They’re almost caught up,” Tanesha said. “Seth’s orchestra is doing longer sections which means they can get more done at one time. That’s how he was able to get everything moved yesterday. He should be done with the movie by the end of the week.”

Tanesha shrugged.

“Do you love the bathroom?” Sandy asked. “Or I should say, I love your bathroom.”

“My towels were warm this morning,” Tanesha smiled. “Was that?”

“Housewarming present,” Jill said.

“From all of us,” Heather said.

“I love you guys,” Tanesha said.

Tanesha held her arms out and they hugged.

“Wait, that’s Tink,” Tanesha gestured to where Tink, Noelle, and Ivy were talking. “Isn’t she supposed to be in that shelter?”

“She lives with us now,” Heather said. “It’s a trial run. We get six months. If it works out, then we file for adoption!”

“I love that,” Sandy smiled.

“I go to medical school and all this cool stuff happens,” Tanesha said.

“It’s weird, but I guess we’re getting what we’ve always wanted,” Jill smiled.

“Who’d ever believe it?” Tanesha asked.

“Not me,” Heather said.

Jill and Sandy shook their heads in agreement.

“Hey,” Tanesha said. “I was hoping you could cut my hair.”

“Sure,” Sandy said.

“What are you going to do?” Heather asked.

“That rapist guy?” Tanesha pointed to a spot of missing hair on her head.

The women shook their heads in anger.

“I want to shave it all off,” Tanesha said.

“What about …?” Jill gestured toward Jeraine.

“He’s always been such a dick about your hair,” Sandy said.

“You has a nappy head,” Heather imitated Jeraine in a whining voice.

“Yo’ ‘fro’s too dry,” Tanesha imitated his voice.

“You should get a weave,” Sandy whined. “I can’t believe yo’ cheap-assed weave.”

“My favorite,” Jill said. She switched to a whining voice, “Get glamorous or get left behind.”

Jill imitated one of Jeraine’s “cool” gestures and they laughed.

“You’ve notice the man has no teeth?” Tanesha asked. “I figure I’ll slide this one in while he looks a fool.”

“He told me he’s getting them fixed tomorrow,” Jill said.

“We’d better hurry,” Sandy said.

“What about the kids and …?” Tanesha gestured to where Charlie, Teddy, and Nash were practicing their martial arts or quite possibly kicking each other for no reason.

“They’re fine,” Sandy said. “Shall we?”

“Let’s do it at my house,” Jill said.

“I just need to grab my clippers,” Sandy said. “I’ll meet you up there.”

“Let’s check in then go,” Tanesha said.

“Good thinking,” Jill said.

“Oh look, Sissy’s home,” Sandy said.

Sandy went up to the deck to hug Sissy. She barely got a squeeze in before Sissy ran to see her friends. When Aden came out, she gave him a kiss. She snuggled Rachel and gave her to Aden. Sandy went into the house. Heather went to where Blane was talking to Honey and MJ. Heather caught Mack as he ran around the yard. And Tanesha went to talk with Jeraine.

Jill found Jacob in the kitchen on his way out to the party.

“How was your shower?” Jill asked.

“Lonely,” Jacob hugged her.

“Did Julie pick up Katy?” Jill asked.

“Katy and Paddie are at the movies with Colin,” Jacob said. “I’m sure they are stuffing themselves with popcorn as we speak.”

“Thanks for taking care of all of that,” Jill said.

“No problem,” Jacob said. “I’m looking forward to having Rapunzel all to myself tonight.”

“I’m looking forward to being had,” Jill said.

Jacob gave her an arousing kiss and she laughed.

“Are you off?” Jacob asked.

“Sandy’s going to cut Tanesha’s hair,” Jill said. “I thought we could take a little time …”

She clamped her mouth shut. She didn’t want to ask his permission because she didn’t want him to be a guy who needed to give her permission to hang out with her friends. Her desire to ask him if it was all right for her to spend some time with her friends pounded at the back of her throat.

He smiled at her dilemma and she grinned.

“Great,” Jacob said. “Should I bring some barbeque up?”

“We can come down,” Jill said.

“I opened the red wine Tanesha likes,” Jacob said.

Jill laughed.

“Have fun,” Jacob kissed her again and turned to go.

Smiling, Jill watched him. Heather stood at the door watching for Tanesha. She jogged into the kitchen.

“Let’s go before they catch up with us,” Tanesha laughed.

The women went up the long stairwell to the loft. Sandy came across the kitchen a moment later.

Jacob laughed when he heard the lock turn. On the way out the door, he ran into Jeraine.

“You seen Tanesha?” Jeraine asked.

“She went upstairs with the girlfriends,” Jacob said.

Jeraine shook his head.

“Anything I can help with?” Jacob asked.

“Sandy is going to cut, ‘He has a small dick’ in the back of her hair, so the paparazzi would know the truth about me.’ Like I have a small dick and who does she think she is telling the world that kind of thing anyway and …”

Jeraine gave an indignant shake of his head. Jacob laughed.

“Yeah?” Jeraine asked. “And why is that funny?”

“She always could get you going,” Jacob said.

“You don’t know the woman,” Jeraine said. “She’s crazy.”

Jacob laughed.

“Come on,” Jacob said. “I’ll buy you a beer.”

He put his hand on Jeraine’s shoulder and guided him out of the kitchen.

“You don’t think she’ll do it?” Jeraine asked.

“No,” Jacob said. “I don’t.”

“Why ‘zat?”

“She’s pretty serious about becoming a doctor,” Jacob stopped walking and turned to face Jeraine. “And, I know it’s shocking; it’s hard for me to fathom sometimes too, but sometimes our women do things that don’t have anything do to with us.”

Jeraine looked surprised and then burst out laughing. Jacob laughed.

“Hey Jer,” Mike yelled from the grill. “I’m on diaper duty. Can you …?”

Jeraine went to take over the grill. Jacob looked out across the party. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. He noticed Aden and Sam talking near the edge of the deck.

“Jacob,” Honey yelled from the grill. “Can you get the chicken from the refrigerator?”

He went back inside and grabbed the container of marinating chicken. He passed it over the railing to Jeraine and went to talk to Sam and Aden.

“Where’s Delphie?” Jacob asked.

“She’s praying,” Sam said. “This whole … thing hasreally thrown her for a loop.”

“Why?” Jacob asked.

“Oh …” Sam smiled. “You’d have to have known her as a child. I met her when she was a little younger than Ivy and … I guess she’d just given up on family. Celia’s the one who made family for her. Celia created all the interconnections you see now. All of these people …”

Sam gestured to the party.

“They’re all here because of Celia,” Sam said. “Now Celia’s gone and Delphie … She’s confused, I guess that’s the easiest way to say it.”

Jacob nodded.

“She’s not very flexible,” Sam said in a low tone. “But I’ll deny it if you repeat that.”

Jacob and Aden laughed. Rachel made a gurgling sound as if she agreed.

“What’s up with you, son?” Sam asked.

“What do you mean?” Jacob asked.

“You seem to have something big on your mind,” Sam said.

“Should I leave?” Aden pointed to the party.

“No,” Jacob said. “I … hmm …”

“You may as well just tell us,” Sam said.

“I’m just not sure how to tell you,” Jacob said.

“Try using your mouth,” Sam grinned. “You psychics make everything so complicated.”

Jacob and Aden laughed. When their laughter died down, Jacob felt the weight of their eyes on him.

“I had a vision today,” Jacob said.

“I know,” Sam said. “Blane called us.”

“I asked you about it when you got back from Jeraine’s, but you were kind of …” Aden started.

“Kind of?” Jacob asked.

“Weird,” Aden said.

“Secretive,” Sam said. “Like when you were slipping that girl into the house when you were a kid.”

“What girl?” Jacob did his best to look offended, but Sam laughed.

“Just spit it out, son,” Sam said. “How bad can it be?”

“There’s a deep underground fault zone under the site,” Jacob said.

“What?” Sam asked.

“Right down the center,” Jacob said.

“And you know this because of your vision?” Aden asked.

“The vision?” Jacob nodded. “Sure, but it’s also on some geological maps the oil guys gave Jeraine.”

“It’s not on the maps the state gave us,” Aden said.

“Why does it matter?” Sam asked. “There are lots of minor faults. When was the last time we had an earthquake here?”

“When they pushed nuclear waste into the ground at Rocky Mountain Arsenal?” Jacob nodded.

“They stopped going that,” Sam said. “Wait … Weren’t they using pressurized towers?”

Jacob nodded.

“Oh crap,” Sam said.

“What does that mean?” Aden asked.

“Fracking,” Jacob said. “Bumpy owns some family land out at Dearfield. It’s on the Niobrara shale field. They are fracking along the fault lines.”

“That’s not good,” Aden said.

“The weird thing is that the map Jeraine had showed a projection of the project north and east of where we’re building,” Jacob said. “You know, near that land I had to have.”

“Which land?” Sam asked.

“The one with the three gorgeous hand crafted houses?” Jacob asked.

Sam groaned.

“Maybe they couldn’t buy the land,” Aden said.

“He owns the land,” Sam said.

“They never asked,” Jacob said.

“If we say we need to move it, it’s going to look like Jacob is trying to bilk the state,” Sam said. “If we leave the project …”

“People will die,” Jacob said. “Plus there’s the matter of the employee owners.”

“What about them?” Aden asked.

“We’d have to include them in the decision,” Jacob said. “We can’t just walk away from the project like we would have a year ago. Now we have to put it to a vote.”

“They’ve voted for everything we’ve put forward,” Sam said.

“Yeah but …” Jacob looked at Aden.

“There’s a faction of people who don’t love the fact that any employee can buy shares,” Aden said.

“The folks who tried to vote you out as CEO,” Sam said.

“Yes, them,” Aden said.

“You think they’ll make a fuss?” Sam asked.

“I just …” Jacob shrugged. “I can’t shake the feeling we’re being set up. I asked Rodney and Bambi to take a look at it but …”

“They think something’s fishy too,” Aden nodded.

“So do those kids Rodney got to help out,” Sam said. “They think we’re being punked. No, that’s not it. They think we’re being set up like punks. No … It was something about punks and it was not a very nice thing to happen.”

“No, it’s not,” Jacob said.

“Why do you think the project moved?” Aden asked.

“No one asked me to buy the land,” Jacob shook his head.

“It wasn’t on the maps we approved,” Aden said. “I spent two days with the geologist going over that land.”

“Digital maps?” Jacob asked.

Aden nodded.

“Jeraine has a paper map,” Jacob said.

“It was changed?” Aden asked.

Jacob nodded.

“I bet I know how,” Sam said.

Jacob and Aden turned to look at Sam.

“You remember that woman that was your secretary?” Sam asked.

“Unfortunately,” Jacob said.

“She’s a clerk in the geology division,” Sam said.

“But changing a map?” Jacob asked. “They use those fissures now to increase the yields. That means that they put pressure directly into the faults and …”

“She seems to have a persuasive charm,” Sam said.

Jacob groaned.

“What?” Aden asked.

“The Director,” Jacob said. “The one she was seeing?”

“What about him?” Sam asked.

“His son works for the state,” Jacob said. “He’s a geologist.”

Sam looked from Aden to Jacob.

“Don’t worry,” Sam said. “We’ll work this out.”

“I can’t shake the feeling that it’s going to be a complete mess,” Jacob said.

“I like messes; so do you,” Sam said. “Plus, think of it this way. If we lose everything, we’ll have to couch surf for a while.”

“I’m already doing that,” Aden said.

“Me too,” Sam said.

“We’ll all have to live with Delphie?” Jacob smiled at his father.

“That would be awful,” Sam nodded and laughed at his joke.

When their laughter died down, Sam became very serious.

“People will die?” Sam asked Jacob.

“A lot of people,” Jacob said.

“Then we’re pulling out,” Sam said. “I don’t care if we use every penny we have to do it. I will not continue knowing our folks will be injured or killed. That’s just not the way I do business.”

Startled by Sam’s sudden intensity, Aden and Jacob turned to face him.

“I hate the selfish. Always have, always will.” Sam raised his hand to the sky. “Sorry Celia. I said the word hate and I mean it. I hate people who think only of themselves. They’re so competitive they don’t care what they do to other people as long as they win at whatever dumb game only they know they’re playing.”

Jacob nodded.

“Are you with me?” Sam asked.

“I am,” Jacob said.

“Whatever I can do,” Aden said.

“Then we start tomorrow,” Sam said. “One employee at a time.”

“I’ll get the map from Jeraine,” Jacob said.

“I’ll call a site manager’s meeting for tomorrow,” Aden said. “After the sites are up?”

“Before,” Sam said. “We’ll start late.”

Aden touched Sam’s arm and left to go make the calls.

“Are you all right, Dad?” Jacob asked.

“No, I’m not,” Sam said. “Those bastards said they would ruin us and now … We’ve invited all these good, hardworking people to have a little financial freedom. How hard is that? They get to own the place they spend most of their time. But these jerks …”

“Don’t think on it too much, Dad,” Jacob said.

Sam looked at Jacob for a long moment before nodding.

“Mr. Sam?” Ivy asked. “I didn’t mean to interrupt, but I wonder if … Well, Delphie told me you knew her when she was little and I wondered …”

Seeing the child’s face, Sam immediately brightened.

“I sure did,” Sam said. “In fact, I bet I have some photos.”

“They’re in your room,” Jacob said. “Second shelf from the top.”

“Wow,” Ivy beamed. “Do you ever get used to the psychics?”

“He put them there,” Sam laughed.

“We moved Dad out for a while to do some repairs on his room,” Jacob said. “We just moved him back.”

“And no, I never get used to it,” Sam said.

“Why don’t I get the photos and you guys can talk?” Jacob asked.

He went back in the house. Aden was talking on the phone in the kitchen. Jacob took in Aden’s worried face. He nodded to Aden before going into his father’s room. This birch room had been the first room he’d discovered in this Castle of a house and it was the room his mother had died in. It had a wonderful, loving energy. For a moment, he closed his eyes and tried to let the room work on his anxiety.

“It’s going to be fine,” he heard his mother’s voice in his head. “Trust people.”

He picked up the photos and left the room.


Wednesday afternoon – 2:47 p.m.

Yesterday, Charlie had felt like a hero. He’d gone to the police station, dealt with probation, even hung out with his cool lawyer.

Today, he felt like a scared kid.

Wondering if he could really pull this off, he sat on the steps near the side door to the Castle. Mike came around the corner with Jacob’s Labrador and Jill’s childhood dog. In the last month or so, Mike had been training heavy. His sheer bulk took up much of the small room. Charlie had asked him why he was working out so much. He’d just said that Charlie would figure it out when his wife was nine months pregnant. Charlie had no idea what that meant, but he liked that Mike talked to him like a grown up. Charlie looked up at him.

“I can go with you,” Mike said.

“I’m supposed to go by myself,” Charlie said.

“You really doing a great thing, an important thing …” Mike stopped talking when Charlie sneered. “Yeah, I hate that crap too. You’re doing what you have to do.”

Charlie nodded.

“I have to walk the dogs,” Mike gestured to the yellow Labrador and the muttish Scooter. “Jill can’t walk Scooter anymore and Sandy loves being with her old friend.”

“What about Buster?”

“I figured you wouldn’t be caught dead with that ugly dog,” Mike grinned.

“Hey!” Charlie jumped up from the stair. “That’s my dog you’re talking about.”

“I thought he was Noelle’s dog,” Mike said.

“Noelle can’t do this,” Charlie whistled and Buster scrambled around the corner to him. Charlie leaned over to pet him.

“How ‘bout we walk to the dog park together?” Mike asked. “It’s a block from the school. I’ll stay there with the dogs and you can meet me after practice.”

“Yeah, that would be okay,” Charlie said.

“Thanks for doing me this favor, man,” Mike said. “I really appreciate it.”

Charlie smirked at Mike’s sarcastic comment. He took a leash from the rack near the door. Mike pointed to the stack of bags and Charlie grabbed a few bags. Mike opened the door and the dogs jettisoned out to the patch of lawn. Charlie followed the dogs and Mike locked the door. Charlie picked up after Buster and then put the leash on the dog.

They crossed the street to avoid the paparazzi and turned right on Sixteenth Avenue. One of the things Charlie liked about Mike was that he didn’t believe in unnecessary chatter. They walked along in easy silence. They dodged traffic across York Street and stopped at the light on Josephine. As they set out across Josephine, Charlie remembered why he was so anxious.

Each step brought him closer to contact with the guys that raped and almost killed Tink. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the other guy who took classes online whiz by on his bike.

Mike stopped at the dog park and turned to Charlie. He held out his hand for Buster’s lead. With a nod, Charlie handed over the leash and set out to walk the long block to school. He jogged across the Esplanade and plunged into the dark school. Stepping into the gym, he saw his probation officer waiting for him.

“You’re late,” she sneered. The probation officer held up a plastic jar for him to pee in.

The only thing Charlie could think of to say was “It begins,” so he kept his mouth shut.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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