Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred and Sixty-one : Past meets present


Thursday early morning — 4:29 a.m.

“I thought you’d be there,” Jacob said as Blane came out of Nelson’s house.

They were dressed to take the dogs for a run around City Park. Jacob had Sarah and Buster on leashes and Mack in a sport stroller. Jacob nodded to Mack.

“He’s still really sick, but he insisted on going,” Jacob said. “Heather couldn’t deter him.”

Jacob and Blane looked up as Nelson came down the stairs to join them.

“I’ll take him,” Nelson said.

Still sucking his thumb, Mack looked up at Nelson.

“Can you go really fast?” Mack asked around his thumb.

The child gave a little cough. Blane knelt down to check to see if Mack was warm enough. The child had about five inches of clothing on, a hat, and a warm fleece blanket.

“Really fast,” Nelson said with a nod.

“Okay,” Mack said.

Nelson grinned and went to stand behind the stroller. Blane got up. Jacob gave Blane the leash to Buster the ugly dog.

“Now, I want no fighting, no show boating …” Jacob said in a mock official tone. “And …”

Jacob took off. Laughing, Blane and Nelson easily caught up with him. They fell into a vigorous pace as the men shot up Seventeenth Avenue. They stopped at the lights and then crossed into the East High Esplanade.

“Did you go here?” Jacob asked Nelson.

“Yeah, I was a couple years after you,” Nelson said.

“You didn’t go to the Catholic School?” Blane asked.

“I went there a couple of years, but Micheal Junior started,” Nelson said. “I couldn’t deal, so Dad transferred me to East.”

Blane nodded.

“You?” Nelson asked.

“Here,” Blane said.

He gave Buster’s leash to Nelson and took off down the Esplanade with Mack. Mack squealed with delight.

“What did I say?” Nelson asked.

“He was in the park during high school,” Jacob said. “Doing drugs and servicing men. You know, prostitution? Addiction?”

“Oh,” Nelson said. Nelson stopped running. “You mean this crap about him being an addict and a prostitute was when he was a kid?”

“Fourteen to Sixteen,” Jacob said. “Come on. He feels like an asshole enough.”

Nelson ran along with Jacob. They watched Blane and Mack head into the park.

“And anyway, if you can’t fucking handle it, then maybe you should head home,” Jacob said in a gruff voice.

Nelson ran right into a wall of psychokinetic energy. He hit the wall and slid down to the sidewalk. Buster walked right through it.

“What the …?” Nelson asked.

“Go home,” Jacob said.

“I didn’t know you could do that,” Nelson said. “I thought you were human.”

Jacob stopped running to turn and look at Nelson.

“What’s it to you?” Jacob asked.

“I mean, I knew your boys had … skills,” Nelson said. “I guess I thought it was being the grandchild of a powerful Titan. But you … What are you?”

“Pissed off,” Jacob said. “What’s your problem?”

“My problem?” Nelson asked. He jumped to his feet and looked at Jacob. “Wait, what are we talking about?”

“You clearly have some problem with Blane’s past,” Jacob said with a snort.

“Oh, that’s why you …” Nelson point to where the energetic wall had been. “Do you know how rare that skill is?”

Jacob gave Nelson an irritated shake of his head and snatched Buster’s leash.

“Go home,” Jacob said.

“Wait,” Nelson said. “Now, just a minute.”

Jacob turned to look at Nelson.

“I don’t have any problem with Blane or his past,” Nelson said. “Not one. So don’t make up some bullshit.”

“Why did you ask about Blane and high school?” Jacob asked.

“I didn’t know,” Nelson said.

“You said, ‘You mean this crap about him being a prostitute was when he was a kid?’” Jacob said.

“I was surprised,” Nelson said. “Enrique made such a big deal out of it, like it had just happened yesterday.”

“What’s up with that?” Jacob sneered.

“With what?” Nelson asked.

“You being friends with Enrique,” Jacob said. “Repeating anything the asshole said.”

“I was friends with Enrique because I feel in love with his partner,” Nelson said.

“Oh,” Jacob said mildly.

“It’s supposed to be something with my family line — my mother’s and my father’s,” Nelson said. “We fall for people immediately and completely. There’s nothing that can change it. It’s why my ancestors became crusaders — to keep from acting out their love for someone unattainable or to get away from the angry husband or king after being caught.”

“Did Enrique know?” Jacob asked.

“What do you think?” Nelson asked. “He thought it was hilarious. Tried to get me into a threesome without Blane knowing.”

Saying nothing, Jacob started running again. Nelson ran beside him.

“We’ll never catch him,” Nelson said.

“He and Mack run a loop down to the arches and back up to the Martin Luther King statue,” Jacob said. “If we’re not there, he’ll come up to the Thatcher Fountain.”

“Oh,” Nelson said. “He didn’t go on without us.”

“He did go on without us,” Jacob said with a laugh. They stopped at the light. “He does that when he gets emotional. It’s a primal response. But he’s learned to come back. He used to only do that with me, but it’s Heather and his children that really cemented it in him.”

“How do you know?” Nelson said. “He might not want to be here because of what I said.”

“No,” Jacob said. “If he was upset by something you said, he might run away. But he’ll always come back. Well, always now.”

Jacob pointed as they crossed the street. Blane and Mack appeared beside the Thatcher Fountain.

“He’s right there,” Jacob said.

“That’s fast,” Nelson said.

“He’s really fast now,” Jacob said. “We’ve had to modify the stroller.”

“Now?” Nelson asked.

“Since he’s been working with Abi,” Jacob said.

“He’s been working with Abi?” Nelson asked.

Shaking his head, Jacob continued running to where Blane and Mack were standing. Looking windblown, Mack was laughing. Blane was bent over catching his breath.

“Hey, I’m sorry,” Nelson said. “I didn’t know.”

“Didn’t know?” Blane looked confused.

“That you were in the park instead of at high school,” Nelson said.

“Group home,” Blane nodded. “They wanted the fee for having me there but didn’t want to have to deal with me.”

“I can’t believe that Enrique made such a monumental deal about something you did in high school,” Nelson said. “And people believed him. That’s incredible to me.”

“Wealth,” Blane said. He looked Nelson straight in the face. “The wealthy never hesitate to make the poor feel as if being pour is some moral failing.”

“I’m sorry,” Nelson said.

“Oh,” Blane grinned. His eyes flicked to Jacob. His eyebrows went up. “I saw you run into the wall.”

Blane pointed at Jacob, and Jacob nodded. They laughed while Nelson gawked at him.

“You two are like Jacob’s twins!” Nelson said, with a slow shake of his head.

“Celia made me finish high school at an alternative school,” Blane said. “I also got my GED.”

“Mom was crazy for education,” Jacob said with a nod. “He lived with us until Mom got sick.”

“What happened then?” Nelson asked.

“Mom bought her best friend this falling down house on Race Street and moved in there,” Jacob said with a snort. “They sold their house in Crestmore and split up the business. Val was at college. I moved in with them.”

“I moved into an apartment,” Blane said.

“He wanted his ‘space,’” Jacob said. “It wasn’t very far. He ate meals with us and Dad …”

“That’s a mess,” Blane said with a grin. “Let’s run.”

“Run! Run! Run!” Mack croaked.

They started running again. They ran down toward the Martin Luther King statue.

“So, Jacob …” Nelson started.

“What?” Jacob asked.

“These powers of yours,” Nelson said.

“What about them?” Jacob asked.

“Where do they come from?” Nelson asked.

“Who knows?” Jacob shrugged.

“Abi says that Jacob is nearly a direct descendant of Gilfand,” Blane said. “Fin and Jacob are something like third cousins.”

“Huh,” Nelson said. “Gilfand has a lot of children. Most of them don’t have powers.”

“Go figure,” Jacob said. “Sprints?”

“Faster! Faster!” Mack cheered.

Blane took off. Jacob and Nelson sprinted after him.


Thursday morning — 10:24 a.m.

“No,” Heather said. “You are not coming with me.”

She pulled her Subaru into the Marlowe School parking lot and parked.

“Go home,” Heather said to her grandmother.

“But Hedone,” purred her grandmother, Aphrodite. “No one knows more about this topic than I do.”

Heather turned and pointed to her grandmother.

“No,” Heather said.

Turning forward, Heather turned off the car.

“Why?” Aphrodite asked.

“Why?” Furious, Heather turned to look at her. “Where should I start?”

Aphrodite pressed her hand to her heart and looked away. Heather scowled.

“Oh, you’re right,” Aphrodite said. “I shouldn’t help you give a little talk about the six types of love as defined by …”

She put her finger to the side of her lips.

“Who was that again?” Aphrodite asked.

Heather rolled her eyes.

“You can’t ‘help’ me,” Heather said. “Go home.”

“I want to try that tea!” Aphrodite said. “Persephone said that Hades brought her some lovely cookies and tea!”

Aphrodite looked deflated.

“How come I don’t get tea and cookies?” Aphrodite asked.

Heather groaned.

“Little bits of chocolate,” Aphrodite said. “Why does Persephone get something that I do not? Me! The one who worked out her little problem with her crazy mother.”

“By being crazier than Demeter,” Heather said under her breath.

Aphrodite laughed.

“You know me so well, my dear,” Aphrodite said.

“I know you well enough to tell you to go home,” Heather said.

Aphrodite didn’t move. Heather let out a pained sigh.

“You won’t let me torture your mother anymore …” Aphrodite said in a mild reprimand.

Despite of her anger at her grandmother, Heather laughed. Aphrodite smiled.

“Fine,” Heather said. “But!”

“But?” Aphrodite asked.

“You cannot go in there looking like a Goddess,” Heather said.

“Why not?” Aphrodite asked.

“Because a lot of women spent a lot of money in attempts to look the way you look now,” Heather said. “You will look like a cheap knock off of yourself.”

Aphrodite’s visage shifted to a middle aged human woman. Heather was surprised at how much she looked like Honey’s mother Tiffanie — after Tiffanie’s recent remodel, that is. Heather shook her head.

“Oh fine,” Aphrodite said. “But you know that I cannot be human.”

“I do know that you do not have even one iota of human in you,” Heather said.

“That’s exactly right,” Aphrodite said with a sniff.

Heather groaned, and her grandmother laughed.

Aphrodite shifted to looking a little heavier, a little more life worn. She was still a shockingly beautiful woman. She just looked more like her genuine self and not some magical entity.

“You are beautiful,” Hedone said.

Aphrodite sniffed. The “women” got out of the car and went into the school. They checked into the office. Aphrodite was silent through the “vapid conversation with the imbecile at the front desk” and when the “ugly gnome” (hall monitor) walked them down the hallway. Heather didn’t need to hear these judgments from her grandmother. She had heard them enough times over the years that she could repeat her grandmother’s ridicules in her head.

Heather stole a look at Aphrodite. Much to her surprise, the Goddess gave Heather a soft, kind smile rather than the nod of agreement at the judgments that had gone through Heather’s head. Heather had only a moment to process this change because the hall monitor stopped at the upper grade student’s room. Heather gave her grandmother a stern look at the door and opened it.

They stood on the edge of the room for only a moment. Noelle noticed them first. She jumped up from her seat and ran to Heather for a hug. Nash, Teddy, Ivy, Tink and Charlie were right there.

“Is there news?” Charlie asked.

“Oh dears,” Aphrodite said before Heather could answer. “Your Sandy is healing. Don’t you worry. She will be home very soon. She is strong and well loved.”

The Goddess’s voice was like a salve to some deeply hidden wound. For a moment, the teenagers stopped moving. When Heather and Tink exchanged a wide-eyed look of irritation, the others started moving back to their seats.

“See,” Aphrodite said. “I know more than my fair share about love.”

Heather had to fight rolling her eyes like a twelve year old. Her grandmother gave her a laughing grin.

“Quiet! Quiet!” their history teacher yelled over the din. “Take your seats!”

Heather and her grandmother made their way to the teacher while the students wandered back to their seats.

“Heather Lipson,” she said, shaking the teacher’s hand. “This is my grandmother, Agnes. She was a professor in Greek History.”

“Heather,” the teacher said with a nod. “Agnes. I am so glad you could make it. When Noelle told me that you were an expert in all things historic Greek, I jumped at the chance to have you come to talk to us. It’s so good for the students to hear this material from many different voices and angles.”

“Happy we could help,” Heather said with a nod. “We were told that you wanted us to go over the six types of love as defined by the Greek culture.”

“Sounds great!” the teacher said. Leaning in, he added, “This is such a smart and lively group of kids that you can expect lots of interesting questions.”

“Who are you?” a sneering tween in the front row asked.

“Now, Joey …” the teacher started. “Let’s not start off like that.”

“No, it’s okay,” Heather said. “I understand. I’m Heather Lipson. My husband is Blane. He has worked at Lipson Construction for a long time.”

“So you’re here because you’re married to a relative of the owner?” The boy asked.

“Joey!” the teacher said.

“I am here because I’m an expert at ancient Greece,” Heather said. “I speak a number of ancient and dead languages including ancient and modern Greek. I have read most of the source material as they were written.”

“What about her?” Joey asked.

“My grandmother has a PhD in a number of Greek specialties from Greek Literature to Greek Archeology. She’s been on most of the significant archeological digs. She is the reason I am so familiar with all of these dead languages.”

Heather pointed to her grandmother and said, “It’s her fault.”

The children chuckled.

“I have a question,” Jill’s sister, Candy’s adopted daughter asked.

“Yes, Kimber,” Heather said.

“Why are Greek Goddesses so hysterical?” Kimber asked.

“This was my friend Tanesha’s complaint about Greek Goddesses,” Heather said with a smile.

“How are Goddesses hysterical?” Aphrodite-disguised-as-“Agnes” asked.

“They’re always upset with their cheating guys,” Kimber said. “They take it out on the other women rather than kicking that cheating asshole to the curb. That Zeus, for example. Why didn’t someone stop him from raping their daughters? I mean, they are Goddesses — with powers and shit.”

“Don’t swear,” the teacher said.

“She gets what I mean,” Kimber said.

Heather and her grandmother looked at each other. Heather nodded to agree that her grandmother would answer the question.

“My first response is to ask you why you think that they didn’t stop him?” Aphrodite-disguised-as-“Agnes” asked.

Kimber started to speak but Aphrodite-disguised-as-“Agnes” held up her hand.

“Men wrote the stories,” Aphrodite-disguised-as-“Agnes” said.

“Men knew how to write so they did the writing,” Aphrodite-disguised-as-“Agnes” said. “It’s as simple as that. They didn’t see the brutality of some behavior because it didn’t affect them directly. They saw any action by a Goddess as ‘hysterical’ or ‘jealousy’ rather than natural logical consequences.”

Aphrodite-disguised-as-“Agnes” nodded.

“You might also want to look a little more closely,” Aphrodite said. “Female Goddesses have tasks that usually relate to the world of women. Hera, for example, was responsible for the welfare of women and children, including weddings. Ever been to a wedding that wasn’t sheer madness? When would she have had the time to chase after her crazy husband?”

The class tittered with uncomfortable laughter.

“One last thing to think about before we get started,” Aphrodite-disguised-as-“Agnes” said. “The HIStory of men is easily found. It was written by men usually about men, certainly from a male perspective. How else do we know what men did?”

“They built monuments?” Charlie asked.

“Exactly,” Aphrodite-disguised-as-“Agnes” said. “Anything else?”

“They waged wars,” Ivy said. “So you get arrows and flint and … They even hunted big animals. I mean that was before the Greeks but …”

“Seems like men leave lasting monuments to their existence,” Aphrodite-disguised-as-“Agnes” said. “What do women leave behind?”

No one said anything. The silence lagged.

“Nothing,” snorted a boy in the back.

Everyone laughed. Aphrodite-disguised-as-“Agnes” grinned.

“Thank you for sharing this common perception,” Aphrodite-disguised-as-“Agnes” said. “I will counter your point by saying very simply this — men build monuments out of stone. Women build people.”

No one said anything for a moment. Even the teacher seemed a little stunned.

“You are the monument to the women of Ancient Greece,” Aphrodite-disguised-as-“Agnes” said. “You are the end result of generations of women’s hard work and resilience.”

“Women don’t have to build obvious monuments out of stone or steel,” Heather said. “Every single person is an enduring monument to some of the achievements of women.”

“Yes,” Aphrodite-disguised-as-“Agnes” said. “Your birth is only one part of a woman’s achievement. Only a part.”

Aphrodite-disguised-as-“Agnes” gave a clear nod. No one in the class responded. The teacher cleared his throat.

“After those profound thoughts,” the teacher said. “Shall we talk about the six types of love as defined by the Ancient Greeks?”

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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