Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred and Thirty-seven : Important


“You’ve had a vision where no one loves you,” Jacob said.

Katy nodded.

“I was really bratty,” Katy said. “Mean. Snappy. Knows everything. And then no one loved me anymore. Paddy found new friends and Mommy had new babies and you found a new girl to be daddy too and I was just … Katy, just Katy. Everybody hates Katy.”

Katy began to sob. To keep from responding, Jill had to bit her lips so hard that she tasted blood.

“Everybody loves the boys ‘cuz they’re boys and cute and I’m just stupid Katy,” the girl said. “No one even introduced themselves to me on my birthday.”

Jill scowled. Katy had told her that it was too babyish to be introduced on birthdays. Jill had missed their usual, little ceremony.

“They just ignored me,” Katy said. “Just forgot all about me.”

“I will never forget you,” Jacob said.

“You will too,” Katy said. “Everybody will and I’ll be all alone, by myself, alone, forever.”

When Katy tucked her head against him, Jacob squinted.

“How old were you in your vision?” Jacob asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said.

“Tell me a little bit more about this vision,” Jacob said. “It sounds really scary. Do you think you can? Takes a lot of courage to do that. Are you brave enough?”

“I can do it, Daddy,” Katy said. “I’m brave enough.”

Jacob felt Jill relax against him. There was something in all of this that Jill needed. He only hoped that when Katy was done, he would be able to help Jill.

“Where were you in this vision?” Jacob asked.

“I don’t know. I’ve never been before,” Katy said. “There were big buildings and yellow leaves on the ground.”

“So it’s fall,” Jacob said. “What were the buildings like? Were they like houses or like …”

“Not houses or apartments,” Katy said. “Like buildings. They were kind of white colored. One looks old, like it’s stone and …”

“Are there cars there?” Jacob asked. “Roads? Streets?”

“It’s a road,” Katy said. “We’re walking on the sidewalk, but there aren’t any parked cars.”

Jacob opened his mouth to say something but Katy cut him off.

“There are lots of people,” Katy said.

“People?” Jacob asked. “Old people like me or maybe young people like you?”

“Like Charlie’s age,” Katy said. “Big kids kind of people.”

“Ah,” Jacob said.

“I felt really scared and alone,” Katy said. “Because nobody loves me anymore. Why else would I be so scared and so alone? And I didn’t I know anyone there.”

“It sounds really hard,” Jacob said. “Where was Mommy?”

“In Denver,” Katy said.

“So you weren’t in Denver?” Jacob asked.

Katy shook her head.

“Where was I?” Jacob asked.

“With Mommy,” Katy said. The girl took a breath and words flew out of her. “Then I remembered that I’ve been really grumpy lately and snappy and bossy and … And I’ve seen that people are sick of it. But I can’t stop myself. I just get sick of everything. Mad at stupid people and stupid stuff. No one wants to be friends with someone like that.”

“Did Paddie say that?” Jacob asked.

Katy shook her head.

“Hmm,” Jacob said. “So you had a vision and then had bad dreams about the vision.”

Katy nodded.

“Okay,” Jacob said. “What stupid people and stupid stuff are you mad at?”

“That stupid politics and that guy who yelled at Mommy and that lady at the grocery store and…” Katy looked at Daddy. “I don’t know. Everybody seems mad now. Mommy and me — we don’t go places because there’s always some old guy yelling at us. I want to zap them because girls aren’t stupid like they say, but Mommy says I shouldn’t.”

“Is there a particular old guy who’s been yelling at you?” Jacob asked.

“That guy who lives next to Uncle Nelson,” Katy said. “He told Mommy that he was going to burn that … I don’t know the word, but Mommy said it was a bad word I should never say. It meant somebody like Uncle Blane. And I told him that he was being mean. He told me and Mommy to shut the f … — you know that word — up. That he didn’t need some stupid woman and her brat telling him not to do what God told everyone to do. So I asked him which God?”

“Good question,” Jacob said.

“And I didn’t ask to be snappy or anything just because Auntie Heather’s grandfather has been visiting and he’s the God Ares and if he’s the one who told the old man, well, anything, then he was probably joking. But the man got really mad and chased us. I wanted to sic Buster on him, because Buster would bite him, but Mommy said we were safe behind the fence.”

“Whoa, he chased you back to the Castle?” Jacob asked. “When did this happen?”

“When you were in the mine,” Jill said.

“You mean Mr. Matchel?” Jacob asked with a wince.

Jill nodded.

“We shovel his walks,” Jacob said in a low voice. “Blane’s mowed his lawn all summer.”

Jill nodded. Jacob raised his eyebrows and shook his head.

“I will talk to him,” Jacob said.

“Don’t,” Jill said. “He’s just another angry man. There’s a million of them out there ready to abuse you.”

Jacob scowled.

“The man in the market told Mommy that it was good that she had boys and not stupid, worthless girls,” Katy said. “He said the boys were ten times more valuable than the girl.”

“So you zapped him?” Jacob asked.

Katy gave a little knowing laugh.

“Jacob!” Jill said, horrified.

“You didn’t did you?” Jacob asked.

“Mommy told me not to,” Katy said. “But I really wanted to show him what girls can do. Doesn’t he know that girls run the world? We only let boys think they do.”

“He’s probably still convinced that boys run the world,” Jacob said.

“Well, he is wrong,” Katy said.

Katy smiled with certainty. Seeing Katy brighten a little bit, Jacob decided to ask about the vision that had scared Katy.

“How old are you in your vision?” Jacob asked.

“I don’t know,” Katy said. She thought for a moment. “I’m as old as the other kids.”

“Before you just answer, think about it,” Jacob said.

“Okay, Daddy,” Katy said.

“Close your eyes and let your vision get really big,” Jacob said. “Let it fill you up. Nod your head when you’re done.”

Katy closed her eyes. After a moment, she nodded.

“Where’s Paddie?” Jacob asked.

Katy’s right hand reached out as if to hold someone’s hand.

“He’s right there,” Jacob said.

Katy nodded.

“What does it say on the building in front of you?” Jacob asked.

“It’s too far to see,” Katy said.

“If you knew what it said, what would it say?” Jacob asked.

Her eyes still closed, Katy fell silent for a long moment.

“What are you doing?” Jacob asked.

“Asking Paddie,” Katy said. After a moment, Katy said, “Paddie says that we are going to class. He says that I’m in the building on the right, and he’s in the building on the left.”

“Can you see the name of the buildings?” Jacob asked.

“Um, just the one on the left,” Katy said. “Where Paddie’s going.”

“What does it say?” Jacob asked.

“Campbell Hall,” Katy said.

“Okay,” Jacob said. “How do you feel now?”

“Kind of scared,” Katy said.

“Why do you think?” Jacob asked.

“I think I have a test,” Katy said. Her eyes popped open. “I’m in college!”

Jacob smiled. Jill cheered.

“Nothing to be sad about there,” Jacob said.

You’re not there,” Katy said.

Her happiness evaporated. She scowled.

“We will miss you so much,” Jill said. “So, so much.”

“You won’t want us around by then,” Jacob said. “You’ll be like — I’m grown up now.”

“Like Nash is?” Katy asked.

Jacob nodded.

“It will be good for you to get out into the world on your own,” Jill said.

You never did that,” Katy said to her mother.

“I had you,” Jill said. “Why would I want to go anywhere else? You probably won’t have a baby right away. You certainly won’t be as poor as we were. Remember how poor we were?”

Jill reached out to tickle Katy and the girl laughed.

“You will have different choices than I did,” Jill said. “You will find different answers; you will find your own answers to your own questions. It sounds like you’ll go away to college, and Paddie will go with you. That will be great.”

Rather than respond, Katy hugged Jill.

“But not for a long, long while,” Jacob said.

“I’m sorry I’ve been so snappy,” Katy said. “I don’t want to be. I just feel mad at everything.”

“I understand,” Jacob said. “I know Mommy does too. We want to make a difference, make things better, and we can’t change these angry people.”

Jacob lifted a shoulder in a shrug.

“That’s just a fact,” Jacob said.

“What do we do?” Jill asked softly. Katy looked over at him.

“Are we doing everything we can do?” Jacob asked. “Talking to our political representatives? Be kind to our friends? Being aware of what’s going on? Are we doing what we can to make the world a better place? You and Katy have done a lot of this kind of thing.”

“We always have,” Jill said with a nod. “Mom grew up in Russia when it was communist. She always said that democracy was a gift that needed regular tending. We’ve participated in political campaigns since we were little. Katy’s been on marches since she was a baby.”

Katy’s dark eyes watched her mother. When Jacob looked at her, the little girl nodded.

“Then we’ve done what we can,” Jacob said. “Feeling hopeless is just letting the situation infect our energy. We have to shift our focus on what’s within our control.”

“Like what?” Jill asked.

“We can be kind to each other,” Jacob said. “We can make it our number one job to make sure the people we love know that we care. We can talk to each other, listen to each other, be there for each other. We can focus on our work and school.”

“That doesn’t work!” Katy said. “How does that change everything?”

“It doesn’t give us control over everything,” Jacob said. “That’s true, but it does give us control over ourselves.”

Jill and Katy seemed to be thinking about what he was saying so he continued.

“Mostly, we need to protect our energy from these angry people,” Jacob said. “Our angry neighbor infected you with his anger, Katy. Then you got angry and people were angry with you! That doesn’t work. You’ve been spreading his anger all over the place!”

Katy’s eyebrows furrowed. Jill stroked her child’s back.

“Let him keep his anger,” Jacob said. “We can just be who we are and how we feel.”

“But I was mad that he was mean!” Katy said. “To me! To Mommy! He wouldn’t listen and I was …”

Katy made a kind of growling sound.

“So you were snappy to me?” Jacob asked. “How does that get back at him? How does that hurt him?”

Katy shook her head at her father. He smiled.

“I’ve done it too,” Jacob said. “Far, far too much of my life has been spent stuck in impotence.”

“What’s that?” Katy asked.

“Being stuck and feeling like there’s nothing I can do about it,” Jacob said. “I have everything I want right here, in this room.”

Katy looked up at him. He nodded.

“I want to spend my life focusing on my family,” Jacob said. “Not some angry guy I barely know. He doesn’t matter to me. You. Your mommy. Your brothers. You matter to me, more than anything in this whole world.”

Katy looked away from him.

“You’re not mad?” Katy asked.

“I’m not,” Jacob said. He looked at Jill. “Are you?”

“Oh …” Jill sighed. “I’d like my non-snappy Katy back.”

Katy looked at her mother for a moment.

“Okay,” Katy said. “I’m going to try not to be snappy anymore. But sometimes …”

Holding her hand about five inches apart, Katy made lightning bolts fly from one palm to the other. Jacob laughed.

“Don’t I know it,” Jacob said.

“Why can’t I?” Katy’s voice rose with frustration.

The twins roused at their sister’s rebel call. Jacob held his finger in front of his mouth to quiet her. She scowled.

“Why can’t I?” Katy whispered.

“Because we’re nice people,” Jacob said. “We only use our power to defend good.”

Blue lightning bolts still shooting out of her palms, Katy shook her head.

“Mostly, we don’t want to be like them,” Jacob said. “Let’s leave the anger to them. We can be happy over here.”

Katy nodded. She looked at her hands for a minute.

“Pretty,” Jill said.

Katy grinned at her mother. For the moment, Katy’s storm was over. The girl dropped her hands.

“You want to lie down for a nap?” Jill asked. “Or is that too babyish? I bet you would feel better if you slept for a while.”

“Everyone else is resting,” Jacob said. “We’re going to have a big barbecue dinner so it’s probably best to rest.”

Katy nodded. Jill started to get up, but Jacob beat her to it. He got up and helped Katy get comfortable on her cot. Katy picked up her chapter book, A Wrinkle in Time. Jacob tucked her cover up around her. As soon as he turned his back, Katy had kicked the covers off.

Smiling at Katy, he went back to sit on the side of the bed where Jill lay. They sat like that, lost in their own thoughts, until Katy was sound asleep. Jacob reached out to touch her face.

“Can I mansplain anything for you?” Jacob asked in a low voice.

Jill treated him to a broad grin.

“I can’t tell if you’re tired from caring for everyone or …” Jacob started.

“No,” Jill said. “I want to be with Katy and the boys. With school and Edie’s help, I feel like I don’t get enough time with them.”

“But?” Jacob asked.

She looked at him for a long time before shaking her head.

“I don’t feel depressed,” Jill said. “I’ve been depressed before. That’s definitely not how I feel. I mean, I ask myself — do I want to stay in school? Yes. Am I upset with you? No. I mean, I’ve gone through every single thing in my life and … I love it all. Our home, my car, our children … I feel …”

“I wonder if you’ve given too much,” Jacob said.

Her eyes flicked to look at him.

“I don’t really know how your skills work, but it makes sense to me that if you give out more than you’re getting back, you might get worn out,” Jacob said.

“I don’t know,” Jill said.

Jacob nodded.

“How can I help?” Jacob asked.

“Oh,” Jill said. “I don’t know. I guess …”

She fell silent and looked off into space.

“I guess just be patient with me,” Jill said. “I don’t really know what’s going on with me or what I need. When I do know, I’ll tell you but right now …”

Jill shrugged. He leaned over, and they kissed.

“One thing …” Jill said. Her eyes looked away from him and then flicked back. “It’s probably too much to ask …”

“Nothing’s too much for you to ask of me,” Jacob said. “I know that I’ve been distracted with a variety of … things, but there’s nothing in my life that’s more important to me than you.”

Jill’s lips turned up in a kind of smile, but her eyes held her doubt.

“Ask away,” Jacob said.

“I wonder if you could say ‘No’ to your father and his new company and …” Jill said. “I …”

Jill swallowed hard.

“I just would really like it if we had some just normal life,” Jill said. “9 to 5 living where I see you every day and … We sleep in the same bed and …”

“You don’t have to worry about what mythical creature might kill me at any moment?” Jacob asked.

“Well, sure,” Jill said. She smiled. “More than that …”

Her voice gained power and with it she could speak her truth.

“I need time with you,” Jill said. “Normal time. Morning time. Sneaking in some lunches time. Dinner time. Talking. Laughing. Hanging out in the garden time. Working on houses. Just time to be you and me, and the kids.”

In case she had more to say, he waited to respond.

“That’s all,” Jill said. “That’s really what I need.”

He opened his mouth to respond, but she rushed forward.

“But that’s too much to ask, I know,” Jill said. “We have people who need wells and your father who needs whatever he needs and Val is struggling and …”

Jill let out a defeated breath. He opened his mouth to respond again.

“I am not saying that I wasn’t a part of all of these decisions, including the decision to come here to dig some wells. I was a part of every decision. I agreed with everything. It’s just that I realize that …” Jill said. Her hands went to her chest. “I need you. For me.”

His hand cupped her face and his thumb stroked her cheek.

“Of course,” Jacob said. He nodded. “That sounds wonderful.”

The clouds lifted from Jill’s face. She gave him a bright smile.

“You want to know what I think you should do with the well-digging business?” Jill asked.

“Absolutely,” Jacob said.

“I think Gando could run the drilling company. He hasn’t really done anything since getting out of the military,” Jill said. “We could use some from the payment of that hotel loan to help him get started. You, Blane, Aden, and Sam could mentor him. I bet Tres would help. We could come down as a family for a weekend every month or so.”

Jacob smiled.

“That’s the best plan I’ve heard yet,” Jacob said. He bent down and kissed her lips. “You are brilliant.”

“Thanks,” Jill said.

“And it isn’t what you need,” Jacob said. “What do you need now?”

“I was thinking that I would read a book and maybe …” Jill said. “I mean if you want to make love we can but …”

“I brought my ebook reader,” Jacob said. “I just started that mystery series you told me about.”

“Oh, it’s good,” Jill said. “You’ll like it.”

“Then, I agree with your suggestion,” Jacob said. “Let’s read our books for a while. Of course, if the spirit moves …”

Jill laughed. He got up from the bed and took his ebook reader from his computer case. Jill lay down on the bed. He sat in the chair and put his feet up next to hers. She rested her elbow on his shin.

For a while, they were together, in the same location, resting in the silence and peace of each other.

It was absolutely perfect.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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