Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred and Thirty-two : Gas station blues


“So Andre?” Blane asked to encourage Nelson to speak.

Nelson swallowed hard, nodded, and began to tell his story.

“Andre is Bernard’s Uncle,” Nelson said. “Well, technically step-uncle. They were nearly the same age, so they grew up together.”

“So a founder of the Templars is the Uncle of a powerful servant of Rome,” Blane said. “They are childhood friends and playmates.”

“Exactly,” Nelson said with a grin. “That’s right.”

“What did I say?” Blane asked.

“Oh,” Nelson said with a chuckle. “I thought … never mind. So Rome was actually a world power — a country with the pope as the leader of this world power. Bernard of Clairvaux was an abbot and Benedictine. My father says that he had tremendous charisma and quickly grew to being very powerful in the church. He had the ear of the pope.

“His younger uncle was in Jerusalem saving rich pilgrims,” Blane said.

“Exactly,” Nelson said. “This is kind of important. Bernard believed that anyone could be saved by Christ with the intersession of the Virgin Mother. He believed that the Holy should live like Christ. That was a big change in the entire philosophy of Christianity or at that time the religion-state. The pope was swayed by Bernard and thus all of Christianity changed. Today, these ideas are taught as Christianity, but before Bernard? They did not exist in the cannon.”

“It seems kind of convenient,” Blane said.

“Oh?” Nelson asked.

“Well sure,” Blane said. “Bernard and his brother…

“Uncle,” Nelson said.

“Right,” Blane said. “Bernard and his uncle, or possibly just the uncle, are in the business of protecting wealthy people on their way to the Holy Land. So you change the entire religion to say that any person can become saved if they have intersession of the Virgin Mary. You have Andre to facilitate the intersession and his uncle to pocket the proceeds.”

“I never connected those two things,” Nelson said. “Huh. I’m sure you’re right. Of course, people flocked to Bernard. He put through the idea that the Templars must live like Christ …”

“Or what they decided Christ lived like,” Blane said, wryly.

“Well exactly,” Nelson said. “And that’s why I am such a secret.”

“What does that mean?” Blane asked.

“Do you mind if we stop?” Nelson asked. “There’s a gas station up ahead. I just need to pee.”

“Sure,” Blane said. “We should fill up before the desert. But you have to promise — you’ll finish this, right?”

“I will,” Nelson said. “No secrets.”

“No secrets,” Blane said. “Do I need to guard you?”

“No,” Nelson said with a laugh. “No one knows that I am here. If they find out?”

Nelson shook his head.

“Maybe,” Nelson said.

Blane scowled, but pulled off the highway. They pulled into a gas station. Blane filled the tank of the SUV, and Nelson went inside. When the gas tank was full, Blane drove the SUV to the park in a spot front of the small gas station store. He went inside and used the restroom. When he came out, Nelson was buying Reece’s Peanut Butter cups and more soda for both of them. Laughing, Blane grabbed some bags of chips and tossed them onto the counter.

“Road trip food,” Nelson said.

Nelson paid for the food, and they returned to the SUV. Blane got into the driver’s seat.

“Before we go,” Nelson said. He leaned over and kissed Blane’s lip. When Blane didn’t push him away, Nelson smiled. “Thank you.”

“For what?” Blane asked.

“For making me tell you all of this,” Nelson said. “You were right. I need to tell it. I need to make it into my story and not just something that happened.”

“It seems like it is your story,” Blane said.

“Yeah,” Nelson said. “I do feel better. You were right.”

Nelson filled their cups with the soda and opened the bags of chips. He gave Blane a water bottle, and Blane drank it down.

“Ready?” Blane asked.

“To go?” Nelson asked. “Sure.”

“To tell me what this is about,” Blane said.

“Oh, I thought I was doing that,” Nelson said.

“I’ve heard a lot about an ancient order,” Blane said. “After hearing about it, I can’t imagine why there are so many gay people in your family when the order made up of men who spurned the company of women to live in each other’s company.”

Nelson grinned.

“Funny, eh?” Nelson asked. “Did you look it up?”

“You stopped talking at the ‘live like Christ’ part,” Blane said. “I wondered what that was so I looked it up before I went in.”

Nelson grinned.

“What?” Blane asked.

“You were paying attention,” Nelson said.

Blane groaned and imploringly looked at the ceiling of the car. Nelson laughed.

“Come on,” Nelson said. “You drive; I’ll talk.”

Blane started the car. They got back on the I-70 near Grand Junction and headed out across the Utah desert.

“So …” Blane said, glancing at Nelson.

Nelson was sound asleep. His head was against the head rest. His eyes were closed and his breathing deep. Blane groaned. He raised his hand to shake Nelson awake, but then thought better of it.

Nelson was exhausted. He looked almost angelic in his sleep. Blane grinned at the beautiful man.

Blane took out his wireless headset and connected it to his phone. He, Jacob, and Aden were listening to Homer’s Odyssey for this trip. He hadn’t started. He turned on the audiobook program and started the book.

Traveling with a sleeping angel at his side, Blane listened to the ancient story as he moved on the I-70 across the gorgeous Utah desert.


Saturday morning — 2:20 p.m.

Gas station outside of Grand Junction, Colorado

Jacob pulled into the gas station just as Heather’s Subaru was making its way to the entrance. The women waved at him and Jeraine as they continued out of the gas station and back onto the highway.

So far, the trip had been uneventful. The babies and toddlers had played with each other for a while. They’d stopped once to change a couple of diapers, but the children fell asleep around Dillon Lake. They were now sound asleep. Jacob pulled the large SUV to the pumps to fill up and got out.

By agreement, Jeraine hopped out of the passenger seat and headed into the small gas station store. Jacob put the nozzle into the gas tank and went to look inside.

The children were still asleep.

Honey’s van pulled in to the pump next to his. M.J. got out to pump the gas. Honey swung easily out of the driver’s seat into her wheelchair. She rolled into the gas station.

“How’s it going?” M.J. asked gesturing to the children.

“So far so good,” Jacob said.

M.J. nodded.

“Drug ’em?” M.J. asked.

Jacob shook his head.

“Just tired, I think,” Jacob said. “We’ve had a lot going on. I think they’re catching up on sleep.”

“You are a lucky man,” M.J. said. “We heard from Maggie from the girlfriends’ car. She wants to switch at the next stop.”

Jacob nodded.

“Mostly, I think, she misses Jackie and Mack,” M.J. said. “With Rachel Ann, they’re kind of a team.”

“Mack’s with Tink in Aden’s SUV,” Jacob said. “Jackie’s with Valerie.”

He nodded his head and Mike pulled into the gas station. As Mike moved to the pump across from M.J., Aden pulled into the gas station. Jacob pointed to Aden, and Aden rolled his eyes. They could hear the teens and tweens arguing as Aden drove to a pump away from the babies. The moment Aden’s SUV stopped moving, the noisy children swarmed out of the car and into the store.

The adults gaped at them. Jacob checked the babies.

They were still sleeping.

Jacob’s gas nozzle popped indicating that his tank was full. He got the receipt and put the nozzle back onto the gas pump. When he got in the SUV, he saw Jeraine trailing two young girls as he came out of the gas station store. Jacob caught his eye and pointed to the girls. Jeraine spun around to greet his fans. Jacob waited while Jeraine spoke with the girls. Jacob parked in a parking spot in front of the store. In a few minutes, Jeraine pointed to the SUV and got in the passenger seat.

The babies and toddlers were still asleep.

Jacob got out of the SUV and went inside. He used the restroom and came out. He was on snack detail so he picked up a couple bags of chips and some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. They had coolers full of sandwiches, breast milk, and healthy snacks for the kids. This was for himself and Jeraine.

“Hey, you were just here,” the man behind the counter said. “What’d you do with that beautiful guy?”

“What beautiful guy?” Jacob asked.

“The last time you were here, you were with this guy who looked like a model,” the man behind the counter said. “Hey, I’m not gay, but that man was too good looking for this store.”

Blane and Nelson must have come through the store ahead of them. Jacob grinned.

“What’d you do with him?” the man asked.

“It wasn’t me,” Jacob said.

“You say that but …” the man said. He gestured behind him. “I got you on tape. So if you killed that guy, I’ll …”

“You saw my cousin,” Jacob said. “He and I look a lot alike, especially lately.”

Jacob felt someone close to him and looked to see Valerie. She was laughing.

“Did you kill him?” Valerie asked.

“Very funny,” Jacob said to Valerie. “We’re traveling to Kayenta. He and Nelson went ahead of us with the supplies.”

The man looked at Valerie and coughed.

“You’re Valerie Lipson,” the man said. “I just saw Jeraine and …”

“He’s driving with me,” Jacob said. “His wife, Miss T? She was just here.”

The man blinked at Jacob, and turned back to Valerie.

“You’re Valerie Lipson,” the man repeated.

Valerie put her arm around Jacob’s shoulders.

“This is my brother,” Valerie said. “He isn’t lying. He and our cousin are nearly twins. I mean, they work at it, you know, but they look a lot alike. Nelson is our new friend. He is pretty, isn’t he?”

The man gave a slight nod. Overwhelmed by Valerie’s presence, the man started checking out Jacob’s snacks. Mike came in the story carrying Eddie.

“Where’s Jackie?” Valerie asked, her voice rising in panic.

“With Honey,” Mike said.

Valerie took Eddie from Mike, and carried the baby into the bathroom. With Valerie gone, the man behind the counter seemed to regain his equilibrium. Jacob paid for his snacks.

“That’s really your sister?” the man asked. “What’s that like?”

“Do you have a sister?” Jacob asked.

“Two,” the man said.

“It’s like having a sister,” Jacob said.

“But …” the man started.

Jacob nodded.

“And Jeraine?” the man asked. “He’s a huge star.”

“His wife is one of my wife’s best friends,” Jacob said. “You must have seen them as they came through.”

“Four women, two kids?” the man asked.

“That’s them,” Jacob said. “Jeraine’s a friend. He’s off tour for now so he’s just hanging out. We’re going to drill some wells on the Navajo reservation.”

The man nodded, and Jacob left the store. He held the door for Aden and Aden went inside. Jacob went to the SUV.

The children were still asleep.

He grinned at Jeraine and started the SUV.

Heather’s son Wyn began to wimper. Jacob’s son, Bladen, started wailing. Bladen’s twin, Tanner, joined in the call. Sitting behind Jeraine, Jabari began to kick Jeraine’s seat. In less time than it took to take a breath, every child in the enormous SUV was screaming at the top of his or her lungs.

Jeraine threw himself at the coolers to look for breast milk for the babies.

“Bye, bye, brother,” Valerie said as she walked by.

She gave him a little wave and went to the Bronco. Mike gave Jacob a “need help” look.

Confident that he was fine, Jacob waved him on. The Bronco pulled out of the parking lot.

The noise in the SUV was deafening as each child screamed at the top of his or her lungs. Katy ran out of Aden’s car and threw herself at her father. With Katy latched around his legs, Jacob tried to get to the snacks for the infants.

“Looks really hard,” Aden’s voice came above the din.

With a nod, Aden walked to his SUV. He counted the teenagers.

“Can you take Katy and Mack?” Aden asked.

“Sure,” Jacob yelled. His head inside a cooler, he was not sure what he’d agreed to. “In a minute.”

Mack appeared in front of him.

“Mr. Jacob?” Mack asked, tugging on Jacob’s arm. “Mr. Jacob? Mr. Jacob?”

Jacob glanced down at Mack.

“Can I go with you?” Mack asked. “I miss Jabari and …”

Mack’s big eyes filled with tears and in no time flat, Mack was screaming.

“Jake!” Jeraine yelled over the din.

Jacob looked up at him. Jeraine had a crazy smile on his face.

“We’ve got this?” Jeraine asked.

“Without a doubt,” Jacob said with a laugh. “Just do what’s next, one thing at a time.”

“Got it,” Jeraine said. “Just like being on tour.”

Jacob laughed. Jeraine popped out of the passenger seat and jogged into the store with three bottles of breast milk for Bladen, Tanner, and Wyn.

“Jabari,” Jacob yelled. “Do you need the bathroom?”

Jabari nodded.

“When your dad gets back, we’ll head in,” Jacob said.

“I can take them,” Honey said. “Valerie wanted to know if you could take Jackie. She wants to be with Jabari and Mack.”

“Sure,” Jacob said. “Jackie? Do you need to go potty?”

Jackie’s head went up and down.

“I’ll take them,” Honey said. “You sure you’re all right?”

“You bet,” Jacob said.

Katy refused to leave her father, so Honey left with Jabari, Mack, and Jackie. He knew better than to change diapers before the babies ate. Until the breast milk returned from being warmed up, there wasn’t anything Jacob could do. The babies would just have to scream for a while. He knelt down to Katy.

“What’s going on?” Jacob asked.

Katy threw her arms around Jacob and held on tight.

“Did you have a vision?” Jacob asked.

He felt more than saw Katy’s nod.

“What happened?” Jacob asked. He leaned back to look at her face. “What did you see?”

Katy looked up at her father.

“Do you know where Mommy is?” Katy asked.

“She is with her girlfriends,” Jacob said.

“I really want my mommy,” Katy said.

Before Jacob could say anything else, Katy began to wail. To his knowledge, Katy had not been this upset in years. But here she was crying and screaming. He did the only thing he could do — hold her tight.

“That guy sure has a way with kids,” a man said as he left the store.

His friend sniggered.

Jacob scowled at them but kept himself some doing something satisfying like blowing their tires out.

“Children have feelings,” M.J. said as he left the store. “Maybe you should get in touch with yours.”

The men whipped around to look at M.J. He gave them a gleeful “Go ahead, mess with me” look. They went back to their car.

“Faggots,” one of the men said as they got in the car.

Never one to back down easily, M.J. leaned over and kissed Jacob on the mouth. Jacob laughed.

“Get a room,” Jeraine said as he jogged back with the breast milk. “Where’s Jabari?

“Inside,” Jacob said.

“I’ll set up the diaper station,” M.J. said.

Jeraine climbed in the SUV and passed out the bottles of breast milk. They were finally not crying when Honey returned.

“How can I help?” Honey asked.

“I think we’re okay,” Jacob said.

“We waited because we knew you’d need help,” Honey said. “We told Aden and Val that we would help. That’s why they left. Let us help. We have seats if the toddlers want to go with us. Otherwise, we’re happy to help.”

“It’s also nice to get some time alone with your husband after he’s been gone,” Jacob said, mildly.

Honey squeezed Jacob’s hand.

“Why don’t I help get the toddlers lunch?” Honey asked. “You can spend some time with Katy.”

A police cruiser pulled in next to the SUV and two uniformed police stepped out.

“This your SUV?” the uniformed police asked.

“Sure,” Jacob said. Katy refused to budge from her grasp on his legs. “What’s up?”

“We heard that some kids were being abused,” the uniformed police officer said.

“The changing station is set up,” M.J. said. “Bladen’s done with his milk.”

Jacob nodded. M.J. moved to take Bladen from his car seat.

“Stop,” the uniformed police officer said.

“Why?” M.J. asked.

Jeraine stuck his head out from the SUV. He had Wyn on his lap.

“Are there all your kids?” the uniformed police officer asked.

“They are a mixture of our kids,” M.J. said. “Those two are Jake’s.”

“My daddy is Jeraine!” Jabari said.

“This is our friend’s infant,” Jeraine said. “Wyn.”

The baby burped in response to his name.

“He’s my brother,” Mack said.

“Our family is traveling together,” Jacob said. “There are five cars — two SUVs, a station wagon, an old Bronco, my sister’s van, and another SUV with gear. So three SUVs. This is the biggest.”

“With all of these kids?” the uniformed officer asked.

“The women wanted some time to themselves,” Jacob said. “They are traveling ahead. My cousin and his friend are taking our gear. This is my brother-in-law M.J. He’s in the military and has been out of the country for more than a month. He’s driving in my sister, Honey’s van. They wanted some time alone as well. We’re taking the kids.”

Jacob gestured to Honey.

“Afghanistan,” the uniformed officer said.

“Africa,” M.J. said. “U.S. Marine.”

“Oo-rah,” the uniformed officer’s partner said.

“You know who Jeraine is,” Jacob said. “My other sister, Valerie Lipson, and her husband are driving with their infant in the Bronco. That’s her toddler right there.”

Jackie gave the officers an uncomfortable wave.

“If you wait about six hours, you’ll catch up with my father, his girlfriend, her niece, and her friend,” Jacob said. “They had something they had to take care of before they came on the trip. But …”

“Stop,” the uniformed officer said. “I get it. We just had a report and wanted to check it out. We take child welfare very seriously.”

“That’s a good thing. Glad you checked,” Jacob said. “We’re not great at it but we’re doing our best. Right Jeraine?”

Jeraine waved a juice box at them.

“M.J.?” Jacob asked.

Rather than respond, he climbed into the SUV to get Bladen.

“Are you going to shoot us?” Jabari asked.

The uniformed officers laughed. Jeraine grabbed Jabari and pulled him away from the officers.

“How about if we get you some ice cream?” the uniformed officer asked.

“We love ice cream,” Mack said.

“Consider it done,” the uniformed officer said as they went inside.

Denver Cereal continues next week….

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