CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED AND SIXTY-FIVE
Thursday afternoon — 1:26 p.m.
As far as anyone can tell, it started at 1:26 p.m. The first one to experience it was Sandy.
“And then she said…” Sandy’s client said.
Busy clipping the client’s hair Sandy waited for the woman to continue her story. Instead, the woman started speaking gibberish.
“Wa-wa la-la na-na, zoamala,” the woman said.
Sandy put her hand on the woman’s shoulder.
“What did you say?” Sandy asked.
“Nzea nzzz! Magh,” the woman said nodding her head.
Used to people making no sense, Sandy nodded. She kept the conversation going with “uh-huhs” and nods. The woman was still talking gibberish when she signed the check with a nice tip and left the studio. The woman stopped to speak with her next client. The woman nodded and the last client left the studio.
“Hi Sandy,” her next client said.
“Hey! So what are we doing today?” Sandy asked.
She escorted the client to her chair. The woman sat down and Sandy put a gown on her.
“Are we still growing your hair out?” Sandy asked.
“Ynkz!” the woman nodded.
Her next words were complete gibberish. The client continued speaking gibberish for the next hour and a half while Sandy cut and died her hair. Setting the client under the dryer for her hair dye to set, Sandy went to the back and called Mike. Valerie had mentioned that the baby was due last week. If something like this was happening, it most likely had something to do with Valerie’s new baby boy.
“Hey Mike,” Sandy said. “I was wondering if…”
“Everyone speaking gibberish?” Mike asked with a laugh.
“Now that you mention it,” Sandy said.
“Valerie’s just started in labor,” Mike said.
“Ah,” Sandy said.
“You haven’t lost your mind,” Mike said with a laugh. “Delphie said that it probably had something to do with Valerie’s gift of being able to manipulate people with her voice.”
“Ah, that makes sense,” Sandy said.
“I bet you wish you knew this morning,” Mike said.
“Good to know now!” Sandy laughed.
“The midwife is here, but we have hours to go,” Mike said. “You’re going to have gibberish all day. Can you reschedule your day?”
“No,” Sandy said.
“Sorry,” Mike said.
“Oh,” Sandy said with a sigh. “Most days it seems like people are talking gibberish.”
“That’s a fact,” Mike said.
“See you tonight,” Sandy said.
Sandy hung up the phone and returned to her client. The woman looked up and continued speaking in happy gibberish. Sandy smiled and washed the client’s hair.
Thursday afternoon — 1:51 p.m.
“I found it really shocking,” Tanesha said to Heather. “They were screaming at each other in the Marlowe parking lot.”
Tanesha had taken Heather’s Subaru to the Marlowe School. They were back in the car with Heather driving after they had learned that Valerie was in labor. On the way, Jill had called to ask if they would pick up the Chinese Food order. It seemed that Jill had tried to call their usual place, but no matter what she did, she couldn’t understand what they were saying. She’d ended up ordering online at a different place.
“It seems like there’s a lot of it, now,” Heather said.
“There’s the truth,” Tanesha said. “They play that news show in the trailer when we go into some neighborhoods. The clients say that it relaxes them. To me, it’s just people speaking gibberish and venting their anger.”
“That sounds fun, maybe I should watch,” Heather said.
Shaking her head, Tanesha gave Heather a rueful look.
“Which show?” Heather asked.
“Oh, you know, that one where the guy yells all the time,” Tanesha said. “Says horrible things about everyone. I can’t remember his name. You know who I mean?”
Heather scowled. She wasn’t sure what Tanesha meant but she didn’t want to disrupt the story.
“You know the one that your mom used to like,” Tanesha said. “People call in and scream at each other or the host insults them and hangs up.”
“Sorry,” Heather said with a sneer. “I’d forgotten all about that whole world of entertainment-by-rage-for-no-reason.”
Tanesha shook her head and laughed.
“What?” Heather asked.
“How could you possibly forget?” Tanesha asked.
“A few things have happened since I had to worry about the lovely Psyche tortured my life,” Heather said.
“Thank God,” Tanesha said and nodded.
“Yes,” Heather said. “But as Blane likes to say …”
“Which God?” Tanesha and Heather asked in unison.
“Anyway, I was telling you about these women in the parking lot,” Tanesha said.
“This just happened,” Heather said.
“Yes,” Tanesha said. “I had to drop off a sweater for Jabari because it’s decided to actually snow this afternoon.”
“How is Jabari?” Heather asked.
“You saw him a few hours ago,” Tanesha said.
“I know, he’s just such a lovely kid,” Heather said.
“And Mack?” Tanesha laughed. “You didn’t ask about him.”
“You’re right,” Heather said. “I really wanted to know why my son wants to go to school and not stay home with me!”
Tanesha laughed. Heather glanced at Tanesha and gave her a sad pout which made Tanesha laugh even harder.
“Fine,” Heather said. “Go ahead and laugh.”
“Oh you can’t be serious,” Tanesha said.
“I’m not,” Heather said with a grin. “Mack loves his friends. If he was home, he’d want to have them over or go to the Castle. This way Mack and Jabari can play with Jackie, Maggie, and Rachel all day.”
“And not drive us crazy asking to be with each other,” Tanesha said. “How did you know that Mack would need a sweater?”
“I am a Goddess,” Heather said with a pretend sniff.
“Are there Gods of weather?” Tanesha asked.
“There are many,” Heather said. “Adad is the Assyrian storm God,” Heather said. “You probably remember Yu Shi, Wen Zhong, and Feng Po from …”
“Big Trouble in Little China,” Tanesha said. “But …”
“In the classic Maya period, Kamil took care of lightning while Chaac took care of rain,” Heather talked over Tanesha. “Ehecatl is the God of Wind. Of course in the K’iche Maya period …”
“I’m sorry I asked,” Tanesha said.
“Zeus,” Heather said, and rolled to a stop at the light.
“Zeus what?” Tanesha looked around as if Zeus was walking down the sidewalk.
“He’s not here,” Heather said. Tanesha breathed a sigh of relief. “He’s the God of Storms. The Romans called him …”
“Jupiter,” Tanesha said. “Yes, I was in Greek Mythology with you.”
“There’s a lot of African Gods for weather because there’s a lot of weather in Africa,” Heather said, to torture Tanesha and show off a little. “The Celtic God for rain was …”
“Is there a God for stop talking about Gods?” Tanesha asked, good naturedly.
“You mean a God of not talking about Gods?” Heather asked. She thought for a moment. “No, but I can appoint you if you’d like.”
“No, thank you,” Tanesha said with a laugh.
They’re lives were so busy that there was rarely a moment for the two of them to spend time together, let alone drive around in the warm car with no rush and no kds. Tanesha smiled. It was fun. She glanced at Heather, who nodded in agreement.
“You were telling me about the pointless argument you witnessed,” Heather said.
“That’s just it,” Tanesha said. “I was telling you because it was weird. I had Jabari’s sweater in my hand and was walking across the Marlowe School parking lot. I noticed these women when I drove in. They were laughing and talking as they walked across the lot. They looked like they were there to drop off warm clothing for their kids too. You never said how you knew about the snow.”
“I didn’t,” Heather said. “I just put Mack in clothes. Jabari isn’t as used to wearing clothes.”
“Because that so-and-so used didn’t want to waste her money on clothing for him,” Tanesha grumbled.
“Yes,” Heather said, and cleared her throat.
“I’m not sorry,” Tanesha said. “That woman is horrible.”
“She’s also the reason Jabari is here,” Heather said.
“Yes, fine,” Tanesha said. “Thank you, stupid cow, for having Jabari and being such a horrible human being that we found out that he’s our child.”
“And sent him to you,” Heather said.
“I can’t,” Tanesha said. “I just can’t. That was seriously messed up.”
Heather smiled in response.
“Anyway,” Heather said with big eyes and Tanesha nodded. “Jabari didn’t want to wear his sweater. Blane took them to school and you know how he is.”
“Blane!” Tanesha said in joking frustration. Imitating Blane, she added, “If you don’t want to wear it, you don’t have to.”
“So the ladies are walking across the parking lot …” Heather said to encourage Tanesha.
“Yes, thank you,” Tanesha said. “They are laughing and talking. I got out of your car and started across the lot. I’m not two minutes behind them, no more.”
Heather nodded. Tanesha pointed to a free spot on the street. Heather started parallel parking.
“All of the sudden, these women started screaming at each other,” Tanesha said.
“About what?” Heather asked.
“I have no idea,” Tanesha said. “They were talking gibberish. It was like a spell, but … uh … I didn’t smell any magic.”
“Smell magic?” Heather asked in an amused voice.
“Don’t tell Fin,” Tanesha said. “They were so angry with each other that the people in the office notice. The assistant principal ran out of the office. I was pretty almost inside when she yelled …”
“Who?” Heather asked.
“The assistant principal,” Tanesha said. “She yelled, ‘Any ideas?’ I shook my head no. She nodded to the sweater in my hand. I said, ‘For Jabari.’ She nodded and I went inside.”
“What did you do?” Heather asked.
“I dropped off the sweater,” Tanesha said.
“About the women,” Heather said.
“That’s just it,” Tanesha said. “I didn’t know what to do. The Assistant Principal seemed to know them so I figured she had it in hand.”
“Hmm,” Heather said. She pulled out of the spot to try to park again. “It is weird.”
“I thought so too, especially since Jill was having trouble with the Chinese Food place,” Tanesha said.
“Do you think they’re connected?” Heather asked.
“Who knows?” Tanesha asked. “Actually, I thought it might be some vague planetary thing like Mercury in Retrograde or some other such nonsense.”
Heather smiled. The Subaru tapped the car behind them and the alarm started to blare.
“Do you mind going in?” Heather asked.
“Not at all,” Tanesha said. “I’ll check to see if we need to leave a note.”
“Thanks,” Heather said.
Tanesha hopped out of the car. Heather watched Tanesha go around the car and into the restaurant. Heather didn’t want to admit it to Tanesha, but people suddenly talking gibberish can be caused by a lot of truly horrible beings. Loki, a particularly asshole-ish Norse God, would love this trick. But any of the trickster Gods could be behind this madness. Heather had just started to think about the trickster Gods when Loki appeared in the passenger seat. Heather groaned.
“Hello, my darling,” Loki purred. “You rang?”
“I did not call you,” Heather said. “Remember our agreement — you don’t come unless I call. I don’t come unless you call.”
“This is true,” Loki said. He looked out the window at the people walking along Colfax. “We are talking about orgasms, aren’t we?”
Heather socked him in the arm, and he laughed.
“It wasn’t me,” Loki said. “This gibberish thing. It is fun though. I might just stick around to see how it all turns out.”
“Okay,” Heather said.
“Okay?” Loki turned to look at her. “What do you mean by ‘okay’?”
“Okay, means that I will just shower Oden with a little … love for you breaking your promise to only be here when I call you.”
Heather threatened to make Loki’s brother Oden impervious to Loki’s harassment. Loki gasped.
“You wouldn’t,” Loki said, and scowled. “You couldn’t.”
“I’m a full Goddess now,” Heather said. “Didn’t you know?”
Loki looked embarrassed. Tanesha came out of the Chinese Food restaurant and started toward the car.
“You forgot,” Heather said.
“I forgot,” Loki said.
“You have to either go or move,” Heather said.
“Your human friend won’t even notice me,” Loki said.
Tanesha opened the passenger door.
“Whatever God you are, you have to move,” Tanesha said. “You might be able to …” Tanesha waved her hands in the air, “… whatever, but that’s my seat.”
“Prove it,” Loki said.
Tanesha clapped her hands and Loki jumped like his pants were on fire. He shifted to the back seat and patted his rear for a while. Tanesha got in the passenger seat.
“I warned you,” Heather said.
Loki gave her an irritated sneer. He sniffed in Tanesha’s direction.
“What is she?” Loki asked.
“Her name is Tanesha,” Heather said. “She’s a direct descendant of Queen Fand’s.”
“Little fairyling,” Loki said. “So what?”
“And Uriel,” Heather said.
Loki looked like he’d swallowed poison. Heather started her car and looked into her rearview mirror.
“Who are you?” Tanesha asked.
“That’s Loki,” Heather said with a scowl.
“That’s Loki?” Tanesha gasped.
Loki turned to look at her.
“What’s it to you, mixed blood?” Loki asked.
“Nothing,” Tanesha said.
She turned to look him up and down. She nodded to Heather, who said, “See what I mean?”
“Hmmpt,” Loki said.
They drove in silence while Loki pouted.
“You know that gibberish thing?” Tanesha asked.
Heather nodded. Loki turned his head to listen in.
“It happened in the Chinese Food restaurant too,” Tanesha said.
“Weird,” Heather said. She looked in the rearview mirror at Loki. “You’re sure you didn’t do this?”
“It’s you,” Loki said. “I would have told you before that but you threatened me.”
“How did you threaten him?” Tanesha asked.
“I can make his brother impervious to Loki’s torment,” Heather said. “Can’t I?”
Loki gave Heather an irritated sniff and crossed his arms.
“Let’s go back,” Tanesha said. “What do you mean by saying ‘It’s me’?”
“It’s complicated,” Loki said.
“We have a few minutes,” Heather said. “Explain.”
“There are these two beings,” Loki said. “They were created when this planet was created or so it’s said. I always said that they were likely to be aliens — or really that she was an alien and he is her child. No one agrees with me, as usual. Their names are …”
“Gilfand and Abi?” Tanesha asked at the same time Heather said their original names.
“How did you know?” Loki asked.
“Abi lives here now,” Heather said.
“With that Prince,” Loki said with a nod. “I’d heard that but it’s so hard to keep straight. I really should leave.”
“What does this have to do with Abi?” Heather asked.
“Really, there’s bad blood between …” Loki said. “You’d do well to let me go.”
Tanesha turned to look at Loki.
“You don’t have to tell us about your argument with Abi and Gilfand,” Tanesha said. “We just really want to know what’s going on right now. You can tell us the rest later.”
“Fine,” Loki said. “Gilfand loves to … create children. He basically single handedly populated this planet. His direct descendants have a variety of talents. One is to have a powerful voice. People unwittingly do whatever they say.”
“Valerie has that gift,” Heather said with a nod. “She and Jacob are descendants of Gilfand. We thought it was Fand, but it seems like Fand is some kind of descendant from Gilfand, although that can’t be true.”
“Because Fand was dropped here?” Loki asked.
“Right,” Heather said.
“I wonder who dropped Abi and Gilfand here,” Loki said with a distinct roll of his eyes.
“Ah,” Heather said.
“This is a common side-effect of going through a transition,” Loki said. “When the descendant is going through a transition, the people they love experience manifest gibberish around them.”
“How …?” Tanesha asked.
“How would I know?” Loki asked, in an irritated voice. “Now, if that’s all, I’ll say ‘good day.’”
Heather pulled into the Castle parking lot while Tanesha laughed at their interaction with Loki. Mike met them in the driveway.
“Did you find everyone …?” Mike asked.
“Gibberish?” Heather asked. “Val’s doing it.”
“Delphie said that she thought it was Val, but she couldn’t be sure,” Mike said “How do you know?”
“Loki,” Heather said.
“Ah, good to know,” Mike said.
His cell phone rang and he answered it. Heather and Tanesha continued toward the side door of the Castle. They’d just walked through the door when there was a thud. Loki dropped to the ground.
“The door’s charmed,” Heather said.
Mike stepped over Loki and went inside talking to Sandy. Heather waved to Loki and closed the door.
“What is it?” Abi asked.
She held her long spear in her hand with her baby in the other arm and Queen Fand’s baby on her back. Jacob’s dog Sandy was right at her side.
“Loki,” Heather said.
Heather and Tanesha continued carrying the Chinese Food into the Castle kitchen. Mike stood in the Castle living room talking to Sandy. Abi opened the side door. Heather heard a yelp and Abi closed the door. Laughing, she came into the kitchen a moment after them.
“I love that boy,” Abi said with a grin.
“Loki?” Heather asked. “You may be the only one.”
Abi kissed Heather’s cheek.
“I’ll get Fin,” Abi said.
Heather’s eyes followed her. The smell of the Chinese Food brought everyone to the kitchen. Tanesha brought a stack of plates while Heather set out the boxes. Lunch was served.
Thursday afternoon — 3:58 p.m.
“What?” Mike asked.
He turned to look at his sister, Candy. After a day of some people speaking gibberish while others spoke clearly the whole time Valerie was in labor, Mike wondered if maybe his ears weren’t working right.
“I know,” Candy said.
“No,” Mike said. He asked for the thousandth time today, “What did you say?”
“I said that Jazmyne lost custody of the child,” Candy said. “They’re going to call you.”
“I’m sorry,” Mike said. “It’s been a crazy day. Can you start at the beginning?”
Candy’s eyes opened wide and she swallowed hard.
“You don’t know what I’m talking about,” Candy said. Her face flushed with real regret. She opened and closed her mouth. In a very small voice, she said, “I guess I didn’t tell you.”
“Tell me what?” Mike asked.
Mike grabbed Candy by the arms and Candy gasped.
“Just tell me, Candy,” Mike said. “We’ve been to hell and back and hell and back. There are no words that you could say that would injure me than being forced to watch some asshole chop the heads off children or dealing with our parents dying in a foreign country or Val leaving me or…”
Mike sighed and let her go.
“Sorry,” Mike said. “I know you’re afraid to speak your truth. I just…”
He leaned over to look her in the eye, and then he kissed her forehead.
“I love you,” Mike said. “For everything you are and you aren’t. There are no words that will change that.”
“You remember Jazmyne?” Candy asked.
“Firefighter,” Mike said, nodding. “Cheater. Liar. Ex-girlfriend who we thought was supporting you but was really standing in your way.”
“You can add murderer to that list,” Candy said.
“Murder?” Mike asked.
“She killed her latest partner,” Candy said.
Mike’s eyes pinched down to slits with worry for his sister. Candy swallowed hard before starting to speak.
“Remember how we asked if we could have some of your sperm?” Candy asked. “You know, to get pregnant?”
“And then you remember how we broke up?” Candy asked.
“You found out about her other relationship and she changed the locks,” Mike said. “We had to sue her to get your stuff back?”
“I didn’t get your sperm back,” Candy said.
Mike shrugged. He opened his mouth to say something crude, but then thought better of it.
“Thanks,” Candy said with a knowing grin.
“She used the sperm,” Mike said. “Had a child.”
“Oh,” Mike said. “Shit. How are we going to tell Val?”
He turned away from Candy and looked in the direction of where Valerie was in labor.
“I wonder why Delphie didn’t know,” Mike said.
“She did,” Candy said. “She told me to deal with it before everything blew up but I…”
Mike hugged her tight.
“That’s a terrible burden for you,” Mike said. “Thank you for telling me.”
He turned away to go back to Valerie, but Candy put her hand on Mike’s arm.
“Jazmyne lost the children,” Candy said.
Mike turned back.
“Children?” Mike asked.
Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…
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