Nuala was all class in her stained tank top and no bra. She raised an arm to wave at Aden.
Working not to flinch at Nuala’s hairy armpit and flopping breasts, Aden smiled. He watched his babies greet their mother and then turn into the house. He made it back into the driver’s seat before his emotions — rage, sadness, helplessness, shame — caught up with him. Swatting the tears from his eyes, he turned down Colfax toward Denver.
He was due in Jake’s hospital room at ten.
Stopping at a traffic light, Aden marveled at how life worked out. He had never planned on having kids. In fact, he never thought he liked kids. But when his crazy, wild girlfriend got pregnant, he did the right thing and married her. In a desperate attempt to keep them off the streets, he started as a day laborer for Lipson Construction.
Lipson was good for him. Nuala was not. Fourteen months and another baby later, she was gone.
But Lipson stuck. He worked his way up one job at a time, one year at a time, to become a site manager. He loved being a site manager. He thought he’d retire as a site manager.
Four years and three months ago, Jake appeared at the job site. Aden had worked at Lipson almost ten years. He had seen Jake around the sites but hadn’t spoken to the owner’s son before. After all, Jake was a carpenter, a college boy, not an underground man. He wasn’t even a Lipson. Aden swaggered over to talk to the kid.
“I need a good man to help me out,” Jake said. “Interested?”
“Hire an assistant,” Aden said. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I’ve got to get back. We’re expecting …”
Aden stopped talking when Jake laughed. Aden shook his head at the kid and started to walk back toward the site trailer.
“You’d get to set your schedule.”
Aden spun around to look at Jake. He was about to walk away when he realized what that kind of freedom would mean for his children’s lives. He could finally coach a soccer team, participate in Noelle’s art classes … and … He squinted his eyes at Jake.
“What do you want?”
“I told you. I need a good man to help me out. I’m sure money’s not important to you, but the job comes with a fifteen-hundred dollar raise.”
“A year?” Aden asked.
“A month.” Jake smiled.
Aden did the math in his head. Fifteen hundred dollars was a chunk of change, but less than a third of what he was making. How serious was this kid?
“Two thousand,” Aden said. “And annual raises. This doesn’t cap my salary.”
And, as they say, the rest was history.
He’d worked for about six months before he realized Jake was grooming him, Aden Norsen, to take over Lipson Construction. Jake made him finish college and forced him through an MBA program. Scumbag, loser, dropout Aden Norsen was an MBA.
The thought still made Aden laugh.
Pulling up to the Detroit Street workshop, Aden made his way through the tunnels to the Castle. He tapped on the kitchen door and was met by Delphie. Delphie gave him a small box and a hug.
“They’ll be all right?” Aden asked.
“They’ll be home tomorrow,” Delphie said.
“Tomorrow night, late.”
“Thanks.” Aden hugged her again.
“Enjoy yourself today!”
Delphie raised an eyebrow, then closed the door in his face. Aden made an irritated face at the door. Delphie always told him just enough to relieve his anxiety and pique his curiosity. She saved the full story for later, after it was all over, as a kind of “I told you so.”
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1, continues tomorrow…
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