Star Chamber
Chapter 4: First Monday in the Basement

Copyright© 2019 by A Carpenter's Son

November 23, 2020:

First Monday in the basement. The carpenter and the electrician both arrived at 8:00 A.M. sharp. John got them started, took their bids and asked a few questions then agreed to both.

The carpet arrived at 9:00 A.M. The boys and girls along with a dozen volunteers helped get it inside. The guys with the truck said the factory had stacks of one pattern that was paid for, but the company had had a fire and looks like it was going out of business. The carpet had just become sellable. John called up his contact and got a price of a dollar twenty-five a square. He ordered another 5,000-carpet tile.

Hobart arrived just after 1:00 P.M. and that took, an hour and a half getting the Freezer and Refer into place. The two units could be wired for 110 or 220. The electrician suggested the 220 voltage and so that was a little project.

A little after 2:00 P.M. the water piping guy showed up. He checked many different things and when he determined nothing had changed gave John an updated current estimate. John told him to start ASAP. He left saying his crew would be there at 8:00 the next morning to get started.

John had another plumber stop by and laughed when John asked him about another bathroom. The plumber took John to the room just south of the current bathroom and asked if it would do because it had been roughed in when he was just starting out thirty years ago. John smiled, because his expectations on spending just went from $8,000 - $10,000 to $1,600 - $1,800.

During the second day of the carpet going down, the furnace turned off. John had noticed during a fifteen-minute period all the volunteers and kids had taken their coats, sweatshirts or outer garments off. The carpet was doing its job. The building was warming up. John found the temperature at the thermostat at 75 degrees. Tony and Greg were with John and the two young men smiled as John turned the thermostat down to 68.

The snow was falling again. The forecast was another four feet during the next week. “Willa, how is the fruit supply at the Food Mart?” Willa had become a part time cashier for the Food Mart. She had worked in the local store on the reservation since she was fourteen.

“We just got our delivery yesterday.” Willa said then asked, “Thinking about a trip before too much more snow?”

“Yes, do you and Tony want to go with me?” John asked.

“Yes!”

“A thousand dollars Father John. I’m always glad to see you come in.” Said Wilbur the Manager, “Just a minute Father John.” The three were heading to the door with seven carts full. Two of them had 400 pounds of big potatoes in them. Two of them was full of meat with another one full of turkeys, “Your truck full of cases should be here in the morning.” Willa had put together an order, ran it by John who tripled it then approved and passed it onto Wilbur.

‘When do I need to pay you for it?” John asked.

“Before the first of the month. I send my check to them before the fifth and we’ll be good.” Wilbur said.

“We took all of your sour cream. I hope to teach the kids how to make a tasty dinner with a baked potato, chili, sour cream and either bacon bits or green onions tonight.” John laughed, then got serious, “Did you hear we got another bunch of snow coming?”

“Any idea how much Father John?” Wilbur asked.

“Nancy at the church says one station reported the Jet Stream is stuck in a pattern. All of our weather is coming out of the Gulf of Alaska and we may see another eight feet or more.” John reported.

“A few years ago, I passed on being the distributor for Snowmobiles. Darn, I could have really cleaned up.” Wilbur said.

John laughed with Wilbur, “If you see anybody that needs help, we are going to have about 128 beds. Room for at least 500 to 600 people. If you get a chance, come see what we have done to it.”

“How about I bring my family for a visit the Friday after Thanksgiving?” Wilbur asked.

“That will be a date sir.” John said.

When they got back to the shelter John was pleased to see one of the twenty-four-foot storage sections was completed and well anchored to the wall and ceiling. The other three were also completed but needed to be attached to the wall and ceiling. Everyone helped get the food in.

Wow, we seemed to have plenty of room. Brad shared his opinion.

“We have a very large truck coming tomorrow bringing us food.” John told the kids and volunteers. Kirk the carpenter was also listening.

“John, I should have these all done by 9:00 A.M tomorrow morning.” Kirk said.

“That’s fantastic.” John thought for a second, “Kirk, you are a member of the church?” When John got a nod, “Is everything okay at home.”

“Yah, we’re members. We are getting by. No power, no water, no heat, except for the fireplace.” Kirk said, “I have a really good fireplace insert that keeps the living room warm. Every year I buy three cords of wood and save it for a year to let it become seasoned, so we actually have six cords of wood available.”.

“We’re to get more snow. Long range says we may see twelve feet of snow. There has not been a sunspot for over twelve months. You and your family may come here if you run into problems.” John smiled as the offer was heart felt by him, “Do you have two weeks of materials to support you if you cannot get to the hardwood store?”

“I’ve got a lot, but I will double check, so I do.” Kirk smiled.

John told the electrician the same thing. The plumber had everything he needed and could work to completion even if he could not go out.

A couple came down the hall as John was heading for the kitchen, “Hi, can I help you?”

“The Grocer Wilbur told us to find a Father John?” The young man asked. The young lady was shivering.

“I’m Father John.” John said.

“We need ... help. I have a job in Portland, but we understand a major storm is heading this way and the Interstate to Portland has been closed. There is a white out south of Olympia. I’m Peter Adams and this is my wife Patty.”

John moved to stand beside Patty feeling her face and hands. He looked around and spotted two that could help, “Gloria and Nancy. Help me please.” The two stood up and covered the sixty feet in a few seconds, “This is Peter and Patty, please take them to the furnace room and once you have them warmed up, bring them back so we can feed them.” John directed. The furnace room was about ten to fifteen degrees warmer than any other place in the shelter.

John took one step towards where the coffee was and witnessed the Judge with a woman come through the main door. “I was just going to sit down and have a cup of coffee. Please Join me.” John recognized the woman from the Sunday Service.

“I’m Jennifer Roberts from DSHS.” The young lady held out her gloved hand to John. John was frozen in thought.

“Have we ever met before Ms. Roberts?” John stammered but got out.

“Sunday was the first time I’ve ever seen you.” Jennifer smiled, “Well for real that is.”

“Hi Reverend John.” The Judge chuckeled then repeated.

“Are you two together?” John asked.

“No, we are neighbors almost. We just happen to be both coming to see you.” Judge Clark said.

Ms. Roberts was watching Peter and Patty eat, “What is being served?”

“It looks like the chicken and sausage gumbo over rice.” John said then asked, “Want to try it?”

“Yes, it sounds delicious. Just a small amount, maybe a cupful.” Jenifer Roberts said with a weak voice.

Nancy came up to John and handed him some mail that had been forwarded, “The food truck is here. And the carpet guys said they would be here at around 2:00 P.M.”

“Nancy can you get a small bowl of the rice with gumbo over it for Ms. Roberts here.” John asked, “I’ll be right back Judge as soon as I get the troops deployed.”

Peter and Patty both followed John towards the opening where Tony and Willa were, “Tony, Willa can you be my captains and handle this?” John asked.

“We were Colonels in book three.” Willa said with a smile.

“When we have our own space force and have won a battle or two from the aliens, I’ll make you Colonels again.” Peter and Patty did not have a clue what they were talking about, “Oh by the way, this is Peter and Patty. Meet Tony and Willa.”

“We were wondering when you two were going to show up.” Tony said.

“You were expecting us?” Patty frowned.

“Peter, do you teach Martial Arts?” Tony asked.

“Yes. Yes, I do.” Peter was wondering how in the hell did they know this about him.

“John has written three books about A Thousand Years of Peace. The first word for the first chapter of book one is “Peter.” You earn your black belt early in the book in martial arts.” Willa said, “We will show you later. Here comes the food.” The kids and volunteers got the trailer unloaded and into the new shelves, freezer and refrigerator by 1:30 P.M. It was a riot just watching as the kids laughed and made it look like play. This was food for them and others, so they did not go hungry. They sat down for a great lunch. At 2:15 the carpet showed up and the kids were at it again. By 4:30 the carpet was unloaded and staged. This batch would be used for the main east – west line and the kitchen and other common areas.

After talking with Tony, Willa, Peter and Patty, John returned to the Judge and Ms. Roberts. John was as excited as a 10-year-old at Christmas that is expecting a puppy or new bicycle. Could this be his mate for the rest of his life. It was in his stories.

“I tried calling 911. There is no connection.” The Judge was standing over Ms. Roberts. She was still sitting in her chair bent over face down on the table.

John pressed the back of his hand to Ms. Roberts’ forehead, “She has a high fever.” He pulled the chair she was sitting in out so he could pick her up. Once she was in his arms, he headed for the STAR chamber. Once he got there, he went to one knee and laid her on the cushion. John opened her coat then did a healing on her.

Jennifer dreamed she was in heaven with God. She was asking God if John was her mate that she had been searching for. Jenny as she liked to be called, felt the excitement go through her entire body that she had found her mate. She felt safe.

“John, I found you, I feel safe now.” Jenny whispered, “I’m home!”

John looked at the Judge and Nancy. They both looked at each other and smiled. They both had read at least the first book. They knew what they were witnessing. The beginning of a Romance.

“John, can I stay here with you?” Jenny asked, “My house is broken. I will die if I go back to that place.”

“Yes. Do you feel ready to move Jenny?” John asked.

Jenny wiggled her toes, then her fingers and finally her nose, “I feel like I’ve known you forever. Where are we going?”

“To my room.”

The Next Morning. November 24, 2020. Tuesday before Thanksgiving:

Jenny was sleeping so soundly. She thought she heard a page turn in a book. A couple of minutes later the noise was there again. She opened one eye and a little girl was looking at her. She had in her lap a book that had come this morning. Someone had ordered two hundred books and they came with the man that delivered the 20 computers. Everyone was excited. Another man that would fix the internet was here. He lived a mile away and had all the pieces to do it right or so he said.

“Hello. Who are you?” Jenny whispered.

“I’m Lucy. Papa John asked me if I would stay here until you woke up. He said you would need to find the bathroom then coffee and food.”

“Give me a minute. I need to put some clothes on.” Jenny was shocked to find she only had panties on. Then she remembered sleeping in his arms. She had gotten hot in the middle of the night and undressed herself. She wiggled back into the position easing his arm over her. First time she truly felt safe and loved since her parents died. She looked at the clock, “I must have slept sixteen hours or more.”

A few minutes later Jenny was guided to the bathroom. Then they checked out the new girl’s bathroom. Lucy pointed out that the pipe man was putting in a shower. He was so busy he didn’t even see them watch him work. The girl’s bathroom would have three toilets and a large shower and two sinks. The boy’s bathroom had two toilets and a urinal with also a large shower and two sinks.

“Lucy is there a back door?” Jenny asked.

“Yes.” Lucy took Jenny into the furnace room. There next to the wall was new steps leading up to a door that was about four feet tall, “There. That’s how we got in the first time.” When they came out another man was on a step ladder putting in the “EXIT” sign. Two other men were putting in smoke detectors everywhere. She thought, John’s doing this as right as possible. I can’t fault him for that.

They went to the main hallway. There must have been thirty or forty people working on the floor. They were at the food court and some were heading down pass the kitchen and dining area. The Judge and John were moving tables out of the way. The kids were having a great time. There was a boom box with music playing. It seemed like every minute resulted in another dozen of the carpet tiles on the floor, now in two directions. One work party was heading towards the front door to the west. Another was going down the aisleway past the dining room heading south. Doing the dining room as they went. Both work parties had a vacuum in front cleaning the floor before they laid the tiles.

“Lucy, I want to be part of this.” Jenny said.

“Papa John loves you. When he talks about you his heart opens up and his voice becomes soft.” Lucy giggled, “You can be our Mama Jenny. Anyway, you’re in all of the books like me.”

Jenny bent and picked up Lucy. She was hugging the little girl with her eyes closed saying over and over, “Thank you!”

“Jenny are you, all right?” The Judge asked.

“I’m fine Judge.” Jenny gave the Judge a big smile. She was still hugging Lucy. “Catching up on some hugs!”

Lucy pushed away and looked at Jenny, “Can I get some more hugs later?”

“Whenever you want a hug, you come find me.” Jenny said as she lowered Lucy to her feet.

“Are you hungry?” John asked, “Oh good morning.” He felt like a teenager falling over his own feet.

“I normally don’t eat much for breakfast. Fruit maybe.” Jenny said, “Good morning John.”

“We have all kinds of fruit...” John was going to list them.

“Banana would be fine.” Jenny said to John’s back as he spun around and headed off after a banana.

“Oh, I forgot coffee.”

Lucy took off, “I’ll tell him.”

“Did you find what you were looking for?” The Judge asked.

“Yes, I did. In fact, I found way more.” Jenny was watching John, Willa and another girl come towards them.

John handed Jenny a banana. She was looking at him when he said, “Jenny, this is Patty.”

There was several seconds of questions then two screams of acknowledgement were heard by all. The two girls were in each other’s arms talking and hugging and crying.

“How did you know Patty was my stepsister?” Jenny asked.

“It’s in the books.” John smiled, “Judge shall we go and move some tables back?” The two men walked towards the tables both chuckling.

“John, last night I slept the best I can remember. Today I have laughed more and have seen more laughter than I can ever remember.” The Judge shared.

“Thanks Judge, maybe I’m doing something right. These kids deserve all the love and laughter in the world.”

The crew stopped to take a break. They went to get coffee, or an apple or banana. Some disappeared towards the bathroom, soon to be bathrooms.

Two police officers with Peggy came in the front door.

“Peggy, are you okay?” The Judge asked as he showed his ID to the two county Sheriff Deputies. John had to sign for her, as a result he too proved his identity.

“Didn’t get no sleep last night and very little the nights before.” Peggy answered.

“Do you still want to do this?” The Judge asked.

“Better than thirty days and no sleep.” Peggy looked around. Two big units must be a freezer and a refrigerator. Lots of counter space. Three big rice cookers. A toaster with twelve slots for bread. A big table with all kinds of fruit on it. The carpet looked brand new, and it looked like they were putting down more of the stuff. Another counter with three microwaves on it. The stove had a big top oven too. There were several other things, but Peggy didn’t know what they were. She walked over to the big pot. It looked to be four or five gallons. It was also a rice cooker and next to it was a gumbo or soup that smelled divine in another large kettle, “Can I eat?”

“Yes Peggy. Help yourself.” John said. The Judge was nodding also.

The kids and volunteers were back at it when Peggy sat down. Peggy ate as she watched the mad house unfold before her, but they were having fun. Everyone had an important job. The cold concrete floor was being covered row by row. They had a beat which seemed to be in sync with her feeding a spoonful of food into her mouth. Every minute another row of carpet tile was laid. In ten minutes, they were fifteen feet further down the hallway. The Judge and John sat down near Peggy.

“What do you want me to do?” Peggy asked.

“Help me run this place. Help me keep the kids and anyone else that comes in that door safe, fed, loved and alive.” John said, “If possible, have some fun with it.”

The Judge gave John a look and a smile.

“When are you going to paint the walls and ceilings?”

“This summer when we can open up all the doors.” John looked at the Judge and smiled. Peggy wasn’t looking for a way to escape, “We’ll get some big fans to keep the air as clean as possible.”

“I like to paint. We could paint each door a different color. How many colors of carpet do you have?”

“Four. We used one for each of the four hallways then used the excess for the rooms.” John said.

“It is better to paint first then put carpet down.” The Judge shared.

“Absolutely Judge, the only exception is when we have four feet of snow and if we were not open for business more people are going to die.” John said.

Peggy looked at John to see if he was serious, “How much snow are we going to get?”

“Maybe twelve feet or more.” John answered.

“How many can we fit down here?” The Judge asked.

“I have beds for two hundred and cushions for another four hundred. Although I’m hearing from God, we are going to get over 1,000.”

“Over a Thousand. That kitchen won’t support six hundred people, no way for a thousand.” The Judge said.

“Going sixteen hours a day, it just might keep everyone from starving.” John and The Judge both looked at Peggy.

“I’m going to need to work sixteen hours a day?” Peggy had the look of fear.

“No, but we may need you to do eight to ten and teach a lot of volunteers what you know about being healthy.” John said, “You have a Food Handles Permit?”

“Yes, but it has been a while.” Peggy stood up, “What do I do with the dishes?

“Follow me.” John lead the way and both Peggy, and The Judge followed.

“We rinse them in this sink, put them into the dishwasher and when it is full put soap in and hit wash.”

Peggy retrieved all the dishes still left on the table. Filled the Dishwasher, put soap in and turned the machine on. She then grabbed a towel, got it wet and started wiping all the tables down. Peggy turned to the two men and asked, “Do I pass?”

“You do for me.” John said. John and The Judge were moving more tables and chairs into place. Twelve more of the eight-foot tables and twenty-six of the four-foot tables had showed up yesterday from Wal-Mart. Along with the tables were 184 folding chairs with cushions to match the sixteen that John had found in the basement. It would be a while before they had anymore.

As the men set up the tables, Peggy cleaned them. She found several boxes with salt and pepper shakers and dispensers for napkins. She placed those on each table. She found cadies that would hold ketchup and tabasco sauce. She found such and filed up the cadies. She found little cubes for diet and regular sugar packets. She rummaged around and found the packets and put them in the cubes. “There we’re ready for whatever you throw at us Mother Nature.” Peggy said to no one.

John and the Judge watched as Peggy made the place feel right. When she staggered, both men moved to her side and helped her stand up. John checked her head and found normal for temperature.

“Let’s take her to the STAR chamber Judge.” John directed.

Once they got there, they laid Peggy down covered with a blanket with her head on a pillow, “Peggy, sleep as long as you like. When you wake, we’ll find you a room.” John said after giving her a quick healing.

“Think she will be alright?” The Judge asked as the two men moved back to their cups of coffee.

“Yes, she’s just really tired. When she wakes up, we will feed her again and if she wants, we will let her sleep some more.”

When the two men arrived back at the tables, Jenny was there with Peter and Patty. Just as everyone had their coffees a little girl about ten came to them, “Can you help my daddy. He has too much stuff.” The little girl was covered with snow but had many layers on. The group moved as one towards the steps coming down. Wilbur the grocer was trying to move a big wagon down the steps. There must have been five hundred pounds of meat in that wagon. Next to it was a home-made sled that had big bundles of toilet paper, paper napkins and paper towels, “The roof fell in.”

Behind Wilbur and his family was Ivan and Fran Chase with their two daughters from the Café, “Our roof is also about to fall in. It is sagging down about a foot in the middle of the restaurant. Do you have room for us?”

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