With apologies to the Beatles, the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, and the state of Vermont.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Chapter Twenty-Two: Waiting for the New Year

    "...we'll be busy, we'll be busy, as soon as we are able."

The folks at the commune were quite relieved when, two days after Christmas, the sign across the street, the one about the 'War on Christmas', disappeared.

"I wonder what's going to replace it?" Sal asked.

"I don't know, but I don't trust them," Luna said.  "I fear that they're plotting something."

"How can you say that?"  Cat grinned.  "Yeah, that's what I'm worried about, too."

"It's just too quiet right now," Nancy said.

It was very quiet at the commune.  With the holidays over, bakery sales went way down.  The stuff in the EcoGreenhouse wasn't quite ready to pick.  The Christmas guests were all gone and Ken, Marge, Viv, and Dan were still away.  It was just Luna and Cat and Sal and Nancy at the house and there wasn't a lot for any of them to do.

"Do you know when the cookbook is going to come out?" asked Nancy.

"Some time in the new year is all that I've heard," said Luna.

"Well, I'm going to make a pie anyway," said Nancy.  "I don't care if we sell it or not, I just need something to do."

Cat went into the kitchen to help her.  Sal and Luna decided to inspect the EcoGreenhouse, to see how the crops were doing and just to make sure that everything was running okay.  They looked and they looked, but there wasn't any problems to find.

The four of them did dinner that night by candlelight, just for a change of pace.  Everyone oohed and ahhed over Nancy's Zucchini-Rhubarb Pie and Cat's Winter Wonderland Cupcakes.

"Who will be staying up to see the new year in?" asked Luna.

"I will," said Nancy.

"I will," said Cat.

"I hope you all won't mind, but I'm planning to go to bed early," said Sal.  "I always go to bed early on New Year."

"That's right," said Nancy.  "She does."

"Well," said Luna, "we'll have to find some way to make the evening special, even if it's just the three of us."

"Well," said Cat, "there's always special cupcakes."

"And I have a special New Year's Pie," said Nancy.

"I hope there's leftovers on New Year's morning," said Sal.

     "Doo doo doo doo doo doo, come on, commune folks,
     "Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo,
     "The story of Luna Lagoon..."

By eleven-thirty on New Year's eve, Luna, Cat, and Nancy were all getting just a little bit tired.  Sal, after numerous well wishes, retired at around ten (which was actually later than she was usually up and later than she had planned for the evening).

The three remaining communards were telling each other stories from their childhoods, mostly, but not exclusively about New Years.

"My parents always said I could stay up for New Years Eve," said Cat, "and I always tried, but then I always fell asleep before it came."

"How old were you before you saw the New Year in?" asked Luna.

"I think it was my third year of high school.  I was such a wimp."

"My parents never let me stay up," said Nancy.  "One year I defied them and hid behind the couch.  I think I was ten.  I heard them popping corks and yelling 'Happy New Year' at midnight, so I jumped up and yelled 'Surprise!'."  She giggled.  "I was grounded for a week."

"No one in my family stayed up to see the new year," said Luna.  "We were a farm family and up early every morning, so we went to bed early every night."  She blushed.  "Actually, this is my first time doing this."

"Well, great," Nancy said.  "All the more reason to celebrate."

"That pie looks awesome," Cat said.

"As do those cupcakes," said Nancy.

"Now I'm getting hungry," Luna said.

"Well, you'll just have to wait," said Nancy.  "If Sal couldn't have early pie, neither can you."

It was now ten minutes to midnight.  They each had a glass of a special cider that they had gotten from Peter, which had been sitting there, waiting for them to do a toast.

"I wonder what the new year will bring," Nancy mused.

"I hope it will bring lots of good crops," said Luna.  "And I hope it will bring Dan back.  Soon."

"Maybe it will bring some new people to us," Cat said.

"Let's see," said Nancy.

"I wonder what the commune will look like in a few years," Luna said.

"I hope we're all still part of it," Cat said.  "I'm enjoying this."

"I hope we have new neighbors across the road by then," Nancy said.

"Yes!" Cat and Luna yelled together.

Midnight was now fast approaching.  Nancy held up her watch so they could see the seconds ticking off.  Finally they started counting down together:









Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Chapter Twenty-One: A Communal Christmas

  "The town so it seems, was covered in greens..."

Seven days later and it was the last night of Hanukkah.  There were nine candles burning in the window at the commune.

There was also a tree in a corner of the dining room and boughs and branches and holly and ivy everywhere. There was even a sprig of mistletoe above a side doorway.  Not that anyone in the commune needed encouragement to kiss, but it was traditional.

Sal grumbled about all the greenery but had not really complained since her discussion with Marge and Luna.

All around the town, neighbors had put up lights and occasional garish displays.  There was a nativity scene on the town green.

And the Reagons across the street thought it would be festive to erect a billboard denouncing "The War on Christmas".

"So that's why they brought the rifle," said Viv.  "When the battle against Christmas comes down the street, they'll be prepared."

"More likely, they're getting ready to shoot anyone who says 'Season's Greetings!'," said Marge.

"Let's not worry about them and just enjoy the holiday," Luna said.  "Who is going to be staying here for Christmas?"

"I think I have to go home with my family," said Ken.

"This is my family," said Cat.

"Me, too," said Viv.

"Oh, yeah," Sal and Nancy said almost together.

Marge sighed.  "I have a sister near Worcester that I need to be with.  I don't want her alone for the holiday."

"She could come here," Luna said.

"I wish," Marge replied.  "We lost our parents last year and she won't go anywhere.  She gets depressed at the holidays.  As I said, I don't want her alone."

"Oh, wow," Viv said.  "I know what that's like.  Can I go with you?"

Marge went over to Viv.  "Are you sure you want to?"

"Would you like it?"

"I'd like it, if you really want to come."

Viv gave Marge a hug.  "I really want to come."  She turned to everyone else.  "Sorry folks, but this is calling to me."

"That's fine," Luna said.  "I just want everyone to enjoy themselves."

"And we'll send lots of pastries with you," said Nancy.

"And my special Yule cupcakes," added Cat.

  "And so the commune, in their dining room, had a merry Yuletide intertribal..."

Christmas morning came clear and very cold.

It had snowed a couple of days before and, with the frigid temperatures, it didn't look like the eighteen inches of snow on the ground was going away any time soon.  The sky was blue, the snow glistened, and at the commune, four folks were in the kitchen, preparing a yuletide feast.

Sal and Luna were cutting up veggies and Cat and Nancy were baking away.  But Nancy stopped what she was doing when the doorbell rang.

It was Ralph and Ed, carrying several sacks that seemed to be filled with bottles of all kinds.

"Eggnog and cider, hard and soft," Ed said.

"Glad you're here," Luna called from the kitchen.  "Peter said he'll be over soon, too."

Not two minutes later the doorbell rang again.

"That should be him," Luna said.

Nancy opened the door and almost dropped the wooden spoon she was carrying.

"Surprise!" Amanda and Steve said in unison. "Merry Christmas!"

"Oh my..." said Nancy.  When she got her breath she added, "You should have told us you were coming."

"And miss the shocked look on your face?" asked Steve.

Cat and Luna and Sal all came bustling in from the kitchen, joining Ed and Ralph who had just finished putting their coats away.

"And guess what two people have gone smoke free?" asked Amanda.

"Two months now," added Steve.

"Congratulations," said Cat.

"Wow, yeah," said Sal. "Congratulations."

"I'm stunned," said Nancy.

A minute later the doorbell rang again.

"Now that should be Peter," said Luna.  She opened the door.

"Merry Christmas," said her mother.

"Mom, what are you doing here?  Where's Dad?"

"He was being an old grouch so I decided I'd join the commune for Christmas.  Besides, he was so busy watching the game when I left, he may not even know that I'm gone. What can I do to help?"

Sal and Nancy herded the crowd into the kitchen.

Luna's mother helped her and Sal steam up veggies.  Ralph, Ed, Amanda, and Steve started fixing up the dining room and setting the table.

When the doorbell rang again, Luna said, "That better be Peter."

Fortunately, it was.

Dinner was a joyous and somewhat raucous feast. Lots of jokes, lots of laughter, lots of affection.

At one point Sal started nibbling on Nancy's ear.

"Stop it," Nancy said, but she was giggling. "Later."

"Hey, you two, the mistletoe is over there," Cat said.

People started pushing away their plates and giving sighs of satisfaction.  Nancy and Cat stood up to get the desserts.

"Wait a minute," said Luna.  "I just want to say something."

She sat back.  "This is amazing."

There was a pause where she did nothing but smile.

"I feel blessed."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chapter Twenty: Hanukkah Happens

     "And one day Daniel ran off, to re-apply, hit the commune with a sigh..."

The next day Dan went back home.

"I don't know how long I'll be gone," he said as he was leaving.  "Hopefully it'll only take a few weeks, but when I get back, I'll be here legally and that's really important right now."

The timing wasn't too bad, given that most of the new winter structures were up.  Luna and Viv were working with the plants in the coldframes, hoophouses, and EcoGreenHouse, but the harvests were small and Sal was able to mostly handle the farm stand, with occasional help from Marge.  

On the other hand, Cat and Nancy were pretty busy with holiday sales on pies and breads and cakes.  Cat had created three new types of winter themed cupcakes including a latke flavored cupcake with an applesauce topping crowned with a dreidel.  It turned out that Cat had been raised in a Jewish household, as had Sal.

"Oh, dear," said Nancy to Cat.  "Sal has even stronger feelings about Christmas and Hanukkah than she did about Thanksgiving."

Luna was finding this out.  She had just started hanging evergreens around the house, thinking that they'd look festive.  Marge and Ken had been helping her.

Then Sal came by.

"Has it occurred to you that not everyone was raised Christian?" Sal said.

"Sure," replied Luna.  "I was figuring we'd have a Hanukkah celebration as well as a Christmas celebration.  And maybe we'd celebrate Solstice as well."

"Just like someone raised Christian.  You seem to think that Hanukkah and Christmas are equivalent holidays."

"Well, I don't," said Marge.  "I was raised in a mixed household.  My father was Catholic and my mom was Jewish.  We celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas every year but our big holiday was Pesach."

"Pesach?" asked Ken.

"Passover," said Marge.  "And I'm going to make sure that we celebrate it big here.  And if you're so Jewish identified, how come I've never seen you celebrate Shabbat?"

"Um," said Sal, "Uh, so why you don't celebrate Shabbat?"

"I'm pagan identified these days.  That's why I'm putting up evergreens.  What makes you think that they have anything to do with the birth of Christ?"

Sal was speechless.

"Look," Marge went on.  "I think we should celebrate Shabbat here, and Pesach and the Solstices and Beltane and Samhain and Christmas and Hanukkah.  Why not celebrate it all?"

"I'm for that," Luna said.

"Me, too," said Ken. "Even if I don't know what half of those celebrations were."

Sal sighed.  "Okay," she said.  "I guess we can celebrate it all."

   "And so the commune, and Luna Lagoon, lit the menorah and played with the dreidel..."

The first night of Hanukkah, Nancy and Marge created a spread that included a vegetable stir-fry and lots of latkes and applesauce and sour cream.  Marge also made blintzes.  And, besides latke cupcakes, Cat made rugelach and special jam filled doughnuts.

Ed and Ralph came a little early and brought apple fritters.  Peter arrived shortly before dinner.

"Contrary to the rumors around here, I'm not Jewish," Peter said.  "I'm actually a Lutheran from the Midwest but, hey, I'm up for any celebration, particularly if it involves good food.  And this food looks truly amazing."

"Well, you can't eat yet," Marge said.  She started motioning for people to come around the table holding the menorah.  When everyone was gathered, she lit the tallest candle on the menorah.  "This is the shamash, the servant candle."

Then Ken (who was the youngest one there) used the shamash to light one more candle.  People stood admiring the light for a while and then Sal took the menorah and moved it to a table by the front window.  "I'd like to see Hillary Reagon complain about that," she said.

Then people slowly moved over to the table.  Everyone held hands for a minute before people began devouring the food.

"So good," Viv said.

"I miss Dan," Nancy said. "I wish he could be here."  She turned to Luna.  "Have you heard anything from him?"

"Just that he got home okay," Luna said.  "I have no idea how long it's going to take for him to get a green card."

When people had finished, everyone helped clean up and get the dishes washed and dried.  Then Sal and Marge brought out dreidels and gelt (chocolate coins).  Together they gave lessons in dreidel spinning and gambling to everyone still hanging out.  Then they divided the gelt among those that wanted to play and the spinning began.

For a while it looked like Ralph was going to be the big winner of the night, but then Cat, who had seemed to be holding back, began raking up the geld taking most of Ralph's stash away from him.  

In fact, Cat at one point had almost of the geld, but then held up the stash of chocolate coins, waving them in front of everyone.  "This game is just not fun when you have all the coins."  With a toss of the wrist, geld went everywhere and the participants scrambled to pick it up.  Then the games started all over again.

Finally, people began cleaning up and heading for bed.

"It's so nice to have a night when we just get to have fun," Nancy said.  "Happy hanukkah everyone!"

"Happy hanukkah," Sal said, and she looked tired and happy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chapter Nineteen: It Turns Out that Dan Needs Something

   "Peter had come, with the legal system, to shoot down the schemes of their rival..." 

The folks at the commune really liked Peter at this point.  They even let him finish dinner before they started bombarding him with questions.

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," he said.  "I can only answer one thing at a time."

He took a breath.  "First of all, this town does have a zoning and planning board and you are supposed to get permission from them before you build anything.  But I think I can talk with the chair of the board.  Betty is an old friend of mine.  I'm quite sure that she'll be reasonable and give you a retroactive permit for the building."

He held up his hand before anyone could say anything else.  "More important, I intend to go over this place with a fine tooth comb and make sure that there's nothing else they can cite you for.  I'm going to interview each of you and check everything.  And I have some pretty high powered lawyer friends who'll help me with this.  I think that we're in for a fight and I want to make sure we win.  You don't need to worry about this at all.  I'm willing to put a lot of time into it."

"Oh no," Marge said. "We're going to owe you something like the entire crop of vegetables that we grow next year for doing all that work.  Or maybe even more than that." 

"No, you won't.  From now on it will be all pro bono."  Peter grinned.  "That's lawyer talk for free."

"Wow," said Cat.  "You like us that much?"

"Well, yeah, but that's not why I'm doing this and it's certainly not why my legal friends will volunteer their time.  You haven't heard the latest about Hillary Reagon."

"I know that she's behind all these harassments," Dan said.

"Sure, but I don't think you know why."

"Does it have something to do with trying to create a maple syrup industry?" asked Sal.

"Bingo," said Peter.

"But I can't understand how she thinks she can create an industry out of tapping trees," Luna said.  "People do it all over the state.  What advantage does she have?"

"A lot of us have been wondering that.  Then we found out she had teamed up with the bioengineering firm, Monsterinsano."

"I've heard of them," Sal said.  "They're evil."

"One of the things that Monsterinsano has come up with is a genetically modified maple tree. Apparently it comes to maturity in a year and then turns out maple sap twenty-four/seven all year long.  Ms Reagon intends to buy land to create a maple farm and use these trees to flood the market with her syrup.  And do you know what land she wants to buy to create her farm?"

Luna blanched.  "It wouldn't be right across the street from her, would it?"

"Bingo again."

    "But Daniel was caught, he just hadn't thought..."

There was a protest that was staged at the state capitol a couple of days later.  People were carrying signs saying things like, "Monsterinsano, get your hands out of our syrup!" and "Corporations are not trees!" and many, many that just said: "No GMMs!!!"  Several folks from the commune went, including Luna, Sal, Ken, Marge, and Dan.

Peter wasn't at the rally.  As he had said he would, he had gotten a retroactive permit for the EcoGreenHouse and made sure that the registration for Carrie was fine.

And, he had been staying over at the commune, going through their records, checking on their mortgage payments, inspecting everything he could find on the premises, and interviewing all the commune members. Also, as he promised, several other lawyers had come by the commune to check it out and confer with Peter.  Folks were very riled up about Hillary Reagon's plans.

At this point, Peter had talked with Nancy and Cat, and had even called Ralph and Ed and talked with them about their relationship with the house and their financial backing.  

He had also spent a lot of time talking with Viv, making sure she had the medical and legal documentation for her use of marijuana for depression.  So when Luna, Sal, Ken, Marge, and Dan returned from the demonstration, Peter set up times to sit down with and interview each of them.

There were no problems with Luna, Ken, and Marge.  It turned out that Sal had been arrested several times in protests down south and she had a court order to stay away from all military bases, at least for the foreseeable future.  Peter promised to make sure that her record wouldn't affect the commune in any way, or at least any way that would allow Hillary Reagon to get an advantage over the farm.

Finally, Peter met with Dan.  They got some privacy in a room in one of the back buildings.

"So you don't use any drugs?" Peter asked.

"None.  I don't even drink coffee."

"And no arrests?"

"No.  I've never been in trouble with the law."


"Nothing," Dan said.  "Well, maybe some parking tickets in Montreal, but I really doubt that counts for anything."

"Why were you visiting Montreal?"

"Oh, I used to do it all the time.  I grew up a few miles from there."

Peter looked at Dan.  "Are you a Canadian citizen?"

"Yeah.  Is there something wrong with that?"

"Do you have a green card?"

"What's a green card?" Dan asked.

"Uh-oh," Peter said.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Chapter Eighteen: The Crew Builds an EcoGreenHouse

     "So one day they walked around the land, built themselves an EcoGreenHouse on the local commune..."

With the days getting colder, the construction crew of Sal, Dan, Luna, and Viv were spending most of their time building hoop houses and cold frames and, on this particular day, they were working very hard to finish the EcoGreenHouse that Luna had designed with help from Sal and Dan.

It had taken them a couple of weeks just to get the design of the EcoGreenHouse right.  Now they were in the final stages of actually putting it up.  They were nearly done.  They had the frame up and the windows in and had just put in vegetation so they could see what it would look like when it was completed.  They had all stopped working to admire the affect.

"This is going to be just like one of those solar-powered shelters that they used to have down by the ocean at the New Chemistry Institute," Luna said.  "I've studied lots of picture to figure out how they did it.  It'll be yet another triumph for reverse engineering."

"It looks great," Sal said.

It was a sunny day and the plants and plastic and clear tubs of water gleamed.  It looked as if there were things growing everywhere. Plants were hanging in all the corners, lying in long sunlit beds, and sprouting on top of the water.  If it wasn't for the fact that the whole structure leaned slightly to the left, it would have been perfect.

"There must be some way of propping it up so it's a bit straighter," said Viv.

"I don't know," said Sal.  "Maybe we could just call it the leaning tower of greenery and we could leave it at that."

"Yeah, I agree.  I think we should call it a night," was Dan's contribution.

"It's only four o'clock," said Luna, "and I'm sure there must be something that we can do to make it stand straighter."

"It's four o'clock on a December afternoon," Dan said. "It's going to be dark real soon.  Let's deal with this tomorrow."

"Give me a few more minutes."

Dan, Sal, and Viv started packing up their stuff while Luna stared at the structure, trying to figure out a way to make it work out.

At five-thirty, Dan came out with a flashlight and found Luna still looking at the building.

"C'mon," he said, grabbing Luna's hand.  "We can make another try in the morning."  He practically dragged her into the main building for dinner.

After dinner she staggered to bed, still trying to figure out where they had gone wrong.  She kept Dan up half the night with her tossing and turning.

    "Hit young Luna in her mind.  Luna really liked that.  She said, 'We're gonna get it right.'..."

Luna said, "The foundation!"  It was a middle of the night revelation.  "We need to check how solid the foundation is.  If we don't have a solid foundation on both sides of the greenhouse, that could be why it's leaning over."

The crew was out there with Luna right after breakfast.

"I think you may be right," said Sal.  "You can see where it's pulling off the ground over here."  She pointed to a corner where the frame lifted slightly.

"Yeah," said Viv.  "And I can see where it's digging into the ground on this side.  We need to balance it some way or other."

Dan got down on the ground, eye to where the frame was lifting.  "It's not lifting much.  We just need to add something to anchor it down on this side."

In the end they used a bunch of large rocks that they had dug up for extra weight.  With the weight of the rocks holding it down, the EcoGreenHouse slowly settled upright.

"The tilt is gone!" Sal said.

"It looks good," said Viv.

"Okay," said Luna.  "Now let's finish the job."

They worked together for another two hours and then broke for lunch.  When they came back, the crew focused on the final details.

After about another hour, they were wrapping up.  Luna ran back and forth and back and forth looking at the building from every angle that she could think of.  She even went into the nearest house with a pair of binoculars so she could look at it from the top.

"I think it's okay," she said when she returned.  "I could have seen it better if that tree wasn't blocking my view."

"Hey," Viv said to Dan. "Would you give me a boost?  I'm pretty good at climbing trees.  I can see what it looks like from up there."  She pointed far up in the tree.

Viv climbed fairly high up on the tree and looked down at the EcoGreenHouse.  Then she climbed back down and jumped from the lowest branch.  Dan and Sal caught her.

"What do you think?" Luna asked after Viv caught her breath.

An oddly familiar male voice answered her. "I think you need to have a permit from the town to build something like this.  I'm going to put in a petition to have it torn down."

Cecil Nixon was standing a short distance away.  He waved at the building. "I gave you a chance to clean up your act with the pet permit.  Now I'm going to show you that I mean business."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Chapter Seventeen: They All Give Thanks

     "And Luna said, 'Folks, it's only a start, we'll do better, we'll do better, as soon as we're able...'"

Two days later, the lawyer showed up.

Ken was cleaning the front room in the main house when he was startled to see a man in a dark suit coming to the door.  He opened the door before the man could ring the bell.

"Can I help you?" he asked.

"I came about the cat,"  the man at the door said.  It would have been hard to ask 'What cat?' because Carrie was rubbing against Ken's leg.

"What about the cat?" Ken said.  He heard Dan come up behind him.

"Whose cat is this?" the man asked.

"It's Schrodinger's," said Dan.  "What is this all about?"

"Is this cat registered?"

"Registered?" Dan looked perplexed.  "Who the heck are you?"

The man reached into an inner pocket of his jacket and pulled out a business card.  He handed it to Dan.

"Cecil M Nixon, Esquire," read Dan, "Attorney at Law."

"This town requires all pets to be registered," the lawyer said.

"Does that include geckos?" Ken asked.

Mr. Nixon looked annoyed.  "I'm sorry. I believe that it principally applies to cats and dogs.  Is this cat registered?"

"We will have the cat registered as soon as possible,"  Dan said.

"Good," said the lawyer.  "I will be back to make sure that everything here complies with town, state, and federal laws."  He made a mock bow to Dan and Ken and left.

"What was that all about?" asked Ken.

"I think it's harassment," said Dan.  "Unless I'm greatly mistaken, I suspect that this is our new neighbor's way of making sure we know we are being watched.  I think, unfortunately, we can expect to have a lot more of this happening."

"And who is this Schrodinger?"

Dan shrugged his shoulders.  "Some guy who had a cat."

Luna was not amused when she heard about the lawyer's visit.  "We'd better make sure we do everything as carefully as we can.  They're watching our every move at this point."

   "And now Luna Lagoon, and the rest of the commune, all gathered around the table..."

"This is a racist, imperialist, patriarchal, and colonial holiday."  Sal was upset.  "We should be in mourning, not celebration."

"It's a chance for us all to give thanks for what we have," said Viv.

"And where do you think we got all those things we have?  From genocide and slave labor."

The two women stared at each other.

Luna was nearby and heard most of this.  "Look, you're both right.  Some awful things happened so that we could be here.  And that's no reason not to be thankful.  It's a reason to work to create a world that works for everyone."

"And that's what we're doing here," added Dan.  "Hopefully we're creating that world in miniature."

Sal looked at both of them like they'd lost their minds.

Nancy came by carrying a stack of pies.  "Don't worry about it.  She goes through this every year.  She's always grateful in the end."

Sal glared at her.  Nancy glared back and suddenly the two of them were laughing.  Nancy put down the pies before she dropped them.

"I'm sorry," Sal said.  "I'm not trying to be a downer.  I just don't want anyone to forget the pain and suffering surrounding this holiday."

"And you can remind us at our dinner," said Luna.

Dinner was a feast.  There were vegetables everywhere, some arranged in such a way that they resembled a turkey.  There were breads and pies and cakes and cupcakes.  There was cider and beer and wine and water and cranberry juice.

And there were lots of people around the table.  Luna and Dan and Sal and Nancy and Cat and Viv and Ken and Marge--and Ed and Ralph and Peter and Luna's mother and Ken's mother and Cat's mother and even Amanda and Steve.

And, as the meal ended, everyone said one or two things that they were thankful for.

When it came around to Sal, she said, "I'm thankful that I'm living in a place that understands the struggles that brought us here."

"And I'm thankful for you, Sal," said Nancy.  "I'm thankful that you came with me here and that this place is here for both of us."

"And I'm thankful for all of you," said Luna, who was last.  "This farm and this commune wouldn't exist without each and every one of you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  Here's to many more Thanksgivings here in the future."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chapter Sixteen: When Harry Met Carrie

  "So one day a cat walked onto the place, and got herself a spot in the local commune..."

"Unfortunately, I think that was just the opening salvo from our neighbors," Dan said.

It was dinnertime a few days later and Peter, who was now becoming a frequent guest of the commune, agreed. "If they don't like you, I doubt that they'll stop with calling the cops once.  You'd better watch yourselves from now on."

"Oh, great," Luna said.  "Our cash flow is drying up and we have to watch out for the neighbors."

"Why is your cash flow drying up?" Peter asked.

"We're about harvested out and winter is coming up.  I believe in Five Season Harvesting, but that requires hoophouses, greenhouses, and cold frames."

Dan looked at Sal.  "I think we'd better get building," he said.

"Fine with me," Sal said.  "We're not selling much produce these days."

"I can manage the stand," Marge said.  Then she turned to Peter.  "Not to change the subject, but do you know anything about a tabby cat that seems to stroll around the neighborhood?  Does she belong to anyone?"

"I think she belonged to the people who used to live across the street from you," Peter said.  "These days she wanders around, scrounging food at various houses.  I think she's looking for a home."

"Maybe we should adopt her," said Nancy.  "We need a commune cat."

"Fine with me," said Viv.  She looked at Peter.  "Does she have a name?"

"Not that I know," said Peter.  "As far as I know when the folks across the street left, they took her name with them.  You could call her whatever you like.  You could call her Cat."

"That name's taken," said Cat.

"Oops," said Peter.  "Sorry.  I forgot."

"I like something with a 'C' sound for a commune cat," said Marge.  "Carla, Kitty, Katy..."

"Carrie," said Nancy.  "I like Carrie.  It was the name of one of my gerbils back in Georgia."

"Yeah," Viv said.  "Carrie."

"Wait," said Marge.  "We need to do this by concentration.  Does anyone have any objections to Carrie?"

Most folks shook their heads.  No one objected.

"Carrie it is," said Marge.  "I'll bring her in the next time I see her."

    "Ken said, Carrie you met your match..."

Carrie was soon roaming the house.  Marge and Nancy fed her regularly and she rubbed ankles with everyone when they were eating dinner.  During the next (and basically noncontroversial) house meeting, she sat quietly on peoples' laps and appeared to listen.

The biggest question at the meeting was what to do about the neighbors.

"I don't think there's much we can do," said Dan.

"We could make prank calls to them," Ken suggested.

"Yeah," said Luna, "I'm sure there's lots of things that we could do to annoy them, but that's really not going to be helpful."

"We could go over with a loaf of my Raspberry Maple Walnut Bread," Nancy said.

"Somehow," said Sal, "I don't think they'll be won over that easily."

"I'm wondering about their plans to create a maple syrup industry," Cat said.

"That's a good question," Dan said.  "I suspect that Peter will keep us up to date with that one."

Things at the farm were really quieting down.  It was mid-November.  The leaves were turning.  There wasn't much in the fields except some hardy kale and a few root vegetables.  Luna and Viv were working with Dan and Sal to build cold frames and hoop houses to grow winter crops in.

And one day, Carrie discovered Ken's room.

Ken had been keeping his door closed to keep the cat out but one day he left in a hurry and forgot.  Carrie noticed the open door and went in to investigate this interesting room.  Marge was walking down the hallway and saw Carrie stroll into the room.  She went and found Ken.

The two of them ran upstairs and into the room.  They found Carrie involved in a staring contest with the gecko.

Harry seemed to find the cat quite interesting.  When he moved closer to Carrie, she tried to take a swat at him.  Unfortunately, since Harry was in an aquarium all that happened was that her paw bounced off the glass.  This was very frustrating for Carrie.  She started swiping the glass, again and again, with the same result.  Harry put his head right up to the glass and watched as Carrie tried swatting harder and harder.

Finally, it seemed to stop amusing Harry and he went back to investigate his log.

Marge and Ken broke out laughing.  Carrie looked at them for a moment and then began licking her rear paw. A moment later she sauntered out of the room with as much dignity as she could muster.

Ken left his door open from then on.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Chapter Fifteen: Vivian Goes to Court

    "Vivian came in, grinning a grin..."

The folks of the commune were waiting there to greet them when Vivian, Luna, Sal, and Peter arrived home.  Viv smiled at everyone and then burst into tears.

"I'm sorry," she said.  "I know that I didn't play fair with everyone and should have let you know about the plants in my room.  I was just afraid you wouldn't let me have them."

"Tell them what you told us in the car," Sal said.

Viv sobbed for a second.  "I've been fighting depression for a long time.  I didn't want to take medication any more and pot was the only thing that helped."

"There's going to be a court hearing in a week," Peter said.  "That's what you'll need to tell the judge."

People started hugging and holding Viv.  "Thank you, thank you, thank you," she said.

People started hugging and thanking Peter as well.

"Don't thank me until after you see my bill," he said.

Several people stopped and looked at each other.

Peter winked at them.  "Of course, if you need to, you can pay me in vegetables."

"You may never pay for food again," said Nancy.

"Assuming, that is, you can live on veggies and baked goods," said Marge.

Cat just handed Peter a cupcake.

Peter beamed at everyone.  "I'm going home," he said.  "I still have to get up for work tomorrow."

Of course, it wasn't that easy for him to get out of there.  He left finally after many more hugs, with a loaf of Nancy's Apple Zucchini Bread under his arm.

Most of the commune headed for bed shortly after that.  Nancy and Sal took Viv with them.

The next day they were back to work as usual.

The fields were about empty, other than some greens and a few root crops.  Luna talked with Viv about her plans to build a greenhouse for winter crops.  She also consulted with Sal and Dan about building plans since things were slowing up at the produce stand.

Two days later, an envelope arrived in the mail with Vivian's court date on it.

          "Okay, Viv, this is a showdown..."

The courthouse was three towns away, in the county seat and biggest town in the area.  Viv, Luna, and Peter arrived almost an hour before Viv's hearing.

Two days earlier, Viv had seen a psychiatrist that Peter had recommended and now had a letter from her.  She had it in her bag as they sat in the gallery and waited for the hearing.  Other folks were coming before the judge, a quiet person with white hair and a soft voice.

"I think we're in luck," Peter whispered.  "This judge is known to favor defendants involved in what's known as non-violent crimes."

They watched as attorneys and clients went in front of the judge and presented pleas and witnesses.  In some cases the witnesses were cross-examined.  The time for Viv's hearing came and went before the judge could see her.

"Vivian Mooney," the bailiff called finally.

Luna squeezed Viv's hand.  "Good luck," she said.

Peter and Vivian went up to the front of the court.

"Please approach the bench," the judge said to them and turned to the bailiff.  "Where is the prosecutor?"

"The prosecutor for this case hasn't shown up," said the bailiff.

"Your honor," said Peter, "my client has a letter from her physician that she'd like you to read."

Vivian got the psychiatrist's letter out of her bag and handed it to the judge, who quickly scanned through it.

"Has the prosecutor shown up yet?"

"No, your honor," said the bailiff.

"You need to register with the state to grow marijuana plants for medical use," said the judge.  "Please do that promptly.  Case dismissed."

The bailiff shrugged her shoulders and called the name of the next person.

Viv and Peter went back to the gallery where Luna gave Viv a great big hug.  Then she hugged Peter.  Viv hugged Peter and then the three of them were all hugging together.  Someone hissed, "You're blocking the aisles," and they broke it up and made their way to the back of the courtroom and out of the courthouse.

"And now," Luna said, "it's back to work we go."

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Chapter Fourteen: The Sheriff Comes Back

  "The sheriff, he thought he was looking for pot..."

Ken was in the main house cleaning and Marge was making lunch.  Dan had stopped in to get something when he saw the sheriff's car parking through the window.  He was at the door and opening it before the sheriff and his deputies could ring the bell.

"What can we do for you today, sheriff?" Dan asked.  Marge and Ken were right behind him.

"I'm sorry to bother you.  I have a search warrant for this house."

"Well, if you got a warrant, I guess you're gonna come in."  Dan stood aside and let the sheriff and the two deputies walk into the place.  "What are you looking for?"

"One of your neighbors claims that you are growing marijuana in a second floor room in this building.  We need to investigate."

Dan looked at Ken.  Ken shook his head and then shrugged.

"Okay," Dan said.  "Let's check upstairs."

Dan, the sheriff, the two deputies, Ken, and Marge, went up the stairs and began looking in the front bedrooms.

They started with Ken's room.  There were clothes strewn all over the place and bits of junk food in the corner, but nothing in the window.

Harry the crested gecko looked inquisitively at the incoming crowd.  When he realized that none of them were going to feed him, he went back to examining the log in his aquarium, in case some tasty insect had appeared there since he last checked.

The sheriff and deputies half-heartedly looked into the closet, through Ken's dresser, and under his bed, but since there weren't any plants in the window, it seemed unlikely they were hidden somewhere.

Cat's room was next.  It was neat as a pin.  There were some old white curtains in the window, but no plants.  And, again, a search of the room turned up nothing illegal.

The third front bedroom belonged to Viv.  As soon as the door was opened, the two tall plants were visible, right in front of a window.

"Okay," said the sheriff.  "Who's room is this?"

"Ken," Dan said, "go get Luna and Viv."

The sheriff and deputies waited patiently while Ken got the two women.  It took longer than Dan would have thought but eventually Viv and Luna came up the stairs with Ken following.

"This is my room," Viv said, "and those are my plants."

"I'm afraid you're under arrest," said the sheriff.

  "Now Luna Lagoon, she left the commune, only to find help that's legal..."

After Viv left with the sheriff, the rest of the commune gathered to be with each other.

"Let's hold hands and breathe with each other a moment," Nancy suggested.  "We really connect with each other right now."

The group stood a moment in silence.  Then everyone started talking at once.

"Well, I have no question which neighbor called the cops," said Marge, a little louder than most of the folks.

"The question is," Luna said, "What do we do now?"

"Get Peter," Sal and Dan said in unison.

"Absolutely," Luna said.

"We don't know what kind of lawyer Peter is," Cat pointed out.  "He didn't talk about his practice.  For all we know he may only know about real estate law or corporate lawsuits."

"True," said Dan, "But if he doesn't do criminal law, I'll bet he knows someone who does."

Nancy looked at Ken, who was the only one who hadn't been talking.  He still looked stunned.  "Whatcha thinking?"

"That could have been me," Ken said.

"I think we'd better get back to work," Luna said.  "I can see customers at the farm stands.  Peter won't be home until after six. I'll walk over to his place around then."

That evening, Luna and Sal went to see Peter.  They got there before he did, but he arrived shortly after they got there.

"This can't be good," Peter said when he saw them.

"What kind of law do you practice?" Sal asked.

"Oh, this really isn't good," Peter said.  "A little of everything.  What happened?"

"The sheriff found pot plants in Viv's room," Luna said.  "He took her away.  What can we do?"

"Well, we can start by bailing her out."  Peter and the two women got into his car and they drove to the sheriff's office.

"What's the bail on this young woman?"  Peter asked the clerk there.

"Five hundred dollars," the clerk said.

"No problem," Peter said and pulled out a check book.  "They're not taking this very seriously if bail is this low," he said to Luna and Sal as he wrote the check.  He handed it to the clerk.

"We owe you," Luna said.

"Don't worry about it," Peter replied.  "I get it back when she goes into court.  She just better show up for her court date."

The clerk gave him a slip of paper and they drove to the county jail.  Peter handed the slip to the clerk at the jail and moments later they had a very apologetic Vivian in the car with them.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Chapter Thirteen: A Ghost Comes to the Door

    "The neighbors had come, equipped with a gun, to shoot trespassers on arrival..."

While the commune anxiously waited publication of their cookbook, talk slowly turned back to their new neighbors.  It was the last week in October and there had still been no signs of sign of life across the way.

"Maybe they're not going to actually live there," Ken speculated.

"Well, there was that moving van that delivered all that stuff," said Nancy.

"I wonder if they're just planning to use the house for storage," Viv said.  "Maybe they just needed a place to put some extra things."

"And they wanted to use a house all the way up here to store them?"  Luna seemed incredulous.  "There must be storage places closer to DC.  And what about that press release that Peter told us about, explaining why Ms Reagon is buying the property?  I think they're gonna move in there, sooner or later.  I just hope there's not gonna be trouble when they do."

The folks at the commune didn't have to wait long before there were new developments.  Two days later, a pearl gray SUV drove slowly down the road and pulled into the drive across the street. There was a small American flag waving from the antenna in the front of the SUV.  The windows were tinted, making the interior invisible.

Marge spotted the slow moving vehicle and called to the other folks who were outside.  Luna, Viv, Sal, Dan, Nancy, and Cat left fields and farm stands and gathered round.  Only Ken missed the arrival of their new neighbors.  He had been inside cleaning the left house and no one thought to get him in time to see the spectacle.

The rest of the gang watched as the gray car parked in front of the house and two folks got out.  One was a thin woman with short gray hair and a jet black dress.  The other was a stout young man in a dark suit.

"How appropriate," Sal said.  "They're arriving on Halloween."

"Spooky," said Marge.

The couple got suitcases out of the car and marched to their front door.  The young man fumbled with the keys for a minute and then let himself and his mother into the house.  The door slammed shut behind them.  Everything was quiet for a bit.  Slowly the commune members stopped holding their collective breath and started to relax.

"That's it," Luna said.  "I think the show's over."

But a moment later, the man came back out and reached into the back of their car. He pulled out what looked like it might be a semi-automatic sniper rifle.   It had a large telescopic sight on it.

"That's not a hunting gun," Nancy said.  "I grew up with hunting guns."

"No," said Marge.  "That's a military weapon.  I was briefly in ROTC.  We practiced with those."

"How friendly it all seems," said Dan.  "I can tell they're going to welcome visitors."

  "Now Luna Lagoon, was at the commune, only to spot spirits primal..."

That night, after dinner, Luna noticed something strange outside the window.

"Do you have any idea what that is?" she said to Marge and Sal.

It was really dark beyond the house; there were no streetlights in the area and no moon was out.  Usually very little could be seen around the commune at night other than the headlights and tail lights of passing cars.  But now they could see a ball of orange light, slowly moving down the road.

When it reached the area where the drive was, it began wandering toward the houses.

"I don't know," said Sal, "but it seems to be coming here."

By this time dinner clean up had come to a standstill.  Most of the community was now at the windows of the main house, which was the only house of the three that had lights on at that point, since everyone had been at dinner.

"We should really get a light or two on the property outside," Dan said, "so we could see if someone is out there at night."

"I think it's too late for tonight," said Luna.  "That light is almost to the house."

Suddenly, the light stopped.  It bobbed at what seemed like ten feet from the porch.  A minute later, however, there was the sound of feet on the porch, although the light stayed where it was.

The doorbell rang.  Luna opened the door.  There was a ghost standing there.

It was a very short ghost.  It looked to be about four to five feet tall.  It was carrying a bag.

"Trick or treat!" the little ghost shrieked.

"Oh, my," said Nancy.  "What can we grab?"

"I've got a few extra cupcakes," Cat said, and handed a couple to Luna who put them in the ghosts bag.

"What do you say?" came a woman's voice from the darkness in the general direction of the bobbing orange light.

"Thank you," said the ghost.

The orange light came closer and turned out to be a plastic pumpkin.  The woman holding it came to the door.

"I'm Linda Johnson.  I live three houses down the road.  And this is Chris."

The ghost giggled.

"I'm Luna Lagoon and this is Nancy, Dan, Cat, Sal, Ken, Marge, and Viv."

"I recognize you," Nancy said.  "You've bought breads and pastries from us."

"Not to mention tomatoes and Zucchini," said Sal.

"Yeah," said Linda.  "I know I should come by and visit all of you some time, but I'm a single mom and my life is kind of busy."

"I've got a tip for you," Dan said.  "I wouldn't advise trick or treating at the house across the way."

"I know," Linda said.  "They're definitely the scariest thing in the neighborhood this Halloween."

There were no more trick-or-treaters that night.  But the scariest trick was yet to come.

Two days later the sheriff's car came back up the drive.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chapter Twelve: The Commune Creates a Cookbook

   "Now somewhere near the Green Mountain forest, there was a young farm working on a book..."

Discussions about their new neighbor dominated conversation on the farm for the next few days.

One night at dinner Nancy finally protested.  "This is all speculation and, at this point, we've speculated and speculated and speculated.  We don't really know anything at all about them and all we're doing is talking about what we don't know. Until we know anything for real, I say we talk about something more interesting."

"Like what?" Marge asked.

"Like what we can do around here now that we're less busy."  Nancy helped herself to one of her pumpkin-mulberry muffins and then held it up for everyone to see.  "I've gotten lots of requests at the stand for the recipes for my muffins and breads and pies, and for Cat's amazing cupcakes.  I've been thinking for quite a while that we should make up a communal cookbook."

"That's a great idea," said Dan.  "People are always asking me and Sal about ways they can use some of the veggies that we sell."

"For real," Sal said.  "One guy asked me if you could use spaghetti squash to make spaghetti."

"Would you really give away any of the secrets to your cupcakes, Cat?" Viv asked.

"Maybe," Cat said.

"Well, I've been wondering how we could do more education about what we're doing on the farm," Luna said.  "I think that a cookbook is a great idea.  We could maybe put in a section on how you could grow your own vegetables, and make compost, and a bit about mulch, and maybe even a little write up explaining organic gardening and protoculture, and what Eco-expensive Agriculture, and Five Season Harvesting are."

"I'd like to write up something about krauting and sprouting," Viv added.

As people were talking, Nancy began writing down all the ideas.

"We could have pictures of the farm in the book," said Luna.

"And pictures of the produce," said Sal.

"And pictures of the cupcakes," said Cat.

"And we could talk about why we started the community in the first place," Dan said.  "And even include a little bit about what our life is like here."

Clean up after dinner ran late that night, and people were still talking about ideas for the book as they began drifting off to bed.

    "The topic was hot, and they wrote quite a lot..."

Things got busier for the next couple of weeks.  It was October and the season was winding down, but there were still tourists coming to see the last of the foliage--and then dropping by at the farm stands afterwards.  There were pumpkins ripening in the fields, and preparations beginning for the last of the harvests.

At one point a huge truck from a moving company came down the road and went up the drive across the way, but otherwise the commune heard nothing from their new neighbors.  It wasn't even clear that there was anyone living there yet.

And every spare moment seemed to be devoted to writing down recipes, and cooking and baking and testing out new stuff.  Dinners had become exotic.  Instead of simple vegetables and rice or quinoa, there were things like seiten-stuffed squash, bak choi fritters, spicy sweet potato salad, rumbling ratatouille, and zesty zucchini parmesan.

"What do you think?" Viv asked as folks were sampling her savory seaweed sauerkraut with lots of lentil sprouts.

"I think it needs more caraway in it," said Sal.

"Yeah," said Dan.  "I don't think it's savory enough."

Viv ran to the desk in the kitchen to write down the feedback.  Next to her, Marge was jotting down some ideas for a kale and collards strudel.

At the table Nancy was trying to persuade Cat to include at least one cupcake recipe.  "How about for your Hazelnut Surprise cupcakes?  They're very popular at the stand."

Cat hesitated. "Maybe..."

"And you've got to include something on how to make your stevia frosting."

"But that's a family secret, passed down from my great-great grandmother.  I can't share that."

Nancy took a deep breath.  "Maybe you can come up with a variation that you'd feel okay about putting in the book."

Cat looked at her.  "Maybe..."

That night Dan started taking all the hand written sheets people had given him and began typing them up.  He put aside all recipes that he couldn't read and typed up the ones he could.

Marge took his place at the produce stand the next day and by the end of the day, Dan had seventy-three pages typed.  It was every recipe that he could read.  Then he went after the folks that handed him unreadable recipes.

Nancy had beautiful handwriting, almost calligraphy.  Unfortunately Dan couldn't make heads or tails of any of it.  And Nancy had written pages and pages of baking directions.

"Would you mind reading these to me?"  Dan asked her.  "Slowly."

It took several hours, but when he was done with Nancy's recipes, he went after Ken who had submitted three items for the book.  Ken's handwriting reminded Dan of samples he had seen of cuneiform script, but Ken was willing to read his stuff slowly to Dan.  Then Dan went after Marge and did the same thing.

Dan also wrote up a small section about life in the community.  Nancy collected pictures from everyone.  Luna gave Dan sixteen pages on protoculture and organic agriculture.  Dan cut it down to twelve fact filled pages.

When they were done, they had almost two hundred pages of stuff, including the title page, table of contents, index, and twelve pages of pictures.

"This is great," Nancy said, looking at the final collection with Dan.  "Now all we need to do is get it published."

Ken was walking by when she said this.  "No problem," he said.  "My uncle is a publisher."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chapter Eleven: The Commune Gets a New Neighbor

     "And now Luna Lagoon, looked beyond the commune, only to find neighbor trouble..."

Harry was a crested gecko that lived in an old aquarium Ken kept in his room, right in the spot that the pot plant had occupied.  As lizards went, he was a fairly harmless creature.  He stayed in his aquarium and didn't cause problems.  Ken fed him bugs that he collected from around the farmhouses.

This was now the quiet season.  The folks at the farm were starting to enjoy the lull in the business.  They began to figure out how to do stuff that they had only talked and thought about during the busy season.  One of the things Luna decided to do was invite Peter, their frequent customer and helpful neighbor, to dinner.  They had passed him some free produce now and then but had been too busy to actually have a leisurely meal with him.

Everyone was excited that he was coming, since he was the only neighbor they knew.  The neighbor on the other side of the farm was very quiet and pretty much kept to herself, and the property across the street seemed deserted.

Peter turned out to be a lawyer who traveled to Montpelier for his practice every day.  "Oh boy, it's good to have you folks here," he said as someone passed him the tempeh.  "You bring some life to this area.  Agatha, on the other side of you, is a recluse.  Tim down the road is another farmer but he sells his stuff to some corporation and only speaks in one word sentences.  I originally moved here because of the quiet.  Now I've started thinking that it's been much too quiet around here for me."

"Do you know who owns the place across the road from us?" Dan asked him.

"It's funny you should mention that.  The place has been for sale for a couple of years now.  I only found out yesterday that somebody's buying it.  Rumors are that it's this rural Republican right-wing wingnut."

"Oh, great," Luna said.  "I'd better take down our commune sign.  I can't imagine he's going to be excited having us for a neighbor."

"I can't imagine that you're going to be excited about having her as a neighbor either," Peter said.  "You know, it might get a lot less quiet around here pretty soon."

"Do you know the name of this person?" Viv asked.

"Sure do."  Peter grinned.  "Her name's Hillary Reagon.  She's a life-long Republican and on the boards of the Project for the New American Universe, the Wealthy Heritage Foundation, and Americans for Corporate Prosperity.  She knows Dick and Donald personally and is friends with the Kitsch Brothers."

"Why on earth is she buying land up here?" Marge asked.

"It's kind of busy down there in DC, I hear.  She grew up and raised a family in Idaho.  Maybe she wants to get away from it all again."

Just then Nancy brought out a black raspberry walnut pie and everyone grew quiet.  For a few minutes the only sounds were from satisfied eaters nibbling and noshing.

Finally Luna sat back.  "You sure about this Hillary person?"

"That's what I hear, anyway."  Peter used his napkin to wipe black raspberry off his face.  "The story is that she hasn't bought the place yet, but she's already put down a downpayment.  That's according to the rumors, anyway.  And supposedly, the bank seems satisfied.  I also hear that she's bringing her son, Alec, with her and according to everyone I've spoken with, he makes her seem like a flaming liberal."

"Well, there goes the neighborhood," said Cat.

   "Their neighbor it seems, had dangerous schemes..."

Several days later, as they were getting a late start at the produce stand, one of the customers asked if they had any maple syrup.

"No, we don't," said Sal.  She brushed some tatsoi off of Dan.  "We don't carry it."

"All the other farmstands do," the customer said. "Why don't you?"

"Maybe it's because all the other farmstands do," Sal said.

"You can get some at the general store down the road," Dan added, "and also at the gas station across the street from it, and I've heard that even the dentist a half a mile beyond there sells some.  You know, it's really hard to find places around here that don't offer maple syrup.  We just didn't think it made sense to be one more place that carried the stuff.  Sorry."

Meanwhile, helpful neighbor Peter had stopped by the "Chthonic Baked Goods and Yggdrasil Cupcakes" stand to pick up some pastries before he headed out to work.

"Mmm," he said. "These whole wheat donuts look good.  I'll take a half dozen of the maple ones."

"We'll throw in a couple of extra for you, no charge," Nancy said.

"Thanks.  And speaking of maple, I have some news for you about your new neighbors."

"Is it official?" Cat asked.

"Oh, yes," said Peter.  "They passed papers yesterday.  And Ms Reagon put out a press release this morning explaining why she is buying the property."

"Do tell," said Nancy.

"It seems that she believes that this area is the most sin-filled and liberal-ridden region of the country.  She said she plans to clean this place up."

"What does any of that have to do with anything maple?" Cat asked.

"Ah, yes," said Peter.  "She also announced that her first step is going to be to consolidate the whole maple sugar industry.  I hear that her son is planning to do the legal work and financing."

"But there really isn't a maple sugar industry," said Cat.

"Yeah, well, that's true, but unfortunately, I think there's going be a big one when she gets through, and, believe me, Hillary Reagon fully intends that she and her son will be the ones who will own it, lock, stock, and fifty-five gallon barrel of syrup."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Chapter Ten: Ken Brings a Surprise

     "He said, 'Luna I've brought some grass'..."

Ken came back from his parents home a few days later, carrying in a ton of books, plants, dishes, and pots and pans for the commune.  His mom helped him bring in boxes and boxes of stuff and took time to sample some of Nancy's Apple Zucchini Bread while she was around.  She praised the commune (especially the food) and said how good living there was for Ken. Then she gave him a hug and waved goodbye to everyone else.

After she left, Ken began unpacking boxes, bringing stuff to his room, stuff to the kitchen, and stuff to the den. Various folks passing by would move a box or three as they went.

Luna was having lunch but decided to eat by Ken while he opened more boxes. She felt she hadn't had a chance to get to know Ken and thought this could be an opportunity.

"Where do you think we should put all these plants?" he asked Luna.  He pointed out spiderplants, and coleuses, and jade plants, and a Boston fern.

Luna wasn't paying attention to the plants Ken was pointing to.  Her attention had been grabbed by a little plant Ken had stuck near the corner of the room.

"Is that what I think it is?" she asked.

Ken nodded.  "Do you think it will be a problem?  I like growing things and my mother didn't mind it.  I was hoping it would be okay here."

"Well, if the sheriff comes back to see how you're doing or if we've gotten any more runaways, I don't think he'd be happy to see it.  And I don't want to find any of us, including you, in jail over that plant.  We can't afford to get into trouble at this point in our growth.  I want to see the commune last a year here at the very least.  Hopefully a lot more."

"I was going to keep it up in my room.  Look, nobody's gonna see it up there. I'll make sure to keep it out of sight.  I promise."

Luna sighed.  "I don't know, Ken, but it's not my decision.  I think we're gonna need to talk about this in the commune meeting."

    "Luna said, 'Ken, we'll need to pass, and we'd better, we'd better, get rid of it as soon as we're able.'"

Sal was the facilitator for the next commune meeting.  There were a lot of items on the agenda but the one that ended up getting the most time and attention was Ken's little pot plant.

"I don't mind a little smoke now and then," said Marge, "but I don't want there to be any excuse for the sheriff to shut this place down."

"I agree," said Nancy.  "The sheriff and deputies were very nice while they were here and they seem fine with us running a commune in their county, but I don't know how fine they'd be if they saw that growing here."

"Yeah," said Cat.  "I just don't want trouble."

Sal asked, "Is there anybody that thinks that it would be a good idea for there to be grass growing up in Ken's room?"

"I do," said Ken.

Viv said, "I don't see why he can't keep it if it's kept up in his room.  The sheriff isn't going to be going up to people's rooms, is he?"

"I hope not," Dan said.  "But if he got a complaint about this place and came with a search warrant, he could go through people's rooms."

"Well, let's make sure that no one complains about us," said Ken.
"It's not that easy," Dan said.  "He could be looking for anything, including runaways, but if he saw that it could cause lots of problems."

"Unfortunately, I agree," said Luna.  "We've put too much work into this farm to jeopardize it for one plant."

Viv looked at Ken.  Ken sat and looked thoughtful.  No one said anything for a few minutes.

"Alright," Ken said finally.  "I'll have my mom come by and pick it up.  Soon."

"I'm sorry," Luna said.  "Maybe we're worried over nothing, but I just don't want to take a chance."

"That's okay," Ken said.  "I'll trade it for my lizard.  I miss him.  His name's Harry."

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Chapter Nine: Followed by Another Departure

     "The arrival it seemed, of the man of his dreams..."

Toward the end of September things began to slow down a little.

There was still some stuff in the fields, but not as much.  Dan had gotten himself out from under the rutabagas, much to Sal's relief.  Of course, the produce slow down didn't stop the baking from happening, but the lines at the farm stands had gotten shorter and there were far fewer out of state plates coming by.

Ken went home for a while to visit his folks but said he'd be back.  And one night, Cat and Viv and Marge and Darren had a former housemates/present communemates meeting.

"How's it going?" Cat asked the gang, being the old timer in the group.

"Well, I've been here a while," Viv said.  "It kinda feels like home now."

"I'm still getting used to it," Marge said.  "I still wake up at night wondering why I can't hear any planes landing."

"I think I'm used to it," Darren said, "but, I don't know, I'm feeling kind of restless.  I guess you can take the boy out of the city.  I'm not sure if you can take the city out of the boy."

"Are you thinking of leaving us?"  Viv asked, looking at him.

"Not really," Darren said.  "I'm just not thinking of staying."

A couple of days later, a lavender VW microbus pulled up the drive.  An athletic looking young man came to the door and asked for Stan.

"Stan ain't here no more," said Marge.

"Why are you looking for him?" asked Darren.

"He had a notice up about wanting a ride to the fairy fest," the young man answered.  "I'm running kind of late to get there and I didn't check in before I came here, but I was passing this way anyway and figured it wouldn't hurt to drop by in case Stan got stuck for a ride."

"You're right," said Darren.  "It doesn't hurt.  You want to come in and get a bite to eat while you're here?  You've got a way to go yet and I thought you might be hungry."

"That's very nice," the newcomer said.  "My name is Chuck."

"I'm Darren," said Darren and led him into the kitchen.

     "And so one day Darren ran off with this other guy..."

A couple of hours later, as Chuck and Darren were lying in Darren's bed, Darren pointed out, "This is all very lovely, but I think you're going to be a bit late getting to the festival."

Chuck lay there, not speaking for a little while.  "That's okay.  I'm not in a hurry. As far as I'm concerned, the best part is the end of the festival, anyway, and so that's all I'm really going for.  It's not like I can afford to go to the whole thing."

He took Darren's hand and slowly looked into his eyes.  "I really like you," he said.  "What would you think of the idea of coming along to the fairy fest with me?"

Darren's eyes opened wide.  He didn't say anything, but just nodded.  He took a minute to get himself together, up and out of bed, but got himself dressed and packed in record time.  He then spent the next twenty minutes saying goodbye to everyone.

He found Luna inspecting the fields, Sal in the produce stand, Dan under the kale, and Nancy slicing her new Apple Zucchini Bread in the kitchen, and gave them all hugs.

Hardest of all for him was saying goodbye to Marge, Viv, and Cat.  He couldn't stop hugging them.  "I'll be back," he promised. "I just gotta see where this goes."

Finally Chuck dragged Darren into the microbus.  "Goodbye, everyone," Darren yelled out the window frantically waving his arms.

Work on the farm came to a standstill as everyone stopped what they were doing to see Darren off.  Dan still had kale leaves clinging to his shirt.  The gang all stood in a clump waving back at Darren.

Chuck kept trying to get the engine to turn over.  Meanwhile there was more waving.  Darren blew kisses from his seat. The little lavender bus took some time to actually get started but the engine eventually caught and it finally chugged off in a cloud of exhaust.

The rest of the commune looked at each other.  "Is everyone else good?" Luna asked.  "Is there anyone else who's thinking of leaving?"

There was a long period of silence, before people started speaking up.

Someone said, "No," and suddenly everyone was saying no or shaking their heads, or doing both.

"I think we're all good," said Dan.

Luna took a deep breath.  "Well, okay..." she said, and went back to her work in the fields.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Chapter Eight: Stan Moves On

   "...Stan, old boy, this is a showdown..."

Things at the farm were a little less busy with new members to take up the slack.  And maybe there was just a little too much slack in some places.

It was Wednesday night, time for the regular commune meeting.

Dinner had been cleaned up and the dishes had been put away. The dining room had been swept and the kitchen floor had been mopped.  Now both rooms were empty.

Everyone was gathered in the living room of the middle farm house, which, at this point, was packed with people.  Fairly upset people.

Ed and Ralph were visiting and simply sat in, not saying anything, while new members Marge, Darren, and Ken watched the meeting quietly, still trying to figure out how this commune thing worked.  Cat was facilitating.  And everyone was looking at Stan.

Stan was sitting with his back against the wall looking up at the ceiling.  His hands were fidgeting in his lap.  His legs looked like they wanted to move of their own accord.

"We've given you several chances to clean up your act," Luna said.

"Yeah, and I don't think you're good at cleaning up anything," Sal added.  She turned her gaze to Nancy.

Nancy didn't say anything but shifted in her seat.  She in turn, turned toward the facilitator.

Cat looked bewildered for a moment.  "I... I really don't know what to say to you, Stan.  I've seen everyone else working away and nobody had the least idea where you were."

"I know where Stan was, at least where he was sometimes," Dan said.  He seemed ready to explode.  He sat and took a deep breath before he spoke again.  "I've found him in his room napping while the rest of us were working."  Dan stared at Stan.

Stan looked at Dan.  He started to speak but stopped.  He looked around the room.  Everyone looked back.  He looked back up at the ceiling as if he might find some comfort there.

The meeting got very quiet.  Cat sat down and stopped facilitating.  The new folks seemed to be holding their collective breaths.  Luna looked like she wanted to say something more but sat on her hands instead.  There were a couple of minutes of rather uncomfortable silence before Stan finally spoke.

"I forgot to tell you!  There's a fairy festival happening out west!  I'm going!  Tomorrow!"

   "But Stan he got caught, he left in a shot..."

Breakfast was quieter than usual the next morning.

Things were still busy enough that soon Cat and Nancy were baking away, Marge and Darren were setting up the baked goods stand, Sal was setting up the produce stand while Dan was trying to make his way from under the spaghetti squash, Ralph and Ed were bringing vegetables in, Ken was transporting goodies from the kitchen, and Luna and Viv were out in the fields, harvesting.  Stan was in his room, packing.  And no one said an unnecessary word.

Lunch seemed even quieter than breakfast, if that was possible.  Stan walked to the room in around the middle of the meal, but no one spoke with him.  The silence was disturbed only by the clinking of silverware and the occasional request to pass the pepper.  Everyone seemed to be eating in slow motion.  Eventually people got up and began bringing their dishes into the kitchen to be washed.

As the last dishes were being stacked and the table was being wiped down, Stan looked out the farmhouse window for the umpteenth time and this time he saw what he had been looking out that window to see.  He announced to everyone, "My ride to the fairy fest is here!  I'm leaving!" and, dropping the dish that he had been holding, he ran up to his room to get his belongings.

A purple station wagon with a giant pink rubber raft strapped to the roof was pulling up the drive.  Moments later, two bearded men in long colorful dresses got out.  They stood there for a couple of minutes just looking at the place before Stan came barreling out the door with two suitcases and a large box of his stuff.  The two guys hugged Stan and then spent a several minutes contemplating his things.  Then they looked back at the packed station wagon and gave an audible collective sigh.

It took them a while but somehow they managed to shove all of Stan's stuff into the already very crowded vehicle.  Then it took another couple of minutes for them to create enough room for Stan to squeeze himself into a space he made for himself in the back seat.  Once that happened the guys stood outside, leaning on the wagon, while they stared at a paper full of directions and slowly figured out where they could get on the interstate and where they would be headed to next.

When they finally got back in the car and were able to start the station wagon engine again, Stan rolled down his window and waved at all the people that were gathering.

In spite of all the harsh words of the night before, most of the commune had come out to wish Stan a fond farewell.  Dan had a couple of pieces of chard coming out of one of his pockets.  Luna seemed to be holding her breath.  Cat was jumping up and down.  Ed looked amused.  Viv looked confused.  Several people waved back at Stan and a few folks shook their fists.  As the station wagon left the drive and drove onto the road, Sal yelled out those familiar words: "And if we ever see your sorry..."

    "...and Luna collapsed with relief and laughter."

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Chapter Seven: More Members Arrive

    "The sheriff came in, talking of Ken..."

Stan looked at Luna and Dan.  They looked at each other and nodded to Stan.

The sheriff and his deputies walked slowly into the gathering.  They seemed hesitant about coming into the building, acting as if this place was a strange, new territory for them.

The sheriff stood in the dining room and looked around the place.  He stuck his hands on his hips.  The deputies stayed by the door as if they weren't sure what to do with themselves.

"Sorry to bother you, ladies and gentlemen," the sheriff began.  "This is a commune, right?"  He looked somewhat embarrassed after he said it.  It struck Luna as a bit silly since the green "Commune!" sign was still stuck on the fence by the road.

"Yes it is," Cat and Sal said together, almost as if they rehearsed it.  They stared at each other for a moment afterwards.

The sheriff paused, as if he wasn't sure what to say next.  "Well, it seems like these communes are a bit of a magnet for runaways."  He stopped and looked around at everyone, as if he was looking for someone in particular.

When he didn't seem to see who he was looking for, he continued.  "We have a report of a young man, thin, dark brown hair, tends to be a bit nervous, who ran away from home a few hours south of here.  His name is Kenneth and his parents are worried about him.  You haven't seen him, have you?"

Several people shook their heads.

"No, we really haven't," said Nancy.

"Well, we'd be very obliged if you'd call us or his parents if you do see him."  While the sheriff was talking, one of the deputies handed Stan a piece of paper with some phone numbers on it.  Stan handed it to Dan.  "Sorry to trouble you folks."

"Can we offer you some pie while you're here?" Nancy asked.

The sheriff looked at his deputies.  They looked at the pie.  "Thank you, ma'am.  That's hard to turn down."

They sat at the table for a few minutes, talking with some of the commune members about crime in the county and the recent weather.  Everyone relaxed a bit.  Wine was passed around but the sheriff and deputies declined.  One of the deputies looked like she actually wanted some.

Then the sheriff pushed back his plate.  "This was lovely but we need to go.  Once again, please let us know if you see Ken or hear anything about him.  His parents have been calling us daily."

The sheriff and deputies got up and, after shaking hands with several people, left.

Clean up continued.  Soon everyone headed for bed.

The next few days were rather busy.  Business was still going strong.

   "... who proceeded to sit at their table..."

Two nights later, just as dinner was being served, there was another knock on the door.  A thin young guy with short, dark brown hair stood there.  He looked around at everyone rather anxiously. "Is this really a commune?"

Viv grabbed Nancy who looked at Luna. Luna gave a faint nod.  Nancy said, "Sure is.  Come on in, you're just in time for dinner."

As they ate, the young man introduced himself as 'ElmTree' and said that he always wanted to live in a commune.  No one questioned him as they ate and people told various stories about life on the farm.

After dinner, Sal suggested that they all sit together and talk.

"So," said Nancy after they were seated, "we were visited by the sheriff a couple of days ago.  They were looking for someone named Kenneth.  And the description the sheriff gave..."

"Okay, okay," ElmTree said.  "It's me."

"He said your parents are worried about you," Luna added.  "We can use new members, but you need to call them first.  Let them see the place.  Maybe they'll let you stay."

ElmTree, who now decided his name was Ken, looked quickly around at all the friendly faces.  "Alright," he said.  "I'll call them.  Maybe if they see the place..."

Ken had been doubtful but when his mother came, she was actually impressed with the commune.  It probably helped that Viv and Dan had just scrubbed down the dining room the day before.  And Nancy offering some of her Raspberry Maple Walnut Bread might have helped as well.  Ken's mom had two slices and sighed afterwards.

"Okay," she said to Ken finally.  "As long as you're happy here.  I can talk with your father.  He and I will be by with some of your things in a few days."  She gave him a big hug.  "And don't forget to call us regularly," she said as she left.  She gave Nancy a big smile as she walked out the door.  "I want that recipe," she said to her.

She started down the drive but had to wait a minute while a green van moved over to give her space.  When Viv and Cat spotted the van, they went running out.

The van parked in the space left by Ken's mother.  Darren and Marge emerged from it and were immediately grabbed by Cat and Viv.  Cat and Viv were glad to see their friends, but Darren and Marge seemed especially glad to see Cat and Viv.

"We brought your stuff, Viv," Marge said.

"And our stuff, too," added Darren.

"Can you still use people?" Marge asked Cat.  "A plane nearly landed on our street the other day and they evacuated the neighborhood for six hours.  We decided it was time to get out of there."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Chapter Six: They Sell Food

     "Luna burst in and grinning a grin, she said, Danny boy, we've got a business..."

With two farm stands, things really took off.  The farm was now officially in its busy season.

Nancy and Cat kept the "Chthonic Baked Goods and Yggdrasil Cupcakes" stand flowing with breads and pastries, Sal and Dan began selling produce from the other stand, and Luna and Viv worked out in the farm's fields, doing the sowing and reaping.  Stan was helping out with a little of everything.  Often no one knew what he was doing.

"Wait," said one of Cat's customers, eyeing some of the sweet treats in front of her. "What do you mean there's no wheat or dairy or soy or sugar in the cupcakes?  What's in them?"

"It's a secret," Cat said.

"You can't tell me?" the woman asked.

"If I told you, I'd have to..." The customer gasped and Nancy stopped moving as Cat's voice dropped to a hoarse whisper. "...make you work here."

Dan was drowning in kale and collards and spinach and zucchini and peppers and onions and carrots and tomato and basil and several leafy greens that he couldn't identify.  Every so often Sal would have to pull him out from under a mound of various vegetables.

Even though they had done next to no publicity, the line of cars for the two stands now snaked down the road, backing up to the gas station and general store.  Fortunately one of their neighbors was also a regular customer.  He let them use the area at the end of his property as overflow parking.

"I come here everyday," one guy said, almost every day that he came there.

"It's one stop shopping," another of their happy customers proclaimed as she loaded up on baked goods and veggies.

Several customers wanted the recipe for Nancy's Raspberry Maple Walnut Bread.  "We should write a commune cookbook," she said to Cat.  "When we have any time..."  Cat didn't have a chance to reply because two young men were squabbling over the last of the carob mint cupcakes.

At night Luna and Dan counted up the money from the two stands.  "Hey," Luna said, "even including our food, water, and heating bills, and the electricity and the mortgage, we're still making enough money to give everybody a small allowance."

Everyone thought the allowance was a good idea, but no one had a chance to spend it. Each day, it was more crops, more vegetables, more baked goods, more sales, and more money. And lots and lots of work.

"Do you get a vacation when you work at a commune?" Cat asked Nancy as they were sweating in the kitchen, baking on a warm summer morning.

"Sure," said Nancy, wiping her brow.  "But I think we won't have time to have time off until October."

     "And we'll do better, even better, as soon as we're able..."

When Ralph and Ed turned up, a week later, on one of their periodic visits, they got pressed into service, carting vegetables from the fields to the farm stand.

"Where's Dan?"  Ed asked Sal when they got to the stand.

"I know I left him around here someplace," she said.  She looked around and saw a pile of eggplant moving ever so slightly.  She and Ralph reached in and extracted Dan from the pile.

"And where's Stan?" Ralph asked.

"Now that's a very good question," Sal said.

Viv and Luna were checking on the progress of some of the squashes.  None of them were quite mature but there were a lot of them on the way.

"I can't believe how fertile the soil here is," Viv said.

"I attribute it all to prayer--and horse manure from a riding ranch in the next town," Luna said.  "It's sort of the way that they did it at Hornfind in Scotland."

Just then Ed and Ralph came back with their carts.

"You got some more for us?" Ed asked.

"I think that's it for now," Luna said.

"Dan said we need more carrots and peppers.  He said they're about sold out."

"Sorry, but nothing else is ready."

"We're going to have to grow even more stuff next year," Viv said.

"Yeah," said Luna.  "Absolutely."  She pointed out to Viv and Ralph and Ed where she hoped the commune would have another field for vegetables, and where she planned to put in the apple, peach, walnut, and hazelnut trees, along with the strawberries, and raspberries, and high bush blueberries, and...

Dinner that night was real quiet.  Everyone, including Ralph and Ed, seemed to be too exhausted to talk.

Afterwards, when the meal was being cleared up and sleeping arrangements for the night were being figured out, there was a knock on the door.

Stan opened it.  Outside were the county sheriff and two deputies.

"Can we come in?"  the sheriff asked.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Chapter Five: The Farm Has Visitors

   "The visitors checked out, leaving no doubt, to help with the commune's survival..."

Sal grew up in Ithaca (town motto: 'Ten square miles, surrounded by reality').  Nancy, on the other hand, grew up in the rural south.  Her best friend as a child had been a girl who lived down the road, Amanda Cody.  Nancy was astounded when she received a call from her old friend one day when she was working in the kitchen.

"Amanda's coming here," she said to Sal a little later.  "I haven't seen her since I was twelve."

"Do you think she's changed much?" asked Sal.

"I'll know soon."

Luna also got a call.  From her mother.

"Mom wants to see the place," she said to Dan.  "I told her she could stay here for a few days if she wanted.  I think she just needs to get away from my dad for a while."

"I can't see that will be a problem. We haven't had very many visitors here.  It will be a nice change to have some different folks around."

Amanda took the bus north.  Nancy picked her up at a terminal in the state capital.  Nancy barely recognized Amanda.  Her skinny little childhood chum was now tall and full figured.  Her eyes looked bloodshot and her hair was an shiny shade of bleached blonde with very dark brown roots.

"You haven't changed a bit," Nancy said.

"You neither," Amanda replied.  She turned her head as she coughed a couple of times and then said, "Northern living must agree with you."

Nancy put Amanda's two suitcases in the trunk and they drove back to the farm.  Amanda barely said a word to her on the drive, just fiddling with her purse as they rode along.

When they got to the commune, Amanda excused herself for a few minutes.  Nancy spotted her behind the left farmhouse, puffing on a cigarette.

Amanda saw that Nancy had seen her.  "Don't start," she said.  "I hear it enough from my sisters."

Luna's mother arrived a half hour after Nancy drove in with Amanda.

"Doesn't this look nice," she said to Luna.  "And who are all your friends here?"

Luna introduced her mother to Sal and Nancy and Amanda and Dan and Stan and Cat.  Sal and Nancy excused themselves to get dinner on the table.   Shortly after that, everyone sat down to the meal together.  They were almost done eating when Ralph and Ed arrived.

"Did we come at a bad time?" Ed asked.

"No," said Luna.  "Not at all.  I've been wondering what it would be like with a lot of people here."

"Well, you're in luck," said Cat.  "I have four friends from Eastie on the way over."

     "Cat said, Luna come meet the gang..."

Sure enough, less than an hour later, a green van pulled up next to the Rabbit.

Four folks got out.  The introductions took up the next twenty minutes.

Darren, Vivian, Marge, and Steve had lived downstairs from Cat in a triple decker a quarter mile from the airport.

"Wow," said Marge.  "I've been here a half hour now and I haven't heard any planes land yet."

Soon there were all sorts of conversations going on.  It turned out that Ed and Stan knew Darren from fairy gatherings and Vivian had always wanted to live at Old Corn.

At one point, Luna realized that Steve had disappeared.  Amanda didn't seem to be around either.  When she wandered around the property, she spied them both behind the farmhouses, smoking. Together.

The dinner kept being extended to feed folks as they arrived, but fortunately, clean up was easy with so many people.  Everyone was getting along but Luna's big worry was that there wouldn't be enough rooms for them all to sleep in.  She needn't have fretted.

Luna ended up sleeping with Marge, Dan slept with Stan, Amanda slept with Steve, Darren and Ralph and Ed all slept together, and Vivian, Sal, and Nancy all slept together.  Luna's mother slept by herself and Cat also slept alone.

The next day everyone pitched in with chores.  Luna's mom helped with the baking, Vivian and Darren helped Luna in the fields, Marge helped Dan and Sal build a new farm stand for the produce, and Amanda and Steve seemed to be helping Stan with something, although no one else had a clue what it was.  Things at the commune never seemed so productive.

The meal that night was a feast.  Produce was starting to come in and there were baked goods galore on the table.

"I like it here," said vivacious Viv.

"Hey," said Dan, "we can sure use more people.  Welcome aboard."

"You did a great job working with me," Luna said.  "And I think we really do need more help with farming in the fields."

"Well, good," Viv said, "I don't have much stuff.  Marge and Darren can bring most of what I own the next time they visit."

The sleeping arrangements that night were pretty much the same as the ones the night before except Luna slept with Stan and Dan slept with Marge.

The next morning was a busy breakfast. Most of the folks were leaving soon after.

"I'll tell your father that you're still alive," Luna's mother said.  "For some reason, he thinks the commune is going to kill you, but I'm just glad you're having a good time."   She hugged her daughter and drove off.

Lots of other people were hugging, too.  Slowly the visitors got into their vehicles.  Marge and Darren drove back to Boston.  Ralph and Ed yelled, "We'll be back," before they drove off.

And Steve and Amanda were getting in a last cigarette before Nancy quickly herded them into her car and took them to the bus station.  Anyone not paying close attention might have thought that they disappeared in a puff of smoke.

And life on the commune began to settle down again.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chapter Four: They Talk and They Work

   "Luna Lagoon checked around the commune, only to find issues tribal..."

Things were pretty loose at the beginning.  They didn't seem to need a lot of policies and regulations.  Most of the folks got along with each other.

And the arrangements they had with each other were pretty loose as well.  It turned out that Luna had been sleeping with Nancy.  And Sal. And Dan.  And Dan had been sleeping with Stan. And Sal. And Nancy.  And Sal and Nancy were still sleeping together occasionally. And there were rumors about Stan and Sal.  About the only one who wasn't changing beds regularly was Cat--at least as far as most people knew.

And then things got really messy when Ralph and Ed came to visit, and Ed found Ralph and Stan cuddled up together.

But there were actually very few problems with romantic jealousy on the commune.  (Except maybe for Ed's threats to make Ralph actually listen to Stan for an hour.)

Instead, people were complaining about who was snoring, who left the windows open, who left the dishes in the sink, and who didn't clean the bathroom.

"I cleaned!  Last week!  I think!" said Stan.

It was their second ever community meeting. They just had decided to do them every other week while they were getting going.  This one was held in the living room of the middle farmhouse.  It was the biggest room on the place and could have held another six people easily.  Which was sort of the point.

Nancy was facilitating.   She was doing pretty well considering the number of people who were yelling.

"Well, somebody left a mess," Luna fumed.

"It was one of the men," insisted Sal.  "I know it."

"And just how do you know it?" Dan declaimed.  He put his hands on his hips and glared.

Cat appeared to be trying to disappear into the wallpaper.

Nancy raised her hands.  "Let's take a minute of silence," she said.  She got dirty looks from almost everyone, but there was nearly two minutes of silence before anyone spoke again.

"Look," Luna said finally.  "I'm sorry I lost my temper."

"Me, too," said Dan.  "I know I was getting defensive."

"I'm sorry, too!" said Stan.  "Really!"

"Well, I'm not," Sal said sternly.  "The bathroom is still a mess and I want to find out who's responsible."

Immediately the meeting re-erupted into chaos.  Sal, Luna, Dan, and Stan were all yelling, Nancy was waving her hands, and Cat seemed to be inching toward the door.  The meeting lasted into the night.

   "This earful it seems, disrupted their dreams..."

The next day, people tried to get back to their routines.  There was lots to do.

Nancy and Cat were in the kitchen baking.  Nancy was preparing a sweet dough for the loaf pans; Cat was testing how well done the cupcakes were with a knife.

"Well, that was a healthy meeting," Nancy said.

Cat stopped, knife still in the air.  "What do you mean?"

"Everybody got a chance to air their feelings.  I'm sure everyone feels better now."

Cat stabbed the cupcake until it crumbled.

Out in the fields, Luna and Dan were checking on the growing veggies.

"Looks like we'll have a lot of kale," Luna said.

"And zucchini," Dan replied.

"Oh, yeah," Luna said, tugging on her hair.  "Lots."  She stopped and thought a moment.  "Ya know, I don't think that starting a commune is going to be as easy as they said in the brochures."

"Did they say it was going to be easy?" Dan asked.

"Well, not exactly.  But I didn't think it was going to be this hard. I wonder if we need to do more concentrating in the meetings."  Luna  sighed and kicked a rock out of the soil.  She looked beyond the two fields they had cleared.  "Maybe we should plant some berries and trees over there.  I've heard you're s'posed to do that if you're doing Protoculture."

"What about the commune building?"

Luna kept looking at the fields.  "It will happen.  It will. Somehow. I know it."

Back in the main building, Sal and Stan were cleaning the bathroom.  Together. Sort of.

"You missed a spot," said Sal.

"Oops!" said Stan.

Sal looked at the ceiling and counted to ten in her mind.  "Why did I think you'd be a good person to live in a commune with?" she mused.