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

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.