"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.