"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."