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."