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

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Chapter Fifty-Seven: Damage

When they got back they found out that there had been a very heated argument and Broc said it was enough and packed his bags and called a cab.  He said goodbye to Nancy and thanked her for everything.

“He told me that was it,” Nancy said.  “He had other things to do and he wasn’t going to be treated badly any more.”

“Do you think there’s anything to do to get him back?” Sal said.

“I’m not going to worry about Broc at this point,” Luna said.  “I’m more worried about more people leaving.  We’re going to have to do something or most of our folks will leave and we’ll be stuck with just working with Don and Dick.”

“Maybe we should have stayed and learned what George and Fred figured out,” Sal said.

“I’m not sure they figured out anything,” said Dan.  “I think they were stalling for time until they could figure out something.  Anyway, I’ll give them a call and see if they have come up with anything.”

“Maybe we should call an emergency commune meeting,” Sal said.

“We talked all about Dick and Don in the last meeting,” said Nancy.  “We didn’t solve anything then.  What makes you think we can do anything different now?”

“Well, we’ve got to do something,” Luna said.  “We’re not going to have any commune left soon.”

“Maybe we should ask Don and Dick to leave,” Dan said.  “Otherwise everyone else is going to leave.  I don’t want to be stuck in the commune with them.”

“That’s just what I said,” Luna said.  “They’ve got us talking in circles.”

“Yeah,” said Sal.  “I’ve had it.  I’m going to bed.  Maybe we can think of something different in the morning.”

“Sleep well,” Luna said.  After Nancy and Sal left she turned to Dan.  “I’m afraid I’m not going to sleep at all tonight.”


Luna did fall asleep with Dan holding her, but she woke before four am.  Dan was still asleep.

She got up and decide to go outside to clear her head.  As soon as she got out the door, she smelled the smoke.  With memories of the last fire she checked all the residences but they seemed fine.  Then she realized that the smell was coming from the building that was under construction.

She quickly woke up Dan.  “Call the fire department.  The new building is burning.”  

Luna woke up Sal and Nancy.  Nancy went around waking up others while Luna and Sal and Dan all tried to put out the fire.

The fire department showed up shortly.

“We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” the fire chief said to Luna.

“Absolutely,” said Luna.  “This is way over our quota for fires.”

Unfortunately, by the time the fire was put out, the new building, which had been three quarters built, was now in ruins.

At this point all the commune folks were gathered along with Peter, George, and Fred,  who appeared from nowhere.

“I got a call from the cops and picked up Fred and George,” Peter said.  “Is everyone accounted for?”

A quick roll call found Ken, Marge, Viv, Cat, Blue Sky, Paul G, Patsy, Darren, Chuck, Strange Brew, Grace, Will, Sowbug, Dandelion, and Dick, all alive, well, and very sleepy.

“Can anyone locate Don?” Sal asked.  On a quick search of the grounds it turned out that not only was Don missing but so was his tent and all of his belongings.

“Man,” Strange Brew said.  “This is like an early trick or treat.”

“A trick, an awful trick,” Paul G said.  “This is not a treat.”

“Happy Halloween,” Patsy muttered.

Before the conversation went any further, the fire chief came over to where everyone was standing.

“Surprisingly, it doesn’t look like arson,” he said.

“What do you mean?” asked Marge.

“It looks like someone was walking around with a candle and slipped.  Unfortunately, the candle must have ignited some of the straw insulation you had stored over there.  Once it started, it would have been a slow burn but really hard to put out.”  The fire chief stopped a moment and looked at everyone.  “Whoever did this should have just called us as soon as it happened.  We probably could have saved the building if we had been called quick enough.”

“I think the person who did it panicked and fled,” Nancy said.

“Well, it’s good to know it wasn’t deliberate,” Luna said.  “But it doesn’t change the fact that weeks of work have been lost.  I’m sorry everyone.”

“We’ve done all we can do,” said the fire chief.  “I hope I don’t see you all again for a long while.”

“Nothing more we can do now,” Dan said.  “I hope everyone can get a little more sleep tonight.  We’ve got a difficult day tomorrow.”

People started drifting off but Dick just stood there, staring at the charred remains of their work.

“Are you going back to bed?” Sowbug asked.

Dick continued to stand quietly.  “I knew that guy was trouble,” he said finally.  “He had a bad attitude.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Chapter Fifty-Six: Difficulties

The commune meeting that week was really difficult.

There was only one item on the agenda: dealing with Dick and Don.  But there were lots of feelings.

“I’m not enjoying living here right now,” Cat said.

“Me, neither,” said Patsy.

“I’m sure we can work things out,” said Nancy.

“I’m not,” said Broc.  People looked up in surprise.  Broc had not spoken up at many meetings.  “I am upset that people have complained to me that I was too macho.  I would never be as macho as them.  They give macho a bad name.”

Don and Dick glared at Broc.  It was a short break from them glaring at each other.  Almost everyone else was glaring at the two of them.

Luna was trying to facilitate the meeting.  She was in charge because almost no one else was willing to do it.  “Alright,” she said.  “Let’s all take a deep breath.”

“That’s the fifth time you’ve suggested that,” Strange Brew said.  “If we do any more deep breathing, I’m afraid I’m going to start hyperventilating.”

“I,” said Sowbug slowly, “don’t… think… I… can… work… with… these… two… any… longer.”

“Me neither,” said Dandelion in one quick breath.

Sal sighed.  She looked directly at Dick and Don.  “The problem is that you’re both really good workers and you haven’t threatened anyone directly.  You haven’t done anything we could give as a reason to ask you to leave.”

“So why even bring the idea up?” asked Dick.

“Because if we don’t do something other people will start leaving,” Sal said.

“Is it my fault that they’re not up for real work?” Dick asked.

A bunch of people started talking at once, all of them loudly.

“Stop!” Luna yelled.  When there was quiet again she said, “Okay,  Chuck, then Marge, then Viv.  Did I miss anybody?” She looked around and spotted more hands. “Alright, and then Ken.  Dan, Sal, and Broc, I’m waiting on you because you’ve already spoken.”

The meeting went an hour and a half overtime and only ended because Luna was afraid no one would be awake to work in the morning.  Amazingly, no one walked out of the meeting, although several people threatened to.

“What do we do now?” Luna asked Dan as they were headed for bed.

“I think we should talk with Peter,” Dan said.  “Maybe he has some good ideas.”


There was a meeting a week later at Peter’s house.  Luna, Dan, and Sal were there, having slipped out and telling no one except Nancy.

Besides Peter, Fred, George, Ed, and Ralph were also there.

“We don’t know what to do,” Dan said.  “We’re at our wit’s end.”
“I’m really surprised that people haven’t started leaving,” said Sal.  “I know that Sowbug and Dandelion have talked about it.”

“We rotated Don and Dick off of the construction crew on to the farming crew for a little bit,” Luna said.  “Then we got wise and split them up so one is on construction and one is on farming at any given time.  Each of them separately is bad but nowhere near as toxic as the combination of the two of them together.”

“Do you think that they might be actors, put in by the Reagons?” Fred asked.  “Like Barbara.”

“Yeah,” said George.  “This seems like the kind of thing that they would do.”

“If either Dick or Don is an actor, they’re a really good actor,” Sal said.  “I can’t believe that both of them are.”

“Regardless of whether these folks are actors or the real deal,” Peter said, “we’ve got to come up with a plan of what you’re going to do now.”

“Like I said, splitting them up has made some difference,” said Luna.  

“Yeah,” Dan said.  “Dandelion and Sowbug have stopped talking about leaving.  But I know these two are getting on everyone’s nerves.  They’re certainly getting on mine.”

“Mine, too,” said Sal.

“And the trouble is that they’re both great workers,” Luna added.  “If they weren’t so obnoxious they’d be dream communards.”

“Yeah, but that’s like asking what the pope would be like if he wasn’t Catholic,” Ed said.  “They are who they are.  The question is what do you do?”

“Yeah, but the point is,” said Sal, “that how good they are and how hard they work is what makes it hard to ask them to leave.  Which is what we’d like to do if we could come up with a good reason.”

“They also haven’t threatened anyone or damaged anything or done anything against our policies,” added Luna.  “Which is what makes the whole thing so difficult.”

“We can’t toss them out,” said Dan, “and I’m afraid they’re going to destroy us if they stay.”

“Maybe you can suggest that they might want to take a break,” suggested Ralph.  “If either or both of them left for a bit it would give everyone else a break.”

“I can’t think of any legal recourse,” said Peter.  “As you said, they haven’t violated any rules.”

George looked thoughtful. “Maybe you could…”  He paused for a minute and the phone rang.

“Saved by the bell,” said Fred as he answered Peter’s phone.  “It’s for you,” he said handing the phone over to Luna.

“Uh-huh,” Luna said.  “Oh, no.”  She put her hand over the receiver.  “It’s Nancy.  Broc just walked out.  He got into an argument with Don and Dick and he’s gone.  She’s pretty sure he’s not coming back.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Chapter Fifty-Five: Don

Don was a guy in his late thirties who claimed to be an artist, a farmer, and a worker.  He showed up at the commune almost a week to the day that Dick showed up.

“I’m here to work,” he said to Ken when Ken answered the door.

“Let me get someone,” Ken said and fled.  He found Sal in the kitchen.  “We’ve got another one,” he said.  “Will you handle it?”

Don didn’t look like Dick.  He had a goatee and a beret and a laid back somewhat cynical style that was very different from Dick’s aggressive earnestness.

“What kind of work do you want to do?”  Sal asked.

“What kind of help do you need?”

“We’re about to put up a new building.  Do you know anything about construction?”

“I know my way around tools and building supplies,” Don said.  “I should be able to help with whatever you’re doing.”

Sal took Don to meet Dandelion and Sowbug.  

“Why do you want to live on a commune?”  Dandelion asked.

“We work better when we work together,” Don answered.  “We’re all in this to learn.  We’ve all got to deal with challenges and the trick is to learn to endure them.”

“We’re trying to figure out how we can work together on this project,” Sowbug said.  “What do you bring to the table?”

“I’m creative,” Don said.  “I’ve learned to adapt.  I grew up in the Yukon so I can deal with anything.”

Sowbug and Dandelion looked at each other.  Sowbug shrugged.

“Okay,”   Dandelion said.  “Can you tent?”

“I can tent right through the winter,” Don said.  “I did it in Montana one year.”

“Fine,” said Sowbug.  “I’ll show you where you can pitch a tent.”

As they were walking out to the field, Dick passed them by.  He gave Don a hard look.  “I’ve got everything lined up for tomorrow,” he said.

“Fine,” Sowbug said.  “We’ll start first thing in the morning.”

“Who was that?” Don asked after Dick left.

“That was Dick,” Dandelion replied.  “You’ll be working with him and us.”

“Is he a hard worker?” Don asked.

“He’s a very hard worker,” Sowbug said.

“Good,” said Don.


Dick had already started organizing the construction work with Dandelion and Sowbug when Don arrived.

“You’re late,” he said.

“So,” Don said.

“So we need to get this thing up and we need to get it up soon.  We need to get going now.”

“That sounds like you’re being obsessive,” Don said.

“I’m being obsessive because care about this,” Dick said.

“Yeah, be careful that you don’t care so much about it that you can’t think straight,” Don said.  “Do you even know what you’re doing?”

“I’ve been doing construction work for fifteen years,”  Dick said.  “I know what I’m doing.”

“Where were you working?”

“Out in the Bronx.  So, how about you?  Have you done construction?”

“Yeah, only I was doing it in the Yukon in the dead of winter.”

“So, were you planning to wait until winter came to get started here?”

“Who cares?  I think you folks have it too easy.”

“I think you’re crazy.”

Dick and Don stared at each other.  Don picked up a brick.  Dick picked up a stick.  Dandelion walked between them.

“Look, you two,” Sowbug said.  “We’re not going to get anything built if you stand there arguing.  Work now, you can argue later.”

Dick put down his stick.  Don dropped his brick.  Dandelion and Sowbug began directing them on the construction of the building and the team got to work.

Don and Dick grunted or gave one word answers when Sowbug and Dandelion asked them anything, but didn’t say a word to each other.  They worked all morning, broke for lunch, and went back to work in the afternoon.

Lunch was a tense affair.  Other communards walked in, took one look at Dick and Don’s faces, and didn’t say a thing to either of them.

The afternoon went much the same as the morning.  Slowly, Sowbug and Dandelion realized that these guys were doing more and more in an effort to out do each other.  Work was getting done at a record pace but the two ex-Trollworkers surreptitiously inspected all the work to make sure it was being done correctly.  Surprisingly, they found very few errors.  The two men were both experienced builders and knew what they were doing.  It just wasn’t very easy to work with them, especially when things were this tense.

Finally, Dandelion called it a day at nearly six.  “Stop already.  We’ll start again in the morning.”

“Sure,” Don said.

“I’ll be there,” Dick said.

The two men stalked off.

“Oh, my,” said Sowbug.  “That was unpleasant.”

“F’sure,” Dandelion said.  “Do we have to go through this again tomorrow?”

“We should talk with Luna and Dan,” Sowbug said.  “Maybe they’ll have some ideas.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Chapter Fifty-Four: Dick

It was almost a month after the commune anniversary that Dick strolled up to the front door of the front house.  Dick was an energetic middle aged guy with a background in both farming and construction.

“If you need a good worker, I’m your man,” he said.  “I’ll do whatever I need to do.”

“We’ve got a lot of folks working in the fields right now,” Luna said.  “Would you be willing to work with the construction crew?”

“Whatever,” Dick said.  “Look.  I don’t think you know how important places like this are right now.  We don’t have much time given the current crisis.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Sal.

“Peak oil.  Climate destruction. Economic chaos.  It’s all coming apart really.”  Dick smiled at them all.  “We just gotta do what we gotta do.”

“Let me introduce you to Sowbug and Dandelion,” Dan said.

“Whatever,” Dick said.

It turned out that Dick was a strong and very capable worker.  Within a week of working with Dandelion and Sowbug, they had doubled their production.  Having talked with most of the folks in the commune, Sowbug and Dandelion were making preparations to start on the new building.  They were gathering materials and, suddenly, they had everything because Dick was making sure that they had everything.  Every time they turned around, Dick was hauling in something they needed.”

“You guys should work harder at finding stuff,” Dick said.  “It’s not so difficult getting things if you really put some effort into it.”

“Excuse me,” Dandelion said.  “We’ve been doing other stuff.  Anyway, we were getting stuff fine before you came along.”

“Whatever,” Dick said.  “It’s just that you didn’t seem like you folks were really working it.  We gotta get this thing going and get this building up.”

“Wait a minute,” Sowbug said.  “When did you get put in charge of our schedule?”

“Look, folks,” Dick said.  “Winter is coming.  You really want everyone out in the cold freezing?  How crazy are you?”

Dandelion and Sowbug looked at each other and left.

They were talking with Dan the next morning.

“He’s an amazing worker,” said Sowbug, “but he’s really hard on himself and he’s hard on everyone around him, too.”

“Honestly,” Dandelion said,  “I’m not sure I can work with him.  And I’m not sure anyone else can either.”

“Let me talk with him,” Dan said.


Dick was working on organizing for the new building when Dan found him.

“How’s it going?” Dan said.

“What do you want?” Dick asked.  “Did Sowbug and Dandelion complain about me?”

“They said they’re having difficulties working with you, yes,” said Dan.

“They were also having difficulties getting stuff before I came along,” Dick said.  “They don’t seem to appreciate what I’m doing for them.”

Dan looked at Dick.  Dick looked right back.

“They think that you’re a hard worker,” Dan said finally.  “It’s just that they don’t like the way you treat other folks.”

“I don’t think they work hard enough.  The only reason that they’re upset is because I pointed that out to them.”

“Wait a minute,” Dan said. “This is a commune.  People need to work well together here.  We need to rely on each other.”

“Well, I’m not sure I can rely on them,” Dick said.  “I’m not sure I can rely on any of you, in fact.”

Dan talked with Luna later.  “He works really hard.  It’s not a situation like living with Stan.  It’s just that he’s also hard to work with.  He critiques and criticizes everyone.  But can we toss someone out for speaking their mind?”

“He’s been here less than two weeks,” Luna said.  “Let’s give it another week and maybe we’ll bring it up in the commune meeting.  Maybe he’ll do better if he hears it from a bunch of other people.”

“Well, I’m sure he’ll hear it from a bunch of different folks, because I’m already hearing it from a whole bunch of folks.  Even Broc is having trouble working with him.  I guess I can wait until the next meeting, but believe me, something has got to change.”

However, the problems with Dick didn’t come up in the commune meeting that happened the next week. Something occurred later that week that changed things at the commune considerably.  It wasn’t that Dick changed or that anyone else changed, for that matter.  What happened was that Don arrived.