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

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Chapter Seventy-Nine: Planning…

“I heard there was a new guy here,” Lois said.

“Yeah,” Sowbug said.  “I think his name is Birch.”

“That’s right,” Mo said.  “I’m pretty sure he’s one of the guys who showed up for our New Year celebration.”

“I think he used to live here last spring,” Dandelion said.  “I heard his mother dragged him off because she didn’t like the place.”

“Well, he got the last open room,” Lois said.  “Don’t you think it’s time we started working on a new place?”

“And where are we going to put it?” asked Mo.  “The farm is still covered in snow.  We can’t really work on any new construction until the snow’s gone.”

“Yeah,” said Sorrel, “but I don’t think the snow is here for much longer.  It’s almost April and it hasn’t snowed in at least three days.  I think at least a little of it is melting away.”

“I was talking with Sal,” Earthworm said.  “She thinks we should start planning some new construction now so that we’re ready to go when the snow’s gone.”

“And another thing we should do is to start stockpiling building materials,” said Sowbug.  “Then we’ll really be ready to roll.”

“Actually,” Dandelion said, “the first thing that we need to do is meet with Sal and Dan.  Let’s all get together and figure this whole thing out.”

“Okay,” Lois said.  “I can talk with them today.  Should we meet together tomorrow?”

“Absolutely,” Sowbug said.  “Let’s meet tomorrow.  Meanwhile, we still have all this repair work to do.  Apparently the flooring under the stove in the kitchen is giving way.  Who wants to work with me on that?”


Sal stood over a large map of the commune’s land.  “You’re absolutely right,” she said.  “If we’re going to grow as a community, we’re going to need more houses.  The question is where to put them.”

“The problem is,” Dan said, waving a long stick around the map, “there’s not a lot of places to put them.  We want a bunch of the land for farming, we want to leave some of it as woods, and a lot of our land is hillside that would be crazy hard to build on.”

Sal grabbed the stick from Dan and pointed it at a part of the property past the hills and near a brook.  “As far as I can see, this is the only place left that we can build on.”

“But that’s really far from the other buildings,” Sowbug said.

“Yeah,” said Sorrel.  “We might as well name it Siberia House.”

“Well,” said Dan, grabbing the stick back from Sal, “maybe we will name it Siberia House.  But do you see anywhere else we can do any real building?”

Mo grabbed the stick from Dan and pointed it at the far field.  “When a bunch of us had gotten together, we had been looking at trying to build in this area.”

Sal shrugged.  “I think that land has already been claimed.  I know that Luna and Viv want part of it for expanding the farming area and the rest of it is what we plan use for events.  We want to be able to have concerts and outdoor parties.  Do you want to have a place where we won’t be able to have concerts?”

“I want to have concerts,” said Earthworm, “but maybe we could have our concerts way over there and build a couple of houses in that field.  And then anyone who wanted to sleep wouldn’t even hear the noise from the concerts.”

While Mo was studying the two places on the map, Dan snatched the stick back again.  “The biggest problem with that is that the far area is very close to our neighbor’s property.  The last thing we want is for our neighbors to complain about our concerts.”

Sowbug sighed.  “I guess you’re right.  But I wouldn’t want to be one of the folks who had to live there.”

“Why not?” Sal asked.  “Think of the great exercise you’d get every day just to come over here and be part of the work and meals.”

Lois looked at her for a moment.  “I don’t think I’ve heard anyone here complain about not getting enough exercise,” she said.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Chapter Seventy-Eight: Birch Comes Back

“I’m sorry I missed your birthday party,” Birch said to Luna.  “But my mother has been watching me very carefully since I deserted her on New Year’s Eve.  I’m also sorry about bringing Stan here.  I didn’t know.”

“It’s okay,” Luna said.  “Sal has forgiven you.”

“I told her that once I turned eighteen, she couldn’t hold me and I’d come back here.  My birthday was yesterday.”

“Happy birthday!” Nancy said.

“Thanks,” Birch said.  “And coming here is my birthday present to myself.  I’ll be happy to work anywhere here--the fields, the stands, or in the houses.  Just let me settle in.  I can’t tell you how glad I am to be here.”

“Sure,” Marge said.  “There’s one room open in Groovy House.  I’ll take you to over to it.”

“Where do you want him to work?” Nancy asked after Birch and Marge left.

“Well, there isn’t much field work to do yet,” Luna said.  “The snow is barely beginning to melt out there and we’ve got plenty of help for the Ecogreenhouse.  Can you use him at the pastry stand?”

“Not really,” Nancy said, “but I think they could use more help at the produce stand.  It would free up Dan and Sal to work more closely with the construction crew.  I’ll talk with them about it.”

“Thanks,” Luna said.  “I think that it’s getting to be time to plan out our spring.  Maybe when things are quiet at the produce stand, he can meet with the field crew and we can start to plot our plots.  I mean our vegetable plots.”

“Yeah, winter can’t last forever,” Nancy said.  “Even up here in this neck of the woods.  I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more young folks as the weather gets warmer.”


Patsy sat with Birch in a back room in the Side House.

“I’m so glad you’re back,” she said.

“Me, too,” he said.  “So glad.”

“You know,” Patsy said, “I missed you.”

“I didn’t know,” said Birch, “but I know I missed you.  Enormously.  I think that I thought of you every day.”

“Wow,” said Patsy.  “I didn’t know that you felt that way about me.”

“I didn’t know that I felt that way either, until I wasn’t here any more and I didn’t get to see you,” Birch said.

He reached his hand over to her.  She took it.

“You do know that I’m three years older than you,” Patsy said.

“I know,’ Birch replied.  “Does it really make a difference?”

“Not to me,” Patsy said.

Birch sat right next to her, as close as he could get.  They sat in silence for several minutes, just looking at each other.

“Would it be okay…” Birch stop and swallowed.  He looked at Patsy.

She raised her eyebrows.  “Would what be okay?”

Birch continued to look at her, staring at her eyes.  Slowly she smiled at him, but she didn’t say anything.

Finally he said, “Would it be okay if I kissed you?”

Patsy let out her breath.  Her smile became a wide grin.  “Okay?” she asked.  “Much more than okay.  I want to know what you’re waiting for.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Chapter Seventy-Seven: The Truth about Bill Schmitt

“Who’s this Bill Schmitt guy?” Zelda asked.  “I don’t know who he is, but he sent me a note asking me out.”

“He’s the former owner of this place,” Luna said.

“That’s news to me,” Peter said.  He had been hanging around the farm to oversee the accountant who was working on the commune’s taxes.  Even with the Reagons under wraps, he didn’t want a repeat of last year when a bookkeeper had walked off with the commune’s books.  “The last owners of this farm were the McGillicutty family.  Old Jake Donovan owned it before that.  I’ve never heard of a Bill Schmitt around here.”

“That’s odd,” Luna said.  “He told us that he sold it to a developer who ran out of money and I kinda remember that it had been foreclosed on some developer when I bought it.”

“That’s right,” Peter said.  “I forgot about the developer because he really didn’t do anything with the property.  But it was the McGillicuttys that sold the farm to the developer.  I’ve been living around here for twenty some odd years now and there’s been no Schmitt guy on this property.”

“Why on earth would he come by and tell us that he was a former owner, if he wasn’t?” Luna asked.

“Yes, and why on earth would this guy ask me out?” asked Zelda.

“Those are very good questions,” Peter said.  “I intend to find out the answers.”

“Wait,” said Dan.  “Do you remember what your mother said to you about him at your birthday party?”

“Oh yeah. That’s right,” said Luna.  “I forgot.  My grandma sent a warning to me about him.  Told my folks to tell me.  Give me a moment.”  Luna looked thoughtful.  “Yeah,  I think that’s it.  She said Bill Schmitt was trouble. Trouble.  That’s what she said.  Trouble.”

“You know,” Zelda said. “That so doesn’t sound good.”


Zelda was all dressed up when Bill Schmitt arrived to take her out.

“You look great,” he said.  He stood there a moment admiring her dress and bracelets and her long braided hair.

“Thank you,” she said.  “I’m glad you like it so much.  I’m only sorry that we’re not really going out.”

“We’re not?  Why…” His voice trailed off and he looked around.

“William Smith,” the sheriff said.  “You are under arrest for fraud, misrepresentation, and probation violations.  Please come along with us.”

Bill Schmitt/William Smith took a good look at the two muscular deputies and walked peacefully out of the house with them.

“It turns out that our Mister Smith has made quite a career out of bilking older women,” Peter said.  “He’s become famous for it in the northern part of the state.:

“Your grandmother was smart,” George said to Luna, “and Bill Schmitt was pretty dumb for mentioning her.  I don’t think he expected you to be in touch with her.”

“Fortunately, she’s agreed to cooperate with the investigation,” Fred said.

“Yeah, I talked with her,” Luna said.  “She knows that it’s unlikely that she’ll get her money back but she just wanted to make sure he wasn’t able to take advantage of anyone else.  She thought that it was a good thing he’s going to be behind bars.”

“Still, he looked nice,” Zelda said.  “It would have been fun to go out on the town with someone again.”

“I hope you get that chance,” Peter said.  “But make sure that next time you get to go out with someone who doesn’t have a record.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Chapter Seventy-Six: Alvin

Ken was used to odd vehicles turning up in the commune’s snowy drive, but the sparkling silver Mercedes looked stranger and more out of place to him than all the pastel paisley microbuses that could turn up.  A portly forty something man in a long camel’s hair coat and an ivy plaid newsboy cap emerged from the vehicle.

“Where is she?” he asked as soon as Ken opened the door.  The man’s beefy face was nearly scarlet.  He looked a bit angry.

“Are you Alvin?” Ken asked.

“Of course I’m Alvin,” Alvin snapped.  “Who the blazes are you?”

“I don’t care who he is,” Marge said from behind Ken.  “Get him inside and close the door.  You’re freezing the place.”

Alvin came in but immediately confronted Marge.  “Don’t delay me.  I haven’t got time.  I demand to know where she is.”

“Where who is?” Marge asked.

“Don’t give me that,” Alvin said.  “You know very well I’m looking for my granddaughter.  I think she calls herself Zelda these days.”

“I’ll have to find her,” Marge said, knowing very well that Zelda was probably in the kitchen.  “This is a big place and it’s not that easy to find folks.”

“You’ve got five minutes,” Alvin said.

“Or what?”  Marge said.

“Or I’ll have the police out here and I’ll charge you with kidnapping.”

“That sounds interesting,” said Peter.

“Who the confounded carcass are you?” asked Alvin.

“Peter Gravenstein, Esquire.  I happen to be the local lawyer.”

“Oh,” Alvin said.

“I assume you have some sort of writ or warrant.”

“I don’t need a blasted warrant.  I’m her grandson.”

“I’m afraid that doesn’t give you the right to drag her out of here.”

Alvin looked astounded.  “I don’t want to drag her out of here.  I wouldn’t know what to do with her.  I just want to see her.”

“Oh,” Ken said.


Zelda was, as expected, in the kitchen.  When she was told that Alvin was waiting in the front room, she took off her apron and joined him there.

“To what do I owe the honor of your presence?” Zelda asked.

“Mother said that I had to visit you.  She’s been on my case for a month about it.  So here I am.  Let me tell you it wasn’t easy to get to see you.”

“Sorry about that,” Marge said.  “You sounded so upset I wasn’t sure what you were going to do with her.”

“I’ve never figured out what to do with her,” Alvin said.  “No one in the family has.”

“That’s just the problem,” Zelda said.  “Everyone has been trying to have plans for me instead of just letting me do my own thing.”

“Do your ‘own thing’,” Alvin repeated.  “You sound like a hippie.”

“I am a hippie,” Zelda said.  “I’ve been trying to tell you that for forty years.  Now I’ve finally found a commune to call home.”

“Well, I hope you’re happy here.”

“I am happy here,” Zelda said.  “They love me here.”

“We do,” Ken said.  “We all love Zelda.”

“Well, I’m glad to hear that,” Alvin said.  “I guess I’ll have to tell Mother that they wouldn’t let me kidnap you.  She wants you out of here but goodness knows why.”

“Okay, then,” Zelda said.  “Give her my love.”

And with that Alvin left.

“He wasn’t so bad,” Marge said.

“Wait until next time,” said Zelda.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Chapter Seventy-Five: Luna Turns Twenty

Luna was mystified.  

She had searched through several of the houses and every one of them seemed completely deserted.  It was as if there was no one anywhere around the commune, even though it had been bustling just a few hours earlier.

When she finally got to the main dining area, the room erupted.  People leapt out from the corners, from under the table, and from behind the chairs.  Suddenly the place was filled with commune members and more.

“Surprise!” someone yelled.

The crowd broke into three different birthday songs before they settled on the somewhat traditional (and, as of March 14th, in the public domain) “Happy Birthday to You”.

Luna looked around the room.  Everyone from the commune was there, along with Peter and George and Fred, and Ed and Ralph, and the entire Trollwork team, and Amanda and Steve, and Edgar, and even Stan!  Standing next to Sal!

And then she spotted her mother and (and Luna had trouble believing her eyes) her father.

“How does it feel to hit the big Two-O?” Chuck asked.

“I can’t believe that the coolest commune in the north was created by a teenager,”  Marge said.

“Wow,” Patsy said.  “What will you do now that you’re an adult?”

Luna just stood there stunned.  She kept looking around the room with her mouth open and not saying a word.

Finally, she broke into tears.

“I love you all,” she said.


Eventually Luna made the rounds of the room, taking good wishes and congratulations from everyone and trying very hard not to be too embarrassed.  

“I blame you,” she said to Ralph.  “If you hadn’t run off with Ed, I probably wouldn’t have been mad enough to start this commune.”

“Mad as in angry or mad as in crazy?” Ralph asked.

“Both.  I think.”  Luna slowly scrunched up her face into a somewhat puzzled looking expression before breaking out into a grin.

“So was that a good thing or a bad thing?”

“Oh, it’s very a good thing,” Luna said.  “But I blame you anyway.”

Edgar told Luna that the Reagons were sitting in jail cells in the state capital and facing twenty to thirty year sentences.

“What does that mean?” Luna asked.

“That means you shouldn’t need to think about them again until at least you turn forty,” Edgar said.  He stared at his shiny black shoes.

“Great,” Luna said.  “Now I know they’re gonna screw up my middle age years.  Something to look forward to.”

Luna made it around to her parents last.

“I can’t believe you’re here!” she said to her father.

“Your mother made me come,” he said.

“What do you think of the farm?” she asked.

“I try not to,” he said.

“He’s not going to say anything nice about this place,” her mother said.  “It would spoil his reputation.”

“You’re both crazy,” her father said.

“Oh, by the way,” her mother said, “your grandma Lagoon says to say hi.  She would have liked to come down here but she says she doesn’t travel well these days.”

“Tell her I miss her and I’ll come up and visit soon,” Luna said.

“I’ll let her know that.  Oh, and she also says to watch out for this guy she says that she knows.  Bill Schmitt.  She thought he might come here.  She says that he’s real trouble.”