Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Because We Are All Unique"

This poem came out of the November 5, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from Anonymous. It also fills the "Opening a door for someone" square in my 9-5-18 "Kind and Soft" card for the 1000 Words or Less Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.

Here begins the Rutledge thread of Polychrome Heroics. It was inspired by the very unfortunate events in Rutland. This is what should have happened ...

Warning: This poem contains some intense and controversial topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It includes population loss, economic distress, the Syrian war, refugees, fraught arguments over immigration, racism, isolationism, adult children moving far from home, squabbles over political correctness, indigenous issues, arguments over jobs, ghetto and reservation segregation issues, appropriate toilets, special dietary needs, required prayer facilities, language differences, alternative education, communal trauma, accessibility issues, and other challenges. Please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

"Because We Are All Unique"

[Monday, January 6, 2014]

Mayor Theodore Castle stepped
into the theater of the City Hall.

The stage let him look out over
rows of burgundy chairs full of
Rutledge citizens who looked
curious and a little nervous.

Beside him came a coworker
known as Quadruple Word Score --
or Quadscore for short -- because
she was black, female, homosexual,
and had developed superpowers.

As Theodore watched, she
drifted up a few inches above
the stage floor. As always, that
made the crowd suddenly fall silent.

"Welcome to the Rutledge town meeting,"
said Quadscore. "You may recall that I've
researched Vermont towns and written a thesis
on the problem of population loss, analyzing
proposed solutions and concluding that none
seem adequate. Well, Theodore came up
with a new idea, and I think that this one
might work. I'd like you to hear him out."

"Thank you," said Theodore. "I propose
that we bring in some fresh blood. America
has taken in a surge of refugees fleeing from
the Syrian war, some of whom want to settle
here. I reached out to one of their leaders,
Ibrahim Khaled, and he thinks he could gather
a group interested in moving to Vermont."

"I think this will work because immigrants
tend to have a revitalizing effect on
the host culture," Quadscore said.

The crowd noise rolled like surf,
but so far nobody interrupted.

"The government recommends
resettling the refugees in groups
large enough for them to socialize
among themselves," said Theodore.
"We want to invite a hundred people,
about twenty-five families with
an average of four members."

"So, what do people think about
welcoming some new neighbors
into our town?" Quadscore asked.

Everline Leonard and Caroline Keyes
shared a look. The two of them ran
the Rutledge Welcome Committee,
reaching out to people new in town.

"That's us," Everline said. "Send me
your list of needs and I'll figure out
what we can do to help the refugees."

Caroline simply pulled out a notebook
and began taking her own notes.

"Hey, you can't just dump a bunch of
foreigners on us!" Fred Sumner protested
as he popped out of his chair. "This is
our town, and we've got a good thing
going here. We don't need strangers
moving in and making a mess of it."

"Look who's talking," said Augustus Platt,
a plumber. "All six of your kids moved
out of town, half of them out of state!"

"Good point," said Quadscore.
"We all face the challenge of
maintaining our population, but
it's more personal for some of us
than others. The Syrian solution
offers benefits for everyone."

"Why are we just now hearing
about this?" Fred demanded.
"What are you trying to hide?"

"Nothing," said Quadscore. "We
checked the resettlement parameters
and asked the Syrians first, because if
those didn't pan out, there was no point
mentioning it to anyone else. It's feasible
on paper. So now it's time to find out
whether it's feasible in practice.
That's where you come in."

"You're just trying to snow us with
more of your political correctness crap,"
Fred said as he threw his hands up.

"I know you don't like our proposal,
Fred, but do you have a better idea?"
Theodore said, crossing his arms.

"We just need to convince the kids
to put down roots and --" Fred said.

"One that hasn't already been
chewed to bits?" Theodore said.

Fred had nothing to say to that.

"Thought so," Theodore said.
"Sit down and let me finish this.
Use the time to think up ideas for
a counterproposal if you must, but
don't object to every word I say."

Fred grumbled under his breath
as he subsided back into his seat.

"Thank you," said Theodore. "During
this meeting, please imagine that we are
moving ahead with this plan. Remember
your immigrant ancestors and consider
what might have helped them. Think about
what you could contribute from your jobs or
hobbies to open a door for someone new.

Then he turned to a man whose
copper skin and black hair marked
him as a member of the Abenaki.

Jock Msadoques sometimes
visited the town meetings in
Rutledge to keep a connection
between their community and
the Abenaki Reservation nearby.

That made him a precious asset today.

"Jock, I have a different task for you,
if you're willing to help us," said Theodore.
"Your people have a lot of sad experience
with cultural contact. I would like you
to think about what could go wrong
and how we could prevent that."

"I will do what I can, but this is
really a matter for the elders,"
Jock said. "I will pass the word."

"Thank you," said Theodore.

Instantly Patchouli Brown
raised his hand. "I volunteer
for the peacemaking committee,"
he said, "if Jock wants more help."

He was a third-generation hippie
from the intentional community
Emerald Mountain Glen, and he
knew that material so well that
he attended Rutledge meetings
to keep the proceedings smooth.

"Thanks, Patchouli, we can use
all the help we can get," Jock said.

"I could bring some bouquets for
the refugees," said Charis Green,
who owned Say It With Flowers.

"Oh, right, let's welcome an invasion
with hearts and roses!" Fred snapped.

"It's not an invasion if you have
an invitation, which is rather
the point," Jock said quietly.

"You can't be serious about
this nonsense," Fred protested.

"I'm in favor of anything that might
keep my younger kids at home.
My older two went off to college,
and then they never came back,"
said Elry Richards, who owned
Green Mountain Yard & Garden. "I
can offer potted spring bulbs -- they're
easy to force whenever you want flowers."

"Fred, I know you think that the light at
the end of the tunnel is out of order, but we
have to try something," said Theodore.
"We may fumble around for a bit, but
we can't let the challenges stop us."

"The light doesn't have to be perfect,
Theodore," said Ruth Bailey, who made
deliveries for both Say It With Flowers
and Green Mountain Yard & Garden.
"We'll find a way to make it work."

"If you can get them to work,
the lazy slobs," said Fred.

"All right, that's a valid point,"
said Quadscore. "Some of
the refugees may have skills
we can use, but we can't count on
all of them having that advantage."

"Maybe we don't need that," said Elry.
"Sometimes I just need extra hands
to heave things off of a truck."

"We can make a list of jobs that
need less skill," Quadscore agreed.
"More skilled refugees will need
help matching their experience
to the local jobs and requirements."

"Our approach takes a lot of work hours,"
said Garrick Landon, who married into
Sawyer's Sustainable Forestry. "We
could offer opportunities for refugees
with fewer technical skills who might
prefer more hands-on tasks."

"So noted," said Quadscore.
"Thank you for the suggestion."

"We could host a game night, too,"
said Garrick. "That can be a fun way
to practice a foreign language. I used
to do it with friends in high school, for
French. That might even lead to a job
for someone -- I know the park service
is always short on staff these days."

"That's a great idea," said Gilman Green,
an avid birdwatcher who worked for
the park service. "We never have
enough people to cover the essentials
plus as much programming as we want."

"Oh, so now you want the immigrants
to take our jobs, too!" said Oscar Paton,
a coworker of Gilman's who evidently
had not spotted the same problem
of being chronically understaffed.

"Let's explore that, shall we?"
Theodore said. "Everyone, please
raise your hand if, in the last year,
you had trouble finding an employee
to hire for an open position at work."

Over a dozen hands went up.

Theodore wasn't surprised:
they lost people every year,
which made openings that
got harder and harder to fill.

"Okay, what about eldercare
or disability support?" he said.

Some hands went down,
but more of them went up.

"Raise your hand if you've
had a hard time getting
a babysitter for your kids,"
Theodore said next.

Over half the hands in
the room went up this time.

People began to look around
and mutter to each other.

"You see the problem,"
Quadscore said. "We're
running out of residents,
so we need to get more."

"This is why we think it's
a good opportunity, both for
the Syrians and for ourselves,"
Theodore said. "They need jobs;
we have positions going unfilled.
They need homes; we have
houses standing empty.
Let's help each other."

"Remember the government
offers free job training programs
for high-demand sectors to people
in supported categories like refugees,"
said Quadscore. "Check the current list
at the unemployment office and see
how it suits needs at your business.
I think Theodore is right; we and
the Syrians make a good match."

"I just don't think that they
would feel very comfortable
here," said Constance Higgins,
who headed the Ladies Uplift Circle at
the Cross on the Mountain Catholic Church.
"They have such different beliefs from us."

"Hell, Constance, I don't feel comfortable
here half the time, but you don't see me
leaving," Gideon Wheeler shot back.

He was bisexual, and sometimes
people hassled him about that,
even though he'd hardly dated
since his husband had died in
a car crash on bad winter roads.

"I'm sorry to hear that, Gideon,"
said Theodore. "I'm glad that you
spoke up, though, because I have
a proposal for you. How would you
like a hundred or so new guests
at Family Business Rest?"

"I should be so lucky!"
Gideon exclaimed, startled.
"Wait, you mean the Syrians?
Who'd cover the rent, though?"

"The government provides
a variety of stipends to pay for
necessities while the refugees
get settled. One of those is for
housing," Theodore said. "You
would have guaranteed lodgers
for a while, though the goal is for
people to move out on their own."

Benajah Vail raised eir hand
as if the tween was still in class.

"Yes, Benj?" Theodore invited.

"Does Family Business Rest have
a dottie?" said Benj. "If not, then it
needs one before the Syrians get here.
Gender-variant people get treated badly
almost everywhere except for Malta."

"No, we don't have a dottie there,"
Gideon said. "I suppose we could
build a new one, but that costs
money, and I can't spare it."

Theodore could understand why.
Family Business Rest had started out
as a developer's dream that building
luxury condominiums would attract
more people to town. It hadn't, and
when the project went bankrupt,
it had turned it into a business hotel.

That had failed too, so Gideon had
bought the place and refocused
it for executives who liked to bring
their families along on business trips.
That wasn't working any better.

"I bet that Dottie's Potties
would pay for it, that's what
they're for," said Benj.

"All right," said Theodore.
"Gideon, get a quote on
installing at least one dottie.
I'm sure people will appreciate
having a family-friendly bathroom
even if nobody's genderqueer.
Benj, you contact Dottie's Potties
and ask about sponsoring that."

"Add at least one squat toilet."
That was Malva Headstrong Wallace,
an enthusiastic traveler. She also ran
the Vermont Clothing Store at the mall.

"What?" Gideon said, clearly baffled.

Malva waved a hand. "Just look up
'Syrian toilet' online. The style's different."

"Okay, thanks for the tip," Gideon said
as he made a note to look it up.

"If you put all the refugees in
your hotel, you'll turn it into
a ghetto," Oscar complained.
"That's the last thing we need."

Jock bounded to his feet.
"He's right. We need to avoid
mistakes made with shoving people
into the least desirable locations.
We don't want to repeat the fiasco
from the reservation system."

"Or the inner city ghettos,"
Quadscore said quietly.

"People need support when
they first resettle," Theodore said.
"That's in the materials on how
to take care of refugees, and it's
why we want a good-sized group,
so they can lean on each other."

"But we don't want them to stay in
the hotel forever, we want them
to move into the community,"
Quadscore said. "So what is
our path from a starting point
to that eventual goal?"

"We could stairstep it,"
Gideon suggested. He looked
around the room and then nodded.
"As the refugees begin to recover
from their ordeal, move them out of
the hotel into a bed-and-breakfast."

"Okay, would that accomplish
anything beyond spreading
them out?" said Quadscore.

"It would introduce them to
new neighborhoods where they
could seek jobs, housing, and friends,"
Gideon said. "It would also help out
the bed-and-breakfasts, because they
aren't doing much better than I am."

Theodore followed Gideon's lead
and scanned the room for people
who owned bed-and-breakfasts.
Several of them were present.

"Okay, I'd like to hear from
anyone in that field. Does this
sound good to you?" said Theodore.

"Anything that fills a room and doesn't
do damage sounds pretty good to me,"
said Phoebe Hall, a black woman with
keen business sense. "You know that
Beddy-Bye caters to nightowls, so I've
got that to offer. The Syrians might
also appreciate a face that isn't white."

"How many rooms do you have?"
Theodore said, ready to take notes.

"I have five rooms to rent, three of which
have family capacity," Phoebe said.

"We have three rooms and two suites
at Brighten Early, and we cater to
early birds," said Clara Brighten,
who ran the place with her family.
"The suites come with extra space
for children. In the rooms, we can
add a cot or a crib if needed."

Micah Horton raised his hand.
"Big Red Barn has six bedrooms,
three of them with a single bed and
three with multiple beds," he said.
"I'd be happy to host some Syrians.
We have an organic garden and
a little dairy if that matters -- Perley
sells the extra products, too."

"It might to some people,"
Theodore said. "We can ask."

"Speaking of which, what the hell
do you plan to feed them?" said Fred.
"Most Syrians are Muslims. It's not just
that they don't eat pork, they have to buy
everything special, just like Jews do. We
don't even have a kosher grocery in town,
let alone whatever the hell they need."

"Thank you for raising that point, Fred,
we want to make sure that everyone has
appropriate food to eat," said Theodore.

"Good luck with that," Jock muttered.

Theodore didn't blame him. The Abenaki
had gotten hassled by health boards in
several counties due to differences in diet
and in eating customs -- not to mention
the lawsuits from various tribes on how
commodity foods from the government
amounted to an act of genocide.

"We'll do the best we can,"
Theodore said. "Jock, if you
could make a list of problems
to watch out for, that would help."

Quadscore's fingers tapped at
her tablet computer. "I'll contact
the local grocers to see who can
accommodate our new neighbors,
and also check into what kind of
government support is available."

"There is another option,"
said Hawthorn Sawyer,
a paramedic. "My Diet has
a Halal Box. Plenty of clinics
and hospitals in the area already
distribute other boxes, so adding
a new kind would be easy."

"That's not a permanent solution,"
Quadscore said. "People will
want to choose what they eat."

"It buys us time to figure out
which stores are willing and able
to stock halal food, and whether
any area restaurants can cook it,"
Hawthorn said. "We can order
a truckload of boxes and give one
to each person as they arrive."

Patchouli raised his hand. "We could
make a list of halal resources in town,
same as we've already done for vegan and
vegetarian food. People do it for tourists
because it attracts customers; they'll do
it for the refugees if the government
is paying for specialized food."

"We should have our elders talk,"
Jock said, looking at Patchouli. "Both
my tribe and your community grow and
sell things not found in mainstream stores.
Are any of these halal? We should check
so we don't feed people wrong things."

"Thank you both," said Theodore.
"We want to make it as easy as
possible for the refugees to adapt."

"Has anyone stopped to think
that these people come from
a desert?" said Yael, who rarely
came into town and probably had
come to the meeting just to say that.

"Yes, when I reached out to the Syrians,
I emphasized that Vermont is in the far north
and gets very cold," said Theodore. "I expect
we'll get the ones who want to move somewhere
as unlike Syria as possible. That's Vermont."

Yael threw up his hands. "Whatever,"
he said. "Just don't come crying to me
when they all get stuck in the snow."

"I'll add snow safety lessons to the list
of things to offer in local education,"
Theodore promised, making a note.
"I imagine any of us could teach that."

Laughter rippled through the room.

Gilman waved a hand. "I'll take
responsibility for organizing that."

"Okay, we've covered housing,
food, and safety, but what about
clothes?" said Levi Seaton. His store
Green Mountain Man sold menswear
and wilderness equipment. "I've seen on
the news that most refugees show up with
the clothes on their backs and little else."

"There's a clothing stipend, but we should
ensure everyone has something to wear
right away," Theodore said. "Ideas?"

Irene Denno stood up. "Make
a Core of Four for each individual,
then let them choose more garments
from the thrift store and clothing stores,"
she suggested. "I can cover some of
the women out of Classique, but
not the men or the children."

"I can help with the men,"
Levi offered at once.

"Cinque Francs stocks
mostly women's wear, but
I have some for men too."
said Yann Quevillon. "Margot
can donate clothes for children
and babies from Le Petite Jardin."

"I can probably scare up
one Vermont-themed thing
for everyone," said Malva.
"Bulk T-shirts are cheap, and
I can clear out the sale racks."

"Thank you, Malva, I'm sure
that will help people feel
welcome," said Theodore.

"I can go through my storage,"
said Aurinda Shaw, who owned
Shaw's Thrift Shop. "Sometimes
I get way more clothes than I
can sell, if someone cleans out
a closet or there's an estate sale."

"It sounds like we can cover
at least the minimum clothing,"
said Quadscore. "I can invite
refugees to request sizes."

"I may not sell clothes, but I
consider books just as essential
to survival," said Luthien Webster.
She owned Webster's Book World
right next door to Shaw's Thrift Shop
in a duplex. "I can donate some."

Fred snorted. "Syrians speak
Arabic, you idiot," he said.

"Well, the only Arabic book that I
have is a copy of the Koran, and one
won't go very far," said Luthien.

"Sure it will, if we shelve it in
a prayer room," said Gideon.

"Do you have a prayer room at
Family Business Rest?" said Luthien.

"Not yet, but I'm sure we could find
some place for it," said Gideon. "I have
no idea how to decorate it, though."

"Just give them the space and
a Koran, and let them decide how
to decorate it," Theodore suggested.
"Most people appreciate choices,
and refugees don't get many."

"So noted," Gideon said,
tapping on his phone.

"I suppose I could reach out
to other booksellers and see if
anyone has more Arabic books,"
said Luthien. "Are we sure that all of
the refugees will speak Arabic, though?"

"Arabic is the main language of Syria,"
said Theodore. "Many educated people in
the cities -- especially Aleppo and Damascus --
speak either English or French in addition."

Lilou Gagnier made a happy sound. She
taught at the French immersion school
Reflétant l’école Cécile de Brunhoff.

"Yes, Lilou?" Theodore invited.

"The children will need school,"
said Lilou. "Cécile's could handle
another dozen students without
crowding, but we would have
to hire another teacher."

That would not be easy,
because Reflétant l’école
was an alternative school
with unique teaching methods.

However, if the Francophones
got behind the refugee project
in hopes of gaining more speakers
of French, then they could make
powerful allies in moving it forward.

"Jeez, don't force the kids into school
right away," said Alvah McDowell.
"They might not be ready for it."

Theodore could see his point,
since Alvah had a terrible time
in public school himself and
dropped out as soon as he could.

"All children need to attend school,
even if you're letting your own son
laze around the house," Fred said.

"Homeschooling isn't lazing,"
Alvah snapped at the teacher.

"All right, let's not re-hash
that argument," Theodore said.

"Reflétant l’école can accommodate
a wide range of educational needs, from
class to homeschooling," Lilou said. "We
will do whatever the children need."

"Who's going to pay for all this?"
Oscar demanded. "Because I won't!"

Other people rumbled agreement.
Rutledge wasn't a wealthy place.

"More to the point, can we cover
the needs of a hundred refugees with
local resources?" said Francis Green,
who worked in Emotional Trauma Care.
"I tend to doubt it. They probably
have a lot of special needs."

Jock turned to face him.
"Communal trauma now, and
probably generational trauma for
the foreseeable future," he said.
"You're right, they'll need plenty of
help if we want to avoid the problems
that plague the reservation system."

"I haven't worked with those before,
but I'm familiar with the principles,"
said Francis. "I can review them."

"The government care team includes
thirteen people who speak Arabic to assist
the refugees in settling into their new home
for the first year," said Quadscore. "We'd
get five translators, five social workers,
an actual Syrian doctor, a nurse, and
an Emotional First Aide in the deal."

"That would help a lot," Francis said.
"I might be able to get some help from
colleagues experienced in war trauma, too."

"That's fine for a year, but then what?"
Oscar said. "We'll have a bunch of mooches."

"The typical conversion rate of refugees to
productive citizens is between 90% to 95%
with good support. Most of them will learn
English and get jobs," said Quadscore. "We
understand that some people's trauma may
be too deep for them to overcome, so let's
show compassion for those victims."

Francis rocked a hand in the air.
"Trauma can cripple the ability
to adapt to changing circumstances,"
he said. "On the bright side, emotions
usually lock to the language of the moment,
which means that learning a new one can
help leave behind traumatic memories."

"I've heard that!" Lilou exclaimed.
"One of my friends analyzed the use of
foreign language study in treating PTSD."

"That's worth pursuing," said Theodore.
"To bring this discussion back to what
can benefit Rutledge, I propose giving
the doctor a house here in hopes of
retention beyond the year promised
by the resettlement parameters."

"A house?" squawked Oscar. "How
in the hell would we manage that?"

"Well, there's all that space in
Mountain View," said Jeanette Danio,
one of the local realtors. "The developers
never managed to sell half of the lots."

"The government offers good support
for this project," Theodore replied.
"Any donations will be tax-deductible."

"Then I'm sure the developers will
be glad to write off at least one of
the houses," Jeanette said. "I'll
send them a message tonight."

"That will help create a stable base
for our new neighbors, especially if
they have any disabled members,"
said Theodore. "We could use
a new doctor for our own sake, too."

"I can't imagine they wouldn't have
people with disabilities, coming out of
a war zone," said Francis. "PTSD is
a given, but I would expect a high rate
of limb loss and sensory injuries, too."

"If they have disabled people, will they
have their own adaptive equipment,
or will they need to get that too?"
asked Neddy Wheler, a boy who
used a wheelchair himself.

"I built a Freedom Chair for you,
I can build more if necessary,"
his father Ed offered promptly.

"We could also contribute
some bicycles for the refugees
to share," said his wife Samantha.
"You can learn a new town a lot faster
on a bike than on foot or in a vehicle."

The original project for Neddy had
grown into the Wheler Bike Shop,
now a lively family business.

"True, but walking makes it easier
for people to stop and smell the roses,"
said Bregid McDowell, a local tour guide.
"I could take people around town on foot
and show them the landmarks. I don't
usually do much with the parks, though."

"We're often shorthanded, but we'll
do the best that we can," said Gilman.

"I can help with that," said Dell Evergreen,
a veteran who walked with a cane indoors or
trekking poles outdoors, and probably knew
all about local resources for the disabled.

"Volunteers are always welcome,"
Gilman said with enthusiasm.
"What would you like to do?"

"Sometimes people don't realize
what they can still do, especially
right after an injury," Dell said.
"Getting out and about helps.
I can teach the Syrians about
adaptive wilderness activities
as well as Vermont wildlife."

"So noted," Theodore said,
jotting down what each of
them had offered to do.
"Can you speak Arabic?"

"Actually, yes," said Dell.
"I learned that in the Army."

"Well, at least we have one local
who knows it," Theodore said.
"That gives you an advantage
over all the rest of us when it
comes to finding the right words."

"Not everything has to be done
in words," said Big John Farrell.

The blacksmith rarely spoke up,
but when he did, it was usually
well worth listening to -- and
he had a knack of figuring out
the things that weren't said.

"Do you think you could work
with people, even if you didn't have
a common language?" Theodore said.

Big John gave a silent nod in reply.

His wife Laura spoke up. "I could
lead trail rides or give riding lessons
to the refugees. It's very relaxing."

"You mean like equine therapy?"
Francis said, leaning forward.

"Something like that," Laurel said.
"I don't have credentials in it, but
then neither do the horses, and
they're the ones that matter."

Everyone laughed at that.

"There is art therapy too,"
said Henry Flanders, a teenager
who spent a lot of time in the woods.
"Figure five bucks for a notebook, ten
for a decent sketch kit, and you're good.
Or you could just go to Dollar Lot and
buy colored pencils for a buck a box,
then draw on scratch paper."

"We could start a teen group,"
said Siobhan McDowell, who was
even more of a free spirit. "Each of
us could contribute some supplies
and help decide things to do that
our new neighbors might enjoy."

"Yeah, that's a good idea,"
Henry said. "Can you, uh ...
I'm not that great with people."

He shuffled restlessly in his seat,
and Siobhan took mercy on him.

"Sure, I'll just ask my family
to help with the organization,"
Siobhan said. "We can do it.
People will want somewhere to go
other than the Triton Teen Center
out at the mall. It's okay, but it
gets boring if that's all there is."

"Will the social workers and
translators need office space?"
Malva asked. "We have plenty
of it at Green Mountain Mall."

"They might," said Quadscore.
"I don't know how full the offices are
at the Human Services building, but
I could see advantages to setting up
a Syrian Services office. It would
encourage people to get out and
maybe socialize a bit at the mall."

"That might be over-ambitious
for some people, especially
at first," Francis warned. "We
need to offer other options for
them, either online or home visits."

"I imagine the support team has
policies in place to account for that,"
Theodore said. "They seem competent
from what I saw of the introductory text.
We can overcome the differences."

"We are all different, which is great,
because we are all unique. Without
diversity, life would be very boring,"
Quadscore said with a firm nod.

Just then a bell chimed, announcing
that they had ten minutes left in
the time allotted for their meeting.

Theodore tried really hard to keep
the town meetings concise, so that
people would actually come to them.

"Okay, folks, you know what the bell
means. It's time to wrap this up," he said.

"You're not still taking this seriously?"
Fred said. "The whole thing is ridiculous!"

"I don't play games with people's lives, Fred.
It's my job to take care of this town, and this
seems like a way to solve a problem we've all
struggled with," said Theodore. "You're welcome
to try shooting it down, but if you succeed, then
I expect you and your friends to come up with
a viable counterproposal for us instead."

"Oh, I'll get right on that," Fred said grimly.
Oscar and Yael moved toward him.

Theodore could see the opposition
taking shape, but it didn't stop him.

"All right, everyone will have the week
to research refugee integration plans
and alternative revitalization projects.
Please work up your arguments for or
against the proposal," said Theodore.
"Discussion and debate will be held
here all day Saturday, with a vote
scheduled for the evening. As always,
you can vote from home if you prefer."

"That's not enough time!" Fred protested.

"It's plenty of time," Theodore said. "All of
the information on refugee resettlement is
readily available to the public. This isn't
a presidential election, folks, we don't
want to drag it out for a year and build
a lot of hard feelings. Make your decision
so we can move on, one way or the other."

Quadscore lofted herself into the air again.
"I know that we have come from a lot of
a lot of different backgrounds, but we're
all here now," she said. "Struggles and all,
we've got a good life. We only have to decide
whether to open the door to people in need.
I have faith in you. Thank you and good night."

She landed without a sound and strode
from the stage. Theodore followed her,
leaving behind the crowd-surf of the theater.

"Do you think it worked?" he asked her.
"Do you really think they'll go for it?"

"We'll find out on Saturday," she said.

* * *


This poem is long, so the character, setting, and content notes will appear separately.
Tags: activism, community, cyberfunded creativity, economics, ethnic studies, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, history, life lessons, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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