NEW IDEAS, AND A MEETING WITH SARA
Illustration by Lawrence Tate
Over the past few days Abby had been mulling over plans for the wild area at the back of the churchyard. She had not forgotten her solemn promise to Tiny and Lucy to save the secret place, and the no-win situation it created for her. Photos of the wild area in the newspaper would appear to most people as an example of appalling neglect. In fact, the stalkers probably already had damning photos of the fallen tree, the overgrown vines, the brambles, poison ivy, the sumac and young maple trees, all fighting for a bit of sun. Abby was all too aware of the hostility of many adults toward wild areas. Powerful people usually want to dominate them, make money off them, and in doing so they destroy them. The art of working with wild areas is not a strong suit of industrial civilization.
And now the moment of decision had unexpectedly grabbed Abby by the throat. Something would have to be done to make the wild area presentable to the congregation at the outdoor event only two days away. The situation looked hopeless. She sat quietly and became aware of the birds all around her, flitting from branch to branch with their various calls and songs. And then the owl hooted again.
‘Birdwatchers!!’ thought Abby. ‘Now that’s a group of adults who might appreciate a piece of wild nature! And there are many of them, of all ages! If one edge of this tangle of brush were made into a path a whole area could be open to birdwatchers! And I could make a sign: BIRDWATCHERS’ PATH.’
She took a pair of gloves and pruning sheers and began to work. Hours went by. She drank water, ate a snack, and went back to work.
Suddenly it was late in the afternoon, and Abby hurried to shower and change clothes for her meeting with Sara and then the youth council meeting.
‘Now what do I need to accomplish with this next meeting? Well, Sara asked for it. I should just shut up and listen. But still, what do I expect? A discussion about Amy Zhi and her college professor, who is on the United Nations Panel on Climate Change. And the difficulty is? Ah, the difficulty is our very hidden working relationship with Amy’s father, who is the State Commissioner of Parks. And Sara is an intern writing for the Evansville Record. And we need some good press about the coming trustee election…’
Sara was on time, and carried a bag of food. “Stephanie and Sammy packed this up and wouldn’t accept a cent! And they’re closing early and bringing more food for the meeting.” The bag contained two fried potato squash and tomato sandwiches and containers cocoa and mint tea. Abby was ecstatic. “I’m so lucky!” she cried.
In moments the food was gone. Abby could feel Sara’s dark eyes examining her. She was awed by Sara’s atmosphere, her cosmopolitan manner, and perceived her as an ambassador from a more sophisticated world.
“We both know a lot,” Sara began, “but we know different things, like yin and yang. I hope we can bring these things together.”
“I was just thinking that,” Abby replied. She walked to the door and closed the it quietly. “Let’s keep our voices down. We have to be so careful…”
“You’ve hit on just the thing I need to know!” Sara burst out, trying unsuccessfully to whisper. She leaned forward. “What’s the danger exactly? And what is our project? I know what our student organization does and wants to do. There’s nothing secret about that. We’re an open book. You folks live in another world, but you’ve hit the media with a splash. I can tell all sorts of things are going on that I can’t see.”
“I’m so glad you care!” exclaimed Abby. “I want to work with you and your friends on so many things… But Sara, you asked me to meet with you and Amy Zhi. You must have an angle on this already. Let me know where you’re starting from and then I’ll be more useful.”
“Okay… let’s see… First, I met Amy in our Students Against Fossil Fuel group – we call it STAFF – and now Amy and I are both taking the internship program. About twenty of us work at different sites and meet once a week with our professor. Amy’s presentation fascinated me. Then I started hearing about Middletown from my uncle Terrence and my cousin Shannon, and then from my boss at my worksite, the Evansville Record. Now I’m hired to stay on after the internship is over.”
“Please,” Abby said. “Go on! I want to hear it all.”
“Now the thing starts to get hot,” Sara continued. “My boss, Freddy Baez, is obsessed with Middletown. He wants information, a real investigation, but not in order to expose a scandal. He suspects that something very good, something important, is going on…”
“So why does Amy want to meet with me?” Abby asked.
“Well, it’s really Amy and I and our professor, Roberto Richardson, who want to meet with you. Our jobs demand that we know more. Our STAFF group is interested. Roberto and his committee at the United Nations are studying biogas as a renewable energy source. And the people that we’ve asked all sent us to you.”
‘To me!’ thought Abby. ‘How did I suddenly become in charge of all this?’