THE COMMUNITY COUNCIL BEGINS
On his way out the door Police Chief Santiago told Abby, Phoebe, Reverend Tuck, and Geraldine that there was a bright side to recent events. “You’ll be glad to hear that the toy store and the coffee shop will reopen soon, perhaps even tomorrow. The Department of Health has ruled that neither store is a danger to the public, or has done anything illegal.”
They clapped and cheered. “However,” the Chief went on, “they will not allow the greenmarket in the courtyard or the concerts in the coffee shop to continue, due to complaints from the public… so called. It’s not like the town voted. But there you have it. I know you have a church meeting coming up, so I’ll be on my way. Please give my regrets, I’d love to stay, but some people may get the wrong idea. You understand.” In a moment he was out the door.
Geraldine was the first to speak: “Thank God for Daniel Santiago, a real public servant. I love that man… you know what I mean.” Abby and Phoebe laughed. Tuck took a deep breath and reminded them anxiously that they had another complicated meeting coming up. “We probably have guests from Rivergate in the basement already,” he said.
They followed him down to the large recreation room, and could hear the voices of a crowd from a distance. On entering Abby saw a dozen people she knew at a glance. Isaiah Banks was nearby talking to a young woman in a baseball cap. He quickly pulled Abby aside and said, “There’s something you should know right away. Join us, Cali! Meet Abby and tell her your news.”
Abby recalled Isaiah’s habit of being everyone’s parent or uncle or older brother, even for people twice his age. He had a kind of charisma Abby remembered from her childhood, the ability to bring people together and reach out to those needing help. “He must be 25 now, and probably organized this meeting,” Abby thought. She hadn’t seen him for eight years.
Cali barely came up to the tall, thin Isaiah’s shoulder. She had short hair and a multi-colored baseball cap with the words BLACK HILLS written on the front. “Okay!” Cali burst out. “So I was leaving the house today and got introduced to the new people who’ve taken one of the rooms, and they are your parents!” Abby stared, speechless with relief. “They looked fine and everything,” Cali reassured her. “We talked for a few minutes.”
“But how do you know they’re my parents?”
“Because Sonny introduced them and said they are.”
“Sonny Walker? Are they living with him?”
“Well, sort of. Sonny takes care of a couple of houses near his land. He organizes people to clean them up and let’s people move in. It’s kind of a shared situation. Sonny grows food, they share a kitchen, like that. But Sonny doesn’t live there, he sleeps in the shanty.
“Oh! Thank you, thank you!” Abby clapped her hands. “I’ve got to visit right away.”
Abby embraced Cali, who smiled and blushed.
“They asked me to speak to you,” Cali went on. “They had tears when Sonny said you’re here at the church.”
“I’ve got to see them! How did you all get here tonight?”
Cali and Isaiah looked at each other. “The Snake River Bridge is closed as of two days ago,” Isaiah said. “We had to take the boat.”
“The boat! To Middletown? Oh! Tell me about it.”
“Well,” Isaiah continued, “it seems like Sonny foresaw all this flooding, because his daughter and him went to River City a few weeks ago and bought a used river launch, a flat bottomed old aluminum boat with a decent motor. You remember his daughter Sharon – she’s right over there – always a nut about boats and fishing and exploring the swamp. When the high water came she started taking ten people to their jobs Middletown and Half Moon and back in the evening. She brings supplies too. A lot of other people have been ferrying three or four customers at a time across the Snake to the highway ramp.”
“Wow,” said Abby, a little dazed. “I shouldn’t be so surprised. This problem has been growing for years. They’re always moving the docks to higher ground.”
“At first,” Isaiah said, “it just seemed like us poor folks in ‘Swamptown’, as they call us, were getting the short end of the stick again. But then we realized that this is a bigger problem… it includes everyone! That’s our message here tonight.”
“We can all see it more clearly now,” Abby said. “Can I come back to Rivergate with you tomorrow?”
“Of course,” Isaiah replied. “It costs $10, but we got you covered.”