Chapter 1

Bennie and Janice talked for a day. I could tell they were troubled about something but waited for them to talk to us if they wanted to. Shirl said that I should ask them what was wrong but I counseled that we should wait.

They came over after breakfast and chores. Bennie said, "We need to talk to both of you, please." Shirl was a little shocked since Janice had always been the talker. We nodded and all four of us sat at the kitchen table. The kids were at their schools for the day.

After sitting down with coffee, Bennie said, "We have a good problem. We know what we want but aren't sure how to go about it." Shirl and I both nodded gravely.

Bennie continued, "In our travels, we have met many people. Until we were at Protection, we had never met anyone who seemed to be in our league in skills and who was a friend. Now, we have.

While we have been at Protection, we have stayed at the home of Robby, Pam, and Melissa. As Janice and I have found each other to be soul mates, we have both found them to also be our soul mates. We have talked to them and we want all five of us to be married." He stopped.

Shirl and I looked at each other for a moment and Shirl said, "We have met all three of them and they seem to be wonderful people. I am sure neither community would have a problem with a marriage. So, what's the real issue?"

Janice spoke up softly and said, "Where do we live? They're there and we're here."

I said, "I can guess some of what they have said about moving to Preservation. What is your reason for not moving to Protection?"

Bennie looked at Janice. She said, "My family is here. You and Momma Shirley are the parents that I never really had as well as the brother and sister that I never had. I can't leave you two. Bennie's dad is here and we have an interest in the machine shop, too." Bennie nodded, too. They both looked troubled.

There was a silence until Shirl said, "What do you want from us? We won't make the decision for you. However, there are a couple of things that you had not thought about too much.

"First, you are rarely here. Your exploring duties take you away from here to the point that you have someone to watch over your farm and house. We love having you here and the kiddos do, too.

"Second, a new issue has arisen. You fly. That means you can go from place to place rapidly and easily. The possibility of living somewhere else and commuting by plane to see us is a real possibility."

Both of them brightened at those points, particularly, the second. I said, "The only issues I see to Shirl's second possibility are maintenance and fuel. You would have to talk to Tom and Vic about the first. The second is that we ought to use the fuel we have. It will go bad though, with care, it should last for many, many years."

I had paused. Then, I said, "I suggest that you take a few days here and then fly back. When you get there, sit down with Pam, Melissa, and Robby and figure out a way to make things work if that's what the five of you want rather than looking for reasons why it won't."

I could tell that put a different line of reasoning in their minds. Both looked relieved as they contemplated looking at the situation from a different point. As they thought, Shirl said, "Mary will be home soon. I need to fix her a snack."

Janice jumped up, "Let me help." Shirl nodded and they started preparing a snack for our younger child. Mike spent all day at school now. We had class levels but no limits on how fast a person could progress through them. Our "Amazons" were still teaching and didn't subscribe to some of the "progressive" notions popular before the Day. Their point, which I endorsed, was that they were to teach and they were not supposed to teach them how to be civilized. Only one pupil had ever been a problem. His parents came to the school and complained.

They were refereed to me. They didn't like my response. At the next town meeting, I brought the issue before the community and called for a vote of confidence. The parents suddenly realized that they had overstepped and either they or I would be leaving Preservation when the vote was complete. The wife stood and argued that there was no need for a vote of confidence. My response was that I had made a decision that would have far-reaching consequences if over-turned, that my decision was wrong according to the couple, and that I would not continue to be Director under the circumstances without a vote. The couple was entitled to their view and could have pulled their child from the school and taught him themselves. There was no requirement for any person to be schooled. The problem, as I explained, was that they wanted to tell our teachers how to run their school and had insisted that I force them to do things the way they wanted. The vote was short and the couple and their son had to leave Preservation. I had wanted to nip this issue in the bud. Unfortunately, the three would have to be the example. People would have to bring things up in a different manner if they didn't like the way things were done.

The Amazons had no further problems. I understand that they explained to another set of parents that their school was voluntary and no child was or would be forced to attend but they wouldn't change their methods. The child objected vehemently when they tried to remove her from class. The parents wisely decided to let things go. Their daughter stayed in school and they did not complain any more.

So far, my system of putting complainers to work if possible and out otherwise seemed to be working. We had had a few very good and interesting projects that had worked out. People were encouraged to try new things. Many did.

At any rate, Mary was expected home soon. She was ahead of her age if we worked from that basis. Her teacher loaded her with homework to let her move as rapidly as she might want. Her only complaint was that her teacher never fussed at her whether she finished everything or not. She told me she was told to go at her own speed and she wondered what that was. I did, too. I never told her but working the advanced math at her age would have been unheard of before the Day.

Bennie and Janice stayed with us through lunch. I could tell they were both thinking hard about their situation. They left for their house that afternoon and I knew they needed to talk together.

I heard later that they had supper with Bennie's father, Ben and his wife, Kay. They listened but made no recommendations either. Bennie's younger sister, Melody, was there with her husband, Roy. They seemed interested in the idea but, as Janice told it later, more from a salacious view than seeing the intense interpersonal relationship that was created with Pam, Melissa, and Robby and the two of them.

The next day, Janice and Bennie stopped by on their way to the airport. She told Shirl about the evening's discussion with Bennie's parents and sister. She gave Shirl a kiss for me and said that they should be back in a couple of days.

They flew to Protection that day.

Two days later, they returned to Preservation and, over supper, they told us what happened while on their trip.

Bennie started, saying, "As you know, we flew up to Protection and the Thomas family. We stayed with them and talked for hours. We did come to a decision with them." He paused and looked at Janice.

Janice grinned as she looked at our expressions. Both of us wanted to know what was going on. She said, "We've held you in suspense too long. It's time you knew what we decided." She paused.

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Story tagged with:
Drama / Violence / Military / Anarchism / Post Apocalyptic /