Toby Hemingway 13

Marsh and Shaundra sat shoulder to shoulder in front of her computer screen. Mr Paine had guided them to write to the local U.S. Fish and Wildlife office. They composed an email to a contact he provided them, and attached the photos Shaundra had taken. Paine had frozen the fish carcass. They offered to deliver it to the office figuring Mr. Paine or Shaundra’s mother would provide transportation. The friends had downed chocolate milkshakes, a bag of Fritos, and couple of apples in Shaundra’s bedroom where they left the door open as required by Mrs. Williams, her mother. Their email was the leading edge of a wave that would grow over time. But for now, the friends just attended to the matter at hand.

Shaundra’s home was palatial compared to Marsh’s house. Her father was a Colonel at the Naval base, conferring beautiful housing for their family. The living room was filled with family photos, a piano, and comfortable furniture. In the family room a gigantic smart screen TV spanned one wall with a semi-circular couch in front of it for viewing movies together. Marsh suddenly understood his poverty.

“What’s wrong,” Shaundra said, looking at his facial expression. Like turning off the lights in a dark room, a shadow had passed over Marsh’s face.

“Nothing. Just thinking.”

Marsh had Shaundra’s mother drop him off at DeLuna Plaza downtown. After they were out of sight, he walked the two miles to his Uncle’s house.

###

City Hall sat behind the dias in the public meeting room. His gut felt tight and his heart raced again. His doctor had just warned him he was under too much stress and needed to drop the thirty pounds he had acquired over the last ten years as a public servant.  It was all too depressing.  Every move to improve his city was opposed by a fierce minority who though few absorbed a great deal of his time.

“Thank you for your presence here today,” he lied as he stood to respond to the 3-minute public comments. “I appreciate your concerns but as I’ve presented before, the city engineers assure me that widening the overpass will not affect the bayou.”

A tall woman dressed in outdoor clothing stood and shouted, “And we are supposed to believe in engineers that work for development?” Sneers from the audience.

City Hall was a short man with a round belly and skinny legs. His hair was balding so he brushed it over the bare spots making him look ethereal when the lights shone overhead. Yet inside that lit up head storms raged and dark clouds flew across his mind. He had grown to hate the public, at least the ones that continued to poke at him and his fellow council members whenever a development project was proposed. They represented everything he loathed: left-wing socialists, god damn preservationists. If they had it their way, the city would be a hamlet.

 

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