The Refugee from Mount Merino

SH-write in handyVermont’s actual town meeting was March 6 this year. But we’re on Carding time, and there’s been so much going on, we can’t end the story right here.

But I promise the election will be over next week. And I think you’ll like how it turns out.

If you need to catch up on our town meeting saga, you’ll find all the previous stories right here.

In the meantime, let’s head over to the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts where there’s a lot of folks working very hard to put eccentric-about-town Amos Handy on the select board.

Glad you stopped by.

———————————————–

If Brenda Underwood expected to see uncontrolled mayhem on the second floor of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts, she was disappointed. What she found instead was focused attention, and high energy concentration.

Music bounced off the walls, and many of the “Love sign” makers moved their bodies to the dominant beat but the gluing and drawing and coloring and creating never stopped.

“Faye,” Edie said in a raised voice. Her granddaughter’s head popped up, and she nodded at Edie’s wave.

“This is Brenda Underwood, a refugee from Mount Merino,” Edie said when Faye reached them.

“Hey Brenda. Glad to see you made it,” a voice called across the room. It was the Episcopal priest, Gordon Lloyd, holding a number of signs proclaiming “SAVE CARDING! Write in Amos Handy for select board.”

“Refugee, huh,” Faye said, her arms folded across her chest. “How do we know you’re not a spy?”

“Faye!”

“No, no, it’s a fair question,” Brenda said. “I would ask it if I were you.”

Faye tilted her head in a listening pose. “Have you lived up there long?”

“About six months,” Brenda said.

“Do you play golf?”

“No.”

“She’s trying to be a quilter, and ended up at a Carding Quilt Guild meeting last night where she met Gordon,” Edie explained. Then she handed Faye the G.G. Dieppe campaign material on its pink paper. “Brenda brought this in.”

Faye scanned the sheet then raised her eyes to examine Brenda more closely. “What did you think of the guild meeting?”

Brenda laughed. “Not much. G.G. didn’t like my sewing box. I gather it didn’t meet her standards.”

“That woman sure knows how to make friends, that’s for sure.” Faye stretched out her hand, and squeezed when Brenda took it.

“Okay everyone, we’re going to see if our idea works,” she said in a raised voice as she let go of Brenda’s hand. Then she smiled at the older woman. “Look at your palm, please, and tell us what you see.”

It was a square of sturdy card stock that fit snugly in the curl of her hand. It bore a single word—“Handy.” When Brenda held it up for the room to see, folks started clapping.

“Okay, listen up,” Faye said. “There’s a small pile of these sitting at the end of that table.” She pointed. “Everybody please take one and let’s practice palming them to one another in a handshake. The idea is to give folks a way to remember who to write in on their ballots without drawing a lot of attention to what we’re doing.”

The practice session was noisy and giggly but very effective. Impromptu teams soon gelled among the teenagers as they raced one another to see who could palm the Handy cards fastest.

“So,” Edie said as she drew Brenda to one side, “do you know anyone up on Mount Merino who might be persuaded to vote for Amos?”

“I can only guarantee my husband Clark. No one else, I’m afraid,” Brenda said. “I’d be happy to make some phone calls or pass out campaign literature for Amos if that will help.”

Edie tapped her toe while she thought about that. “Not many folks from Merino ever voted in our local elections before. But I’m concerned that G.G. may have stirred the pot enough to get them to the polls.”

“Well, Clark and I were talking about that last night, and he’s not so sure about the depth of her support,” Brenda said. “He goes to the gym at the country club about three times a week to play racquet ball, and he said there’s not much talk in the locker room about Carding’s town meeting at all.”

“Hmm, I do hope he’s right. But you know what I would like to know?” Edie asked.

Brenda smiled. “How many people show up at G.G.’s campaign event tonight?”

“I hate to ask you but…”

“I’m happy to do it,” Brenda said, “as long as I can make signs while I’m here. When will you put them up?”

“Tomorrow night after supper. It’s Friday and we wanted to save our town manager the headache of dealing with G.G. when she sees them. Town hall is closed on the weekends, and Paula’s planning to be out of town and out of touch.”

Brenda laughed. “Can I take a few of them with me to tape to the clubhouse door after G.G.’s campaign meeting?”

Edie laughed. “How many would you like?”

***********

Even though his parents had lived on Mount Merino for nearly six months, their son Mark Underwood kept wondering if encouraging them to move to Carding had been a good idea. When Clark and Brenda lived in Boston, their lives had been filled with music and nonprofit work and sampling new restaurants with friends. They were hardly ever home.

But ever since they’d moved to Vermont, Mark had the feeling they were bored. And that left him feeling guilty because the move had been mostly his idea.

So when he brought his kids around to his parents’ condo for a Saturday morning visit, he fully expected to find his Mom and Dad listlessly drifting about.

Not so.

“Your Mom’s out campaigning, and I’m making phone calls,” Clark informed his son once his arms were full of grandchildren.

“Campaigning? Campaigning for what?”

“For whom, actually,” Clark said. “There’s this guy who runs the Swap Shed at the recycling center named Amos Handy, and he’s running as a write-in candidate for the open seat on the select board.”

“Since when do you two get involved in local elections?”

Clark laughed. “Ever since your Mom went to her first quilt guild meeting up here. There’s this woman named G.G. Dieppe…”

“…and Mom took a shine to her,” Mark said with a smile. His Mom had a habit of adopting people who needed a helping hand.

“Oh no, quite the opposite. This Dieppe woman really rubbed your Mom the wrong way.” Clark waited for his son to grasp the full meaning of his words.

It didn’t take long before Mark began to smile. And then he began to laugh. “I don’t envy that woman at all. Can I take it that Mom’s found some allies in her battle against this G.G.?”

Clark’s eyes danced. “I know you’ve been worried about us old folks over here wasting away on the golf course.” He bent down to put his wiggling grandkids on the floor. “And you were right to be. But as it turns out, it may not have been a mistake to move to Carding after all. I think the mistake, if there was one, was moving into this condo development. As soon as town meeting is over on Tuesday, your mother and I are going to start looking for a house in town.”

“Really? Are you sure?”

“Very sure. Coffee?” Clark turned the kettle on when Mark nodded. “Do you know what your mother and I did last night? We hid in some bushes over by the country club to spy on a campaign meeting for this Dieppe woman.”

“Spy?”

“Yeah. It was great fun. We wanted to know how many people showed up, that’s all, and it didn’t take long to count them. When we were done, we headed over to the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts—what a great place—for the best potluck supper I’ve had in a long time. Your Mom made her garlic kuchen, and it was a big hit,” Clark said. “And we met the craziest bunch of people, all of them working to get this Amos Handy guy elected. We felt right at home.”

“Grampa, are these Valentines?” His granddaughter Claire held up one of the “Love” signs lying on the kitchen table.

“No, not a Valentine exactly. But I know your Grandma made that one especially for you,” Clark said.

“So where’s Mom now?” Mark asked.

“Celebrating someone named Oona Lovejoy’s birthday down on the Carding Green. I was thinking of joining her. You really have to see this to believe it. Want to come along?”

Mark stood there with his mouth open for a moment, simultaneously trying but not trying to understand what in the world was going on. His father still seemed like he was sane. But what about his mother?

“Sure. Why not?”


You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted,Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Light in Water, Dancing, will go on sale on June 15, 2018.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

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