Tag Archives: vermont town meeting

Happy New Year—Chutney Edition

SH-ChutneyFaye Bennett’s mother, Diana, has a twin brother, Daniel. It’s fair to say that he’s Faye’s favorite uncle.

Dan was in town for the holidays, spreading himself a bit thin so that he could catch up with his mother, Edie Wolfe, as well as old friends and family members.

But Daniel’s job—he’s an art appraiser with an international reputation—kept his holiday visit short. So he’s relying on Faye to keep him up with all the news in Carding.

She’s happy to comply.

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, Lights in Water, Dancing, will be out early in 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.

Enjoy!

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Dear Uncle Dan,

I wish we had had time just to hang out while you were here at Christmas. I liked it better when you had a different job than the one you have now because we got to see you more. I’m not really sure what you’re doing but you always feel like you’re full of secrets. Wil says we should start calling you “the Clam” because you can’t talk about what you’re doing.

And you missed out on all the Carding news because you had to leave so soon.

First off, Brian Lambert and I broke up on New Year’s Day. He’s getting scouted by colleges who are interested in his basketball skills, and the whole business just makes him mad, mad, angry, and mad.

Which means he’s a real pain in the neck to be around.

You see, Brian’s not that interested in basketball. He once told me he only joined the Carding team to get to know people when he moved here last year. But it annoys the heck out of him that just because he’s tall and has a better tan than the rest of us, people think he should be playing basketball.

What he really wants to do is art, and he’s really, really good at it. But his father keeps pushing the basketball stuff because he wants Brian to get a wicked good education so he can do whatever he wants.

Brian keeps asking why he can’t skip the whole basketball thing and do what he wants now, which I think is a good question. But asking it only makes his father mad.

Anyway, Brian thinks it would be better if I’m out of “harm’s way” when the big explosion between he and his father happens. It feels weird not to be hanging out with him but it’s okay.

The other big news around here is town meeting. I never used to pay attention to town meeting until Dad got elected to the school board last year and then all of that nasty stuff about the Rosens came out and he was in that horrid accident. (You can read more about this in The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life.)

So now I pay real close attention because I don’t want anyone else that I love to get hurt like Dad did.

Which is why I’m kinda concerned about Gram.

Did she ever tell you the story about how her quilt guild broke up because of this woman who lives in one of the big houses up on Mount Merino? The woman’s name is G.G. Dieppe, and she’s one of these it’s-my-way-or-else types that just makes you want to take poke at her.

She’s the one who got so pissy when Suzanna and I wore our pink pussy hats into the Coop last year. She made such a stink that Gram and Andy Cooper organized a town wide hat-making effort so that the next time old G.G. showed up at the store, everyone was wearing a pink pussy hat.

After that, you’d think the woman would know better than to shop at the Coop but she thinks she owns Carding, and that we should all bow down to her.

I don’t get people like that.

Last week, when it was so cold and icy, she went to the Coop wearing high-heeled boots and this flimsy jacket and then stood there complaining about the ice and the cold.

I gather that Andy was shorthanded that day because a couple of his regular cashiers were out with the flu and Corker Smith’s truck (you remember Corker, right?) went off the road into a snowbank. When they heard, a bunch of people went to the store to help Andy out, one of them being Amos Handy.

I know some people don’t like Amos because they think he’s grumpy. And he likes to pretend he’s just some dumb redneck with people “from away” because he doesn’t think much of people “from away.”

But I like him. He’s got this dry sense of humor that comes out of the corner of his mouth so you have to be quick to catch what he says, and then when you do, he goes all innocent-looking when you start laughing.

Anyway, Amos thinks that high-heeled boots are about the dumbest thing anyone could wear in the winter around here. So when G.G. started complaining about the ice in the parking lot and how cold it was in Andy’s store, Amos asked her how many degrees below freezing it was at her house.

When she tells him, Amos says she’s wrong because she didn’t count the number zero in her calculations.

You and I know he messes with people about that every year, and it would have blown over if G.G. had just laughed. But she didn’t.

So one thing led to another until this G.G. stomped out of the Coop yelling at everybody, and saying they’re going to regret yanking her chain.

Well, it didn’t turn out to be an empty threat because G.G.‘s now on the town meeting ballot running for the empty seat on the selectboard.

Her friends who live in the big houses and condos on Mount Merino are backing her up but they can’t vote for at town meeting because they spend most of the year living somewhere else so they’re not Vermont residents.

But that doesn’t seem to matter to them because they’re in the town hall arguing with poor Paula Bouton and trying to register to vote.

All this makes Gram, your mother, spitting mad because of the way this G.G. tore the quilt guild apart and how she treated Suzanna and I. Lately there’s been a lot of cars parked at her house at night so I suspect there’s some plotting going on.

I’ll keep you posted because we both know that if Gram’s involved, it will be interesting.

Oh, and I wanted to thank you for the cranberry chutney that you contributed to my marmalade-jam-and-jelly collection. To tell you the truth, I had no idea what chutney was, even after I looked it up in the dictionary. But I figured since it had cranberries and raisins in it, I couldn’t go wrong.

Your chutney had a bunch of cinnamon in it, and it’s awesome on toast. In fact, it’s all gone so put it on my list for next year, okay?

Well, I gotta go. There’s a game at the high school that starts in about an hour, and if I want to hitch a ride with Wil, I better bolt.

Hope we see you more this year than last.

Love,

Faye

Faye Bennett Shares the News

It’s been obvious since she was a little girl that Faye Bennett and her Uncle Dan share a special bond. Uncle Dan listens, even when his niece complains about her mother (his twin sister Diana) and father Stephen.

And he never repeats what Faye says.

It’s cool to have an uncle like that, you know.

So Uncle Dan is Faye’s favorite go-to person when it comes to local news.

Here’s a sample of what’s in store in tomorrow’s Carding Chronicle.

SH-Chutney

About the Zero

SH-ColdMost of the time, we’re so intent on watching the big things, we miss the small details that set events in motion.

That’s why no one thought that Amos Handy’s comments about math and the intense cold plaguing Carding could have an impact on town meeting.

Except G.G. Dieppe, a woman with no visible sense of humor.

Vermont’s town meeting is on March 6 this year. Let’s see how it unfolds in Carding, shall we?

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, Lights in Water, Dancing, will be out early in 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.

Enjoy!

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“It was minus seventeen degrees at my house when we got up this morning,” G.G. Dieppe announced to no one in particular as she walked through the front door of Cooper’s General Store. “Seventeen degrees below zero. Why that’s…that’s…way below freezing. I can’t believe how cold I am.”

Andy Cooper shook his head in disbelief as he watched G.G. totter into his store without a hat or gloves and on high-heeled boots. No Vermonter in her right mind wore high-heeled boots in winter.

But then G.G. Dieppe was not a Vermonter. She’d been born somewhere else and had lived somewhere else until her husband retired to play golf at the Mount Merino Country Club, bringing his stiff-backed wife with him.

“With any luck, this cold will drive you out,” Andy muttered as he bagged groceries.

It had been a rough start to the week for the owner of the store everyone called the Coop. Two of Andy’s best people were down with the flu, leaving him short on cashiers. And then Corker Smith’s truck slid into a snow bank as he was driving into work, one of the many accidents caused by the black ice plaguing Carding’s roads.

Corker and his beloved Chevy were fine except for a flat tire. But he wouldn’t get to Cooper’s until that was fixed, and considering the number of dead batteries and traffic accidents happening all over town, it was going to take a while.

Corker did just about everything at Cooper’s from stocking shelves to ordering the wide variety of wines that made the store a favorite among connoisseurs to feeding the wood furnace in the basement. So his absence left Andy with a huge gap in his employment situation.

He had been up since 4 a.m. trying to coax more heat out of the wood furnace in the store’s basement. But the cold was relentless. Ruth Goodwin opined that it was if winter was exacting revenge for humankind’s fiddling with its climate while the old-timers in Carding told everyone who would listen that “this is the way things used to be.”

Andy was never sure why that was an important point to make but everyone over the age of seventy got excited about it.

But to Andy’s mind, the biggest concession to the cold came via Amos Handy, the semi-retired hermit who lived up on Sunrise Hill.

In spite of his resistance to all things social, the bearded curmudgeon was something of an institution in Carding. Amos ran the Swap Shed at the town’s recycling center, the place where you could pick up still-good stuff that someone else didn’t want. The kinetic sculptures he made from found objects graced many a lawn in town, and he was a philosophical institution everywhere local folks gathered to indulge their caffeine habits.

But Amos’s main claim to fame was the consistency of his wardrobe—work boots, droopy socks, Hawaiian shirts, a red bandana around his neck, and shorts—always shorts. Normally, his only concessions to the cold of a Vermont winter were a chullo that his niece Cassie knit for him one Christmas, and a military-style parka with so many pockets, Amos claimed to get lost in them.

So when he walked into Cooper’s wearing long pants, Andy did a double-take. “Amos, did you leave your knees at home?”

“Hmph, and to think I came all the way over here to help you because Corker’s truck is at the end of the line at Stan’s garage,” Amos said as he struck a model’s pose. “Do you like them? They’re lined—with fleece. Been saving them for just such a day.”

Andy shook his head in wonder. “How old are they, Amos?”

The bearded man thought about that. “Well, you know how I don’t like to rush into anything, Andy.”

“Yeah, I do, Amos. I really do.”

“Well then, you won’t be surprised when I tell you they’ve aged five years since I bought them at that second-hand shop over in White River Junction,” Amos said.

Suddenly Edie Wolfe, Ruth Goodwin, and Andy’s brother, Charlie, bustled in the front door. “We heard that Corker’s truck is at Stan’s,” Edie said. “We figured you could use a hand.”

Andy grinned. “I sure could. Amos here is too busy giving me a fashion show to be of much use.”

Charlie stopped in mid-step. “Why Amos, where are your…”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ve already covered that,” Amos said as he started placing groceries in a bag.

Ruth pulled her phone out of her pocket to snap a picture. “Say knees,” she said.

“Yeah, yeah, very funny. Are you going to help this poor man or not?” Amos grumbled, hooking his thumb over his shoulder at Andy.

It didn’t take long for the friends to organize themselves into teams of cashiers and baggers. With the holidays over, it seemed like everyone in town needed more prosaic items such as milk, eggs, and dog food. But no matter how fast Andy and his helpers moved, the lines at the checkouts didn’t seem to get any shorter.

Most folks were good about it, using the waiting time to share holiday stories with whoever stood next to them. But G.G. Dieppe had no patience for such nonsense.

“It was seventeen degrees below zero at my house this morning,” she announced to no one in particular, stamping a high-heeled boot on the concrete floor. “It’s cold in here. I’ve got to get home before I freeze.”

It was the stamping foot that got Amos’s attention. If there was one thing that riled him more than any other, it was a deliberate display of stupidity, and wearing high-heeled boots when there was snow and ice on the ground was deliberately stupid.

Andy picked up his head to watch, and he saw a quick smile flit over his brother’s face.

“So exactly how many degrees below freezing is that?” Amos asked as he launched a bunch of celery into G.G.’s designer grocery bag.

“Why, why…” G.G. hesitated. Math had never been her strong suit. “Why that’s 49 degrees below freezing, that’s what it is.”

“Ah, just as a I thought,” Amos said. “You’re from away, aren’t you, so you wouldn’t know how we handle the zero.” He juggled a bunch of bananas into place.

Edie’s fingers hovered over a dozen eggs as she stopped to listen.

“The what?”

“The zero,” Amos said. “You see, when you count the number of degrees a temperature is below freezing, you have to count the zero just like any other digit or it doesn’t come out right.”

Ruth Goodwin turned her face away as she struggled not to laugh. G.G. eyed Amos’s rather unkempt appearance with visible disdain.

“You’re wrong,” she announced. “Water freezes at 32 degrees above zero, and if it was 17 below at my house this morning, then 32 plus 17 is 49 degrees below freezing. Everyone knows that.”

“But we count the zero here in Vermont,” Amos said. “So it was actually 50 degrees below freezing at your house this morning.”

That’s when Ruth lost it, and her distinctive laugh rolled all the way to the back of the store.

G.G.’s head whipped around as others joined in the general chuckling. She closed her wallet with cold, deliberate movements, and everyone felt the chill in the store deepen..

“You,” she said to Andy. “Is this how you treat your good customers?”

Andy shook his head. “It’s not how I treat my good customers, no.”

“You’re going to regret this,” G.G. said as she emptied the contents of her designer bag onto the counter.

No one moved while she stalked out of the store, her heels thudding on the concrete floor. Once outside, the cold made G.G.’s eyes water, and she struggled to jam her hands into her coat pockets.

“Ma’am? Would you be willing to sign my petition?” a young woman asked as she approached G.G. with a clipboard and pen. “I want to get my name on the ballot for selectboard.”

G.G. looked at the paperwork in the young woman’s hands. “When’s the election?” she asked.

“At town meeting, the first Tuesday in March.”

“How many signatures do you need to get on the ballot?”

“Thirty.”

“Only thirty?” G.G. hunched the collar of her coat up higher about her chin. “Well, good luck to you.”

And then she walked away.

Thirty signatures was an easy enough number to reach.