For some days now the thunder and screech of heavy machinery, concrete mixing trucks and shouting were gone. In their place, no less stressful, were the cries of a hundred sixty-five moaning adults and excited children being installed (cramped, not roomy or bright enough were heard a lot) into the living space of a closet in their former apartments and homes. And bursting with the furnishings they had brought. Thirty-seven of the first occupants stayed a week or less. The next batch were more forgiving, having suffered the march, and compensated not only by not having to cook but the marvelous cuisine itself. The fresh ‘organic” vegetables and fruit were only a slight bonus.
Anne and Richard’s house, a hundred yards up the hill from the site, had not only heard the constant pounding and whine, but actually shook, especially the porch on which they sat, with each fall of the giant sledge hanging from one of the tall cranes that sank the steel foundation beams into the perimeter. Each boom served to remind Richard of the clumsy manner in which he and his boys had fixed the cabin’s foundation on wobbly stones. Happily however, it had instigated his great revelation that they—all humans –were not of this planet. Small comfort at the moment. When all the noise ended they felt strangely isolated, alone. The quiet itself was unnerving for the first few days, ultimately producing sighs of relief. The Amwell Commune was a fact. And, with the boys, they selected their own large suite.
They were on the creaking porch swing after a dinner of watery vegetable soup (the boys, into construction, had neglected their vegetable garden). The communal garden was guarded round the clock as neighbors had been quietly raiding the marvelous produce and even the day-old crusty bread. The bath-tub 3% beer had somewhat dulled the noise of the construction but did nothing to ease their cramps from the stress of dealing with the residents’ issues. And Anne’s with the straggling return of the invitations, and Richard’s interviews with the busloads of applicants. Some responses had them trudging forlornly back onto the buses within minutes; addictive habits such as smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, an unshakable need for organized religion, and the severely handicapped or aged unable to cope without help.
Although larger communities would have comprehensive hospitals, each commune would be served by a doctor and a nurse only. Twelve doctors had applied, forty nurses as well, but most declined after seeing the tiny, sparsely equipped surgery suite. Dentistry was only for the big communities.
They decided not to allow visitors or the media before the Convention on July 4th, considering the originality of the scheme and its unknown consequences.
“Did I hear,” Anne stopped the porch glider from swinging, “late one night about a week or so ago, a round-the-park proposal of marriage?”
Richard turned beet red and threw his hands up in resignation, nodding miserably, too afraid to speak.
She made several faces as if pondering it, all on the dubious side. “First of all, we’ve been living together as man and wife, no? Second, I’m not pregnant, so . . . what’s this all about? Ah. You’re thinking because I took a day off to be spoilt by the glorious Fountains Motel that I might decide to decamp altogether?”
He looked despondent enough to burst into tears, but clamped his lips together and merely nodded to imply it was exactly what he was thinking.
She too bit her lip, but only to keep from laughing. Unable to contain herself, she came out with a serious of cackles and coughs until tears streamed down her cheeks. She threw her arms about him and squeezed the breath out of them both. “Of course I’ll marry you, you dolt! From the moment we met in that strange interview so long ago, I knew in my bones that you were the man for me. Of course you’re impossible to live with, you’re obstinate, demanding, a slob and a – oh, hell, you’re a goddamn genius.”
A stutter: “I am no such thing.”
“You most certainly are!” she exclaimed. “You’ve only presented to the country, the entire world the unimpeachable concept that we humans are not from this planet!”
“Oh, that. It’s just because I—“
“Shut up! And who just happened to organize and lead the greatest popular march in our country’s history?”
“I didn’t start it, I just – well, I may have given it a focus, but it was not my—”
“And who dared to face and get a battalion of armed combat soldiers to stand down!”
” Darling, if you’ll just let me—“
She jumped off the glider and began striding back and forth on the rickety porch boards. “Why do we need to get married? You can’t mean in a church? You flat-out reject religion, as do I. All right, let’s have Clark May do it! No, no, better still, Sidney McCloud!”
“Who’s Sidney McCloud?”
“It could be his last official act as Cardinal of St. Louis.”
“Hold on,” now he stepped off the glider and confronted her. “Are you suggesting,” sticking his chin inches from hers, “that baseball players can perform marriage ceremonies?”
Momentarily discomfited, particularly by his proximity, she backed off and stammered, “Ub, did I –I didn’t say, even imply that – that – oh, you beast!” Richard had already spoken with the Cardinal and asked him to address the convention on one of the articles.
At his wild-eyed giggle, she pummeled him with her fists. Then with a great sigh, dragged him back to the glider for something more serious. “One of the residents, ‘scuse me, members, told me she saw Colonel Walker outside the dome.”
“So? You know he’s obsessive about security. I’ve seen him pick up cigarette butts.”
“At two o’clock in the morning? The member, I forget her name, couldn’t sleep so she came up to the library for a book and—no, stop making excuses for the man.”