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  • [This is a short story with multiple episodes. The seed of this one is That Cash Flow Sound.]

    It was lunchtime, and people were filtering into the common house. For a long, awkward moment, Ted, Tammy, Annie and I stood in a circle outside, trying to decide whether to tell anyone the backstory of the drug raid. It only happened four hours ago, but for us it stretched well beyond that and involved events that not everyone probably needed to know.

    A sign on an easel said Special Town Meeting Today 3 PM. We were sure it would be an emotional one. In my imagination I imagined accusations and angry words ricocheting through the room, trying to affix blame for having been targeted by the drug police. I wasn't sure that the community could withstand either knowing the truth or not knowing it.

    Just then, Marjorie and Pete approached, walking with Jim. I had a feeling that Jim had told them about the mysterious, furtive stranger who had approached him the other day, now that it was a dot to connect. We all waved to each other as they trudged almost hesitantly up the porch steps.

    In a reckless fit of inspiration I announced to my companions, "I think I know a way to start the conversation we should be having." Turning toward the group on the steps, I said "Hey Jim! Got a minute?"

    Jim stopped in mid-tread and turned around. "What's up, Brad?"

    I walked closer to him. Pete and Marjorie reached the top of the steps and turned around.

    "Well, Jim, I was thinking about something you told me this morning in light of what's happened since."

    "What was it I said?" he asked.

    "It was about some guy who wandered in and told you his car broke down, so he came for help. About two-three days ago. Remember?"

    "Yeah." Jim said, "What about it?"

    He seemed a little uncomfortable, but I went on. "It just occurred to me that he could have had something to do with that drug raid. You talked to him. Did he act nervous or strange?"

    Jim scratched his stubbly chin. "He was pretty friendly, but I guess anyone who needed help would be nice about it. He did keep lookin' around a lot, and he was pretty vague about where he was comin' and goin' to. I dunno, what do you think?"

    Jim was being cool, but still I pressed him. "Well it seems to me it's possible that he came to plant some drugs here, but something went wrong. Or maybe not. You said you let him stay in the trailer, the same one we are using. Did you see him go in there?"

    Jim replied, "I took him in there myself and told him where the blankets were. He was in there when I left."

    "Well then," I said, "could that guy have stashed some stuff in the trailer and then headed back up the hill to the road unobserved? Could we be sleeping next to a cache of controlled substances?"

    Jim looked up at Marjorie and Pete, then to me, shrugging. "I suppose. Anything's possible."

    My sparkling attempt to open a dialog seemed to be fizzling. Ted was about to say something, but Marjorie spoke first. "Brad, why don't you, Annie and Iris come have lunch with us in the library. We ought to catch up. I'd like to learn more about your situation."

    Thankfully, Annie jumped in. "That would be great," she responded. "But are you sure you can spare the time right now? There are many things that the community needs to discuss."

    "We'll get to them all during the meeting," replied Marjorie, starting toward the front door. "Meanwhile, we would like to get to know you better." I sensed we had some explaining to do.

    Just then, Iris and Trevor, their hands and knees covered with dirt, ran up and joined us. Trevor was gripping a soiled black gym bag, which they must have dug out of the ditch they had laid it in. Urgently he said, "Dad! We ..." Ted took one look at them and emphatically responded "Not now, son!"

    We looked at the kids, then at the bag and then at each other in silent alarm. There was nothing we could say or do, so we followed Marjorie and Pete inside for lunch and a difficult conversation.

    Continued in That Panicky Sound

    [The original seed of this series is On Sustainable Power, May 31, 2012.
    To identify all the stories in the series, click the tag That Sound beneath the map.]

    @image: anxiety.jpg (artist unknown, no certain attribution)
    @audio: Heartbeat Speeding Up Sound Effect 01 from
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