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101 ALAN MICHAEL PARKER REPORT FROM THE COMMITTEE ON TOWN HAPPINESS We have been thinking about the weather. We admire the weather’s perseverance. We enjoy the weather, and what results—a ragged pennant rippling, a tin can bobbing in a swollen creek. We have decided (5–4, M. Hughes a no-show) that the weather will receive our faith. The ice cream truck drivers were vocal in their support. The vote was close: our faith, those in the minority argued, belongs to each of us as individuals. But our faith, the majority foreswore, requires collective action. The vote led us to act: we have decided that the Officer of Public Generosity should represent us in negotiations. That we need someone to be heroic. That the weather rules us in absentia. We have decreed all gardens to be testimonials (7–2, with virtually no discussion); we have deadlocked on the question of the horizon (one abstention). We have declared the human body to be natural. We voted 8–1 (unanimous, except for the fair-haired V. Gurozcki) to table our discussion of taxexempt status for all weather-related vendors. The ice cream truck drivers expressed dismay, and one of their number was forcibly removed. We were near curfew when M. Hughes returned. He had been to the edge, but probably no further. There were red leaves on his sweater, a twig in his hair. Many of us were scared. When M. Hughes spoke, his words were cold. Our hearts shivered. 102 M. Hughes was persuasive. We deliberated, passed the newly conceived Reconsideration Statutes, voted to re-think all plans as they relate to the changing weather. We voted to consider how far we have re-drifted. The ice cream truck drivers gathered by the windows, huddled. We voted (5–4, V. Gurozcki leading those against) to be happy anew. We are sure, having been elected. We are happy. 103 ALAN MICHAEL PARKER THE SWALLOWS The children liked to play “The Swallows.” When a person is still young, games are fun, especially games named after birds. The children ran, arms wide, all around the playground, underneath the jungle gym, swarming, almost. There was only one rule: no one was allowed to touch another person. There was only one goal: to run together as close as possible, fullspeed , and never touch. If a child touched another, both would have to sit down where they were. Right there. The playground filled with seated children—facing all different ways, as though the sky were about to play a movie. Everyone wanted to see the movie too. If a running child touched a seated child, the running child would have to sit. Right there. Until fewer children were still running: five, four, three. When two children were left running, they were supposed to run as fast as they could through all the seated children, almost flying toward each other and away. Until one child was never touched. Everyone played The Swallows years ago. All the grown-ups grew up years ago. The most admired among us ran the fastest at each other, pulled away at the very last. In our happy places, we still know who we are, we who never touched another, never fell, the swallows. 104 ALAN MICHAEL PARKER OUR NEW SUSPICIONS It began with wine bottles in the grass, fast food wrappers like tumbleweeds. The perversity of an empty stroller in front of the coffee shop. Brightly colored threads, as though from foreign garments—caftans or towels—caught in the Spring grip of the honeysuckles along the Avenue. In the gutter, a kind of scat we didn’t know. A flyer in a language no one read. Every morning, something new, even the sun. Were our visitors prodigals? Refugees? Robbers? Every night, it seemed, they were moving through town. On purpose. The Committee on Town Happiness convened, decreed its lack of jurisdiction. The Committee on Animal Safety made recommendations in light of the incessant barking; the Officer of Public Generosity deployed new azaleas. Two Committees folded, for lack of a quorum. We set a watch, deputized three teens with a video camera. We made private overtures. We unsewed our shrouds. As though...


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pp. 101-104
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