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08 July 2014 @ 09:59 pm
LJ Idol Season Nine: "Civic Obligations"  
Civic Obligations
lj idol season nine | week 14 | 773 words
Confession From The Chair


You might think being a small-town mayor is an easy job, but let me tell you, there's no end of aggravation. It isn't all ribbon-cutting and pie-judging and kissing babies. There's also paperwork, campaigning for re-election, and City Council meetings.

God, those damned meetings.

Maybe the town just isn't small enough. I'll bet those puny little one-stoplight places let the mayor run everything, without having to listen to the same old gripes from the same old people. Those mayors can probably make laws on their own, instead of having to put things up for committee vote.

Being the mayor, I'm also chairman of the City Council. Every second and fourth Tuesday, we meet up in the council hall and see what's what. Most times, one of the "whats" is Edgar Probart. Eddie is what you'd call a gun nut, one of those survivalist types. Half the time, he thinks he's a valued companion to law enforcement, and the other half he's plumb certain the town police and all their friends in black helicopters are coming to take away his property. Eddie likes to go on about the 'gummint' and secret Presidential plots, and having to listen to that crap really wears a guy down. Citizens are given five minutes to speak at the council meetings, and they get their five minutes—no matter how crazy they are or how many times you've heard their particular rant.

If it was just me, in my own office? I would lock the door whenever Eddie came around, and not have to suffer through his paranoid imaginings. But we have the council and our by-laws, so we're stuck with him, one Tuesday night after another.

Eddie isn't our only regular visitor. Pamela Horvath's on a mission to reshape the town's image, and she trots out her preposterous ideas at least once a month. Last meeting, she had a notion to add fake paneling and flowerboxes onto everything, to make it look like an old English village. Aside from the cost and effort involved… we're in Arizona, for crying out loud! Another time, it was costumed cactus mascots to greet visitors in the historic part of downtown. Then she wanted the police decked out in cowboy hats and sixguns, because apparently nothing says 'modern thinking' like being stuck in the wrong century.

Edna Marsh just wants to ban half the books in the library.

Most of the council members themselves aren't too bad. Missy Hines is our resident hippie, and can talk your ear off about crystals and aligning energy. Tillie Higbottom is the Sheriff's Department secretary, and Bill Latrell owns a couple of local businesses. Thomas Wattle ranches cattle, and things have been sort of awkward since he ran against me in the last election. Still, it could be worse.

It's Tuesday night again now, and it's almost six o'clock. I don’t want to be late, so I turn the store over to Delwin (being the Mayor doesn't pay you enough to live on. I don't suppose it ever will). The council hall is just across the street, and Bill and Tillie and Missy are already there when I come through the door.

"How's everyone this evening?" I ask. "D'you suppose this'll be a quick one?"

Bill laughs like some kind of maniac, and Tillie just rolls her eyes and wanders away. I look at Missy to see if she has something useful to say.

"Nancy Zahn thinks the town's name has negative connotations, and she's drawn up a proposal to change it."

"'Buzzard Flat' is negative? No, really?" I snort. This is just par for the course. "She does realize it's a historic name, doesn't she?"

"Yes, but she says she doesn't care."

My stomach growls. Dinner won't be coming anytime soon. Pamela arrives with a set of display boards (some new harebrained scheme, I'll bet on it), and Eddie's over in the corner wearing camouflage and mumbling over a stack of papers that probably constitutes his latest manifesto.

It isn't a dull job, I'll say that for it. But there are times I think retirement sounds pretty damned good.

Maybe I'll hang up my hat the next time around, or just let Tom win the election. There'd be a certain satisfaction in that, with him thinking he'd won some big prize or other. Days like this, it'd be a whole lot closer to eating a grenade.

But if I'm being honest with myself, along about the middle of next week I'll be thinking that this is a good town with good people, and somehow the whole crazy mess is worth it. Eventually, I always do.


(This week's voting is for fellow contestants only)...

John Louisgrail76 on July 9th, 2014 11:10 am (UTC)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 9th, 2014 05:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
bleodsweanbleodswean on July 9th, 2014 03:40 pm (UTC)
This is exactly precisely accurate.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 9th, 2014 05:55 pm (UTC)
Oh, lord. Your town might be about this size, mightn't it?

In which case... you're living the nightmare!
Elеnakehlen on July 9th, 2014 07:41 pm (UTC)
It's a really small town, is it not? :) Very sweet.

How do you feel about black comedies? Hot Fuzz is one about a small English town, and even though I am not at all a fun of the genre, I enjoyed it very much.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 9th, 2014 08:40 pm (UTC)
I generally enjoy black comedies, so I will look into that one!

I've had some favorite British small town comedies, including "Hamish" (years ago) and "Doc Martin." Yours might fit right in. :)
cindytsuki_no_bara on July 10th, 2014 02:55 am (UTC)
i love the look into small-town governance. probably-decent people with seriously one-track minds. fun to read about, tho.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 10th, 2014 05:43 am (UTC)
I think there's both comfort and frustratio in knowing your neighbors so well, and in having to live with each others' quirks.

But in a community of any size, it seems there will always be the gadflies. ;)
Laura, aka "Ro Arwen": Tiny Storiesroina_arwen on July 11th, 2014 01:15 am (UTC)
This was a fun look into small town life. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 11th, 2014 05:57 am (UTC)
:D I started out thinking about some of the frustrations of a small town, and it was a surprise to quickly decide that maybe even smaller could be better. Or at least, less aggravating. Of course, that's usually only for the dictator person running the place. ;)
Es'kaeska818 on July 11th, 2014 05:39 am (UTC)
A unique take on the topic, and well-written! I enjoyed the blend of negativity with the positive, it made the whole piece really have a balanced feel.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 11th, 2014 06:01 am (UTC)
Thank you!

No matter how aggravating some of the day-to-day moments, there are almost always people who are in it to serve their community rather than to bask in a sense of power. That can give them the staying power to withstand a lot that would make other people just give up.
Teo Sayseternal_ot on July 11th, 2014 06:42 am (UTC)
Ah! Interesting and refreshing take on the topic..I like where you mind went..A nice read!:)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 11th, 2014 09:24 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it! I suspect this is a particularly American flavor of small-town insanity, but perhaps not as uncommon as other (normal) small-town residents might like. :D
rayasorayaso on July 11th, 2014 05:35 pm (UTC)
One of the things I liked best about it was how you managed to fit so many vivid characters into such a small space. I laughed out loud several times. Eddie is someone best enjoyed at a distance. You have a real knack for creating strong scenes using few words.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 11th, 2014 09:26 pm (UTC)
Eddie is the kind of person you want to o_O at in someone else's town-- not run into at the grocery store, or have turn up every other week with a new conspiracy theory to throw at you.

I'm thinking Pamela Horvath's future schemes for the town might include a birdhouse theme. Or a national horse sanctuary...
A Karmic Sandbox: No Really!karmasoup on July 12th, 2014 03:15 am (UTC)
I was wondering if someone would use the "chair" reference to a indicate a "chairperson"... not surprised you were the clever one! This is really cute, and probably more realistic than most of us would imagine.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 12th, 2014 03:54 am (UTC)
I thought far more people would take this approach, which almost pushed me toward writing crack about a personified chair... but my husband went that route!

Glad you enjoyed it. I suspect life in some small towns is like being in a family where not all the siblings get along, and yet they're still too young to leave the nest, and they just have to somehow cope with each other. Or co-exist, at least. :)
Amblecrownelledanger on July 12th, 2014 04:42 pm (UTC)
Ahhh this was really sweet and oddly reminiscent of the Vicar of Dibley with their parish council meetings.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 14th, 2014 06:06 am (UTC)
This sounds like another British small-village show I should look into.

So glad you enjoyed it!
waltzmatildahwaltzmatildah on July 13th, 2014 09:02 am (UTC)
This was a really fun entry! Small towns, hey?!!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 14th, 2014 06:06 am (UTC)
Thank you! Funny how all of the characters, not just the mayor, started to grow on me as I was writing them. :)
D.binaryorchid on July 13th, 2014 05:25 pm (UTC)
That was really a fun read!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 14th, 2014 06:07 am (UTC)
Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. :)
Jemima Paulerjem0000000 on July 13th, 2014 11:51 pm (UTC)
Awww. :) Sounds like there are quite a few characters in town!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 14th, 2014 06:07 am (UTC)
I think they are certainly more noticeable-- and maybe also harder to avoid-- in a smaller town!
Veronica Richveronica_rich on July 14th, 2014 12:00 am (UTC)
I have many things I could tell you relative to this, having grown up in the one-horse town (probably Pestilence's steed) and written hundreds of accounts of council meetings about others I came across. But I'll just say "accurate." ;-)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 14th, 2014 06:13 am (UTC)
"Accurate" was what bleodswean said, who lives in a small town even now.

I am both thrilled to hear that, and also a little unnerved for the people who are living that! It must seem like a tightrope dance all too often...
i_17bingoi_17bingo on July 14th, 2014 10:20 am (UTC)
Oooooh that Edgar Probart... I really hate that guy, ever since that one time. You remember that one time.

Edgar Probart. You jerk.

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 14th, 2014 04:41 pm (UTC)
:D You make Edgar Probart sound like Steve Carlsberg from Nightvale. Who is always wrong, at least according to Cecil. ;)

Thanks for reading!

Edited at 2014-07-14 04:45 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - i_17bingo on July 14th, 2014 05:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on July 14th, 2014 06:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)