26 Mending Wall

Poppy and Pansy each lugged a shopping bag full of picture books the few blocks from the bus stop to the library. It was Saturday, their usual day for this jaunt.

“Could we make our own tote bags?,” Pansy asked Mrs. James. “These ones keep ripping.”

“I’ve noticed. You’ve already made bean bags so I suppose you could make a larger one, and add some handles. We’ll look at some pattern books while we’re here, see if there are any you’d like to try.” Pleased that they still enjoyed the wonderful art work in so many of the children’s books, she was hoping to interest them in browsing other sections.

She’d recently borrowed many books that she hadn’t looked at in years, just for the sake of introducing them to the girls. Occasionally, she read aloud from one of them. One of these was an anthology of poetry including Robert Frost’s poem, “Mending Wall.” Uncanny how apropos of their collective situation vis-a-vis the proposed building some of those lines were. She must remember to share them with the committee.Chapter 26 Mending Wall

“Before I built a wall I’d like to know

What I was walling in or walling out

And to whom I was like to give offense.”

*   *   *   *   *

Along the avenue from the POPS, Morrie Mangold surveyed The Alchemy sales center. Caterers were setting up dishes for tonight’s Grand Opening. Sales material was laid out on the refreshment tables. There were more chairs than people expected so he directed that some be removed. He preferred that the room appear full. Invitations had been sent to a lot of people including realtors and civic leaders, and Morrie hoped that some of these pro-development invitees would turn up, too, not just the mob from next door. If the city council meetings and war of letters in the press so far were any indication, this mob was going to mobilize.

Helping himself to a sample of the wine, he wandered around the room adjusting displays as he went. Rusty came in, propped a large rendering of the project onto the empty easel in front of the chairs, and joined his uncle in a glass of wine.

“So Uncle Morrie, are you ready for the inquisition?”

“Not as ready as I could be, if you had an eye-witness report for me from the Prospect.”

“Well, I tried but there are no listings. I even went over just to fake my way in but that concierge told me I couldn’t. Something about there being only a single party listing, right now. Only one realtor could get in, and I wasn’t it.”

“That’s very unfortunate. You might’ve tried saying you had one of those yourself. Bad move.”

“Anyway, there’s this guy I met who says we can get in, only he’s not sure when, exactly. Maybe in time to still help you. Us,” Rusty hastily corrected, “to come up with a sop to throw at them.”

“One way or another, you’ll do it. And after tonight I bet there will be some new listings in there.” Morrie laughed and, relishing the thought of the flight of panicked residents from the building, helped himself to a second sample of wine. “We’re starting some site preparation work. Clearing the scrub all down the bluff so you’ll get an even better idea, when you do see. I have a pretty good idea what they’ll say tonight.  I’m ready with some answers of my own. Just remember to be polite to them.” Morrie instructed. “Go up, introduce yourself. ‘Hello, I’m Mr. Nice Guy.’ Before they start in on you, say you’re interested in a ‘helpful dialogue.’ Make like a Wrested Development professional.”

Rusty Mangold, nephew of Morrie, a Wrested Development employee

Rusty Mangold, nephew of Morrie, a Wrested Development employee

The caterer’s truck had pulled up and they were now laying out the spread. Standing up and stretching, Morrie moved to the front of the room, picked up a pointer and turned, waving his empty glass.

“So, kid, how do I look? Ready to face the lions?”

“What’s the order of march? Is it just you doing the talking?”

“First, we meet and greet. Be hospitable, happy they’ve come, blah blah. I give my presentation, take a few questions. We adjourn and talk to people one on one. You mingle, listen to what gets said. Any press, you send them to me, right? Now, another glass for courage.” Morrie preferred his own eloquence to any other. Awhile later, once he was up and on his feet before his audience, this event was no different.

“Here beckons before us a new beacon for our times and along our shores. Not a crumbling one of stones, but one of glass and steel. A signal of the growing importance of our city and our place in the world. But we will never forget our beginnings as we spread out our wings. Out to embrace the future. We hold forever in our soaring skyward those beloved foundations. We build anew but yes, restore our past! Our lighthouse, sacred city landmark that once adorned our bluffs and proudly looked out over our deep waters, I say again, our deep, deep waters, will rise again and contain, within its beating heart, the very stones that have always stood in this place and are never forgotten. True alchemy. The Alchemy begins.”

At least this is what he thought he spoke, what he meant to say. His fervent delivery was a trifle spoiled by his incoherence, no doubt on account of his having previously imbibed glassfuls of the caterer’s wine without benefit of the caterer’s food. His audience was polite, though mystified. A sermon was certainly not what they had expected. The committee from the Prospect was in full attendance. They were waiting for a promised opportunity to ask questions publicly, after the developer’s presentation. It never came.

Morrie, instead of inviting questions or comments from the floor, abruptly stopped his speech, possibly aware that he was not at his best and mumbled something about them soon all having a chance to talk to him, one on one. He made his way stiffly down the aisle between the rows of chairs and outside for some fresh air. Rusty rushed to replace him and quickly invited everyone to enjoy more refreshments, then followed his uncle out the door.

“That was different.” R.M. thought, as he rose from his chair and went to greet some fellow Realtors.

“What the devil?” said Guy Karon, as he turned to talk to a willing reporter.

“Goodness me, I daren’t eat that! Think of the gallstones.” concluded Lori Hazell, as she surveyed the refreshments.