Lindsey puts a bold face on it and marches herself off to the hospital’s community forum on the park access proposal. More delayed July fireworks!
Hospital Director and Board. Meeting hosted by none other than her friend and yours, Mr. Sincerity Roger Stone. Disarmingly “just folks” in a golfing shirt and friendly grin.
Allen Dunshire, the hospital attorney, in his crisply trimmed hair and suit, discreetly posted to the side. As Lindsey slips anonymously into the back of the packed conference hall, he lifts his head to catch her eye. Was that a raised eyebrow?
City traffic planner, harassed-looking forty-something woman in a rumpled linen jacket.
Citizens of all ages, shapes, and colors, packing the folding chairs, restlessly prowling the coffee urns and decimated donut boxes (Crispy Cremes?) at the back of the hall.
The Environmental Coalition staked out in the front rows, passing fact sheets along the aisles, strategically seeded throughout the seats to trigger “spontaneous” ripples of protest, catcalls, boos to the hospital infomercials. (Technique #5 in Nick’s agency guide to public demonstration dynamics.)
And speak of the devil: Ex-husband Nick Papetti, minus bullhorn but front row center. Smug and too-handsome, graying dark hair sleeked back, a little longer now. His pretty young brunette girlfriend in Sierra Sports fleece, earnest and nodding, passes instructions down the line.
Silent observer, ex-wife ex-hospital employee midlife-crisis expert Lindsey Friedland hunches in the back row, listening to the bland assurances from the hospital entourage. Then they open for questions.
Weekly Whiplash editor Damon Perrera stands in the audience to introduce himself. (Hel-lo! Fortyish with long black hair in a braid, luscious coffee-with-cream skin, and flashing dark eyes…. Hmmm. Every straight woman with blood still circulating turns to take in the eye candy.) A glimmer of humor in those Latin-lover eyes? as he earnestly? lobs a question at the city traffic planner:
“With all due respect, our readers would like to know, just to clear up any appearance of irregularity in the due process here, why there has been no publicly-posted environmental-impact assessment before this meeting…?”
And the fireworks ignite!
First to his feet among the chairs, one of the watchdog agency field workers, bellowing, “That’s what we’ve been asking for, for months! Cut the bullshit and give us some straight answers!”
A blue-haired raging granny pushes forward with a “Save the Nesting Owls!” placard, managing to whack one of the hospital ushers in the noggin with it.
Head of the neighborhood coalition stands with a clipboard, pointing her pen, futilely raising her voice against a swelling growl.
The traffic planner taps her microphone. “We’re pursuing the best balance to serve the taxpayers….”
She’s drowned out by an angry roar whipped up on cue by the flashpoint hecklers.
Roger Stone stands, still all “aw-shucks, folks.” He starts, “Just let us explain how this process works” into his mike, a bead of sweat rolling down his face.
There’s a familiar, crooked little smile on Nick’s face as he stands and tilts his head toward the back. Into the hall comes streaming a line of schoolkids in Campfire Girl and Boy Scout uniforms with crayon drawings of frogs, hawks, cedar trees, and baby owls, raising a banner: SAVE OUR PARK!
Everyone is on their feet then, applauding, cheering.
Worth the price of admission: Damon Perrera whips up a camera just in time to snap the look of dismay on Roger Stone’s face as he sinks back onto his chair.
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