Fifth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers
5. A fast bow across the cello strings
Serena Cobalt’s grandmother had left her a small cottage. It wasn’t much, but it was in Windenburg. Gran bequeathed her all her old things: the dusty plants and moth-eaten curtains, the bookshelves full of classics and the tiny garden full of hollyhocks, and Serena loved it all. It smelled like home.
Before she arrived, Serena secured employment as the personal secretary to the family her grandmother had worked for as a housekeeper for over thirty years. Serena’s work days for the Villareals were quiet, peaceful, and interesting, and when work was done, she had long evenings and weekends to herself.
The Villareals trusted her because of their long association with her grandmother, but it was the type of trust that employers have for valued employees, not the trust that exists between friends, peers, or colleagues, which was the trust that Serena longed for. That was what she missed most after pulling up her roots in her old city where she’d worked alongside her band of comrades as a community activist since college.
She’d heard, even back in her History of Civil Disobedience course in freshman year, that Windenburg boasted an old history of activism. All the Marxists she’d known back home talked about the Windenburg marches. “These were Dignity Marches,” her friend Paul had said. “After all, where’s the dignity in starving?” She’d heard rumors that one of the organizers, Claude Deveralle, was still alive and living in Old Town.
If there were still revolutionaries or even those who worked for social justice living in Windenburg or the surrounding areas, Serena had yet to meet them. But then, aside from the Villareals, she hadn’t met many locals yet.
Serena did love the peaceful quiet of her new life, but it was not a replacement for belonging to a cause greater than her. It wasn’t even a replacement for having someone to talk to, someone who knew her, liked her, and didn’t hand her a paycheck on Friday at five p.m.
She’d never connect with new friends or like-minded souls if she spent every free moment at home, so one free Saturday morning, before cleaning house or watering the garden, she jogged down her country road to the small pub she passed each day on her way to work. Maybe she could meet a few neighbors.
A city girl from childhood, she was entranced by the landscape. The air smelled green, if air could carry a color, and it buzzed with bird song and cricket chirp. Maybe if she’d grown up someplace where bees outnumbered taxis, she’d find it easier to settle in fully, to accept companionship from trees. But as it was, the trees and empty meadows made her heart a little tighter, longing for the voices of people and the warmth of human faces.
The pub was empty when she arrived, but before her first cup of coffee was poured, a man walked in. He was a few years younger than her, perhaps, but with a hunger in his eyes that Serena had seen in the gaze of every politician she’d ever crossed swords or walked picket lines with.
It didn’t matter what side a politician was on, Serena had learned early in her career: they were all hungry.
He came onto her at first. “Do you have a map? I’m lost in your eyes.”
But it was nothing she couldn’t handle.
“No map,” she replied, “but I can see the route out the door just fine.”
Alec laughed. “Touché. I should know better than to try an old line like that on a fresh girl like you. So tell me seriously, no joking allowed, what is a beautiful woman like you doing in a small pub like this?”
She maneuvered her way through that line, too, steering the conversation onto him. Politicians, she’d discovered, loved nothing more than talking about themselves. And soon, she learned of his philosophy undergrad degree, his law graduate degree, his two Schnauzers, and the Mercedes Benz he hoped one day to buy–after he had finished his career of “doing good for those who have no one to do good for them.”
“So what office are you running for?” she finally asked him.
He laughed again. “Who told you I was running for office? I know! You saw my Twitter account!”
He was running for representative for the Green Party.
“I didn’t peg you as a Green,” she said, “not with your Schnauzers and your Mercedes.”
“The Mercedes exists as a theoretical only,” he said, “as a dream. And my little Mitzi and Matilde are eco-friendly chiennes.”
She asked him about his platform–how could she miss the chance? And he launched into a long speech about education reform. He was passionate about “eradicating forever the achievement gap and bridging the socio-economic divide.” She questioned him, and his replies were well-informed, well-considered, and impassioned.
“I get so riled up!” he said, jumping up from the barstool. “I must move when the ideas fill me! Play with me! I challenge you!”
She laughed to herself as she followed him to the foosball table. Oh, it had been a while since she’d heard a man talk himself into a frenzy over social policy, and she had missed this!
He continued to talk while they played. They must use authentic assessments! Portfolios! Project-based learning! No more high-stakes testing! And of course, the health care and the free meals! Students must be healthy to learn!
“I like your ideas,” she said to him, when he stopped to breathe. “And I like your passion. You remind me of my colleagues back home, when I worked for Community Now!”
“You were the politician?” he asked. “I should have known it! An intelligent woman like you!”
“No,” she said. “Not a politician. Even better, a community activist. But I worked with plenty of politicians. When we put our efforts behind a candidate, our candidate won.”
“Oh,” Alec said, “I could use a group behind me! I have the Greens, but to have a real grass-roots, community group! That would be my dream.”
He walked her out after they finished lunch.
“This will sound crazy,” he said. “OK. It is crazy. No. It is not crazy. It is crazy because I have only known you for not even over an hour. It is not crazy because I know intelligence when I encounter it. I know talent, experience, passion. Look. I want you to run my campaign.”
She laughed. “Your campaign? Like, the whole thing?”
“Yes,” he said. “It’s insane, no?”
“It’s insane, yes!” She replied. “I’ll do it!”
“Get out your phone,” Alec said, “Quick! Quick! Here. Surf to here.” And he grabbed her phone and typed in the URL of his campaign website.
“See?” he said. “There where it says, TBA–that will be your name!”
That evening, when she went for her jog, Serena laughed to herself. Here she was, not even a month in her new town, and already she was managing somebody’s campaign! This was where she belonged, and they were going to make a difference, and they were going to do it fast!