The lead story was spread out above the fold, right under the Manatee Bay Monitor masthead, with a 2-inch high headline. It had even pushed the minutes of the Rotary Club's latest meeting to page 3 and that was exceptional in itself. Even the opening of Barracuda Beach Elementary hadn't gotten that much space...
'Riot in Manatee Bay' read the headline. The byline was also something to behold... 'Story by Walt Cheevers, additional reporting by Mabel Glock, photos by 'Frenchy' Gareau, staff photographer'. Walt had really gone all out on this story ... That the story was written by Walt was not at all unusual; he wrote 80% of the articles ( he had Jennifer Perkins, the Secretary of the Rotary Club furnish the minutes and he used Alfie Jones' boy, Jeremy, as a stringer to report on what was happening in the High School) and lifted the rest right off the Internet. I guessed that he had asked Mabel, who had had a ringside seat for the riot, as it were, as the worst of it happened right in front of Horace's Home Cooked Meals, to write the story. As for Frenchy, he must have bought himself a new camera ... I had 'accidentally' dropped his last one in the ocean after I caught him sneaking into the resort with it last summer.
Since I was stuck in town anyway; apparently there had been a major pile-up on the Interstate and the BreadBasket delivery truck was right in the middle of it, I decided to go to Horace's and read up on the riot. I hadn't been in town that day; I had had to drive Rose to the county hospital for her ultra-sound. I was glad to have missed it, however; some of those rowdies would certainly have passed a baseball bat through my windshield and I doubted that replacement windshields would still be available for a 1930s pick-up truck.
I entered the greasy spoon and looked around; other than one window that was boarded up, the place looked no worse than usual. I sat down in a corner booth near an intact window and waved to Mabel to bring me a cup of their patented drain cleaner ... it certainly wasn't coffee ... and I started reading the article.
"The day had started quietly enough…" I read… "At around nine o'clock, Rev. Samuel B. Jackson, local Baptist preacher and demagogue, arrived in front of the Manatee Bay High School on Elm Street, where The Manatee Bay Home and School Association meets regularly, with some twenty members of his flock, to stage a peaceful march from the High School to the Town Hall at the corner of Harbor Street and Center. Winifred Vickers, spokesperson for the Christian Rights Fellowship, declared that Reverend Jackson was most displeased with the recent decision of the Manatee Bay School Board to decree that the Palmetto Drive Junior High School was to become clothing-optional and, with this march, he hoped to influence local citizenry to force the municipality to have that decree invalidated."
"Last October, Willow Lane Elementary burnt down and the replacement school had been erected in the only space available, in Manatee Bay's local nudist resort. Paul Jackman, businessman and owner of the Barracuda Beach Resort, had insisted, however, as part of his agreement with the Manatee Bay School Board, the school being situated as it was between the clothes-free Willow Lane residential co-operative and the resort's clubhouse, that it be clothes-free as well."
"By this last May, it had become more than evident that the students of the renamed Barracuda Beach Elementary were outperforming the students of the other Manatee Bay elementary schools. A comparison of the recent final exams indicated that 'Cuda Beach results surpassed the combined results of the other four elementary schools by an average of 10 to 20%. The parents of those students who would be graduating from 'Cuda Beach Elementary, worried that their children would lose this initiative, lobbied the School Board to provide a clothes-free Junior High. Finally, last June, the School Board relented and came up with a compromise; it decreed that, henceforth, Palmetto Drive Junior High would be clothing-optional."
"Sources differed on the exact details but it would appear that, when the marchers turned from Elm Street onto Harbor Street, they were joined by several dozen protesters, several of whom were wearing backpacks or were carrying Billy Clubs and baseball bats. As the march progressed along Harbor, the chanting became louder and angrier and, as they approached the downtown core, the marchers more agitated. It was after they had crossed Church Street that the protestors started swinging their bats. One block further on, the hooligans surged forward and started on a melee of wanton destruction, smashing car windows and throwing the bricks they had carried in their backpacks. Luckily, no passers-by were wounded beyond some minor cuts and scrapes, although one Manatee Bay resident (we are unsure at this moment whether that person was a passer-by or one of the marchers) who tried to intervene was sent to the hospital with a broken arm."
"As soon as the violence started, Sheriff Fernandez and his deputies arrived on the scene but, beyond calling for reinforcements from the local State Police detachment and keeping bystanders out of the way, they were outmatched. It was the State Police, in full riot gear, who finally restored order. It would appear that some of those arrested came from as far away as northern Alabama and Georgia..."
... Mabel came up to me with a pot of coffee. "Do you want a refill, Mr. J?"
"No, thank you, Mabel ... I see from the paper that you've got yourself a part-time job as a reporter."
Mabel smiled, embarrassed. "Oh, that's nothing ... Walt came by as the State Police was cleaning up. We spent some fifteen minutes talking while Horace and Harry from the Home Improvement Center boarded up the smashed window."
Just then, my cell phone rang; it was Sandy ... the BreadBasket delivery truck had arrived and Harold was preparing my order. "I've got to go ... See you later, Mabel," and I handed her a couple of bucks for the coffee.
A thousand miles further north, at the Sunny Acres Naturist resort, Lisa Cummings was adding the finishing touches to the first part of her Master's thesis, her autobiography. She thought back to that day last February when she had met Dean Massé in Venera's office...
" ... Your Master's work will still include two steps but, in your case, would not require class time. To meet the requirements of the diploma, I would have you write two papers; the first, which would replace the academic portion, would be a memorandum of everything you have experienced, your thoughts, your feelings, from the time Joseph Brother hired you to the time you established your present school, including the time at your friend's place ... what is her name ... ah, yes, Ms. Hatcher, and all the steps you undertook to set up your school at Sunny Acres. I want you to justify why you chose to set up in a naturist resort and which of the resort's rules and regulations and which of Venera's arguments as described in the court proceedings played an important part in fixing your choice."
"I want you to explain why you opted for the Montessori system as teaching method. You will fully document your memorandum with appropriate references from the court proceedings, progress reports on your students, descriptions of the pedagogical activities you chose for your students, including those that were less than successful and you will analyze why one activity worked while another did not."
It had been incredible how things had changed in just over one year. Last year, just barely out of diapers, she had finished her teacher's diploma. Broke, she had been relieved when Joseph Brother had hired her to teach at the Village Day Care at the beginning of the summer when her friend Kat Harris, who had been hired for grade two, would only start the following September.
Since then, she had been arrested, had spent some time in jail, had been brought to trial where she had been judged 'not guilty' of 'inappropriate behavior while in the presence of minor children', had learned to appreciate ... no, it was more like to revel in ... the naturist lifestyle, had met her life's-mate, had resigned from the Curtis City School Board to start a naturist grade school and now ... had been named principal of a high school that had not as yet been built.
Everything had seemed so natural, so... 'run-of-the-mill' as it happened. Granted, jail and the trial had been no fun. However, it was only when she started putting it all down on paper that the enormity of everything that had happened finally made its convoluted way to her consciousness.
She now had the overall responsibility of three schools; the day-care, the k – 8 grade school and the high school, all three situated within the grounds of the Sunny Acres Naturist Resort. It had been made clear to her during the Charter School Oversight Committee meeting with Dean Massé, Venera and State's Department of Education staffer April Hastings where her nomination was announced, that, as principal, she would be unable to teach as much, if at all, anymore and that her assistants; parents of her students for the most part, were not qualified to teach. She had therefore contacted the American Montessori Society and had arranged for Beth, Cathy and Joy to follow an accelerated qualification program and had hired two new State-certified teachers. Joy and Cathy had been stay-at-home moms but Beth had had an outside job at a public relations agency. Beth, however, had gone as far as resigning from her previous occupation to take over the administration of the day-care and the grade school as Lisa's assistant.
One of the new teachers, Helen Turpin, the daughter of two Sunny Acres residents, had been hired to teach the Sunny Acres Day Care. It had been Joseph Brother, Lisa's ex-boss, who had recommended Monica Napolitano, the other teacher she had hired. Monica did not have a naturist background but had told Lisa during her interview that she had always been convinced that there had been a barrier between her students and herself. It had been during Lisa's trial that she had finally understood that the barrier she had been fretting under had been the clothing she and the students had been wearing. After the trial, she had asked Joseph Brother to keep her in mind if ever the school board would opt for clothes-free classes.
Lisa was looking forward to starting her high school ... several of the older kids; among them one of the two Asimov children that had signed on with the program last February and the three 'Problem Cases' that Joseph Brother had passed on to her, had done wonders within the freedom of the Montessori Method (and the naturist environment of the school, she had been glad to note) and had already outgrown the limits of the State's k – 8 framework.
She had a last look through her memorandum, closed the binder and slid it into a manila envelope. The day after tomorrow, she had an appointment with Dean Massé to hand-deliver her paper. She was quite satisfied with what she had accomplished. Placing the envelope on the corner of her desk so that she would not forget it (not that she would), she decided to walk over to the Bare Pit for a Vermouth on ice while waiting for Harold to come home.
Lisa was hanging about on the edge of Warner's 'overflow' field ... that part of the resort he used when he had more campers than he knew what to do with. Most of the time, the field stayed fallow; the week-enders sometimes used it for picnics and such but a few years ago when Sunny Acres had been the site of a naturist convention, the field had been filled with pup tents and the occasional tent trailer.
Since two weeks now, however, the field had been the site of some intense construction. Warner had leased the land to the State as the site of the new High School and the contractor was busy installing the prefab buildings. Last week, they had laid the foundations, put in the sewers, the water lines and the conduits for the electrical hookup. For the last three days, they've been installing the building modules. Soon all that would be left would be the interior finishing and installing the furniture.
The contractor was a long-time buddy of Warner's but not all of his crew were naturists. Lisa smiled when she spotted one of the workmen taking a guilty peek at her naked body. She was just thinking whether or not to get in for a closer look when Harold arrived.
"Hi ... You're home early."
"Hi, yourself. Come ... I'm taking you out to dinner ... We could drive into town or we could eat here ... your choice."
"Oh? What's the occasion?"
Harold presented Lisa with a small box. Inside was an amber ring.
"Happy anniversary, Darling."
Lisa was confused. "Anniversary... ? What anniversary?"
"It was one year ago, today, you were arrested. It was also one year ago, today, that I met you for the first time."
"Oh ... Darling ... I love you!" She jumped into his arms.
"So ... where would you like to go?" asked Harold after they had separated.
"Let's go to the Bare Pit ... I would hate to get dressed for such a momentous occasion."
"I thought you'd say that ... I've already spoken with Noëlla about laying out a spread."