“Quiet, please. We are about to begin,” the authoritarian voice boomed across the Orange Crest Senior Residential Community meeting hall. Nearly two hundred and fifty residents filled the folding chairs in the room. The seats were arranged in perfect rows, like soldiers at an inspection by a five-star general. Another two-dozen people remained in the lobby, lined up to sign-in. A cluster of folks, banished to a corner because, while they had their resident cards, they had failed to bring three other pieces of acceptable identification necessary to attend the meeting. They glared with agitation toward the registration table. One shouted, “This is what it’s like with him as our president.” The angry cry was heard inside the meeting hall.
“I said ‘Quiet, please,’” the man roared again. He waited a moment, adjusted the microphone on the podium, and eyed the gathering of residents. This time his order was obeyed. “I am Jefferson Thomas, founder of Orange Crest Senior Residential Community and Retirement Village here in Orange Crest, Florida.” A smattering of applause sprinkled the room. “I rarely return to Orange Crest, preferring my nearby estate on Monticello Boulevard across town. But, as you know, this election is very important. We are here to decide if Orange Crest Resident Association President Ronald Grump is worthy of reelection or if his recent actions demand his ouster.”
Rumblings through the hall morphed into an organized chant of “Throw him out.”
“Order!” Thomas yelled. “Can we have some order, please? You will have an opportunity to air your grievances and to determine the community’s future leadership. But first I have been asked by President Grump to explain his absence. “His wife, Mandarina,” Thomas explained, “apparently, had complications during her latest breast implant surgery; the silicone, it was discovered, had been tainted with Ukrainian bullsh…I mean manure…and infection has set in.”
Mandarina, a Kwidprow, Kosovo refugee, was known in her hometown as the Kwidproh Ho, although she insists she has never demanded money for sex. “But with his wife hospitalized,” Thomas continued, “Grump is sitting bedside, and his lawyer, Randy Zabaglione, will represent him today.”
Zabaglione rose from his front-row seat and stepped toward the podium, as whispered voices asked, “Why does he need a lawyer to represent him for this?”
“Those of you who wish to speak,” Thomas instructed, “may line up behind the standing mic at the head of the center aisle.” The cacophony of numerous chairs sliding on the wooden floor set hearing aids squeaking. “OK. It appears many of you have something to say.”
A moment later, Thomas addressed the man at the head of the line. “Barney, it looks like you’re first. Please, identify yourself, give your address, and then make your statement.”
Barney, a gruff looking man with an angry scowl cleared his phlegm-clogged throat. “Everyone knows who I am. I’ve been around forever. But I‘m Barney Saunders and I live over on Codger Way. And I’m pissed off.” His tone and volume reflected that. He continued. “Last Sunday, I caught Grump peeing on the golf course. This wasn’t the first time. Probably the fifth or sixth. And when he pees, it takes forever. No one can play through.”
“Really?” the development’s founder reacted. “I’ve heard reports of him pissing on the Orange Crest by-laws, several business contracts, and former business associates, but not on the—”
“And I’ve been told he peed in the women’s dressing room in the auditorium when those high school cheerleaders came to entertain us. I don’t even know why he was in there.”
“Hearsay!” charged Zabaglione.
Saunders ignored the lawyer. “Therefore, I challenge Grump for the presidency.”
A lean, middle-aged woman, Orange Crest nutritionist, physical activities organizer, and spiritual leader, Dolly Lamar, pulled a whiteboard to the front of the hall. As several people applauded Saunders’s announcement, she wrote his name on the board below Grump’s.
“Thank you, Dolly,” Thomas said nodding to the woman. “Who’s next?” he asked turning to the microphone. A woman in black slacks, a black turtleneck sweater, and a red blazer stood at the microphone. She wore moccasins.
“Alice Beth Warner,” she introduced herself. “Address, 1776 College Place. I, too, challenge Mr. Grump. He’s called me ‘Talking Bull’ one time too many. And our weekend receptionist, Hillary Winston, a secretary at State University of Florida’s law school, told me Grump sexually harasses her when he’s in the front office.”
“How, Alice Beth?”
“He goes behind the counter, looks at the picture of her Calico, Ivankat, on her desk, and says, ‘Nice Pussy.”
“Oh, no,” Thomas groaned.
“And then he pats Hillary’s butt,” Warner continued. “That is no way to treat a former Miss USA contestant. Hillary is ready to quit.”
“Hearsay,” Zabaglione shouted again. Grumbling emanated from the crowd. “Mr. Grump has written a statement in the event this piece of fake news is brought up.” The lawyer searched through several sheets of paper. “And I read, ‘Hillary Winston is a loser. She’s a bad secretary. Very bad. Bad. So, if she wants to quit, it’s too late. She’s fired. Besides, I’ve heard people say she’s a loser, can’t brew a good cup of covfefe, and works at a stupid school.”
“Hearsay!” a voice yelled from the back of the room. The audience erupted in laughter as Dolly added Alice Beth Warner’s name to the list of challengers.
When the laughter subsided, Thomas said, “OK. Who’s next? Is that you, Beau?”
“Yes, Jefferson. Beau Haydn here.” He smiled a gleaming Pepsodent smile. “As a past vice-president of the association, I am appalled at Grump’s behavior and am, therefore, seeking to replace him as president.”
“Could you tell us, Beau,” Thomas interrupted, “where you live?”
“In the past.”
“I mean your address.”
“Of course,” Haydn corrected himself. “Hunter Road. Number one Hunter Road. Where it meets Denver Street. Hunter, by Den—What the hell?” he spewed, the result of being jostled from behind.
“I’m so sorry,” the young man who had bumped into Haydn apologized. “I slipped moving to the center of the aisle.”
Dolly added Haydn’s name to the growing list on the whiteboard as Haydn stepped away.
The young man took the microphone. “Hello. I know. You’re all thinking ‘Who is this young guy?’ Well, I’ll tell you. My name is Zeke Betterjudge. My parents are Bill and Betty Betterjudge, over on Center Street. They have told me about several of Mr. Grump’s suspicious financial payments, like to U-Grain Farms President Anton Uscratchmybackski, weatherman Storm E. Darnells, and numerous Grump University students who claim all they received for their tuition were photographs of Professor Shelly Ann Conroy’s emaciated face. Sadly,” Betterjudge continued, “my parents feel they are too old to challenge Grump. Dad suggested I do it, in their name.”
“But you don’t live here, son,” a man called from the audience.
“I know, sir. But I visit every Sunday. I’ve attended numerous events here, parties, shows, fund-raisers. So, I may not be a retiree or be qualified to live here, but I understand your issues. And my wife and I would move across the street from Orange Crest to be near you all if elected. By the way, have you met my wife? Please, stand up, Gay.”
Betterjudge’s name was added to the slate of challengers as “Buddahjuggs.”
A stream of other residents announcing their candidacy followed; Pamela Barris, a light-Black retired lawyer; Cody Hooker, a perennial bachelor; Tully Clapboard, a Vietnam vet with severe PTSD; Buddy O’Ryan, who had recently arrived from Texas, where he had been a flash-in-the-pan motivational speaker; Anthony Chan, a successful restaurateur who established Walk-In, Wok-Out, North America’s leading Chinese food to-go chain; and several other candidates, too insignificant to mention.
“Is that all?” Jefferson Thomas asked, looking at the abandoned microphone. “No one else wants to challenge Ronald Grump? No one else has anything to say?”
“I do,” a female replied. Her voice was soft and tired. The older woman, her styled hair dyed black, strode to the head of the aisle in Louis Vuitton shoes. She raised the microphone off its stand and spoke. “My name is Francie Lugosi and I’ve lived here for decades. People,” she said, “there’s too many of you running, too many choices,” she said. “I know I have had it with Mr. Grump’s shenanigans. But, while I would support an older experienced candidate like my dear friend Mr. Haydn, I do find the young, inexperienced candidate, Mr. Buttershu…Bill and Betty’s boy, to be very appealing. And if I can’t decide, how could any of you less-savvy people? I believe we all are too tired to choose between so many good, decent people.”
“I agree,” said a deep-voiced man.
“Me, too,” chimed a woman in a 1970s Equal Rights Amendment t-shirt.
“We didn’t live this long to have to deal with all this,” called a raspy voice from the center of the hall. “The behavior of this president is just…just…deplorable.”
Voices rose throughout the room. Frustrated and angry comments swirled about. “True.” “Absolutely.” “An embarrassment.” “Aye, aye.” “Throw him out!”
“We need a simple solution,” a man sitting near the microphone yelled above the din, his soft Southern accent as soothing as a distant saxophone. He stood and slid to the mic. “Bull Scranton here. We need a compromise of sorts, an appealing, likable, experienced candidate to step forward. But I don’t know who,” he said, shrugging his shoulders, but also craning his neck.
From the back of the room, a clear-voiced man called, “Perhaps I do.” All heads turned toward the man. A gasp blew through the vast room. The man, using a cane, struggled to the center aisle and inched his way to the microphone as applause built. “Yes,” he said as he reached the microphone, “I’m former…and do I mean former…association president Timmie Garner. I propose we have co-presidents, a duo, with both generations represented. I would be willing to serve as the representative of the old guard, experienced and wise. The transition. And for the other co-president, I suggest—”
A door sprang open and a tall African-American woman entered the hall. Her athletic shoes squeaked on the floor.
“Oh, good, Rochelle,” Timmie Garner celebrated, “you made it.” Heads again pivoted to the rear of the room. “Does everyone remember our previous nutritionist, physical activities organizer, and spiritual leader Rochelle DeGama?” A burst of joyous greetings indicated they did. “Just retired, Rochelle has recently finished writing her memoir, Re-Coming, and will be moving here with her husband Barry next week.” Applause exploded through the room. “So, in the event I—well, I am between ninety and death—Rochelle will take over.”
A momentary hush filled the hall, a pause for contemplation. It was unneeded. A spontaneous, unified, boisterous chant of “Vote them in!” blasted through the room.” When it died down, Jefferson Thomas smiled and asked, “Should we vote now?”
A chorus of “Yes!” echoed through the room.
Grump lawyer Randy Zabaglione eased his way out a side exit, mumbling “Fake news” and “Hearsay” repeatedly, and staggered across the sub-division until he reached the alligator-infested swamp separating it from Blue Donkey Estates. Zabaglione fell into the swamp.