A Conversation for 30 Hours in Hooverville: A Novel Experiment

16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 1

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Not Banned in China

It is 3 pm. You've got three hours of daylight left. Use them wisely.

16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 2

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Not Banned in China

The Polka Party concludes with rousing cheers from the seniors and the announcement that luncheon is served. Everyone finds a table and sits down to enjoy the cabbage and kielbasa. Wlad knows he shouldn't eat kielbasa twice in one day (his cousin, the nutritionist, delivers lectures on the subject), but it all smells good and he gets his meal for free. So he sits down with Mr Grzyb and the others and listens to their chat, occasionally throwing in a question of his own to keep them talking.

What do they talk about? They exchange bulletins on their health and that of other seniors. They brag on their offspring's offspring. Oddly, they seldom mention the achievements of their own children, Wlad notices. Instead, it's all about the grandkids. This girl won a track medal. That boy plays clarinet in the band. (Wlad gets all the music reviews.) This one is in the Guard, that one's doing a year abroad and sends pictures to his Nana... After all the photos have been passed around, they start reminiscing. If they don't, Wlad prompts them with a few observations.

'Hey, Mr Grzyb. I was walking past the Fuller House yesterday – you know, the one that's an antique shop now? I heard that it was haunted. Do you know anything about that?'

Mr Grzyb daubs his mouth with his napkin, sits back and sighs. 'Do I know...? Young man, I was there when the whole thing happened.'

'The...thing?...that caused the haunting?' The older man nods.

'Oh, yeah, That was the night all heck broke loose in town. There was a thunderstorm, and the tornado siren was going full-blast, and the wind was howling like a banshee.'

'It was a dark and stormy night,' thinks Wlad, and nods encouragement.

Mr Grzyb warms to his story, and the others listen with interest, even if they already know it. 'Eliza Fuller was a strange woman, stranger than most around here. For one thing, she was a hoarder. You think that antique shop's full of junk? You should have seen that house when she was in it. Newspapers piled to the ceiling. I don't know where they all came from, they weren't all Honkers. Must have subscribed to every paper from Erie to Pittsburgh. And books? Cookbooks, atlases, en-cy-clo-pee-dias, memoirs, novels, descriptions of trips to the Zam-bee-zi...'

'Mr Grzyb is on a roll,' Wlad thinks. Since 'grzyb' means 'mushroom' in Polish, Wlad is forced to suppress a laugh as the storyteller continues.

'Anyway, it was about midnight, and the wind was howling, and old lady Fuller heard a noise downstairs. She threw on a robe and tiptoed to the staircase and listened. Bang! The downstairs door flew open, and let in a blast of cold air that blew around all the papers and ran a chill down Eliza's spine all the way up on the third floor. Then crash! Knick-knacks flew everywhere! There was a lot of banging, and a low growl. Then...'

The listeners hold their collective breath, even those who know what's coming.

'And then…sounds like something big jumping around, from the parlour table to a chair, knocking over lamps and more knick-knacks, from the chair to the big square piano…then a sound like Paderewski playing 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-dee-ay'.'

'Oh, come on,' mutters Mr Heffelfinger, but he's listening, anyway.

'Eliza crept downstairs. On the way, she picked up a heavy Indian club from the second floor. No, don't ask me why she owned a set of Indian clubs. She was quite the collector, was Eliza. When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she peeked cautiously around the door frame…and then she saw it...'

More breath-holding.

'…the shadow on the wall was HUGE! It looked like a big, devil cat! And the screech it gave out curdled her blood.'

Wlad can't help it. 'What was the cat doing, Mr Grzyb?'

'It was savagely worrying at her favourite doll! The one with the Victorian lace dress on. That tore it. Eliza got so mad she charged into the parlour, ready to do battle with beast or demon. That beast was a demon, all right. It was a bobcat!'


'Eliza was so terrified, she ran out onto the street in her nightie! She ran all the way down Wood Street like that, and onto Main Street. She yelled so loud that everybody heard her, even over the wind and the siren. And then...just as she reached Fifth Avenue...the tornado came up from the river!'

Wlad has a sinking feeling that he knows where this is going, but he has to ask. 'What happened then?'

Mr Grzyb looks solemn. 'The tornado caught Eliza right up in it. Just like the cow in that movie! And she was never seen again.'

He leans forward and whispers. 'And ever since then, whenever there's a stormy night in Hooverville, the antiques people say they hear noises coming from the shop. And against the nightlight in the windows, you can see...the shadow of a giant cat!'

The luncheon group unanimously agrees that this is the best story Mr Grzyb's ever told.

smiley - dragon

16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 3

paulh. the world is a circus, but why d I have to work without a net?

Arsenio closed up shop at 5:00 and walked through town with Rose.
When they got to the Nighthoover River, they were able to find a
narrow footpath along the river. Breathing in the mild early-November
air, they walked past tall red maples and pin oaks to a spot where
another path led to a clearing in the woods. Fuller Philpotts was
waiting there with his three sons. The late afternoon sun made the
red maple leaves blaze with glory. Those leaves were about to get
jostled by sound waves from the Philpott family's rehearsal.

M.T. Philpotts took his portable keyboard out of its protective
case, while Arsenio joined Fuller and his three sons to form a
quartet. "Hello, we're the Philpotts Four," M.T. began, facing an
imaginary audience, "and we're going to sing 'Lida Rose' and 'Dream of now' for you. This is a scene from 'The Music Man.' My sister Rose will sing the part of Marian Perloo, in counterpoint to a barbershop quarter."

"Nice introduction," Philbin Philpotts said. "Now all we have to do is knock the audience's socks off and win the competition," said his brother Filbert.

They had been singing for about half an hour when a stranger
entered the clearing. "Hi," the man said. "I'm Goddard Machinexa, a talent scout for the University's peforming arts department. Are you professionals?"

"Don't we wish," Arsenio said. We're trying to get ourselves known any way we can. We're hoping to win next week's talent competition at the Hooverville Arts Festival."

"Have you ever considered trying out for any of the shows that the University puts on?" Goddard asked.

"I thought those shows were just for students," Fuller said.

"Most of them are, but we have two shows a year in which middle-aged and elderly characters are played by people who are the right age. And, as luck would have it, we hope to mount a production of 'Music Man' this Spring, followed by 'Man of La Mancha' next Fall. I've never heard a better rendition of the scene you just performed. And I think you can give us our next Don Quixote. The university would be crazy not to snap you up."

16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 4

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Not Banned in China

[Ahem. It's only 3-4 pm. Are we to assume that you will not be posting for the next two hours?]

16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 5

paulh. the world is a circus, but why d I have to work without a net?

[Oh, I see your point. I will figure something out. What a drag it is that noon isn't at 10:00 smiley - blush]

16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 6

paulh. the world is a circus, but why d I have to work without a net?

[My competence with long works of fiction leaves something to be desired. My sister seems to have the same problem, god love her. Look on the bright side: No toes have been stepped on in almost ten hours....]

16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 7

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Not Banned in China

[We can assume you closed the shop at 3 pm?]

16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 8

Caiman raptor elk - Yes, but what if the box is REALLY big?

It has been a good talk with the Sheriff. He seemed to appreciate the hitchhiking story. Strange thing about my gun though.
Now let's head back to the station and see if Paula can explain why it was fired.

There we go. Park the bike. Hide the keys.

I'M HOME!!!!.


Any body then?

Ah, there you are.

What were you doing in that closet, Paula? Hiding a body?

Talking to Anna on the phone... Strange place to do that.
What did she tell you? The mayor wanted a black pool instead of pink? Vegan snacks? More rural?

I'm not sure the Mayor really understands the meaning of "rural" around here. That would include barrels of beer, spud guns, shooting up tin cans.

Speaking of which. Did you fire my gun last night? The Sheriff is investigating who shot the Lady, causing that fire. I was just showing my gun as my alibi when I found out it had been used...

So you saw those Chemistry students trying to hit the Lady with pebbles, and then you gave them my gun to save the windows and the clock of the Town hall? They didn't tell you about their experiment to use the Lady as a signalling device to communicate with their fellow students in Pittsburgh?
How did they think to convey a message other than "Our Town hall is on fire"? I mean, would they scale the tower to cover the flame and use morse code? Oh, they were still consulting with the Department of Communication about a cypher, but wanted to test if the principle was sound. Right! Did Pittsburgh set fire to one of their buildings as well?

So why didn't you just tell me when we went firefighting? Oh, I was enjoying myself so much that you didn't want to spoil my day with a possible felony...

I'm afraid I will have to tell the Sheriff. Luckily it wasn't you who fired the shot. YOU DID?#! WHY?

You didn't trust those students to hit one of those scales first try. You've got a point there. But still...

OK. I'll call the Sheriff and see what happens.

Here we go.

Yes? Paula knows about the shot causing that fire. Where do you want to meet to discuss the matter? OK, see you then.

16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 9


Whilst Caroline dreamed of zombie bikers, and the short haired captive Brit slept a drugged, dreamless sleep, Cuddles had no such luck.

Armed with a rather peculiar shopping list, he'd been ordered to get on his Indian (yes terribly stereotypical tank badge) trike and ride the many miles to the big city over the mountains.

Cash only.

Use a megamart.

Park the trike several blocks away.

And, do not wear your NPMC colors!

He yawned as he gulped the umpteenth coffee of that day and entered the vast Handy-mart, being careful to pull down his baseball cap whenever he faced the CCTV cameras.

Items purchased, (he'd tried to get something similar to what was on the list, but apparently Handy-mart was all out of the kidnapping essentials) he risked stopping and losing daylight for yet another double -shot mochachococappafrappechino, then pointed the trike towards Hooverville

16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 10

SashaQ - happysad

Sheriff Rowdybush enters the lecture theatre and looks up at the rows of seats and writing desks. Only ten students are enrolled for the module HUC6911 and they are well spread out in the room, apart from one pair sitting together in the middle of the middle row. One of the pair has short dark hair, and the other has long blond hair, and both are of a build that could be described as 'young man'.

Sheriff Rowdybush looks at the other students and notes the mature student with unruly white hair is sitting right at the front, and the wheelchair-using student with unruly blond hair is sitting right at the back. In the second row from the back, a few seats apart, two more 'young men' are sitting, one with curly red hair and one with straight blond hair. Three people who could be described as 'young women', all with straight light brown hair of the same length, are sitting in the second row from the front, several seats apart. The tenth student, with henna hair backcombed into a bouffant, is sitting on the left of the middle row (from the Sheriff's perspective) with legs outstretched in the aisle.

The lecturer stands to one side to let the Sheriff speak into the lectern microphone. When the Sheriff presents his badge of office to the students, he notices a number of them become uncomfortable, shifting in their seats. He explains how the Lady of Justice had been set on fire in the early hours of that morning and asks if any of the students had any information that they could share.

Several of the students exchange worried glances, and the Sheriff notices the two sitting together have a hurried conversation. Remembering his days as a student, the Sheriff knows he will need to wait for an uncomfortably long time, but eventually someone will feel compelled to answer the question. He is not wrong, and he is pleased that it is the young man with long blond hair who decides to speak.

"Me and Sam made White Phosphorus and went out this morning to experiment with it in the park in front of the Town Hall, but we didn't cause the fire, honest".

Just at that moment, the Sheriff's walkie-talkie buzzes and he hears from Fred Ireland that Paula has more information. He asks the fireman to meet him at the Police Station within the next hour and then invites Sam and Alex to accompany him there. He offers to put them in handcuffs, but they agree to come along quietly, so the three of them process promptly down Main Street.

At the Police Station, Sheriff Rowdybush escorts his charges into the Reception area, greets Sergeant Frisbee, who has taken over duty from Sergeant Irwin, and eagerly finds the key to the Secure Interview Room. It is a while since the room had been last used, but it is clean apart from a bit of dust here and there. The Sheriff invites the two students to take a seat while they wait for Fred Ireland to arrive.

16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 11

paulh. the world is a circus, but why d I have to work without a net?

["We can assume you closed the shop at 3 pm?"(Dmitri)]

[Is time travel allowed? Or maybe falling asleep for two hours?]

16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 12

paulh. the world is a circus, but why d I have to work without a net?

[I'll make the Deus ex machina thing a dream. No harm done.]

16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 13

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Not Banned in China

[Dream sounds good.]

16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 14


"Hey Irv! It's Wynken. You still good?"

"Wynken! I'm doing as well as can be expected. And you?"

"Not bad, but also I must admit to being a bit miffed. I just saw an unusual footprint in the park. Not a bear, though bigger than the biggest black bear print I've seen in here. Four toes, padded feet, no claw marks. Now that looks to me like a lion or a tiger. Would you happen to know anything about that?"

"A lion or a tiger? No, most definitely not."

"I didn't think so, actually. The proportions are just a tad wrong. So … how about this? Smilodon fatalis. I'm just throwing that out there."

"Well, um, Wynken, the thing is ..."

"Irv! A gosh-darned sabretooth! You folks went and released a giant sabretoothed cat into my park! What in blazes were you thinking?"

"Erm, Wynken, we thought you would understand ..."

"You didn't tell me or anything! You just went and did it! Irv, there are *people* in this park! A woman's hiking out there right now!"

"The smilodon is safely up north, it will not get down there, the mountains are in the way..."

"The mountains might keep the wolves in their place but who knows with a sabretooth? The build on that thing? It could scale cliffs for all we know."

"Look, what are you going to do? Shoot it? The only one of its species?"

"Yeah, I see how that is your game! You present me with the feat accomplished and reckon I can't do anything now. I've been playing the game with you this far, rewilding the park with your company's resurrected species, and it's all gone swimmingly. Everyone loves the fairy squirrels, the condors are endearing, and it's great to have so many unique new species around. But a sabretooth! Haven't you seen the movie 'Cretaceous Resort'? These people here are my friends! If someone gets hurt, so help me ... And the wildlife too is my responsibility! That thing killed a moose! The moose aren't used to this; even if the sabretooth used to occur here a few thousand years ago, the modern animals have no genetic memory of it. They're defenseless against this thing!"

"They can learn. Listen, just bear with us. We just want to see what happens. We are working on an Eremotherium; if that works, the sabretooth will soon be having its real prey. Just ... just keep hush-hush about this sabretooth."

"You try to bribe me with a giant ground sloth?"

"You can name it, as always!"

"Look ... Some time you folks will have to come out into the open about all this. Someone else is going to see that thing, and we won't be able to pass it off as a new discovery like with the other critters."

"Just so, Wynken, just so. The time is almost right, and we will do exactly that. Your park will show the world that rewilding works, that we can re-diversify the Earth, that we can re-create extinct species with genetic manipulation. And think of the money we might make. You just keep your end of the bargain ..."

"I am starting to regret the bargain. I'll say more to you later. Now I'll have to begin making a plan about this kitty of yours ..."

Without waiting for an answer, Wynken ends the call. Irv Stevens and the Genwhizz company, recreating a sabretooth! What else might they have been doing without telling him ...?

16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 15


Lola enters the River Pirates' Inn on the last notes of Polka. She quickly sits at the tiny corner table before everyone arrives, and places her order.
Cabbage and kielbasa is something she had never tasted before she came here. But it's a tasty dish, and when in Rome...

It reminds her a little of the pot roast cabbage her Mum used to cook.
- Take white cabbage, lardons and an onion.
- Chuck it all into the pressure cooker and wait for a bit.
- Then help yourself to a full plate, and enjoy.

Good times.
She inherited her Mum's pressure cooker after the Incident, but she hadn't been able to use it, so she left it behind when she crossed the Atlantic.

Soon after she has settled, the restaurant part of the Inn is flooded with music lovers, along with the musician himself.

She only has a short time before she has to get back to the Emporium, so she doesn't engage in conversation, although she does engage in eavesdropping.
The seniors tell one another about their grandkids, and pass photos around, in the way all seniors at a meal do.
At one point, Wlad the organist nudges old Mr Grzyb into telling his ghost story again. It gets better every time he tells it, adding a bit of detail here, and a suspenseful pause there.
Lola has finished eating, and she takes her wallet out, so she can rush to pay the bill as soon as the story is over. If she's late opening at 4, it'll all be Mr Grzyb's fault.

On her way out, she waves at Wlad, mouthing a "see you later" to him.

Five minutes to four. She's fine.

She then goes back inside to grab the full tote bag she left behind. Bit of a shame, spending most of her lunch break getting things, and then forgetting them somewhere...
She goes back out, trying to avoid the amused gaze of the seniors.

Two minutes to four. She's fine.

One minute to four, she inserts her key into the lock. Perfect timing.

Four o'clock strikes, and the key breaks in the lock.


16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 16


Once Anna had left, Hermione started feeling guilty. Yes, there was a Hooverville town plan but it had been drawn up by one of her predecessors, and hadn't been updated for at least ten years. However, Hooverville was changing. As well as Anna's ideas for amusements, there were rumours that a company from Pittsburgh wanted to buy land by the river for a cement works. That would be worse. Perhaps it was time the town plan was updated.
Hermione looked out of the window towards the river. It was a lovely afternoon, with leaves still red and brown on the trees. She would drive down to the river and see the site. That would be relevant to her work and give her an afternoon out. She made her way to the garage behind the Town Hall, where an old Jeep was parked. The garage was full of drums and jars of mysterious liquids, and the Jeep looked suspiciously rusty in places. She set out to drive to the river, but the Jeep lurched around alarmingly. She was relieved when she reached the river bank.
The river had left the mountains behind, but it still splashed and gurgled between rocks. The trees here were bigger than anything she remembered from home. There were magnificent oaks, redwoods and the rare liquorice allsort trees. As for the animals, bears sometimes ambled out of the woods, wolves howled and there were rumours of giant cats. In the spring, when the snows melted upstream, the water came down the river with unstoppable force and flooded the meadows. It was definitely not the place for a cement works.
As Hermione stood by the river, she noticed the shadows darkening under the trees. It wasn't dusk yet, but there seemed to be something big lying half hidden. Her skin began to prickle. At first there seemed little more than deeper darkness, but a shape formed, then a suggestion of fur. A creature stretched and stood, with a long, powerful body rippling in brown and gold and fierce amber eyes. It opened a mouth full of huge teeth and roared. Hermione turned and ran.

16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 17

Tavaron da Quirm - Arts Editor

n the forest the air is cool. The canopy of the trees casts a pattern of light and shadow on the soft forest floor, which is partly covered in ferns. Here and there lie old tree trunks and branches covered with green moss. A bowtie torgon chirrups somewhere in the distance. The wind whispers up in the tree tops, but on the ground the air is almost still.

Wilhelmina has chosen a trail that leads her deeper into the forest. She thinks about cake recipes, the thanksgiving specials at the Waffelhaus. Cornbread waffles with turkey? Somenthing like that. And Hoovermas presents for family and friends. Would aunt Margot like some new mufflewhups? Wilhelmina will also soon have to start baking cookies, she always sells them in December. Should she try a few new recipes? Oh, and she needs holiday decorations. Should she buy a few of these large, glittery hoovers to hang from the ceiling? And what about Hoovermas waffles? Didn't she find a recipe for gingerbread waffles on the internet? Will she find it again?

Wilhelmina crosses a small stream on a narrow wooden bridge. The stones along its shore are covered with soft cushions of moss. The water gurgles happily around them and shines in the sunlight. Wilhelmina doesn't have to put her hand into it to know that the water is icy cold. A few small fish zoom into cover when they see Wilhelmina move. A bird which was sitting at the shore flies up into the trees, chattering angrily.

Wilhelmina decides that this is a good place for a break. She sits takes off her backpack and sits down on a log next to the stream so she can look at the water. She takes out the box with her sandwiches, opens it and carefully balances it on her knees while she takes out the thermos and pours herself a cup of warm tea.

She takes a deep breath. The air smells of pine and hemlock. Soon it will smell of snow, she is sure. She likes the smell of snow in the air shortly before the first white flakes cover the ground. But now the sun is still shining, even if it already is quite low in the sky at noon. Some of the more narrow vallies will not see light again for a while.

Wilhelmina watches some fairy squirrels while happily eating her sandwiches. Then she checks her watch, packs up her things and starts walking back to the direction of the ranger's office and her car. The sun is already rather low in the sky and she doesn't want to get lost in the forest when it gets dark.

16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 18

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Not Banned in China

Freewayriding wins the Best Nefarious Plot Award today for a perfectly reasonable excursion to buy kidnapping equipment. Also for finding the Butler mall.

SashaQ wins the Community Policing Award for modelling ideal behaviour in law enforcement.

Superfrenchie wins the Best People-Watcher Award for her astute observations on human behaviour.

Stay safe out there, people. No fair killing anybody off. We don't want the reunion movie to be called 'Four Funerals in Hooverville'.

smiley - dragon

16 November: 3 pm – 4 pm (First Day)

Post 19

paulh. the world is a circus, but why d I have to work without a net?

[Maybe the only place to be safe from the sabretooth tiger is inside a china shop? smiley - whistle]

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