“Times change, of course, and it seems like the social and political pendulum continually swings back and forth,” Lucent was still offering distraction for Effete on their way to the Grand Oak Hospital. “Back in the day, during what we now call the Sharpe Era, Splinterbit was quite a progressive little town. Not that we’ve necessarily regressed, but life was more open and adventurous, full of hope and wonder, from what I’ve been told at least.”
“What happened? I mean, did everything kind of come to a grinding halt or something?” Effete was genuinely into the whole conversation now.
“Not exactly, but the drugs started rolling in, the kids drank more, and smoked their wacky weed and sniffed and dropped and stuck … whatever. This all took its toll, of course. Traffic accidents increased, some of them fatal. Premarital sex shot through the roof, or so some imagined, and teen pregnancy increased. Suicide rates increased, along with depression and other psychological problems virtually unknown before … or, at least, kept properly quiet in the past.”
“Huh! Kept quiet, most likely.” Effete knew something about problems, pain and cover-ups.
“Yeah, maybe so, but then the pendulum swung back to the center and then on to the more conservative side, some of it necessarily so, I think.” Lucent reflected. “I mean, the town and county reacted by upping the drinking age to 20, thinking to at least knock out freshman and sophomore intoxication, or at least knock it down a good bit. And this was before the state and country upped the drinking age.”
“Splinterbit also reached an agreement with the College to co-fund the SCCS Team – that’s the Splinterbit College Campus Security – to help alleviate some of the growing pressure on local law enforcement, as well as to maintain a constant presence in and around the college. Overall, I think this helped some … minimally. The schools instituted an excellent drug awareness program, which I personally think did more good than anything at the time, and coupled that with an at least adequate, non-sectarian character education program. Unfortunately, this was not enough for some groups, particularly the growing section of religiously legalistic, fundamentalist folks, who simply would not be pleased with anything short of a renewed, puritanical society.”
“Ha!” Effete shouted out. “Yeah! I gotcha! I know all about that!”
“Well, this was the beginning, so I am told, of a kind of three-way split in our community – and, who knows, probably around the country – where you now have the arch-conservative, religious fundamentalists, the more moderate, mainline socio-political conservatives, and the socio-political-religious progressives, or liberals. (I’m sure there are extremist progressives, too, but likely none in Splinterbit.) Anyway, not that I should be so bold as to speak for Joy Brighterday; after all, it’s been this way for quite a while now, but I think she’s tried consistently to walk a mighty fine line between reverently traditional and moderately progressive.”
“And you?” Effete prodded.
“Well, probably more conservative than my Moxie,” both women laughed. “No, really, I guess I’d say after sitting under Joy’s ministry and learning so much from her, and just genuinely growing to love and respect her … well, let’s say I’m still probably mainline liberal on most fronts but with a growing appreciation for the traditional. I damn sure put a high premium on trying to live a virtuous life without being a prude.” Both women laughed again.
“I guess I’m just confused right now,” Effete admitted. “But I’d say my parents, especially my Dad, was probably … oh, I guess moderately conservative, respectfully religious, and definitely virtuous. That’s my background; not the legalistic, fundamentalist sort. For some reason, after my father died, my mother just gravitated toward that … specifically toward Ebenezer because she made friends with Reverend Bog Sloughheart’s wife. I know it’s understandable that she needed a good, strong friend at the time, but I can’t understand why she didn’t turn to friends she already had … friends who were there for her at the time. It just doesn’t make any sense to me, but that’s how we ended up in the dark, cultic prison of Ebenezer Bible Church.”
“Baffling, to be sure, but stranger things have happened.” Lucent rolled to a stop at the first intersection just inside Grand Oak. “Well, we’re almost there.” She looked over at one very nervous and gloomy Effete. “Chin up, girl! It’s serious, for sure, but Joy’s going to live, and when you actually see her, I promise she probably won’t look nearly as bad as you’re imagining right now. You’re just frightened because of everything that’s happened, but my bet is once you’ve visited her and this day is over, you’ll feel a whole lot better.”
“Maybe, except for one thing.”
“What’s that?” Lucent sped up as the light turned green.
“I’m the whole reason she’s here…” Effete looked down into the floorboard. “I’m the reason she got shot… I can’t let that happen again.”
“Look. Tell you what; why don’t you take me up on my offer while Joy’s in the hospital? You and the boys come stay with me and Mox.” Effete sighed but Lucent pushed on. “Really, it’s no trouble. Besides, there’ll be more of us, and Able’s practically living with us now, too,” she laughed, “which means Blue Poorman’s around quite a bit. It’s a good, solid neighborhood – just as fine as Joy’s – with good folks all around. You’ll have extra eyes, ears, hands and whatnot to help with everything. And you’ll be safe.”
“How do you know we’ll be safer?” Effete queried with some understandable concern. “You might actually be putting yourself in danger.”
“Right now, Moxie’s putting up a couple of extra security lights, re-checking all of the locks and deadbolts and, because our neighbors know it’s a possibility, they’re doing the same. On top of this, the police have been alerted and they’ve assured us that if you and your boys make the move, they’ll increase their patrols in the area, especially during the hours of 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. And finally, we’re resurrecting the neighborhood watch.”
“Wow! You’ve already prepared!”
“Yep!” Lucent looked over and winked. “Better safe than sorry!”