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Buy Their Fruits

March 15, 2011

“It’s morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money.”
—W. C. Fields

“Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court.”
—Proverbs 22:22


Edna Ferguson was winning. She had played the trivia game against the other babysitters for weeks on end during nap-time and she had gotten good at it.

If it hadn’t been for that goshdang phone call she’d be way ahead. She had to get up—quietly—from her seat at the computer and Becky to check the caller ID.

Local 83, the LED said.

Edna didn’t like politics or anything political like all that fuss over in the next state. Why couldn’t people just accept their lot in life?

Take Edna, for example. She made around $1.50 an hour per child in her care. Sure, she had to deal with deadbeat parents who frequently failed to show up on time to pick up their kids. Sure, usually those same parents were on the State program, so she couldn’t get paid for those extra hours.

The person left a message about unionizing the child care providers. Edna laughed a short, dry laugh. She tried to imagine herself with a picket sign shouting at the mayor, the county executive and the governor. It was so silly she had rolled her eyes in the back of her head as she went to put the awoken infant back to sleep.

But what was she to do? It was the children she cared about. She gave those kids a better education than any union teacher ever would. And she fed them better than their criminal parents. She knew they weren’t working or looking for work during the day, no. They were smoking the crack, shooting up the heroin.

She had her own little castle, safe from the concerns of the outside world. Stuff happening in the state capitol, the next state over, or somewhere in Asia didn’t make her any difference.

She had even learned to avoid spam, both the paper and electronic kind. She checked her mailbox—the real one; why did they have to call the fake one on the Internet a mailbox too?—once every three months. She took great pleasure on such days in throwing the whole pile of paper into the trash. That’d show those advertisers—wasting all that paper on her.

On occasion, the mailman would knock at the door with something she was to sign for. But she was too smart for whomever it was was trying to sell her something. She just pretended to not be home.

Only this past week, the mailman—well, mailwoman!—had done so three times.

She paid all her bills online, so there was nothing in the mail she could possibly want.

The e-mail was even easier. She used two spam filters, one from her Internet provider and one on the computer as software.

She was isolated—safe!—from all the bothers of the outside world. Only her support of our boys in the form of a knitted sign hung by the garage door (everyone came and went that way—never the front!) that proudly said “SUPPORT OUR TROOPS” gave any indication that she had some connection to the goings on of the world beyond her humble home.

C!“, she snapped at Becky in a hushed voice as she peered over her shoulder returning with a glass of tap water.

The eight year old clicked the corresponding button and Edna’s score increased. The actor who played Remington Steele was indeed Pierce Brosnan. How could anyone thing that answer B, David Hasselhoff, could be the right one?

Truth was, Edna got lucky. Sometimes she had to look the answers up on her other computer. She’d Google them and then shout the answer to Becky, who, more often than not by quite a bit, managed to click the correct answer. They were a good team.

When the match ended and Edna won, she would get a coupon for something. Sometimes it would be free popcorn and soda with purchase of another ticket, a dollar off a box of some cereal product, or a buy-one-get-one-free for a frozen dinner or pizza.

Naptime was always good for another savings. That was, when there were no disturbances. The phone call had woken one of the infants. She had to get a newer, quieter phone. Maybe today would be the day she got a coupon for the Wal-Mart and could afford one.

“What’s that sound?”

Becky looked alarmed as she glanced over at Edna.

“What sound, hon? I don’t—”

One of the infants began fussing again. Same one as woke up for the phone call.


Still two minutes left in the trivia game. She was ahead but not that far ahead.

She could hear the rumbling now. One of the toddlers shifted.

Oh, doodie. Soon they’ll all be awake.

“Well, whatever it is, Becky, it’s none of our concern. It’s outside and someone else’s problem.”

Becky turned back to the game and clicked C—when she didn’t know the answer and Edna wasn’t there to see the question Becky was supposed to click C.

The answer was D.

The rumbling got louder.

Now Becky was turned away from the computer and looking at the front of the house. This only perturbed Edna further.

“Oh, what is it?”

Edna made her way to the window, infant on shoulder, as the other kids began to wake. The knitted sign by the door was visibly shaking with the rumbling.

“Grab the kids!” she shouted to Becky.

“Out the back! Now!”

Edna grabbed the other infant and waited for Becky to open the back door, pushing the rest of the kids out into the back yard just as the front wall caved in with a crash.


She watched with horror as the roof caved in.

She made her way around to the front by way of the neighbor’s yard and saw that there was—in addition to the bulldozer that had just opened her house like a can of peaches—a backhoe, a gas generator looking thing, several workmen and some people in business attire.

“What are you doing?!?” she shouted.

A man who was watching the bulldozer shouted something and the man on the bulldozer turned off the engine.

“Ma’am? We have a permit. Sorry about the noise. We’ll be done—”

“This is my house!”

“What? No one lives here. Post office confirmed it. We even knocked before we started. You didn’t hear—”

“What do you mean? You can’t just tear down—”

Now one of the suits was there and taking over from the foreman.

“Oh yes we can. Imminent domain. You got the notice from us five times. My office sent it.”

“But… I don’t check my mail.”

“Sorry,” he pulled the clipboard from his armpit and checked the name, “Mrs. Ferguson. But we complied with all laws, rules and regulations. We also made all reasonable attempts to notify you. You can’t stop progress.”

In point of fact, that was what the new sign at the end of the cove Edna lived on said in huge blue letters. Beneath that in a fancier font it said, “Future Home of the Beaver’s Lake Nuclear Plant.”

“But you can’t do this…”

Edna’s garbage can, knocked over by one of the machines or one of the workers, spilled onto the yard. Somewhere in the discarded pile of paper were the first several notices.

She watched as they continued to destroy her home and her belongings, wondering what she could have possibly failed to do to prevent it and, more importantly to someone like Edna, what she had possibly done to deserve it.

She expected someone, anyone… Some group of protestors, some cop, some neighbor, a friend to come save her, but they didn’t. She couldn’t understand why not. She had always done what was expected, what she was told. Where had she gone wrong?

Somewhere on the Internet, Edna had won a free oil change.

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