The Salt of the Earth

1) Muse’s directive: “Place Lot’s wife at a school board meeting in Kansas.”

Mr. Lot rapped the gavel on the cheap plastic face of the table, which shivered visibly under the accusing fluorescent lights of Wichita High’s cafeteria. The members of the board shuffled about in no hurry to take their seats, catcalling and heckling each other.

“Order, order I beg you. Thank you all for coming, now let’s get to it, shall we?” Mr. Lot’s smile beamed with the only genuine enthusiasm to be found in the whole town.  “Our business today is to come to a decision concerning enveloping the girls at St. Mary’s Orphanage into our student body. Sister Emily is here to represent the orphanage. Sister Emily, if you please…”  Lot gestured for the diminutive nun to stand.

Sister Emily got to her feet, but her stature was such that it was quite difficult to tell. She shuffled her notes nervously and cast her eyes about the crowd. Her eyes quite stood out from her head, like a lamb in a den of wolves. FInally her gaze settled on Lot and she let out a deep breath and addressed him.

“Esteemed Superintendent Lot, and members of the Board, I come to you today with a sincere need.” her freckled hands shook as she accosted her notes. “Our dear Reverend Mother Chatterly has taken to her bed and likely will not be able to return to her post as superintendent of our school. Coincidentally, the state’s new curriculum and standardized testing would require us to purchase an overwhelming stock of new textbooks and study aids.” Her tiny chin wobbled woefully, and her eyes seemed to be getting glossy with tears. “It did not please our Lord that we should find money in the budget to meet these demands,” she sniffed powerfully for such a tiny woman, “And so we trust you, neighbors, with our dire need to school our girls, lest we lose them entirely. You see, if we cannot prove our capability to provide means for standard curriculum, we will lose our charter from the state.” Sister Emily punctuated the end of her speech by collapsing abruptly back to her seat.

Mrs. Lot, Idit, stood and commanded the room with sarcastic charisma that mocked Sister Emily’s fragile composure. “Dear Sister, we are all very moved, I’m sure. But I worry that our staff are already stretched quite thin,” she said folding her finely manicured hands at her chest, almost prayerfully. “It is also a certainty that our budget for providing lunches for our student body if we amassed, er, how many pupils would we assume?”

Sister Emily whispered “60” but no one but the man next to her could hear, so he barked the number for the benefit of the assembly.

“60? My that’s quite a lot of mouths to feed,” Idit smiled regretfully and took her seat, confident her doubts had been communicated.

Mr. Draper, a misplaced well-meaning man, stood sheepishly, but quickly adopted an attitude of devil’s advocate so that he could counter Idit without fear of direct retribution.  “Mrs. Lot, let us talk through your legitimate concerns. Let us hear how many students we might add in each grade, and compare that to the state’s limits on the teacher/pupil ratio. Also, I only just resigned from acting Treasurer, and I  believe we have excess in the maintenance budget seeing as that infernal tornado relieved us of our aqua-athletics building.”

Before Mr. Draper could finish, Idit was on her feet again, “Thank you for your level-headed input, Mr. Draper, but are you truly considering the children? The orphans are sure to need a level of special needs attention that we simply cannot fulfill. Especially that, Dorothy. I mean no offense to your noble work, Sister,” Idit grinned, baring pearly canines, “We do not have a member of staff equipped with capabilities to educate such intensely delusional pupils. It would be wrong of us to pretend. It would only be hurting Dorothy, you see.”

Idit’s smile faltered. She had finally deigned to look at Sister Emily and thus fell into shocked silence. The nun had dissolved into a quiet riot of tears. The man sitting beside the nun had no choice but to pat her back in a show of sympathy, which only served to knock her habit askew.

Once Sister Emily composed herself, she stood and tearfully addressed the room, “Unfortunately, our dear Dorothy has been missing since that terrible twister last month.”

2) My current word count for my novel is: 26,622/ 40,000.

3) Muse’s next directive: “Fill in the blank: ‘When I first told my family about ___________, they didn’t believe me.'”

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