“Okay this meeting of the Springfield City Council will come to order,” the big man up on stage with the booming voice said into the microphone. He banged a gavel several times. After the room stilled, he started: “This meeting is for the council to vote on whether we continue funding Planned Parenthood in fiscal 2013, or if we allocate the current twenty-four million to other, sorely needed projects. The projects that would use this money include widening the Market Street Bridge, increasing our yearly contribution to the Chamber of Commerce, the expansion and improvements to the golf course, and other community projects that will benefit everyone. We’ll be taking questions from the floor first, but first please would everyone here give a show of hands to affirm this agenda.”
An overwhelming majority of the crowd raised their hands and said “Aye,” in unison. You could see heads turn as eyes surveyed the room and there was a buzz from the numerous conversations that broke out. Apparently, the crowd wanted to see those who didn’t raise their hand. The big man up on stage said, “And the Nays?”
A small and tentative group raised their hands. “Nay.”
The big man up on stage: “Okay, this means we open the floor for discussion prior to getting into the agenda. Pointing to the Nay crowd, who happened to be bunched up together somewhat, he said. “The first slot is for your group. Do you have a designated spokesman?”
The Nay crowd murmured amongst themselves. A weathered woman with a long, gray ponytail raised her hand. “I am the spokesman here, Sir.”
“Ah, yes Martha. I figured it’d be you. You have the floor. You have one minute.”
The crowd cleared around Martha and a microphone was delivered to her. The Aye crowd were facing her way. You could hear some giggling and whispering in the crowd.
“My name is Martha Pennington. As you know, Planned Parenthood provides easily accessible and affordable health care to the not only the women of this community, but the outlying areas as well. Taking away this funding will deprive women of the health care they need and deserve, and leave a segment of our population with no other healthcare options.”
Martha coughed and her eyes glanced through the Aye crowd. “If you think a Chamber of Commerce donation will help people in a way that’s more important than the women in this community, then that says a lot about what kind of people we are. If you think upgrades to the golf course is the best way to stretch our dollars, then we’ve got a real problem here. I’d like to make a motion to vote each agenda item up separately, so we can fund Planned Parenthood at last year’s level, and then fund whatever else we can with what’s remaining.”
The crowd gasped and got loud.
“Here here”, the big man up on stage started banging the gavel. “Order, there will be ORDER here!” The crowd quieted and the big man up on stage wiped his forehead. His breathing was heavy as he spoke into the microphone. “Martha, don’t you see? We don’t want those baby killers here in our community. They encourage easy sex and promiscuity. And we aren’t that kind of community here. We’re a God fearing people. That’s what you don’t seem to understand.”
The crowd liked this. They turned to Martha.
“Sir, with all due respect, I’ve put a motion on the floor.”
“But Martha Martha, come on now. Maybe you’re not what we’re about here. ” The crowd was shaking their heads and you could even hear one say “Amen”. “Maybe it’s you Martha. You and your lot are the ones that have messed things up in this country these last ten years. And going way back further even. Liberal do-gooders are taking away from the majority Martha. We are looking out for the best interests of our whole community here.”
The crowd was hushed, looking back and forth; first at Martha, then at the big man up on stage. A man in the crowd started to loudly clear his voice. It was old Doc Roberts. He yelled for the microphone. It was passed to him and he cleared his throat once again. “Eh hem… Good people of Springfield, as you know I’ve been serving this community for over thirty years. At one point I was the only doctor available in this town, remember that? And not only do I know most of you and your children—I know your parents—and in some cases their parents too.” There was light applause and acknowledgment from the crowd as he turned to Martha. “M’am, with all due respect, government money ought not go to funding abortion. It’s against God’s law. If someone wants an abortion they’re gonna have to go over to Millville, we don’t need any of that here.”
Martha was getting worked up. Her hands were repeatedly opening and cloising into fists. How in the world she and Betsy ever wound up settling in this backwoods excuse for a town she’ll never know. Hasn’t she tried hard to make a difference here? She’s tried hard to live the kind of life she believed she ought to, and was a woman with a strong sense of conviction. But how could she counter all this really?
“Doc Roberts, thank you for promoting your own personal views over what’s good for every individual in our community- God fearing or not. It’s a woman’s right though to have access to health care, thank you. It is legal in the United States ya know. You can’t repress women, Doc Roberts, this is 2012. That’s chauvinistic and backwards.”
Doc Roberts stood silently, eyes on Martha, while the faces in the room were on him, waiting for his response. “Martha, Martha.” He stared deadpan at her and pointed to the big man up on stage. “Martha, the man up there said that you’re different. It was implied you don’t fit in here. I’ve seen you around town, driving in that Subaru. We don’t drive those foreign cars in this town ya know, Martha. Here it’s America first. And a Subaru? We all know that’s a lesbian car Martha. And that ain’t natural, sexually I mean. It’s unnatural.” The crowd starting mouthing derogatory comments and some even hissed. “And being that you don’t have any children Martha and are living with that woman of yours, why should you have the right to further your leftie agenda with the rest of us family people anyway?”
Martha stood looking at the ground. You could have heard a pin drop. She looked up at Doc Roberts. “Sir, you can be critical of my sexuality if you like. And being this is America, I can be critical of yours too. When’s the last time you fucked your wife, huh? And better yet, when’s the last time you fucked your wife and she enjoyed it?”
Doc Roberts face got red. “Well, why would you have anything to say about that?”
Martha smiled. “Because I’ve been meeting with her weekly at a hotel room downtown, I oughta know. Oh, and she told me you haven’t made her cum in years.”
The crowd gasped and buzzed, and the big man up on stage pounded the gavel. “ORDER! ORDER! Hey!!!”
Martha was still smiling. She slowly turned around and started for the door. She couldn’t help but think she did the best she could tonight. She thought, now my work is done here.