"The Board Meeting"

Mrs. Annabelle Dinsmore, known thirty years ago as the young Annabelle Rose Percy, took two steps back from the arrangement of desks and chairs in front of her to ensure the exact placement of the furniture. She looked around the room and gave a self-satisfied nod to herself, proud of a job well done. She placed her hands on her rather shapely hips, as she strode towards the restroom to double check her appearance for the fifth time. She bustled out of the restroom when she believed she had heard the sound of an opening door. She pursed her lips as she stared out the door waiting for the rest of her committee to arrive; after waiting for another thirty seconds, Mrs. Dinsmore returned to the main hall.

Annabelle Rose Percy Dinsmore was a member of the well-known and respected Percy family from Richmond, Virginia. The Percy family was well known for their chain of pawnshops, all called "Priceless Goods." "Priceless Goods" was known to carry certain items that would not normally be found in a shop. Occasionally, visitors would enter one of the many stores and become bewildered to discover an item they could have sworn they once owned before it had mysteriously disappeared several years previous to the visit to the store. Mrs. Dinsmore was in charge of the stores in the three neighboring states. In addition, Mrs. Dinsmore was, in her own eyes, as well as those of the members of the city, a crucial member of the Committee of Public Welfare. It was her express responsibility to determine and enforce the public dress code, an responsibility fulfilled with great delight by the unflappable woman.

The other members of the Committee consisted of Timothy Peter Matthew O'Paull, Steward of Public Areas; Horatio Weston Randolph IX, Head Architect and Engineer; and the Director of the Committee of Public Standards, Ian Andrew Ffloukes.

Timothy Peter Matthew O'Paull was the proud owner of the neighborhood drug shop. The immaculate shop was known to possess any drug needed, or desired, on its shelves. Mr. O'Paull was a second-generation inhabitant of the town, possessed a record at the local church of having attended every Sunday since a particular Sunday in the summer of his eleventh year, and was exceptionally proud of his four biblical names. The condition of the public areas was the particular duty of Mr. O'Paull. He supervised every detail, from the length of the grass to the location of the flowerbeds.

Horatio Weston Randolph IX was the town's resident historian. He had the incredible talent for being able to recite the entire history of the town parallel with his own ancestral roots. The wall behind Mr. Randolph's office desk was filled with framed black and white pictures of long-since decreased relatives; the wall to the right consisted of framed genealogy charts tracing back over fifteen generations. Mr. Randolph was a founding member of the Committee of Public Standards. For years, he had been responsible for the new buildings and construction projects, as well as creating the building codes and design schemes in order that the town would appear uniform to any outsider. As a day job, Mr. Randolph was the owner and editor of the local newspaper, "The Informant;" notorious for invasive investigative techniques and reports of a more personal nature. The editor and reporters of "The Informant" were greatly appreciative of the right of free press.

The Director of the Committee of Public Standards, Ian Andrew Ffloukes, moved from Surrey, England at the age of twelve and quickly achieved success and prosperity. Mr. Ffloukes trained himself to retain his English accent in order to add certain flair to his personality, as well as to provide himself with a distinguishing characteristic. Mr. Ffloukes was the founder and manager of the local prostitution center. Since the business had become quite successful over the past thirty years, Mr. Ffloukes was beginning to see the feasibility of retirement within the next five years.

Before long, the men had arrived and joined Mrs. Dinsmore in the main hall. Each took his or her place at the desks and removed a single sheet of a paper with his or her weekly report neatly typed for final review and inspection. Mr. Ffloukes straightened his jacket and cleared his throat before he gestured to his fellow board members and called the meeting to order.

"As the first order of business, I would like each member of the committee to report the offenses in his or her department during the previous week," Mr. Ffloukes announced, nodding towards Mr. O'Paull to begin.

Pushing his chair back behind him, Mr. O'Paull rose to his full, six foot frame and picked his paper up from the desk in front of him. "First of all," Mr. O'Paull began, "I was disappointed with the condition of the public areas. Public gardens were a mess from a school field trip; the fountains had coins left in the bottom; and the offenses led to my having to personally contact the Public Keeper, Zane Ashton. I was forced to make the decision to fine Mr. Ashton for his maintenance of the grass. While I was generous with the other offenses due to other circumstances, the condition of the grass was beyond unbelievable. The public code clearly states that the grass length is to be approximately two and one quarter inches long. The length of the grass in the common was a shocking three inches. As such, I filed a fine with the finance department. Any questions or clarifications?"

Mr. Randolph and Mrs. Dinsmore exchanged glances and small smiles.

"Not at all!" Mr. Randolph exclaimed, "The situation was incredibly well handled. As for my report, I was forced to correct Meg Lewis about the condition of her tailor shop for the second time. The first time was on Monday when her new sign was two and a half feet by three feet, instead of two feet by three feet. I had to correct her a second time on Thursday for the color of the sign. She painted it a disgusting shade of purple. I was left with no alternative but to fine Ms. Lewis for a continued disregard for public laws. I also made the decision to charge her a small fine for the first offense since she seemed to dismiss the importance of uniformity in the buildings of our town."

"How horrid," Mrs. Dinsmore stated, furrows in her forehead as she frowned and shook her head. She patted her hair self-consciously, insuring all hairs were pinned upon her head before rising. "I was walking down the street yesterday when I saw Jesse Michaels walking down the street. You know him; he's the boy who lives on the outskirts of the town and works on McFereson's farm. Anyhow, I was walking down the street when I saw him walking on the opposite side of the street, dressed in a plaid, flannel shirt, mud-covered hems, and a paint-stained undershirt! In the middle of town, nonetheless! I made my way right across the street and told him he needed to go straight home and make himself presentable! He had the gull to tell me that he wasn't able to pay his bills and was working overtime at Panshaw's plant. I had no choice but to call the deputy and lock Mr. Michaels in jail for disrespect of a committee member and a distain for the rules of our society."

"Terrible, absolutely terrible," Mr. Ffloukes murmured. "Terrible in all of your cases, actually. It never ceases to amaze me how easily people in this town neglect to follow the rules we have kindly set in place for them. But, each of you did an excellent job supervising the condition of the town. Well done. Well done. The prestige of this town is due to your hard work. Thank you." Mr. Ffloukes rose and pushed his chair in. "We'll meet again at the same time next week. Meeting adjourned."

The rest rose, and after shaking each other's hands, each made his or her way to the door and walked out into the night.