Originally posted on Patreon in November 2018 and part of the Great Patreon Crossposting to WordPress.
The storm had come through the city in a rush and left much the same way, like the sort of relative you never really wanted to have staying in your house, leaving everything a disaster zone behind it.
There were branches down on every street; there were power lines down all over the place. Work was closed. The city was closed.
And Whitney was in the park. It seemed, if she’d been asked – which she hadn’t – like the thing to do; you cleaned up. Her apartment building had power – slightly erratic, but better than nothing – so she’d cooked everything that might go bad and brought it all, stacked in her biggest coolers with warming pads, to the park with her.
She shared with the couple homeless folk who refused to go anywhere else. She shared with the policeman who was doing his best to walk a beat; she shared, of course, with the cats and with the Cat. She shared with the line workers, even though she knew that they didn’t mind the overtime.
In between sharing food, she moved branches and detritus. She picked up someone’s schoolwork – Tyler Halpert – and put it in a neat stack under one of the little roofed areas, along with the newspaper, the paperwork from the insurance office, and some sort of mail that came in a red envelope with hearts drawn on it.
When she looked back, there was a ghost sitting on it. She smiled at the ghost; he smiled at her. They both went on with their days.
Whitney thought nothing of it when she saw the policeman talking on his radio. That was his job, after all. She was much more surprised when three vans pulled up.
The first had men in orange jumpsuits – striped orange, because the city liked tradition – under matching coats, with mittens and gloves. They were guarded by a tall woman and a short man who seemed not all that worried their prisoners might take off.
The second had a bunch of local celebs – six of them – dressed slightly less sensibly than the prisoners but still looking ready to work. One of them even had a rake.
And the third turned out to be a food truck.
The policeman – she was pretty sure his name was Ephram Minnow – came up to her. He’d never been one of the ones that hassled her, never been one of the ones that helped, either.
“So the prisoners wanted to help, I shit you not. And these four, they need to do community service, so here they are. Brother runs a food truck; nobody’s eating anything today so it’s all on the house. For the prisoners, for you, even the celebs.”
She noted he said celebs with disdain but prisoners like one might say soldiers.
She smiled at him. “Am I in charge then?” It would work better if she could steer them, after all.
“It’s your park, isn’t it?” Officer Minnow’s smile was broad. “And besides, that was a really good roast.”