Sally Urquart

[a short story –  by Sha’Tara]

The law required that the local council call a public meeting, so they did, on a Wednesday evening, for 7:00 PM. It being the middle of the week, “they” knew that many commuters would be unable to attend and that was the point, wasn’t it. Me and my political group of “Greenies” as we were labelled attended, of course, and tried to get as many of our supporters as we could to oppose the proposed development of a new strip mall that included an anchor super market from a major multinational food distribution and retail corporate group. We didn’t need another food store, we already had two perfectly adequate ones. But it’s the old story, isn’t it. Money talks, bullshit walks.

The meeting got underway and despite some heated interruptions and cries of “lies, lies!” the presentation by two corporate shills was concluded and the meeting opened to questions. The questions and borderline speeches came hard and fast. A couple of angry residents were forcefully expelled but the mood did not relax.

After most of the participants had had their say and were summarily cut off from further discussion, that’s when she came forth. A pleasant looking young woman I had never seen, wearing a simple blue sweat shirt and faded jeans, in sandals yet imposing enough in height: she must have been close to six feet if an inch. Her long dark hair was tied back with a scarf. She wore no makeup and her fingers, when she took the mike, showed her to be a worker of the soil. She had a good tan too, and it was of the honest kind: from the sun, obviously. From where I sat I couldn’t tell the colour of her eyes but they were piercing.

She held a brown envelope in her left hand which she placed on the podium and she addressed the meeting in a very soft and gentle voice that forced everyone to listen intently in order to hear. As a hopeful politician, there’s a trick I would have to learn. She greeted “Mr. Mayor” by name, as well as the six council members, one having recused himself due to known conflict of interest in the matter. To the rest of us she said, “Hi neighbours, my name is Sally Urquart and I realize most of you don’t know me but I live here too and I have an interest in this community, and the well-being of its children. I am not here to oppose the development being discussed because I don’t have to. It isn’t going to happen.”

You could have heard a pin drop. “Mr. Mayor” had his mouth open but no sound came. I was on the edge of my seat.

She continued, “I have here some documents that indict your mayor and three of “his” councillors sitting before you. These documents, of which these are but copies, are now filed with the Crown attorney but I was given the opportunity to bring my discoveries to this meeting so you would all know; so the local paper, represented here by Jim Leeson, reporter, could have the goods firsthand.

“Your mayor is facing charges of high level corruption for accepting bribes from the main anchor of the proposed strip mall, Food Source, and for openly lying about his involvement in this matter to the electorate, that is you people here, and the rest of this community. As for the other three councillors whom I need not name, they shared in the mayor’s bribe money and future interest in the venture’s profit.

“Food Source, on a plea bargain, has already admitted to the bribes and additionally to being in violation of provincial law by knowingly attempting to develop prime agricultural land currently in protected agricultural land reserves. I have little more to add except to say that your mayor and three councillors here present are now under arrest.”

At that moment four RCMP officers came in the hall and took charge of the individuals, reading them their rights and taking them out a side door though not in handcuffs which many of us would have liked to see. ‘Good riddance,’ I thought. Then I looked for Sally but she had disappeared, along with her brown envelope.

It took a bit of digging but we found out that she had been an attorney for the Crown, had resigned for personal reasons, then had accepted a temporary assignment on behalf of the Crown to investigate the Food Source strip mall affair and the town of Green Oaks’ council. During her investigative work she had quietly bought a one acre parcel of land with a few dilapidated out buildings, had moved a mobile home on it and begun her work of clearing the land and doing some serious gardening.

At our next meeting we decided we had to have “Sally” on our executive. We needed her savvy, her poise and her so seductive voice. We had to send a delegation to her and find out how we could persuade her to join with us. It was agreed that myself and my side kick, photographer, recorder, documentary maker, Phil Tompkins would be the delegation.

We found Sally at the back of her property, clearing blackberries and replacing fence posts. She looked much as she had at the town meeting, except for the added wide-brimmed Aussie hat and boots. She greeted us with an open smile, offered to go to the trailer and make coffee, which we declined because it would have interrupted everything. Without beating around the bush I told her what we had to offer her if she would join our organization. She would be our nominee for the next provincial election which was in less than two years’ time. She accepted the introductory parphernalia we offered her, accepted that Phil video’d our conversation. She was never one lost for words and I admired her even more on that day.

“Would you like some time to think this over, Sally? Maybe I could come back in a couple of days or so?” She made it easy to talk to her and us being of approximately the same age made our interaction ever smoother.

“Oh, that’s very kind of you, but I’ve always been one to make quick judgment calls and decisions. Your proposal is persona non grata here, I’m afraid. The moment you join an organization your personal life ends and you become an adjunct of other people’s thoughts, decisions and choices. When I became an attorney I was under the delusion that I could be an independent; that I could pick my cases and handle them the way I felt was right. That didn’t happen, was never going to happen, so I resigned as Crown counsel. Now I am an independent. I take pro bono or quasi pro bono cases entirely on my own, and my investigations which I prefer to court room presentations, pay the bills.”

Then she pointed around at her property. “This though is who I am. This acre of land, such as it is, is my real world. I live here. I share it with the beasties, the trees, the plants, the sun, wind, rain and snow and whomever comes to visit and doesn’t mean to stay. This is my universe.

“I can understand your group wanting to use me – yes that is the proper term – because of certain skills I possess and because of my self-possession but if I acquiesced, I would lose the very things that make me what I am. I’m not for sale. If you need some information dug up, if you even run into legal problems then come to me and I’ll do what I do best: I’ll unravel the ball of twine for you until you learn to do it for yourselves. Do you have an investigator in your group? An attorney of sorts? If not, get them. If you’re going to play this game you have to play with a full deck and a not few cards up your sleeves. That’s how the other side does it. That’s all I have to say. I rest my case.” She smiled again, leaning gently on her long-handled brush cutter.

Now here I am, Jenny Derksen, on my own little parcel of land outside a different town. Yes, some years ago I aspired to become a politician. When Sally Urquart turned down my appeal, I listened to what she had to say and after I narrowly lost my very first attempt at becoming an MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly for those not familiar with Canadian political terminology) I began to listen once again to Sally’s words. Joiners can never be their own person and I had seen more and more of that as I struggled with our own growing bureaucracy. I was becoming less of a human being and more of something that endlessly needed to be shaped, goaded, driven, counselled, trimmed, managed. One night it came to me and I literally threw up realizing what was happening. There and then I quit, walked away. I was an elementary school teacher and I could do quite well on my salary. I didn’t want the limelight, I wanted to be me and certainly the bureaucracy of the education system was already more than I could take. I didn’t need the added burden of politics that benefited higher and higher up opportunists. I could teach “my children” and one of them might even be the next Greta Thunberg. Ah! Dare to dream!

Oh yes, I wear a worn sweatshirt and faded jeans most times at home, as well as a wide brimmed Aussie hat, boots optional, and I remain unmarried though not without many good offers and opportunities. When some of “my children” come to visit, we work or play in the back gardens or if it rains, we go inside and bake, or I teach them how to sew or we play games – rule #1: no cell phones, no tablets, no TV.

I did learn some important lessons from Sally. Did we become friends? No, that wasn’t necessary. In the few moments we interacted we got all we would ever need from each other. She taught me to become a self empowered person, the greatest “gift” anyone can give another.

18 thoughts on “Sally Urquart

  1. Hyperion

    Typo’s are fun. Everybody is doing it now. 😉. I like this story because it reintroduces a person of principles and integrity. And being a rare experience, people would naturally like for Sally to be on the team. No more teams for Sally or this kid. Time to let my inner eccentric bootie run free. I’m trying to find out where all the Dragon Flies went. Are you in?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      I had thought that someone should write a best seller using noting but Trump’s twittering and inane statements in interviews and to world leaders. Now I’m thinking that a study of typos would be great fun also. Who knowns but it’s already been done!
      Didn’t the Dragon Flies go south for the winter? How far, and where, south, that is another question.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hyperion

        Using text messages, the autocorrect has become the auto-incorrect and later, since it is an AI, we named it Hans the Automated Spelling System or Hans the ASS. That ASS is always making a fool out of me and laughing about it. I need to do a little detective work. I haven’t seen a bird or a dragon fly in months.


      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        I think our dragonflies have gone to ground here, for winter. As for birds we do have a few, not as many as we used to have but in places where they have feeders there are lots of them, from pileated woodpeckers to tiny golden and ruby crown kinglets. I even saw a brown creeper last week – hadn’t seen one in many years.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hyperion

        Dragon Flies and solitary birds are bellwethers of Mother Gaia’s health and mood. It would seem her mood is good where you are at. Until yesterday it was on average 25 degrees warmer than usual with hope of fall all but dashed by an endless hot summer. That may have confused every living thing here.


      4. Sha'Tara Post author

        The last places to experience vast mood changes from Mommy Gaia are a bit above sea level in temperate zones, sandy/loamy rich agricultural lands, low mountains to hold the weather and mostly covered in rain forest. My own place is 65 feet above sea level, under a 100 miles from the actual Pacific and despite massive attacks upon the beautiful flat farmlands for ease of development and construction, still remains quite green. I live in the truly disappearing planet. I think birds know this too and are becoming refugees somewhere else and dying by the millions.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Hyperion

        In my many trips in Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, and Arkansas, there are places that seem like holy altars to Mother, but the approaches through the forest and mountains are often long stretches of diseased and dead trees. I know it’s not the normal state. The planet is slowly dying before our eyes and most know it, but a drug like numbness just keeps us plodding along with our continuous and ruinous state of existence. How sad it will be during the last days, which I fear are coming sooner than later.


      6. Sha'Tara Post author

        Hi Daniel… yes it will be very sad to see the entrenching of the last days. Already we are under the darkening skies and no matter what is done regarding climate change or any other life/death challenge facing man at this point, that end has to come. Not because some god or particular unseen forces have so determined but because man kept making faster trains without improving or lengthening the tracks. Civilization’s train is going to go off the end with or without Greta Thunberg and the Silicon Valley masters of the Universe. I’ve got a “contract” to return here in some 300 years so I’ll experience the tail end of the end. In fact, quite in keeping with my character, like Antierra I will be executed in that next Earth life. I have predicted the violent end of civilization but it was never my intent to not participate in the worse of it. Avatars are committed individuals and not cowards. My execution and that of half a dozen of my peers will be a crime that will weigh heavily against man’s last chance at preventing is complete demise. The final death throes of society comes shortly after that. Then we return again to advise the mutant humans who are taking over from Homo Sapiens. Well, at least that is the scenario. “Knowing” the future changes nothing. I will still grieve when I hold dead children in my arms and try to comfort their mothers. There will no longer be anything to say that could change the direction chosen by man in this final drama. That will be the time when understanding the purpose of sorrow will be a priceless gift. To be able to feel the demise to its very dregs yet not fall into despair. Ah well, tomorrow is another day, even if it is promised to no one.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Hyperion

        I can see those last days and feel that anguish as I read your comment. I’ve seen it many times before in the past and for those people in my experiences, it was the end of everything in their lives. Entire lineages were ended that were begun at the dawn of civilizations much like during the Black Death during medieval times. In my vision I see a river established during the retreat of the last ice age and in the history of Homo Sapien that river became the life’s blood nourishing and nurturing all the flora and fauna creating the cycle of life. And now, I see the river becoming a dry desert with only the hardiest low levels of microbial life remaining. Our fate will be the same as Mars and if humans did escape the planet, perhaps then a noble purpose can be found for our continued existence. I hope Greta will go to China, India, Brazil, and the countries of the old Soviet Union and shame them. Few recogize that 90% of the earth ending pollution comes from them and the effects are global. The rest of the nations summed together barely equal the damage they do. And we all do significant damage, no doubt. Ah, but I digress. Go get em, Greta! And may she be the goddess of a billion followers. On earth, murder, destruction, and mayhem is the path to enlightenment. I hope we get there soon, I’m not sure we can handle what comes next. Trumps extreme cowardice and mamby pamby delusional stabs at leadership have set off the trigger for global war. The environment is the first casualty of all conflict and humans follow close behind.


      8. Sha'Tara Post author

        How did Paul Atreides put it to his mother: We have entered the crucible, a time when everything will turn against us. Those of us who also have a degree of prescience understand the necessity of the crucible experience if we hope to engender a new world replete with all new possibilities. I have seen that world and the vision sustains me as I contemplate the chaos we are no longer in any position to avoid. I told my best friend tonight, “You know what I like about my life now? I no longer feel the need to struggle against anything. It’s like being sure that you are pregnant. That is my future and nothing else matters. Greta, being young, still needs to struggle, I understand that. She may travel to the greatest polluting countries of the world and shame them, as you put it. It won’t make an iota of difference whether they listen or fail to listen, they can no longer change direction. They’re driving a semi down a long hill and the brakes have been failing for some time. If they press harder, they will only fail the sooner and I’m willing to be that no one has built escape ramps along this particular hill. In fact what I read about now is how terrible a slowdown in economic growth will be. They still fail to accept that economic growth is a cancer and it is unsustainable in a finite environment. There’s pure, simple math and science behind this yet those who ask for a turn-around are seen as the enemy. You see, man’s programming was for resource extraction on an exponential basis. It was never designed for sustainability. Who designed this programming? Those who made us “in their own image. Our ancient gods.” The got what they wanted, failed to exterminate us and abandoned us to our own devices. Ignorantly we continued to believe in them in some way or other and continued to live by the dictates of their programming which is always the first thoughts that rise in the mind if we do not fight it. So, here we are, unable or unwilling to see that final curve when our loaded semi will be unable to negotiate the turn and go flying off to crash wherever. But it’s not the end, as Frank Herbert pointed out with his Dune series. It’s never the end, just change upon change upon change and there are some of us willing to engage and guide that change to make a better people and a better world. But back to the gambler analogy,
        You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
        Know when to walk away and know when to run.
        You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table,
        There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.” (The Gambler, Kenny Rogers) Life explained in two sentences.


  2. katharineotto

    Is that why I’m such a quitter? I haven’t stayed with any organization for long, for the very reasons Sally mentions. But she’s young, yet. The groupthink, or as you say, the “programming” is persistent.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Since both leading characters have told us that they came from organizations to express themselves as self empowered beings, there is zero chance they will return to be enslaved again. Yes those of us who have done this know that there may be times when we must act within some group or organization, even lead one if necessary, but always on a temp basis and never for personal power or financial gain, rather the opposite. A snake charmer understands the snake and can work with it. All institutions bar none, are poisonous snakes yet we cannot avoid all of them. We can however ensure that they do not take over our minds.


      1. katharineotto

        I have an entire philosophy about the personal power of individuals vs. the delegated power that characterizes groups and institutions, but so far haven’t consolidated it into a coherent word structure. The thoughts remain scattered, but essentially, I agree with you that individual identity becomes subservient to the group. Some people seem to need the group identity to reinforce their sense of self.


      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        Quote: “I agree with you that individual identity becomes subservient to the group. Some people seem to need the group identity to reinforce their sense of self.” That is why it is so important for an individual to learn how to function as a self-empowered individual, knowing that s/he does not need to be part of any collective to live a full and productive life. Let the example be the proof and the way shower.

        Liked by 1 person

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