It all started when that crazy man started showing up at town gatherings. Oh, he looked like he would fit right in with the rest of us in Rainbow Valley, so people took to him immediately, not knowing that he wasn't a resident of Rainbow Valley. Now, don't get me wrong. We aren't the kind of people who are prejudice. We don't care where you live, where you came from, what you or your parents do for a living. That's just not important. What is important is who you are, deep inside.
I don't know why this lunatic started attending town meetings and such when he didn't live here. Maybe he was hoping to move here one day. Or build a business here. Whatever the reason, we may never find out. But it doesn't matter now. He's already come and gone and left a mark on our town.
Oh! Mind my manners. I just launched into telling about ol' crazy Ben and forgot to introduce myself. I'm Winifred Wise. Friends call me Winnie. And, yes, I do love Winnie the Pooh. He was "born" around the time I was. I grew up loving his chubby face and feeling as if I had one friend in the world -- a friend who understood that it was perfectly natural to be plump and to feel that the only good reason for exercise is to be able to have more food.
Now, let's get back to Ben. Ben was one of those types of folks who can blend in with any group. He didn't have a judgemental bone in his body. He just went with the flow. We like those kinds of people around here, so he fit it very well...almost too well. That's what made me a little worrisome about Ben. I'd never met someone like him, someone who was willing to go along with EVERYTHING. I mean, something comes up to rub you wrong at least every once in a while. Not with Ben. No matter what was discussed, he was all for it...until the day the town was split.
I am on the planning committee for the annual Artist Studio Tour. Artists sign up to have their studio open for visitors. Their homes are put on a map and visitors drive from studio to studio to see what our local artists have to offer. Planning for it is pretty routine each year. We have it down to a science. Any artist that wants to sign up is welcome to be a part of the event...until this year. A new artist moved into town in the previous year and she signed up for the event. When artists sign up they include a description of their art for us to include with the map. Well, let's just say that some town folk thought Sally's Sensual Somethings were a bit over the edge from art into pornography. It came down to a town vote. Since the town seemed fairly evenly split, everyone ran to Ben hoping to get him on their side. He sided with both groups agreeing with their reasons for why they did or didn't want to include Sally in the Artist Studio Tour.
It came to the day of the vote. Everyone was sure their side would win because they had Ben's vote. As with any serious vote, residents show their license to prove they live in Rainbow Valley. Ben knew this. And that's probably why we never saw his face all day. Everyone kept asking if Ben had voted yet, and the answer was always, "I haven't seen him yet today." Voting closed and Ben still had not been seen.
The town elders tallied the vote. Sure enough, the voting was split with 50% of the residents wanting to include Sally's studio in the tour and 50% not wanting her wares shown. Everyone wondered what had happened to Ben. He would have decided the election. People from both sides of the issue argued for weeks that their side would have won if only Ben voted because he promised them his vote. It took a while for the dust to settle and for people to realize that Ben had promised his vote to both groups.
Ben hasn't been seen since the day before the Sally Sensual Somethings vote. And, let me tell you he will receive quite a tongue lashing from almost any resident he meets if he dare show his face again. The people of Rainbow Village, if they despise anything at all is lies.
The town elders were forced to make the final decision. In an attempt to show concern for both sides, they decided to include Sally in the tour, but made sure that the description of the studio was clear that Sally's studio may not be appropriate for children.
Several weeks after the Artist Studio Tour, one resident of Rainbow Valley DID see Ben, but not close enough to give him a stern talking to. She saw him driving a beat up VW van with license plates for the state of California, not Washington. It was the first time anyone had seen him with a vehicle. He always walked to town events, which is why we all assumed he lived here. Maybe he did and he just moved without letting anyone know. Or maybe he was just a transient guest. I don't know, and I guess we'll never know, unless Ben decides to cross our path again.