Chapter five ; Surprise Solidarity

Rosie's Cafe looks very different during breakfast hours. The bar and meeting area is still there but it is quiet and darkened. The breakfast area is sunlit and with bright red and white slick table cloths, the kind that can be easily cleaned when the table is reset. Politicians and downtown merchants were fed a wholesome breakfast. Rosie stood next to the cashier at the door and sent everyone off to work with a brief good morning chat.

Angela had just stepped off her bus and was approaching Rosie's front door when she heard her name called out. She turned to see Mora and Sergio walking toward her from their bus. Hugo's bus had arrived earlier and he had been standing inside near the door talking with Rosie while a table for five and maybe six was being set up for them. Rosie seemed to know everything about everybody and Hugo was enjoying her humorous way of telling him the news. Independent Puerto Rico gave everyone good news to talk about.

"These are my friends," Hugo said. He introduced Mora, Sergio and Angela when they were all inside.

"I of course already know Mora and Catalina, too," Rosie said as Catalina entered and joined the group. "I am happy to meet you," she said to Mora and Sergio. "Follow me, I will take you to your table. It is the executive table." She was serious and also chuckled while complimenting herself for having such a great team in her restaurant.

"I am happy you are here," Rosie said as the table's waiter arrived. Everyone smiled they were happy. Rosie returned the smile with a wide grin as she walked away and thought, "The first regular working day of independent Puerto Rico and I have the rock solid solidarity sisters at my executive table." She was so happy she actually laughed and made a quick dance step. Everyone saw it. Rosie knew that, she had been a football cheerleader in high school.

Rosie had wanted to attend Sandy Beach city college but her family needed her to work. So Rosie had continued working at Rosie's cafe, where she had worked through high school. Rosie knew the original Rosie and bought the cafe when the elder Rosie retired. The original Rosie told Luisa she would sell the cafe if Luisa legally changed her name to Rosie. Luisa went directly to City Hall and changed her name. The next morning new Rosie opened Rosie's cafe.

Rosie matured to become a successful business woman at about the same time she would have graduated from the city college. She still has a fond memory of her dream around attending college. But she was practical and read what she thought was important. Immersion in history of Puerto Rico focused her energy on Rosie's as a political hangout. She stood at the door thanking her customers and gently reminding them of Puerto Rican history. Rosie had worked the front door supporting independence and her customers were not offended even if they disagreed. And today her dream crew was here. What a joy, Rosie thought, glancing at her team. Of course, yesterday she did not know who the team would be. She knew that and felt herself as a very strong woman. Then Rosie turned to the next exiting customer with a brief positive greeting.

At the table, Breakfasts of a wide variety were requested even while introductions were being made. The waitress felt so included she introduced herself as well; Helen, a college exchange student of marine sciences. Helen had gone to get a large bowl of diced fruits for the center of the table when Catalina announced to everyone at the table; "The children are extraordinarily excited and were talking about writing constitutions on the way to school." Catalina wondered if Angela had heard anything from her son Howie.

"Our kids were behind closed doors with Catalina's kids way past bed time," Mora interjected. "They were still up when I fell asleep," Sergio concurred.

"Maria was at our house when I arrived home," Angela related to the group. "I gave Maria a ride home and Howie stayed at home to finish his school work." She smiled, "That was my idea."

Hugo interjected he had a great talk with Rosie and wanted to hear "all about what your kids are up to." Turning to Angela. "What did Maria tell you about their adventure at school? I've been wondering about that."

"Okay," Angela began, "It started with a self-help announcement the intermediate high school administration staff broadcast to the students as a morning announcement; "Do something real. Take one step at a time."

"Really?" Hugo asked. "It was a fad to say that at the police station for weeks."

"Yep," Angela replied. "The next big event was when the junior high school student government decided to have an online contest to see who could write a computer program that divides a state into equal population districts with a minimum sum of boundary measurements."

"My daughter Lavanda said that the idea to do this came from everyone. Nobody knows who came up with the idea," Catalina mentioned. "She also said every school in the world is probably involved in the project. She was so serious I almost laughed."

"Yes," Angela agreed. "The children are serious. When they say everyone they are thinking about the world. They received more than 101 computer programs from around the world that divide a state or country into equal populations. They have 101 solutions that all come up with the same answer. Now they offer a new tool for adults who have spent years writing articles about doing something to make fair and honest political districts."

"They may be starting a new contest to replace the one that had a 101+ tie. I got that much when I poked my head in to see how they were doing." Mora said. "Now I know a little bit about what they were talking about. Thanks."

Angela nodded her agreement as she picked out a cold piece of melon. "Maria said students world-wide know the students of Sandy Beach have refused adult supervision. Today the world will know there are 101+ ways to calculate minimum boundaries with equal populations. Making sure to follow postal code boundaries is just one more step. And they all know if they can do it now, adults could have done it years ago."

"It appears the children are doing something real one step at a time, Sergio said," as Helen arrived with most of their meals. She handed them out remembering who had what and then went back for the rest, which didn't take long.

"I heard you say you are an exchange student," Sergio said to Helen when she returned. "Where are you from?"

"I am Palestinian," Helen answered.

"Radical!" Hugo exclaimed. "How did you get here?" Hugo and Sergio asked together.

"I went to see my cousins at the border between Gaza and Egypt. We saw more men come out of a small tin shack than the shack could hold. They looked straight at us and didn't say, "Keep out." So we went in the shack and found a tunnel that came out in Egypt. It was ridiculously easy. We took a bus to Banha, just north of Cairo. There we found jobs and were moved into a room with a window very quickly. We all applied to universities around the world in different places. I was accepted by Sandy Beach university. There I was told to find Rosie and ask for a job. Rosie has become like a mother to me. She now works for Palestinian freedom. I love her like my mother. We are working together to free my mother in Palestine." A single diamond tear rolled down Helen's cheek. Solidarity ran deep.

"We also are working for your mother." Mora said, solemnly. "My people back home in Ireland have not forgotten Rachel Aliene Corrie. She was crushed by a bulldozer while trying to save a house in Palestine."

Helen looked briefly sad and then smiled as she hurried off to other tables.

"How are the group at the executive table doing?" Rosie asked Helen, who was loading her arm with meals for a different table.

"They are very thorough people, they already know my story and say they are happy helping my family to be free world citizens like Puerto Ricans," Helen answered over her shoulder as she hurried to the next table. "I believe them. I believe all of them. You are magic, Rosie."

Rosie smiled, glanced at the executive table, noticed they were all conversing in a close huddle and turned to exchange morning news with her next departing customer.

Progress had been made at the executive table. They knew their children were cheerleaders for world-wide rapid evolution to a new form of government. "I haven't seen the government structure drawing," Angela said. "Even so, Maria told me it looks like a flower and a permanent constituent assembly is in the center. And that's exactly what my sister Adriana said. Should I call her?"

They all agreed it would be good to find out what else Adriana knew and she could help figure out how to get a constituent assembly going now, without months of preparation. Adriana was a recent graduate from Sandy Beach University and had friends there who could help reserve meeting spaces.

Angela opened the morning paper and showed them her article. The headline was bold type; "Food sovereignty is number one for everyone." The people of Puerto Rico learned their ancestors had food and shelter in neighborhoods of family and friends. Colonialism had robbed them of their health, wealth and fun. And there on page one was Adriana explaining the constituent assembly and how young artists would replace old line oligarchs by pointing out oligarchs are predators on society and not really part of society.

A hand reached into their circle and pointed to the line that said, "Oligarchs are predators on society and not in solidarity with those attempting to make a better life for their children." It was Rosie. "I have a back dining room for your office and a barn in back for material shipments." She placed two sets of keys on the table. "The office is actually an older attached building, it has a separate entrance. The barn was used to gather food for our people during past struggles for independence, both are for you to use during this important moment in our nation's history." Then she she winked one eye, smiled merrily, and went back to her restaurant work. "Today's meal is compliments of the house," she said looking back over her shoulder to the group as she walked away.

"Wow! Let's go see what Rosie gave us." Hugo exclaimed enthusiastically as he pushed back his chair and stood up.

"Let's go out the front and then walk around the cafe to the barn in back," Mora suggested and also stood up. "I want to see the barn first." Everyone agreed. They all shook smiling Rosie's hand as they filed out the cafe front door. Rosie pointed the direction to go.

They turned left and then left again into a narrow alley to the barn. They stopped and looked at where they were. The alley was an ancient narrow street from the days of ox carts, it curved gently to the right and the barn was at the end of the lane on a waist high rise. The building next door was set back behind a battered old wooden fence, across the alley from Rosie's cafe. They were in a different world and it fed their imaginations as they stood looking at a view of history in silence. The attached office had cement walls that had been marked by bullet holes near the front door, the bullet holes were preserved as a display under glass. They went to the barn first. A large avocado tree shaded the front door and orange trees were planted on one side.

Hugo had the keys and unlocked the door. Mora was looking at the scene as an agricultural archeologist and was so excited she actually squeezed in ahead of Hugo, he laughed and followed right behind. Mora's husband Sergio was right behind Hugo. They stood in the entryway of a fairly large barn.

"This barn seems to have a room-stretcher spirit," Angela said quietly. Hugo nodded his agreement.

"You have room-stretcher spirits in Puerto Rico?" Sergio asked Angels and Hugo. "Are you joking? It seems like that to me now that you've said it."

Me, too, Mora and Catalina both concurred at once. "It's definitely bigger on the inside than the outside," Catalina said and then laughed at herself.

"Let's go see the office," Angela suggested.

"We had an unknown rumor spirit in our junior high school building," Hugo told Catalina, Mora and Sergio. "Many of us make jokes about the unknown rumor spirit for the rest of our lives."

"There's a building stretcher spirit here if ever I saw one anywhere," Sergio agreed.

Mora laughed, she and Angela started walking toward their new office. Hugo handed the keys to Angela just as her sister Adriana arrived, she was breathless from hurrying and solemnly handed Angela a large envelope. "The editor said he is very sorry but he had no choice. You've been fired from the newspaper. Your article was too radical. The paper has changed its position and is supporting a new election that comes up with the right answer this time."

Angela opened the envelope. It was a thick newspaper mailing envelope packed with large-bill money and a short letter; "We are sorry," the editors signed, "Free Press Elders."

They were all standing quietly thinking as Angela slowly opened the door with her free hand, Adriana slipped in first this time. Sergio took Angela's elbow in his hand and steered her through the doorway so the others could enter. "Looks like another building stretcher spirit in here, too." Sergio said. "Seriously, this is a big office."

"It was a center for the struggle to be free from United States colonial austerity," Catalina said, she was reading a plaque on the glass enclosed bullet holes. "Food distribution became too big to hide. It was like the Alamo, the food was stolen and everyone died."

"Food distribution center in the middle of a revolution," Mora said quietly as she turned to Sergio. "Food is number one for everyone. Is this fun? Do we do this?" Sergio laughed and they happily embraced.

Adriana called them to a small room that was probably once a farmhouse bedroom. Squarely in the middle was an antique printing press. It was a very old model that appeared to be in good condition.

"A food sovereignty barn with an alternative press," Mora exclaimed.

"I suggest you call the press "facet six,"" Adriana said. "That's what the information facet is on the seven facet government drawing I saw at Maria's house. She and Howie were studying it. I looked over Maria's shoulder."

"Your sister is very astute, like you," Hugo said to Angela. "That bag of money the elders gave you could create actual propaganda free information, it would be the first functioning aspect of our new seven aspect government."

"That's what Maria called our new government when I drove her home last night," Angela remembered. "Maria said the same thing Adriana just said; the government diagram looks like a six petal flower. The seventh facet or aspect is the permanent constituent assembly in the center of the flower."

"I think we are close to figuring out a plan," Hugo said. "I think we have figured out what your children have been doing and we can help them from here." He put his arm around Angela's shoulders and then her waist and looked her in the eyes, "Neither one of us has a job now, we might as well work together."

"I'd like that," Angela responded and put her arm around Hugo's waist.

"I'll go find Helen in Rosie's cafe and see if she and the college students will help organize the constituent assemble we've been talking about since the junior high kids got us all started. Do something real, take one step at a time." Adriana smiled and then continued; "It's almost time for the kid's lunch meeting with the unknown rumor spirit." Adriana laughed when she said that. "Did the room just grow bigger?" She mimed looking around startled, shrugged, and then laughed again.

© Garrett Tobin Connelly