Melissa met Eric en route to the dormitory on Thursday afternoon. “You know, Eric, in addition to my school work here at the University, I also have a project to do at the Libertarian Temple.” she explained.

    Eric interrupted. “I see Rebecca over there, about to head home. Follow me, I want to explain something to her.” he said.

    They walked fast and caught up. “Rebecca,” Eric said. She turned around. “Listen, I just wanted to explain, um, Melissa told me about how people talk in code, especially women, and um, let’s just say that if I had understood what you meant at Zachary’s party, things would have turned out differently.” he said.

    “Oh.” Rebecca said. “Melissa taught you something about the subtle signals we use. Very good.”

    “That’s not all she taught me.” he grinned.

    “Oh, it’s not?” Rebecca said. Melissa turned bright red.

    Eric observed, “See, now I’m talking in code, too.”

    Rebecca laughed. “Well, I’m glad to see you’re learning.” She got into her car as they left.
    Melissa and Eric walked to Piermont Hall. “You had to do that, didn’t you?” Melissa chuckled, and continued, “Anyway, I have a social service project to do. The idea is to do something make the world a better place, without appealing to the government for help. I think the problem cannot be solved by the government, but can be solved by volunteers.”

    Eric asked, “You mean, like, guys who aren’t having any luck getting laid?”

    Melissa nodded, “Exactly.”

    “And just how, exactly, do you plan to solve this problem? Do you plan to give every suffering guy the same treat you gave me?” Eric asked.

    Melissa answered, “Well, I just don’t know that part yet. No, I’m not going to give it to everybody. I think I’ll have to discuss this with the rabbi and the other students at the Libertarian Temple. I have to be there at 18:00 tonight. Would you like to go there, and maybe check it out?”

    “Where is it?” Eric asked.

    Melissa replied, “It’s in Sacraleena. It’s really easy to get to. At the eastern end of the campus, you take South Capitol Street north, cross the South Capitol Street Bridge over the Missouri River into Sacraleena, and it’s up ahead on the right about two kilometers at South Thirteenth and South Capitol. There’s a sign.”  

    “Yes, I’ll go. I don’t plan on becoming a Libertarian, but I can check it out.” Eric agreed.

    Eric returned to Piermont and put on his jacket and walking shoes, and went outside. It was 15:05 and sunny, 16º Celsius.  He walked across the campus and headed north on South Capitol Street. Up ahead in the distance, the West Dakota State Capitol could be seen.
    At 16:10, Eric arrived at the corner of South Capitol Street and River Street in Talleyville, and pressed the button for the crosswalk light. When the light changed, he got the ‘WALK’ signal, and crossed River Street to arrive at the South Capitol Street Bridge. He started across, looking over the railing at the Riverbank Parkway traffic below, and then the Missouri River.

    The South Capitol Street Bridge had two lanes in each direction, and a raised concrete barrier for a median. Street lights towered over the roadway.

    At 16:18, a light brown police car passed Eric, heading into Sacraleena. “TALLEYVILLE POLICE” it said in black letters. At 16:20, Eric arrived at a sign that read, “ENTERING SACRALEENA, SACRALEENA COUNTY.” After passing the sign, he looked back, across the roadway, to see another sign, facing the southbound traffic, reading, “ENTERING TALLEYVILLE, TALLEY COUNTY.”

    Eric stopped to look around. Below, boats plied the Missouri River. Birds flew by, some resting on the street lights. A metal disk embedded in the sidewalk pavement caught his eye. He took a closer look. “COUNTY LINE” it said in incused letters, around a small dot in the center. He put his foot on it. Some of his toes were in Talley County, some in Sacraleena County. All the city and county ordinances began and ended at that point.

    Eric continued north, the State Capitol looming larger now. He got to the Sacraleena side. On the right, past a large lawn, was an old building with bars on the windows. The sign at the driveway entrance read, “WEST DAKOTA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, STATE PRISON AT SACRALEENA.” The street sign marked the corner of South 25th and South Capitol Streets.

    Eric looked at the vehicles in the parking lot. From the sidewalk, he could read the inscriptions, “PRISONER TRANSPORT” on the vehicles. The license plates read, “WEST DAKOTA,” a registration number, and “CORRECTIONS.” Near the building entrance, a flagpole stood, bearing two flags: the U.S. flag above and the West Dakota flag below it.

    After another three blocks, Eric arrived at a more elegant building. The sign read, “WEST DAKOTA SUPREME COURT.” The building occupied the entire city block from South 22nd to South 21st Street, and from South Capitol Street on the west to South Brookings Street on the east. The U.S. flag and the West Dakota flag flew on separate flagpoles. Eric crossed South 21st Street. It was 16:40, and he was eight blocks from his destination.

    Various retail stores lined both sides of the street in the next block. Some of the buildings had apartments on the upper floors. At 16:42, Eric pressed the button for the crosswalk light. When he got the ‘WALK’ signal, he crossed South 20th Street.

    Across South Capitol Street stood another government building. The sign was embellished with the West Dakota state seal. “WEST DAKOTA STATE POLICE, TROOP F” the sign said. The area behind the building was surrounded by a high, chain-link fence. Eight marked police cruisers were parked nearby. The building and grounds occupied the entire block, from South 20th Street to South 19th Street and from South Capitol Street on the east to South Burbank Street on the west.

    On Eric’s side of South Capitol Street stood numerous commercial buildings and a bank. He passed one three-story government building. “1945 SOUTH CAPITOL STREET, WEST DAKOTA DEPARTMENT OF LIQUOR ENFORCEMENT.” the sign said. Just north of that building, a walkway led to a parking lot behind the buildings, on the South Brookings Street side of the block.

    Between South 17th and South 16th, on the right, was a modern building, four stories tall, with a large parking lot in the rear and a small parking lot in front. “GOVERNOR NEHEMIAH G. ORDWAY BUILDING, WEST DAKOTA DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE” the sign said. In smaller letters, it said, “1675 SOUTH CAPITOL STREET.” Eric turned to look at the building. Flags flew from three flagpoles: The U.S. flag on the left, the West Dakota flag in the center, and the West Dakota Department of Revenue flag on the right. Five cars parked in the front parking lot bore escutcheons of the Department of Revenue on their doors. Front license plates read, “WEST DAKOTA,” a registration number, and “STATE VEHICLE.”

    Between South 15th and South 14th was a school building on the right. At the corner of South 15th and South Capitol, a large sign hung overhead, supported by a metal pole. The sign had flashing yellow lights. “CROSSWALK AHEAD, STATE SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND” it said. Half a block ahead, another sign support held up two signs overhanging the northbound traffic. Both were embellished with flashing yellow lights. “CROSSWALK, STATE SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND,” one said. “YIELD TO PEDESTRIAN IN CROSSWALK,” said the other.

    Eric continued strolling north. It was 16:57 when he arrived at the corner of South 13th and South Capitol Streets. A building across 13th Street bore a sign, “LIBERTARIAN TEMPLE OF SACRALEENA.” In smaller letters, “5002 SOUTH 13TH STREET.”

    Eric looked to the east and west. A sign on the building at 5007 South 13th Street told him it was a deli, so he strolled in, ordered a roast beef and Swiss cheese sandwich on rye bread, and sat down.


Copyright 2007 Tom Alciere