I attended a secret meeting on homelessness last Friday. Many members of the inner cabal were in attendance. I didn't even have to crash the thing. The press was not invited, as there were delicate matters under discussion. How screwed are homeless people? Who is screwing them? And so forth.
Therefore, I can only discuss this meeting by cloaking the proceedings in extreme allegory. I have chosen the river babies trope, which has the metaphorical happiness of being infinitely extendable. The following events may or may not have occurred.
It was noon, and the Kingdom smelled of portabello paninis. The Juridical Commission on Criblessness was in Seattle to review the local plight of the Riverbabies. Gathered with the Commission were many of the leading advocates and caretakers for the Riverbabies. Or of the Riverbabies, as was now the preferred term.
Riverbabynessness — from the early days, when just a few people were pulling babies out of the stream, all the way through to the large well-lit open rooms, which played Brahms while babies laid teeny toe to adorable head throughout the vast facility — had continued to grow. There still wasn't enough room. The babies were coming faster than anyone knew how to handle. Families First, once the goal for all babies, was now the fate of maybe one in ten. Many of these were speaking in complete sentences before finally joining a family. Most people simply didn't have the additional means to help, and those who did mostly didn't like babies.
The Kingdom was overextended and badly managed. The Skypeople, about 1% of the realm, reveled in vast piles of gold while the Invisibles, the bottom 15% or so, lived in conditions of utter misery. For most of the kingdom, life was filled with worry and risk.
The Riverbabies were now overflowing the banks and getting lodged out in the weeds. These were called the Outliers. There was the incident where a gang of youths used one as a soccer ball. A brief public outcry occurred, and then everyone stopped caring again. Most people had become very accustomed to the Riverbabies, to the point of hardly noticing them. The Outliers and the Riverbabies were outwardly indistinguishable. It was their surroundings that made the difference. An indoor Riverbaby was legal. An outdoor Riverbaby was not.
The King's Riverbaby sweeps had been in the press a lot lately, and the King himself was increasingly forced to defend his policies. It didn't help that he had grown more swollen with each passing day of regal tenancy. His neck poured up over his collar in angry waves of exfoliated pink flesh, rising into a doughy ball of obscenely pouty lips, flapping jowls, and bulbous nose. The King's tiny flat gray eyes swam in small seas of bright pink nestled against the fleshy shores of his brow. They alternated between frightened and bored as they darted about, often finally fixing in a defiant glare that still seemed somehow dead. The expensive haircut strangely accentuated the oddness of the King's bullet-shaped head, which resembled a slug fired into a block of wood and retrieved as evidence.
A recent Riverbaby Uprising had drawn much attention to the King's edict, and people were once again beginning to notice the Problem, as it was commonly called. After all, the waters were continually rising. Some would walk to the banks nearly everyday, commenting nervously to one another on how the depths had just claimed some new point of interest. A fence post. A field. A parked car. An unlucky cow.
Various squires of the King, both loyal and disloyal, were there before the Commission, as were the key shysters and proles, and, of course, the star baby tenders, allies, and agitators. Discussion was mostly polite. They nibbled on inexpensively catered sandwiches and drank urns of coffee with their brownie triangles. A few of the villagers didn't seem to know why they were there. Some of the more loquacious tenders prattled on about the details of tendenceship, oblivious to the waters that would soon swamp their feeble efforts.
The core facts regarding the Riverbaby sweeps were read. Upbeat assurances of progress on the Problem were offered by the Top Tender. Many tenders still adhered to a Riverbaby creed based upon a belief in the Number Ten. The Top Tender was the chief local exponent of this belief system which had swept the Kingdom hence and hither.
One of the agitators asked the Top Tender why the Outliers were of such little regard to Ten Worshippers. The Top Tender replied that while individual Ten Worshippers might have their own opinions, his belief system had no democratic process that allowed for resolution of differences or airing of controversy. This may anger some of the Ten Worshippers, he wordlessly implied, and gravely fracture the Tendence Coalition, which, sadly, was failing miserably in its meticulously meretricious yet metrically misleading goals. Eventually, the Top Tender remembered that the Tendence Coalition had set a standard for the King based on the King's standard, and boldly announced his bright thought, assured that those assembled would thricely applaud and dance a jig. None did.
A Juridical Commissioner noted — once many of the inner cabal scurried to other appointments and the others had resorted to chatting semi-furtively among themselves — that this was the way of the Ten Worshippers in most Kingdoms. The Outliers make the SkyPeople uncomfortable, and are thereby the enemy of the King, for the King is of the Skypeople and not of the rest of us. Ten Worshippers are often loath to offend the King. For the King is mighty, and holds their fate within his pudgy yet powerful hands.