Joint Responsibility


Tunnel Writer

Catherine unlocked her apartment door after a long day of work. After dropping her bag full of files by the door, she kicked off her shoes. There was plenty of time to pore over those files, but first a relaxing dinner. She almost missed the note that had been pushed under her door.


I need to speak to you. Not urgent.


Catherine let out a sigh. Spending a few minutes Below sounded better than staying in the apartment. She put on a pair of tennis shoes and headed for the tunnels.

"Ah, Catherine," Father said as he looked up from his book. "I wasn't expecting you so soon, but please sit."

Catherine sat in the offered chair. She was curious about what this was about.

"You're probably wondering why I asked to speak to you."

"That thought did cross my mind," Catherine replied, smiling.

"We have a situation that perhaps you would be willing to help us with."

"I'm listening."

"Several in our community have jobs Above. They work full time in disposable jobs. Fast food, hotel chains, and grocery stores. They work jobs that don't require degrees or business meetings. They use helpers' addresses and phone numbers for applications. If a boss wants to know if they can come in at a moment's notice, the helpers get word to us through the pipes. Work ethic is highly important.

"Those that work Above are not required to work Below unless they want to, or there is a serious emergency. They are already contributing to the community, and asking them to give more of their time just isn't fair. Some work twelve hour shifts weeks at a time. Sometimes, if money is needed for projects or food, more will work Above to help. Even Jamie has been known to work at McDonald's occasionally. The money they earn is deposited into a communal savings account. This is what we use for staples like flour, sugar, tea and salt. This fund also takes care of Winterfest expenses and serious emergencies."

"I thought helpers supplied all you need?"

"True, helpers do help abundantly. We are always grateful for their generosity, but we try to be self-sufficient as well. Yes, we rely on our helpers, but only if we can't supply it ourselves. We don't want to burden our helpers. Some have so little."

"What do you need me to do?"

"Our savings account has three joint owners. Three helpers are named on the account at all times. Banks aren't concerned with who deposits money or from where. The council votes on withdrawing the money. Now staples are bought weekly, so votes aren't necessary for that. We have a set weekly allowance for that.

"As you know, Lou is gone. We need someone to replace him on the joint account. The council took a vote. Would you consider being a joint account holder? It will be in name only."

"Of course. I am honored that you trust me enough to ask."

Father sighed and smiled. "Peter will help you get your name on it. Thank you. This will help us quite a bit."

"You're so welcome. Now, if you'll excuse me, I will go say hello to Vincent."

Father smiled as the woman he considered a daughter stood up and left the chamber.

But his smile was nothing compared to the one he couldn't see on Catherine's face as she left his study. He had given her such a gift tonight: the knowledge that he finally, truly believed that she was going to be a permanent fixture in the life of the world Below, that the relationships she had forged...and not just with Vincent...would last a lifetime.


The End