Yoda dog blanketed in a forestAround noon on Tuesday, having nothing better to do, the inquisitive one drove to the little skating rink in the town square and parked in the garage. After gathering up the hockey skates in the back seat, the inquisitive one walked to the rink.

But the skating rink, the inquisitive one saw, was packed with people! Some were racing one another: a challenging endeavor, considering the short straightaways and tight corners. Some were jumping, spinning, and performing graceful arm movements, also a challenge in the small amount of space available. Some were guiding and teaching small children, who were having trouble keeping their skates upright. And others were skating backwards, with their butts and arms sticking out.

“Why are there so many people on the ice, at this time on a weekday?” the inquisitive one couldn’t help but exclaim. “And how talented they all are. I wonder who they are!”

A nearby woman, who looked to be of retirement age, smiled at the inquisitive one. Then she said, “These are all furloughed federal government employees. They started coming here weeks ago. The government has been shut down for so long that they have gotten quite good at skating! Oh, and come back in a couple hours, if you’d like to see a professional-level hockey game. That’s why I’m here—to get a good seat for that.”

“Wow!” replied the inquisitive one. “Thanks for telling me about this! Perhaps I will join you, in a bit.”

Too intimidated to put on the hockey skates and join the crowd, the inquisitive one strolled into the library. In that great hall, which was usually fairly empty, people were everywhere! And yet a deep silence reigned. Most of the patrons were reading or writing. There were not enough wooden chairs and tables for everyone, but people, it seemed, had brought in their own camping chairs, beanbag chairs, and cushions. There were long lines at the information and checkout desks—especially at the information desk. This line wrapped halfway around the ground floor. Despite this, the people standing in the line did not seem upset; they were all engrossed in physical and e- books. The aisles were as crowded as Walmart on a Sunday afternoon; and yet there were so few books on the shelves that it looked like a post-hurricane looting had occurred.

“Why are there so many people here, at this time on a weekday?” the inquisitive one couldn’t help but whisper. “And they all look so engrossed in their studies. I wonder who they are!”

A nearby man, who looked to be of retirement age, smiled at the inquisitive one. Then he whispered, “These are all furloughed federal government employees. They started coming here weeks ago. The government has been shut down for so long that they have learned quite a lot! Would you like to attend a lecture by one of them, on Ancient Rome? That’s why I’m here. It starts in a couple hours, but we will want to reserve our seats, as there is sure to be a standing-room-only crowd. The lecturer has become one of the world’s foremost experts in that era.”

“Wow!” replied the inquisitive one. “Thanks for telling me about this! Perhaps I will join you, in a bit.”

There being so few books on the shelves, there was little point in the inquisitive one hanging around to browse. Turning and walking toward the door, the inquisitive one glanced at the message boards on the wall. These were plastered over with beautifully designed placards announcing other events happening that day: and it seemed that every conceivable type of artistic and scholarly and athletic endeavor was represented. And then, glancing out of the big, front-facing windows, which were suddenly rumbling, the inquisitive one saw a fleet of helicopters. And the inquisitive one wondered whether the president was aboard one of them.

Then instantly, in a fit of passion, the inquisitive one ran out into the chilly air and shouted something up at the helicopters, at top volume.

But what exactly the inquisitive one said must remain a mystery, because, at that moment, a band burst into the opening strains of a loud, soul-thumping, perfectly in-tune, hauntingly sweet, and beautifully patriotic song.

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