Novel 3: Act II, Chapter 3, Scene 4b

TOC page here.

Diana is eating lunch with Tommy Clyburne, part of the business association whose district covers the homeless shelter. He’s explained to her why they’ve never been able to get rid of the shelter. Here, he’s explained what happened after they stopped paying their mortgage:

Diana’s hand reached out, flipped the napkin off her plate. “Forgive me for being less than totally convinced that all the people in your organization are quite so charitable.”

Clyburne chuckled. “Indeed. Look at that district: Ralph McGill up to North Avenue, Peachtree over east to Piedmont and beyond. Twenty thousand taxpaying citizens could be living there; plus medical offices for the hospital. Run a shuttle to connect to Civic Center MARTA, express buses down Courtland and up Piedmont all the way from Memorial to Tenth. Even the more libertarian among my partners will readily acknowledge that whatever it takes to relocate the shelter will be returned many times over. Truly, though, the consensus is that helping them is a moral imperative and not merely a financial one.”

She took from the plate the roll she’d carefully bisected, then replaced the napkin. “Okay, so I’m Maxine Lee and I’m a truly passionate advocate for the homeless: why won’t I take you up on the offer to relocate? Assuming it really is a good offer.”

“Oh, it was. Politics, is your answer. Like many people, she let her personal politics get in the way of what’s right. My libertarian colleagues often underpay their employees, offering bottom dollar because they believe in a perfect world where everything and everyone has a price. In my company, we pay above-market salaries and provide excellent benefits, because it encourages loyalty and reduces turnoved, and this leads to stability and increased profits. It’s the same thing as your husband’s company.”

“Ex-husband,” said Diana around a mouthful of roll.

“Sorry. But he overpays people for the same reason. He’s a hell of a businessman.”

“Can’t argue with you there.”

“The ones who underpay? Some of them are always complaining about their turnover and how disruptive it is to their business. But they won’t put two and two together and spend money to make money. The politics of paying low wages is too dear to them. Maxine Lee? Same story.

“She was a libertarian? Oh, never mind. So sleep deprived.”

“Well, that might have been interesting. She was an anarchist. Well maybe that’s not quite the right word. You see, it was… emotionally important to her that all the doctors and developers and yuppies had to deal with a huge crowd of stinky, obnoxious homeless people right up in their faces. And I’m not calling them that, like many people I know would. Some of those homeless folks are lazy drunks, but most of them drew a bad hand at birth, or picked the wrong cards when they were young and dumb. I mean, one of the reasons why Peachtree-Pine underserves its clients is that the lack of hygiene and good manners was a big old middle finger to the rest of us. She’d go on about how we can’t just forget the poor or push them aside.”

“She’s right. Philosophically, at least. But I get it: she wasn’t willing to give in, because she enjoyed making y’all squirm.”

“And that caused—still causes—homeless people to suffer.”

Much of this is infodump, the management of which I covered in the last post. The key feature of this peace is that it’s a long discussion about how personal ideals get in the way of good business practices. Keep that in mind as the narrative unspools.

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