"Well, now, I think we should discuss it," Randy said. "Like I said, a lot has changed in thirty-nine years. You know, that road would come over Ayawisgi Mountain right into Hemlock Street, and there's a lot of houses in there, too."

"Does it have to come in right there?" Louise asked.

"We've been over it on the Planning Commission a dozen times. The only place it can get over the mountain is through the gap, along where the dirt road is now, and right into Hemlock. The high school's on one side and the furniture factory's on the other side. That's the only place it can go."

"That's where it should go," Wade said.

"That is a residential neighborhood," Randy said, "and it's no place for a big highway."

"But that's where the road needs to go, for Pete's sake." Wade was practically yelling. "That's the point! So people in Gold Valley can get to the school and the factory and into town at all without having to go all the way out to the interstate."

"I don't think any of the city people with their vacation houses in Gold Valley are wanting to get to the furniture factory, or even the high school," Randy said.

"The furniture trucks might want a better way out to the interstate than right through Wardsville." If Wade had been surprised by all this, he was sure recovering fast. "And I've got a daughter at the high school who rides a bus forty minutes each way. Look, this has been the plan all along. And all that development in Gold Valley has been based on the plan."

"Maybe it's the plan, but nobody ever expected it to happen."

"That's what a plan is, Randy." Wade was about as exasperated as a man could be.  "A plan is what you're expecting to happen. Everybody in Gold Valley sure has been expecting it."

"Joe," Louise said, giving people a chance to calm down, "I thought the state didn't have any money for new roads this year."

"It says there's twenty-five million dollars here in this program."

"Twenty-five million?" Randy said. "That's nothing."

"It's enough to build Gold River Highway," Wade said.

"But every county in the state is competing for it. Our share wouldn't be enough to put in a traffic light."

"We can still apply," Wade said.

"Is there a deadline, Joe?"

"February first."

"That's three weeks," Randy said. "We don't even have time."

"Four weeks," Wade said. "And how long does it take to vote on a resolution? Two
minutes?"

"But there'll be forms to fill out and engineering drawings to be made. We
couldn't do all that in three weeks."

"We only need the resolution," Joe said. "If we get approved, the state will do
the planning."

"Is this the only vote we'd have?" Louise asked.

"What's the timetable?" It was the reporter again.

Joe ignored him. "We'd vote again. What we're doing now is not the final vote. If our application is approved, we'd vote again when we saw the plans."

"Yeah, what is the timetable, anyway?" Wade asked.

Joe found the page of the letter. " 'Application, February first.' "

"Wait a minute." The fool reporter again. He'd dropped his notebook and was on the floor getting it. "Okay, go ahead."

"Announcement of projects approved, April board meeting," Joe said. "Presentation of engineering concept drawings, July board meeting. Public comment period following. Final county board approval by January first of next year. Detailed engineering and putting out for bids, approximately one more year. Construction begins after that." He handed the page to Wade. "If we were approved, we'd vote in December. They'd start work about a year and a half later."

"There is no way we'll get accepted," Randy said. "Now, in my opinion, I don't think we should apply if we're not even going to be approved. Those folks in Raleigh have plenty to do as it is without going through a bunch of papers from us way out here that don't have any chance of being accepted anyway."

Wade was staring at him, full flabbergasted.