So I returned to what I planned to be at the core of the story, that all-too-common human trait in the face of injustice: inaction until we're directly affected. This era quote from Martin Neimoller says it well.
In Germany, they came first for the Communists,
And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists,
And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews,
And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew;
And then they came for me .
And by that time there was no one left to speak up.
I tried envisioning that core concept as the core of an apple. I need to surround that core with stuff that grows organically from that core. Apple stuff, not grapefruit.
So yesterday, I spent about 6 hours cutting grapefruit from my story. Forty pages of text, a meandering subplot, and four named characters - outta here. In a few days I'll reread what's left and see if it's an apple. And maybe someday I'll write a story with the grapefruit.