Mayor Dick "Silver Tongue" Bland enjoyed a brief period of respite for a few short weeks following his narrow victory in the August election. It wasn’t long, however, before his old nemesis was making life miserable once again.
Everyone has a breaking point, and Mayor Bland had reached his. For weeks, since Raymond Cooper returned to the air and launched his weekly "newspaper," Silver Tongue remained silent as he heard his former rival blame him for everything from A.J. Fryerson’s disappearance to the rapid demise of morals among Valley teens as a result of the rising popularity of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone."
Bland was "fit to be tied" as he entered Frank’s Barber Shop to get a trim before his hastily arranged town hall meeting. Frank had just returned from lunch as the mayor walked into the shop.
"What in the world is going on over at the Baptist church?" Bland asked Frank.
"Oh, Loren mistakenly announced the pastor would be the main course for breakfast in two weeks," Frank answered, referring to the poorly arranged words on the Baptist church sign.
As they peered out the window across the square, they could see the Baptist youth minister removing the letters from the sign as onlookers watched.
Silver Tongue had seen Loren’s handiwork before and didn’t seem surprised. Anyway, he had something more important on his mind.
The mayor was no political rookie. He knew Cooper was back to his old ways, and Bland was adept at playing the political game.
Raymond’s show would be off the air in 10 minutes. In 40 minutes, the mayor would be standing in the assembly room of the Town Hall, making a statement to the good folks of The Valley. He wanted to look just right, which included getting his hair trimmed for the event.
As Frank snipped, Bland shared his insights, letting Frank know he would be wise to steer clear of Raymond Cooper.
"He’s a sore spot in our community," Silver Tongue told Frank. "He’s like a piece of gum that just won’t come off your shoe sole."
They didn’t call him "Silver Tongue" for nothing.
"Yes, he’s been stuck to my shoe for too long, and he can’t stand that I defeated him convincingly in the last election."
Frank rarely listened to the radio and had yet to pick up Cooper’s rag, The Valley Patriot. What he knew of Raymond he’d learned from his new best friend, Sarah-Hyden Smith, and from customers who would mention Cooper’s name now and then.
"I’ll remember that," he told the mayor, attempting to keep his customer happy.
The mayor told Frank he should close the shop for a few minutes at 3:30 to attend the gathering at the Town Hall. "Everybody will be there, so you won’t lose any business."
At precisely 3:30, the mayor stood behind the hall’s stage lectern.
"Friends," he began, "I feel the need to set some things straight." Using a line borrowed from Abe Lincoln, he continued. "A house divided against itself cannot stand.
"Over the past weeks, I have decided to ‘speak softly, and carry a big stick,’" borrowing a line from Teddy Roosevelt. "I want you to know," he continued, "the buck stops here," sounding a lot like Harry Truman.
The assembly of 200 or so townsfolk roared their approval. Silver Tongue sure knew how to work up a crowd.
He continued. "As for the reading material of our youth, let our families and beloved clergy be the judges of what is proper and what is not, and let me assure you that our community is safe. We have no evidence there is any foul play in the disappearance of one of our citizens. For all we know, he may be visiting a distant relative as I speak."
As the applause grew in volume, he waited patiently for the crowd to quiet down.
"I shall defend our Valley, whatever the cost may be. I will fight for every Valley citizen, in the fields and in the streets. I will fight in the hills. I will never surrender."
The crowd could barely contain itself.
Mayor Bland felt the tide of emotions turn in his favor. But as Silver Tongue smiled a wide smile at the Town Hall, Raymond was scheming with an audience of one, 15 miles away on the other side of Springfield.
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