In all the years Iris Long had served as editor of Hometown News, she had never felt faint while covering a story. Never, that is, until she stood on Marvin Walsh’s porch and listened as Elbert Lee Jones placed the blame for inflated egg prices directly on the shoulders of Raymond Cooper, local celebrity and aspiring politician.
As she sat to catch her breath, she realized the significance of what had just taken place. This story could destroy Cooper’s credibility within the community. At least half of the Valley listened to "Renderings with Raymond" each weekday and saw the host as their knight in shining armor. Their champion was about to lose his most valuable weapon, and the ensuing reaction was impossible to predict.
Being Friday, it was four long days before the next issue of Hometown News would go to press. How in heaven’s name could she keep the story from leaking before Tuesday? She knew four days would be plenty of time for Cooper to weasel out of this predicament, just as he had many others.
As she sat in her car in Walsh’s driveway before driving away, she considered her options. To Iris, the most likely scenario was the two farmers rushing over to Cooper’s radio station to tell him what had just happened. Elbert Lee was furious, and she didn’t imagine he would be able to contain his rage at being implicated in the scheme. They might keep quiet, she thought, hoping Raymond would take the fall, but that wasn’t likely. The good folks of Lennox Valley weren’t known for keeping quiet.
As she started her car, she heard Raymond beginning hour two of his Friday show. It was unusual for Raymond to have a guest, as it took away from time for him to lecture his audience about the plight of local government, rising egg prices, illicit involvement by federal agencies and the "radical" press that was more interested in selling newspapers than informing the public. But on this Friday, he was joined by Brother Jacob, associate pastor of Lennox Valley Lutheran Church.
Brother Jacob expected to discuss upcoming activities at the church and answer spiritual questions from callers. Raymond had something else in mind.
"Pastor," began Cooper, "it is a pleasure to have you in my humble studio."
After exchanging a few pleasantries, Cooper moved straight to his first question: "Did you happen to hear my prayer to begin the show today?"
Brother Jacob responded he had heard the prayer and, for some odd reason, it seemed familiar.
"No doubt," Raymond shot back. "We are both called to serve by the same Lord and we undoubtedly hear similar phrases echo from his voice as he inspires us."
Cooper didn’t want his pastor to remember that the prayer was uttered by a famous church leader 1,600 years earlier, so he quickly moved on to another subject. "Do you buy a lot of eggs, Pastor?"
By then, Iris had begun her drive back to town. As she heard Raymond’s words, she almost stopped the car to take it all in. She could barely believe what she was hearing, but having known Cooper for more years than she cared to remember, she knew it was true.
Hometown News had printed only two special editions in all the years Iris had been editor, and one was just three months earlier, when news broke concerning the appointment of Sarah Hyden-Smith. Iris hated to give Cooper days to spin his version of the story before hers came out in print. On the other hand, she knew she needed more facts before printing the story. As it was, it would be Elbert Lee’s word against Raymond’s, and Iris knew Jones didn’t stand much of a chance in a fair battle.
"I bought four dozen eggs for the children’s Easter egg hunt at the church," Brother Jacob acknowledged, "Otherwise I don’t normally purchase many eggs."
"You know," countered Raymond, "our country was founded on the separation between church and state. But it sounds to me like the actions of the state are causing our church to spend too much for Easter eggs."
"I guess I wouldn’t know much about that," the pastor muttered.
"I suppose," Raymond quickly responded, "that’s why the good Lord sent me to you."
Each week, "The Good Folks of Lennox Valley" chronicles the happenings of a fictional American small town.