Now that Sarah Hyden-Smith and Iris Long had carved out a platform for Juliet’s last-minute mayoral campaign, it was time to talk strategy.
There was no budget for an expensive ad campaign. After all, Juliet’s most menacing opponent owned the town’s only radio station, and being the ethical journalist she was, Iris couldn’t just give Juliet free space in the newspaper.
Fortunately, ministers and editors are generally skilled wordsmiths, and Sarah and Iris knew words pack a punch. As Iris saw it, their only hope was to engage Cooper and "Silver Tongue" Dick Bland in a public debate.
"Surely," Long said while in deep thought, "there are more people in the Valley like us."
Hyden-Smith agreed. "Most folks have just heard Juliet added her name to the ballot. They have no idea what she stands for."
Iris concurred. "Let’s face it. There have got to be dozens - maybe hundreds - of voters who feel the same way we do. We need to let them know they have a choice."
"But I’ve never debated," Juliet interjected. "Do you think my inexperience will make me look foolish against two seasoned speakers?"
"You’re a smart woman, Juliet," Sarah shot back. "That’s what will come through."
The group knew that getting Silver Tongue to debate would be easy. He loved to speak on stage. Getting Raymond behind a podium, however, would be more difficult.
It was Juliet’s idea to call Raymond the next day, during his Friday "Renderings With Raymond" broadcast, to challenge him publicly.
Juliet stayed up half the night, thinking about her call to Raymond. She would need to trick him into agreeing to a debate. Raymond was no dummy. He knew he was a clear favorite and debates are generally meant to benefit the underdogs. Her words would be crucial.
Friday marked six days until the election. Caroline’s Beauty Salon had its usual crowd, as women of the Valley prepared to look their best for church services on Sunday.
As usual, the radio played "Renderings With Raymond," while customers sat under hair dryers and in seats along the large window looking out over Bearden’s Corner.
At 2:20 precisely, as Vera Pinrod was about to say something concerning the evils of Harry Potter, who she had recently begun referring to as "the devil’s son," the room grew silent as Raymond announced, "Let’s take another call."
Juliet began her call just as she had prepared, exuding confidence, "Yes, Mr. Cooper. This is Juliet Stoughton."
Obviously surprised, Cooper seemed more amused than concerned by her call. "Is this the same Juliet Stoughton that is alledgedly running for mayor of Lennox Valley?"
Expecting that response, Juliet was ready. "Yes it is. The very same."
"Well, how can I be of service to you today, Juliet?" Cooper said almost coyly.
"I would like to challenge you to a debate next Tuesday night."
"A debate?" Cooper chuckled. "Miss, I know that you are new to the complexities of campaigns, but there are only six days left until the election. I’m quite sure this last-ditch effort of yours couldn’t even be planned in such a short period."
Juliet was ready. "Mr. Bland said you would say that."
"What do you mean by that?" asked an obviously perturbed Cooper.
"I made the same challenge to him this morning. He said he would be happy to debate, but you would be afraid to face me on stage. He said you would probably make up some excuse about it being too close to the election date."
"Listen here, missy," Raymond almost shouted into the microphone. "You name the place and time, and I will be there to show you what a real mayor looks like."
Iris and Sarah both smiled as they sat together by the radio as Juliet answered, "Tuesday night. Seven o’clock. At the Methodist Church."
For a moment, Raymond Cooper was speechless. But just for a moment.
Each week, "The Good Folks of Lennox Valley" chronicles the happenings of a fictional American small town.