Could this really be happening in our Valley?
It took a few moments for the results to sink in, but eventually bedlam erupted in the town hall following the mayoral vote count.
Iris Long, editor of Lennox Valley Hometown News, checked and rechecked her figures against those on the board. Vera Pinrod and the others on stage frantically clicked the keys on their calculators, making sure they didn’t miss any votes.
When Chief Dibble walked to the microphone, you could have heard a pin drop.
"Election Coordinator Pinrod has an announcement concerning the vote," Dibble barked. "We must have complete order in the room. I repeat, we will maintain order. We will not stand for any disorderly outbursts."
No one was sure who "we" were, since Chief Dibble was the only police officer in Lennox Valley. The crowd acquiesced, just the same.
Vera began, "We have counted and recounted the votes. The numbers we reported a few minutes ago are correct. Raymond Cooper received 466 votes."
Shouts of "Yes!" were heard from the Cooper section of the room. Order was quickly restored when Chief Dibble glared directly at Marvin Walsh, the primary culprit.
"Mayor Bland," Vera continued, "received 229 votes, and Juliet Stoughton received a total of 231 votes."
An audible murmur began to rise throughout the hall but quickly dissipated as Vera spoke again.
"Counting the eight votes cast for write-ins, we have a total of 934 votes. The leading vote-getter, Raymond Cooper, received 466 votes."
The VFW corner erupted in a chorus of "Mayor Cooper, Mayor Cooper, Mayor Cooper!"
A hard look from Chief Dibble restored order as Vera continued. "We’ve calculated the votes four times, and the result is the same each time. Raymond Cooper is two votes shy of a majority. We will conduct a run-off election between Raymond Cooper and Juliet Stoughton, who received two more votes than Mayor Bland, one week from today."
Iris Long took pictures of the melee following the announcement. Rhonda Goodman, standing outside with the majority of folks who weren’t selected to watch the election festivities inside the town hall, listened to the proceedings over speakers hastily erected on the hall steps. It was then she heard a familiar voice from inside the hall.
There was no doubt about it. It was her husband, Earl, yelling, "It’s a sham! You are puppets of the Federal Reserve System! This will not stand! This will not stand!"
Marvin Walsh joined in the fracas by rushing to the edge of the stage and shouting at the election coordinators. "We want a recount! You are tools of the federal government! We demand a recount!"
Within seconds, the door to the town hall opened, and Chief Dibble exited the building behind Marvin Walsh and Earl Goodman, who were handcuffed to each other. Iris Long followed, taking pictures as quickly as she could focus her trusty Nikon, as the men made their way to the police station across the square.
Over the noise of the crowd, Father O’Reilly barely heard the voice of Brother Billy Joe Prather over the speakers. Apparently, he was trying to restore order by asking the room to bow in prayer. Unfortunately for Brother Prather, it sounded like there weren’t many folks in the mood to pray at the moment.
Just then, the doors to the town hall opened again. As the crowd watched, Raymond Cooper emerged. Several in the crowd began to chant, "Cooper, Cooper, Cooper!"
Raymond stood there appreciatively, finally quieting the crowd by motioning with his hands.
"Friends. I know that many of you think what happened tonight was a travesty of justice. I must admit, I have my doubts about what just took place in there. But this is America, and we have no choice but to abide by the wishes of the election coordinators."
Much of the crowd began shouting, "No! No! No!" until Raymond continued.
"I’ve asked Worley Fain, chaplain of our Valley VFW, to lead us in prayer."
"Good Lord," Jessie, waitress at the Hoffbrau, muttered just loud enough for Cooper to hear.
"That’s the spirit!" shouted Cooper. "Do you hear that, Chaplain? They’re starting without you."
Slimp makes his home in Knoxville, Tennessee. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.