Obviously, the nature of scandal is to grow. In the history of mankind, not a single scandal germinated lacking ravenous hunger for more flesh. Think about it for a moment. What is scandal if not the fodder for gums to flap over, giving each gum owner the satisfaction of being the one with the latest and best information. The telling widens a little more with each sharing, making the teller a little happier. The eyes of the tellees widen slightly, thereby informing the teller the telling is working. Scandal is a glorious, living creature.
At this point, the scandal in Maple Valley has not disappointed. It’s expanding sufficiently to allow a few people who don’t know Sylvia Meisner to be included, each in their own way having a crucial part. It matters to no one that these have never actually met Sylvia. Sylvia Meisner. The woman who has been missing for two weeks. But, you see, this is a very important element of scandal that cannot be overlooked. With each reiteration, the circumstances become more and more about the tellers, less about the central figure. So, reiteration becomes iteration. Each telling is a new story. Each teller becomes a creator, bathed in their own endless concern.
The scandal surrounding the missing Sylvia Meisner has given Maple Valley a breath of fresh air. Towns people have a story everyone is talking about, so they aren’t wondering if someone is talking about them. In a way, Sylvia is helping people by not being here. We all have something to talk about! Fred Crickston isn’t worrying about his garden anymore. (There hasn’t been any rain in Maple Valley since the middle of April.) Anabel Wizzleby no longer cares that choir members aren’t showing up for rehearsal of the musical score she wrote for the upcoming start of tourist season in Maple Valley. The Reverend Shermer of Maple Valley Church hasn’t mentioned dwindling offering totals since Sylvia first disappeared. Folks are gathering on the street corners again. The scandal celebration is bringing new life to Maple Valley.
Scandal news always has its key voices, the few who are held in high esteem for their ability to stir. Within an hour of Tom Swagmon and Patty Philers discovering Sylvia’s burned car under three tower bridge, Wanita Havertons and Velma Kreitzhammer were connected by their umbilical phone cord. They knew Sylvia was missing, what she was wearing, her hair style, the color of her purse, style of her shoes, and most importantly, what she was thinking when she left Maple Valley the night before. Velma called Gwendalyn, yes, that Gwendalyn, Mayor Thrashborn’s second wife. Wanita called Arleta Forner (Gwendalyn and Arleta are not speaking to each other, and haven’t spoken since the town picnic three years ago when Arleta said Gwendalyn obviously forgot to put salt in her three-bean salad), and the scandal embers quickly became a roaring flame to the delight of all.
We are only certain of two things. Sylvia is missing. The burned car under three tower bridge is hers. She bought it used two years ago at Brimmerton’s Auto Sales in Maple Valley. Oh, that’s another scandal we don’t have time to talk about right now. Just ask Wanita about Henry Brimmerton. Better yet, don’t. No matter, Henry Brimmerton has been selling bad cars to Maple Valley residents for more than a generation. His father, Albert, sold bad cars before him.
No one has heard from Sylvia Meisner for two weeks. The car has revealed no secrets. Maybe that’s the way it was meant to be.