Five Divided By Seven

“Smivey Stepward in Love and Other Misery” – Chapter Three

“Smivey Stepward, would you go to the board, please, and do problem number seven for the class?”  The only thing Smivey hates worse than going to the board to figure out a math problem in front of everybody is singing in choir class. Smivey thinks Mrs. Inkley loves causing students to squirm.  Making each student go to the board to work out a problem from the assignment is her favorite way of inflicting pain.  “No wonder so many kids are absent first hour,” Smivey mumbled to himself as he walked to the front. 

Math is not a difficult subject for Smivey.  He’s one of the top students in the class, but no one will ever know it.  Mrs. Inkley believes it is wrong for students to be made aware of the grades given to the rest of the class.   

He returned to his seat after working the problem flawlessly.  “Nice work, Smivey.  Thank you.”   

“You’re welcome, your most royal highness, goddess of pain” he thought without saying a word. 

The only good part about Math class is Elizabeth Musker, his only love since first grade.  He was in the same class as Elizabeth in first, third and fourth grades.  Now he only sees her in Math class and Home Studies, which is where you learn how to cook stuff for when you get older and have to live by yourself.  Smivey heard from other kids they will eventually learn how to sew and iron clothes.  It seems like such a waste.  His mother cooks everything so why does he have to know how to do it? 

Even though Smivey has been in the same class as Elizabeth Musker several times, he has never spoken to her.  He has never been brave enough to speak her name loud enough that she could hear it.  The only time he ever says her name out loud is when he’s alone.  Alone with the thoughts of her beautiful long brown hair, her sparkling eyes, her perfect nose, her lips…he can’t even think about her lips, and her cheeks with just a few freckles sprinkled here and there, not too many, just enough.  Nothing like the smear of freckles on his own face that to him looks like he was too close to an exploding can of red paint.   

Elizabeth spoke to Smivey one time.  It was in the fourth grade.  He was so embarrassed by what she said he nearly died on the spot.  “Smivey, your zipper is down.”  The words still ring in his ears three years later.  He had just returned to class after using the bathroom and she was the first one to see he forgot to zip his pants. 

Smivey writes poems and letters to Elizabeth, thoughts of his abiding love for her that she will never read.  He would be horrified if anyone ever read them, let alone Elizabeth Musker. 

Elizabeth, my flower, my one and only love 
On you my love would shower, like raindrops from above 
How can I ever tell you of the warmth I hold inside 
For you, my lovely flower, don’t know the love I hide. 
 
Smivey would die if anyone ever found the notes and poems he has written to Elizabeth.  He has been writing things and hiding them ever since the first grade.  He still has every single one, hidden in the tin box inside his secret hiding place.  He’s embarrassed by some of the things he wrote when he was seven years old, but to throw them away would be like throwing away part of Elizabeth.  He couldn’t bear to do that.  

One time when he was by himself, Smivey read one of the first poems he wrote to her. 

Oh Elizabeth, Elizabeth, 
I really like your name 
I think it’s good, 
I hope you feel the same. 

Another one he wrote when Elizabeth was sick. 

Elizabeth, today I heard you have the flu 
I hope you feel better, I really do 
It’s not fun to throw up 
I hope it doesn’t happen to you. 
 

Larry doesn’t even know how Smivey feels about Elizabeth.  He won’t tell anyone because he is afraid she will find out.  For now, it is enough for him to share two classes with her. 

Smivey is sad when the bell rings.  He won’t see Elizabeth again until Home Studies class last hour.  Every day he watches her leave the classroom and continues to keep her in sight until she turns down the hall to her next class.  Being near Elizabeth in first hour gives Smivey strength enough to make it through second hour. 

“Why do I have to learn how to sing?  Why does the school need a choir?  Whose idea was this, anyway?” Smivey thought as he walked to choir class.  As he shuffles along, getting closer to the choir room he hears the voice of Luciano Pavorotti wafting through the hall.  Every day it’s the same thing.  Mr. Shermer plays the same music as students enter the room.  

“Choir, just listen to this tremendous voice!” he always says, like it was the first time he ever said it, and the first time the students ever heard it.  “Listen!  Try to drink in the power of his voice, the depth of his emotion, the incredible strength of his spirit!”  As the song concludes, Mr. Shermer continues, “Choir members, listen to me.  Music carries the emotion of the soul like nothing else!  Music communicates when every other voice is silent!  Music can lift the spirit, give strength to the weak, courage to the fearful!”  Smivey thinks maybe Mr. Shermer used to be a preacher.  He doesn’t know where else he could have learned to give speeches like this. 

“Choir, take out Springtime In My Love’s Caress, by Truman Calver” Mr. Shermer said, stepping to the podium.   

“We shouldn’t be singing songs like this” Smivey thought as he found the music in his folder.  “It’s so embarrassing.”   

“Altos, I would like to begin with you today.  Please start at measure fourteen.  Miss Kirtz, their note please.”   

Gretchin Kirtz has been taking piano lessons since she was four years old.  Smivey can’t stand to watch her.  She acts like she’s playing in front of thousands of people.  She always sits straight up and nods when Mr. Shermer tells her what to do. She lifts her hand slowly, and gently brings her finger down on the key like she’s afraid it will splinter into a million pieces if she touches it too hard.  “Okay altos, one and two and…” 
 

“Softly, softly, walking through the meadow 
Feeling such a warmth within my breast…” 
 

It’s the word “breast” that is just too much.  “We shouldn’t be singing this.  Why can’t we sing something by the Beatles?  No one has ever heard of Truman Calver or his stupid song about something warm in my breast” Smivey thought as he heard muffled laughter coming from the back row. 

“Gentlemen!”  Mr. Shermer yelled as the altos stopped singing.  “How many times must I tell you that the term “breast” in this song does not mean what you’re thinking!  The breast is referred to as the deepest part of the heart.  The songwriter is expressing his deep feeling for his one true love.  Please choir.  You can do this.” 

“Okay, altos, one more time.  One and two and…” 
 

“Softly, softly, walking through the meadow 
Feeling such a warmth within my breast 
Gently, gently, she comes ever nearer 
Longing for the touch of my caress…” 
 

“Very nice, very nice.  Okay, choir, let’s start at the beginning.  Miss Kirtz, the introduction please, one and two and…”  

Gretchen plays the introduction perfectly, just like she does every time, and the choir began singing.  In spite of Smivey’s thoughts about the song, it actually sounded pretty good.  When Mr. Shermer first gave them the music Smivey decided to just stop singing when they got to the word “breast.”  It reminded him too much of hearing his mother talking about healthy bowels.  

“Softly, softly, walking through the meadow 
Feeling such a warmth within my breast” 
 
Just at that moment there came a loud snort from the back row.  Mr. Shermer stopped the choir.  “Thomas Mindler, you go to the office this instant!  Mr. Stoker, do you want to join him?”   

“No,” Michael Stoker answered.   

Mr. Shermer asked, “Mr. Herney, what is wrong with you?”   

Steven Herney was laughing so hard his face was radish red but he hadn’t made a sound.   

“Answer me!”  Mr. Shermer demanded.   

When Steven tried to talk he sprayed spit all over Smivey’s back.   

“That’s it,” Mr. Shermer hollered, “You go to the office, too!” 

Once the commotion ended, Mr. Shermer started again.  “Okay, choir, from the beginning of Mr. Calver’s piece.  One and two and…”  

Just at that moment the bell rang.  Smivey was never so glad to hear anything in his life.   

“Choir, remember, fall concert is coming up in three weeks.  Make sure your parents have it on their calendar!” Mr. Shermer yelled as everyone hurried out of the classroom. 

Third hour is almost as bad as choir, but not quite.  Smivey’s Science teacher, Mrs. Cloverton, is his only teacher who demands a seating chart.  Smivey has to sit right next to Gretchen Kirtz every day.  He has a feeling she likes him and it makes him wish he could quit school. 

“Good morning, Smivey,” Gretchen said. 

“Hey, Gretch,” he answered, knowing she hates it, but he continues calling her Gretch so that maybe she’ll get the message he doesn’t want her to like him, but it doesn’t seem to bother her.   

“How do you like the song we’re working on in choir?”  Gretchen asked. 

The only thing Smivey could dislike more than singing the song is talking about it.  “I hate it,” he answered.   

“I just love it,” Gretchen said, looking off into the distance.  “I can picture the man and woman coming toward each other in the meadow.  Can’t you?”   

“No,” Smivey said without looking at her.  “I picture two trains crashing into each other high on a bridge and falling down into a deep canyon.” 

Gretchen Kirtz is actually a very nice girl.  There are boys who like her, but she likes Smivey.  She is always dressed very nicely, in fact too nicely.  Smivey thinks it has something to do with her music.  She always looks like she’s on her way to church.  She wears a dress every day, and no girls wear dresses to school.  She always wears shiny black shoes.  She doesn’t look like the kind of girl who has ever ridden a bike or gotten dirty playing in a barn.  Some students make fun of Gretchen.  Smivey doesn’t do that. He just doesn’t want her to like him.  And he sure doesn’t want anyone to think he likes her. 

Smivey doesn’t know very much about Gretchen, only that her father is a doctor and delivers all of the babies in town.  He is pretty sure it is Gretchen’s mother who runs Pretty Petals, the flower shop in town.  Somehow to Smivey it seems only natural that a girl who dresses like Gretchen and likes songs about meadows would have a mother who works in a flower shop.  The only time he was ever in the store was with his mother.  They had just finished the grocery shopping and she had to stop to pick up flowers for Grandma Stepward who was in the hospital.  She had to have her gall bladder taken out.  The smell in the flower shop almost made Smivey sick to his stomach. 

Other than Math class and Home Studies when he gets to see Elizabeth, Smivey’s favorite time of the day is lunch.  He always meets Larry in the hallway before going into the cafeteria.   

The lunchroom where they eat is connected to the cafeteria.  Only students who buy hot lunch are allowed to eat in the cafeteria.  Larry and Smivey think it’s unfair they are not allowed to eat in the cafeteria, but each day they file into the lunchroom with all the other students who bring lunch from home.   

All the tables in the lunchroom fold up into the wall when lunch is over.  The same room is used for other things during the day.  One day when lunch was almost over, there was a table where only a few kids were still sitting.  The two girls sitting near the end of the table got up leaving only one boy who was near the wall.  Evidently, the table wasn’t locked in place because when the two girls stood up the table folded in the middle and pinched the boy against the wall.  The janitor had to come and pull the table back down to let him out. 

Smivey and Larry play in the band.  Larry plays the tuba.  He is much shorter than Smivey and is rather heavy.  The bottom of the tuba almost drags on the ground when the band goes outside for marching practice.  They don’t actually get to march in parades or at football games.  They just practice so they will be ready for marching band when they get to high school. Smivey plays the clarinet.  Although he likes playing in the band, he wishes he could play something besides clarinet.  It doesn’t seem like a boy’s instrument.   

When he started band he wanted to play drums but his parents wouldn’t let him.  “I played the clarinet when I was in the band and I still have my instrument.  You can use my clarinet and we won’t have to buy one” his mother said.  “But I want to play drums” he pleaded.  That’s when his father spoke up.  “You will play the clarinet we already have.  Besides, the drums are not an instrument you can play by yourself.” That was the end of the discussion. 

The band teacher, Mr. Norvert, can play all the instruments, but he mostly plays the trumpet.  The kids love to hear him play because he is so good.  Once in a while, if the band is  

having a difficult time playing a song, Mr. Norvert will pick up his trumpet and play it for them.  It’s always easier to play a song once you hear it a few times.   

Mr. Norvert has long, wavy, gray hair and a beard.  He reminds some of the students of Santa Claus and he always seems to be in a good mood.  As if being able to play all the instruments were not enough, Mr. Norvert is a great singer.  Sometimes between classes you can  

hear him singing all the way down the hall. He is the one person who makes Smivey wish he could sing.  Maybe it is a good thing he’s in the choir. 

After Band comes English, and then, finally, Home Studies with Elizabeth.  Mrs. Shinkler has been talking about a project for which the students will be divided into small groups.  Smivey has been hoping, ever since he first heard about the project, that he could be in a group with Elizabeth.  It would be like a dream coming true to finally talk to her. 

“Class, I have been talking to you for quite some time about the home projects you are going to be working on.  You will be divided into groups of four today.  During the project, each group will be responsible for planning a budget for one month, which will include the expenses of a mortgage, food, utilities, car payments, insurance, clothing, and entertainment.  You will have to plan four menus, each covering three meals per day for a week.  You will be required to describe your job from which you will receive the income that will be assigned to you.  At the conclusion of the project your group will be required to actually prepare one of the meals you have chosen.” 

Mrs. Shinkler said, “Now class, each of your groups will include a father and mother, and two children.”   

Smivey’s heart pounded as he thought about Elizabeth.   

“I have chosen the family members randomly.  We have an even number of boys and girls in this class, so it works out nicely.  I have also chosen which of you will be parents, and which will be children.  You all will work together, however, in your groups to complete the project.” 

Smivey felt dizzy as Mrs. Shinkler began reading the names.   

“David Conler and Sarah Micheals, father and mother…” There were snickers and muffled comments throughout the room. “Class, now this requires some maturity from you, please.”  The class quieted down as she continued.  “Peter Soldman, Jennifer Deiter, son and daughter.”   

As Mrs. Shinkler read through each group, Smivey started having the same feeling he had when he swung on the rope for the first time in Larry’s barn.  As the list of names grew longer, Smivey’s breath drew shorter.   

Then Mrs. Shinkler read, “Treighton Harford and Elizabeth Musker…”  

And Smivey blurted out, 

“What!?”   

He didn’t mean to say anything, it just came out.   

“Excuse me, Mr. Stepward, did you have a question?” Mrs. Shinkler asked.   

Smivey’s face felt hot.  “No, I was just thinking of something” he muttered.   

“Treighton Harford and Elizabeth Musker, father and mother, Davis Simpkins and Bonnie Weldman, son and daughter.”  “And finally,” Mrs. Shinkler continued, “we have Smivey Stepward and Gretchen Kirtz, father and mother…”  

Smivey didn’t remember anything that happened after that.  The room started spinning and he almost threw up.  He continued to watch Mrs. Shinkler but he couldn’t hear what she was saying.  His heart was beating so hard he was sure everyone in the class would hear it. 

“Smivey, are you okay?”  He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see Gretchen standing next to him.   

“Mrs. Shinkler wants us to get into our groups and start working,” she said.   

“I don’t feel good,” Smivey said.  He looked over where Elizabeth was sitting in time to see her walking beside Treighton Harford to their group.   

Mrs. Shinkler handed out the instructions and said,  

“Now class, for the remainder of the hour, talk about how your family is going to function.  If you have any questions, please raise your hand and I will help you.”   

Smivey’s group started talking but it sounded like mumbling as if he had cotton in his ears..  He couldn’t believe he had to be with Gretchen Kirtz.   

“Isn’t this great?” Gretchen asked.   

“It’s a disease,” Smivey muttered. 

It was an eternity before the bell rang.  Gretchen did all the talking and was acting all motherly and everything.   

“This is the worst day of my life” Smivey thought as he picked up his books.   

“See you tomorrow, Smivey,” Gretchen said sweetly as she turned toward the door.   

“I don’t ever want to see you, Gretch,” Smivey wanted to say, but didn’t.   

He stood by his chair and watched Elizabeth walk out of the room with Treighton Harford. 

Our Insatiable Obsession with Balls – 1

Balls are everywhere. Balls of different sizes. Some are soft, some hard. Some bounce, some refuse. Whatever the reason, it seems no one wants balls to be near them, because they are always, and in various ways, trying to either throw or hit the balls as far away from them as they possibly can.

Picture, if you will, someone instructing another on the fine skill of hitting a little ball with a big stick. Let’s listen in on the first lesson.

“Here is the little ball you will use,” instructor Erv Hammelmink said, handing a little white ball to his student.

“Why do I have to use such a little ball?” Alword Frinst asked.

“Well, as they say, big things often come in little packages. You will find this little ball holds the power to fly great distances when you hit it with this big stick,” Erv said.

“I see,” said Alword.

“First, you will place the little ball on a little stick, then you will hit it with a big stick. Watch me, I’ll show you how to do it,” Erv said as he placed the little ball on the little stick. He stepped up to the little ball on the little stick with a big stick. He stood there silently, staring at the little ball on the little stick, holding the big stick next to the little ball, threatening it. He slowly brought the big stick back a few feet, then slowly brought the big stick back to the little ball, threatening it yet again. Then, Alword watched as Erv brought the big stick back, way back behind his head as if he were trying to twist himself completely around, then quickly untwisted, bringing the big stick down and hitting the little ball on the little stick with a loud smack! Alword watched as the little ball flew straight away, almost out of sight.

“Wow!” Alword said.

“Yes, that was good,” said Erv. “Now it’s your turn.”

“Ok, but why are we doing this?” Alword asked.

“It’s a game. We’re going to hit the little ball with the big stick, then we’re going to search for the little ball we just hit with the big stick, and we’ll hit the little ball with the big stick again,” Erv explained.

“If we already have the little ball, why would we hit it with a big stick just to go find it again? Why don’t we just keep the little ball?” Alword asked.

“That’s not how the game is played! We hit the little ball with the big stick, go find the little ball, then hit the little ball with the big stick again, then go find it, and hit it again,” Erv said with frustration in his voice. “Now get up there and give it a try,” the instructor said.

Alword carefully placed the little ball on the little stick. He stepped up to the little ball on the little stick with the big stick Erv had given him. He stood next to the little ball on the little stick with the big stick and stared at the little ball, just as he had seen Erv do. He threatened as long as he thought proper, then brought the big stick way back behind his head until he thought he would tip over. He quickly untwisted himself, bringing the stick down with great speed and heard a loud thud. He watched as huge clumps of grass and dirt sprayed in every direction. The little ball remained on the little stick, having withstood the threat.

“That was a good swing, Alword,” Erv said. “This time, try keeping your eyes on the little ball while you bring the big stick back. Try not swinging quite so hard. The important thing is to actually hit the little ball on the little stick with the big stick.”

Alword tried, tried, and tried again, until he had to pick up the triumphant little ball still proudly standing on the little stick while escaping the violence nearby, and move the little ball on the little stick to another spot without a deep moat around it.

Finally, after patiently watching his student’s innumerable attempts, Erv picked up the little ball still standing on the little stick unscathed, and threw it as far as he could in the direction his own little ball had flown.

Erv and Alword slowly walked and searched for the two little balls.

“After we’re done hitting the little balls with the big stick, what happens?” Alword asked.

“We will hit them into a hole,” Erv answered.

“Why?”

“That’s the point,” Erv said. “We hit the little ball on the little stick with a big stick until it falls into the hole.”

“What do we do then?” Alword asked.

“We take the little ball to another spot, put it on the little stick, and hit the little ball on the little stick with a big stick again until it falls into the hole again,” Erv said.

“Why would we do that?” Alword asked.

Erv stared at him for several minutes. “Maybe you should take up gardening.”

-Dale Parsons

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 13

It was really only a matter of time before the search for Sylvia Meisner became more serious. Oh, not that folks haven’t been serious already, they are. They’re serious about a lot of things like taking care of all the visitors to Maple Valley that arrive, literally, by the trainload every day. They’re serious about making sure no one else in Maple Valley knows more about Sylvia than they do.

In spite of our many flaws, the folks in Maple Valley do really care about Sylvia and we wish her back. But with everything that has happened in town since she disappeared, I wonder what kind of place Sylvia would return to if she walked back into town today. There have been arguments with participants almost becoming physical. Rumors became gospel. Some close friends are distant because they don’t agree on what steps should be taken to bring Sylvia home. I don’t understand how they can argue about bringing her home when they don’t know where she is!

The Burthrap twins, Ver and Vee, were at it again yesterday, but this time Sheriff Terkinberry left them alone even though Nona Merthon called him four times while the twins were screaming at each other. Nona couldn’t tell the sheriff exactly what they were arguing about, she just assumed it was about Sylvia again. For all she knew, they might have been fighting about whose turn it was to do the dishes or clean the toilet.

Things have been pretty quiet at the Ya’ll Sit Cafe. Shorty and Hannah work very hard to keep up with all the patrons who come in on the Old General. It seems the first thing folks do is head for the cafe. Maple Valley has succeeded in creating a mystical sort of feeling that makes visitors want to stay, and staying always includes eating, or maybe just drinking coffee. I happen to believe Hannah Cloverton makes the best coffee anywhere in Kertok County.

The cafe is a favorite spot for townsfolk, too. It’s not very big, but then nothing in Maple Valley is. Except for the railroad. The cafe sits in the middle of town where it was built as a saloon in 1892. The saloon closed in 1907 and the Ya’ll Sit Cafe opened the following year. Shorty’s great grandfather, Morris Cloverton, was the first owner and cook. The Cloverton family has owned it ever since. The tables are square, seating four. There are three long tables with room for eight, and, oddly enough, those are the ones preferred by customers. The walls are a light blue, the curtains are red and white checkered. The floor is the original wood boards. The kitchen is not hidden in the back but is open for everyone to see. Shorty enjoys talking to patrons as he prepares their orders. Hannah waits on customers and pours coffee. A favorite among customers is Shorty’s pancakes and eggs breakfast. He doesn’t share his recipe with anyone. I eat breakfast at the cafe every Monday morning because it’s the best way to start the week.

You probably noticed Beulah Filden and Lulane Hilvertosh in the photo. The two seem to create trouble, or at least talk about trouble, wherever they go, and it’s not surprising they showed up at Sylvia Meisner’s house. (In case you don’t know, they’re the two are standing over on the left, and you can tell just by looking at them they’re gossiping. Beulah is wearing the red hat. Lulane is filling her ear to the brim.) Beulah hasn’t been seen outside much since she tried to pass a petition to postpone the start of tourist season. Maple Valley folks were pretty upset about that. Evidently, enough time has past so Lulane and Beulah are back to their old habits.

The news of the day and the reason so many people are standing around Sylvia’s house is Sheriff Terkinberry went to court in Kertok County for a search warrant so he could enter Sylvia’s home. While he would have preferred to keep that news quiet, search warrants are routinely published in the Kertok Weekly. The sheriff’s plan was known throughout Maple Valley before he had a chance to search the house. True to every characteristic of Maple Valley, folks were outside the house waiting to get the inside story before anyone else could.

Sheriff Terkinberry wasn’t surprised to find the front door of Sylvia’s house unlocked. Folks in Maple Valley don’t often lock their doors, but in this case the sheriff felt an intense concern. If Sylvia planned to be gone for a prolonged period of time, she certainly would not have left the door open. At first glance, nothing seemed to be out of order. Everything in the living room was undisturbed. A hardcover novel on a table caught the sheriff’s attention. He carefully picked up “Death Calls at Midnight,” by Shander Noffsin, and opened the front cover. Inside was written, “To Sylvia from your Special Friend.” “Who is the special friend?” the sheriff thought, “and why was the book signed that way? Does special mean ‘secret?’ Does special mean ‘admirer?’ Does Sylvia know who this special person is, or was he or she a mystery? And why capitalize special friend?” The thoughts racing through Terkinberry’s head only made his job more difficult.

He walked into the kitchen and his concern increased. In the sink were several knives. It appeared they had been used and washed, dried, but then left in the sink. A folded towel was lying nearby. The sheriff noticed a plant on the window sill was beginning to wilt and thought it strange the plant was still alive when Sylvia has been missing for a month. He looked back into the living room and noticed another plant in the same condition. Still alive.

A feeling of dread crept over his body as the sheriff opened the refrigerator. He knew the contents would clearly reveal Sylvia’s intentions when she left home the last time. Inside was an unopened container of milk, some fruit, a small jar of jelly, and something very strange. Lying on the bottom shelf was what appeared to be a fresh rose, with a note beside it. “To Sylvia from your Special Friend.” The dread the sheriff felt was turning to full alarm.

Sheriff Terkinberry climbed the stairs to examine the bedrooms. One bed was neatly made but with no pillows. The other bed was made but several pillows were piled up. He assumed, because of other furniture in the room the first was the main bedroom. Why did Sylvia have so many pillows piled up in the second bedroom?

The bathroom produced even more questions. The medicine cabinet was completely empty, which calmed the sheriff a little because Sylvia would have taken most of the items if she was going on a planned trip. The bathtub, however, caused more questions. It was filthy. It looked as if someone bathed a dog with a terrible shedding problem. He couldn’t explain it.

The place he dreaded the most was saved for last. Swallowed by the dark and wet basement, he stumbled over something as he tried to find the light. This was the first time since becoming sheriff Pete Terkinberry wished he had chosen another job.

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 12

In case you haven’t been following the news in Maple Valley on a regular basis, I will fill you in. Sylvia Meisner disappeared nearly a month ago. Several people saw and spoke to her one day, she was gone the next. In fact, figuring out who the last person to speak to Sylvia actually was became a hot item of contention, sadly enough. Folks in Maple Valley always like to find a way into the spotlight. We are bothered by not being included.

In the photo, you can see what was left of her car. It was discovered under three tower bridge by two people who happened to be jogging by. They reported the car to Sheriff Pete Terkinberry who started an investigation and quickly confirmed it was Sylvia Meisner’s car. The sheriff demanded the car be left at the site to protect all the evidence, but he soon realized there wasn’t any. The wreck was finally taken to a garage where it was dismantled. Every piece of the car was examined, and nothing of any use to the investigation was found. The car was torched completely.

Who put the car under three tower bridge? No answers. Where was the car burned? It seems obvious the fire was not under the bridge because there are no burns on the timbers. And no one saw the fire even though the bridge is very close to Maple Valley. The car was wrecked and burned somewhere else. Was the driver Sylvia? If so, where is she? Did someone steal her car, wreck then burn it to cover evidence, then move the car to the bridge? That is a lot of difficult work when they could have left the car where it was destroyed. It makes no sense, unless there is some kind of message we are supposed to figure out. I don’t know. No one else does, either. At least, that’s the way it seems.

If you walk by three tower bridge today, this is what you’ll see. Everything seems normal again. Appearances are deceiving. I don’t think anything in Maple Valley will be normal again. How can someone everybody knows disappear without a trace? Neighbors are going back to normal things and I’m afraid they’re going to forget.

Sylvia is a nice person. She was, is, or was neighborly. That’s what I mean. Even I am getting caught saying things like, “She was neighborly.” I don’t know if she is a was, or still is. It’s tough. She’s gone, but maybe she’s just gone for a while. Who knows? She made, or is making her own mark on Maple Valley. She is a talented artist, or is at least someone others might call an artist. She painted signs for businesses. They’re very colorful and attractive. The problem to some people is that the signs are for businesses that don’t exist. She painted and placed them in spots around town where they would be seen. Why would someone do that?

An odd thing happened today. People gathered where the car was found under three tower bridge, and the Reverend Shermer from Maple Valley Church said a few words. He is the one in the photo nearest the bridge tower. He asked for a time of silence so people could think about Sylvia and ask for her safe return. Then folks met at Sylvia’s house and did the same thing. Not everyone goes to church in Maple Valley, and there were people at the two gatherings who don’t attend Maple Valley Church. I suppose that’s a good thing, unless they were just there to watch.

There is still talk around town about having a psychic come in to try to find Sylvia. How would the sheriff decide which psychic to use? Would he have psychic auditions? There are lots of psychics around like palm readers, but who knows whether they could really help? Would the town council have to pay the psychic? Does the person get paid even if they can’t find Sylvia and she doesn’t return? I don’t know what to think of that idea.

On the brighter side of Maple Valley, the Annual Founder’s Day Celebration is just a week away. This is an important event in Maple Valley and has been celebrated ever since the first settlers came to the valley. At least that’s what the oldest residents of Maple Valley say.

Like the Independence Day Celebration and the start of tourist season in Maple Valley, lots of exciting attractions will keep everyone busy for the entire day. The highlight of the day will be the mincemeat pie eating contest in the middle of town, followed by the annual west side vs east side badminton game. Everyone who lives on the west side of 2nd Street is Team West, everyone living on the east side is Team East.

Plenty of first-aid supplies will be on hand with those who have volunteered to treat everyone who is injured during the badminton game. Maple Valley folks are serious about this game because of the bragging rights it gives to the winners. Everyone who wants to play is on the team, and everyone is on the court at the same time. Last year there were twenty-seven players on Team West, thirty-two on Team East. Several injuries occurred, the most serious being a gash suffered by Homer Gawlmand when Minnie Surrifin hit him in the face with her racket. Other minor injuries like welts on the head from being whacked by a racket are to be expected when close to sixty people are playing badminton on one court, all trying to keep six birdies in the air at the same time. It’s a favorite in Maple Valley!

Tourist season is off to a great start. So far, there haven’t been any issues with the Old General. Six round trips per day is a lot to ask from a steam locomotive that was built in the 1800s, but the Old General’s performance has made everyone proud. I even sneak a ride in the engine as often as I can. One of these days I’m going to sit in the engineer’s chair and take the throttle. That will be an exciting day in Maple Valley.

Scandal at Maple Valley Episode 10

The last train out of Maple Valley left the center of town at 9:00 p.m. Many visitors stayed all day to help us celebrate the start of tourist season. We expect all of the trains to be full today and all available tickets tomorrow are gone. Two big celebrations within three days means a tremendous amount of work, but everyone in Maple Valley joins together to make each event the best it can be.

The Independence Day Celebration is ready to go. Mayor Thrashborn will deliver his annual “We Are Maple Valley” speech at noon. Last year a record crowd of forty-seven gathered near Brindel’s Hardware to hear the speech. Unlike the year before, no one was heard to comment the speech was too long.

Brindel’s Hardware has been a fixture in Maple Valley since the late 1800s. The front window is still the original glass. The paint has faded noticeably, but Garvin Brindel wants to leave it until it’s completely unreadable. His great-great grandfather, Herschel Brindel actually painted the lettering himself. It reads, “Brindel’s Hardware – For Things You Want and Might Need.”

Herschel Brindel had quite a reputation among the old-timers of Maple Valley. He was one of the founders and quickly established himself as leader. He also established himself as a scoundrel in business and with the ladies. There was talk he was carrying on with Gladenia Wickers, who was the wife of the first reverend of Maple Valley Church. The way church ladies dressed in those days in long black dresses that swept the floor, sleeves tight at the wrist, snug collars, it’s hard to imagine how anything happened, if it did. But that’s the point of imagination, it’s always better than the real thing. It’s the old-timers in Maple Valley that keep the old stories going. In fact, the stories have become a draw for tourists because the old guys will sit on the porches and talk to anyone who will stop long enough to listen. It’s been a long time since I sat on the porch with them, but I’m sure the stories have developed a life of their own while leaving the real truth in the dust long ago.

Another scoundrel I might as well mention now to get it out of the way, is Clem Yaminder. He too has family reaching back to the founding of Maple Valley, but his reputation as a scoundrel is more recent. It’s been fourteen years since Forner’s Drugstore burned to the ground. Clem Yaminder owns “Clem’s Stuff,” next to where the drugstore used to be. It was no secret that Clem Yaminder and Gorlyn Forner didn’t like each other. In the twenty years preceeding the fire, Clem and Gorlyn were involved in court proceedings against each other five times. Each time, the cases were dismissed by the visiting circuit judge. The last time an argument happened between Clem and Gorlyn, Clem was overheard saying, “I’m going to burn his place to the ground.” Seems pretty obvious. When the store burst into flames, everyone looked at Clem but nothing ever happened. Gorlyn Forner passed away two years later. Arleta Forner still lives here in Maple Valley. She stays away from Clem Yaminder and still believes he started the fire.

In spite of our scoundrels both past and present, Maple Valley is one of those places where you want to stay if you’re ever here. It’s the kind of town where you walk around and think, “I could live here.” As you visit the little stores you think about changes you could make so it would be possible for you to move to Maple Valley. “I could work in one of these stores, or maybe I could get hired on the maintenance crew for the General.” While you’re sipping coffee in the “Ya’ll Sit Cafe,” listening to the chatter of the townsfolk talking about their grocery lists, egg-plant-zucchini bread they made, plans to visit grandparents, you think about staying. It’s just that kind of place. The coffee tastes better, the treats taste sweeter, the lunches are more delicious than anywhere else and you think, “I could live here.”

The remarkable thing about tourist season is the number of people who come year after year. As seasons pass, grandparents bring grandchildren so they can experience the wonderful place that is Maple Valley. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to grow up and live here enjoy hearing the comments visitors make about how much fun it is to be here. Sometimes I wonder if there is something we’re missing. Are visitors feeling something we don’t feel anymore? Are they sensing something we’ve grown so accustomed to we’re now unaware of it? I hope not. I try to remind myself just how special Maple Valley is and how lucky we are to live here.

No one loves the Old General more than I do, but I have to admit there are times I hear it heading for town and I don’t go running outside to see it. I remember walking hand-in-hand with my parents to see the General time after time. They always said, “Don’t forget this, dear. The Old General is part of who we are here in Maple Valley. Don’t ever forget that.” I remind myself often but I still am too busy to remember like I know my parents wanted me to.

I’m afraid we’re starting to forget about Sylvia. I don’t hear people on the streets talking about her anymore. Her car isn’t under three tower bridge anymore, and now that the car is just large and small pieces on a garage floor, it’s hard to imagine it as an actual car. Let alone a car that belonged to someone who is now gone. Maybe not gone, but just missing. I hope she’s just missing and will be back soon.

Scandal at Maple Valley Episode 9

Quintin O’Dillmotte has been working very hard to bring our town to complete readiness in anticipation of the Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration. Erasing all potential reminders of the crape paper disaster of last year is more important to him than planning for this year. So far, talk about a repeat has been minimal.

Everyone is looking forward to the parade that begins at 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning. One of the main attractions every year is the Maple Valley Walking Band, directed by Mileta Kottser. She is the director because the idea of creating the band was hers. Maple Valley doesn’t have a school band, so Mileta thought she could start one. Mileta doesn’t actually play an instrument but everyone else does. The nine-member walking band is always looking for new members.

The Retired Equine Services Organization had to withdraw from the parade this year because two of the remaining three riders are ill. Of course, the Happy Harmonettes, the quartet of eighty-year-old women who have been trying to sing together since high school will be moved up in the procession because of the missing horses.

Probably the most anticipated feature in the parade this year is special guest, Derwood Finster, the master bird-caller. Quintin was able to acquire a trailer and a loud-speaker so everyone along the parade route will be able to hear Derwood Finster’s bird calls. The only challenge is the noise from the generator required to give power to the loud-speaker. It should be alright.

Bird calling is very popular in Maple Valley. Unfortunately, the Winged Callers Club lost its charter last year because of dues that were left unpaid to the Regional Association of Birdcall Clubs. The club met weekly at the old trader’s barn and after a brief business meeting, the members went out into the valley to call birds. Stan Munshim was the treasurer of the club, Emil Leverdom was the president. Both still enjoy calling birds, neither of them is very good at it.

The Independence Day Celebration landing on Sunday this year has required an additional level of responsibility for O’Dillmotte and his committee. The Reverend Shermer, pastor of Maple Valley Church, expects everyone to be in attendance at service before the parade. The service is usually at 11:15, but the Reverend is sure folks will not come to service after the parade, so he moved it to 8:15, just for this special day. Maple Valley Church is the only one in town so the ones who go to church go there. The Reverend expects Quintin to persuade everyone in Maple Valley to attend services before the parade.

The parade will begin at the end of Maple Street, move along to First Street, turn left and go to the end of the street and turn left again. Finally, turning left on Railroad Street the parade will continue until it reaches Maple Street again where it will end. Once the parade has moved past people sitting along the route, they will gather at the intersection of Maple and Railroad, to congratulate everyone and tell them what a fine job they did in the parade.

The end of the parade route is also where the community vendors gather to sell their homemade baked goods and handicrafts. Marge Quaffy’s prune-banana-blueberry-nut muffins with goat-milk cream frosting is a favorite to everyone. She spends two days before the parade making the muffins with her two granddaughters, Susan and Sandy.

This is an exciting time in Maple Valley. Today is the beginning of tourist season, which almost went unnoticed except for the crowds of people who came into town on The Old General this morning. All the stores were ready and waiting for happy visitors. Many people just walk along the streets of Maple Valley and don’t buy anything at all. They enjoy seeing the old buildings and walking on the wooden porches.

In spite of the scandal swirling in Maple Valley, Anabel Wizzleby was finally able to get enough choir members together to practice her original musical score. Anabel spent the entire off-season working on her song, “My Maple Valley, You’re Really Something.” Her greatest challenge was coming up with a word that even remotely rhymes with “something.” As it turns out, the crowd was so noisy after getting off the General, no one could hear the words of the song anyway. Anabel smiled proudly and the choir took a bow. Everyone knew the song was over and they clapped.

Sheriff Terkinberry has been absent from most of the proceedings so far. He is very busy with the detectives working diligently to find something, anything, on what is left of Sylvia Meisner’s car. They took the car to Fillton’s Service Station and put it in the garage. They are in the process of taking the car completely apart in the search for clues. So far, nothing.

The sheriff’s decision to move the car away from three tower bridge couldn’t have come too soon. People were beginning to stir up even more trouble, complaining that the sheriff was not doing his job. Mayor Alvin Thrashborn paid a visit to the sheriff’s office, which is Pete Terkinberry’s kitchen, to give him an update on the overall attitude in Maple Valley. The mayor wasn’t really trying to cause trouble for the sheriff, he was just letting him know that more trouble was brewing.

It’s good to see all of our neighbors out and about after a very long and cold winter. The flowers are beautiful, the trees are covered with leaves, the birds are singing, although not as a result of any bird callers in Maple Valley. Hopefully, there will soon be some good news in the search for Sylvia Meisner.

How to Write a Good Scandal

If you’re going to include a scandal in your story, to be convincing, certain characteristics should be included. Without them you may end up with scattered details and no scandal.

How can you include just enough detail without giving away too much?

How many pages should it take to discover and resolve a good scandal?

Is the scandal damage permanent or does the resolution absolve everyone?

Here are some helpful characteristics:

  1. Surprise. For a situation to be truly scandalous, it should be a surprise. Something upsetting has happened no one was expecting. The bigger the surprise, the better.
  2. Expectation of Continued Behavior. Nothing is a scandal that does not include people everyone knows. People on the fringes will jump in and involve themselves if the scandal is juicy enough. People have unwritten expectations of others, especially those in some kind of authority. If that expected behavior is suddenly interrupted by opposite or at least divergent behavior, it becomes scandalous. A good scandal will take on a life of its own and spontaneously regenerate. Each telling of the story includes details added, perhaps unwittingly, by the person sharing it.

3. Feigned Concern for Those Involved. “I shouldn’t be telling you this…” When you hear those words, you know you’re on the edge of a scandal. If you’re writing about a scandal, be sure to give everyone an opportunity to show how concerned they are by telling the story again.

4. Reputation. The subject of a scandal should have a reputation, if nothing more than being a good neighbor. If a person is a scoundrel anyway, they only have that reputation and it is their expected behavior. No scandal here.

5. Gossip Worthy Details. People who live in a way that is the opposite of behaviors supposedly taken by those involved in a scandal love to talk about them. “Did you hear…” Include those words in your characters’ conversations and you will contribute to the growth of the scandal.

6. Exaggeration. “You know, I once met John Scandalous, and he told me…” The character says he met the central figure in the scandal when the truth is he heard him speak at a conference and never actually met him in person. Obviously, you will include this detail in the description of your exaggerating character so that he takes on a scandalous nature of his own. He is now a liar.

7. The ‘Glad It’s Not Me’ Syndrome. “There but for the grace of God…” People love to be included without being touched by the scandal. “I’m so thankful I don’t…” “One time, I was thinking about…” Characters talk with each other about their own weaknesses just enough to touch the shadow of scandal without being swallowed.

8. Threatened Values. A real scandal touches innocent bystanders by shaking the foundation of their values. When a respected individual takes an unexpected and opposite behavior, other people suddenly feel they may be capable of the same things.

9. Threatened Status Quo. Every day, people wake up, go to work, clean house, rake leaves, feed the dog, stop at all stop signs, pay bills, talk to friends, go home, eat dinner, go to bed, sleep, wake up, go to work, clean house, rake leaves… until someone doesn’t. The status quo keeps everyone moving in the same direction with a sense of well-being until someone takes a different behavior. A scandal shakes the status quo.

10. Threatened Personal Perspective. A good scandal will cause your characters to question the way they view the world. Everyone interprets the world through the lens of their own experience. Behavior labels depend on perspective. A good scandal will fall outside reasonable perspectives.

11. Scandal Life. A scandal should only last as long as it contributes to the life of your story.

12. Resolution. A good scandal may or may not be completely resolved. The details may hang over the story to keep everyone guessing, especially your characters. If someone is murdered, that’s not a scandal, it’s homicide. There is no possible resolution to a murder other than the “who did it?” question being answered.

There you have it. If you’re working on writing a scandal to disrupt your characters’ lives, include these elements and you’ll have a memorable scandal that will keep your characters talking and your fans reading.

Scandal At Maple Valley Episode 6

Even though Maple Valley is a tourist destination for thousands of people each year, it is a real town where people live and it does not escape the characteristics of small town life. People know things about their neighbors they probably shouldn’t know. Things the neighbors would rather keep quiet. Some people make it their business to involve themselves in one way or another in everything. And since a lot of folks in Maple Valley are related, they often say things like, “I’m just looking out for the interests of my family,” which couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s often a distant family member who becomes the subject of suspicion among those who feign concern.

If it were possible to capture all of the troubling characteristics of small town life in one person, her name would be Lulane Hilvertosh. No problem, no concern, no circumstance, no question in Maple Valley escapes the probability of being made much larger, providing the capacity to pull in more innocent casualties than when Lulane Hilvertosh gets involved, which is almost always.

Lulane took it upon herself to call the State Police and WREK-TV’s award winning journalist Marty Kue (whose full name is Martin Kuezanskowitz) and asked them to meet her at three tower bridge to discuss the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner. She told the State Police she had official authority to discuss the case. Not true. The fine people at WREK know Hilvertosh very well as she considers herself a gifted reporter, a total lack of any journalistic education notwithstanding. The only reason anyone gives her any attention is her ability to cause trouble. It’s more an effort to control the damage than to gain any useable information.

It’s difficult to understand why the State Police don’t arrest her for filing a false police report, or contacting the police under false pretenses. She’s definitely not trying to help.

The photos showing the actual meeting between officers from the State Police and Marty Kue were secretly taken by Mayor Thrashborn’s secretary, Wanda Cablelance. She understands what a danger someone like Lulane Hilvertosh can be.

The State Police will have to meet with Mayor Thrashborn officially, even though it is a waste of time, because a report was officially made by Hilvertosh. If the officers don’t follow through and meet with the mayor, Lulane will find out about it and the end will be far worse than the beginning.

In the process of capturing the photos of the secret meeting, Miss Cablelance happened to catch Stevie Mickletan sitting on a bridge beam. Shortly after the photo was taken, the police officers made Stevie come down and told him not to climb the tower again. That was also a waste of time. Stevie Mickletan climbs the towers every week.

Official photos of Sylvia Meisner’s house were taken by Sheriff Terkinberry’s photographer, which is his wife, Kathy. They took pictures of the front, back, and side of the house. It wasn’t until they looked at the photos, as seen above, they realized how close Sylvia’s house is to the scene where the burned car was found. In fact, if one looks closely enough, you can see three tower bridge in the background just behind Verklin’s Antique Store.

An obvious question hangs over the investigation. How was a heavily damaged burned car placed under the bridge, just beyond an active railroad line without anyone seeing it? No one saw anything. At least no one is willing to say they saw anything. That alone troubles Sheriff Terkinberry even more than the fact Sylvia is still missing. If someone did see, or worse yet, was involved in placing the car under the bridge, that means someone in Maple Valley is involved in the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner. The sheriff almost cannot bear to think about it. He knows everyone in town very well. He considers most of them to be his friends.

As if the mayor and the sheriff needed something more to consider, Beulah Filden gathered her closest friends, all two of them, and started a petition to postpone the opening of tourist season. So far, they have nineteen signatures. Since there are only fifty-one official residents of Maple Valley, they are well on their way to a majority of those supporting the delay of the season. While it might be honorable to make such a gesture, practically, it’s not going to make any difference, other than blocking the necessary finances so needed by Maple Valley to survive. Once the signatures are presented to the mayor, a meeting of the town council will have to be called and a vote taken. We don’t need this!

It’s almost as if everyone in Maple Valley is holding their breath, waiting to see what happens next. There is still talk about having a psychic come in to help. Most folks think it’s a ridiculous idea.

The sheriff is still considering doing a door-to-door search. Since the thought of someone in Maple Valley being involved crowded his mind, he is thinking more seriously of opening every door, whether the residents agree or not.

Sheriff Terkinberry spoke briefly with Dr. Ham Gerlein, the medical examiner from Colmash County. Dr. Gerlein is responsible for several counties including Kertok. The sheriff gave him the details of Sylvia Meisner’s disappearance as they are known today. Since there is nothing to medically examine yet, and official meeting has not been called.

It’s hard to imagine things getting worse in Maple Valley. What we know for sure is that Sylvia Meisner is still missing. The fact that not a single person in town knows anything is becoming harder and harder for Sheriff Terkinberry to accept. While he is not really concerned about his position as sheriff, he is the kind of person who hates to stir something up if it’s not necessary. It is becoming more and more difficult to resist.

Scandal at Maple Valley Episode 5

It is a terrible shame the word “scandal” connects to Maple Valley in any way. The citizens of this small town, completely happy to continue in the ways we know, are now, through no fault of our own, tossed together into a chopper yearning to leave nothing recognizable in its wake.

The very name, Maple Valley, evokes thoughts of sweetness, calm, and rest. Indeed, until two weeks ago, anyone would have agreed with my assessment. Now everything is upside down. Everyone is walking an unfamiliar path. Distrust among life-long friends is beginning to dance around the edges of awareness. This kind of shadow does not belong in Maple Valley. Yet, here it is.

We’re looking over our shoulders. Security is seeping away. It’s amazing how quickly unanswered questions begin scratching at the fabric holding everything together. Sylvia Meisner has been missing sixteen days. Life will quickly return to normal when we know the facts. Maybe.

Be that as it may, today is Father’s Day. The lovely folks of Maple Valley have celebrated Father’s Day in the same manner for the last forty-seven years. Since Deaton Habley created the “Hands-On Father’s Day Project,” everyone knows what to expect year after year. Yesterday, all of Maple Valley gathered at the fire station to sign Father’s Day cards. To be sure no one is left out, each resident receives a card. Men, women, boys, girls, and fathers receive cards delivered personally by volunteers. It’s very important to citizens of Maple Valley that no one is left out of any kind of celebration. Even individual birthdays are a community project. It gets tiring, actually.

Mayor Alvin Thrashborn delivered his annual Father’s Day message to the community gathering at Verklin’s Antique Store. Verklin’s is the best place for the community to gather because Claudia Verklin has a new porch, built two years ago by Wayne and Verle Shones of Shone’s Construction. Mayor Thrashborn is quite a good public speaker. He has learned to use hand gestures since taking the “You Can Speak More Convincingly” class at Kertok County Public Library. The class is taught by Dr. Wilson Erkish, Professor Emeritus, Retired, of the Kertok County Community College, which closed due to lack of students nearly twenty years ago. The mayor has even been invited to speak to the Ladies Who Mean Well group that meets on the first Tuesday of every month.

At the conclusion of Mayor Thrashborn’s speech, the Happy Harmonettes sang, “Daddy Was a Scoundrel,” an original song written by Annimae Twisherman, who sings tenor in the group. She wrote the words and the music, which is quite an accomplishment of which all the residents of Maple Valley are quite proud.

When the ceremony at Verklin’s Antique Store was over, all the folks walked together to the basement of Maple Valley Church where we enjoyed a fine breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and kiwi. This year the breakfast was prepared by the “Golf Innovation League” which is open to men and women. The group meets every week at the Maple Valley Links. The members do not play golf, but share in discussions about how the game might be made more meaningful for those who do not participate.

The meal was enjoyed fully, then we all returned to our homes. We have a lot of work to do in preparation for the tourist season which starts next Friday. The Old General, the 1880 Vintage Steam Engine, will begin pulling fully restored passenger cars loaded with happy visitors to Maple Valley. The Old General was the locomotive derailed by the boys who piled rocks on the tracks. That was not a happy day in Maple Valley.

We are all hoping for the best for Sylvia Meisner. Sheriff Terkinberry is getting almost no rest, and that worries some of the folks who know him well. He is determined to begin his investigation again, from the beginning. He has decided to leave Sylvia’s car where it is until she is found. The thought of missing something that might lead to her return alive keeps him awake. He doesn’t know whether she’s alive or not. No one does. The sheriff is doing everything he possibly can to bring Sylvia home.

Scandal at Maple Valley Episode 4

O’Dillmotte Funeral Parlor “Where We Lay You Down Easy” is buzzing with activity. Quintin O’Dillmotte, the proud provider of burial services for the citizens of Maple Valley and all of Kertok County, has been on the phone for hours.

No, Sylvia Meisner’s body has not been found, dead or alive. Quintin O’Dillmotte is chair of the Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration Committee, which is just a few weeks away. This is O’Dillmotte’s second year as chair. He hopes to outshine the extravaganza, or disaster, depending on how you look at it, that took place last year. Quintin’s main project was to have every home and business in Maple Valley draped in red, white, and blue crape paper. The town was absolutely beautiful. WREK TV – “Your Source for the Latest”, came with their cameras and a reporter. When it started raining the results were displayed for everyone. It took weeks to remove all the soggy crape paper, and long boney purple fingers are still visible.

One might think after wreckage like that everyone would demand a change in the leadership for the Independence Day Celebration Committee. Not so. No one else wants to do it.

It’s not like O’Dillmotte’s has funerals lined up for weeks. The last services Quintin provided was four months ago. Palmer McCashtin, 98, passed peacefully, surrounded by Coozie, Twisto, Meeka, Bobo, Lealea, and Moe, three cats and three dogs, respectively. Townsfolk were helpful after the sad event. Each of the animals found a home in Maple Valley before old Palmer was laid down easy.

Tourists who visit Maple Valley often ask about O’Dillmotte’s Funeral Parlor. It’s not often one sees a funeral business decorated with bright colors and shrubs cut in the shape of dolphins and unicorns. Visitors are also curious about the slogan, “Where We Lay You Down Easy.” It’s not difficult to explain. Funeral services at O’Dillmotte’s cost $147.98, and in four easy installments, that’s just $36.99 each. You see, Quintin O’Dillmotte is also a carpenter. He makes the coffins himself, which are all identical. He also owns the cemetery, which is located just the other side of three tower bridge. The property has been in the O’Dillmotte family since the earliest settlers made a home in Maple Valley. In their time of grief, families do not have to ponder coffin styles, cemetery plots, sermons, music, or transportation. Each funeral is exactly the same as the last, all provided by Quintin O’Dillmotte. Somehow, the folks of Maple Valley are completely happy with the services he provides. Oddly enough.

The business of planning the Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration keeps Quintin completely occupied. Yesterday, he contacted Master Kafflen, head of the local Young Hopefuls Club, which is a preparatory platform for those who wish to be Young High-Minded Individuals one day. Sylvia Meisner was chosen as a delegate to the National Convention of High-Minded Individuals. Master Kafflen’s real name is Able, but since the leader of the Young Hopefuls Club is known as the Master, Able prefers to be called Master Kafflen. No one argues with him, it’s not worth the trouble.

Quintin hopes to have a parade and wants the Young Hopefuls Club to lead the procession. They will be followed by the Retired Equine Services Organization, which includes three horses and their owners, the Cake-Bakers Anonymous Support Group, the Happy Harmonettes, which is a quartet of women, all in their eighties, who have been trying to sing together since high school. They hope to one day be invited to perform outside Maple Valley. This year, O’Dillmotte is working with great effort to have a trailer with a public address system and plans to invite Derwood Finster, master bird-caller, perform in the parade as the Grand Master. Finster is well known for having appeared on the WREK TV Children’s Hour with Mr. Dimples.

The Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration is obviously in very capable hands, the previous year, notwithstanding.

Sheriff Pete Terkinberry is still recovering from his dealings with the Burthrap twins. Right now, he is sitting at his desk in his office, considering how he might have handled the situation differently. The Kertok County Sheriff’s Department is in Pete’s kitchen. He doesn’t mind having his office at home, it saves having to drive the county patrol car anywhere, saving money for the county which tends to be in short supply.

The sheriff is thinking it might have been advisable to stand outside the Burthrap’s house and let the twins fight it out. Then, if either of them were hurt, arrest the other for assault. But since Ver and Vee are known around Maple Valley for their arguments, the uproar over the sheriff arresting one of them would be worse than the damage either could possibly do to the other.

Sheriff Terkinberry is still listening to discussions about what might have happened to Sylvia Meisner. At this point, the most outrageous has been the suggestion to ask a psychic where Sylvia might be. Pete laughed at the idea initially, but is actually thinking it might provide something for folks to talk about, taking their attention off themselves.

The sheriff has not decided whether to move the car from under three tower bridge. He’s fearful of destroying evidence, even though he has searched the area many times. He’s feeling the urge to search it again.