Bring on the Blessings
Trenton July, the mayor of Henry Adams, Kansas, called the emergency town meeting to order with a bang of his gavel. "All right. Let's get this started. Who wants to go first?"
Riley Curry, the former mayor, rose to his feet. He was wearing his favorite pinstriped suit with its ever-present fake red carnation pinned to the shiny worn lapel. As always, he looked around for a moment to make sure all eyes were on him before speaking. "I'll start by demanding we rescind the offer."
Murmurs of agreement rose from some of the thirty or so folks seated on the worn wooden folding chairs in the church's small sanctuary, but Trent saw disapproval on the faces of those who disagreed. "Offer's already been accepted, Riley. We signed the papers two weeks ago. Next person."
"I'm not done."
Trent sighed. "Go ahead."
Riley cleared his throat, nodded at his wife, Genevieve, who was smiling up at him as if he were the Second Coming, then declared, "The idea that you held this vote behind my back speaks to the underhandedness of the whole affair. I say we vote again."
Some people clapped loudly.
"We're not having another vote," Trent replied evenly. "And nothing was done behind your back. You knew what day we were holding the vote, just like everybody else."
"But I had to leave town. Which wouldn't have been necessary if we had a competent vet instead of that drunken..."
"Watch it," Trent warned coolly.
Riley puffed up and whined, "Okay, but if we'd had a real vet, I wouldn't've had to drive Cletus fifty miles downstate to get him treated."
Cletus was Riley's hog. Every three orfour months, Cletus had to see a vet. It's a necessity when you feed a hog stuff like Doritos, Twinkies, and ice cream and cake because it doubles as the child you and your wife could never have.
Trent told him, "Sorry about Cletus, but there was no reason to change the date. Your one vote wouldn't have made a difference anyway. Proposal passed thirty-five to seventeen." There were only fifty-two registered voters on the town's rolls, and for once everybody turned out to have a say.
But Riley wasn't having any. "My constituents demand a revote. Who knows what this person's real agenda is? And a white woman too? Suppose she's just a front for people who want to build a casino or God forbid a strip club?"
More murmurs of agreement were heard.
Trent's jaw tightened.
"What do we know about her? Suppose she's one of those Aryan Nation folks wanting to turn Henry Adams into a terrorist training camp?"
Trent opened his mouth to argue but knew it wouldn't matter so he closed it.
Riley, on a roll, slowly took in the faces of those supporting him and those who didn't and asked, "Is the buyer even American?"
"Ms. Brown lives in Florida," Trent drawled. "Last I heard it was still part of the U.S."
"My constituents and I..."
Marie Jefferson snarled, "You don't have any constituents, Riley. That's why you're the former mayor."
"Ouch!" someone cringed loudly.
Snickers greeted that.
Marie, the town's retired school teacher stood up and glared at Riley from behind her signature cat's-eye glasses. "This is ridiculous. Henry Adams needs help now! Not tomorrow, not a year from now, but now, and Trent's found a way to make that happen." She looked around the sanctuary. "No, we don't know who this Ms. B. E. Brown person is, and we don't know what she plans to do, but she's agreed to keep the town intact and keep the Henry Adams name."
"What if it's a mistake?" Riley's wife, Genevieve, threw back.
"What if it's not?" Marie countered. "We don't know how this will play out. Before it's over we may regret selling, but the only idea Riley had was for us to be annexed by the city of Franklin. Annexed! The ancestors didn't build this town out of blood and sweat for it to be annexed and assimilated and forgotten."
Applause filled the church.
She added, "If this buyer, whoever she is, can come in here and save this place, I'm all for it. And all y'all who voted against the sale...get over yourselves." She sat.
More applause. Trent wanted to kiss her.
But Riley was still on his feet. "I will take this to the highest court in the land. Selling a town on cyberspace can't be legal anyway, no matter what Trent says!"
His side erupted in agreement. The other side yelled for Riley to sit his you know what down. Tempers flared. Verbal shots began to fly. Folks stormed to their feet in defense of themselves and their positions, and before Trent could tell everybody to sit down, all perdition broke loose.
"Order!" Trent yelled over the chaos. He banged the gavel against the table with so much force its head went flying across the room. "Order, dammit!"
But the shouting combatants, people who'd been friends and neighbors all their lives, weren't feeling him.
In the middle of the melee, Agnes Jefferson, who was Marie's mother, a Riley supporter, and a descendant of the town's first Black sheriff shook her cane in the face of her best friend, Tamar July. "You traitor! You voted to sell our town!"
Tamar, Trent's grandmother, snapped back. "Yes I did because I'm not stuck in the past, Agnes. And if you don't get that damn cane out of my face, it's going to be me and you!"
"You touch me and I'll take you down like Hulk Hogan!"
They were a nose a part.
Trent watched wearily. With his gavel dead and no one paying him a bit of attention, he threw up his hands and walked out.
The cool night air was a blessed relief to the heat and anger swirling around inside. Sighing, he pulled out his cigarettes. After lighting one, he drew the smoke deep down into his lungs and slowly exhaled.Bring on the Blessings
. Copyright © by Beverly Jenkins. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.