Lily Lemonfeld primped as the rays of the sun danced through her hair, addressing her best friend, Karla Khakie.
“I feel sorry for Ruth. How could he?”
"Maybe there’s some other explanation?”
“Really, Karla—you can be so naïve! I tell you, Robert was HUGGING a woman young enough to be his daughter. And it wasn’t his sister, either, because I heard she had red hair, not blonde,” Lily’s voice carrying through the heavy breeze all the way down Locust Lane where Frank Fawn and Opal Oliver were sun-basking beside their pool.
“Fawn, did you hear that? Robert Redman is having a sordid affair! They were flaunting themselves all over town!”
“Well, what can Ruth expect, the way she’s let herself go? She could do with an extreme makeover if you ask me. Last week I saw her at the grocery store and she looked so pale it was painful to hold a conversation with her.”
And their statements became a whisper in the wind.
Meanwhile, up in Squirrel Hollow, community members were busy preparing for the annual Autumn Political Forum. Primaries were conducting their usual polls to analyze who might be the first to fall, and how far.
“I’m casting my vote for Sandra Salmon. She’s just been hanging onto her lead by a thread.”
“Not me! Didn’t you hear about Ben Browning? It’s rumored that his son is in deep gambling debt, which, by the way, Ben confirms every time it’s mentioned by his demeanor. I predict he’ll lose control before the others.”
Gabriella Green shook her head wisely.
“You can never be sure about such things. The sun shines on all of us, good and bad, and rains on all, as well. Do you have any real proof of these allegations?”
“Hey! I’ll have you know my co-worker, Trina Topaz, gets information from her uncle’s campaign manager.”
“Yeah, and my mother’s hairdresser, Beth Blonder, hears plenty from patrons. Just yesterday she was working on Connie Copper’s color job and the woman divulged the REAL story behind candidate Auburn’s recent Cayman Island junket. He’s an alcoholic, you know—carries a flask everywhere. She even saw a video clip of him taking a swig from it.”
“Oh, and remember Larry Limer’s suicide during the last election? He fell the farthest because he was clinging for dear life onto the coattails of incumbent Graham Golden, who, as you may recall, was at the very top of voter popularity.”
And each of their statements became a whisper in the wind.
Not long after, Raymond Russet, CEO of one of America’s largest franchises, was wilting under the blaze of public scrutiny of his supposed financial pandering. His hands shook every time a news reporter offered a microphone to refute the rumors. He looked higher up to his mentor, Governor Ruby, for advice.
“Son, don’t let them rattle you. Everyone, and I mean, EVERYONE, has a skeleton or two in their closet. Heck, we ALL have something to hide—including the fickle voters who put us into office in the first place! Just hang on tight and ride out the storm.”
And there WAS a storm. And, as storms often do, this one ripped and wrestled these fellow neighbors, friends and enemies alike, to the very ground.
Side by side, Timothy Tanner and Stan Scarlett lay, flocked by Mavis Maple, Tawny Tammy and Emma Emerald scattering to and fro with each blast of Fall’s breath. Several inches further, Carl Curly and Marty Marooni, stuck in the mud of their own slinging, made only feeble efforts to break free.
Until their entire city was stripped bare of all pretense and pride, all innuendos and hearsay, until every one of them were brought low and together on the ground, finally on an equal playing field. Now they all looked up, for there was no more down, to see the tree and branches that had once supported their tenuous positions. The tall, majestic tree stood above them, its barren branches allowing the gray northern sky to peek through just enough to glimpse the sun playing hide and seek with a floating cloud.
And, finally humble, each one realized the Source of their mortality, higher than the highest heaven, above sky and space and time, harvesting and willowing. They saw truth revealed and they were ashamed. The destroyed careers and blanket of untruths smothered them with the first winter snow.
And each of their deaths became a whisper in the wind.
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