At 5 pm, Leonard Crabbe flopped into his La-Z-Boy and pressed the remote.
“Tonight, we bring you a special edition of local news with Tellus All and Common Tary,” a disembodied voice announced over the strain of the familiar musical intro.
Leonard sat up and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees as the camera focused on the smiling faces of Tellus and Common.
“With us this evening – our old friend, the effusive man-with-a-plan, Wiley Sneaker,” said Tellus, making eye contact with the community of Teapot through a TV camera lens that captured the sincerity of his direct gaze.
“And the ever taciturn Ernie Straight,” Common followed up, gathering her notes into a pile and tapping them once on the glass topped news desk. The camera pulled away to pick up adversaries Wiley and Ernie.
“Hey Grace, get in here,” Leonard yelled toward the kitchen, “This should be good.” Leonard loved a controversy.
Common got the ball rolling. “Wiley, tell us about the proposal you are supporting to develop the west end of town.”
“It’s common knowledge that we need more jobs in Teapot,” Wiley winked at her and smiled broadly as the news team chuckled at his little joke. He then consumed twenty minutes of the broadcast talking about land use issues, redevelopment funds, economic policies, zoning regulations and eminent domain.
“Wow,” said Grace, who now stood beside Leonard. “That’s a lot of information, but I still can’t picture what they intend to do on the old Foster Ranch.”
“Listen,” Leonard shushed her.
Wiley took a breath and then looked into the camera. “Finally, I want to announce tonight that the backers of this project have pledged to give ten percent of their profits to world hunger projects.” Then he looked at Ernie, who sat straight in his chair and appeared to chew on this information.
“Well that’s nice,” Grace said, “but I still don’t understand what they are planning.”
“Yeah, well it’s very clear what Ernie is planning.” Leonard gestured for Grace to sit down.
Tellus spotted his opportunity to wrest the spotlight from Wiley and took it. “That is heartwarming. Let’s move to Ernie, who is speaking on behalf of the Shiloh Community Church. You want to do a church plant on that property, right?”
“Yes,” Ernie said.
Property that Robert Foster Sr. left to the church in his will, is that right?”
“But isn’t it also true that the church’s alleged right to the property is being contested in court?”
“He sounds more like an attorney than a newscaster,” Grace said, gently massaging her temples. Leonard waved his hand in her direction and scooted forward in his chair.
Tellus tapped his pencil on the table. Then he leveled his famous gaze at Ernie. “What do you have to say to the city council that is looking for economic growth, or to the good people of Teapot who might like to see profits generated from,” he shifted his position to look at the TV audience, “whatever it is they are planning,” then back to Ernie, “to feed the hungry?”
Ernie digested the comment. The broadcaster’s nightmare, dead air, blessed the viewers with a moment for contemplation before he spoke.
“How can we expect to be successful at feeding the world’s hungry if our own hearts are starving?”
The camera came in for a close up, but found no flaw. Leonard stared at Ernie and scratched his head.
“Yes, but,” Wiley said in a grab for more air, but Common overruled him.
“In what little time remains, I have one question. She turned to face Wiley. “It’s clear who Ernie answers to, but who do you answer to – the developers, the city council or your brother-in-law who has brought this lawsuit against the church?
“Yes, but allow me to deconstruct this a bit,” Wiley began as the camera panned to Tellus. “I’m sorry, we are out of time. That’s our broadcast, folks.”
Leonard snapped off the news and followed Grace into the kitchen to check on the pot roast. “Did you understand what that was all about?” he asked his wife.
“But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’: and anything beyond these is of evil.” Matthew:5:37 (NIV)
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