Excerpt from The Spirit of The Season

     
     When I walked into the smoke-filled auction barn the following evening, I looked around the room for a portly gentleman with less than a handful of hairs strategically combed across his head in a pitiful attempt to look like he wasn't only fourteen plucks short of being completely bald.
     I spotted him almost immediately. He was surrounded by a swarm of men who were vying for his attention, and I could hear his bellowing laugh clear across the room when someone tickled his funny bone. I watched him reach up and pat down his few remaining hairs, apparently to prevent his secret of being nearly bald from getting let out of the bag.
     I wasn't planning on bidding on anything, but I wanted to look like I had a reason to be there, so I signed up at the counter and was given a wooden placard with the number sixty painted on it.
     I then headed to the concession stand to purchase a large cup of coffee. After one sip of the strong brew, I decided the city hall's vending machine couldn't possibly produce coffee that tasted any worse than the cup I'd just paid three bucks for. But that, of course, didn't prevent me from planning to drain the cup and possibly return for a refill.
     If at all possible, I wanted to land a seat right next to the mayor. I walked over and with my back to the throng of people enveloping him, I pretended to be engrossed in a text message on my phone. I was on high alert, waiting for him to make a step toward the metal bleachers, which were like those you'd find in a junior high school gymnasium.
     When at last he headed in that direction, I dashed toward him, nearly knocking three people over in the process. In my haste, I spilt about a quarter cup of the crappy coffee on the back of an elderly man's overalls, but he seemed oblivious to it, so I didn't stop to apologize. However, I did rue the loss of about seventy-five cents worth of the awful tasting, but caffeine-infused, beverage. Maybe Wyatt was right. I had no boundaries when it came to drinking coffee.
     When I realized that I wasn't going to beat a tall, slim gentleman coming from the opposite direction, to the only empty seat next to Bradley Dunn, I pointed to the floor directly behind the lanky fellow, and hollered, "Look out!"
     When the man stopped abruptly, and turned around in alarm, I practically flung myself into the seat he'd been about to sit down on. The bewildered gentleman looked back toward me with a questioning expression, and I said, "Oh, I'm sorry. I thought I saw a big wad of gum on the floor and I didn't want you to accidentally step on it and get it all over your shoes. It must have just been one of those floaters I've been prone to ever since my botched retinal surgery."
     The man just shrugged, and looked at me like he'd just come in contact with an escapee from an insane asylum. He turned around and found himself a seat three rows back on the opposite side of the bleachers. I felt a little embarrassed, but I got over it quickly when I reminded myself I'd been successful in getting a seat right next to the mayor. In my somewhat crazed state of mind, it was akin to getting an audience with the Pope.
     I didn't want to seem too obvious or anxious to speak to Mr. Dunn, so I sat quietly while the auctioneer began speaking in that rapid-fire manner that always amazed me. When I heard a mosquito flying by my ear, I swatted at it and unintentionally bid fifteen bucks on an old accordion that looked like it had been shipped to America on the Mayflower. Luckily, another woman who looked nearly as old as the accordion outbid me.
     After several more items had been auctioned off, there was a pause in the action as the auctioneer's assistant went to retrieve the next item on his list.
     I took this opportunity to turn to the mayor, and ask, "Aren't you Mr. Dunn, the mayor of Rockdale?"
     "Yes, ma'am," he replied, without even turning to acknowledge me with even a quick glance in my direction. A flitting gnat would have received more attention than I did.
     "Did you happen to hear about the theft of some very expensive toys from the storeroom at City Hall, which had been donated to benefit underprivileged children?"
     "Yeah, I heard something about that," he replied, with a total lack of interest.
     "I'm the person who conceived the idea for the appeal to the public for toys and other helpful items for a struggling family in our community. Do you have any idea who could have done such an awful thing as to steal some of these donated items? I know you were in the building that evening, and I wondered if you happened to see anything unusual, or see anyone suspicious enter or leave the building, possibly with a large box of toys," I spoke earnestly.
     "No, sorry. I've been too busy with a lot more important things to dwell on then the loss of some silly toys. An issue like that, of such low caliber, would have been the last thing on my mind Sunday night. I really can't be bothered with such trivial matters when I have an entire town to look after."
     He turned away from me, as if to signal my allotted thirty seconds of his precious time were up. His nonchalant dismissal of the theft and me infuriated me. Who did he think he was? Maybe he thought he really was as important as the Pope, and his time was beyond valuable.
     This was Rockdale, where the streets were rolled up at seven, and the three stoplights in town began blinking red at that same time. How could this pompous ass show such little regard for the welfare of local citizens, and the happiness of helpless children? I knew Stone wanted to stay on the good side of all the people involved with the city government, but I couldn't suppress my anger with Mayor Bradley Dunn's callous attitude, and his condescending treatment of a family in his jurisdiction.
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