Only the devil can make a little town.
October 16, 2015
MY NOVEL DEADLINE NEWS is all about the greed, the jealousies, the rumors, the gossip, and the backstabbing that takes place in small town America. There’s even a murder or two.
It could be set in any small town.
All small towns are alike.
I’ve lived in them.
I love them.
I was once sitting in a back corner of Hay’s Café, drinking an early morning cup of coffee, and one wizened old man sat back, blotted the coffee from his mustache with a handkerchief, pulled his gimme cap down over his eyes, and said: “God made all of mankind.”
The rest of us nodded.
“God made this beautiful land we’re living on,” he said, “and God made the animals running loose in the woods and the birds sitting in the trees.”
Nobody could argue with anything he was talking about.
“God did real good,” he said.
“But there’s one thing God was never able to do.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Only the devil can make a little town,” he said.
“Amen,” the sheriff said.
And he knew best.
During my growing up years, all I ever wanted to do was work on a small town newspaper. It was, I thought, the most glamorous job in the world.
Of course, I came from Pitner’s Junction.
Glamour had never been in style in Pitner’s Junction.
So I went to college. I studied journalism.
The smart kids in my class were majoring in advertising and public relations.
But, no, I had my eyes set on a small town newspaper.
Reporters investigated all sorts of things, I thought.
Reporters wrote stories every day.
Reporters had front-page bylines.
Reporters knew every secret in town: who did what to whom, how many times, and why.
I wanted to be the keeper of the secrets.
So I accepted my first newspaper job at a small town daily.
I did it all.
I covered the police beat, which mostly dealt with drunks, domestic disturbances, and traffic tickets, none of which ever made the newspaper.
I covered every civic club in town and mingled weekly with Lions and Optimists and Rotarians and Jaycees.
I wrote obituaries delivered by grieving widows on their way to the attorney’s office for their first glimpse at the will.
I would have covered a murder or two.
Sometimes the money went to the wrong woman.
Sometimes it went to the wrong widow.
Thank God the man was already dead. It saved him from a lot of grief, a load of pain, and probably a day in court.
I handled the interviews.
I wrote the stories.
I wrote the headlines.
I designed the pages.
I delivered the afternoon edition to the advertisers.
Everybody was glad to see me coming.
I did what I loved.
I was doing everything I loved.
And they paid me forty dollars a week.
I thought I was rich.
My wife told me we were poor.
“But I’m important,” I said.
“You’re poor,” she said.
She was afraid I had missed it the first time.
“But I know every secret in town,” I said.
I knew it was going to be a long, cold night.
“So does everybody else in town,” she said.