Truth always finishes a poor second.

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HE WAS the golden boy.

Everyone said so.

His name was on the front page of the newspaper at least twice a week.

The photographers loved him.

He was handsome.

He was photogenic.

He had an All-American family – a stunning wife, who could have been a beauty pageant winner, and two kids.

He was the president of the bank.

He was an officer at the church.

Robert had it all.

No doubt about it.

He coached his son’s little league baseball team.

He hauled players to practice and to games when they had no other way to get there.

He bought uniforms when players couldn’t afford them.

He paid their entry fees.

He was a tail twister in the Lions Club.

He was treasurer of the Jaycees.

He was on hand to cut ribbons at the opening of every new chamber of commerce business in town, large or small.

Robert should run for mayor.

Everyone said so.

The newspaper published an editorial in its Sunday edition, and it backed Robert all the way, provided he announced his candidacy, and no one doubted that he would.

Robert was the obvious choice, a man who had done so much to support his community.

He made fine speeches, didn’t promise anything he couldn’t deliver,  and never read from his notes.

He held big rallies.

He shook a lot of hands.

And he kissed a lot of babies.

Why would anybody run against him?

Robert would carry every vote in town.

But then, the rumors started.

Maybe Robert wasn’t who he said he was.

He had skipped the war in Vietnam.

He had skipped the draft.

Worked in a convenience store instead.

Worked in Canada.

Robert had another wife.

He had been young.

She was young.

He left her when he left Canada.

He left her with a week-old child.

Why was Robert living in such a small town?

Maybe he had been run out of a large town.

His company company fired him.

Could have been a bank.

Didn’t know for sure.

But there was something mentioned about stolen funds.

Or maybe it was embezzlement.

Did it really matter?

It didn’t.

Robert swore it was all lies.

Maybe he was right.

But, Lord, none of it sounded like lies.

That’s what the whispers said.

And whispers followed wherever he went.

His name no longer appeared in newsprint.

The paper wouldn’t print rumors.

So it printed nothing at all.

His church asked him to resign from its board of deacons.

The Lions Club found someone else to twist tails.

The Jaycees locked the money box.

The banks suggested he take a leave of absence.

“When can I come back?” he asked.

No one answered.

Parents no longer let their children come to little league practice.

He no longer had a team.

His wife took the children and went to visit her mother.

“When are you coming back?” he asked.

She didn’t answer.

The whole town knew the rumors.

Every conversation at every beauty salon in town began with the words, “Did you hear about Robert?”

No one could prove anything.

No one tried.

But they all went to the poll on election day to vote.

Robert didn’t get any of their votes.

“What happened?” he asked the only man in town who would still speak to him.

“Politics,” the judge said.

“It was all a lie.”

“The truth always comes in a poor second.”

“I’m still the same man I was,” Robert said.

“Afraid not.”

“What’s the difference.”

“Now you’re a politician.”

“I quit.”

“Too late.”

Robert went home, packed his clothes, and drove out of town.

He stopped briefly for gasoline and was asked, “When you coming back?”

He didn’t answer.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    We’re never as good as we look when things are going well or as bad as we look when things start going bad. But nobody can outrun rumors and gossip.

  • Bert Carson

    I think Lee Iacocca read a draft of copy of this a long, long time ago and he got it.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      That’s what made Lee Iacocca smart. He got it long before I wrote it.

  • Don Newbury

    Nothing to argue here, Caleb. Lies come out in gusts while the truth is catching its breath….

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