The Light of Truth
Chapter One: Sissy Shoemaker and the Specter of Doom
I’d like to say it’s been a quiet week in Lake Ayllbedamned, but, possible copyright infringement issues aside, I won’t because, truth be told, it wasn’t such a quiet week. It never is, though the turmoil and crisis that perpetually simmers is usually hidden behind infamous “closed doors” lest the good citizens of Lake Ayllbedamned, Ga. have to admit to themselves exactly what their reality actually consists of, and what those who run it are actually doing.
“It’s got to be stopped before it goes any further and gets out of hand!”
The voice was a little shrill, but resolute, the instrument of a woman used to getting her way in most things. And so she was because the voice belonged to Sissy Shoemaker, President of the Lake Ayllbedamned Chamber of Commerce, a position of real power in that small North Georgia community.
Now, it helps to picture Sissy to receive the proper effect. She looks a little like an aging Mia Farrow, pixie-cut brunette hair streaked with silver, large green eyes betraying, perhaps, a touch of psychosis – like Rosemary must’ve gotten in later years after the fact she’d borne the Devil’s baby had fully sunk in. Probably that was around the time little Adrian hit the age of two.
You get the point – Sissy Shoemaker was just a little unnerving to look at head-on with her long, bony frame, wild eyes, and short, streaked hair. When she speaks, every sentence is habitually punctuated by a sharp finger violently stabbed into the air, scarlet polish glistening, multiple gold bracelets (QVC) and neck ornamentation (courtesy three ex-husbands) rattling like the Tin Man falling down the Grand Canyon.
She was addressing the Lake Ayllbedamned combo Tourist Bureau/Chamber of Commerce/Business Organization – closed door session, of course. And this was proper as Sissy, head of Doze ‘Em Real Estate, “Flattening the Hills For the Future,” had also called the meeting.
“Let me get this straight,” said George Blander. “This guy doing research on Lake Ayllbedamned is about to uncover something really bad?”
Blander was owner of Blander Hardware, Blander Concrete, and Blander Enterprises which owned and operated 6 of the 72 gas station mini-marts in Pointless County and 12 of the 106 fast food joints, including Wenchies Hot & Greasy, LaDumass Biscuits & Burgers, and Boney’s Meatless Rib Bone Shack.
He was also a Deacon at the Ayllbedamned Best Baptist Church, not to be confused with the Better than Best Baptist Church, the Imminent Damnation of All Humanity Baptist Church, the Bible-Believing, King James Version, Direct Hotline to the Almighty Baptist Church, or the We Won’t Talk To You Because You Don’t Come To Our Baptist Church. And none of these are to be confused with the 26 other Baptist churches in the county, nor with the 58 tiny “Holiness” or “Pentecostal” churches, the two Methodist churches, the Presbyterian Church of Lake Ayllbedamned, Our Lady of the Knuckle Smacker Roman Catholic Church, St. Swithins Episcopal, and the Unitarians who secretly meet in an abandoned bomb shelter for fear of persecution.
(There’s rumored to be some Jewish people and maybe some pagans, even an atheist, but if they are in the county, they stay quiet about it.)
George Blander was also treasurer of the combo business organization; he’d been embezzling from the account for years, but no one seemed to mind as the officers always lied to the membership about the books.
“You catch on quick, George” said Sissy. She was exhibiting the same classy sarcasm that had cost her three marriages.
“Well, what exactly is the trouble?” asked Stephanie Chigger. She was vice-president, and she owned all the hotels in the county, all 90 of them. Not bad for a rural county with a total population of less than 10,000.
“The trouble is: This historian from UGA is nosing around because he thinks there’s a manuscript that contains something about the lake, some information that’s lost.”
“Well, what’s so bad about that?” asked Denny Crowbar. He was secretary, and also owner of Progress Valley, a walled, gated, secure subdivision for wealthy retirees who no longer had to pay taxes in the state of Georgia because wealthy legislators, themselves near retirement, made that a law.
Denny was also a Yankee import, so knew nothing of the history of the area, nor did he care to know much about it unless it looked good on a brochure for his land development company.
Everyone looked at Denny.
“What?” he said.
“There’s a lot about this place . . . Let’s just say, if all the truth ever got out, it might drive the land prices down,” whispered Sissy.
“And destroy tourism,” said Stephanie.
“Nobody’d want to build anything or eat here again,” said George.
Denny looked back at them suspiciously. “Like, what do you mean?”
“Never mind that right now.” Sissy began to pace the room. “We’ve got to make certain this idiot doesn’t get his hands on that manuscript.”
Stephanie frowned. “There is a manuscript? We’ve only heard the stories by word of mouth.”
Sissy nodded slowly.
“When I was a kid, my mother made me volunteer at the library. Old Mrs. Huckabee, that bag, used to save every damn scrap of paper that passed through the place. Well, one day, somebody brought by this manuscript – a stack of papers held together by a string. It belonged to crotchety Dr. Twainson, who’d settled here after retiring from UGA.
“Twainson evidently pieced together the origins of the town and the lake – he was an historian or something – and wrote it all down. When he died, the people who cleaned out his house found it and that’s how the damn thing wound up at the library. Mrs. Huckabee left it lying around and I got bored and read it. But then she locked it in the library vault with the rest of her paper collection, and after she died, I guess it was forgotten.
“I never forgot what I read, though, but I really never gave it a second thought the thing was up there in that mess of a vault until Mister Researcher blew into town yesterday. I realized then, this could ruin everything, spell the end of progress, destroy our businesses . . ..”
Denny stood and lit a cigarette.
“Well, does Ms. Carmichael know it’s there?”
“I don’t think anyone knows exactly what’s in that vault – after Mrs. Huckabee died last year, they’ve been trying to sort things out, from what I understand. But Ms. Carmichael isn’t from around here and doesn’t have a clue about what is and isn’t in that mess. She’s a proper librarian and is just confused by old Mrs. Huckabee’s ‘system’ of filing and storage.”
“My God,” said George, eyes rolled toward Heaven. “What are we to do?”
Stephanie glowered at him.
“Well, that praying nonsense sure isn’t going to fix this.”
The room went quiet for a moment – and then George looked around, back from being transported to the spirit realm.
“Stephanie, you’re wrong. I think ‘that praying nonsense’ is about to save our hides!”
Richard Van Ingram
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