- Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Change the name of Jingle Bells? I sink to the stool at my workbench and stare blindly at the words.
Please let this be an elaborate practical joke.
Another examination of the envelope reveals the mayor’s official seal beside his name. No one would dare to forge that.
I spin the stool around, the letter clutched against my paint smock.
My best friend, Ami Manchester, stands in the doorway of my workshop, holding two steaming coffees. “Girl, you look terrible.”
“Thanks,” I mutter.
She hurries over to me. “Bad news?”
“The mail came while you were gone.” I trade her the letter for one of the coffees, grateful to inhale the calming aroma.
She reads the paper, then looks up at me, her hazel eyes puzzled but reflecting none of the panic currently twisting through me. “Change the name of the town? Has Uncle Gus lost his mind? Why would he even consider such a thing?”
Mayor Augustus Harding isn’t blood kin to either of us, but like most Jingle Bells natives, he might as well be. I sigh. Just like with real relatives, I know his weak spot. “Easy enough. He owns that empty building. He probably had a hard time typing this letter for the dollar signs in his eyes.” Can’t fight city hall. The old phrase flits through my mind and hits me like a punch.
“Well, he’ll have to sell the building without changing the town name. People won’t go along with a crazy plan like this.” Ami calmly spoons sugar into her coffee, then holds another spoonful over my cup until I nod for her to dump it in.
“Not if I have anything to say about it.” I pick up my phone, run my finger down the ragged list Scotch-taped to the wall, and punch in the number for city hall.
While it rings, Ami retrieves the half-and-half from my tiny fridge and pours creamer in our drinks, then stirs them. I’m amazed by how unrattled she is. I’m a Jingle Bells resident by way of inheritance and love. But she was born here. Where’s her outrage?
She passes me my doctored coffee. “There’s no way people will go for this.”
I appreciate her confidence, but as the daughter of two hardball lawyers, I’m also a realist. Money talks. Jingle Bells has been hard hit by losing the Benning Distribution Center. Our unemployment rate is atrocious. People are vulnerable.
“Open Monday through Friday,” I growl the message aloud and push the Off button. “Why did I think he’d be there on a Saturday?”
I give the list on the wall another quick scan. Next to the city hall number, I find the words Augustus Mobile with a local cell number scribbled beside them in Gran’s handwriting. With any luck, he still has the same number. Things change slowly around here.
I glance at the hateful letter lying on top of some half-finished Christmas ornaments. The call goes to voice mail, and I slam the phone down. “Let’s go.”
“To deal with Uncle Gus.”
“You going to make him an offer he can’t refuse?” Ami says in her best raspy mobster voice.
“Hey, if the concrete shoe fits ... ” I reach for my coat. “Seriously, come on.”
“Kristianna, wait.” Her voice is soft, but I spin around. “You know this whole name-change thing isn’t going to come to anything. Why don’t you just wait until Monday? We’ve got some wedding favors to finish.”
“I’ll get the favors done. But we have to take care of this.” Tears prick my eyelids, but if I’ve learned one thing from my parents, it’s that crying is a weakness. I blink hard. “Now.”
She shakes her head. “This is Jingle Bells. It’s always been Jingle Bells. It’s always going to be Jingle Bells.”
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