Our Mayor lives in the fine Victorian, a “painted lady” on the corner of Jefferson and Vine across the street from the scummy playground. He’s raised his three strong sons there and instilled in them the belief that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to. All it takes is willpower and a sense of purpose.
He watches from his perch on the third floor the comings and goings in the playground and counts the empty vials, Baggies, the forgotten beer souring in cans stacked neatly against the wall. Just last week a labradoodle was found chained to the bike rack outside Shop Rite. The owner, a well-known comedian who curses freely on stage, had sold his home and left without taking his dog with him. What kind of man does that? What kind of mother yields to distraction so that her children end up spending countless hours unattended? The abandoned dog, the lost children, the theft of iPhones that he reads about in the police blotter proves to him that Satan has pitched a tent in the town square. His town square.
The Mayor, constrained by the guidelines of democracy, enlists the help of his buddy Sherman who holds three Masonic degrees and is the Grand Poobah of the local chapter. Standing in front of a Virgin Mary statue on New Year’s Eve, the Mayor strikes the ground in front of Our Lady’s feet with a sharp compost aerator, declaring above the blare of horns and shouts of Happy New Year that Satan is hereby banished from the town.
Sherman uses a dull pitchfork. The tongs bend and fail to pierce the frozen ground. But Sherman yells with an undeniable gusto, filling the Mayor’s heart with certainty that in the coming year his town will flourish. He pictures the darkest corner on the bleakest street lit with God’s love. Knowing full well that if the public could sound the depth of love he feels for this town, they’d drum him out of office so fast he’d swear Sunday was Tuesday, the Mayor insists that Sherman take an oath of secrecy.