Tongues Of Fire—George Davis
That’s the thing about this town. Everybody knows everybody’s business.
This small town, Bickford, Maine, has more gossipers per square mile than any other town in the country. Take, for example, Mildred Skillins the town crier. She is the major rumor conduit in our small settlement. Nothing gets by this woman. Nothing!
Jake Storm calls Mildred every morning to get the latest update on the town’s goings-on. Thus the gossip gets an early start. Mildred tells Jake. Jake tells Myrtle Givens, and from there, the rumors fly like leaves in a windstorm.
Fire Chief, Willard Googins is usually the brunt of most of Mildred’s calamitous tongue. You see. Willard has been going with Matt Brewer’s daughter for two years. They meet over in Cumberland Falls, across the Sagamore River Bridge at a small diner, The Step-In. That would be all right in and off itself if Willard wasn’t married and had four children under the age of twelve.
Willard said to his mistress, “You do know I love you, don’t you, Charlotte?”
“Yes, Willard, but if I can’t have you. I think we need to end this relationship.”Charlotte Brewer is the town’s librarian. She is a pretty lass with excitingly blue eyes, a small nose, and high cheekbones. She is single, and much sort after by many single beaus who drool over her awesome beauty.
“No, Charlotte. I would die if you ever left me.”
“If I am decent enough to continue this one-sided romance. I am decent enough to be your wife.”
“You know I can’t walk out on my wife, Charlotte. I have four kids who need me.”
"And you don’t need me? I’m just an ornament with you. I cannot go on like this, Willard. We are through.”
“No, please wait. I will ask my wife for a divorce. Just give me time, Charlotte.”
“Time, time? You’ve had two years to get rid of her and marry me.”
“Honey, I can’t just walk out on my family. I have obligations to them.”
“No more, Willard. This is it. Me or your wife. But, you can’t have both.” She got up and walked out of the diner; got in her car and drove off leaving the Chief to stew in his own juices.
Dexter Wyndham, Bickford Police Chief walked into Ned Blake’s barbershop for a trim.
“Morning, Chief,” Ned said. “You’re next. Sit down. What’ll it be today?”
“A trim, Ned. I’ve got a wedding to attend this weekend.”
“Oh yeah. Who’s getting hitched?”
“My niece in Portland. I’m giving her away. Her father, my brother, died two years ago from lung cancer.”
“That’s nice, Dexter. Really nice.” There wasn’t much more talk. Ned had exhausted his repertoire, and Dexter was a quiet man with little to say. He believed your ears were designed to listen, but your mouth was not intended to spewing hatred, discontent, or gossip. His granddad when asked where he worked always replied: ‘I work for See Little and Do More.’ An apt saying.
In this time with its social media sites on the Internet, it is much easier to gossip online than in person.
“Hey, Willard, nice to see you,” Ralph Toothaker said. “What can I get you?”
Toothaker owns and operates the Bickford Hardware. If there was one person in Bickford of whom it can be said, he never gossips, it would be, Ralph Toothaker. He will not smear anyone’s reputation. Toothaker is a truly Christian man.
“It’s time to clean up and plant my wife’s rock garden, Ralph. I’ll need four bags of topsoil, cedar chips, and two gallons of Miracle-Gro.”
“Coming up, Willard.” Toothaker went in the back and came out with four bags of loam on a two-wheeler. Where’s you car, Willard? “I’ll wheel these out for you.”
Saturdays in the spring and summer, Willard spends out of doors; weeding his vegetable garden, and building up his wife’s attractive rock garden.
Willard’s wife, Ethel is a good and kind person. She always has something nice to say about everybody. She loves her husband and children. Nevertheless, she tolerates her spouse’s infidelity.
Willard, thinking himself to be God’s gift to the opposite sex, pays more attention to Charlotte Brewer than he does his family. The whole town, thanks to Mildred Skillins information highway, knows of his infidelities.
Hetty Daniels, owner/manager of Hetty’s Beauty Salon said to Mildred Skillins. “Does he not have any conscience?”
“No, Willard Googins is a one-man love machine, or so he thinks. His wife is so dear to put up with his shenanigans,” Mildred said.
“Charlotte, honey,” Willard said, meeting his paramour at the Walmart store.
“What do you want, Willard? I told you, we are through, and I mean it.”
"But wait, let’s talk this over.”
“I’ve done all the talking I am going to do. It is over, Willard. Now leave me alone.”
“Don’t honey me.” With that, she turned and left the store; her head thrown back and fire in her eyes. Is this the end of that relationship? It appears; Charlotte is deadly serious. She is tired of waiting for her lover to leave his wife, something he has no intention of doing.
Has Bickford morphed into a modern-day Peyton Place? Let me ask another question: What is the answer to this small, corrupt town’s many sins? The answer is, Jesus
Pastor Howard Tripp of Bickford Community Church on Sunday last delivered a blistering sermon from his pulpit.
“Church,” he began, “is a place for healing, and we need to heal. Our town is turning into a place where the tongues of the people are spewing hatred, and gossip when we should be Jesus’ ambassadors spreading the Good News of the Gospel.
“Last week, a member of our church came to me with a problem. They said, they were guilty of malicious gossip and wanted me to pray for them. I spent an hour in prayer asking Jesus to free this person from the sin of malicious gossip.” He started pacing back and forth delivering an atomic-laden, fiery message asking his people to repent of the sin of gossiping, sowing discord among the Brethren.
“Boy,” Mildred Skillins said. “He let us have it today. I, for one, did not appreciate his finger-pointing when he lambasted us with his dreaded sermon. I told him on the way out Sunday. I was not happy with all this fire and brimstone preaching he has begun to display in his messages. He needs to preach love, not hatred.”
“Mildred,” Matt Brewer said, “He is only preaching the truth. What’d you want him to say, ‘everybody is going to Heaven, God will overlook your sin?’”
“No, but he didn’t have to pour it on so thick.”
“Some people,” he knew Mildred was one of those people, don’t get the message unless it is forcibly delivered to them.”
“Well, I hope you don’t mean me, Matt. I am not guilty of that inane stuff he preached this morning. And, I take offense by it.”
“Well, Mildred, all I can say is, if the shoe fits, wear it.” Matt left her with a slack jaw, and a baffling expression on her red, wrinkly face.
That’s the thing about this town. It is no different than any small town in America because people are people no matter where you go.
I wish I could say my town was not affected by this social disease, gossip. However, no town, city, or burg is free from the vicious, wagging tongue. The Bible says, "Even so, the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.”