Two men stood in the shadows that night. Two men never found nor identified. The participants were too busy participating to take notice and only a few vaguely recalled the figures standing just out of sight.
The police had a fun time sorting things out. The whole town thought The Incident, as it came to be called, no more than a lark. In the end no one knew quiet who had started it or why it had gown to such a furry in so short amount of time. All that was known was that there was a meeting…
“Come to order! Come to ORDER!” Judge Ponsies commanded, smashing his wooden mallet viscously down onto the small table at the front of the room where he alone presided. His round face was puffed out as though a symbol of his believed power. A hush finally fell but snickers and faint whispers continued to ripple. These town meetings had always been something of a joke to everyone but Ponsies but they continued to happen for entertainment. And, to Ponsies chagrin things had gotten out of his control again. “That’s right.” He blustered taking advantage of the relative silence. “Now, we’ll get no where talking out o’ turn.” He folded his arms and glared across the large group of men as though daring them to speak up. “We have a problem. And no one’s denying it. A family out of house and home, yes. But what’s more, an eyesore! Aint nobody who comes into this town an miss it. And nobodies going to buy property in that area so long as it’s there. They have to be evicted and the house must come down.”
“Now Ponsies,” Came a voice from the crowd. “What are the Macs going to do? Their the poorest family in town. They’ve no where to go.”
“Let them find another eye sore in another town.” Called a harsher voice from the other side of the group.
“Aye! Let them take those bare footed brats down the river where they belong. We’re an upstanding town. The lazy have no place here.”
“Toddy you know they aint lazy. A widow and her aged mother can’t be expected to be anything but poor.”
“So what are we supposed to do? Feed them and house them ourselves? I have a family of my own!” With this the whole group exploded again, hands motioning voices rising. Ponsies smacked his wooden mallet down and stared silently as the crowd hushed once again.
That’s when things got funny.
He nodded suddenly as though agreeing and said “Do I have a second to that motion?” This time true silence fell. No one had proposed a motion. “Very well” he nodded again. “All in favor of making a trip to the place say ‘Aye’.” There was a momentary pause Then all at once a unanimous “Aye” rang out. It seemed like the thing to do though even Ponsies could never remember just who had suggested it.
They filed out of the building down the main road toward the river docks. Each one laughing at the lark and assured his point would be seen upon arrival.
The only light by the river side came from an aged Mansion. Once it had been the pride of the town but now even in the twilight it looked sad and tired. The men congregated outside the once white picket fence and fell silent. The single light came from the dinning room where a scene of some tenderness was being played out. The soft voice of the young widow called to her unruly boys while the older woman elegantly placed herself at the head of the table. She had been the Mayor’s wife and was the daughter of the founder who had built the town as well as the mansion. Her daughter, who carefully placed the small pot of soup on the table, looked tired and harried. Everyone knew she bore much. Once the bell of the town, delicate and proper, she was now the town seamstress and not a very successful one. She only received commissions of charity from former friends who knew her plight, for she had no talent with a needle.
Three wild and unruly boys burst into the room, the eldest about the age of ten. Their mother beamed as she watched them calm under their grandmother’s glare. Each one held a piece of the man she had loved and each one was her own special treasure. That is perhaps why she spoiled them, or perhaps because three boys were a lot to handle when your whole life was consumed with how to provide for them. They were after all very strapping and intelligent boys, like their father, but no one ever took time to notice their need of guidance.
This all became oddly clear to each of the men standing there that night. Some stared at their feet and kicked at the dirt like naughty boys who had been caught. Some allowed tears to run down their cheeks, unsure where the strength of emotion had come from but unwilling to check it.
“And why not?” Shouted Pete softly. He had been the widow’s husband’s best friend and now owner of the lumberyard. He had wanted the land to expand his operation despite his kindly feelings toward the widow herself. No one answered for they weren’t sure what he was referring to, though Sam would latter declare he heard someone suggest they rebuild the place. “Why not?!” he shouted again, this time announcing their presence to those inside. “I’ve got a shipment of lumber that’s just come in and goodness knows I didn’t order it. I’ve no need of it. I’m sure there’s enough to replace the fallen and the rotting boards on the house.” He paused looking around. “Sam, aint there a goodly amount of paint left over from the government buildings? We could make her look nice again.”
Sam nodded vigorously and quickly left the group. Another voice piped up. “I’ve got a bunch of nail left over from fixing my roof, and shingles for that matter!” Soon everyone was shouting something they had to contribute and dashing off to fetch it.
The women inside had gathered the boys into a back room and called the police. They knew there had been talk of evicting them but they had not expected a lynch mob.
By the time the police arrived men were returning carrying their offering. In the commotion many were smacked by carelessly swung wooden planks and hammers were dropped carelessly on darkness shrouded feet. Finding no leader and making no sense out of the madness of moving, shouting, excited men, the police had arrested them all.
They returned the next day to finish what they had started with many of the police officers joining them. For a month the mansion became the social gathering place. Women would meet inside to work on upholstery and linens, while the men hammered away at the outside. When it was done the whole town was so proud they declared it a historical sight and paid the widow to take care of it. The older Mrs. Mac married Judge Ponsies, as he found her quiet knowledgeable and useful in all things political. She latter helped him run for Governor and win. The young Mrs. Mac became to head of the social scene once more, for there was no prettier place to spend the afternoon or evening than the mansion you helped build yourself. And her true talent as a mediator and wise counselor made her well loved of all the women. Her sons were now given the proper attention for she had time to make sure they went to school. All three became leaders of the town and under their guidance the town became known for its generosity and charity work.
But that night no one could have known these things. And that night as a lone raft floated away down river carrying a younger gentleman and an older politician, no one could have guessed what a profound difference love could engender.