Choice words

botanical-gardenQuentin reached over to press the intercom button on his phone, “Kelly, can you bring me the items left to resolve this week, please and thank you.” Within thirty seconds, the mayor’s secretary appeared in the small government office. “Here you go,” replied Kelly as she handed over a stack of manila folders each about a half inch thick. “The most important ones are on the top. And don’t forget you have the press conference at three o’clock today.”

Quentin couldn’t possibly forget the press conference. That’s what he enjoyed most about serving as mayor of this small southern town. He relished the opportunity to be in the spotlight, to provide leadership for the citizens of his community. And he was mighty good at it too. The majority of folks living in town not only approved of his representation, most also considered him a friend.

The press conference was scheduled in order to share plans for construction of a new town park complete with a paved biking trail and five acre botanical garden. Quentin was excited for an opportunity to share this symbol of progress during his term.

Rustling through the items that required his stamp of approval, Quentin flipped open each folder in succession – increased fines for traffic violations, a new bingo night request for senior citizens at the community center, as well as a few financial and legal documents pertaining to improvements on the town streets. He had become numb to these common requests that always seemed to end up on his desk. He never liked the paperwork aspect of his job. He much rather preferred the face to face interaction with people.

Glancing down at his watch, Quentin realized there were ten minutes remaining before he needed to be outside – time to glance at one more item. As he opened the jacket of the folder, he expected to see some other mundane legislation request, perhaps a further restriction on the leash length for pets being walked in public.

What he found inside that folder left him numb once again, not due to a lack of interest, but rather from shock. Staring back at him was a request in the form of a signed petition to ban a book from the shelves of the public library. The book’s title was innocent enough, American Dream, but the synopsis of the book indicated otherwise. The main plot line of this fictional novel told the story of a young couple seeking the adoption of a baby girl. The caveat to this otherwise normal plot line was that the adopting couple was not what everyone considered to be traditional. The two partners comprising the adopting couple were both men.

Quentin could feel his pulse begin to involuntarily accelerate as he perused the long list of signed names scrawled on the petition. These were people he knew – or thought he knew at least. Needless to say, it was now obvious that these people did not share the same stance on some of the more controversial issues facing society. It wasn’t that Quentin either approved or disapproved of the story told within the covers of the book. He simply felt that everyone deserved a choice. Equal opportunity was more than a catch phrase to Quentin. He believed it. He lived it. And he felt as though he needed to fight for it.

As he tightened the knot on his tie and gathered the notes for his speech to the crowd gathering outside, Quentin’s attention was not where it was supposed to be. The contents of that last folder had jaded the congenial attitude he had been carrying with him all day. As he passed by Kelly’s desk, she had noticed the mix of anger, frustration, and confusion in his gait. “Everything OK?”

“Yes … well, no.” And then, recognizing that he didn’t have the time to get into a drawn out conversation, Quentin continued on, “I just spilled coffee on my notes, no big deal, I can still make out the major points.”

Slipping out the front door, Quentin approached the podium outside town hall, greeted by a few dozen members of the community. By the time the top of the hour had arrived, the numbers of attendees had risen to well over one hundred along with several reporters seeking content for their column in the next edition of the local newspaper.

town-hall-meeting“Good afternoon,” feigned Quentin into the microphone. Everyone could tell that he was not his usual exuberant self. The details of the new park that were planned to be filled with hope and excitement came off sounding flat and uninspired. The final planned sentence rolled off Quentin’s tongue in a rote manner, “This new addition to our community will give us an opportunity to share and grow together over the coming months and years, for our generation and those that follow.”

Quentin knew he should have let things sit right there. He needed time to collect his thoughts. He needed an opportunity to subdue his raging emotions before broaching the concern in the forefront of his mind. What we think we should do is not always what ends up happening. Our emotions can be extremely persuasive, and Quentin succumbed to their wishes in the heat of the moment.

“And speaking of community and growth,” continued Quentin with a bit more conviction. “I feel it is important to mention our duty as citizens to respect the choices of others. So long as they are living within the bounds of the law, every individual should have the freedom to choose, among other things, the books they would like to read.”

true-measure-of-a-manSeveral heads that had been lulled into a state of complacency by the mayor’s flat speech were suddenly at attention once again. One by one, the look on their faces were transformed to convey disbelief. Although not explicitly stated, the crowd in attendance knew exactly what Quentin’s choice of words meant to convey. And the murmur that began to grow among the crowd let Quentin know that he had now indeed reached the end of this press conference. Retreating into the safety of his office, the press members in attendance were circling like vultures, just biding their time before they had the opportunity to spring on their prey.

Author’s Note: This is the first part of a three part short story. The second installment will be published next week. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment – best wishes for an inspired day!

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15 thoughts on “Choice words

  1. Hariod Brawn January 22, 2015 / 11:25 am

    I look forward to reading the next two parts Dave; this could pan out interestingly – a politician who speaks his mind and conscience, that is a rarity!

    • davecenker January 22, 2015 / 11:49 am

      Thank you Hariod, I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. Our choice of words – either spoken or unspoken – certainly have an effect on what transpires in our daily lives 😉

  2. heraldmarty January 22, 2015 / 1:40 pm

    oh Dave I truly got chicken skin reading your article! You know I’m normally quite happy chugging away behind the scenes but if there is anything that is sure to drag my sorry butt into the forefront it’s freedom of speech and equal rights. Just the other day when I signed into Facebook the first post on the news feed had to do with a similar issue which was bad enough but what really set my blood to boiling were the comments in support of the ignorant “joke” – and much like the mayor in your story – I couldn’t help but speak up so I jumped in with my two cents. Fortunately it didn’t turn ugly, but I would have held on like a dog with a bone even if it had. Can hardly wait for the next part!

    • davecenker January 22, 2015 / 2:15 pm

      Thank you Marty. I have taken the quiet road in the past on the issue of equal rights. I am not the loud and outspoken character that our friend Quentin is – but perhaps that is one of the beauties of fiction. We can allow the our quiet sides to emerge and speak a bit more loudly through the eyes and words of our characters 😉

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, and for sharing your experience, as disheartening as it sounds. I applaud you for standing tall in the face of adversity 🙂

  3. Writing to Freedom January 22, 2015 / 4:25 pm

    I’m hooked again Dave! And you’ve choosen a heated topic to explore.

    • davecenker January 22, 2015 / 4:55 pm

      Thank you Brad, and yes, I realize that I am entering uncharted and potentially dangerous territory 😉 It’s a little bit of stretch for me to enter these murky waters of controversy – me being the quiet little mouse that I am 🙂 Alas, Quentin will be my guiding voice over the next couple weeks. Thanks, as always, for reading Brad – it is much appreciated!

  4. balroop2013 January 22, 2015 / 11:31 pm

    Hi Dave,

    The first instalment is speaking eloquently to us..’He believed it. He lived it. And he felt as though he needed to fight for it.’ I can almost predict your thoughts…it would be interesting to read how you would handle this touchy topic! I am looking forward to your honest sharing of thoughts through Quinten. Thanks for sharing.

    • davecenker January 23, 2015 / 9:04 am

      Thank you Balroop, I appreciate your very kind comments. I am just beginning to dip my toes into the waters of controversy. I must admit that I may not have the loud and boisterous voice required to be quite as open as the most influential activists. I admire the courage, determination, and persistence of these special individuals.

      Thank you, as always, for taking the time to read and comments. it is very much appreciated!

  5. roughwighting January 23, 2015 / 6:55 am

    Yeah to Quentin! I agree with some of your other readers- so nice to read of a politician who seems to have a backbone of honesty and respect for ALL people and their choices. I hope he sticks to his values and principles. After all, I’m guessing that’s what got him his job in the first place.

    • davecenker January 23, 2015 / 9:11 am

      Often times, it seems that the way to change to the world is not necessarily by changing the views and opinions of others, but for remaining resolute in what you believe in and stand for. We shall see how Quentin fares over the final two installments 😉

      Thank you Pamela, for taking the time to read and comment on this story. It is sincerely appreciated!

  6. Eric Tonningsen January 27, 2015 / 8:47 pm

    Something tells me you’re not all the quiet little mouse you profess. 🙂 You’re a writer, a good writer, and writers (often) relish unchartered and potentially dangerous territory. Besides, in this day, at least in the U.S., it’s no longer potentially dangerous territory, unless one questions the strength of their convictions or if they’re unwilling to take on religious and political extremists. Have at it, Dave. Your story is quite likely worth telling!

    • davecenker January 28, 2015 / 8:18 am

      Thank yo u Eric, I appreciate your very kind comments. It’s not always the issues themselves, but sometimes more along the lines of how we handle our conviction on those issues. Those relatively controversial topics are the battlefield for the struggle between society and what lives inside us. Thanks for taking the time to read and providing your thoughts – I always appreciate your thought provoking insights 🙂

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