There were a couple of businesses Valley residents frequented when they wanted to hear the latest gossip. One, of course, was the Hoffbrau. Breakfast was the busiest part of the day, and the breakfast rush was especially brisk on that Tuesday in late October.
The talk centered on two Sunday morning events. The first was Marvin Walsh’s encounter with the Devil outside Lennox Valley Lutheran Church. The second was the drama at First Baptist Church when Juliet Stoughton made a public confession: She wanted to attend the annual Men’s Breakfast and Turkey Shoot.
"You know," Earl Goodman shouted, loud enough to be heard throughout the diner, "I don’t think it’s a coincidence that those two things happened on the same morning!"
The buzz throughout the room quieted as everyone anticipated what was to come next.
"What do you mean?" asked Kelly Schmidt, seated halfway across the room. "What does the Devil at the Lutheran church have to do with Juliet wanting to attend the turkey shoot?"
"I’m just saying," Goodman said, "both acts were clearly the work of the Devil."
Elbert Lee Jones’s voice could be heard two booths away, muttering, "That’s the gospel truth."
Just as the discussion was nearing fever pitch, Farley Puckett walked into the diner with a stack of Raymond Cooper’s free rag, The Valley Patriot.
There was a rush to the counter to grab copies of the free "newspaper." This was before the popularity of the Internet, and The Valley Patriot was The Valley’s sole source of alternative news.
Iris Long didn’t miss many breakfast rushes at the ‘Brau. She was seated at her usual table as she watched the events of the morning unfold before her.
As she had guessed, the Patriot’s lead story was about Marvin’s encounter with the Devil, disguised as Perry Como. The "facts" surrounding the confrontation seemed to have come to light with increasing regularity over the previous 48 hours. Every detail was discussed and debated among the ‘Brau customers.
While there was almost unanimous agreement among the ‘Brau crowd that Marvin did, indeed, have an encounter with Devil, not everyone in The Valley was so quick to accept the event as fact.
It just so happened that Raymond Cooper loyalists tended to find their way to the Hoffbrau early most mornings.
Just down the street at Caroline’s Beauty Salon, a larger than usual group had congregated for a Tuesday morning. Most women in The Valley had their hair done on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. At times like these, however, folks tend to go where they can find friends.
The discussion among the hair dryers was quite different from the display of emotion just down the street. Looking over The Valley Patriot, just after Farley Puckett dropped off 20 copies, salon patrons seemed to have a different opinion concerning the events of Sunday.
"That Raymond Cooper must think we’re all idiots," offered Rhonda Goodman. "Seriously? The Devil trailing Marvin Walsh?"
"The way Marvin acts," Helen Walker jumped into the conversation, "I would think he and the Devil were already on a firstname basis."
Laughter could be heard throughout the salon. Apparently, Walsh didn’t have a strong following among the hair-drying crowd.
Just two doors down, at Frank Bell’s barbershop, Frank and Sarah Hyden-Smith glanced over the just-delivered newspaper.
While they both laughed at the Walsh story, what interested them the most was the weekly "A.J. Sightings" section on the bottom-right of the page. According to The Valley Patriot, A.J. sightings were beginning to become almost commonplace in The Valley.
Frank read aloud, "On Thursday, Thelma Biggers reported seeing A.J. Fryerson slipping into the office of Mayor Bland, just after sundown. She said she is sure it was Fryerson because he always wears a John Deere T-shirt and, even though it was dark, she could clearly make out the "J" on the shirt."
"Maybe it was Jesus," Frank said as he giggled at the thought of Jesus visiting the mayor’s office.
"Now, Frank," rebuked Sarah. "Let’s not go there."
It was then Frank turned the page to "Rumor Has It," by Maxine Miller.
"Rumor has it," Maxine began, "our Methodist pastor might be performing her own wedding before too long."
"How could she write that?" Frank muttered.
"Obviously, the Devil is working overtime in Lennox Valley this week," Sarah sighed.