"Renderings with Raymond" was normally a labor of love for Raymond Cooper. After all, it was his "baby." Started in 1997 as a camouflaged attempt to bolster his clandestine mayoral candidacy, the talk show drew close to half of Lennox Valley’s residents each weekday from noon until 3.
The casual observer would think his plan had worked to perfection. With just seven weeks until the election, Cooper’s most recent antics looked sure to take him to the summit of local politics.
With less than an hour left in his Monday show, Raymond was already looking ahead to some respite during Lennox Valley’s second favorite radio program, "Swap Shop." From time to time callers would interrupt their latest laundry list of items to swap with other listeners to instead bring up something about the price of eggs or the "slanted" newspaper editor, Iris Long, but on most days, Swap Shop made for a relaxing change of pace.
It was 2:40 p.m. on that fateful Monday, when Raymond took what he thought would be his last call of the day. He generally saved the last 10 minutes of the show to deliver a monologue concerning the Federal Reserve System or some other pressing issue.
He answered the call with his usual greeting, "This is Raymond. What’s on your mind?"
The voice on the other end stopped Raymond dead in his tracks.
"Hello, Mr. Cooper," the caller with the familiar, low-toned voice began. "This is Mayor Richard Bland, humble servant of the good folks of Lennox Valley."
There was a discernible pause as Raymond frantically searched through the deepest recesses of his mind for the right words. He barely kept himself from sputtering out, "Well, if it’s not Silver Tongue in the flesh!" referring to the nickname of the town mayor, "Silver Tongue" Dick Bland. Luckily, he caught himself in time.
Instead, after several awkward seconds, he blurted out, "Well, yes. Hello, Mr. Mayor. Welcome to our show. What’s on your alleged mind this afternoon?"
"Well," began Silver Tongue, "I just wanted to congratulate you."
"Congratulate me?" murmured Cooper, knowing that his intentions were probably less than sincere.
The mayor’s plan was to congratulate Raymond on his newfound faith. After all, Cooper had received no less than six calls on his Monday show in response to his "conversion" at the Lutheran church the day before.
Mayor Bland began going over his thoughts early that morning. Even with the nickname "Silver Tongue," words didn’t always come easily to Bland. Before a speech, he would practice for hours to give the impression that he was a naturally gifted orator.
The mayor memorized his lines, even writing them down so he wouldn’t forget something important. They were a work of art, beginning with, "Isn’t it true that you hadn’t been to a church service in more than 50 years prior to yesterday?"
Then, with his low, powerful voice, he would force his point, "Isn’t it true that the only reason you joined Lennox Valley Lutheran Church was to sway the Christian vote of this community, knowing they would otherwise vote for me?"
But Cooper was quick. Sure, there was a momentary lapse upon hearing the mayor’s voice, but he recovered quickly. As soon as "Silver Tongue" Dick Bland began with, "I just wanted to congratulate you," Cooper immediately shot back with, "Well, thank you, Mayor!"
Without his listeners knowing it, Raymond hung up on Bland and spoke for 14 minutes about the mayor’s kind gesture in calling to congratulate him on his spiritual "awakening."
"I can’t help," he almost whispered as he closed his Monday show, "that he was divinely inspired to make that call. Thank you, Mayor."
Each week, "The Good Folks of Lennox Valley" chronicles the happenings of a fictional American small town.