The Littletown League of Women Voters mayoral candidate debate had just begun when the fire alarm was sounded. After 30 minutes and an “all clear” from the Fire Chief, the crowd filed back inside. It was apparently a faulty alarm but they had dragged in the hefty fire hose as a precaution and it now lay smack dab down the middle of Uncle Joe’s All-You-Can-Eat Seafood Buffet. It would remain until the investigation was complete in an hour or so, and the debate needed to get underway and wrap-up before the restaurant opened for the Early Bird Special crowd.
“Alrighty, folks, let’s settle down and resume our debate,” LWV President Nancy Brown said into the microphone. “We’ve made our introductions and we’ll start over with the first question.”
“That’s not fair! Billy Bob and Carl already answered! Skip them!” stated Susan Smith, one of the four candidates seated on the little platform usually reserved for the oyster shucking station.
Nancy was not fond of having her authority questioned. “I said we’re going to start again. No more from you Susie, or you can follow that fire hose into the kitchen to cool down.”
“Quiet, please. Question number one. ‘Our city is in a budget crisis. How would you address the looming deficit?’ We’ll begin with you, Susie, since you’re so eager to answer.”
Susie straightened with the attention, then leaned in to the microphone.
“By electing me, there will be no deficit. I will make better decisions than our current mayor and spend our money on more important things than a new golf course.”
Ron Matthews, the current mayor, jumped up from the table, knocking his chair off the stage. “Hey, that’s dirty talk. I was told there’d be none of that. I’m not putting up with lies.”
Susie retorted, “It’s the truth. You promised that Booneville would pay for the course since it borders their town. You lied and now we have a bulldozed plot of land that no one can use unless we pay millions to finish it.”
Billy Bob Jackson chimed in, “Who golfs in this town anyway, besides you? You’re nothing but a carpetbagger from fancy schmancy Florida who bought the last election.”
Nancy called for order, but it was too late.
Candidate Carl Deaton joined the attack, “And how about all those conferences? Why do you need to go to the state capital and DC all the time? We don’t want any corporate money. We take care of our own.”
Mayor Matthews wasn’t having any of it. “That’s it. I’m done. Y’all can debate without me. I don’t have to take this.” And with that he stepped down and promptly tripped over the fire hose.
The audience wasn’t sympathetic and snickered as he picked himself up, brushed off his suit and stomped out of the restaurant.
Nancy took charge. “Enough. Let’s move on to the next question. ‘What is your position on climate change and how it affects our town?’ Carl, you’re up.”
“There’s no such thing as climate change and ya’ll know it. God has a plan and if we pray hard enough, we’ll all be safe from storms and floods.”
Lots of nods and a few hearty amens from the audience were offered in reply.
“Billy Bob? Your take on climate change?” prompted Nancy.
“Well, I’m not much of an environmentalist, but I have a plan to build a dam that diverts the water before it overflows. Booneville won’t like it much, but that’s their problem.”
This brought hoots and whistles from the audience.
“And Susie? Your turn.” said Nancy.
“Instead of putting more money into studies, let’s move the trailer park from the edge of the lake to higher ground, then everyone will be safe.”
Billy Bob interjected, “Talk about self-serving. You live there and want a free ride!”
Nancy stepped in front of the stage, looking at the candidates sternly. “If y’all don’t behave, I’ll just shut this down. These are serious questions about problems facing Littletown. We need to address our budget, response to disasters and so much more. We need a strong leader to drag us into the 21st century instead of being stuck in the Leave it to Beaver days.”
Someone in the audience started the chant, “Nan-cee, Nan-cee, Nan-cee!” Others joined in and soon the whole room was booming.
Nancy put up her hand and called for quiet.
“That’s mighty nice of y’all to think that I’d make a good mayor. I’m not sure I’m up for the job. But neither are any of these yahoo’s sitting on the stage, or the buffoon we elected four years ago.”
She looked out at the packed room. It was the biggest building in town and at least half of the citizens had turned out for the debate, with every seat filled and a handful standing at the back.
“Let’s take a little poll. If you would support me as a write-in candidate for Mayor, stand on this side of the fire hose. If you think someone else would do a better job, move to that side.”
The candidates’ protests were drowned out with the ruckus of people standing to take sides.
Before much movement had taken place, the Fire Chief strode into the room announcing, “Sorry, folks. We have to shut this little party down. The fire alarms are malfunctioning and it’s not safe until we have them fixed.”
And with that, the sprinkler system activated and the Littletown Mayoral candidate debate was officially over.
Written July 14, 2019 for submission to the NYC Midnight 11th Annual Flash Fiction Challenge. Thousands of world-wide writers were divided into over a 100 groups of 15 and given prompts of genre, location and object. We then had 48 hours to submit a story of up to 1,000 words using the prompts. The stories will be critiqued by professional judges and given points and then Challenge #2 will be announced on September 13th and also critiqued and given points. The writers with the five highest top point totals in each group after the first two challenges will move on to round three in November. The top three writers in each of these groups will then move on to the final round in December.
The prompts for Challenge #1 for my group were: Political satire in an all-you-can-eat restaurant with a fire hose.