A man walks into a donut shop with an envelope under his arm, beckoned by the glow of the “hot now” neon sign in the window.
“Hey, whatcha got there, fella?” asks a patron enjoying his morning cup of signature house decaf, a flavorful Central and South America blend with all of the taste, but none of the jitters.
“Say, friend. What I have here will change your life! Guaranteed to make you a household name in no time flat.” said the man as he patted the brown manila package with the palm of his free hand.
“Tell me more!” said the patron, kicking a chair across the tile floor as an invitation to the man. “Sit down. Would you care for a pumpkin cheesecake donut? It’s the holidays and, well, I’m in a generous mood.”
“Thank you, brother, but the pleasing effects of cinnamon and pumpkin would distract me from the task at hand.” said the man.
“Then tell me, stranger, what magical powers are captured in that envelope?”
The man sat and drew closer to the patron. “Be careful. Your request carries a heavy weight and a hefty price to bear.” he cautioned. “Once the envelope is opened, its contents cannot be returned to the dark corners of their existence. The attention your name will command shall last a lifetime and that of your friends, your family, your grandchildren and your grandchildren’s children. All will know the man you are throughout eternity. It is not a decision to be made without careful deliberation. But, alas, your chance to seal your future must be made now, for time is short. I bring you this offering at great peril. If not handled correctly, I will be linked to you as well for all eternity. That is a fate I cannot abide.”
The patron thought for a moment, but couldn’t resist the man’s charm.
“Open the envelope. I’m ready.” said the patron.
The man smiled a smile that resembled more of a sneer than an expression of joy. His fingers lifted the metal clasp with ease. He reached inside and pulled the contents from the dark dungeon of the envelope. The smell of old socks and arsenic filled the air and flowed into the patron’s lungs as if mindful of its destination.
But the contents were not the reward the patron expected. Yes, the promise of fame and household notoriety were there, as the man had promised. However it came at the price of infamy.
“This is the fate you have created.” said the man.
Stunned by what he saw, the patron responded, “But this is not the fame you described! You said I would be known throughout the land! That I would become a household name for generations to come! What is this foul demon you have wrought upon my house?”
“The demon is not of my creation, but of your own.” said the man.
“Oh, the horror! The shame!” said the patron, averting his gaze from the dishonor he had chosen. “Kind and wise stranger, make it go away!”
Sensing an opportunity, the man spoke. “Friend, I can tell you are not capable of handling the future before you. The scrutiny you will be under is formidable. I, too, have chosen poorly in the past. I feel your pain.”
And then, the man offered a solution. “The days can be different than you have seen, but the price you must pay may be as heavy as the doom that now hovers over you. Renounce your desire to be a leader of men and your life will return to your control.”
The patron thought for a moment. “You can do that for me? Why, kind stranger, would you take pity on my soul?”
The man responded in a soothing voice filled with concern for his fellow man, “Because it’s for the greater good. We are all called to sacrifice at times. I will do this for you.”
The patron smiled.
“Bless you, oh merciful one. I am forever in your debt.”
“Of course you are.” said the man as he scribbled the patron’s name into his Little Black Book of Borrowers and Favors Owed.
As he slipped the book back into his pocket and headed toward the door, he turned to the patron and said, “Remember the lesson you learned today. If we have to visit again, the stakes will be higher.”
The patron sat for a moment, reflecting on what just happened and his good fortune.
Before long, the patron came to the realization that his good fortune was anything but. He sought counsel from his employer.
“The man came to see me.” said the boss. “He told me of your shame and that you have chosen poorly. But fear not, I am familiar with the man and his tricks. You are safe here.”
The patron exhaled the breath he had been holding. All was right with the world.
But, lo. Details of the meeting that morning at the donut shop had spread among the town criers. News of the grand deal reached the ears of the masses.
The man’s words rang prophetic after all.
The patron became known throughout the realm and the man’s name will forever be linked to what became known as the “Scheme at the Kreme.” Both had paid the price each so desperately planned to avoid.
Their futures became cloudy, filled with innuendo, rumor and uncertainty.
The townspeople grew weary of the talk and finger-pointing and rebelled.
Rumblings turned to desperation as followers of the man learned of his Little Black Book of Borrowers and Favors Owed.
“We want the book!” the citizens proclaimed.
“I don’t know what you are talking about.” replied the man. His faithful followers gathered around him to devise a plan to calm the masses and distract attention.
“We need to mass communicate!” said the man. And so, at the appointed time and with the help of the man with the voice, word went out across the realm to those who had not yet heard of the “Scheme at the Kreme.”
The voice proclaimed to all who would listen that the man had been wronged, that he was a true and virtuous servant of the people. Feeling confident, the voice, the man and his sidekick relaxed. Their work was done. Or so they thought.
As the man and his maneuvers were brought out into the sunlight, those who had powered his machine began to jump ship. The man dug deep into his Little Black Book of Borrowers and Favors Owed, but the “Scheme at the Kreme” had diminished its power.
Moral of the story: Never trust a man with an envelope under his arm who doesn’t want a pumpkin cheesecake donut.
This account of the meeting between Dennis Milligan and his opponent in the state treasurer’s race, Duncan Baird, may not be exactly as the situation evolved, but both men agree the meeting occurred.
So who is telling the truth? That’s for the voters to determine. Was Milligan only seeking to help Baird or was he trying to push his opponent out of the race by showing him pictures and video of alleged misconduct, as Baird contends?
The story isn’t over. Stay tuned.
Brent Davis is editor of The Saline Courier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .View more articles in: