Kevin Slimp: Lennox Valley: Deacon digging: Seasoned journalist refuses to give up on story

By Kevin Slimp

Syndicated Columnist

A less-seasoned journalist would have given up much earlier, but not Iris Long. This “was not her first rodeo,” as she often said, and she had every intention of getting to the bottom of the story concerning the events at First Baptist Church on Sunday.

Juliette Stoughton had been difficult to track down, but there could have been any number of reasons for that. Maybe she was in Springfield doing a bit of shopping, or perhaps she was off meditating somewhere, as she was known to do now and then.

Iris would find out soon enough, but her primary objective was to get some solid information for her upcoming edition of Lennox Valley Hometown News. That left her just 24 hours to get to the bottom of this story before deadline.

Thinking Sarah Hyden-Smith might have an idea of Juliette’s whereabouts, Iris stopped by the Methodist church just in time to hear the part-time secretary, Kari Lynn Harrell, answer a phone solicitor.

“Valley Methodist Church,” Kari Lynn answered. After a pause, continued, “You’d like to speak to the owner?”

Iris knew this was going to be good. Kari Lynn had a reputation as someone who didn’t waste time and especially didn’t like people who wasted her time.

Kari Lynn continued. “That would be God. Should I put you straight through?”

Apparently the solicitor heard enough and hung up before getting to hear Kari Lynn’s patented, “Have a holy day!”

Laughing at the “sucker” on the other end of the phone call, Kari Lynn looked up to see Iris.

“Hello, Iris,” she said, still grinning. She really did like getting the best of phone solicitors. “How may I help you today?”

“I came by to see if Rev. Hyden-Smith was available,” answered Iris, knowing better than to use too many words. Kari Lynn had things to do, after all.

“You just missed her,” the matter-of-fact secretary answered. “She walked out of here with Juliette Stoughton about 10 minutes ago. I believe Sarah said something about walking over to the Baptist church.”

“Hmmmm,” Iris thought to herself. “I wonder what that’s about.”

“Have a holy day!” Kari Lynn shouted as Iris exited the office, quickly making her way to the Baptist church.

Iris walked up the cobblestone sidewalk leading to the Lennox Valley Baptist Church office just as her two friends were exiting. Juliette was in a frenzy about something, whispering to Sarah as fast as she could while they walked.

“Well, what a coincidence,” Iris exclaimed as the two looked up to see her.

“What are you doing here?” Juliette asked.

“Well,” Iris answered, “I could make something up about coming by to visit with Rev. Billy Joe, but the truth is I have been looking for you.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Juliette said sheepishly. “I’ve been busy, doing a lot of thinking.”

“I mostly wanted to make sure you were okay,” Iris offered. “I heard about your experience on Sunday, and I was concerned.”

Iris wasn’t trying to deceive her friend. She had been concerned, very concerned, about Juliette. Iris was a journalist, however, and wanted to know what happened after Juliette had been whisked out of the sanctuary on Sunday morning.

“I offered to come with Juliette to meet with Rev. Prather,” Sarah said. “She wanted to speak to him, and I offered to go with her, for moral support.”

“Well, do you mind telling me what happened to you after the deacons rushed you out of the sanctuary yesterday?” Iris asked. “The whole town is buzzing about it.”

“They didn’t hurt me or anything,” Juliette answered, “but they weren’t exactly nice, either. The head of the deacons, Harley somebody, told me I’d need to speak with Rev. Prather at another time. He said it was wrong for me to make a scene on Sunday.”

“So you just met with him?” Iris asked.

“Yes,” Juliette answered timidly.

“Well, are you going to go the Men’s Breakfast and Turkey Shoot?” Long asked.

“He said I was welcome to help prepare breakfast. He said there would be a lot of nice women there. He even said I might meet a nice single man if I worked in the serving line.”

Juliette turned to ask Sarah. “What do you think I should do? What would you do?”

Thinking for a moment, Sarah’s face lit up. “You know. I might just have an idea.” After pausing to think, she continued, “Could you both meet me at the Hoffbrau in 30 minutes?”

Walking into the newspaper office, Iris heard the last few seconds of “Renderings with Raymond” as Marvin Walsh offered his parting thoughts, “I guess the best idea is, if somebody looking like Perry Como comes knocking at your door, slam it as hard as you can, right in his face!”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The original idea for “The Good Folks of Lennox Valley” by Kevin Slimp came while visiting with a friend from the small town of Lennox, S.D., several years ago. For five years, Slimp jotted ideas concerning the folks who lived in his fictional home town and eventually put those ideas into stories. Share your thoughts with Candy Allan via email at callan@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8386.

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