He watched as the town’s elite mingled, drank their fancy cocktails, and ate hors d’oeuvres from a long buffet table down the far side of the room.
A few minutes later Danny Masters approached the podium at the front of the room. He adjusted the microphone and cleared his throat. “Good evening! If I could ask everyone to find a seat. We’re just about ready.” The din of the chit chat grew a little chaotic as people pulled out chairs and sat down at the tables. Billy positioned himself in the back corner, leaning against the wall. Moments later, when everyone was seated, Danny began.
“Thank you for coming out tonight to this grand occasion. Most of you know I’m Danny Masters, county councilman here in Paradise, I mean Beaufort County, and I’m here tonight to let you guys in on a secret.” The crowd chuckled. “Okay it’s not a big secret, but I’m here tonight to kick off something wonderful and very exciting. But first – a little background about my friend Tommy Cransford. As you know, Tommy is a hometown boy. He and I have known each other for almost 50 years, ever since we were kindergartners together at the First Baptist Church.
“Our friendship grew as we played Little League ball together, went to high school together – go Jayhawks – and even roomed together at the University before we split up for a few years as I went to law school and Tommy went to the Criminal Justice Academy.
“Fortunately for us, Tommy came back to our town and has been a public servant for over thirty years, the last twenty-three as our sheriff. He’s taught us how to deal with triumph, and he’s taught us how to deal with tragedy. And I can say that I am proud to have Tommy Cranford as my friend, and I am proud to have Tommy as my sheriff…,” Danny paused and leaned slightly toward the microphone. He then continued, “And let me tell you what… I will be even prouder to have him as my governor in our great state of South Carolina. We need a man like Tommy in Columbia.
“So without further adieu, here’s my good friend, Sheriff Tommy Cransford!”
The crowd stood up and clapped as Tommy stood up from a nearby table and approached the podium. He adjusted the microphone. “Thank you, Danny. And friends, thank you for coming out tonight. I have a few remarks. First, let me start out by saying..’Yes!’ Tonight, I am announcing my candidacy for governor of this great state. As much as I love this county and would be content to serve the people here for the next 20 years, I feel a bigger calling these days.”
“Tommy paused and looked around the room. “Folks, Columbia is letting us down! Our roads are falling apart! We rank near the bottom in education. We’ve got illegal workers taking jobs and companies moving jobs out of the county and country. And our taxes are creeping up. It is time that someone stepped up and led this state to the top. We know Beaufort county is great. It’s time to make the rest of the Palmetto State great. And I’m your man for the job!”
The crowd applauded and stood again. Tommy absorbed the adoration for a few moments and then held up his hand. The crowd quieted and sat again. “Thanks, folks, but this isn’t going to be easy. I’m going to need some help. Fortunately, I have a secret weapon – my campaign manager and strategy advisor – Danny Masters.”
The crowd applauded again. “I think all of you know Danny. As a former solicitor, he is as tough on crime as I am, and now as a county councilman and head of the Chamber of Commerce, he and I will be watching out for your interests. Hopefully, we can count on your moral and, very importantly, your financial support. Danny, do you have anything else you’d like to say?”
Danny stood and approached the podium again. “I think you summed it up nicely, Tommy. Let me just emphasize what Tommy said. I know where you live-” the audience chuckled. “But I don’t know where all of your Upstate and Midlands and Pee Dee friends live. We need their support, too. So, please, please spread the word! Tommy and I will be here for a bit to answer questions. If you brought a checkbook, feel free to open it up! Thank you!” The audience laughed again and people began to stand.
A television news crew that had arrived late and recorded the events from Billy’s vantage began to move toward the front. Billy decided to move and keep an eye on things.
Copyright 2020 Greg Fowler
For the next chapter, click here: http://gregfowlerauthor.com/2021/01/28/out-of-tune-chapter-four/