Greenlighting the project was easy. The mayor looked over the figures, read the reports, talked to a couple experts and figured that she could approve it. She failed to anticipate the backlash. Streams of letters flowed into her office over the next few weeks. She stopped opening them. Each had enough rancor in it to last a lifetime and she didn’t need to feel like someone other than her boyfriend  was slapping her around.

The boyfriend. He was another bit of uneaten dinner languishing on her plate. She wouldn’t get any dessert until she’d licked the whole thing clean. A lesson learned in early childhood, the mayor applied it to all aspects of her life with equal fervor and taught her children to do the same. The mayor’s boyfriend was a coal-miner, and proud of it. She’s gotten together with him partly for political gain. Nothing screamed one-of-the-people more than a widow and mother of four who also dated what most would call “a common man.” But now that he was leaving bruises on her a couple times a week, she needed to figure out a way to get out.

At least the children were gone for summer camp, up near one of the state’s beautiful lakes. The mayor spent the summer trying to handle the mess she’d made by approving the plans without backing out of them. That would be no good. She couldn’t be seen as weak, caving in at each bit of opposition. No. She would tough it out.

The mayor went to bed on July 23d, her birthday, with a black eye and a squad car guarding her house. She had received several death threats serious enough to worry the police. The morning was far away, she’d kicked her boyfriend out of her house, and she missed her children. She tried to picture them going to sleep in faraway bunk beds, whispering with their new friends, but another image kept intruding: her own body lying mangled in the kitchen, greeting the children when they got back.


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