Margaret Anderson, editor, chief reporter, and head photographer for the Southfarm (pop. 4000) Gazette (circulation 2500), re-read the opening of her lead story for the next day.
Breaking News: The Gazette has uncovered an extramarital affair between Southfarm Selectwoman, Janell Feeze and Southfarm Fire Chief Jacob Williams. This revelation comes on the heals of recent contract negotiations between the town and the fire fighters union, in which the fire fighters received a six percent pay hike despite difficult economic conditions. Feeze, who has a record of fiscal conservatism, was the deciding vote in favor of the new contract, which passed 3 to 2.
Williams was unavailable for comment. Feeze denied the affair.
Margaret mulled over the last sentence. It was so trite, failing to capture the reality of that phone call.
"Of course I'm not having an affair," Janelle said. "Please Margaret, as your friend, I'm asking you not to run this story. It'll devastate Mark, he'll never trust me again. And what about Tanya? Do you want to destroy her life? Would you want your daughter to see her mother slandered in the press?"
"I have pictures," Margaret replied.
There had been silence on the other end, and then Janelle hung up.
Margaret clicked on the picture on the computer screen and dragged it slightly to the left, so the text next to it would wrap a little better on the page. It showed Janelle and Jacob engaged in a passionate kiss outside the Snooze and Go Motel. It was a little grainy from the zoom, Margaret had been sitting across the street in her minivan, but it was clear enough.
Margaret had another picture as well, taken through a gap in the curtains of the wide front window of the motel room. But to use that would require some strategically placed black rectangles. Looking at the picture made Margaret feel dirty.
Margaret had never felt more depressed. She reminded herself that this was a legitimate news story, the sort of story that could be picked up by the larger, regional papers. It had everything, sex, corruption, heart break. It was quite possible she would even get offered a job at the Times as a result.
For some reason that made her even sadder.
She had voted for Janell. Their daughters attended ballet class together. Jacob Williams had been her son Bobby''s soccer coach and had gone out of his way to make sure Bobby got playing time despite his lack of athleticism.
Margaret could quash the story. There were probably others in the town that knew, or at least suspected, the affair, but they had kept silent. No one knew that she knew. Maybe now that Margaret had confronted Janell and Jacob they would do the right thing and end the affair. Or resign.
Or they might carry on as they had been.
Margaret moved her mouse over the Post It! button. A click and the story would go up on the paper's website and the citizens of Southfarm, or at least her dedicated readers, would learn the truth.
And two families would be destroyed.
Next to the Post It! button was the Delete button. No more than ten pixels separated the buttons.
Margaret's mouse hovered over that neutral zone and she thought, and thought, and thought...
Copyright 2012 John Lance