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Crime and punishment … or whatever

Dear Uncle Ambrose and Aunt Victoria,


Gopher Woods is bracing for what's predicted to be a wild and woolly election season.


Mayor Smitty Jones, who will complete his eighth four-year term in December, is being hotly challenged by Mayor Pro Tem Lula Swarthmore and fellow council members, former drill sergeant Guffy Leatherback, Agnes Applegate of the Gopher Woods Academy and Lenny Yankovitz, our Harley-riding yankee.


It all started during what was a fairly stale meeting of the Town Council. Horace "Barney" Moffitt, the town's sole law enforcement officer, was giving his monthly report and happened to mention somewhat off-handedly that he'd been seeing some funny-looking spray-painted symbols around town.


"What do they look like?," Smitty asked, trying to squelch a yawn.


"They look like Chinese letters — you know, what you see on the bottom of cardboard boxes shipped over here from China," said Barney.


"You mean Chinese symbols?" Lula inquired. "Sometimes they're used by gangs, aren't they?"


"Well, I don't know about that," said Barney. "I just try to clean them off whenever I find them."


"Gangs in Gopher Woods?" Guffy was about to explode. "I know exactly what to do with gang members, and it don't involve singing 'Kumbaya.' "


Agnes had been waiting for her turn on the agenda to request that the council repaint the crosswalks in front of the Academy when the subject of the spray painting came up. The outburst by Guffy brought her out of her state of reverie.


"I don't like your tone of voice, Sergeant Leatherback," she harrumphed. "Our young people need positive role models to help them become productive citizens as they mature."


"Oh, don't worry about that," Guffy said as he raised a gnarled fist. "I've got their positive role model right here."


"That's primitive and crude," said a red-faced Agnes. "If you had your way, we'd soon have gangs of ruffians roaming the streets of Gopher Woods."


"Seems to me that's already the case," Guffy rebutted. "If you ask me, we need to nip these gangs in the bud. And that'll take a heavy hand."


Meanwhile, Lula was chomping at the bit to get a word in. "If the chair pleases, I'd like to say something," she was able to get out during a brief lull.


"Go ahead, Lula," Smitty said dully, waving a hand.


"It so happens that I've done an in-depth study of gangs, their origins and why they exist," said Lula. "I think we should form a committee to look into these symbols described by Officer Moffitt."


About that time, Lenny piped up. "What a minute, youse guys, I mean y’all. I'm from the land of gangs so I know all about how to deal wit 'em. We don't need no committees, we need a motorcycle posse to head ’em off. That's all they understand."

"Now hold on, everybody," Smitty said with his gavel poised. "We've got to deal with these gangs with a level head. We can't go off half-cocked or somebody's liable to get hurt."


"That's what I'm talkin' about," Guffy shouted. "Somebody needs to get hurt if we're gonna deal with those hotheads. We gotta put fear in 'em."


"But you'll just drive them further away," Agnes argued. "We need to understand what's going on inside their heads before we can help them."


"That's why we need a committee to study them," said Lula.


"We need a biker posse to scare 'em gang-less," Lenny said.


Smitty banged his gavel to restore silence. "Let's put it to a vote," he said.


So the council voted, with one vote each for Guffy, Agnes, Lula and Lenny. Smitty declined to break the tie, leaving the issue to next month.


Meanwhile, all four debaters filed for mayor to run against Smitty in November's election. The big issue is what to do about gangs in Gopher Woods.


Yesterday, Barney found another spray-painted character on an outbuilding belonging to Slim Elwood. He was busy cleaning off the paint when he saw a boy huddled inside next to Slim's garden tools.


"OK, come outta there," Barney commanded. "What's that in your hand, son?"


"It's nothing," said the boy, who appeared to be about 7 years old.


"Looks like a can of spray paint to me," said Barney. "Are you the one that's been painting symbols around town?"


"I give up," the boy said, almost in tears. "But I just wanted to show off the Chinese I learned at school."


"You learned this at school?" asked an incredulous Barney. "So, what does the symbol mean?"


"It means," the boy said carefully to get it just right, "To be good, do good."




Your Nephew


Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189, larrypenkava@gmail.com.