This work of short fiction deals with the fictional city of Tecumseh’s Christmas light Controversy. There is a dramatic disagreement about the T-Rex on the courthouse lawn.
Tecumseh Christmas Light Controversy
Mayor Mark Howard stood up before the Tecumseh city council the first week in November in the year 2011 and announced the town couldn’t afford a lawsuit from the ACLU. The Civil Liberties folks threatened to come to town if there was any religious symbolism displayed in any government buildings during the holiday season. Thus creating the great Techumseh Christmas light controversy.
The city was between a rock and a hard place. The Christmas decorations on the courthouse lawn would take a more secular tone this year. There would be no manger scene with baby Jesus lying in a manger.
Grace Methodist would be denied the permit to sing carols on the courthouse steps. The Salvation Army bell ringers would have to take their business somewhere else. Father Brady from over at St. Barnabus wouldn’t be allowed to set up his blessing booth this year.
The answer to the great need.
They needed a light display to keep the kiddies happy, so his friend over at the metal fabrication plant was going to design some secular-themed lights for free. What he didn’t tell the council was the light display would consist of a man fishing from a small boat, a dinosaur, Nessie the Loch Ness monster, a woodpecker, and a fire-breathing dragon.
The day the city truck pulled to the curb, and two city employees climbed to the ground to unload the light fixtures Ed Simons said there was going to be hell to pay. The local church folks would take one look at the monstrosities the mayor was about to have set up on the courthouse lawn and put out a call to go to war. Turns out Ed was right which was an unusual occurrence. Ed is one of those guys who has an opinion about everything, and his idea is the wrong one more times than not.
The reaction of members of the community
Father Brady almost swallowed his dentures when he drove by the courthouse the first night of the display. He couldn’t believe the gull of the city council to put a fire-breathing dinosaur instead of the baby Jesus for people to see. He got on his cell phone and called one of his parishioners who worked for the city paper. In the morning, the front page of the Tecumseh Times a story about creationism runs rapid in the hearts of the city council.
The congregation over at Abundant Light couldn’t be outdone by the Catholics in their display of indignation. Pastor Jessip called up Pastor Klienfeilder over at First Baptist who got on the phone with Reverend Trueblood at Third Baptist. They all had a collective conniption fit about the nature of the Christmas lights.
By Wednesday night prayer meeting, every creationist in town had decided something needed to be done about the Christmas light display on the courthouse lawn. There were rumors of a revival in the air. Onward Christian Soldier was the first song the choir sang Sunday morning in every church in the city.
A call to action.
The local radio station received a call to action, meetings organized, and picket signs made in church basements all over town. When the removal of the offending light display didn’t happen by the first snow, everyone rallied on the courthouse square as part of their Christian duty. They decided to march until the removal of the light display. The signs of protest they intended to wave would be a demand for religious freedom to be brought back to the city once again.
Who threw the first snowball?
Nobody knew who threw the first snowball. Bob Rayburn swears it was the mayor who hit Grace Wilson in the head. In the official statement he gave to the Tecumseh Times, Mayor Howard denied he had a snowball in his hand when Grace Wilson was hit in the eyeball.
The Mayor claimed it was Grace’s husband who took the first shot. “Bill Wilson has been wanting to hit Grace for years,” he said. Regardless of who threw the first snowball, the fight was on. The creationist lined up on one side of the lawn and the evolutionists on the other. Some folks were forced to cross lines depending on church affiliation. The battle was playful when it began.
Why did the combat intensify?
There was a considerable amount of laughing and one-upmanship. The combat intensified when first-grade teacher Beth Anderson slapped Bob Jenkins in the face. The punch had nothing to do with the Christmas light display. She informed the Times when the event was over she did it because he held up a sprig of mistletoe and planted one on her mouth for old times sake.
After he got over the punch, he returned the favor by stuffing snow down the front of her blouse. A fistfight broke out between Reverend Trueblood and a city council member who shall remain nameless but his first name starts with an E and the last name begins with an S. Other folks got into the fight.
By the time the police showed up, a full-fledged riot had broken out on the courthouse lawn. Twenty-five people were arrested before the situation was under control. Chopper worked hard to get everyone released on a two thousand dollar bond.
People’s reactions and theories.
The guys sitting at the liar’s table over at the Cup & Spoon the next morning took the events of the night before in stride. Two of their members were still in jail, and Jerry Barnes was sporting a big shiner. They all planned to file lawsuits against the city for creating a hazard to the peace and quiet of the city when they put up those Christmas lights. The men bet removal of the light display will happen before Christmas Eve.
The professors over at the college say they expected the riot. The city was ripe for the occurrence because people were under extreme stress due to the economy. History proves you can’t go through an economic downturn as severe as The Great Recession without experiencing a little civil unrest.
The psychology department is planning to join forces with the Sociology folks to set up free counseling sessions if they can ever agree where these free sessions should take place.
The lawyers became involved.
The lawyers in town are having a heyday. They are experiencing an economic windfall. This is especially true for Ezra Bloomberg. The only city council member not taking part in the fracas. He will represent the city against any pending litigation. It’s his hope the whole matter fades into the background after the Mayor starts his road construction program in the spring.
What about the ladies at The Henhouse?
The ladies at The Hen House flower shop are watching events closely. The bail bondsman they work for posted bond for most of the rioters. Elba Mae says if they are lucky five or six of them folks will take to the wind. She has bills to pay.
Colleen advised her not to get her hopes up because all the arrestees had deep roots in the community. Naomi’s opinion is they need to sell about a hundred more poinsettias to break even with the way costs are escalating. If those folks didn’t show up for their court dates, The Henhouse ladies could make a profit catching them for Chopper. Their part-time job bounty hunting might bring in enough money to balance the books at the end of the month.
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
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