Author: Ken Carlson

As mayor of Chathamville, a small town, Collette had to work late often. Don and the kids adjusted.

She was in her office to spend a few minutes on a Sunday. She wasn’t due back ’til Tuesday, but she liked to make sure nothing caught her by surprise.

Growing up in this do-nothing-burgh Collette couldn’t wait to get out. Now that she’d been to law school and lived in Chicago too long, it felt great to be here.

The job wasn’t easy. The town never replaced mill jobs lost a generation ago.

Her laptop wasn’t connected to the network. She’d have to speak to Tony, her assistant, 24-going-on-17.

Footsteps, probably Mr. Traynor, the janitor. But that wasn’t the slow plodding of a sixty-something custodian.

She saw a dark form running, wearing a mask and tank of some kind.

“Tony?” Collette called.

The figure stopped.

“Mayor,” he said, “You’re not supposed to be here.”

She laughed a little. “The kids were driving me nuts, I thought I’d catch up on…”

“No,” he said, “Mayor…Collette, you were supposed to be at the lake house, a safe distance away.”

“What is it?” Collette said. “What’s wrong?”

“The Council met on Friday.”

“To review the parking rules; nothing new.” Collette frowned and took a few steps toward her plucky, young administrator who was different, pale.

“They,” Tony said, “brought in somebody Gerry Monahan knew about the budget deficit.” Collette frowned. Monahan was a nut ready to call for martial law if there was a report of torn mattress tags.

“This guy was a consultant for Bucks Pictures. They were going to film here last summer.”

Collette said, “Some alien invasion movie, the next Grovers Mill, but it cost too much to bring the actors and special effects out here.”

“Monahan put forth a new plan. It was put to a blind vote. With the motion carried, he and his people ended the session and walked out. The next day the rest of us found out.”

Collette said, “This town needs the money. When do they start shooting?”

“Tonight.”

“What? Where are the actors? The crew.”

“They’re not coming. They’ll put a few stars on a green screen, add a few more in post. They sent some cameras to be put up around town. They didn’t want to build a small town to act as a movie set for their story, couldn’t afford it. They just wanted a place that was …disposable.” He sprinted for the door.

Collette ran down the hall. Tony had hopped in his parents’ Honda as they tore down Main Street.

The mayor walked slowly down the middle of Main past a dead stoplight. The first building to blow was the library. She fell to the asphalt.

Another explosion, the high school; then a car dealership by the town green. Back on her feet, she walked through the center of her hometown, small businesses went up in flames; the bakery, a nail salon, a Mexican restaurant. It was an inferno, a war zone with no allies, only enemies.

A lone car barreled toward her, the headlights bearing down. She couldn’t run. She fell to her knees.

The Volvo wagon screeched to a halt. It was her husband Don. He picked up Collette. Sounds from her car were her children screaming for her.

Don helped her into the car as the fire station went up. Collette, the town’s last mayor, looked back at the devastation that was Chathamville. They say you can’t go home again. That became true for her when her home was gone.

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