December 2021 Christmas Holidays Story Contest Entry

This is a sequel to “Burial”. Together the titles hint at Easter rather than Christmas. Appearances can deceive.

My second coming (back) to South Odom was less discreet than my first. The motorcade consisted of a large black armored limousine with tinted windows preceded by three black armored SUVs and with another three SUVs behind. Of course we entered the town at the maximum speed allowed. Did I mention that I among other things I own a security company and business is always slow just after New Year?

We arrived in the afternoon on January 3. During the days after Christmas I had been very busy. I had bought some more odd bits and ends in South Odom. The local bank, a couple of houses, a tract of land between South Odom and the neighboring town of Morrah. Actually the last was an old dried-out salt lake that nobody wanted. Quite interesting salt formations there, a Lot of them.

The motorcade stopped at the one decent hotel in town. I hadn’t bought that. I still hadn’t decided if I’d build (or not) a new better hotel that would effectively ruin the existing one. We had booked almost all rooms there. At the main entrance my fiancé John left the car with four bodyguards. Quite the show. Then five of the SUVs went off. One to the bank to off-load a team of accountants. One to the mall administration to off-load a team of accountants, one to the mill to off-load a team of accounts. The other two SUVs offloaded a security team at the town assembly building. All very ostentatiously.

At the hotel John was the decoy. He’d check in while I entered more discreetly by a back entrance. I wanted to stay undetected just for a little while longer. There was just enough time to freshen up before the town meeting that Karl, the manager of The Mill, my mill now, had called for.

At the town meeting I was once more let in through a back door. The assembly room was packed. People had no idea what the whole thing was about and were dying of curiosity. Karl was standing in front and trying to keep people calm while waiting.

Then I entered the stage. The room fell absolutely silent. Most people knew who I was and I knew it only a matter of seconds before the bad reactions would begin so I started right off:

“Hello, my name is Eve Elternlos. Some of you may remember me as Marvin Schmidt when I grew up here. Not fond memories though. I’m the CEO, founder and majority owner of the Eve Forever Group. My company is now the owner of The Mill, the Mall and the Bank of South Odom and Morrah.”

The protests that had started to be heard fell silent again. The room remained in chocked silence. I continued.

“When I came to the Schmidt funeral almost two weeks ago I was planning to shut down this town. My fiancé persuaded me to save the town if I could find ten righteous people in the town. Until I was about to leave I had only found five. Then I was attacked. My assailants intended to rape me. I’m not sure I would have survived.”

There I paused to let it sink in. Most faces showed chock. Why? Some for the atrocity almost committed, I assume. I’m afraid most were chocked because of the possible consequences for the town and them.

“I was saved. I was saved by someone I now regard as my guardian angel. His family is genuinely good. For their sake I will save the town. Not only save the town. South Odom is going to prosper. Karl here has convinced me that investing in increased capacity at The Mill is good business. There will be new jobs there. Further, Eve Forever Mining will open a new mine in the old salt lake. I found an old report about possible mineral deposits in the county. That report included a short paragraph about the quite rich deposits of rare-earth elements below the old salt lake. When the report was written seventy years ago that interested nobody. Today? Well, the interest is somewhat bigger.” [Smile]. “This will mean even more new job opportunities. The town will grow significantly. New companies will start to support the growth. New shops will open. New teachers will be needed for the schools and so on.

“However, my companies will not employ directly or indirectly any of the people on this list” [I read out twelve names] “This means that my companies will not use the services of any company employing or in any other way engaging these persons. Anyone on this list presently employed by the Mill will retain their employment but only as long as they don’t break ANY company rules.” [There were four of them]

“On a smaller scale I’m going to endow the High School with two scholarships every year for full tuition at any university where the recipients are accepted at for up to four years. The scholarships are to be awarded to the two senior students with the highest academic rating who are either transgender or non-binary. If one or both scholarships can’t be awarded for any given year senior students at Morrah High School fulfilling the requirements will be considered instead.”

The last part was pure malice from my side. The town was united in their hate not only against people like me but also, and perhaps even more, in their hate of their neighbors. Go Morrah! I thought. The audience was visibly chocked.

“Now I’m going to leave the floor to the reverend Parson who will establish a new church in town with my support.”

At that I left the podium and quietly left. Rev Parson knew how to find the way to his new home later. The house where my parents used to live. I could hear Rev Parson starting his speach.

“Hello everyone. Yes, I really I am the reverend Parson. Not really my fault. The heavy burden of inheritance. Yes, we will build a new church here in town. You are all invited to be part of that endeavor. In our church we welcome everyone. Some will come because you believe in the inclusiveness and open-mindedness that our Savior was an example of. Some will come because you are curious. Some will come because you think that will carry favor with Ms Elternlos. Some will come to figure out what we “spawn of the devil” are up to. You are all welcome regardless of why you come. WE don’t turn anyone away.”

Then I heard no more. I was busy sneaking away because I had a dinner appointment. That dinner was significantly trickier than the town meeting had been. The Svenssons were awkward to deal with. They absolutely refused any gift I’d like to give them. Even when I tried to frame it as a recompense for saving my life (that I value quite high) they refused. They had already refused to be named by me publicly. In short they were very awkward to deal with. I never meet people like that in my ordinary life. They even gently but firmly pushed me to rescind the list of people to be frozen out. At last I found their weak point. They had enough money to put one and possibly two of their children through college, not all three. Purely as a matter of equality we agreed that I’d make sure that all three would be able to go to college. Then they added a condition. They’d only accept if I rescinded the list. I managed to get a two week reprieve before announcing that. By then I was actually whining. I had started to appreciate how Pinocchio felt about Jiminy Cricket.

The day after we had a general meeting at The Mill outlining the future of the company. I also introduced new company rules. They included paragraphs about hate speech and discrimination being cause for dismissal. One of the four on the list shouted abuse at me. My guards had him out of the room in less than a minute. Professionals! I told the workforce that there was nothing to worry about. He wouldn’t be dismissed since the rules wouldn’t come into force until the day after. Then I reminded them that the new people in The Mill would include black people, people of Asian descent, gay people and perhaps even, GASP!, transgender people. Possibly a wide variety of people that they’d consider NOT NORMAL The hate speech clause, as well and the anti-discrimination clause, would be strictly enforced.

In the afternoon I had a meeting with my old Principal. At the time I was a student in his school he had been a youngish reform-minded principal. Now he was about to reach retirement age and had lost some of his old fire, or rather it had been banked. When I outlined what I had in mind for the school he perked up and promised to stay on for a couple of years, with my moral and financial support, to ensure that the new intake of teachers was in line with our ideas. I hope Coach got a nice surprise with the donation for a new football field.

As the motorcade left South Odom after that meeting John turned to me and said

“So you decided to annihilate South Odom after all”

“Only as we know it”

and with a beatifical smile I almost repeated myself

“Only as they know it”

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