Mistaken: A Stephen Woodfin Short Story

A political campaign can open a lot of wounds, and some may never heal.
A political campaign can open a lot of wounds, and some may never heal.

THE CAMPAIGN had been brutal.

The opponents, Julian and Maurice, had known each other since they were kids.  They belonged to the same service organizations, worshipped at the altar of the same church. But when the school board race came around, they found themselves on opposite sides.

The only issue in the nonpartisan race was a bond, the mechanism the school must use to finance new construction. If it passed, citizens would see a slight increase in their taxes, if it failed the students would be trapped in a seventy-year old asbestosis-laden building.

Julian was for the bond, Maurice against it.

A few days before early voting started, letters appeared in the mailboxes of voters throughout the district.

They called Julian a “tax and spend” candidate and insinuated that he had ties to the Communist Party, was in favor of gay marriage, supported the Taliban and wanted to keep prayer out of the public schools.

Julian ignored them.

“No one will believe that trash,” he told his wife as she cried in the kitchen, the letter clutched in her hand.

Julian lost.

A few days after the election, he came upon a wreck on the Interstate.

He recognized Maurice’s car flipped on its side off the shoulder of the road, smoke beginning to creep out of the passenger compartment.

Julian parked on the shoulder and raced down the embankment where he found Maurice still in the car unconscious. He yanked at the jammed door and couldn’t get it open.

“Hang on, Maurice,” he yelled.  “I’ll get you out.”

Julian grabbed a large rock and crashed it against the driver’s side window. Black smoke erupted through the opening as Julian fumbled for the door latch.

He gave it one last tug and the door swung open.  As flames began to engulf the passenger compartment, Julian released Maurice’s seat belt and dragged him out of the car, away from danger.

Later that evening, Julian came to the hospital to see Maurice.  When he entered the room, Maurice turned his head toward him.  His wife and many of his supporters from the campaign were in the room.

From his hospital bed, Maurice extended his hand to Julian.

Julian shook his hand.

“I’m glad you’re all right, Maurice,” Julian said.

“I wouldn’t be if it weren’t for you,” Maurice said. “I was badly mistaken about you, Julian.  I hope you can forgive the things I said about you in that silly school board race.”

“If the shoe had been on the other foot today, you would have done the same thing for me,” Julian said.

Maurice looked away and didn’t respond. His wife and his supporters looked at the floor, avoiding eye-contact with Julian.

Julian searched their faces, straightened his back.

“I guess I wasn’t mistaken about you, Maurice,” he said as he turned and left the room.

Stephen Woodfin is the author of the Revelation Trilogy.

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