There are always rumors. There's always innuendo. There's no fence, dike, Maginot Line or gee-whiz, new, spun-from-spidersilk fabric that can hold back the current of words that constantly abrades your reputation, carrying off particles of goodwill that you've amassed over the course of a lifetime. How people see you is something that can never be assured. Or insured.

Take the example of one Mrs. Nora Thump, lifelong resident of Hatcher Street in a bedroom community not terribly distant from Albany, New York. A humble Methodist, she threw herself year after year, decade after decade, into bake sales, rummage sales, scrip and choir. In the local school system, tales abound of teachers and principals (even a hapless janitor) who, one way or another, crossed her and earned for themselves a righteous "Thumping."

Mrs. Thump became, over time, a bit of a local celebrity because of her talent for changing the status quo with one or two well-placed "Thumps." She was feted by the Rotarians; the Mayor fawned over her; the local diner showed its appreciation by naming a sandwich after her. An aspiring local artist asked her to sit for a portrait. The town's website from the period (available in the library, along with the inept portrait) crowed to prospective visitors: "Ours is a town that believes a good 'Thumping' can cure any bad behavior, that a timely 'Thump' often brings sunshine to places laboring in a pall of misery."

All of which was very well, until Mrs. Nora Thump became Widow Thump and began to lose her mind. A woman who had never been enthusiastic about modern music, slowly turned into a violent, uncontrollable animal in its presence. She was all too aware of having been once-upon-a-time valued for her "thumping," and she set out assure the permanence of her status.

Hatcher Street was narrow and lined with neat houses. In the summer there were flowers in flowerboxes; in the winter the sidewalks were always well-shovelled and salted. The Thumps' house was painted periwinkle, and boasted a pleasant porch for sitting, with a swing on chains that faced the road. Widow Thump sat on that swing for hours every day in the summer, watching and waiting, a heavy stone in her right hand. Whenever anyone drove by playing music too loudly, she let them have it--Thump! Worse, she wouldn't stop throwing. Even worse: she was deadly accurate--the Navy SEAL of senile rock hurlers. She even beaned joggers and bicyclists who wore headphones, despite being unable to hear their music. "I know what you're listening to!" she screamed. The lucky ones were able to get up and run away.

This is why for many years, people passing through Widow Thump's little town were asked to pay a small toll at the entrance to Hatcher Street. It was a kind of temporary car insurance, the proceeds of which paid restitution to those injured by the widow, whether in body, spirit or property.

Now that she's gone, of course, the surplus is spent caring for Thump Park, which is dedicated to the cause of "Judicious Thumping" according to the plaque affixed to the drinking fountain.

Copyright and all rights reserved by John Crossman 2010