The Mayor of Darkville
Children’s Christmas Eve Story, 2003
Rev. Gary Cox — Wichita, Kansas
University Congregational Church
I suppose it makes sense when you look back on it, but it sure didn’t make sense at the time. You see, the mayor was the type of guy people trusted. Everybody knew that the mayor wouldn’t do anything to harm the city. So why would he ruin Christmas for the whole town? Why would he take the most fun time of year and spoil it for every single man, women and child…
Okay, I have a habit of starting stories in the middle instead of at the beginning, which is a bad habit, since I’m standing here rattling on and you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about. So let’s try again, and this time, I’ll begin at the beginning.
It was a normal Christmas season in Kansas, which means that everybody in town was in a good mood. Because Christmas is the best time of year, there’s no doubt about that. And Christmas was only a couple of days away when it happened—when the mayor ruined everything.
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People will never forget the night it happened. Johnny Tucker was sitting in front of the television, watching a rerun of one of his favorite shows. Next door, Sally Wilson was playing video games on her computer—she was pretty sure Santa was going to bring her some new ones for Christmas, and she wanted to play with her old games once before the new ones arrived. Johnny and Sally were not only next-door-neighbors, they were good friends. Sally used to dream that she and Johnny would grow up and get married some day. Whenever she mentioned her dream to Johnny, he would make a funny face, and start making sounds like he was puking or something; but deep inside, he dreamed about it too.
But that’s another story, and that’s another problem I have when it comes to stories. Not only do I have trouble beginning at the beginning, I tend to get sidetracked and start in on other stories right when people are starting to get interested in what I’m talking about. So forget about all that “getting married” business with Johnny and Sally; but don’t forget about Johnny and Sally. Because they are what this story is all about—Johnny, Sally, and the way the mayor spoiled Christmas for them and everybody else in town.
Have you ever been sitting at home when the power went out? The TV shuts off, the lights go out, and suddenly everybody and everything are in the dark. It usually happens during a thunderstorm, but there was no thunderstorm that night just before Christmas when Johnny’s television suddenly went blank. And Sally’s computer screen shut down, just as she was about to surpass her all-time scoring record on her favorite game—Spymaster 5000 Autoblaster with Self-Decoding Integral Laser Beam Digital Attachments powered by QwestMaster Technology.
This was a disaster! And not just for Johnny and Sally. All over town TV’s shut off. All over town Christmas parties came to a halt as the music stopped. The flashing lights on festively decorated Main Street stopped flashing. The stores had to close. Even the mall—even the mall—had to get everybody out, and lock the doors.
And it was like that all night. Nothing to do, nothing to see, no games to play. And as if that weren’t bad enough, things didn’t get any better the next morning. It wasn’t an especially sunny day, and Johnny’s dad couldn’t even read the paper as he ate breakfast. Next door, Sally’s mom usually spent the morning watching the news on television and running on her electric treadmill—but not that morning.
Nobody went to work, of course, since there were no lights in the offices. All the stores were closed. And that’s when the trouble really started. People started getting angry. They walked outside and started talking to each other. “What happened? Why did the power go out? I missed my favorite TV show! I can’t even read my paper!”
Nobody knows for sure how the truth came out, but the truth always does come out, and in this case the truth made a whole lot of people just as mad as a nest of hornets. The mayor had turned off the power. In fact, the mayor had gone to the edge of town, taken the special key from the special room where the power is turned on and off, and he turned the power off—on purpose! Not only that, he took the key, stuck it in his pocket, and left town so nobody would be able to turn the power back on!
Christmas was only a few days away, and the Mayor had ruined everything! People started calling the town “Darkville,” since the lights were all out, and all the conveniences of the modern world sat unused beside useless power outlets.
“Wait ‘til we get our hands on the Mayor of Darkville!” they cried. “We’ll hold him down, take that key from him, we’ll get the power back on—and then we’ll call a special election, vote him out of office, and ask him as nicely as possible to leave Darkville and never come back!”
Oh they were mad. For two straight days the situation remained the same. Johnny’s dad couldn’t read the paper, so he started talking to Johnny’s mom as they ate breakfast. It was sort of funny really. They had been married for so long, they figured they didn’t have much left to talk about. But sure enough, because it was too dark to read the paper, they started talking…and they talked and talked and talked. Johnny’s dad even said to Johnny’s mom, “You know, if we weren’t already married, I’d marry you all over again!”
Something similar happened next door. Sally’s mom couldn’t watch TV and run on her treadmill, so she and Sally passed the mornings by talking about school, and boys, and all sorts of stuff. They even bundled up and went out on the front porch to read a story together—it was too dark in the house. It was odd. Sally and her mom hardly ever spoke to each other in the morning, and now they were spending all this time together.
But here’s what is strange. This same type of thing was happening all over town. Husbands and wives and brothers and sisters and parents and children suddenly didn’t have anything to do. So they started talking to each other and doing things together.
Johnny’s parents saw Sally and her mom reading on the front porch, and they walked over to see what was going on. “Hey, I remember that book!’” shouted Johnny’s dad. “That’s Green Eggs and Ham! I read that when I was a little boy!” The next thing you know, the neighbors are gathered together on the porch, laughing, and reading, and telling stories about when they were young. They couldn’t remember when they’d had so much fun. Neighbors all over town were getting together like never before.
When Christmas Eve finally came, Darkville was about the happiest place in the world. Everybody was watching out for the needs of everybody else: “Hi Mr. Jones! Do you need any firewood to keep warm?” “Oh, no thank you, Mrs. Perez. Do your kids need any milk—I’ve got plenty—I’ve been keeping it cold by putting it out on the back patio!” “Hi Mrs. Jackson—why don’t you and your family come over and play some board games with us in front of the fireplace?” “That sounds great, Mr. White. We’ll bring a box of crackers and some pop.”
And then, when it was getting late, and the children were about to go to bed so Santa could start making his rounds, it happened. The Mayor of Darkville sneaked back into town, took the key from his pocket, went into that special little room at the edge of town, and turned the power back on—just in time for Christmas. All over town the lights came back on. The Christmas trees lit up, and the televisions all flashed to life. The radios started to blare, and Main Street lit up with flashing lights and the sounds of Christmas Carols.
Now, here’s the really strange thing. You would think that everybody would be thrilled about the power coming back on. And at first they were. Sally ran to her room and turned on her computer to once again start playing her favorite game. Johnny plopped down in front of the TV. Johnny’s dad picked up the unread newspapers that sat beside the kitchen table. And people all over town, right in the middle of their games and singing and laughing, just sort of shut up. And they started to go home.
But then, but then, something really really really strange happened. Sally reached down and unplugged her computer. Johnny turned off the television. Johnny’s dad put down the newspaper. For two or three minutes it seemed like nobody in that whole town talked, or moved—you could have heard a pin drop! And then, all over town, people silently walked over to the switch on the wall…and they turned off the lights. Suddenly, once again, they were sitting together in front of their fireplaces, playing board games, and singing Christmas Carols.
To this day, people from all over town still remember when the Mayor of Darkville turned out the lights. And to this day, everybody in town will tell you that those two days of darkness were the best Christmas present they ever got.