The subject was love, of course, with Valentine's Day upon us, and that's why the grizzled and semi-grizzled members of the world dilemma think tank had settled upon it. Well, to be fair, they agreed to talk about someone else's love life, naturally.
The problem – the romantic mystery – was Sarah McKinley. It started small, with just a few people wondering why this attractive woman was – still or again (no one knew which) – single. In a valley where being single is looked upon as a sin of omission, all those inquiring minds wanted to know.
And then, about six months after Sarah opened the Read It Now Bookstore, she threw everlasting gasoline on the fire by hanging the now-famous sign on a long bookshelf, saying "Love and other Fiction."
This spurred on speculation (none dare call it gossip) about an unhappy love affair in Sarah's past. The most interesting speculations centered around either, 1. Losing a lover in a foreign war, 2. Secretly lusting after an actor on afternoon television's "As the Worm Squirms," and 3. Being left at the altar by a scoundrel.
Naturally, no one came right out and asked her, as that would be ... pushy? Rude? Nobody's business?
The "girls" down at the Curl Up 'N Dye beauty salon couldn't get the job done, so the world dilemma think tank decided to do the manly thing and confront her.
The four-man coffee'd-up deputation walked into the store en masse and Doc had been assigned the role of Grand Inquisitor, since he pried into people's private lives as part of his official duties.
"Hi guys," Sarah said, smiling. "What can I do for you?"
"Sarah," Doc said, "we'd like to know ... you know ... so we can put an end to all the speculation."
"Know what, Doc?"
"Well, why do you have that sign up there. 'Love and Other Fiction.' You know. Is it something in your past? Did you have an unhappy love affair?"
"You certainly come right out with it, don't you, Doc? Well ... it's like this. I needed a sign up there and I painted that one and put it up. That's why. As for any unhappy love affairs I may have had, how many women had you consorted with before you met Mrs. Doc? How about you, Herb? Dud? Marvin? Let's get it all out on the board and talk about it."
Ten minutes later, the guys ordered fresh coffee back at the philosophy counter.
"I never thought Sarah would be like that," Herb said.
"Yeah," said Doc. "Kinda nosy, isn't she?"
"Some things are just ... personal, Doc," said Dud.
Marvin just quietly smiled and put sugar in his coffee.
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