The Fourth Of July is just days away. All kinds of commotion swirls around Town Hall in downtown Shady Pines Story Town. The few employees still working there (others work from home) are social distancing, wearing masks, and talking on their cell phones. These employees have to let their neighbors know what they can and can’t do on the Fourth.

At the top of the list – no fireworks. That includes backyard sparklers or any other kind of fireworks. The public firworks display has been cancelled and that’s just one of the changes to the town’s traditions in 2020. Due to the pandemic, there won’t be the usual holiday celebrations that everyone is used to seeing.

There will be no parade down Main Street and no big ‘ole barbeque in Stonewall Park. But there are still plans to have smaller gatherings around town.

The Community Center is having an ice cream get together for the kids and people will be allowed to picnic down by the lake. They just have to stay six feet apart.

Still, there’s that one issue that always sparks concern. Everyone who lives in the small Southern town is discouraged from using fireworks on their property, but some will do it anyway. That’s why messages about fireworks safety need to go out soon. There’s so much to do!

Mayor Beauregard P. Fibbs sits at his big wooden desk in his office at City Hall and answers one phone call after another. He gets more frustrated by the minute. Finally, he calls for his assistant.

“Beth,” he shouts, “Will you come in here please!”

A moment later, a tall young woman appears in the mayor’s doorway. Beth Dowd has been the mayor’s assistant since graduating from college three years ago. “How can I help you?”

Mayor Fibbs gets up and starts to pace back and forth. “Beth, there’s not much time. We need to get our arms around this Independence Day situation.”

Beth can see that the mayor is really upset. “I completely agree. Here’s the good news. The planning committee is meeting downstairs right now. They’re working on getting the word out on what is, and isn’t going on this year.”

As he paces with his hands clasped together behind his back, the mayor is nodding. “That’s good. You know, this fireworks situation is real. I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve taken from animal rights groups. Don’t folks realize how much our pets get upset by the sound? The poor animals don’t feel safe in their own homes for cryin’ out loud!”

Beth understands. “My dog, Scruffy, runs into the closet and hides at the sound of the first fireworks he hears. He just shakes. It’s really bad.”

Mayor Fibbs is getting worked up. “And another thing. What about our veterans? I just got a call from one of our retired generals. He reminded me these men and women have been to war. The sound of fireworks takes them right back to the battlefield. You talk about upsetting.”

Beth frowns. “Oh, my gosh. That makes sense. I’d never thought about that before.”

Mayor Fibbs has an idea. “Beth, call over to The Shady Pines Gazette newspaper office, will you? Ask Zulah and Scoop if they can come over here.”

Beth claps here hands. “That’s perfect. They can do a story and spread the word. I’m on it.”

As Beth leaves, the mayor returns to his desk. He jots down some thoughts about what he wants included in the interview he is about to give. Besides safety for pets and veterans on the Fourth of July, he wants safety for children included in the story as well.

“We all need to watch out for one another and be sure the most vulnerable among us are protected,” he says out loud. “Compassion should never take a holiday.”

**Come back next time to find out what  Zulah and Scoop include in their story. In the meantime, leave us your thoughts about this one in the comments below!