Part I is here. And Part II here. This is Part III.
When Winnie Esposito, a school district trustee running for a second term, and her husband Wayne entered Rumors, Winnie headed straight for the table where Maude and Sparky Fong sat with their children and introduced herself.
The Fongs, who watch school board and city council meetings on TV, had seen Winnie calm heated crowds of parents, teachers and other school staffers during talk of increasing class sizes, possible school closures and the district's budget deficit. Winnie had an impressive way of easing the tension and leading people to listen more and react less. The Fongs liked her style.
So, Maude and Sparky were taken by surprise when Winnie opened her purse and pulled out five bright red, white and blue campaign buttons the size of tea saucers, with her photo and the slogan, Don't be a ninny, vote for Winnie.
"Here you go," she said, starting to pin one on Maude's jacket. "Put yours on, too, Sparky, and then put them on top of girls' strollers so people can see them."
Maude fumbled to unpin the button from her jacket while Sparky grabbed the others off the table.
"It's kind of risky to have them around the kids," Sparky said, handing them back to Winnie, who pushed back at Sparky's hand, saying, "Oh, please take them. And here are some fliers you can have. Put them up around town. And I'll run out to the car in a minute and get you some lawn signs, too!"
"No need, really," Maude said.
Winnie's husband approached and gathered the buttons and brochures, wished the Fongs a pleasant evening, took Winnie's arm to guide her to their table and quietly said, "We've talked about this, Winnie. I thought you we're going to ease up on the ease up on the in-your-face stumping. It's no way to earn points with voters."
"That's not what my campaign consultants say!" she snapped. "They told me to stand out from the crowd, to be aggressive, and that people love freebies. They wrote my campaign slogan!"
"Agnes and Flo aren't campaign consultants," he snapped back. "They get their ideas from old movies. And "Don't be a ninny, vote for Winnie," is ridiculous. You're going to lose this election if you keep up this Yankee Doodle Dandy routine. Can't you see it puts people off? And it's not like you. How can you be so effective and calm at board meetings and become so pushy during campaigns? Have you developed multiple personality disorder?"
"Well, thanks for your support, Wayne," Winnie said sarcastically.
In the meantime, other customers had arrived. Knives and forks tinkled on dishes; the murmur of numerous conversations hummed in the dining room. Bear and Ursa were so busy taking orders and cooking they had no time to visit with anyone.
Bear and Ursa were happy with the sounds of their customers enjoying themselves … until they noticed the volume of one of the conversations, coming from a group of people waiting for tables, had risen above the others.
And if the tone of the voices holding that conversation were any indication, a storm of strong opinions was brewing in Rumors Pub.
"Rumors of Alameda" will appear Thursdays. Some of the art will be provided by the Frank Bette Center for the Arts and other local artists.