#109 – The Rumor Mill

Since last night I’ve been ruminating on rumors, in particular the false but scandalous ones and how fast they spread.

I answered my sister-in-law’s call shortly after dinner yesterday, while preparing to go to my friend Jimmy’s house. After handing the phone to Sophia, I caught pieces of their conversation as I searched in vain for my wallet. She asked if Gina had met our new next door neighbor, Karen. Gina must’ve, since Sophia continued: “Isn’t she sweet?” The two then discussed the woman’s qualities as if all were well acquainted.

At that point I remembered where I’d last seen my wallet. I went upstairs and retrieved it from the pocket of the shorts I’d worn the day before. When I returned to the kitchen, I found Sophia still prattling on about Karen, but in a far juicier manner. I stopped short on overhearing a real humdinger: “Yeah, she was artificially inseminated. Those two kids were never his, but he supposedly paid her off to keep her mouth shut.”

I would’ve loved to learn more, but I was already running late. So I left without hearing the rest of the scandal. 

Naturally, the paucity of details didn’t stop me from mentioning my neighbor’s paternity issue to Jimmy and the two other guys who showed up for poker. They didn’t know Karen personally, but one of them thought his kids and hers were friends. He couldn’t wait to tell his wife about my astonishing revelation.

Apparently, news travels fast in these parts. Sophia called me from work an hour ago to complain about the gossip she’d just received. One of her friends from the subdivision had called to relate the shocking tale of Karen’s artificial insemination. The friend had obtained the story this morning from another neighborhood lady, who’d in turn heard it from someone else.

Sophia sounded vexed: “Richard, don’t these fishwives have anything better to do than blab about their neighbors? And it’s such utter bullshit too! Karen wasn’t artificially inseminated, and her ex certainly didn’t pay her off to say the kids are his when they’re not. Where do these stupid rumors get started anyway?”

She probably meant the last question rhetorically, but her comments so flummoxed me I forgot to keep my mouth shut: “What do you mean, ‘where?’ This one got started by you, when you told Gina about Karen and her fatherless babies last night.”

In her best “what have you done now?” tone, Sophia replied: “Idiot! I wasn’t discussing Karen then. Hell, I wasn’t even speaking to Gina anymore. I answered the ‘call waiting’ beep and started talking to Sharon … about the claim from Michael Jackson’s ex-wife that Michael hadn’t fathered his two oldest kids.”

It shouldn’t be long before the enticing, but probably baseless, tidbit reaches Karen’s ears. When it does, I can only hope that, like most rumors, its original source remains untraceable.

One mother and her perhaps-not-actually-the-father late ex-husband


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