Sylvia Beline was the darling of the Westin ballroom; at least, she was at the moment she swept into the Association of Excellent Greater Good Charities keynote luncheon. Not because of her lovely appearance, although her gleaming smile did make us feel that she cared, yes truly cared, for each and every one of us. We also basked in her aura of intelligence, which had a non-threatening, would-never-steal-your-job feel to it.
Even so, on her entrance, it wasn’t her smile, her re-purposed cream-colored dress (less money spent on fashion meant more for charity), or her genuine butter movements that made the room give a collective ahhhh of appreciation. Rather, it was her reputation, which had preceded her. We knew she had abandoned a life of comfort to focus on making the world a better place. We also knew that because of her tireless fundraising and nonstop go-getting, there were no less than three fewer life-altering diseases making the rounds. Plus we were all living better lives because Sylvia had championed safer cars and better food handling, and the crime rate had decreased because she influenced the shuffling of funds into anti-addiction programs that actually worked.
And yet, there was something disturbing about the way Sylvia trotted right onto the stage and planted herself directly in front of Morris Elbert, the keynote speaker. Only then did we shift in our chairs, lower our dessert forks, stop wondering whether there would ever be a public figure so wonderful as Sylvia Beline, and start wondering what she had in her hand. It looked like a turkey baster, but she held it so reverently, could it have been something else? What was it and why did she offer it to Morris in such an odd, expectant manner?
We discovered soon enough that it was, indeed, a turkey baster, and she wasn’t offering it to Morris, she was pointing it at Morris. She squeezed the bulb, shooting a brown stream across his John Lennon glasses, his pursed lips, and the shoulder of his bone-white shirt. She then shot a second stream the other direction, creating a lopsided X across his head and upper torso before his hands reached up to wipe it away.
Morris’s high-quality microphone picked up the sound of the two squirting actions with distinct clarity. Part of the show, people thought, to drive home Morris’s gesture-filled point that nothing in life was certain. But the smell of pig slop filled the room, and so did Sylvia’s expression (splashed across the right and left video screens in place of a graph-heavy PowerPoint presentation), composed of two beady eyes and one unmistakable sneer.
I knew why she’d done it, though I never let on. It was a no-publicity-is-bad-publicity fake out. Sylvia’s star, and therefore her effectiveness, had begun to fade. She knew it, and I, her publicist knew it. Nobody else knew, because we acted before it could become apparent. I tried to talk her out of it, for her own sake, but she was determined, as always.
Sylvia Beline, beloved darling, sullied her own reputation, in order to gain even more attention for the causes she adored. She began to attack the leaders of those causes—with every imaginable distasteful substance that could fit into a turkey baster, and every time she did, the cause received more attention, more money, and more volunteering from people aghast at Sylvia’s apparent psychological breakdown.
Only now, after Sylvia’s death, am I able to enlighten you about her true nature, and inform you of the price she paid to help so many. So the next time you hear the name Sylvia Beline, please, please, don’t think of pig slop. Think of a woman who would do anything for others, even if it meant losing friends, family, and reputation.