Down at the Dinghy

Itwasalittleafterfouro’clockonanIndianSummerafternoon.Somefifteenortwentytimessincenoon,Sandra,themaid,hadcomeawayfromthelake-frontwindowinthekitchenwithhermouthsettight.Thistimeasshecameaway,sheabsentlyuntiedandre-tiedherapronstrings,takingupwhatlittleslackherenormouswaistlineallowed.ThenshewentbacktotheenameltableandloweredherfreshlyuniformedbodyintotheseatoppositeMrs.Snell.Mrs.Snellhavingfinishedthecleaningandironingwashavinghercustomarycupofteabeforewalkingdowntheroadtothebusstop.Mrs.Snellhadherhaton.Itwasthesameinteresting,blackfeltheadpieceshehadworn,notjustallsummer,butforthepastthreesummers-throughrecordheatwaves,throughchangeoflife,overscoresofironingboards,overthehelmsofdozensofvacuumcleaners.TheHattieCarnegielabelwasstillinsideit,fadedbut(itmightbesaid)unbowed.

"I’mnotgonnaworryaboutit,"Sandraannounced,forthefifthorsixthtime,addressingherselfasmuchasMrs.Snell."ImadeupmymindI’mnotgonnaworryaboutit.Whatfor?"

"That’sright,"saidMrs.Snell."Iwouldn’t.Ireallywouldn’t.Reachmemybag,dear."

Aleatherhandbag,extremelyworn,butwithalabelinsideitasimpressiveastheoneinsideMrs.Snell’shat,layonthepantry.Sandrawasabletoreachitwithoutstandingup.ShehandeditacrossthetabletoMrs.Snell,whoopeneditandtookoutapackofmentholatedcigarettesandafolderofStorkClubmatches.

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