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The hub of the town consisted of its post office, the three main churches--Lutheran, Baptist, Episcopal, and one small offshoot, the Church of the Holy Light--the schools--kindergarten through twelfth--Market Shiflett's small grocery store, and Crozet Pizza. Since a person worshipped at one church at a time, the goings-on in the other three might remain a mystery. The small market provided a handsome opportunity to catch up, but you really had to buy something. Also, one had to be careful that Market's fat gray cat, Pewter, didn't steal your food before you had the chance to eat it. Schools were a good source, too, but if you were childless or if your darlings were finally in college, you were out of that pipeline. This left the post office the dubious honor of being the premier meeting place, or Gossip Central.
The postmistress--a title which she preferred to the official one of postmaster--Mary Minor Haristeen rarely indulged in what she termed gossip, which is to say if she couldn't substantiate a story, she didn't repeat it. Otherwise, she was only too happy to pass on the news. Her unofficial assistant, Mrs. Miranda Hogendobber, the widow of the former postmaster, relished the "news," but she drew the line at character assassination. If people started dumping all over someone else, Mrs. Hogendobber usually calmed them down or plain shut them up.
Harry, as Mary Minor was affectionately known, performed her tasks wonderfully well. Quite young for her position, Harry benefited from Miranda's wisdom. But Harry's most valuable assistants were Mrs. Murphy, her tiger cat, and Tee Tucker, her Welsh corgi. They wallowed in gossip. Not only did the goings-on of the humans transfix them, but so did the shenanigans of the animal community, reported by any dog accompanying its master into the post office. Whatever the dogs missed, Pewter found out next door. When she had something to tell, the round gray cat would run to the back door of the post office to spill it. Over the last few years, the cats had banged on the door so much, creating such a racket, that Harry installed a pet door so the friends could come and go as they pleased. Harry had designed a cover she could lock down over the animals' entrance, since the post office had to be secured each night.
Not that there was much to steal from the Crozet post office--stamps, a few dollars. But Harry diligently obeyed the rules, as she was a federal employee, a fact that endlessly amused her. She loathed the federal government and barely tolerated the state government, considering it the refuge of the mediocre. Still, she drew a paycheck from that bloated government on the north side of the Potomac, so she tried to temper her opinions.
Miranda Hogendobber, on the other hand, vividly remembered Franklin Delano Roosevelt, so her perception of government remained far more positive than Harry's. Just because Miranda remembered FDR did not mean, however, that she would reveal her age.
On this late July day the mimosas were crowned with the pink and gold halos of their fragile blossoms. The crepe myrtle and hydrangeas rioted throughout the town, splashes of purple and magenta here, white there. Not much else bloomed in the swelter of the Dog Days, which began on July 3 and finished August 15, so the color was appreciated.
So far, less than two inches of rain had fallen that month. The viburnums drooped. Even the hardy dogwoods began to curl up, so Mrs. Hogendobber would sprinkle the plants early in the morning and late in the evening to avoid losing too much moisture to evaporation. Her garden, the envy of the town, bore testimony to her vigilance.
The mail sorted,...
About the Author-
Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sneaky Pie Brown series; the Sister Jane series; A Nose for Justice and Murder Unleashed; Rubyfruit Jungle; In Her Day; and Six of One, as well as several other novels. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia.
Sneaky Pie Brown, a tiger cat born somewhere in Albemarle County, Virginia, was discovered by Rita Mae Brown at her local SPCA. They have collaborated on numerous Mrs. Murphy mysteries--in addition to Sneaky Pie's Cookbook for Mystery Lovers and Sneaky Pie for President.
PublisherRandom House Publishing Group
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