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A Pinch of Spice

by Patricia Crandall

In elaborate dress, Clara and Dory Marchand were seated at their linen covered table with a fresh yellow rose in a Majolica vase set upon it, drinking Oolong tea and eating currant teacakes.

"Delicious, dear," Dory exclaimed abstractedly to her sister as she daintily dunked a finger of cake into the hot tea and tasted it. She gazed out the filmy curtained window across the traffic at the graffiti-neighborhood. Frowning, her eyes focused on a new message painted on the back of a boarded, red-brick building. "Goodbye Dear", the communiqué read.

"What an odd message," Dory sighed.  "At least this newly painted exhibition isn't obscene. Still, it's too much to endure and with Papa and Mama's money dwindling, we're at the mercy of so many others: insurance agents, doctor bills, phone bills... How are we ever going to afford fuel oil this winter?" 

She poured more tea into her china cup. "You do realize, Clara, we've nothing left but a few pieces of Imari porcelain, some gold jewelry, and two of Grandmama Ceal's diamond brooches. Besides, it is humiliating to be forced to sit here and watch our beloved Larchmore Street deteriorate before our eyes." 

She dabbed a lace handkerchief at her teary eyes and turned them away from the window. She straightened her shoulders and said, "I think it s time we sell our property to the state, Clara. With or without our consent, they'll tear it down and build the civic center before you can say Frank Sinatra!" 

Clara patted her lips with a frayed linen napkin. She said unyielding in a croaky voice, "I 'l never agree to sell our home, Dory. Let's not go into that topic again."

"Say, your teacakes are very good, Clara, as usual. Yet, they taste different. Did you add a new spice?"

"How clever of you to notice," Clara said distinctly.

Dory continued on boldly, "I may as well tell you Clara, I've decided to sell this house and land to the state. You can't persuade me to do otherwise. I own 51% of the property, thanks to Papa deeming me all-knowing and wise, and I intend to contact Mr. Price at the bank tomorrow. I m sorry. I know how you cherish this old Victorian Lady with its priceless memories. It's been in our family for five generations." A dreamy expression appeared on her rouged, wrinkled face. She flung her long, thin arm theatrically. "Imagine a new beginning, Clara. The Chasebourne Town Houses are lovely."

Dory finished her teacake. Suddenly, her wide, terrified eyes fixed themselves on Clara's pudgy, paint-stained hand. There was an indrawn breath. Her twisting hands fluttered to her neck and she choked.

"Goodbye, Dear," Clara murmured.

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