The Adventures of Dinah

Dinah Simmons rested her outstretched arms on the balustrade and looked out over the green expanse, a full quarter mile from the country road separating the old plantation house from the bayou. To the left was a line of madly blooming bougainvillea; to her right a wall of enormous live oaks dripping with grey Spanish moss. And to the far left discreetly masked by the bougainvillea was a large parking lot. It was gratifyingly empty. She sighed deeply and gratefully.

She couldn't help it. "Mine, mine, mine, all mine" Dinah sang, reaching out to embrace the entire property.

"Wrong, wrong, wrong, all wrong," said Cheryl, one of the concrete pieces of evidence that the plantation known as Chestnutt Grove was in fact owned by the state, on the National Register of Historic Places, and in fact, Dinah's employer. Cheryl Lassiter, intern and part-time docent at Chestnutt Grove, sat in a large white chair behind her, a history text clutched in her arms.

"What do you say we knock off early?" said Dinah.

"Can't be done, old thing," said Cheryl, younger by too many decades.

"Why not? Nobody's here."

"Tour bus due in at 2:00."

"Oh damn. Well, who is it? Maybe we can quick close up before they get here."

"Uh," said Cheryl, checking the schedule she was using as a bookmark. "Winterhaven Active Adult Community."

"Active Adult?" asked Dinah. "That sounds threatening. Oh well, at least it's not kids. I hate kids."

"Ugh." Cheryl shook her head. "You don't know the elderly. At least the kids' leaders have some control."

"Watch it now, I'm not that far from elderly myself."

"Plus this will be Mrs. Treacher. She'll want to set up a stretch of tours for the year. Make sure she pays for last quarter. Bill could always get her check, but since he's been gone, no good," said Cheryl. "And, that reminds me, she doesn't know about Bill."

"She doesn't know about Bill?"

"Yeah. We didn't tell her; you'll guess why shortly. So if she asks... what time is it?"

Dinah walked into the house and looked at the ormolu clock erratically ticking on the fireplace mantel. Tick, tiiiick, tick, tick, tiiick. "Oh, damn, it's almost 2:00 now, too late to hide now."

The unmistakable groan and wheeze of a hydraulic brake system could be heard in the distance behind the live oaks, and shortly the silver monster pulled into the drive and directed itself toward the building. At precisely two o'clock, the bus stopped in front of the house. The bus door slid open and a tall, svelte blonde with a megaphone stepped out and aimed her megaphone into the bus.

"This way ladies, and you too, Mr. Palmer," she announced.

A clutch of women dressed in brightly colored tracksuits and golf visors descended from the steps of the bus, accompanied by a single man, clothed in a brown suit. A small subset of the women clustered around him, chattering.

"This is Chestnutt Grove, next on our tour of central Louisiana plantation houses" announced the blonde.

"Mrs. Treacher," identified Cheryl to Dinah, and headed down the stairs of the gallery.

Mrs. Treacher continued through her megaphone. "This lovely residence was built in the late 18th century by a third cousin of Thomas Jefferson—yes that Thomas Jefferson, Mrs. Appleby—as part of a sugar plantation." She took the megaphone away from her lips. "Now where is that girl?" she said irritably. Her voice, a full-throated strident sound that carried perfectly well without mechanical aid echoed up the stairs.

Cheryl reached the main gallery.

"Ah, Sherrie, how nice to see you again," said the blonde insincerely.

"Mrs. Treacher, welcome back," said Cheryl. "As Mrs. Treacher told you, Chestnutt Grove was built in 1795 by Charles Jefferson, a relative of Thomas Jefferson's, who left Virginia in rather less-than-honorable circumstances with a great deal of money."

The sound of Cheryl's voice disappeared into the first floor of the house with a trail of tourists behind her. Dinah climbed down the gallery stairs and stretched out her hand to the blonde.

"How do you do, I'm" Dinah Simmons, new manager of Chestnutt Grove."

"Oh," said Mrs. Treacher. "What happened to Bill, I mean, Mr. Shepherd?"

"I'm not sure," lied Dinah. "I believe he's returned to North Carolina."

Mrs. Treacher's face fell. "What a shame," she said. "You don't happen to know his current address, do you?"

"No, I'm afraid I don't. Would you like to set up the season's tour schedule?"

"Yes, that would be fine, Diane. Do you mind if I call you Diane?"

"Why not?" said Dinah, as she led the way into the office.

Next: Tea and Bills

Created by KKris. Last Modification: Tuesday 22 of September, 2020 07:41:32 EDT by KKris.