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28 5 ~Pippa The city bus bumped against the curb in front of Forest Park. Pippa stroked a soft spiral under the rough wool of her pea coat. “It’s okay,” she whispered to her belly. Francie didn’t react to the jolt or the whisper. She had refused to explain what was happening at the Tea Room, but it must be pretty bad to get her out of her bathrobe after working all night. Pippa leaned her cheek against the window and watched the green and red holiday decorations on the elementary school flapping in the wind. She was glad to be out of the house, even heading towards something ugly at the Tea Room. Passing Forest Park, she turned her face away. She hadn’t set foot in the park since it happened. She had begged off participating in the June Teardrop ritual, unable to return to that sacred, awful place. After the bodies were found in late August, she wanted to see the deep gully their own search had missed. Twice she got as far as the bronze arch, but she couldn’t walk under it. Pippa snuck a glance at Francie. Did she mourn their babies every day too? At the “X,” where three main streets intersected at the commercial heart of the neighborhood, Francie tugged on the stop cord. Pippa followed her down the steps, plucking the clingy fabric of her skirt so the hem hung over her ankles. She had borrowed a pair of Tian’s rag wool socks to cover the bulge at her the ankle. On the sidewalk, Pippa forgot all about hiding her house arrest monitor. The House of Isis sign stretched across the top third of the storefront. Murphy and Adele had painted the huge wings of the Egyptian goddess sheltering her baby and the cat-god Bast. It matched the painting inside the Tea Room, hung on the brick wall shared with the barbershop next door, and the one over the fireplace at home. Tar splattered Isis. The viscous, black liquid dripped from her face into the crevice between her breasts and onto the beige stucco wall. Bundled in Marshall’s oversized sweatshirt and perched on a ladder, Liz scrubbed at the mess. The part she had already scoured was still veiled by a gray film. Ellen Meeropol ~ 29 “Great, huh?” Liz removed her glasses and wiped her glistening face with her sleeve. “Tar,” Francie muttered. “Terrific. Where are the feathers?” Pippa remembered talk back home about tar and feather parties. There was a blackened tree stump behind the five-and-dime; kids said that’s where the nightriders brought the men who needed to be taught a lesson. Her teachers said those days were over. “I’m glad you guys are finally here. Adele couldn’t take it and she split.” Liz looked down at Pippa. “Get the cookies, will you? The timer just buzzed.” She tossed the rag down into the bucket on the sidewalk. “I’ll be right in.” Turning away from the filthy bucket, Pippa pushed open the heavy glass door and stepped into the aroma of baking molasses. She pulled out two trays of cookies, dark with carob and plump with cranberries, and set them on the butcher block counter to cool. Usually at one-thirty, late lunchers and neighborhood shoppers were still enjoying tea and cookies. That afternoon the Tea Room was empty. Liz pushed through the front door, soiled rags in one hand and bucket in the other. “I’ve had enough,” she said. “I’m going home.” “Why today?” Pippa asked. “Was there another story in the paper?” “Who knows? Maybe they spent weeks planning this. There was a spray-painted message too—Keep devil cults out of Forest Park.” Liz dumped the dirty water into the sink and ran the faucets full blast. “Francie went next door to see if Mario heard anything. The baking smell reminded Pippa that she had only eaten half a bowl of soup for lunch. She tested the cookies with a spatula, but they were still too soft. Liz soaped her hands. “For some reason, the defaced sign made our loyal customers decide they didn’t want tea today.” “What did you do when you found it?” “We didn’t call the cops, if that’s what you mean. They’d be worse than graffiti.” Liz pushed her round glasses back up the slant of her nose, leaving a perfect circle of soapsuds on the...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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