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At two-thirty, Mitford's Main Street Grill had fed the breakfast and lunch crowds and was officially closed. However, due to pressing business, three regulars and owner Percy Mosely were still hanging around.
who was waiting for a sausage delivery from down the mountain. He squinted through the steamy front window at the swirling snowfall. The flakes were large and powdery, reminding him of when he was a kid living in Piney Cove.
his green jacket. "If th' phone rings, call me."
Skinner would have been glad to get back to work, or even knock off early and go home, but the mayor had recruited them as an advisory committee on the expansion of downtown parking, and their report was due tomorrow.
with a paper napkin. He was sweating this one; he'd never been on an advisory committee before and he wanted to think smart and look good. It wasn't every day that a newspaper editor had a chance to be splashed across his own front page.
"Given its central location on Main Street, it'd bring traffic in from th' whole county. Besides, it's crazy to Now off retail dollars to maintain a hokey little ball-park."
blood pressure shooting through the roof. "I don't want to hear ballpark again in this dadgum conversation!"
"We can always get land for another ballpark, but we'll never get another chance like this for downtown parking. It's time to expand our infrastructure."
Where's Percy? Percy's th' oldest business on th' street and do you think he'd go for tearin' down th' ballpark to get a few more warm bodies in here? Nossir, and nobody else will, either."
to a blast of cold air.
down at the edge of the sidewalk, building a snow, man. "Come out here and help me knock this thing out, there's a contest on th' street!"
was working on a snowman in front of the Collar Button, and down at Winnie Ivey's Sweet Stuff Bakery there was a whole hive of activity. He peered at Happy Endings Bookstore next door and saw Hope Winchester rolling out the midsection of a snowman as if her life depended on it.
prize in this contest?"
hardware an' a dozen doughnuts from Winnie's."
J.C. out here."
pant legs stuffed into his galoshes and his wife's felt hat jammed onto his head. He also wore gloves with both thumbs missing; under an ancient coat of his own, Rose's deceased brother's military jacket displayed a variety of tarnished war medals.
loaf of bread a feller could take home," the old man told Percy. Uncle Billy's arthritic fingers clutched three dimes, a nickel, and two pennies, which he thought was a fair price. "I'll pay cash money, don't you know."
tell the truth, he was tired of Bill Watson gouging a loaf of bread out of him every week for the last hundred years, but he wouldn't fret over it now, being the time of year it was.
"There's a snowman contest on Main Street, and Percy wants to nab the prize for the Grill." He was huffing like a steam engine and had lost feeling in most of his fingers and toes.
him. "Only thing is, hit's naked as a jaybird."
noseyou know, the basics."
"What's th' prize?"
plain or glazed?"
front of the post office, pulled on a crocheted hat that was gathering dust in the glove compartment, and marched across the street to Happy Endings. Having noticed that small groups of people were gathered up and down the sidewalk, she intended to investigate the commotion.
Winchester, flushed and frozen.
snowman with a book on its head. "What's its name?"
looked again, thoughtful, then foraged in her pocketbook. "If that snowman's goin' to read, he needs a decent pair of glasses. I was goin' to run Ray's old specs up to Hope House, but see what you can do with these."
look here! A whole caboodle of snowmen!" Three snow figures stood proudly in the space between the bench and the newspaper box.
who was now minus part of his clothes and lacking a hat.
modest at the same time.
see, now ..."
himself. He wished he could quit grinning like an idiot.
J.C. "Now lookit! Who's this?"
Bill Sprouse over at First Baptist."
Sprouse, hit's J. C., don't you know."
lights were kind of different, a little somethin' to catch the judge's eye."
of the loop. Wasn't this her town? How did these things happen without anybody saying doodley-squat to her? Next thing you knew, they'd be running the place themselves and doing a bum job of it.
on her entry. "I saw everybody else doing it, so I thought I would, too."
the mayor. Mule hated how the mayor got her way on nearly everything.
doin' it and that's how it happened. Winnie down at Sweet Stuff, she started it. Somebody asked her to be th' judge, but she didn't want th' responsibility."
Uncle Billy. "They ain't no use to judge anybody's but our'n." He brushed snow off the bench so the mayor could have a seat. "You got your top winners right here."
Jubilee," proclaimed the mayor, "I declare every entrant a winner, with free doughnuts and hot chocolate for everybody on the street!"
launched two fists into the air with thumbs up, a campaign tactic she'd always favored.
council, she thought, storming along in her fleece-lined boots to the Sweet Stuff Bakery. As the happy crowd fell in behind her, she calculated how she'd gouge the money out of the Parks and Recreation Committee. If that failed, she'd find the measly few bucks somewhere; after all, wasn't this her town, and wouldn't such a gesture be good for business in general? She drew herself up proudly as she advanced toward the bakery. Bottom line, didn't Mitford take care of its own?
gallop as the twenty-six people in her wake formed an excited but orderly queue at Sweet Stuff Bakery.
said to the mayor. "You go first!"
the door and holding it open herself.
on at their appointed hour. And suddenly, the whole of Main Street was softly illumined against
Excerpted from The MITFORD SNOWMEN by JAN KARON. Copyright © 2001 by Jan Karon. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.