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Rainy Days and Thursdays

To a visitor or the casual observer, Faded Glory would appear to be huge. To me, on this dreary, gray, rainy day, Faded Glory seems to be warm, intimate, and inviting. Even though Isabel has reached middle age, the Inn lacks the requisite clutter usually accrued by people of her age, and many of the hallways and large rooms still echo like those of a large public building. Lying here on the wide granite hearth in the living room, I seem to be able to hear every raindrop that hits our gray slate roof just as if I were ensconced in a primitive log cabin with a tin roof. When Micah walked through a while ago, he said that the outside temperature is hovering around 34 degrees, and that the wind is pretty steady at 25-30 miles per hour out of the northwest.

In the distance, I can hear the small FM radio that Louella keeps on her shelf in the kitchen, and I can see Cinders lying squarely on his back on a leather ottoman just a few feet forward of a warming red oak fire that Hank laid earlier in the day. Except for a periodic snort and sigh out of his sleeping form, Cinders is virtually dead to the world. Spook has tried twice unsuccessfully to call for Cinders from his perch in Isabel's sitting room, but Cinders is so involved in his nap that nothing short of an exploding stick of dynamite could stir him.

According to Isabel, it is a Thursday, there are no guests in the Inn, and Louella has just finished baking two delicious mile-high pies (cherry and apple) which are cooling on her counter in the kitchen. Hank has been at work since his arrival at 8 a.m. cleaning silver flatware at the small table in the the kitchen vestibule, and Micah has been concentrating on installing a new commercial can opener on the butcher block top of one of Louella's worktables.

But for the occasional bang of a shutter in the wind, the Inn is quiet, the mood peaceful, and the staff is quietly at work preparing for the Friday arrival of guests for the weekend.

The unexpected knock at the front door caused Cinders to awaken and hit the polished wood floor, startling all of us into the reality of the present. I guess my hearing is going because I never heard a car, the slamming car door, or the sound of footsteps on the porch.

Evidently, Isabel was back in her personal living area at the time, and Louella walked briskly through the great room, hastily drying her hands on a dishtowel, to answer the door. Louella's face broke into a smile as she greeted Stella Sondheim, our Fannin County Health Inspector, who vists the Inn every 60 days to perform her usual kitchen inspection. In keeping with prescribed Health Department protocol, Stella always arrives for her inspections -- unannounced, and conducts her examination of the kitchen, pantry and food-prep areas with little or no fanfare or commotion.

Unfortunately for me, Louella and Isabel run a "tight ship" kitchen-wise, and rarely score less than a 99 on an inspection. It is said that Stella Sondheim has never given a perfect score of 100 because she doesn't want cooks and restaurant owners to become cocky, complacent, and sloppy on her watch. Although Louella and Stella have known each other for many years, Stella's inspection of Louella's work area and kitchen is always executed with the same fervor and thoroughness as those of new and untested restaurants in Fannin County. Years back, Louella got to know Stella when she carried out inspections for the Hall County Health Department at the restaurants where Louella was employed in Gainesville.

Isabel, having heard the front door opening and closing, joined Louella and Stella in the kitchen for the inspection, and watched as Stella opened her briefcase and began to hang her portable thermometers from the shelves in the coolers and walk-in freezer. They conversed amicably as Stella walked about with her white cotton cloth, black light and disposable rubber gloves, checking stainless steel and wooden surfaces high and low. Hank, who was seated nearby polishing the sterling silver, watched with interest as Stella returned time and time again to her well-worn Masonite clipboard to check boxes and log-in refrigeration temperatures. Soon, Stella's lips were moving quietly as she began to add up her calculations and enter totals and sub-totals on the second page of her ponderous three-part County inspection form. Before I knew it, the calculations were completed, and Louella was presented with the second (carbon) copy of Stella's report.

"Good job, Louella, another 99!" Stella remarked as she began packing up her equipment. "Do you have time to stay for a cup of coffee and a piece of just- baked apple pie?" " I can always find time for that," Stella replied, and Isabel headed for the almost full pot of coffee waiting on the Bunn warming unit in the alcove near Hank.

I took my rightful place under the table as the ladies assembled at the other end from Hank, and Louella began to cut her glorious Mile High Apple Pie. My under-table rewards would surely be heavenly. As the wind blew and roared, blowing the rain sideways, life went on at Faded Glory Farm . . . Just another rainy day in paradise!

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