Mrs. Edwin, her pale arm extended from the back of the crowd as though to bid on the hollyhock cup and saucer, withered quickly away. Her withering was quiet, yet not the sort of painful unraveling one expects of a woman past fifty. It was rather a sudden consumption, perhaps beginning with a flame on the tip of her index finger and extending down to her ankles. There, on Mrs. Edwin's patch of linoleum remained a thin tower of dust, brilliant and fresh. Turning to her left, Mrs. Norberry screamed, then Mrs. Clay, and soon all the wives were fussing, shuffling about, swinging full skirts round and knocking each other with their child-broadened hips. The dish salesman beamed and, imagining the women were simply overwhelmed by thoughts of holiday entertaining, raised his banana boat high and bellowed. No one listened. Mrs. Webb, a mess of tears and red hair, was crumpled on the floor near her sister's remains. Old Mrs. Prewitt and young Mrs. Howard wailed, spreading mucus all over each other's sweaters, and Mrs. Flannigan, who hadn't wanted to come to the dish sale at all, collapsed in her seat. One by one, the women raised their fingers to their faces, and one by one, the dishes fell; slipped, unnoticed from soft hands. Each tiny item made a small clink and then shatter, the shards spilling as tiny white starbursts. "Going once, going twice... Going once, going twice," boomed the salesman, the unwitting circus-master.