100. A Surprise

She stepped
Through the door.
Once in, Patty
Caught herself up short.
Why’s Bud home?
Must be one, one-thirty–
Monday, too.
There he sat, the sofa,
Bottle and a glass,
Tools and radio.
“Busted vacuum tube,” he
Acknowledged Patty.
“Fixed her, though.”

“Wonderful!”
She unpinned her
Hat and feigned
Relief. “Matt will be
So glad. I just had no
Inkling why it broke.”
Putting boxes
Down, she took a seat. Bud
Did not speak.
She found sewing,
Started in to
Mend. “Matt will
Sure be glad.
You be sure you
Show him how you did.”

“Oh,” Bud replied,
“He won’t understand.”
On the station
Some band played a waltz.
Otherwise was
Silence.
Patty wondered:
Might Bud think it
Odd, an accusation,
If she asked him
Nothing? Better
To act natural. She
Ventured: “Got the time?”
“Time? One-forty.”
“My!” Patty
Waited. Squirmed:
“Home a little
Early, then, today?”

Bud stood up and
Fiddled with the dial.
He sat down and
Took a long, deep drink.
“Well! You haven’t
Studied banking, have you?”–
He asked, a demand.

“Not at all.”
Bud began
Explaining then, expansive:
“Our bank here in
Town is just a branch.
We’re out here for
Customers’ convenience,
Patrons need not
Drive to county seat.
County seat’s main
Branch, you see.”
She nodded
Attentively; she knew.

Bud coughed, loud.
“Naturally, times
Being what they are,
You know the Bank
Holidays and all,
Those of us in
Banking–it
Behooves us now to
Put our house in order. No
Price too high.
Recovery, you
See, depends on us.”
He paused.
She said, “I sure
Think that’s surely true.
Best for the banks, too.”
“I lost my job.”

Sewing stopped.
She hung fire,
Needle in mid-air.
“When?”
“Last week.”
But he’d been at
Work! “Last week?
Last?”
“Oh, I kept
Going in–
You know, keep
An eye. Men came
Two weeks back,
Cleaned out the files–
Drove off, no one
Saw–few boxes–
They’ll clean it out
Tuesday.”
She said nothing.
“Assets are all
Right, you understand,”
He continued, as if
Tutoring–“Just we closed
The branch. Not worth
The cost.”

Radio was
Loud. It sang
An ad. Patty
Traced the jingle
Dully in her head. “Any–
Pension, what’s it
Called?”–voice wavered–
Bud had worked so hard….
“Macklehouse, he told me,
They’re sure sorry
Have to let me go.
Said they’d watched me
Working overtime–said I’m
One of their best
Men.” He waxed voluble:
“Don’t you fret on
Money. We can
Keep the house–I’ve
Figured it–I’ve
Saved some. And those
Checks for rental acres.
Just won’t have my
Office for
A while.” Bud stood up
His full height.
“Shoot! That Randy
Tally, did you hear,
Lost his dry goods store.
He’s a rich man
And fine businessman,
Whole town says.
Now there’s only
Left the Red and White.
Hard times. Temporary,
Till those captains
Of business, you know,
They do it for our good,
The ones who run the show,
Who run the bank….”
“They might
Take you back?”
“Well,
Sure. You never know.
They said I’d be
First they’d hire on.”

It seemed strange what
Came into her mind:
Magazines,
Stories she had
Read about young
Wives, who’d heard
This same news,
Took it with
A smile, and hugged their
Husband, cooked his
Favorite meal. All seemed
So cozy and gay. But
Why did she not
Feel that way at all?
For despite
Herself, her mind had
Raced: I’ll be
Laughingstock of Sewing Club.
If I have to
Darn shirts there
Again….

Patty
Crossed to Bud.
Gave him a long
Hug: it felt like
Wood.
“Late with
Lunch?” he said.

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