134. Literature

“Caught you!”

Where did Louise
Come from? Riah,
Sitting, hid
An object in her
Skirt. Louise waltzed in:
“Uh-uh. It’s too
Late! Caught you!
Reading, right? James
Said you read!”

Riah frowned: made
Fun of by her
Son! And she’d no
Business with a book.
Kitchen floor,
Splotched and thick with
Grease, had needed
To be scrubbed.
But the thought of
Scouring, hands and knees,
Steeped in stifling
Heat….but other
Wives made no
Complaint, and they all
Washed their floors.

Louise hovered,
Puzzled by the face.
“Come on,” she said.
“Show me what you
Got”–and she
Pursued her, coaxing,
“Cough it up!
You want me to
See it, right?”,
Meanwhile sidling
Closer to the chair.
“Believe me, I don’t
Care how foul a book–
Low-down, packed with
Filth–” here Riah
Looked so shocked that
Louise laughed
Aloud. Snatched Riah’s
Book–
“Dictionary!”
Louise shut her
Eyes, pretending
Pain. “I should have
Known.”

“Listen,” Louise
Sat down. “So you
Want a book? Real book?
My ma,” she
Announced, “she owned
A novel.” She
Confessed: “I read it,
Too. Ma didn’t know.”
The voice of
Louise made dirty
Floors recede:
Riah, keen to hear.

“It was called
The Tale of Little
Leafy.” Louise
Stopped to think. “No–
Faynie. Little Faynie. Little
Something.”
Her eyes narrowed.
She declared, emphatic:
“You would not
Believe this poor girl’s
Life!”
“Why?”
Louise thought: ah,
What a pleasure,
Telling tales to
Riah, who seemed
Never to have
Heard a single one!
“Why?
Faynie, she was
Chloroformed!
Chloroformed and
Smothered and then
Kidnapped, from her
Mom and dad.”
“Who did it?” Riah asked.
“Bad guys. I don’t
Know. But that’s not all–
They sprayed her with
Acid. Poison gas.”
Riah, staring,
Hating tearful endings:
“Is that it?”

“What? Just Chapter
One!” Louise thought back:
“Chapter Two she’s
Blowed up by
Gunpowder! Smashed to
Smithereens!
Then she’s  plowed down
By a ferry-boat.”

“Wasn’t Faynie–
Hurt?” Riah,
Shrinking. “Oh yes–
She was blind. Or–
Amnesia, that right?–
Couldn’t have no
Babies?–but then
She recovered
Good as new. But
Then they tied her
To a railroad track.”
“I’ve seen that.”
“Me too, at the Rex.
Someone grabbed her
Off there–boyfriend,
Brother–but then
This old man, he
Puts her in the madhouse!
The asylum!
Even though she’s
Sane!” Riah,
Gravely: “I’m
Surprised she was.”
“Then in the next
Chapter, Faynie,
She gets stabbed.
Some man chokes her,
Some man saves her,
And…they
Bury her
Alive!” High point
Of the story:
Louise savored this.

“That’s the end,” said
Riah, with no hope.
“Nope. They dig her
Up!” Louise warmed
To her favorite part.
“She’s dug up and
Dragged into this place,
Dissecting Room.
See, they think she’s
Dead.”
“She isn’t?”: Riah,
Shocked. Louise, “What
Do you think? There’d
Be no story!
Course she’s not. But
On the table,
She lays–with no
Breath–” moving
Slowly, Louise
Raised her arm–
“Awful booming
Thunderstorm outside!
Here’s the doctor
Lifts his scalpel up!
Lifts it high….
Then….
Boom!” Riah
Jerked as Louise
Slammed her fist–
“Bolt of lightning
Strikes clear through the roof!
Big bolt hits her
Here! Slam in
The heart! Why, she’s
Alive!
Sits straight up!”
Riah sat up,
Stunned.

Story’s end.
Louise slumped. She
Sighed. “Later,
Of course, she gets
Married.”
“To who?”
“Why, the doctor!”

Riah pondered.
Louise leaned back,
Grinned triumphantly:
“And you–
Read the dictionary!”
Riah, no reply.
Smugly Louise
Told her, “Here’s your
Problem–got no
Radio!
Stories like this
On it, all the time.
Movies, too.
I tell you,” shuddered,
“There’s days when I
Think of Little Faynie,
And I get too
Spooked to leave the house.”
Riah nodded, Yes.

“Want it?” asked Louise.
“What?”
“I have it, the book. I’d
Loan it out.”
“No!” said Riah,
Louder than she meant.
“All right,” Louise
Waved, “just as you say.”

Riah sat there
Thinking to herself:
Don’t care much for
Reading, anyway.

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