140. Patty’s News

“So, bank’s
Closed, but on a
Temporary basis,”
Patty finished,
Then refilled her cup.
Riah thought it
Best if she said
Nothing. She asked,
“What does Bud think
Of that public meeting?”
“They’re a mess”–
Patty’d never been–“No
Leadership, no, none. Hens
Cackling, Bud says.” Riah
Took a sip:
“Guess I missed that
Last one for the quilting.
Quilting’s better
Than that talk”–they laughed.
Riah added,
“But next one, I’ll

Her friend’s ease
Aroused her: Patty paused.
With eyes lowered
To the silver tray, she asked
Mildly, “Tom, he
Say he wants you to?”
Riah shrugged. “Don’t know.
Last time he said
There’d be mostly
Men.” Patty nodded: “So you
Stayed away.”
Riah frowned. “Could say.
Quilting suited
Better. But I’ll

“So you’re going,”
Patty said: “So
You win, after
All. You get your way.”
Riah felt
Discomfort at her tone.
Shifting weight: “Well,
Patty, no one
Won–” no prizefight,
Land sakes!–“I’ll just
Go is all.”
“Who is it
Decides, though?”–
Patty–“That’s my point!”
Once more she found
Riah on her nerves.
But here Riah’s
Mind began to cloud. “Well–”
Squinting, she thought back. “Who
Decided? Don’t recall.
No one did. We talked.
Said I’d like to
Hear about the listers,
At the meeting. Tom said–”
“One decides it,
Riah!” Patty, sharp.
By these details
Riah could escape, ignore
The principle at stake.
“Got to be one
Boss,” said Patty sternly.
That sure sounded
Right: stopped Riah
In her tracks.

Pressing her
Advantage, Patty said,
“Don’t you see it’s
Wrong, how you boss Tom?–
The men laugh.
He don’t get your
Say-so, can’t buy
Riah’s coffee
Splashed. “It’s not like
That! There’s lists, plans….”
“Details! Don’t you
Fool yourself.
You sure don’t
Decide like me and
Bud!” Riah,
Silenced: true.
Patty, charging,
“If the preacher
Knew it, what’d he say?”
Riah saw it:

Baby crying
From the other room. Patty
Leaned in, forward.
Sweat was staining
Her expecting-dress.
Voice sank low:
“He’ll turn on you,
Riah.” Riah
“Keep this up,
He’ll leave you one
Day. Kick you
Out. They can.
There you’ll be:
You with all
The kids and none
The money. All
Alone. Alone–” she said,
As if she’d said,
“No one to
Provide for you or
Care. Nothing
Between you and….”

Riah flushed,
Alarmed at Patty’s
Face–in Patty’s
Voice, such heartfelt,
Iron conviction,
Riah could not
Breach. And too, what
Patty had been
Saying sounded
Right. So what

Then it
Was that Riah
Left the house,
Weary with
The lesson learned
Again: she could not
Argue and win, but
Also, could not
Change. So…
Put these things
Away. Put them

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